People must not give up hope that a cure will be found for HIV, says Adam Castllejo, better known as “the London Patient”. He is the second known person to have been declared cured of the virus.
Castillejo urges people living with HIV to remain positive despite the covid-19 pandemic.
“I sympathise with the fears of anybody who is living with HIV right now. I am living proof that HIV can be cured so I would encourage them (people living with HIV) to not give up hope”.
He says he thinks he would have been living a little differently if he was still HIV positive.
“I would be more cautious about COVID-19 if I was still HIV positive
Donor resistance led to his cure
Castillejo was on antiretroviral treatment (ART) therapy when he developed a rare blood cancer called Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. It was this disease that led to him being cured of HIV.
He underwent a bone-marrow transplant in 2016, and his donor carried a rare genotype which is resistant to HIV.
“I am humbled to be in this position. There was a doubt period and it was a tough position to be in. It was tough to embrace the situation, but my family and friends gave me the strength”, he says.
Strides are being made in finding a cure
Castillejo’s doctor, Professor of Clinical Microbiologist at the University of Cambridge Ravindra Gupta says the cases of the “London Patient” and the “Berlin Patient” (Timothy Ray Brown) are proof that a cure for HIV is a possibility.
“This is a very remarkable and exciting case. The field of genetics is not new, but technology has advanced over time. And HIV is one of the diseases that we want to treat with this technology”.
Not feasible for Africa
Despite the success of the stem cell transplant in curing HIV, Gupta says that the treatment will not be done on a wide scale due to the complicated and risky nature of it.
According to the UNAIDS, an estimated 68% or 20.6 million of the world’s total population of people living with HIV are in sub-Saharan and Eastern Africa.
Gupta says that despite these high numbers, the treatment is not feasible for the region.
“Africa has been in my heart in terms of HIV treatment but the approach of using a transplant is not feasible in Africa. Unfortunately, we’re not going to be replicating the “London patient” treatment in sub-Saharan Africa”, says Gupta.
He says the treatment is not viable for Africa as the HIV-resistant genes called the CCR5, are found in about 1% of people of Northern Europe ancestry.
Castillejo has been declared to be in maintained remission, with no evidence that the virus might reappear. Gupta and other HIV treatment experts are exploring using genetic modification as a form of treatment. – Health-e News