Timothy Ray Brown, known as the "Berlin Patient" received a bone marrow stem cell transplant in Berlin, Germany in 2007. The transplant reportedly came from a man who was immune to HIV as 1% of Caucasians reportedly are. Several years later, he appears to be free of the disease.
As the 30th anniversary of the discovery of the virus once known as a death sentence looms, Brown's story gives scientists hope for the future of the disease. The results of Brown's transplant do not represent a universal cure because the genetic mutation that causes HIV immunity is rare and most often found in people of European descent,but advancements in medical technology and a pressing need to cut costs are encouraging the discovery of a cure for more of the some 33.3 million people with HIV worldwide.
The development of anti-retroviral drugs in the 1990s transformed the disease from a sudden killer to a less violent disease that could be managed over time. According to Reuters, HIV patient care in developing countries costs around $13 billion a year -- a figure expected to triple 20 years.