World’s first and only person cured of HIV to speak at PSU

STATE COLLEGE — Timothy Ray Brown, known as The Berlin Patient, the world’s first and only person cured of HIV, will give the talk “The Personification of Hope” Wednesday at 6 p.m. in Penn State’s HUB Heritage Hall.

Brown will discuss his cure, the hope it provides to people living with HIV throughout the world, and his role as an accidental AIDS activist.

Kirsten Burkhart, executive director of AIDS Resource Inc., collaborated with Caring Communities for AIDS Inc. to bring Brown to speak for the first time in the region.

She said, “We too often focus upon the negative aspects of HIV and AIDS. Brown shows millions of people living with HIV and AIDS throughout the world that there is scientific proof we can cure AIDS. His story is a celebration of hope for those living with HIV and AIDS, their families, loved ones and activists. AIDS Resource and Caring Communities brought Brown here to spread that hope and encourage people to become involved in the movement. We are fortunate that our agencies have so many collaborative partners in the region to help us bring him here.”

Brown is a 45-year-old American who moved to Berlin in the early 1990s and discovered he was living with HIV in 1995. He was eventually diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia (AML) and underwent a variety of treatments including chemotherapy and two stem cell transplants using cells harvested from a German donor. The treatments have enabled him to survive unthinkable odds and to be cured of HIV.

Brown crossed paths with Dr. Gero Huetter, a German hematologist at the University Medicine Berlin, who injected stem cells harvested from a donor who had a certain genetic mutation that made his immune system unable to be infected by HIV. Huetter believed HIV could be eliminated by taking the immune cells out of a person living with HIV and replacing them with immune cells that couldn’t be infected with the virus. Huetter was right, and Brown is the first person to have HIV cleared from his body. The case taught scientists much about how HIV works and how to produce a similar result without the risks of a stem cell transplant.

Brown has come forward because he believes AIDS science is poised on the brink of a breakthrough and there is instead too much focus on thinking of HIV and AIDS as chronic “manageable” conditions. He has become a public advocate for more funding around the cure for AIDS.

Today, Brown lives in San Francisco and continues to promote funding for research and offer hope to others.

The event is a unique collaboration between AIDS Resource Inc., Caring Communities, Penn State’s Commission on LGBTQ Equity, and the Penn State LGBTQA Resource Center. The program is free and open to the public.

AIDS Resource Inc. is a community-based nonprofit agency with offices in Williamsport and State College, offering case management, free HIV/STI counseling and testing services, free pre-exposure prophylaxis clinic, university-based peer education, public education, and training for area schools, agencies and organizations. Planned services include hepatitis screening, clinical case management services, and STI treatments. Residents of Clinton, Centre, Lycoming, Potter, Snyder and Union counties can access services by calling 1-800-773-AIDS.