Since the first reports of AIDS in 1981, the pandemic has expanded to all continents, with an estimated 34 million people currently living with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) worldwide. Following the recognition of HIV as the etiologic agent of AIDS in 1983, knowledge about this retrovirus has grown exponentially to an extent unlike any other infectious condition. In comparison, antiretroviral drug development has also been impressive. In the absence of a protective vaccine, the devastating consequences of severe immunodeficiency in infected persons have been halted by the use of combination antiretroviral therapy. At this time, there is no doubt that provision of antiretroviral drugs to all those who need them is the best strategy to avoid HIV-related complications and transmission to others. However, the side effects of these medications, especially as a result of their long-term use, have only recently been appreciated.
Because of the inflammatory nature of HIV-1 infection, conditions other than those secondary to immunodeficiency are becoming an increasing source of morbidity and mortality in infected persons. Cardiovascular disease is one case in point. Importantly, the use of antiretroviral therapy does not seem to totally avert this high risk. In contrast, some comorbidities frequent in HIV-infected persons, such as chronic viral hepatitis B or C, may experience a worse course in the HIV setting.
Besides HIV-1, other human retroviruses have been identified, some of which have been associated with distinct medical illnesses. For instance, HIV-2 may also produce AIDS, but after a much longer asymptomatic period than HIV-1. Infection with human T-lymphotropic virus-1 (HTLV-1) may result in a characteristic subacute myelopathy or a T-cell leukemia/lymphoma in 5% of carriers. More recently, xenotropic murine leukemia virus-related virus (XMRV) has been associated with prostate cancer and chronic fatigue syndrome, although much controversy exists about this virus. The impact of human retroviral infections is rapidly changing. The new medical series, Hot Topics in HIV and Other Retroviruses, is aimed at making available to any physician current and critical information in the clinical care and basic science of HIV/AIDS and other illnesses caused by human retroviruses. The topics selected and the authors invited to cover them will be carefully chosen. They will be published in the form of small-sized booklets and will be easy to read. The authors will be among the leading specialists in the field, ensuring that the data discussed are updated and well balanced. FBCommunication—the publisher—will ideally start publish-ing three to four booklets per annum. We hope that this series of Hot Topics in… will become a regular and desirable companion of many of our medical colleagues.