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London man is world's second person to be cured of HIV

40-year-old Adam Castillejo says he wants "to be an ambassador of hope" following his successful treatment.

2020-03-10

The world's second person to be cured of HIV has publicly revealed his identity for the first time.

Londoner Adam Castillejo, 40, achieved "sustained remission" from HIV last year after receiving stem cell treatment for cancer, the BBC reports.

He is just the world's second person to be cured of HIV after a man from Berlin was reported to be free of the virus in 2011, three years after undergoing similar treatment.

Mr Castillejo said in a statement: "By publicly revealing my identity and my story, I hope to help improve people's understanding of the science and HIV generally.

"I want to thank all those who have supported me on this journey, particularly my medical team at Hammersmith Hospital without whom I would not be here today."

Mr Castillejo, who was born in Venezuela, contracted HIV a year after moving to London in 2003.

He was diagnosed Hodgkin lymphoma in 2012 and in 2016 underwent a bone marrow stem cell transplant to treat the disease using cells from a donor with a rare genetic mutation that resists HIV infection.

Following the transplant, Mr Castillejo stopped using the anti-retroviral drugs used by most patients to suppress HIV, and has now been in remission for for 30 months "with no viable virus in bloods, brain fluid, intestinal or lymph tissue", doctors say.

While the success of the stem cell transplant represents a huge breakthrough in the battle against HIV, doctors and reseachers have stressed that the difficulties involved with the procedure mean it cannot be considered a treatment option for most people living with HIV.

Professor Ravindra Kumar Gupta, from the University of Cambridge, told BBC News: "It is important to note that this curative treatment is high-risk and only used as a last resort for patients with HIV who also have life-threatening haematological malignancies.

"Therefore, this is not a treatment that would be offered widely to patients with HIV who are on successful anti-retroviral treatment."

Researchers have also stressed that Mr Castillejo will continue to be monitored in case the HIV virus returns - but the London hospitality worker says he hopes his case serves as a beacon of hope for others.

He told the New York Times: "This is a unique position to be in, a unique and very humbling position.

"I want to be an ambassador of hope. I don't want people to think, 'Oh, you've been chosen.' No, it just happened.

"I was in the right place, probably at the right time, when it happened."