A British man claimed on Sunday to be the first person to become clear of the HIV virus, which can lead to AIDS, after earlier testing positive for it.
If true, the case of 25-year-old Andrew Stimpson -- reported in two British newspapers -- could reveal more about the virus and possibly even provide a breakthrough in the search for a cure for HIV/AIDS.
A spokeswoman for Chelsea and Westminster Heathcare Trust in London confirmed that one of its patients had tested negative for HIV about 14 months after testing positive in May 2002.
"He did test positive and then later negative, but in terms of curing himself, we don't know because he hasn't been back for further tests," said the spokeswoman.
"We very much want him to return so we can try to find out what exactly has happened," she added.
There is no known cure for HIV/AIDS, responsible for the deaths of millions of people and especially virulent in parts of Africa. Some experts say there are nearly 35 million sufferers around the world.
Scientists cite anecdotal accounts from Africa of people shaking off HIV but say they have never seen firm evidence.
"I feel truly special and lucky," Stimpson, who is a sandwich maker, told the News of the World. "All the doctors have told me it is a medial miracle that I am clear."
Patrick Dixon, a doctor and HIV expert, told Sky News this was the first time someone had kicked the virus out of their body.
"(AIDS) is a hugely significant problem which at moment we have no cure for," said Dixon.
"It's just possible inside this man's body is a biological key. If we can find an antibody that he's produced that has enabled him to kick this virus out, we could in theory find a way of engineering that antibody and giving it as some sort of treatment," he said.
The hospital spokeswoman said subsequent DNA checks had proven there had been no mix-up in the identity of the patient and the HIV tests, but said she did not know whether there could have been any other error in the original test.
(Agencies via China Daily November 14, 2005)