After undergoing stem cell transplants as treatment for cancer, two patients with HIV now have no trace of the virus in their systems, doctors reported today.
Doctors cautioned that it's still too soon to call it a definitive cure, as they have been off their treatments for just 15 weeks and seven weeks, respectively.
The study was led by Dr. Timothy Henrich of Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, according to news reports.
The doctors reported the surprising findings this week at the International AIDS Society Conference on HIV Pathogenesis, Treatment and Prevention.
"They are doing very well," Henrich said. "While these results are exciting, they do not yet indicate that the men have been cured. Only time will tell."
The two patients had been HIV positive and had been taking anti-retroviral medication for their condition, the Los Angeles Times reported Tuesday.
However, they each developed Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and so underwent chemotherapy as well as stem cell transplants while still receiving their antiretroviral medications.
The men received their transplants at different times; one four-and-a-half years ago, and the other nearly three years ago. The virus is now undetectable.
However, the Associated Press reported that more time is needed to determine if the HIV virus isn't just hiding undetected elsewhere in the body.
Dr. Robert Siciliano of Johns Hopkins University explained in a statement that it may take more than a year to make sure viral rebound does not occur.
The first news of these two men came last year at the 2012 International AIDS Conference; back then, they had undetectable HIV levels in their blood plasma.
They had not yet been taken off antiretroviral medications, however.