Recent media coverage has payed close attention to the emergence of an HIV strain capable of causing AIDs in only 3 years if left untreated. (Average conversion time tends to be approximately 10 years.) Although significant progress has been made in efforts against HIV, especially in terms of antiretroviral therapy and health education, the fast conversion time of this HIV strain presents new challenges.
The strain of HIV causing concern is called CRF19. Thus far, CRF19 has been identified in some parts of Africa, but it appears to be widespread among HIV-infected patients in Cuba. Attention to the aggressive strain of HIV developed as physicians began noticing an increase in patients presenting with advanced disease.
From a public health perspective, the more aggressive strain of HIV poses significant risks, especially among patients unaware of their infection, who may go on to transmit the virus. Additionally, HIV tests may produce negative results if performed too early after infection, giving patients a false sense of security.
Researchers suggest that the CRF19’s ability to trigger AIDs conversion may be due to an enhanced ability to maintain a high viral load, driving the immune response, and hastening AIDs progression. Nevertheless, active monitoring and administration of timely antiretroviral therapy may protect infected persons from rapid AIDs development--emphasizing the importance of screening and drug access.