'There is an immediate lift,' said Phil Bradshaw (not his real name) who for the past two years has been making a monthly trip to a London hospital to receive regular transfusions of blood plasma.
He attends with his partner, who is also the donor of the plasma he receives. As a half- litre donated the month before drips into his veins, a machine takes the next half-litre from his partner, returning valuable red and white blood cells to the donor in the process.
Each plasma donation has to be sent away for chemical treatment to rid it of HIV and other possible viruses. Although there is no medical reason for the pair to attend at the same time, they do so for 'psychological reasons'.
They both have little doubt of the beneficial effects of the therapy. 'I would absolutely recommend it,' Mr Bradshaw said. 'There is no doubt that I've benefited. My donor has also benefited. His T-cells have gone up. He also had a large jump in neutralising antibodies. They are still higher than when he started.'
Mr Bradshaw was first diagnosed as HIV-positive in 1987 and noticed the first symptoms of disease in about 1990. That year he also began a course of AZT, the powerful anti-viral drug, but had to stop after two years because of side-effects.
It was then that he began passive-immune therapy, first at the London Hospital and now at Ealing Hospital. He said his 'clinical markers' - the all-important CD4 T-cell counts and levels of neutralising antibody - were higher now than anyone would expect after another two years. 'You basically feel better on plasma. After I've just had it, which takes an hour, I'm usually brimming with energy.'
Mr Bradshaw, like the 30 or 40 other people in Britain receiving the therapy, is not part of a controlled clinical trial. His doctors arranged it on compassionate grounds.
'It's not a cure, nobody is saying it's a cure, but my doctor says there is nothing better to offer at this time.'
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