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HTLV awareness

May 14, 2012

Dear Dr. Wohl,

My post is part statement and part question, and since you have experience with prison populations, I figured that you'd be the best person to address this to please. HTLV, a retrovirus that was discovered a few years before HIV, seems to be quietly spreading in the same ways as HIV (unprotected sexual contact, blood contact). It occurs to me that many people who contact your forum are understandably concerned that they've contracted HIV, but eventually test negative, despite having retroviral syndrome symptoms - why aren't any of these people tested or at least counseled about HTLV, especially those in prison populations? I've come to realize that doctors the USA don't even include HTLV as part of routine STD testing, and certainly no public health campaign exists to raise awareness of this virus - are we being complacent as Americans that HTLV cannot happen in our country? With half as many Americans infected with HTLV versus HIV (and some co-infected with both HTLV and HIV), shouldn't we be worried that this will become the next epidemic? Why aren't drug companies coming up with anti-viral treatments for HTLV to prevent a generation of people suffering with paralysis and dying of cancer (both can result from HTLV infection)? I apologize if my questions are emotional, but I already witnessed people I knew mowed down in the eighties because we weren't doing enough against HIV - should we be repeating the same mistake with HTLV? Thank you in advance for your logic and compassion.

Response from Dr. Wohl

Human T-cell lymphotropic virus (HTLV) is a genus of viruses that include four known viruses. None of these cause an AIDS-like illness. HTLV-I and HTLV-II have been found to cause a serious leukemia and a tip of neurological disorder. HTLV-III and IV have been found in humans but have not been linked to any diseases.

There is no evidence to support a role for these viruses in an HIV-like syndrome and screening for these is not justified given the fact that disease is rare and there is no treatment. DW

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