At the 19th Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI) on Wednesday, Gabriel Chamie of the University of California, San Francisco “discussed outcomes in a routine linkage-to-care strategy versus and an enhanced strategy for accelerated antiretroviral therapy (ART) start in rural Uganda,” the Center for Global Health Policy’s “Science Speaks” blog reports. In the study, a higher percentage of people who were offered the enhanced strategy received follow-up care, began ART, and remained in care, and “Chamie highlighted the need for enhanced linkage to care efforts for patients at all CD4 cell counts,” according to the blog (Mazzotta, 3/7).
“Data presented from the FEM-PrEP trial by Dr. Lut Van Damme Tuesday [at the 19th Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections in Seattle] highlighted the challenge that adherence plays in successfully deploying effective Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) interventions,” HIV Medicine Association Executive Director Andrea Weddle writes in this guest post in the Center for Global Health Policy’s “Science Speaks” blog. “The FEM-PrEP study was conducted to evaluate the protective effect of a daily oral dose of emtricitabine/tenofovir disoproxil fumerate (FTC/TDF) among African women, but was halted early, in April 2011,” because of “interim data analysis showing similar rates of new HIV infections among women taking daily FTC/TDF and the placebo arm,” Weddle notes. Van Damme said blood monitoring did not show levels of the drug consistent with self-reported adherence rates, according to Weddle (3/6).
“Investigators gave more details about the positive results of the Partners PrEP Study Tuesday at the 19th Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections in Seattle,” the Center for Global Health Policy’s “Science Speaks” blog reports. “The study of 4,700 HIV discordant couples (where one partner is HIV-infected and the other is not) looked at the potential of two different antiretrovirals for pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) for HIV-1 prevention versus a placebo among heterosexual men and women in rural and urban Kenya and Uganda,” the blog notes. So far, results show 75 percent protection in the arm using two antiretrovirals and 67 percent protection in the one-antiretroviral arm, when compared with the placebo, the blog notes, adding that the “drug arms of the study are ongoing and will wrap up at the end of this year” (Mazzotta, 3/6).
Nature examines how funding shortfalls are hampering global efforts to use drugs to curb the spread of HIV, writing, “[A]t this week’s annual Conference on RetroÂviruses and Opportunistic Infections in Seattle, Washington, there was growing concern that financial austerity in the United States and elsewhere is eating away at the funding needed for a worldwide prevention effort.” The journal cites proposed reductions “to direct international aid for HIV programs under the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR)” in President Barack Obama’s FY 2013 budget request and an announcement by the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria last November that it had cancelled Round 11 grants “until 2014 because of tightening budgets in donor countries.”
WHO Criticized For Not Efficiently Communicating Recommendations On HIV, Contraception To African Women, PlusNews Reports
“HIV organizations, researchers and activists have criticized the WHO and UNAIDS for not clearly communicating [guidelines on HIV and hormonal contraception] to African women, who remain the most affected by the continent’s high HIV prevalence rates,” PlusNews reports. In February, the WHO confirmed its existing recommendations after a study published last year suggested that using hormonal contraceptive injections might double the risk of women acquiring HIV or transmitting the virus to a male partner, according to the news service. “However, because the U.N. agency was unable to definitively rule out the possibility that progesterone-only birth-control shots like Depo-Provera posed no HIV risk, it is now strongly advising women at risk of or living with HIV to use condoms concurrently to prevent HIV infection or transmission,” PlusNews writes.
U.S. Panel May Re-Evaluate Bird Flu Research After Scientists Present New Data About Risks To Humans
Speaking at the American Society for Microbiology’s (ASM) Biodefense and Emerging Diseases Research meeting in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday, Ron Fouchier, the leader of the team at Erasmus Medical Center in the Netherlands that genetically altered the bird flu virus, making it transmissible between ferrets and “touching off public fears of a pandemic, said … that the virus he created was neither as contagious nor as dangerous as people had been led to believe …, prompt[ing] the United States government to ask that the experiments be re-evaluated by a government advisory panel that recommended in December that certain details of the work be kept secret and not published,” the New York Times reports (Grady, 2/29).
Group Requests More Research, Better Communication From WHO On Use Of Hormonal Contraceptives, HIV Risk
“The International Community of Women Living with HIV (ICW) expressed concern Monday over the World Health Organization’s (WHO’s) Technical Statement on Hormonal Contraceptives and HIV (.pdf) and its accompanying press release,” the Center for Global Health Policy’s “Science Speaks” blog reports. “WHO released the statement last week — concluding that women living with HIV or at high risk of HIV can safely continue to use hormonal contraceptives to prevent pregnancy,” the blog writes. According to the blog, “The ICW is pushing for more research on the subject and increased communication to explain the risks involved to potential users of hormonal contraceptives” and “‘urgently’ demanded that the WHO correct the note for media the WHO released along with the technical statement, calling it inconsistent with the findings of the technical review panel” (Mazzotta, 2/28).
The Global Health Technologies Coalition (GHTC) — consisting of 40 global health research and advocacy organizations — on Tuesday held a congressional briefing to launch its third annual policy report, titled “Sustaining Progress: Creating U.S. policies to spur global health innovation,” GlobalPost’s “Global Pulse” blog reports (Donnelly, 2/28). The group is “warning deep cuts in the U.S. federal budget could reverse progress made on many diseases, including HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria,” VOA News writes (DeCapua, 2/28).
Pharmaceutical company Novartis “has spoken out following criticism about its challenge to India’s patent laws, insisting that access to life-saving drugs is not under peril by the move,” Pharma Times World News reports. The case, which the Indian Supreme Court is scheduled to hear next month, challenges “Indian patent law, notably Section 3(d), which states that a modification of a known chemical composition is non-patentable,” the news service writes.
In this guest post in the Center for Global Health Policy’s “Science Speaks” blog, Brook Baker of the Northeastern University School of Law Program on Human Rights and the Global Economy, “describe[s] and comment[s] on pharmaceutical company Novartis’s court challenge to India’s strict standards of patenting medicine” and worldwide protests against the company that took place last week prior to its shareholder meeting (Mazzotta, 2/27).