Timothy Ray Brown, the so-called “Berlin patient” and the first person known to have been cured of HIV infection, has died at the age of 54.
It was recently revealed that he was terminally ill with a relapse of leukemia last year. News of his death was announced on Facebook by his partner, Tim Hoeffgen, who called Brown his “angel” and said he was surrounded by friends when he died Tuesday afternoon in Palm Springs, California.
“I’m really lucky that we shared a life together, but I’m heartbroken that my hero is gone. Tim was truly the sweetest person in the world,” Hoeffgen wrote. “Tim’s spirit will live on and the love and support of family and friends will help me in this difficult time.
Brown, who was diagnosed with HIV in the 1990s, learned he had leukemia in 2006 while working in Berlin. In 2007 and 2008, he received stem cell transplants from another patient which resulted in both leukemia remission and negative HIV testing. He had since tested negative for the virus that causes AIDS.
“Timothy has shown that HIV can be cured, but that’s not what inspires me about him,” Dr. Steven Deeks, an AIDS specialist at the University of California, San Francisco, told The Associated Press noteworthy. “We took pieces of his intestine, we took pieces of his lymph nodes. Whenever he was asked to do something, he showed up with incredible grace. “
Brown said that even though the leukemia returned, he was “still happy” to have received the stem cell treatments, saying they “opened doors that weren’t there before.”
The International AIDS Society (IAS), an organization of HIV professionals, has acknowledged his death
their website and on Twitter, saying, “It is with a deeply heavy heart that the IAS greets Timothy Ray Brown” and expressing “great gratitude for opening the door for scientists to explore the concept that a cure for HIV is possible. . “
Baltimore blogger Mark King, who writes about HIV, recently visited Brown and Hoeffgen, who expressed sadness at seeing her partner’s decline.
“The hardest part was watching Timothy go downhill,” Hoeffgen told King in a story for the Los Angeles Blade. “He’s someone you can’t help but love. He’s so sweet. Cancer treatments have been tough. Sometimes I wonder if he’s worse than the disease.”
Hoeffgen also told him that the researchers had wanted Brown’s body to be “left to science” after his death, but he refused. “I said, ‘Thanks, but no. I think you’ve done enough,'” Hoeffgen replied.
King also acknowledged Brown’s contribution to AIDS research.
“It is unfathomable what value it has been to the world as a subject of science,” he said. “Yet this is also a human being who is a kind and humble guy who certainly never asked for the spotlight.
“I think the world of him.”