Miguel [not his real name], in a soon-to-be published case study as “The Lisbon Patient,” will be celebrating his upcoming centennial in the spring.
Due to fear or reprisal and persistence of HIV stigma, Miguel and his family requested that his face not be shown, and his real name not be used.
“I feel happy,” the soft-spoken senior told CTV News, speaking through a translator at the Portuguese hospital. “I've spent these years without hardship and without troubles.”
Miguel’s viral load is undetectable, and he is in wonderful geriatric health. He is still able to live alone and care for himself.
Miguel was diagnosed with Stage 3 HIV (or AIDS) in 2004 when he arrived at a hospital near Lisbon with rare forms of colitis and lymphoma and a low CD4 count. CD4s are are white blood cells that play a significant role in our immune systems. He was 84 at the time and had no idea he was living with HIV. Miguel, who identifies as heterosexual, and his doctors believe he contracted the virus through sexual transmission.
Dr. Inês Pintassilgo, a medical resident who works with and has been part of Miguel’s treatment team for the past three years, said his health and longevity can be attributed to the facts that he takes his HIV meds daily and has lived a healthy and active life.
“I think he teaches us that you can live with HIV as long as you have all the other background and lifestyle and comorbidities under control,” Pintassilgo told CTV News. “I would say, of course, HIV maybe plays a little role in this, but if it’s well-managed and well-controlled it will not be that big of an issue.”
Miguel offers a different insight. “The reason why I have reached such a long age is because every day when I go to bed, I make a cup of lemon tea,” he said. “The good slice of lemon with the rind and the pulp and everything. It would boil for five minutes, and in the end, I would add a good teaspoon of honey.”
HIV specialist Guaraldi finds more than a little inspiration in Miguel’s case.
“I believe that the message is not to give more years to life, but to give more life to years. This is what we want for the future for our patients,” said Guaraldi, who works at the University of Modena in Italy. “I believe that the Lisbon Patient is a sign of hope for people living with HIV to say you still have the capacity not just to live longer but to live in health, to experience healthy aging… He is a proof of principle for us researchers and doctors to say we can provide better care to people.”