Following the statements by a 25 year old British man, Andrew Stimpson who claims his body has rid itself of HIV, Britain's leading HIV/AIDS agency, the National AIDS Trust, warns that too many people have been 'jumping to conclusions' about Stimpson's story, and further tests need to be done.
Stimpson, told two newspapers he had tested positive for HIV in August 2002, but that tests 14 months later came back negative.
Doctors are unconvinced by the claims, and say that the "miracle cure" is more likely to reflect an initial false positive test result, or that the later negative results were inaccurate because Stimpson's body was failing to produce the antibodies against HIV that the tests look for.
Dr Francois Venter, president of the Southern African HIV Clinicians Society, urged caution. "Maybe this was a laboratory or labeling mistake, or other error, or even an elaborate scam.
The Chelsea and Westminster Healthcare National Health Service Trust, which conducted Stimpson's HIV tests, confirmed that Stimpson tested positive for HIV in August 2002, that he then tested negative 14 months later, and that there was no mix-up of his samples with those from another patient.
A spokeswoman for the trust said that the negative test was a test for HIV antibodies - part of the body's defenses against an invading organism. To find undetectable levels of antibodies is highly unusual after a previous positive result, but it certainly doesn't mean the virus itself has been completely eradicated.
Grulich, head of the center's HIV epidemiology and prevention program, says the fact that Stimpson has tested negative for antibodies after previously testing positive is almost unprecedented. He said that the initial headlines were about cure, but reversion to HIV-negative (antibody) status doesn't mean a cure, and a biopsy is Stimpson's lymph nodes, and a Western Blot test to confirm the diagnosis would be required for confirmation.
However, the spokeswoman for the Chelsea and Westminster Healthcare trust said Stimpson had so far refused to submit to further tests and doctors were urging him to come back so scientists could find out more.
Grulich says the 'whole story smells a bit fishy' and can't be regarded as credible until further tests are carried out in a transparent way, because the legal threats have muddied the waters. Stimpson clearly could benefit either from establishing the first positive test was wrong, or from creating headlines about a 'cure'. He said 'this is a case that is of enormous interest to science, we need to get to the bottom of it'.