"Luckiest man" - cured of AIDS - will have further tests

The British man thought to be the first person to have shaken off HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is to undergo further clinical tests in the hope of a breakthrough in treating the condition.

Andrew Stimpson, 25, said yesterday that he was willing to do all he could to help to tackle the condition, after it emerged that his body had apparently rid itself of the human immunodeficiency virus.

In August 2002, Mr Stimpson, a Scot living in London, was found to be HIV-positive, but 14 months later a blood test suggested that he no longer carried the virus, and a further three tests confirmed the finding.

As far as doctors are concerned this is the first confirmed case of “spontaneous clearance” of HIV.

They believe it could offer important insights into the behaviour of the virus, and possible means of defeating it.

In the past there has only been anecdotal evidence of such a cure of HIV in a handful of cases in sub-Saharan Africa, and two patients in the 1980s appeared to shake off the virus.

However, in those cases it was impossible to prove conclusively that the positive and negative blood tests came from the same person.

Now Mr Stimpson, who was seen at the Chelsea and Westminster Healthcare NHS Trust, in London, has agreed to undergo further tests with doctors to identify exactly what has happened.

He apparently suffered depression after the initial diagnosis but otherwise he was well and took no medication apart from dietary supplements.

A spokeswoman for the Chelsea and Westminster trust confirmed yesterday that Mr Stimpson had an HIV-positive diagnosis, followed by a negative test, but did not say that he was cured.

The hospital insists that there is no likelihood a mistake was made in the testing system, and both the positive and negative tests are correct.

Doctors have asked Mr Stimpson to undergo further clinical investigation to find an explanation.

Initially Mr Stimpson tried to sue the trust after being told of his negative status, believing the initial diagnosis to have been wrong.

However, on investigation by the NHS Litigation Authority it was concluded that the trust’s Victoria Clinic for Sexual Health had no case to answer because both tests had been correctly conducted.

In a letter to Mr Stimpson, the authority said that the “fact you have recovered from a positive antibody result to a negative result is exceptional and medically remarkable”.

Mr Stimpson has reportedly said that he feels special and blessed to have escaped a condition that he had thought was a death sentence, and believes he is "the luckiest person alive”.

Clinicians and other sexual health specialists said yesterday that Mr Stimpson’s decision to undergo further tests could reveal more about the workings of the disease.


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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