To take in the donor's immune cells, they had to wipe out Mr. Brown's own immune system by bombarding him with chemotherapy and radiation. Next came the transplant procedure itself. On the same February day, Mr. Brown stopped taking his antiretroviral drugs. Three months later, after a grueling recovery in which he almost died, he was free of H. I.V.
For Mr. Brown, the revelation came one day at the gym when he discovered he was building muscle again after years of disappearing. "That was kind of proof that it was gone," he said.
Many hurdles remained. A recurrence of leukemia required a second transplant a year later. A brain biopsy left Mr. Brown temporarily paralyzed and almost blind. He had to be taught how to walk and speak again. His recovery, hampered by injuries following a robbery in Berlin in 2009, left a stiff shoulder, visual impairment and neurological damage that prevented him from resuming his work as a translator.
"My life is far from perfect," he said in 2015, "but it's still my life."
He was living in Nevada in 2013 when he met Mr. Hoeffgen on the Scruff dating app. They moved to Southern California in 2015. In April, Mr. Brown was admitted to a cancer hospital. His leukemia, which had nothing to do with H. I.V., had returned. Covid-19 restrictions kept the couple together on the medical campus for weeks.
This month, Mr. Hoeffgen told Mark S. King, a blogger and AIDS activist, that Mr. Brown had terminal cancer and had received hospice care at home. Mr. Brown was aware that he was dying.
"I asked him what I should tell people when we publish his situation," said Hoeffgen. He said, 'Tell people to keep fighting. Fight for a Cure for H.I.V. that works for everyone. I never wanted to be the only one. "
In addition to Mr. Hoeffgen, Mr. Brown is survived by his mother.
One researcher asked if the couple would consider donating Mr. Brown's body to science.
"I said:" Thank you, but no, "said Mr. Hoeffgen." I think he has done enough. "