He has been living with HIV for at least 25 years and now the famous “Lisbon patient”, whose real name is Miguel, is about to turn 100.
Born on the 11th of May 1919, Miguel, whose full name is unknown as his family have requested privacy, found out he had HIV in 2004. Then aged 84, he went to hospital with breathing difficulties. Doctors discovered he had lymphoma and a very low CD4 white blood cell count. Following diagnosis, he was successfully treated and placed on antiretroviral medication. This brought his viral load down to an undetectable level.
Although he suffers some problems due to old age, including poor hearing and eyesight, he is relatively healthy for a 99-year-old and continues to live alone, making his own meals and taking charge of his own medication.
“I don’t really know how to explain it. I feel happy because I’ve spent these years without the hardship,” he says of his good health.
“I feel fit enough, too, to take care of all my routines, to get dressed, to put my shoes on, to go to bed. I do all of that at home alone.”
“Of course 100 years is something special!” HIV specialist Dr. Giovanni Guaraldi told CTV News from his office in Modena, Italy. “This guy is like an icon of hope for people living with HIV.”
“We need to make people know,” Guaraldi said. “There are still a lot of people living with HIV that consider their disease something dreadful while actually … regardless of experiencing and living with a chronic disease, you still can experience healthy ageing.”
Miguel has never smoked and doesn’t drink alcohol, and both his parents also lived to nearly 100, but unlike them, he takes two antiretrovirals a day. Like with any 100-year-old, people often ask him the secret to his long life.
“The reason why I have reached such a long age is because every day when I go to bed I make a cup of lemon tea. The good slice of lemon with the rind and the pulp and everything. It would boil for five minutes and, in the end, I would add a good teaspoon of honey,” he says.