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 on Feb. 11 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 had not been identified before (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 2/25). Several newspapers have published editorials and opinion pieces discussing the announcement. Some of them are summarized below.
Boston Globe: Although HIV/AIDS in the United States no longer "manifests itself in thousands of emaciated faces and certain death," the detection of a rare HIV strain is a "reminder that the disease lurks throughout society and remains a serious public health problem," a Globe editorial says. Therefore, HIV testing should become an "ordinary part of physical exams" because with "adequate privacy protections in place, physicians and patients should treat the procedure as essential," the editorial says, concluding, "Testing ought to be widespread and routine to keep this killer under control" (Boston Globe, 2/28).
Providence Journal: The "harrowing" news about the detection of the drug-resistant HIV strain has "fueled justifiable concern in health circles and the gay community" about the need for HIV/AIDS prevention, according to a Journal editorial. Society must encourage safer sex and "persuade" people to avoid high-risk behavior in order to "better protect themselves and others," the editorial says. The "terrible human and financial toll," including discrimination against men who have sex with men, will continue unless people disseminate information about HIV/AIDS, including how it is transmitted, and provide HIV testing for people in high-risk communities, the editorial concludes (Providence Journal, 2/24).
- Harry Adamson, Philadelphia Daily News: Although "[p]olitically correct activists see the mere mention of sexual and drug excesses among gay men as discriminatory unfair," it is the gay community that "is fueling the perception of gay men as unscrupulous night crawlers, constantly engaged in furtive sex and clandestine drug use," Adamson, a Philadelphia writer, says in a Daily News opinion piece. "This new and deadly strain of HIV is not as lethal as our own amoral behavior," Adamson writes, concluding, "If we in the gay community are not honest and decent and caring with each other, why should we expect society to be honest and decent and caring with us?" (Adamson, Philadelphia Daily News, 2/28).
- Nicole Brodeur, Seattle Times: The "smug sense of safety" over the HIV/AIDS "crisis" ended when a rare, drug-resistant HIV strain was detected in a New York City man, Times columnist Brodeur writes in an opinion piece. Although the case is surrounded by many unanswered questions, it should "serve as an alarm bell" to "end our national nap over a disease that we have yet to beat" and could have consequences for the world's political and economic stability, Brodeur says (Brodeur, Seattle Times, 2/24).
- Jeff Sheehy, San Francisco Chronicle: The "uproar" triggered by New York City's health alert and the "ominous scapegoating of gay men" are "unwarranted," Sheehy -- who is the HIV/AIDS adviser to San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom (D), a member of the Independent Citizens' Oversight Committee of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine and deputy director for communications at the AIDS Research Institute at the University of California-San Francisco -- writes in a Chronicle opinion piece. Current antiretroviral strategies are not long-term solutions, Sheehy writes, concluding that "blaming gay men for the anticipated failure of therapies" only "diverts attention from the desperate need for new approaches to both treatment and prevention" (Sheehy, San Francisco Chronicle, 2/23).
NPR's "All Things Considered" on Friday reported on the rare HIV strain. The segment includes comments from Dr. David Ho, director of the Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center -- where the patient was diagnosed in December 2004, and Paul Volberding, director of the Center for AIDS Research at the University of California-San Francisco (Knox, "All Things Considered," NPR, 2/25). The complete segment is available online in RealPlayer.
This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.