A second person has been ‘naturally’ cured of HIV without medical intervention, scientists say

Hiv virus
  • An unnamed woman in Argentina has been declared “cured” of HIV without receiving a stem cell transplant.
  • Only once before has someone been reported naturally cured of HIV — Loreen Willenburg of San Francisco in 2020.
  • Previously, two other people were cured of HIV — the “Berlin Patient” and the “London Patient” — but only after receiving stem cell transplants.

Scientists have identified the second-ever person to rid themselves of HIV without medical treatment, according to an article published Monday in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

The patient, an unnamed woman living in Argentina, was diagnosed with human immunodeficiency virus in 2013.

Since 2017, an international team of researchers has been poring over the patient’s DNA in search of traces of the virus. They even checked her placenta after she gave birth in March 2020, STAT reported. After sequencing billions of cells, the scientists have confirmed that the woman is HIV-free.

Modern medicine has made it possible for many people to live with the virus under control, but they typically require consistent antiretroviral therapy to prevent the virus from replicating.

Four people in history have been reported “cured” of HIV. However, two of them — the “Berlin Patient” and the “London Patient” were cured after receiving stem cell transplants, a risky procedure that scientists have tried to replicate with other patients, without success.

Only once before have scientists found a confirmed case of a person clearing the virus from their system completely. In 2020, scientists shared a report on Loreen Willenburg — or, the “San Francisco Patient,” as doctors dubbed her — who was the first known case of a sterilizing cure without a medical intervention.

Willenburg and the unnamed patient in Argentina are known as “elite controllers,” a small subset of HIV patients whose immune systems naturally suppress the virus.

According to STAT, the Argentinian patient is known as “the Esperanza Patient” because she is from the city of Esperanza — which translates as “hope” in Spanish. She has a daughter, who is HIV-free, and is expecting a second child with her partner.

“Just thinking that my condition might help achieve a cure for this virus makes me feel a great responsibility and commitment to make this a reality,” the patient told STAT.