The first person in the world to have been cured of HIV with a pioneering type of bone marrow transplant has died from cancer. American Timothy Ray Brown was cured in 2007 and dubbed "The Berlin Patient" because he lived in the city at the time - and was treated there.
Timothy's partner announced he had died from leukaemia in a Facebook post. Tim Hoeffgen said: "It is with great sadness that I announce that Timothy passed away ... this afternoon surrounded by myself and friends, after a 5-month battle with leukaemia.
“I’m heartbroken that my hero is now gone. Tim was truly the sweetest person in the world.” While Timothy remained clear of HIV after being treated he had suffered a relapse of leukaemia in the past year. His doctors said the blood cancer had spread to his spine and brain and he had been in hospice care in his hometown of Palm Springs, California.
German medic Dr Gero Huetter treated Timothy in 2007 in Berlin by destructing his immune system before transplanting stem cells with a gene mutation called CCR5 that resists HIV. Only a tiny proportion of people, mainly of northern European descent, have the CCR5 mutation that makes them resistant to the AIDS-causing virus.
This and other factors made the treatment expensive, complex and highly risky. Most experts say it could never become a way to cure all HIV patients since the procedure itself could kill. Adeeba Kamarulzaman, president of the International AIDS Society (IAS), paid tribute to Timothy.
He said: “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."