Timothy Brown is the first person to ever to be cured of HIV.
He’s also known as the Berlin Patient.
But there was a time when he thought all hope was lost.
“When I was diagnosed in ’95 it was a death sentence,” Brown said.
He was living with HIV, seeking medical treatment in Berlin.
Then in 2005 another diagnosis, this time-Leukemia.
“When I was diagnosed it was another death sentence. I had had one, and suddenly I’m dealt another one,” Brown said.
But that “death sentence” was actually a blessing in disguise.
For his bone marrow transplant, his doctor looked for stem cells from a donor who had gene mutation creating an immune system that couldn’t be infected by HIV.
It was the treatment that cured Brown and transformed the way scientists look at the HIV virus.
“I feel like I’m in a very small club. I’m the only member. and I want there to be more members in that club,” Brown said.
In 2016 over 4,000 people were diagnosed with HIV in Pennsylvania.
26 of those were in Centre County.
Erik Fetter, Case Manager, AIDS Resources, said they actively work with individuals diagnosed with the virus.
“Resources for the client help eliminate any barriers that might prevent them from entering into care,” Fetter said.
Brown had a unique situation.
The procedure was very expensive and difficult.
So it’s unlikely to be tried again, especially on a patient without his circumstances.
But Aids Resources in State College reminds folks their doors are open for anyone who may be at risk.
“Certain aspects of living with the virus can be expensive. Like, getting access to insurance, and making sure you can afford the medication,” Fetter said.
And Brown said as the search for a cure for AIDS and HIV continues, he hopes everyone remembers one thing is essential.
“Get tested. That’s the most important thing. That you get tested,” Brown said.