HTLV-1 Isn't the Same as Human Aids Virus

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Dear Dr. Donohue: When I went to donate blood, the Red Cross said I was denied because I have HTLV-1. What is it with this virus? I am not sick, and I am assured it is not the AIDS virus.

Human T lymphotropic virus type 1 is a tricky little organism indigenous to Japan, the Caribbean and parts of Africa and South America, with smaller pockets of prevalence in the southeastern United States. HTLV-1 should not be confused with the human immunodeficiency virus, the AIDS virus.

Even though HTLV-1 is not in the same league with HIV, it has been implicated in some pretty nasty scenarios, including nerve diseases and a rare form of leukemia. I want to inform, not frighten, but there you are.

The test for HTLV-1 can give false positive results, so retesting is in order. You really should have a repeat test.

The virus has some relatively favorable character traits. Illnesses associated with it tend to be rare ones, for example. And you can take some comfort in the fact that the virus is not easily transmitted.

Most people with HTLV-1 harbor the virus all their lives with impunity, even to the point of never being made sick from it.

Still, the virus demands respect. For example, patients should use condoms to protect others during sexual activity.

I draw comfort from blood-screening successes in homing in on such viruses to remove suspect people from blood- and organ-donor lists. No one wants to risk transmission, no matter how remote that might be.

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Dear Dr. Donohue: I would like to know about Osgood-Schlatter disease. My husband had it as a boy, and was denied sports participation. …