Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Stem Cell Transplant Cures HIV In 'Berlin Patient'

the Huffington Post news wire:

On the heels of World AIDS Day comes a stunning medical breakthrough: Doctors believe an HIV-positive man who underwent a stem cell transplant has been cured as a result of the procedure.

Timothy Ray Brown, also known as the "Berlin Patient," received the transplant in 2007 as part of a lengthy treatment course for leukemia. His doctors recently published a report in the journal Blood affirming that the results of extensive testing "strongly suggest that cure of HIV infection has been achieved."

Brown's case paves a path for constructing a permanent cure for HIV through genetically-engineered stem cells.


I had an English professor back in 1987, Dr. Joan Samuelson, a rather wonderful woman, who once strongly asserted that science would eventually find a cure for AIDS. At the time, given how utterly stymied scientists seemed to be, and how gay men were continuing to drop like flies across the country, it seemed a dubious assertion. Even after the appearance of
protease inhibitor drugs in the mid 90s, which made being HIV positive a manageable, but not curable, condition, finding a final solution to the AIDS crisis still seemed hopelessly out of reach. But I've never forgotten Dr. Samuelson's optimism for and belief in the great spirit of human accomplishment.

Nearly a quarter of a century later, her pie-in-the-sky attitude about the eventual end of AIDS doesn't seem so pie-in-the-sky. The article goes on to observe that this guy in Berlin doesn't represent an actual cure for HIV, but it is yet another sign that scientists really are closing in on one. I'm really, finally, beginning to believe that it's going to happen, probably in the next few years.

AIDS hasn't affected me, personally, thank god, but I have known some HIV positive men over the years, a few who died from the condition, too, not to mention the fact that AIDS has wildly affected social and sexual attitudes in the world my generation has inherited, in both good and bad ways. It will be pretty cool, indeed, to see AIDS join the ranks of diseases that were formerly deadly, but now curable.

I wonder how or if society will be affected by such an event.