Canadian health expert Julio Montaner, chairman of AIDS research at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, says he is puzzled as to why New York City health authorities made a quick announcement about the possible threat of a rare HIV strain when his reports on two similar cases four years ago failed to show a heightened health risk, the Chicago Tribune reports. Montaner and his colleagues believed in 2001 that they had discovered a potential "superbug" when they identified two newly HIV-infected men whose virus was resistant to nearly every available anti-HIV medication and progressed to AIDS within just a few months. But the cases turned out to be isolated incidents and a major health threat never emerged, Montaner says.
Montaner and many AIDS activists say they are bewildered as to why New York health authorities were so quick to sound the alarm about a possible new HIV threat based on only a single patient and not enough data to know if there was a genuine public danger. "There's not a lot we can conclude from these isolated cases," Montaner told the Tribune. It's also still unclear whether the drug-resistant strain of the virus caused the rapid onset of AIDS in the New York City man, or whether specific genetic factors linked solely to the man's immune system contributed to rapid HIV disease progression.
New York health authorities on Monday said they had never heard of the Vancouver HIV cases. They say they went public about the New York HIV case to warn physicians and sexually active gay men who engage in unprotected sex about a potential new HIV risk in the region.