DEAR ABBY: The recent news of a possible new strain of HIV that is drug-resistant to three of the four classes of anti-HIV drugs and may progress to AIDS in months rather than years, should provide a wake-up call to those who are not practicing safer sex and/or are still sharing needles and syringes.
Time after time, I hear young people say they're not worried about being exposed to HIV/AIDS because, should they get infected, they can take the appropriate medicine and they'll be fine. Unfortunately, they could be dead wrong. If they become infected, the medicines they will have to take can cause serious side effects and must be taken for the rest of their lives. Also, not all people benefit from the medications, especially those who are unfortunate enough to be infected with a strain of virus that's already resistant to one or more classes of drugs.
Abby, people need to understand that HIV is not spread through the air, or from shaking hands or hugging someone who has the virus. If you have unprotected sex or share needles and syringes you could become infected. If you don't, you won't.
It's up to all of us to protect ourselves and our partners. -- MERVYN R. SILVERMAN, M.D., FORMER PRESIDENT, AMERICAN FOUNDATION FOR AIDS RESEARCH
DEAR DR. SILVERMAN: I agree that it's critically important for folks to protect themselves and their loved ones from sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). In order to do that, they must act responsibly. By that, I mean they must refrain from unprotected sex unless both parties have been screened for HIV and are negative, and, of course, remain strictly monogamous.
I am appalled that there has actually been "debate" about whether the public should have been warned so quickly about what appears to be a new, more virulent strain of HIV that is drug-resistant. I hope the announcement will remind everyone about a subject that seems to have been forgotten in the last decade. For their own safety, sexually active people must keep their wits about them and always use condoms. And for those who say condoms aren't 100 percent effective, when properly used they are EXTREMELY effective in preventing STDs, especially HIV. Not using them is playing Russian roulette.