Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Who's the Berlin Patient?

The Berlin Patient. You may have heard about him, or his story may be news to you. If he is reading this, a warm hi from us at the AIDS Policy Project--we hope to have a beer some day with you.

So--basically, the Berlin Patient is an American man of about 40 who lived in Berlin, had AIDS and also leukemia. His leukemia doctor needed to give him a bone marrow transplant to treat the leukemia. But he used a special person as a donor--someone who was born with the "CCR5 deletion" (remember those initials) which means that the person cannot be infected with AIDS. About 1/1,000 Northern Europeans is born with this--it's a mutation.

And the rest, literally, is history.
It's been over three years. The Berlin Patient is alive and well, and now lives in the US and so far he is completely HIV free--not just with a zero viral load, but no HIV in his brain, gut, etc. despite extensive testing. And cancer-free. The treatment was very risky and expensive but also it was history. It lead to Paula Cannon's mouse study, below, and a lot of other research, including some we are trying to support and get funding for.

This patient was his doctor's first-ever person with AIDS.  He was a blood doctor, not an AIDS researcher. It goes to show what a smart person can do in the service of a cure for AIDS. It shows that we need to bring all kinds of people into the fight. 

Also, his hospital was willing to take an important risk, which they did not take lightly. And most importantly, the patient put his body on the line.

So go ahead and read the attached article by Mark Schoofs, the Pulitzer-Prize winning AIDS reporter from the Wall Street Journal, one of the smartest and best reporters covering AIDS.

The AIDS Policy Project gave the doctor, Gero Hütter, an award. You can see his photo on our web site:

To the Berlin Patient:  L'chaim!

1 comment:

The World Is Good said...

In the mid 1990s I used to hear of research that studied sex workers in east Africa who seemed resistant to HIV infection. I also worked as a UN volunteer at Project San Franscisco in Lusaka, Zambia where discordance was around 20% of couples co-habiting for more than three years. I personally know a few couples that have lived together for many years without one infecting another. Should these cases help in finding something for us? Why do this kind of information not held high on the research agenda?

Global AIDS funding is dwindling, isn't time the world invested into a permanent solution? I am grateful for the treatment and prevention efforts going on but the silence on the urgent need to find a cure is unsettling.

And, yes, I am on the very latest treatment regimen.

Joseph Phiri