Researchers say it is too early to declare that a cure for HIV has been found—but with a second patient now free of the virus after a stem cell transplant, a cure appears to be in reach. Researchers say the man, identified only as the "London patient," appears to have been free of the virus for 18 months and has stopped taking HIV drugs, the BBC reports. Like "Berlin patient" Timothy Ray Brown, who has now been virus-free for more than a decade, the London patient received a bone marrow stem cell transplant to treat cancer. Experts say the latest case proves that the Brown case, which researchers have long been trying to replicate, was not a fluke, the New York Times reports. Another patient who received the same treatment has been off HIV drugs for four months, researchers say.
The treatment is difficult and dangerous, meaning it is not an option for most HIV patients, but experts say the latest case is a big step toward the ultimate goal of a cure. "These new findings reaffirm our belief that there exists a proof of concept that HIV is curable," International AIDS Society president Anton Pozniak said in a statement, per the Washington Post. "The hope is that this will eventually lead to a safe, cost-effective and easy strategy to achieve these results." The London patient tells the Times it was "overwhelming" to learn he could be cured of cancer and HIV at the same time. "I feel a sense of responsibility to help the doctors understand how it happened so they can develop the science," he says. "I never thought that there would be a cure during my lifetime." (Read more HIV stories.)