The second person who has ever been freed from HIV has revealed their identity and has stated that they want to be “ambassadors of hope” to others with the disease.
Adam Castillejo, the so-called London patient, was declared HIV-free last year, 18 months after stopping antiretroviral therapy after a stem cell or bone marrow transplant to treat blood cancer.
The 40-year-old Castillejo went public in an interview with the New York Times on Monday, announcing that he has been living with HIV since 2003.
In 2012 he was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia and then carried out a stem cell transplant. It was critical that the medical team choose a donor whose stem cells had two copies of a mutation, which meant that the white blood cells they developed into were resistant to HIV.
Timothy Brown, known as the Berlin patient and the first person to be cleared of the virus, underwent similar treatment. While Brown and Castillejo had chemotherapy, only Brown had radiation therapy as part of his cancer treatment.
Last year it turned out that the procedure had not only successfully treated the cancer, but that Castillejo was also in remission because of HIV. However, he decided to remain anonymous at that time.
“I was watching TV and it’s like,” OK, they’re talking about me, “he told the New York Times.” It was very strange, a very strange place. “
Castillejo has now decided to reveal his identity because he wants his case to be optimistic. “This is a unique position, a unique and very humiliating position,” said Castillejo. “I want to be an ambassador of hope.”
Stem cell transplants are not suitable for most people with HIV because they involve a serious and invasive procedure that involves risks.
With advances in medication, HIV-positive people can take a pill every day to lower their virus levels, prevent transmission, and enable them to live long and active lives.
Prof. Ravindra Gupta, first author of the new Cambridge University study, said Castillejo’s case was important: “It is a second case of healing. It means that the first was not an anomaly or a coincidence. “