Palm Springs, CALIF. - A man who beat the odds after becoming the first person to be cured of HIV was remembered Friday afternoon in Palm Springs. Family, friends, and those closest to Timothy Ray Brown gathered at Desert Healthcare Wellness Park on North Via Miraleste and East Tachevah Drive for a new bench dedicated to Brown.
"He’d be very pleased and have a big smile on his face," said Brown's partner, Tim Hoffgen.
Brown was known as "The Berlin Patient" after being given the name at the 2008 Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections, where his cure was first announced. He contracted the virus while studying abroad in Berlin in 1995. Brown later was diagnosed with leukemia. He underwent a stem cell procedure which ultimately made him HIV-free in 2007.
"This is important because, who Timothy Brown was, he was a beacon of hope, inspiration for people that were suffering from a disease that at the time was so mortal," said Dr. Conrado Barzaga, Desert Healthcare District CEO.
Brown died in September 2020 but his story lives on.
"For so many decades they were afraid to say the word 'cure.' they called it the 'C' word because it had been so much false hope at the beginning of the epidemic and that really turned around when Timothy’s cure was announced," HIV + Aging Research Project Executive Director, Jeff Taylor said.
Brown's story has brought hope to the medical community and resonated with people all around the world. He and his partner, who is also named Tim, moved to Palm Springs 6 years ago where he would spend his last years advocating for a cure.
"Timothy was just a very very sweet and kind soul and he really liked to talk about his experience when he had a cure for HIV," said Hoffgen.
Local organizations came together to fund the bench, which was dedicated in Brown's name. It now sits among the trees at a park where he and his partner often came to together.
"For the local community it’s a beautiful place for the community to come and reflect on whatever is troubling you. It’s located near the hospital, so we hope that people who are having a rough time," said Peter Kostrobala, with Let's Kick Ass Palm Springs.
While the medical community has developed successful treatments that can prolong a person's life and help them manage HIV, there is still no definitive cure for the disease.