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HIV cure hopes dashed for two cancer patients

WASHINGTON--The latest hopes of curing AIDS were dashed Friday when U.S. researchers said HIV returned in two men who briefly eradicated the virus after bone marrow transplants for cancer.

Experts described the discovery as a “disappointment,” but said it offers important new clues in the hunt for the human immunodeficiency virus's elusive hiding places in the body.

Only one person is believed to have been cured of HIV. American Timothy Brown, who suffered from leukemia, received a bone marrow transplant from a rare donor who was resistant to HIV, and has shown no sign of the virus for six years.

“The return of detectable levels of HIV in our patients is disappointing, but scientifically significant,” said Timothy Heinrich, a physician-researcher in the Division of Infectious Diseases at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston.

“Through this research we have discovered the HIV reservoir is deeper and more persistent than previously known,” he said in a statement sent to AFP.

Heinrich first shared the news with fellow researchers at an international AIDS conference in Miami, Florida on Thursday.

Both HIV-positive men received bone marrow transplants as treatment for a kind of blood cancer known as Hodgkin's lymphoma, one in 2008 and the other in 2010.

About eight months after their operations, HIV was no longer detectable.

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