Timothy Ray Brown, first man cured of HIV, sadly dies of cancer

timothy ray brown berlin patient hiv
Timothy Ray Brown in 2019. Photo: AccessHIV/YouTube

Timothy Ray Brown, the first person to be cured of HIV, has died after battling leukemia for five months.

In 2006 doctors diagnosed Brown with leukaemia but a complicated and life-threatening bone marrow transplant cured him of HIV in 2007.

Known as the “Berlin patient”, the 54-year-old remained clear of HIV for more than a decade but has died after his cancer sadly returned.

Brown had lived in California receiving hospice care up until his death.

His partner, Tim Hoeffgen, announced Brown’s death on Facebook after going public with his illness only recently.

“It is with great sadness that I announce that Timothy passed away… this afternoon surrounded by myself and friends, after a five-month battle with leukaemia,” he wrote.

International AIDS Society President Adeeba Kamarulzaman said he was mourning Brown “with a profoundly heavy heart”.

“We owe Timothy and his doctor, Gero Huetter, a great deal of gratitude for opening the door for scientists to explore the concept that a cure for HIV is possible,” Professor Kamarulzaman said.

Australian HIV specialist Sharon Lewin, a professor at the Doherty Institute, said Brown was “a champion and advocate for keeping an HIV cure on the political and scientific agenda”.

“It is [our] hope that one day we can honour his legacy with a safe, cost-effective and widely accessible strategy to achieve HIV remission and cure,” she said.

Timothy Ray Brown says to ‘keep fighting for a HIV cure for everyone’

Timothy Ray Brown, a US citizen who previously lived in Berlin, found out he had HIV in 1995. Then in 2006, doctors diagnosed him with leukaemia while in Germany.

Doctors performed two complicated and life-threatening bone marrow transplants on Brown in 2007 and 2008.

The transplants used stem cells from a donor with a rare gene mutation, CCR5, giving natural HIV resistance.

Since then, Brown repeatedly tested negative for HIV in a major scientific first. Scientists reported the donor’s HIV resistant cells had transferred to Brown.

But donors with the CCR5 gene mutation are extremely rare, and the transplant Brown received was medically risky.

Brown became known as the “Berlin Patient”. Since then he helped doctors and scientists gain vital insight into HIV.

Brown’s partner, Tim Hoeffgen, met him in 2013 and he had stayed at Brown’s side ever since.

Earlier this month he told the Los Angeles Blade Brown was “a person you can’t help loving. He’s so sweet.”

He said Brown had also become an “ambassador of hope” in the decades-long fight against HIV.

“I have asked him what he wants me to tell people [about his situation],” he said.

“He said, ‘Tell people to keep fighting. Fight for a cure for HIV that works for everyone. I never wanted to be the only one.’

“I love him so much, I will gladly carry his message and his legacy.”

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