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The First Person Cured of AIDS Gets His Due

The First Person Cured of AIDS Gets His Due
Timothy Ray Brown/Getty Images

Palm Springs honors Timothy Ray Brown, the first person known to cured of HIV, with a permanent memorial.

Palm Springs recently honored an important historic figure in the HIV community, Timothy Ray Brown, the first person known to have been functionally cured of HIV. A star with Brown’s name on it was permanently added to the city’s Walk of the Stars, according to the Desert Sun. It was unveiled on December 1, 2023, as part of its annual World AIDS Day events and was placed in proximity to the future site of an AIDS memorial near Downtown Park.

Brown was diagnosed with HIV at the age of 28 in 1995, and like most people living with HIV at the time, a cure wasn’t something that felt within reach. Then, just over a decade later, he was diagnosed with leukemia while living in Germany. There, Brown underwent two stem cell transplant surgeries (a second was done because the leukemia had returned after the first). Miraculously, Brown had also been cured of HIV due to the transplants, as the donor was apparently genetically resistant to his particular strain of HIV, which is extremely rare. Until Brown decided to go public with his story, he was simply known to the world as “the Berlin patient.”

While stem cell transplants are too dangerous and difficult to be used on patients who don’t immediately need them, the case proved that HIV can be cured, and gave doctors unprecedented direction in what avenues to explore for potential cures.

For the rest of his life, Brown tirelessly worked with scientists, doctors, and researchers to further HIV cure-based research. But it was work that his longtime partner, Tim Hoeffgen, says the normally shy Brown was happy to do.

“Tim just loved to meet with researchers and activists and…just sharing his experience of everything he went through,” said Hoeffgen at the star’s unveiling ceremony. Adding that he “really just loved to interact with people. Researchers and students, they were in awe of him, and he was in awe of them.”

Brown and Hoeffgen eventually settled in Palm Springs, California, and were a much beloved couple in the queer-friendly desert community. In addition to Brown’s new star, a memorial bench and plaque was installed at the Palm Springs Wellness Park shortly after his passing in September of 2020, due to a recurrence of cancer. (However, no signs of HIV ever returned in Brown’s system.)

The president of the International AIDS Society, Adeeba Kamarulzaman, expressed deep gratitude for Brown’s life at the time of his passing, saying that “we owe Timothy and his doctor, Gero Hütter, a great deal of gratitude for opening the door for scientists to explore the concept that a cure for HIV is possible.”

Courtesy Facebook

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