The second person in the world has been cured of HIV. Adam Castillejo, a 40-year-old man from London, has been recorded as being free of the virus more than 30 months after terminating his use of anti-retroviral therapy.
While he did take the medication, Castillejo was not cured by the drugs themselves; rather, he was cured by a stem-cell treatment he had received for his cancer diagnosis, according to a report by the Lancet HIV Journal.
The process works by transplanting stem-cells into the receiver’s body, where they are then able to stop HIV from replicating in the body by replacing the damaged immune cells with ones resistant to HIV.
“This represents HIV cure with almost certainty,” lead researcher Professor Ravindra Kumar Gupta from the University of Cambridge told BBC News. “We have now had two and a half years with anti-retroviral-free remission. Our findings show that the success of stem-cell transplantation as a cure for HIV, first reported nine years ago in the Berlin Patient, can be replicated.”
While the stem-cell treatment was successful for Castillejo, it’s necessary to note that it’s not a possibility for millions of people around the world who are living with HIV. Because the therapy was used to treat his cancer and not his HIV, it means that it can’t just be used as a model for every HIV patient. However, HIV treatment for keeping the virus under control is still quite effective, and those who contract the virus are still able to live healthy, long lives.
“This is a unique position to be in, a unique and very humbling position,” Castillejo told the New York Times. “I want to be an ambassador of hope. I don’t want people to think, ‘Oh, you’ve been chosen.’ No, it just happened. I was in the right place, probably at the right time, when it happened.”