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PlusNews Examines Efforts Of Malawi's New President To Restore Donor Relations, Fight HIV/AIDS

“Malawi’s new president, Joyce Banda, has inherited an unenviable to-do list from former president Bingu wa Mutharika, and AIDS activists are hoping that bolstering the donor-dependent AIDS response will be one of her most urgent priorities,” PlusNews reports. “An estimated 10 percent of the adult population is HIV-positive, with about 70,000 Malawians newly infected with HIV every year,” the news service writes, adding, “Yet the country is almost entirely dependent on external funding for its AIDS programs, and ambitious plans to scale up treatment have been derailed after the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria rejected a succession of funding proposals.”

Zimbabwe's Successful PMTCT Efforts Serve As A 'Model' For Other Countries In Drive To Eliminate Pediatric AIDS

“Zimbabwe is one of the key countries to watch in the drive to eliminate pediatric AIDS in Africa,” Chip Lyons, president and CEO of the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, writes in this post in the Huffington Post’s “Global Motherhood” blog, adding, “Zimbabwe’s Ministry of Health and Child Welfare and its international partners — including the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the U.K. Department for International Development (DfID), and most recently the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF) — have helped turn the tide of the pandemic in children.” He writes, “In June 2011 at the United Nations, a Global Plan was introduced to eliminate mother-to-child transmission of HIV by 2015,” and notes, “Zimbabwe was among the first of many countries to answer the call.”

USAID Administrator Shah Addresses Fight Against HIV In Children

In this post in the AIDS.gov blog, USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah discusses global efforts to end HIV infections in children. “Together with PEPFAR, our efforts have made a significant difference in promoting access to prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) services, helping to cut new pediatric infections in half in the past decade,” Shah writes, adding “We’ve also helped support 9.8 million pregnant women with HIV testing and counseling and provided PMTCT services to more than 660,000 HIV-positive women. As a result, approximately 200,000 infants were born free of HIV” (6/1).

Experts Respond To PLoS Editorial Comparing Chagas Disease To HIV/AIDS

“Chagas disease, a parasitic infection spread to humans by insects, is not the new HIV/AIDS of the Americas, according to infectious disease experts who called the comparison,” made in an editorial published in PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases last week, “‘unrealistic’ and ‘unfortunate,’” ABC News’ “Medical Unit” blog reports. “Rick Tarleton, president of the Chagas Disease Foundation, said the diseases have little in common beyond disproportionately affecting poor people,” the blog notes (Moisse, 6/1).

Child Survival Call To Action Event Signals A 'Hopeful Moment' In Global Health

“Helping mothers give birth to HIV-free children is an essential piece of the puzzle of ending preventable child deaths,” U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator Ambassador Eric Goosby writes in this post in the AIDS.gov blog, adding, “Yet 390,000 infants around the globe were born with the virus in 2010.” He continues, “Science has long established that providing mothers with antiretroviral drugs can prevent them from transmitting the virus to their children — as well as keeping the mothers alive themselves,” and writes, “What is needed is to take this intervention, available in affluent nations to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV, and make it available in the developing world.”

U.N. Women Becomes 11th Member Of UNAIDS Partnership

“The U.N. Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (U.N. Women) [on Tuesday] became the 11th member of the Joint U.N. Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), a partnership that focuses on achieving universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support,” the U.N. News Centre reports, adding, “UNAIDS and U.N.…

Efforts To Fight Illegal Drugs Contributing To Spread Of HIV, Report Says

The Global Commission on Drug Policy (GCDP) on Tuesday published a report (.pdf) titled “The War on Drugs and HIV/AIDS: How the Criminalization of Drug Use Fuels the Global Pandemic,” which “condemns the drug war as a failure and recommends immediate, major reforms of the global drug prohibition regime to halt the spread of HIV infection and other drug war harms,” according to the report summary (6/26). In the report, the GCDP “urged the U.N. to ‘acknowledge and address the causal links between the war on drugs and the spread of HIV/AIDS and drug market violence,’” Agence France-Presse/Straits Times reports (6/26). “It also wants the United Nations groups to push national governments to stop arresting and imprisoning people who use drugs but do no harm to others,” Canada’s CTV News writes, adding, “Instead, government should focus on evidence-based drug-reduction interventions, such as safe injection sites and prescription heroin programs” (6/26).

No Definitive Link Between Hormonal Contraceptives And Increased Link Of HIV Infection Among Women, CDC Says

“There is no clear link between the use of contraceptives such as the birth control pill or Depo-Provera shots and an increased risk that a woman will contract HIV, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Thursday,” Reuters reports, noting that the WHO came to the same conclusion in February. Following a review of recent studies suggesting women taking hormonal contraceptives might be at an increased risk of HIV infection, “the Atlanta-based CDC said, ‘the evidence does not suggest’ a link between oral contraceptives such as the birth control pill and increased HIV risk,” the news agency writes. CDC officials said though the evidence for injectable contraceptives is inconclusive, they too are safe, according to Reuters. “Women at risk for HIV infection or who already have the virus ‘can continue to use all hormonal contraceptive methods without restriction,’ the CDC said,” the news agency writes. However, “the CDC also said it was ‘strongly’ encouraging the use of condoms as a precaution against the virus that causes AIDS,” Reuters notes (Beasley, 6/21).

AIDS.gov Blog Republishes Post In Which U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator Discusses AIDS 2012 Conference

In an effort to “raise awareness around the U.S. global response to HIV/AIDS,” the AIDS.gov blog has republished a post by U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator Ambassador Eric Goosby in which he discusses the XIX International AIDS Conference, taking place in the U.S. for the first time in more than 20 years from July 22-27. He notes, “The conference theme, Turning the Tide Together, underscores the pivotal moment in which AIDS 2012 is taking place,” and discusses the role that the U.S. has played in achieving scientific progress in the fight against AIDS since it was identified 30 years ago (6/21).

New Data On Individuals With Natural Ability To Fight Off AIDS

“Scientists on Sunday said they had found a key piece in the puzzle as to why a tiny minority of individuals infected with HIV have a natural ability to fight off the deadly AIDS virus,” Agence France-Presse reports. “In a study they said holds promise for an HIV vaccine, researchers from four countries reported the secret lies not in the number of infection-killing cells a person has, but in how well they work,” AFP writes. “Only about one person in 300 has the ability to control the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) without drugs” the news service notes (6/10).