First Woman Has Been Cured Of HIV After Breakthrough Stem Cell Transplant

Back in 2015, 25 HIV-positive patients volunteered to participate in a cord blood stem cell transplant. This was part of the IMPAACT P1107 clinical trial. The stem cell transplant was to treat cancer and other underlying conditions. 

One of the participants, a woman who is being called the New York patient, had acute myeloid leukemia. She had been diagnosed with leukemia after four years of antiretroviral therapy for HIV.

The New York patient went through chemotherapy, and the cancer went into remission. Then, in 2017, she received a stem cell transplant. In 2020, she stopped taking her antiretroviral medication. For the past 14 months, HIV has been undetectable in her blood.

Doctors are considering the New York patient to be “functionally” cured of HIV. Even though HIV has not been detectable in her blood for 14 months, it will take many more months before doctors would feel confident that the HIV won’t come back.

Watch the video below to learn more about why this case is groundbreaking and how it is giving hope to other patients with HIV.

As mentioned in the video, three men have also been considered cured of HIV after stem cell transplants. The first man, who is known as the Berlin patient, had his HIV go into remission for 12 years. Unfortunately, he ended up dying of leukemia in 2020. The other two men who are considered cured are known as the London patient and the Düsseldorf patient. Both of these men also had their HIV go into remission following a stem cell transplant.

Besides being the first woman to be “cured” for HIV, the New York patient’s case is also unique because she had chemotherapy before the stem cell transplant. She actually received two stem cell transplants. The first was umbilical cord blood with an HIV-resistant mutation. The second, was a transplant of adult stem cells.

While a cure for HIV sounds exciting, this particular cure is not for everyone. According to Bruce Walker, the director of the Ragon Institute of MGH, MIT and Harvard, “These kinds of procedures are associated with really significant potential side effects, including death.” These procedures are only recommended to patients who are already suffering from a life-threatening condition.