Andrew Stimpson isn't a scientist. If he were, he might have heard the line about extraordinary claims requiring extraordinary evidence. And his claim is indeed extraordinary - he says that he has managed to clear HIV from his system without therapy. Well, other than vitamins, don't you know - and if he says that he got them from Matthias Rath, I'm going to have to go lie down for a while.
This story has generated all sorts of irresponsibly breathless headlines, but when you read the stories underneath them you find that there's not much behind it. Stimpson received a positive HIV diagnosis on the basis of two antibody tests in 2002. Near the end of 2003, he was found to be negative, and was asked to repeat the test to confirm it. He refused, and sued the British health trust that did the testing.
Update: Press reports disagree about this. Some have the story as above, and others say that Stimpson tested negative on several occasions during 2002 and 2003. His initial postive tests showed what is being described as "an extremely low viral load."
Here's where things get messy. Stimpson appears to have sued because he felt that the original tests were in error. (The agency naturally stood by both its positive results). When no money was forthcoming, he then seems to have gone to a couple of the British tabloids with his miracle recovery story: ". . .I am just one person who managed to control (HIV), to survive from it and to get rid of it from my body", he's quoted as saying, which is an interesting statement from someone who was previously claiming not to be infected at all. Update: Stimpson eventually received a letter from the National Health Service calling his HIV-negative status "exceptional and medically remarkable", so he at least didn't come by his miracle-recovery story alone.
Stimpson hasn't been tested again, and doesn't seem to be available at the moment. I am not inclined to believe any claim such as his, to put it mildly, until he's been poked and prodded from every angle - to put it mildly. You would think that he might wish to help other HIV sufferers if he really has reversed the disease, wouldn't you? The article link above quotes the head of a charity in England as saying "The answer may turn out to be very complex. We must not jump to conclusions." Actually, I'm close to jumping to the conclusion that the answer might be rather simple.
Update: Press reports also disagree - markedly - about Stimpson's willingness to undergo further tests. My final sentence isn't meant to suggest some complex biochemical rationale. I'm thinking that the chances are best that the first positive results were in error - after all, their false-positive rate is surely much higher than the spontaneous-clearance-of-HIV rate. The health agency that tested him, though, might well prefer to treat this as an amazing medical anomaly rather than as a botched test. And given that he wasn't able to collect damages, it became in Andrew Stimpson's financial interest to go with that explanation as well, selling his story to the British tabloids for an undisclosed amount.
In the end, I agree with this quote, from the Nature.com news item on this story: ""If it is real, it's very interesting," says Jonathan Weber, an expert on infectious diseases at Imperial College London. But he cautions that the most likely scenario based on the current evidence is "either a false positive [in 2002], or he's still infected".