February 18, 2005
AIDS shock – shorter life for AIDS victims


A TRINIDAD man died in just six months after he was infected with the HIV/AIDS virus.

The deadly news came in a statement last night from Professor Courtenay Bartholomew, Trinidad and Tobago’s leading expert on the deadly virus and in the wake of North American alarm over the discovery of a rare strain of the disease in a Brooklyn resident. {{more}}

The professor, who is the head of the Medical Research Foundation in Port of Spain, revealed that a rare strain of HIV/AIDS which could kill in six months, regardless of anti-retroviral treatment, has already hit Trinidad and Tobago.

Bartholomew disclosed that his research centre had published a report on one of the shortest incubation periods in HIV/AIDS in medical history, namely a man who died six months after he became infected. The name, age and sexual preference of the man was not disclosed. No mention was made about the men or women he might have infected.

Like the infected man in Brooklyn, the Trinidadian showed no response to the anti-retroviral drugs used to treat the infection.

“We performed all sorts of sophisticated molecular biological investigations on his blood to ascertain what it was about his virus strain that produced such a rapid progression to AIDS, but with the collaboration of the molecular biological department of Duke University , North Carolina, USA, we were unable to determine the reason for this,” the professor stated.

Bartholomew referred to the worldwide release on the Brooklyn patient, carried on the BBC and CNN, and noted that recent data now suggests that transmission of resistant HIV may be increasing in New York.

“This case is of great public concern because of its potential for widespread dissemination of highly resistant rapidly HIV strains. And so, perhaps New York may now give second thoughts to what it considered to be the meagre requirements, in my opinion, to be an HIV/AIDS specialist,” he said.

Bartholomew reiterated his plea to the nation to desist from promiscuity, and called on those who think they may have been exposed to the virus to get tested.

The professor insisted that the emergence of drug-resistant viruses are a consequence not only of poor adherence by patients, but also of relatively poor medical expertise and management by doctors who do not have enough experience in advanced medical therapeutical and clinical diagnoses.

Bartholomew pointed out that HIV/AIDS patients come with a bagful of other diseases and also of so-called opportunistic diseases. “In the 1940s, it used to be said: ‘know syphilis and you know medicine’. Now it may well be said ‘know HIV/AIDS and you know medicine’.”

He argued that the “treatment of HIV/AIDS should not be left to every Tom, Dick and Harry-otherwise we will have to deal with drug-resistant strains of HIV in Trinidad and Tobago, which will wipe out many of the HIV population in a short space of time. We have already begun to see the emergence of resistance to first line therapeutic triple-drug regimes,” he said.

Bartholomew stressed that it did not require any extraordinary medical intelligence to forecast that sooner or later the world is going to be faced with the problem of the emergence of HIV drug-resistant viruses.

“In fact, as far back as November 1988 in a press interview in the Sunday Guardian, I made the statement: “The virus may remain as lethal as it is at present, but it may also become less lethal. Unfortunately, and hopefully not, it may also become more lethal through mutations with time.”