Celebrating a 100th birthday would be a milestone for anyone. But for Miguel, known as “the Lisbon Patient,” his upcoming centennial in the spring is also of importance to the global HIV community: He is the oldest documented person living with the virus. What’s more, his viral load is undetectable, and he is in wonderful geriatric health—he’s even able to live alone and care for himself. 

“This guy [is] like an icon of hope for people living with HIV,” HIV specialist Giovanni Guaraldi, MD, told Canada’s CTV News, in a profile on Miguel (you can watch the video above).

Because of the persistence of HIV stigma, Miguel and his family requested that his face not be shown and his real name not be used. The nickname “the Lisbon Patient” was coined in a case study soon to be published.

According to CTV News, Miguel was diagnosed with AIDS in 2004 when he arrived at a hospital near Lisbon with rare forms of colitis and lymphoma and a low CD4 count. He was 84 and had no idea he was HIV positive. He and his doctors believe he contracted the virus through heterosexual contact.

Inês Pintassilgo, a medical resident who works with Miguel, said his health and longevity can be attributed to the facts that he takes his HIV meds daily and has lived a healthy and active life.

“I think he teaches us that you can live with HIV as long as you have all the other background and lifestyle and comorbidities under control,” Pintassilgo told CTV News. “I would say, of course, HIV maybe plays a little role in this, but if it’s well-managed and well-controlled it will not be that big [of an] issue.”

Miguel offers a different insight. “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,” he said via a translator. “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.”

HIV specialist Guaraldi finds more than a little inspiration in Miguel’s case. “I believe that the message is not to give more years to life, but to give more life to years—this is what we want for the future for our patients,” said Guaraldi, who works at the University of Modena in Italy. “I believe that the Lisbon Patient is a sign of hope for people living with HIV to say you still have the capacity not just to live longer but to live in health, to experience healthy aging…. He is a proof of principle for us researchers and doctors to say we can provide better care to people.” 

Read the complete CTV News article for more about trends in geriatric HIV care and research.

And don’t miss the 2018 POZ 100, highlighted in the December issue. Our ninth annual list honors people living with HIV who are 50 and older and making a difference in the fight against the virus.