Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report Summarizes Opinion Pieces in Response To Detection of Rare, Drug Resistant HIV Strain
Officials from the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene last week announced they had detected in a local man a rare strain of HIV that is resistant to most antiretroviral drugs and possibly causes a rapid onset of AIDS. The city health department issued an alert to physicians, hospitals and medical providers asking them to test all HIV-positive patients for evidence of the strain. This combination of highly drug-resistant HIV and rapid progression to AIDS has not been identified before, and Dr. David Ho, director of the Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center -- where the patient was diagnosed as HIV-positive in December 2004 -- said the combination is "alarming" (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 2/17). Several newspapers have published editorials and opinion pieces in response to the announcement. Some of them are summarized below.
Bergen Record: Whether the rare strain is an isolated case or the "beginning of a new epidemic," the gay community "must take aggressive action now to stop ... deadly behavior" -- including unprotected sex, sex with multiple partners and crystal methamphetamine use -- among men who have sex with men, a Record editorial says. The gay community also must address denial among "[m]any young men who are not familiar with the suffering, death and fear caused by AIDS before the advent" of antiretroviral drugs, the editorial says, concluding, "Such complacency is no doubt why the rate of HIV infection in America has stayed the same even though medications have reduced the death rate" (Bergen Record, 2/17).
New York Times: Although "gay Americans ... learned a tragic lesson about disease transmission and the dangers of unprotected sex" during the 1980s, "young people are returning to dangerous sexual behavior," according to a Times editorial. The detection of the rare HIV strain shows that health care workers and educators have "a lot of work to do to turn this trend around," including making rapid HIV tests more widely available and routinely testing new patients for drug resistance, the editorial says, concluding, "Such data could serve as an early warning system for changes in the AIDS virus. The first step, however, should be to teach another generation to avoid risky behavior -- like the plague" (New York Times, 2/18).
- Cal Thomas, Charlotte Observer: The detection of the rare HIV strain should "come as no surprise" because of "years of a growing laxness among gay men who were increasingly complacent about AIDS and engaging in risky behavior," syndicated columnist Thomas writes in an Observer opinion piece. "After at least two decades during which we have been told that changing homosexual behavior is nearly impossible and conversion to celibacy or a heterosexual lifestyle is a sham that denies 'who we are,' getting people to listen to a message about behavior change will be increasingly difficult," Thomas concludes (Thomas, Charlotte Observer, 2/18).