Drug resistant HIV spreading in UK

One in four people newly diagnosed with HIV infection in the UK are infected with a viral strain that is at least partially resistant to currently available antiretroviral drugs, according to new figures from Britain’s Public Health Laboratory Service (PHLS).

The data, soon to be published in the British Medical Journal, reflect a five-fold increase in drug-resistance rates over the past 4 years.

Although AIDS mortality has declined with the use of protease inhibitors and other drugs, “we’ve seen more diagnoses of HIV in 2000 than in any year previously,” a spokesperson for the PHLS told Reuters Health. He pointed out that new diagnoses of gonorrhoea are also on the rise. The results of other studies suggest that the problem is particularly severe among younger people.

“It’s fair to say that the figures reflect the fact that there is still unsafe sex going on in the community,” added Dr. Deenan Pillay, Director of the PHLS Antiviral Susceptibility Reference Unit, based at the University of Birmingham. However, the increase in drug resistance could also reflect the fact that more people are being treated for HIV infection, so there is more resistant virus in circulation.

The findings do not mean that HIV is resistant to all antiretroviral drugs or that those diagnosed cannot be treated, he stressed. What it does mean, though is that the treatment options for such patients are limited. The rise in drug resistance also highlights “the desperate need to add new drugs to the current list,” Pillay said.

A spokesperson for the Department of Health said the PHLS figures were being studied and that an HIV and sexual health strategy is close to publication.

Source: Reuters Health

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