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Brazil Expanding National HIV Treatment Program To Include Patients With Higher CD4 Cell Counts

Brazil is expanding its national HIV/AIDS treatment program to include about 35,000 additional people, the Associated Press/Seattle Times reports. “Ronaldo Hallal of the [health] ministry’s Sexually Transmitted Disease Department said people with 500 or fewer CD4 cells per cubic millimeter will receive antiretroviral HIV treatment,” increasing the cutoff from 350 or less CD4 cells per cubic millimeter prior to the expansion, the news service writes. The Ministry of Health noted on its website that the expansion will require spending an additional 120 million reals, or $60,000, annually, according to the news service, which adds, “Hallal said Brazil already spends 1.2 billion reals ($600 million) each year in its free anti-AIDS program that is currently treating 223,000 people.” The AP notes Health Minister Alexandre Padilla said in a statement, “Brazil will be the only large country in the world to offer this kind of treatment that will reduce the risk of opportunistic infections like tuberculosis” (8/29).

Evaluating Cash Transfers As a Tool To Combat HIV/AIDS

In this post in the Center for Global Development’s (CGD) “Global Health Policy” blog, Amanda Glassman, director of global health policy and a research fellow at the center, and Denizhan Duran, a research assistant at the center, examine several recent studies evaluating the use of cash transfers as a strategy against HIV/AIDS. They state that “a new generation of cash transfer programs in sub-Saharan Africa is reducing new infections and HIV-related risky behavior — and documenting the gains — while also providing consumption, nutrition, education, and mental health benefits to the orphans and vulnerable children who are the primary targets of some programs.” Glassman and Duran conclude, “With the new batch of evaluation results on cash transfers, there may be more reasons to invest in these kinds of programs, particularly the at-scale national programs targeted to the poor” (8/8).

Global Fund Board Approves 45 New Two-Year Grants As Part Of Transitional Funding Mechanism

“The Board of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria has approved 45 new two-year grants, from 37 countries, totaling $419.2 million, to fund essential prevention, treatment, and care services provided to the people affected by the three diseases,” according to a Global Fund press release. “Another 11 proposals worth a total of $91.2 million were sent back for revision, and are subject to a further independent technical review before they can be approved,” the press release adds, noting the grant approvals are part of the Transitional Funding Mechanism and “will bridge the financing of essential interventions until the next opportunity to apply for grants” (8/28). According to the U.N. News Centre, the Global Fund “has approved funding of $22.9 billion for more than 1,000 programs in 151 countries, and helped programs provide AIDS treatment for 3.6 million people, anti-tuberculosis treatment for 9.3 million people, and 270 million insecticide-treated nets for the prevention of malaria” (8/28).

Religion Not A Barrier To HIV Testing, Treatment, Study Finds

“Preachers who promise divine healing have often been blamed for turning desperate HIV-positive people against their life-prolonging antiretroviral (ARV) medication and risking their health, but recent research suggests that religious beliefs may not be a barrier to treatment after all,” IRIN/Plus News reports. “A survey published in the medical journal HIV Medicine in June found that strong religious beliefs about faith and healing among black Africans living in London were unlikely to act as a barrier to accessing HIV testing and ARV treatment,” the news service writes, adding, “The 246 respondents described themselves as Christians, including Roman Catholics, and Muslims. Only 1.2 percent said they did not belong to a religion.” “The results reinforce previous African studies, which found that the decision to start treatment is usually based on the level of education and knowledge of ARVs, rather than religion,” the news service notes (8/22).

New Disease Causes AIDS-Like Symptoms But Not Spread Through Virus

“Researchers have identified a mysterious new disease that has left scores of people in Asia and some in the United States with AIDS-like symptoms even though they are not infected with HIV,” the Associated Press reports. “This is another kind of acquired immune deficiency that is not inherited and occurs in adults, but doesn’t spread the way AIDS does through a virus, said Dr. Sarah Browne, a scientist at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases,” who “helped lead the study with researchers in Thailand and Taiwan where most of the cases have been found since 2004,” according to the news service. “Researchers are calling this new disease an ‘adult-onset’ immunodeficiency syndrome because it develops later in life and they don’t know why or how,” AP writes, adding, “The fact that nearly all the patients so far have been Asian or Asian-born people living elsewhere suggests that genetic factors and something in the environment such as an infection may trigger the disease, researchers conclude” (Marchione, 8/22).

Panel Discussion Looks Back On AIDS 2012, Explores Possible Topics For AIDS 2014

Devex reports on a panel discussion held in Washington, D.C. Wednesday during which experts “looked back at the main surprises of the just-concluded [XIX International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2012)], and offered predictions on what the 2014 follow-up [in Melbourne, Australia] will focus on.” The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) and the Kaiser Family Foundation convened the panel, which discussed, among other things, the so-called “cure agenda” and how it might feature in Melbourne, according to Devex. Chris Beyrer, president-elect of the International AIDS Society, which organizes the biannual event, noted that AIDS 2014 might place more focus on human rights and governance issues, according to the news service, which adds Greg Millet, senior policy adviser in the White House Office of National AIDS Policy, pointed out that HIV prevalence among men is higher in countries that criminalize homosexuality. “Holding the conference in Australia should increase participation by Asian countries, said J. Stephen Morrison, senior vice president and director of the Global Health Policy Center” at CSIS, Devex writes (Brookland, 8/2). Jennifer Kates, director of global health and HIV policy at the Kaiser Family Foundation, and David Brown, staff writer at the Washington Post, also participated as panelists, according to the CSIS event page (8/3).

Gilead Sciences Signs Deals With 3 Indian Pharmaceutical Companies To Promote Low-Cost HIV Drugs In Developing Countries

Gilead Sciences Inc. announced Thursday that it plans to partner with Mylan Inc., Ranbaxy Laboratories Ltd. and Strides Arcolab Ltd. “to promote access to high-quality, low-cost generic versions of Gilead’s HIV medicine emtricitabine in developing countries,” the Wall Street Journal reports (Stevenson, 8/2). Gilead signed deals with the three Indian companies “to drive sales and reduce manufacturing costs of low-cost generic versions of its HIV drug emtricitabine in developing countries,” Reuters reports, noting that under the deals, Gilead “will provide technology and funding to help reduce manufacturing costs of the drug, the companies said” (Kuber, 8/2).

Science Magazine Recaps Issues Discussed At AIDS 2012

Science looks back at the XIX International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2012), which ended last week in Washington, D.C., writing, “The battle against HIV is having more success than ever. … But several presentations made clear that a gulf separates aspirations from reality when it comes to ‘ending AIDS,’ which [Secretary of State Hillary] Clinton and many other prominent speakers at the conference emphasized was now possible.” Though more people are on antiretrovirals (ARVs) now than ever, low- and middle-income countries are spending more on HIV/AIDS, and “attempts to find a cure — long viewed as a fantasy — now lead the scientific agenda,” most “of the 34 million HIV-infected people in the world do not take ARVs, many receiving treatment have trouble staying on the medication, … new infection rates continue to climb in key populations,” “[n]o AIDS vaccine is on the horizon,” and “funding shortfalls loom for global programs,” Science writes, quoting several speakers at the conference and providing more detail on the successes and challenges in the response against HIV/AIDS (Cohen, 8/3).

Examining The Role Of Collaborative Partnerships In Global Response To HIV/AIDS

In this post in the Center for Strategic & International Studies’ (CSIS) “Smart Global Health” blog, Rhonda Zygocki, executive vice president of policy and planning at Chevron, responds to questions about Chevron’s presence at the XIX International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2012) in Washington, D.C., last week, writing that such questions “give me an opportunity to talk about the critical role everyone plays in the global fight against this epidemic, including Chevron, as well as the ways collaborative partnerships will lead to the elimination of AIDS.” She highlights the company’s HIV prevention efforts, including a pledge last year of $20 million to the U.N.’s mission to eliminate mother-to-child HIV transmission by 2015, and continues, “Individuals, non-profit organizations, medical practitioners, representatives of governments, and companies from the private sector joined together in Washington, D.C., with the same vision: to create an HIV-free generation and eliminate AIDS around the world” (8/1).

Trans-Pacific Partnership Trade Agreement Could Restrict Access To Affordable, Life-Saving Drugs

In this post in the PLoS “Speaking of Medicine” blog, Judit Rius Sanjuan, a lawyer from Barcelona, Spain, and the U.S. manager of the Access Campaign at Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), says the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a regional trade agreement that currently involves 11 countries but could expand to include other countries in the Asia-Pacific region, “threatens to set a dangerous precedent with damaging implications for developing countries where MSF works, and beyond.” “Negotiations are being conducted in secret, but leaked drafts of the agreement outline U.S. aggressive intellectual property (IP) demands that that could severely restrict access to affordable, life-saving medicines for millions of people,” she writes, concluding, “At this pivotal moment in the fight against AIDS, when the scientific, medical and policy tools needed to reverse the epidemic are finally at hand, … the U.S. government’s demands in the TPP will threaten so much of what has been achieved so far, and will make the vision of an AIDS-free generation impossible, or at least much more expensive” (8/7).