NEW YORK: A possibly new strain of HIV infecting at least one local man has spurred emergency outreach efforts from government and community groups while igniting a debate about the need for more radical HIV prevention messages.
The unidentified man is a gay methamphetamine user who developed AIDS from the HIV infection in just two months - radically shorter than the normal gestation period
Groups in the New York City area that focus on HIV protection, gay issues, and drug use have all rushed to inform the public on the development.
"We're primarily using the media as our vehicle," said Sandra Mullin, associate commissioner and communications head at the NYC Department of Health. The department's first goal is to tell the public as much as it knows, while making it clear there is still a great deal of uncertainty.
Yolan Laport, an EVP at Ogilvy who leads HIV outreach for the National Institutes of Health, said that his firm and the government agency are currently monitoring the situation.
"Everyone is looking at the information and tracking anything that needs to be tracked. If more cases appear, there will be a reassessment," Laport said.
For others, the case raises concerns that HIV outreach is not working and that more aggressive techniques are required.
"The prevention strategies are 20-years outdated and have not evolved as this virus has mutated," said Perry Halkitis, the director of New York University's Center for HIV/AIDS Educational Studies and Training.
Lynn Schulman, director of communications, marketing, and community relations for the Gay Men's Health Crisis, said the organization's is partnering with gay-friendly venue owners who will allow the group to post materials. The group has also received free banner ad placement on the gay men social site manhunt.net, and is looking to work with other such sites.