Second HIV patient virus-free - a breakthrough?
For a second time doctors have succeeded in freeing a patient of the HIV virus. A cancer patient in London was given a stem cell transplant from a donor who was resistant to the HIV virus. Three years later there are no traces of the virus left in the man's body. Doctors in Berlin had success with the same therapy several years ago. Press reactions vary from scepticism to euphoria.
Not a random stroke of luck
Medical historian Eugenia Tognotti writes in La Stampa that a milestone has been reached:
“Now we have real hope that Aids will no longer be an 'incurable' disease in the not-too-distant future. A replication in a second patient of the recovery of the so-called 'London patient' shows that we are not dealing with some random stroke of luck, but that this can be repeated again and again. ... For millions of HIV positive people the results of this research bring a shimmer of hope. And that is really something in the case of such a complex syndrome like the HIV/Aids virus, which forty years after it first appeared remains a global emergency on the list of human pathologies. ”
The method is dangerous and expensive
Polityka warns against too much euphoria:
“The patient from London had cancer. The drugs were not working so his last hope was a bone marrow transplant. This is not the sort of treatment that should be undertaken lightly. In order to prevent the marrow from being rejected, the patient has to take drugs that suppress the immune system. In rare cases it can still result in a conflict between the cells of the donor and those of the receiver. ... The treatment is both complicated and expensive and can also endanger the health of the patient. No one wants to use this method with an infected patient. But it could help researchers and doctors to discover and develop new methods which will defeat HIV forever.”
Disease is part of life
To suddenly reawaken hopes of permanent recovery is problematic, the Süddeutsche Zeitung believes.
“Disease is and remains a fact of human existence. We must fight it as best we can, but even in industrial countries this is really only in small steps. However if all we do is to unrealistically raise people's hopes, it only increases feelings of powerlessness among sufferers and their families. That's why so many people entrust themselves to dubious healers and doctors. Instead of using their chances of prolong their lives time in proper care, these patients often die too early. So we should focus on living a good life with the disease and less on healing. HIV patients in industrial countries are the perfect example of how it is possible to coexist with a disease. ”