“Three decades after the full onset of the global HIV tragedy, science appears to finally be developing preventative measures, including microbicides that would thwart infections in the first place, according to individuals at” the biennial International Microbicides Conference in Sydney, the Asia Sentinel writes. “Now, however, the challenge is to put the solution into the hands of those most susceptible to the disease,” the news service adds (Ramakant, 4/17). Researchers, advocates and funders met this week at the conference “to discuss the state of HIV prevention research,” a conference press release states.
South Africa’s recently released “National Strategic Plan on HIV, Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) and Tuberculosis (TB) 2012-2016” “marked an important milestone” in the nation’s fight against infectious diseases, a Lancet editorial states. “The plan [.pdf] has several broad goals: to reduce new HIV infections by at least 50 percent; to start at least 80 percent of eligible patients on antiretroviral treatment; to reduce the number of new tuberculosis infections and deaths by 50 percent; to ensure a legal framework that protects and promotes human rights to support implementation of the plan; and to reduce self-reported stigma related to HIV and tuberculosis by at least 50 percent,” the editorial notes.
In this Daily Monitor analysis, Joseph Matovu, Rhoda Wanyenze and David Serwadda, all lecturers at Makerere University School of Public Health in Kampala, Uganda, respond to two articles related to male circumcision that were published in the Daily Monitor in March. In the analysis, the authors provide a brief overview of the articles — titled “Circumcision does not reduce HIV spread” and “Circumcision and HIV: are we being fed on half-truths?” — noting that they present anti-male circumcision perspectives, and write, “In writing this article, we intended to not only respond to these issues but also provide a more elaborate view of male circumcision and its role in HIV prevention based on scientific evidence at hand.” The authors recount the history of the male circumcision debate, referencing a number of relevant studies, and discuss the policy implications of this research. They conclude, “[M]ale circumcision is currently promoted as part of a comprehensive HIV prevention package rather than as a single magic bullet, as anti-male circumcision crusaders would like to make us believe” (4/12).
Inter Press Service examines how HIV/AIDS is affecting women in western Nepal, where life in the poor region “is getting worse thanks to HIV infection brought back by men who go to neighboring India for seasonal work.” According to IPS, “Worst hit are the region’s women, many of whom have had to sell off their land and livestock to get HIV treatment for their husbands and, in many cases, for themselves.” Some women who are widowed by HIV may find work as laborers, but the “social stigma attached to HIV and fears of contracting the virus among villagers” makes life difficult for women affected by HIV/AIDS, the news service notes. The article includes quotes from several women and community health workers involved in prevention, counseling and care of women affected by the disease. “According to the government’s National Centre for AIDS and STD Control (NCASC), women in the 15-49 age group form over 28 percent of the estimated 55,000 people living with HIV in the country,” IPS writes (Newar, 4/11).
The Guardian examines the HIV epidemic in Swaziland, writing, “While neighboring countries have made inroads against the disease, the mountain kingdom of one million people continues to suffer setbacks, partly due to cultural norms around sexuality being exacerbated by a financial crisis.” According to the news service, Swaziland has “the highest HIV rate in the world, with more than one in four adults estimated to be carrying the virus.”
Discontinuing Antibiotic Used To Prevent Opportunistic Infections Among HIV Patients Could Increase Risk Of Malaria, Diarrhea
“Abruptly discontinuing co-trimoxazole — an antibiotic used to prevent opportunistic infections in HIV-positive people — can lead to a higher incidence of malaria and diarrhea compared with patients who keep on taking the drug,” according to a study conducted by the CDC in eastern Uganda and published by the Oxford Journal of Clinical Infectious Diseases in March, PlusNews reports. “The researchers found that 72 percent of the 315 cases of fever reported by study participants occurred among those who had stopped taking co-trimoxazole prophylaxis, and they were also nearly twice more likely to report diarrhea,” the news service notes.
Medical aid organization Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) has expressed concern over proposed cuts to PEPFAR under the White House FY 2013 budget proposal, “saying it will undermine the president’s own goals” of “treat[ing] six million people infected with HIV around the world by the end of 2013,” VOA News reports. While President Obama “has pledged to expand PEPFAR to include more people, his budget proposal for the fiscal year 2013 cuts more than a half-billion dollars from” bilateral HIV/AIDS programs, VOA writes.
The Associated Press/Huffington Post reports on how communications engineers are joining the fight against AIDS in Africa, highlighting a project in Mozambique that brings wireless printers equipped with cell phone technology to remote villages. “Getting AIDS test results from labs to remote villages once took weeks in Mozambique, with the information sent by courier along the impoverished country’s terrible roads. The delay could mean death,” the news agency writes, adding, “Now, communications engineers have adapted office printers and cell-phone technology to wirelessly and immediately relay test results.”
Inexpensive Female Genital Schistosomiasis Prevention Could Help Reduce Women’s Risk Of HIV Infection
In this Huffington Post “Global Motherhood” blog post, Peter Hotez, president of the Sabin Vaccine Institute and dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, describes female genital schistosomiasis (FGS), which affects more than 100 million women and girls in Africa and “causes horrific pain and bleeding in the uterus, cervix and lower genital tract, not to mention social stigma and depression.” According to studies, women affected by FGS “have a three- to four-fold increase in the risk of acquiring HIV/AIDS,” but a low-cost drug called praziquantel may prevent FGS “and therefore also serve as a low-cost AIDS prevention strategy if it is administered annually to African girls and women beginning in their school-aged years,” he notes.
In this post on the State Department’s “DipNote” blog, U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator Ambassador Eric Goosby provides an update on the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, stating, “I am buoyed by the reform that is happening at the Fund under the leadership of new General Manager Gabriel Jaramillo.” He adds, “When PEPFAR and the Fund coordinate, our investments against AIDS are expanded both geographically and programmatically. Simply put, a strong PEPFAR requires a strong Global Fund.” Goosby concludes, “I am proud of the U.S. commitment to the Global Fund, in part because it is a commitment to the work of PEPFAR. We have a unique opportunity in a tight fiscal environment to support the Fund at this critical juncture” (4/9).