New strain of HIV found in the Caribbean

Published: February 26, 2015

Original Article:

Recent reports have indicated that an aggressive, new strain of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) has been identified within the region. As a result local public health authorities are reminding residents to practice safe sex at all times, whether at home or on travel overseas.

More than 60 epidemic strains of the HIV-1 virus presently exist and research indicates that this new strain called CRF19CPX develops much more rapidly from infection into full blown AIDS than these previous epidemic strains. Acting Medical Officer of Health, Dr Samuel Williams, explained that the new strain is a recombinant form of the virus.

“The recombinant virus strains originate when a person is infected by two different strains, whose DNA fuse to create a new form. Recombinants seem to be more vigorous and more aggressive than the strains from which they developed. In the case of CRF19, patients are reportedly transitioning from infection to AIDS in three years, two-and-a-half years faster than either of the parent strains,” explained Dr Williams.

Coordinator for the Cayman Islands HIV/AIDS programme, Nurse Laura Elniski, reiterated that when two dissimilar HIV strains meet in an infected person they can exchange bits of their genetic material to create a new virus. Therefore it is important that HIV positive persons with HIV positive partners continue to use protection whilst adhering to their treatment regimens as re-infection can occur and cause more recombinant virus strains to develop.

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