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Virulent new strain of HIV reported in New York

A new strain of HIV, resistant to three of the four classes of antiretroviral drugs currently available, has been identified in New York according to city health officials. Of particular concern was the rapidity at which the strain progressed to AIDS in the infected individual. It is believed that the patient, a 40-year old homosexual male with a history of crystal methamphetamine use, developed the symptoms classically associated with AIDS (a very low immune cell count and high levels of the virus in the blood) just a few months after initial infection with HIV. Progression to AIDS normally takes several years rather than months, although this is very dependent on the general health of the individual.

Despite an official public health warning being issued however, many AIDS experts have been sceptical about the implications of the discovery. While resistance to more than two classes of HIV drugs is exceptionally rare, according to the leading AIDS virologist Dr Robert Gallo, just one case is "not enough to warrant a public health alert." He was also keen to stress that such rapid progression to AIDS is unusual, but may have been triggered by numerous other unknown health factors and cannot be seen as a definite characteristic of the strain.

The man's previous sexual partners are being traced, although usually when HIV strains progress very rapidly to AIDS, the rates of transmission remain low. It is therefore hoped that once the initial source of his infection has been found, there will be very few, if any further cases.