Dr. Hildreth Explains What the HIV ‘Cure’ Means for Black People
Renowned African-American HIV/AIDS expert Dr. James E.K. Hildreth spoke to EBONY about the disease and reports that a second man is in remission from HIV.
On Tuesday, the journal Nature reported the apparent cure of an HIV patient from London, who had undergone a bone marrow transplant. The man has been free of the infection for 18 months. Although doctors are hesitant to call it a full cure, the news has rekindled hope that scientists will be able to rid millions of those infected within the near future.
“What was published was that a second patient was cured, but we have to put that in parentheses because it’s still the early days,” Hildreth said. “[We have] an HIV-positive individual who developed some form of cancer. We destroy his bone marrow [and] totally wipe out his immune system. We’re going to restore his immune system by giving him bone marrow from a person who is resistant to HIV. The second patient validates the result of the first.”
In 2008, it was announced that Timothy Ray Brown—the so-called “Berlin Patient”— was the first person cured of HIV/AIDS after undergoing a bone marrow transplant from a resistant donor to treat his leukemia. He has since lived free of the disease for more than a decade.
Hildreth, president of Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tennessee, said it is great news that the procedure worked on two patients, but he does not believe it will be available to the public soon.
“The individuals who have this mutation in their HIV receptor are all of Caucasian/European descent, and that’s only a small percentage of the total population,” he said. “For a bone marrow transplant, we have to match the bone marrow of the donor to the recipient. And it is highly unlikely that a Black person or a person of African descent can accept a bone marrow donated from someone of Eastern European or European descent because it wouldn’t be a match.”
The doctor, however, does believe it opens the possibly of using gene-editing technology, which has its own “downstream effects,” to come up with a means to treat HIV/AIDS.
Hildreth also addressed the speculation that famed holistic doctor Alfredo Bowman, better known Dr. Sebi, previously cured AIDS through veganism and a cocktail of herbs and spices.
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