BERLIN – Timothy Ray Brown has been cured of AIDS after a breakthrough treatment and a visit to Lourdes.

On the heels of World Aids Day  comes a stunning medical breakthrough:  an HIV-positive man who underwent a stem cell transplant has been cured as a result of the procedure!

Timothy Ray Brown, also known as the “Berlin Patient,” received the transplant in 2007 as part of a lengthy treatment course for leukemia. His doctors recently published a report in the journal Blood affirming that the results of extensive testing “strongly suggest that cure of HIV infection has been achieved.”

Mr. Brown has also visited the Roman Catholic shrine Lourdes recently, where he was bathed in the holy water.  Some believe this was the reason he was cured.

Brown’s case paves a path for constructing a permanent cure for HIV through genetically-engineered stem cells.

While the highly lethal technique used on the man known as the “Berlin Patient” would not work for most of the 33 million people with HIV worldwide, scientists say the research shows important progress toward a universal cure.

“Our results strongly suggest that cure of HIV has been achieved in this patient,” said the study in the peer-reviewed journal Blood, a publication of the American Society of Hematology.

The process began in 2006 when a US man in his 40s, who had been HIV positive for more than a decade, sought treatment for acute myeloid leukemia, a lethal blood cancer.

After a first round of chemotherapy failed, his German doctor, Gero Hutter, thought he would see if he could perform a bone marrow transplant using a donor with a rare genetic mutation that is naturally resistant to HIV.

Mr. Brown flew to Paris in September and then on to Lourdes.  “After I arrived at the sanctuary, I undressed and began praying constantly as I headed toward the statue of the Blessed Mother.  Then they dipped me in.  I didn’t think it would work really, but now I’m cured.  It’s a miracle!”

Most are attributing the “cure” to medicine rather than faith. Last week, Time named another AIDS-related discovery to its list of the Top 10 Medical Breakthroughs of 2010. Recent studies show that healthy individuals who take antiretrovirals, medicine commonly prescribed for treating HIV, can reduce their risk of contracting the disease by up to 73 percent.

So a cure for the AIDS virus has been found.  Drugs and Lourdes is the answer.  This certainly provides hope for the more than 33 million people living with HIV worldwide.

Alongside such findings, global efforts to combat the epidemic have accelerated as of late, with new initiatives emerging in the Philippines and South Africa this week.

Many AIDS patients are also now planning a pilgrimage to Lourdes.

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