HIV patient ‘healed’ himself without treatment, study shows

An Argentine woman appears to have been naturally “cured” of HIV despite not being on medication, according to scientists who hailed the case as a “rare” hope for the nearly 38 million people infected with the virus .

The 30-year-old mother has been christened the “Esperanza patient” after the town where she lives – and whose name aptly means “hope”.

The patient was diagnosed with HIV in 2013, according to research published Monday in the “Annals of Internal Medicine.”

She has never felt sick or taken medication, and a battery of recent tests did not find the virus, “despite analysis of a massive number of cells from blood and tissues,” the study said.

The results suggest “that this patient may naturally have achieved a sterilizing cure for HIV-1 infection,” the co-authors wrote.

“These observations raise the possibility that a sterilizing cure may be an extremely rare but possible outcome of HIV-1 infection,” the study concluded.

One of the study’s co-authors, Dr. Xu Yu of the Ragon Institute in Boston told NBC News: “This is really the miracle of the human immune system that did it.

“This gives us hope that the human immune system is powerful enough to control HIV and eliminate all the functional viruses,” Yu added to the Boston Globe. “Time will tell, but we think she has reached a sterilizing cure.”

Dr.  Xu Yu
Dr. Xu Yu, one of the study’s co-authors, called the development a “miracle.”
Ragon Institute of MGH, MIT and Harvard

The patient’s case resembled Loreen Willenberg, a 67-year-old California woman who also appeared to have cured herself despite not using antiretroviral drugs for the three decades after she became infected.

The unidentified woman in Esperanza had been thoroughly tested by researchers in Argentina and Boston since 2019 with no evidence of the virus.

Only the presence of antibodies appeared to confirm that she had in fact ever been infected, the study said.

Researchers hope to discover exactly what happened in both cases so that knowledge can be used for future treatments and even cures for others.

    Loreen Willenberg
Loreen Willenberg is another example of an unusually rare case of HIV.
amfAR

“Just thinking that my condition can help cure this virus makes me feel a great responsibility and obligation to make this a reality,” the “Esperanza Patient” wrote to Globe’s STAT News .

Her first child is healthy and HIV-free, and she and her partner are now expecting another, said the woman, who does not want to be named.

“I enjoy being healthy,” she added to NBC News in Spanish in an email.

“I have a healthy family. I do not have to medicate and I live as if nothing has happened. It is already a privilege,” she said.

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