As if battling the rising number of persons being infected with HIV/AIDS was not enough, researchers have detected a new strain of the virus that is causing alarm among medical practitioners treating HIV/AIDS because it can move from HIV to full blown AIDS faster than any other known HIV strains.
The new strain, known as A3/02, shortens the time it takes HIV to turn into full blown AIDS. Current strains take about 7 1/2 years before full blown AIDS occurs but the new strain takes only 5 years before full blown AIDS can occur.
Persons infected with HIV do not necessarily develop AIDS in the 5 to 7 year span if they are on a treatment program. But untreated or undetected HIV can shorten life expectancy.
So far the new virus has only been found in West Africa but researchers believe the fast moving virus will be in the United States and Europe soon, according to the an article in the Journal of Infectious Diseases.
The Center for Disease Control said there have been no reported cases in the United States. So far the only bright spot is that the new strain can be treated with existing drugs on the market.
This coupled with a report in the Journal of the American Medical Association that says prevention counseling has been shown to have little effect on reducing “at risk” behavior for HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases makes the outlook for the treatment of HIV/AIDS and other STDs even more challenging.
Brad Childs, executive director of Lowcountry AIDS Services disagrees with the Journal’s findings. “We feel prevention and education has been very effective, especially in the African American community and other minority populations.” He added that the fact the Center for Disease Control funds their prevention and education through DHEC shows that the efforts are effective.
Childs went to say a recent study regarding HIV pre and post testing efforts is not an indictment on prevention and education because it only looks at the beginning process in which persons are asked STD identifying questions. Lowcountry AIDS Services has been around for 30 years and has had prevention and education services for the past 15 years, he said.
Locally, not much information about the new strain is available. African American males and females between the ages of 14-24 continue to be the fastest growing population contracting the disease.
“This continues to be the hot spot for new HIV infections. Given everything we know about HIV and how to prevent it from spreading, this is unacceptable that people are becoming infected at such an alarming rate,” said Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the Center for Disease Control.
Some researchers believe that more teens are at risk because they feel they are immune. “If the person looks all right they make the assumption that they will not become infected because they don’t see signs that they identify with as having HIV or AIDS,” Virginia King, former director of Prevention at Lowcountry AIDS Services said.
HIV, Human Immunodeficiency Virus turns to AIDS, Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome is when white blood cells drop below 200, making the body susceptible to infections and diseases. AIDS victims do not die from AIDS, they usually die as a result of the immune system being unable to fight off infections attacking the body. Victims die of illnesses like pneumonia, cancer, fever, liver failure or like sicknesses.
Lowcountry AIDS Services is a full service agency offering everything from counseling to housing referrals and help with medication.
Source: The Chronicle