A year after the “London Patient” was introduced to the world as only the second person to be cured of H.I.V., he is stepping out of the shadows to reveal his identity: He is Adam Castillejo.
Six feet tall and sturdy, with long, dark hair and an easy smile, Mr. Castillejo, 40, exudes good health and cheer. But his journey to the cure has been arduous and agonizing, involving nearly a decade of grueling treatments and moments of pure despair. He wrestled with whether and when to go public, given the attention and scrutiny that might follow. Ultimately, he said, he realized that his story carried a powerful message of optimism.
“This is a unique position to be in, a unique and very humbling position,” he said. “I want to be an ambassador of hope.”
Last March, scientists announced that Mr. Castillejo, then identified only as the “London Patient,” had been cured of H.I.V. after receiving a bone-marrow transplant for his lymphoma. The donor carried a mutation that impeded the ability of H.I.V. to enter cells, so the transplant essentially replaced Mr. Castillejo’s immune system with one resistant to the virus. The approach, though effective in his case, was intended to cure his cancer and is not a practical option for the widespread curing of H.I.V. because of the risks involved.
Only one other individual with H.I.V. — Timothy Ray Brown, the so-called Berlin Patient, in 2008 — has been successfully cured, and there have been many failed attempts. In fact, Mr. Castillejo’s doctors could not be sure last spring that he was truly rid of H.I.V., and they tiptoed around the word “cure,” instead referring to it as a “remission.”
Still, the news grabbed the world’s attention, even that of President Trump.
And by confirming that a cure is possible, it galvanized researchers.
“It’s really important that it wasn’t a one-off, it wasn’t a fluke,” said Richard Jefferys, a director at Treatment Action Group, an advocacy organization. “That’s been an important step for the field.”
For Mr. Castillejo, the experience was surreal. He watched as millions of people reacted to the news of his cure and speculated about his identity. “I was watching TV, and it’s, like, ‘OK, they’re talking about me,’” he said. “It was very strange, a very weird place to be.” But he remained resolute in his decision to remain private until a few weeks ago.
For one, his doctors are more certain now that he is virus-free. “We think this is a cure now, because it’s been another year and we’ve done a few more tests,” said his virologist, Dr. Ravindra Gupta of the University of Cambridge.