'Alarming' Progression Seen in New York AIDS Case

Feb. 11, 2005 — -- New York City health officials today announced that a patient rapidly developed full-blown AIDS shortly after being diagnosed with a rare, drug-resistant strain of the HIV virus.

The patient was diagnosed in December with 3-DCR HIV, a strain that is resistant to three different classes of anti-retroviral medication.

Officials at the city's Department of Health and Mental Hygiene said the patient is a male in his mid-40s who had multiple male sex partners and unprotected sex, often while using crystal methamphetamine.

Drug resistance is becoming increasingly common among patients who are undergoing treatment for HIV. However, health officials report that cases of drug-resistant HIV in newly diagnosed, previously untreated patients are extremely rare.

"This patient's infection with an HIV-1 strain that is not amenable to standard antiretroviral therapy, along with his rapid clinical and immunological deterioration, is alarming," said Dr. David Ho, director of the Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center and a leading expert on the disease.

"While this remains a single case, it is prudent to closely watch for any additional possible cases while continuing to emphasize the importance of reducing HIV risk behavior," Ho said.

City health officials said the man appeared to have developed AIDS within two to three months after he was infected, or 20 months at the most. In most other cases, onset of AIDS occurs more than 10 years after initial infection with HIV.

Crystal Meth Use Criticized

Doctors and health officials are quick to blame the growing use of crystal meth for many new cases of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.

"The rapidly growing crystal meth epidemic in New York City continues to play a significant role in facilitating the transmission of HIV," said Dr. Antonio Urbina, medical director of HIV education and training at St. Vincent's Catholic Medical Center in New York.

"In light of the emergence of this virulent new strain, health care providers must be especially vigilant in ... recognizing the signs and symptoms of crystal methamphetamine use in their patients," Urbina said.

"We urge all persons, both HIV negative and positive, to only engage in safer sex practices in order to prevent new infections or re-infection," said Jay Laudato, executive director of the Callen-Lorde Community Health Center in New York.

"We also ask all gay and bisexual men to become knowledgeable about the dangers of crystal methamphetamine and in particular its relationship to sexual risk-taking," said Laudato.

Community Action Urged

New York City Health Commissioner Thomas Frieden called upon the gay community to take action to fight the spread of HIV and AIDS.

"This community successfully reduced its risk of HIV in the 1980s, and it must do so again to stop the devastation of HIV/AIDS and the spread of drug-resistant strains," Frieden said.

According to Department of Health and Mental Hygiene estimates, 20,000 New Yorkers are infected with HIV/AIDS but do not know it.

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