Health warning over new HIV strain

Public health officials are reminding residents to practice safe sex following reports of the emergence of a more aggressive strain of HIV in the region.

A scientific study has suggested that a recently-discovered form of HIV, CRF 19, in Cuba has been found to progress into full blown AIDS some three times faster than the most common strains of the virus.

“Given the emergence of the new strain of HIV, and regional efforts underway to control the epidemic in the Caribbean and Latin America, it is now more important than ever to practice safe sex,” said Dr. Samuel Williams, acting medical officer of health.

Since the first case of AIDS in the Cayman Islands during 1985, there have been 123 HIV infections. 72 people have developed AIDS and 43 had died as of November 2014. Currently there are 62 people living with HIV in the Cayman Islands.

According to a study published this month by international researchers in the medical journal EBioMedicine, the strain is being found in newly-infected patients in Cuba who reported having unprotected sex with multiple partners.

The study reports that the new strain of HIV is a combination of three subtypes of the virus and spreads so fast that researchers are concerned that patients infected with the mutated virus may not seek antiretroviral therapy until it’s too late.

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