HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - "If it's been done once, it can be done again," says Timothy Ray Brown, the only man in the world to be cured of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.
Brown joined researchers from the University of Hawaii John A. Burns School of Medicine on Tuesday, World AIDS Day, to launch the "Hawaii 2 Zero" campaign, an ambitious effort to eradicate HIV from Hawaii.
Brown was diagnosed in 1995. A strict schedule of medication kept the HIV under control, but it was a battle with Leukemia that convinced him to get a stem cell transplant.
"It became clear ... in order to save my life I'd have to do the transplant," he said.
Brown had to have chemotherapy to wipe out cancerous and infected cells. New stem cells were transplanted and regenerated. After that first transplant, he was HIV and cancer free.
But the process was painful -- and very taxing on his body.
"What I went through was hell and I wouldn't recommend it to my worst enemy," he says.
But the results have given researchers hope that a similar procedure could cure others someday.
"We never thought we could actually eradicate this virus from people," said Dr. Lishomwa Ndhlovu, with the Hawaii Center for AIDS at UH, "His strategy was a high risk attempt to try to do that. It was very successful."
While researchers work on that, they are trying to spread the word about prevention and getting tested.
Ndhlovu said Hawaii is unique because it is isolated. Getting people to get tested and seek treatment can significantly lower the number of new cases.