Just*in Time
by Justin B. Terry-Smith

Justin—

[pull_quote_center]So there’s a new strain of HIV from Cuba that is resistant to all known medications. Do you feel that this is a huge risk now that we have opened relations with Cuba especially for naysayers of condoms? And people who intentionally seek to become infected?
—Wolf Carver[/pull_quote_center]

Justinweb[dropcap]F[/dropcap]irst let me inform my readers what this whole thing is all about.

It was reported in mid-February by several on-line and newspaper sources that there is a “new” HIV strain that was found in Cuba. The Miami Herald reported that the HIV strain, if left untreated, will progress to AIDS in three years. Scientists at Belgium’s Catholic University of Leuven are concerned that people who are infected with the aggressive HIV strain will not at first seek treatment, and, by the time they try to seek treatment for their HIV infection, it will be too late.

First, let me say that the strain is not new (the strain has previously been found in countries in Africa), though it is rare.

…this study was only done with ninety-five people, which leaves a lot of scientists and researchers skeptical of the methodology.

While researching just about anything in public health, we, as experts, always make sure that we have enough data from which to establish or deduce noteworthy and substantial findings for the patient populations, like the thousands of people in Cuba living with HIV, that we represent. For example, this study was only done with ninety-five people, which leaves a lot of scientists and researchers skeptical of the methodology that was used. Seventy-three patients in the study were recently infected with HIV. Twenty-one of the seventy-three patients were not classified as having AIDS, but the remaining fifty-two patients were. Those patients were then compared with twenty-two patients whose HIV had progressed after living with the virus for three years. Additionally, the study also did not take into account how the subjects in the study contracted HIV.

According to the Miami Herald, Hector Bolivar, a physician and infectious disease specialist with the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, said, “The only thing now is that in Cuba, it is associated with rapid progression [of the disease]. It’s something that hasn’t been seen before that clearly.”

Bolivar also noted: “It’s very difficult for us in the United States or Europe or many places where there are treatments [for HIV] to replicate these findings in the long-term because it’s unethical to wait until someone progresses until they can no longer benefit from treatment.”

With that being said, let me first say this. Every now and then we hear of a new HIV superbug that is resistant to HIV treatment. We cannot add to public hysteria without knowing the facts through research and science. Knowing the facts is key. Then and only then will one know how to prevent infection of others and safeguard themselves from infection of not only HIV but of any illness. There will always be a risk of being infected with a sexually transmitted infection (STI) while having sex, unless we all decide to be abstinent (which we all know there is no way in hell, at least for my ass….literally).

Honestly, Wolf, whether this was happening in Cuba or Japan or any other country, there is always a risk. All in all, I really do not think it matters.

Looking at your question about the opening relations with Cuba, I cannot help but think of the HIV travel ban. Frankly, the question disturbs me not because you asked it but because other with political power might use this as an excuse to try to bring it back. If I were HIV-negative or positive I WOULD NEVER SUPPORT SUCH A BIASED LAW.

As for your second question, people who intentionally seek to become infected, which are also known as bug chasers will find a way to become infected with HIV. It honestly isn’t up to us to tell anyone what to do with their own bodies; all we can do is give them advice on what their options are. I personally think there are deeper issues with bug chasers than people would like to admit.


Justin B. Terry-Smith, MPH, has been fighting the good fight since 1999. He’s garnered recognition and awards for his work, but he’s more concerned about looking for new ways to transform society for the better than resting on his laurels. He started up in gay rights and HIV activism in 2005, published an HIV-themed children’s book, I Have A Secret (Creative House Press) in 2011, and created his own award-winning video blog called, “Justin’s HIV Journal”: justinshivjournal.blogspot.com. Presently, he is working toward his doctorate in public health. Visit his main Web site at www.justinbsmith.com. He welcomes your questions at [email protected].