Gena Tew 'Tired of Being Tortured in Hospitals' Amid AIDS Journey

Social media influencer Gena Tew has stated that she's "tired of being tortured in hospitals" as she continues to document the complications she has experienced over the past year as an AIDS patient.

Tennessee-based Tew has been documenting her health journey in a series of social media posts since going public with her diagnosis in March 2022.

In one TikTok clip, shared on June 11 and viewed over 14 million times, the model showed herself struggling to get up from her bed. Her weight had plummeted to 65 pounds, and muscle atrophy had weakened her legs, she revealed.

Her health has bounced back in recent months, she said, with her weight increasing to more than 100 pounds, but Tew continues to deal with other problems, including an inability to walk unaided and blindness in one of her eyes.

Gena Tew discusses HIV cure treatment
Gena Tew is pictured in social media posts on Instagram and TikTok. The social media influencer has said that she is "tired of being tortured in hospitals" amid her ongoing AIDS treatment. Gena Tew/Instagram/TikTok

As she continues to document her health journey, which has included such positive moments as the CD4 count in her blood being boosted, Tew addressed questions over whether she would be putting herself forward to be cured of the disease following news of scientific breakthroughs.

In February, German researchers announced that a 53-year-old man had become the third patient ever to be completely cured of HIV after receiving stem cell transplantation.

The so-called "Düsseldorf patient"—who was diagnosed with HIV in 2008—had received the transplantation in 2013 to treat a life-threatening form of blood cancer, acute myeloid leukemia, according to a paper published in the journal Nature.

"After four years of systematic observation: Düsseldorf University Hospital can now provide qualified proof of one of the world's first cases in which an HIV infection has been cured," the researchers said in a statement at the time of the announcement.

However, Tew said that she was hesitant about undergoing the treatment for reasons that included her ineligibility and the high risks involved.

HIV test
Photo of a positive HIV blood test. A new study has detailed how a third patient has been cured of HIV via stem cell transplantation. Foremniakowski/Getty

"Everyone seems to be having like some magical field day with the fact that five people were cured from HIV," she said in a video shared on TikTok this week. "I mean, that's so great—for them.

"But telling me to have hope isn't gonna help me at all, because I did my research and it is a very toxic, [potentially] fatal stem cell procedure that they also said not everyone who has HIV is qualified for. You have to already have a life-threatening... blood problem or cancer."

"They've already tried it on multiple people and it has not worked. So there's that," she continued. "So do I want to potentially die in order to get cured, or do I wanna take my medicine? I think I'll just take my medicine, because I'm tired of being tortured in hospitals. Cool thought, though."

Tew concluded her video by adding a note explaining that she is "still in the AIDS category." She also highlighted text from a news article that said experts deemed it unethical to attempt to cure HIV through a stem cell transplant without the patient already having a potentially fatal blood cancer, given the risks.

The Düsseldorf patient first tested positive for HIV in 2008. Six months into treatment, he was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia, a cancer of the blood and bone marrow, the tissue where blood cells are made. Despite the poor prognosis, his doctors saw an opportunity to deal with both conditions with a single treatment.

"It was intended from the beginning to treat both the leukemia and HIV with the stem cell transplant," Dr. Björn-Erik Ole Jensen, who co-authored the recent paper on the case, told Newsweek.

Gena Tew reveals she's at "goal weight"
Gena Tew said last year said that her weight was up to 106 pounds, after AIDS complications saw her weight plummet to 65 pounds (pictured right early last year). Gena Tew/TikTok

Six years after receiving the transplantation, the Düsseldorf patient stopped taking his HIV medication. The researchers then carried out extensive tests to ensure that there were no remaining signs of active virus in the patient's blood.

"Almost ten years after the stem cell transplantation from an unrelated donor and more than four years after ending the HIV therapy, he is now in good health," said the researchers in the paper. "To date, this is the longest and most precise diagnostic monitoring of a patient with HIV after stem cell transplantation."

Meanwhile, Tew told her TikTok followers back in November that the CD4 count in her blood had been boosted as her health continues to improve. The count is a measure of the number of CD4 cells, a type of immune cell attacked by HIV.

In a video clip, she said: "I just had my recent bloodwork done, and as you know... my CD4 count was 112. So now it is 159. So I think in the next three-and-a-half to four months, I'll be over 200. I'm excited."

She continued: "As my doctor sees it, they say on paper they will see it as HIV instead of AIDS." Once her CD4 count surpasses 200, she will be classified as living with HIV rather than having AIDS, she explained. HIV typically turns into AIDS in approximately eight to 10 years if left untreated, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Gena Tew discuses AIDS-related blindness
Model Gena Tew has undergone surgery for AIDS-related blindness. Gena Tew/TikTok

Tew, who remains unable to walk unaided, said in October that the viral load in her blood means that she cannot transmit HIV to another person.

"I am undetectable, you guys. That means untransmittable," she said in a TikTok video. "With that being said, people are asking me, 'Are you going to marry or have a baby with someone with AIDS?' I don't need to marry somebody with AIDS. They don't have to have AIDS. That means I cannot transmit it to the other person."

Tew went on to say that her potential partner could take precautions, such as going on a medicine called pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), which reduces the chances of contracting HIV through sexual intercourse or while injecting drugs.

"I can have a normal life. Let's get rid of that stigma," she said in her video. "AIDS isn't a death sentence. I survived—I'm a survivor."

Thanks to antiretroviral therapy, HIV/AIDS patients can suppress the viral replication within the body and block transmission to others. The patient will subsequently have such a low level of HIV in the blood that it becomes undetectable in conventional analysis.