A Latino is the second patient in the world to be cured of HIV
The mysterious 'London patient' came out of the closet. His name is Adam Castillejo and he is a Venezuelan expatriate living in England.
We will read his name in the history books, along with the great milestone of being one of the first two people to be cured of the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), a sexually, blood or perinatal transmitted virus that can eventually lead to AIDS.
Until not long ago, this Venezuelan expatriate whose tests showed "a long-term remission of HIV" was known only as the "London Patient." But good results brought hope to his life and he wanted to be "the ambassador of hope" in the lives of others and share his story with the world.
This is what Adam Castillejos told NYT in an interview. He added, "I don't want people to think, 'Oh, you've been chosen.' No, it just happened that way. I was in the right place, probably at the right time, when it happened."
Born in Caracas and raised by his mother, with whom he lives in London, Adam was diagnosed in 2003, at age 23, while spending time in Denmark.
Eight years later, he was also notified that he had stage 4 lymphoma.
Because of his dual disease, treatments were very complicated. "Every time his oncologists adjusted his cancer treatment, infectious disease doctors had to modify his HIV medication," said Dr. Simon Edwards, liaison for both teams.
The prognosis wasn't good for Castillejos. The doctor who began treating him in 2014, Dr. Ian Gabriel, a bone marrow transplant specialist, had warned him that his Latino roots "could complicate the search for a donor."
Finally, thanks to his paternal Dutch ancestry, a "German donor was found who had an essential mutation known as delta 32, just the one that prevents HIV infection," and the transplant was successful in May 2016.
After numerous operations and months in the hospital, Adam received his last dose of retrovirals in 2017, and two years later, in March 2019, doctors announced that he was cured.
Timothy Ray Brown will also go down in history. He was the first person officially cured of HIV and his case is quite similar to Castillejo's:
The patient suffered from a complicated leukemia that required a bone marrow transplant and his hematologist, Dr. Gero Hütter, found a donor with the same delta 32 mutation.
Although the researchers recognize that there is still a long way to go before genetic editing can be used as a cure strategy for the entire population, "the main conclusion we draw is that the Berlin patient was not simply an anecdote and that it is possible to achieve total remission of the virus," said one of the experts, Dr. Martínez Picazo.
Currently, Brown lives in California and is still HIV-free and in need of retrovirals. Venezuelan Adam Castillejo is the only one so far to have his luck.