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Kansas City Star Examines HIV Education, Care In Egypt

The Kansas City Star examines HIV education and care in Egypt, where “the Ministry of Health says there are 2,700 cases, but the true number is estimated conservatively at more than four times that — and growing.” The newspaper writes that while “HIV education has become an international cause throughout Africa, where the rate of infection devastated many sub-Saharan nations but is being brought under control by concerted efforts on prevention and treatment,” similar efforts “are largely nonexistent in North Africa and the Middle East, and AIDS activists now worry that the rise of a conservative Islamic government in Egypt, where former longtime Muslim Brotherhood member Mohammed Morsi became the country’s first democratically elected president over the summer, will make matters worse.”

“The U.N. is leading the AIDS education effort here, and there have been efforts by individuals to bring attention to the issue,” the Star notes, adding, “According to one survey, 57 percent of doctors here think that HIV can be transmitted through a mosquito bite, according to a footnote in a U.N. report,” and “[m]any patients, unaware of the symptoms or risks, learn only by chance that they’ve been infected, when a blood test required for a visa or a medical procedure comes back positive.” The newspaper writes, “Ehab Abdel Rahman, the director of the HIV program at the Ministry of Health, balks at the suggestion that Egypt isn’t doing enough. … The blame, he said, lies with patients who try to diagnose and medicate themselves.” But “Omnia Kamal, a Morsi adviser on women’s issues and a member of the committee that’s charged with drawing up the country’s new constitution, offers a different view. In a nation plagued with economic programs and a litany of social issues, AIDS is not a priority, she said” (Youssef/Ismail, 10/22).

Blog Reports On ID Week In San Diego

The Center for Global Health Policy’s “Science Speaks” blog on Friday published two posts reporting on ID Week, which concluded in San Diego on Sunday. “Wafaa El-Sadr of Columbia University offered an ID Week presentation Thursday about the impact of treatment on the global epidemic and the new promise of changing the trajectory of the epidemic by scaling up treatment both to save lives and reduce HIV incidence,” the blog writes in the first post, adding, “She reminded her audience that treatment has already had a major impact” (Lubinski, 10/19). “A trio of presentations on HIV, Women and Child Health [on Friday] morning told a story of success in preventing transmission of HIV from parents to children in the United States that has yet to be duplicated in developing countries, of options that could make a difference, and, in a look at the burdens children born with HIV will carry into adulthood, of some of the relatively rarely discussed consequences of gaps in efforts so far,” the blog writes in a second post (Barton, 10/19).

Researchers Continue Hunt For AIDS Vaccine

“Finding a safe, effective AIDS vaccine has, thus far, proved elusive even after some $8 billion invested from 2001-2011 into vaccine research and development,” PlusNews reports in an article examining ongoing HIV vaccine research efforts. “Scientists point to HIV’s Houdini-like ability to escape immune system attack, and less-than-strategic use of funds over the past decade, as reasons for the continued hunt,” the news service writes. PlusNews examines efforts “to seek more U.S. government funding for research that crossed over into more than one area of science. “Funding for cross-disciplinary research is still limited, said Ellen Weiss from the U.S. non-profit Biophysical Society,” the news service adds.

UNDP Releases Report Examining Impact Of Laws Regarding Sex Work, Effectiveness Of HIV Response

The UNDP on Thursday released a report, titled “Sex Work and the Law,” which “examines 48 countries in Asia and the Pacific to assess laws, legal policies and law enforcement practices that affect the human rights of sex workers and impact on the effectiveness of HIV responses,” according to a UNDP press release. “Where sex work has been decriminalized, there is a greater chance for safer sex practices through occupational health and safety standards across the industry,” the press release states, noting, “The report describes countries that use punitive law enforcement practices, confiscate condoms as evidence of illegal conduct, require compulsory or coerced HIV testing, deny government services and certain rights to sex workers, and have compulsory detention centers”; “highlights current laws, policies and practices that are helpful to HIV responses”; and “highlights how significant advances in recognition of the rights of sex workers can occur even in contexts where the sex industry is illegal” (10/18).

Canadian Journal Examines HIV In Swaziland

The Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ) reports on HIV in the Kingdom of Swaziland, writing the country “now has the dubious distinction of having the world’s highest rate of both HIV and tuberculosis (TB).” The journal notes “[a]bout 26 percent of adults aged 15-49, or about 202,000 of all the citizens of Africa’s last absolute monarchy, are HIV-positive, according to the Swaziland government,” and asks, “Why are the 1.2 million people of this landlocked kingdom … in such dire straits?” CMAJ writes, “A host of underlying factors appear to be at the root of its woes: politics, history, culture, economics, poverty, gender inequity, and much more.”

New Report Shows Increasing HIV Prevalence, Incidence In Uganda

“An HIV/AIDS report by advocacy organizations in Uganda indicates that new transmissions are on the rise amidst troubling trends of increasing prevalence and incidence,” Uganda’s New Vision reports. “The findings are contained in a report titled: ‘The Change We Need to End AIDS in Uganda,’ which describes a 10-point plan to halt the trend,” the newspaper notes. “Some of the 10 points include ending harmful policies that further marginalize vulnerable groups; endorsing and expanding safe medical circumcision; and tackling health challenges that hold back the response to AIDS,” according to the newspaper.

Zimbabwe To Allow Trained Nurses To Prescribe, Administer ARVs

PlusNews examines challenges and concerns over an announcement by the Zimbabwean government that it plans to train nurses to prescribe and administer antiretroviral drugs (ARVs) to people living with HIV in the country. “Previously, nurses were allowed only to administer the drugs after a doctor had prescribed them,” the news service writes, adding, “Now, changes made in the job descriptions of nurses by the Nurses’ Council of Zimbabwe will see them prescribing the medication.” Owen Mugurungi, director of the HIV/AIDS and TB unit in the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare, said, “I need to point out that it’s not enough that a professional council allow nurses to administer drugs; this should be followed up with measures to capacitate nurses to do this work correctly,” according to PlusNews. The news agency looks at how the possibility of work overload for nurses, a government hiring freeze on nurses, and ARV availability could affect the country’s plan to reach 85 percent of the population in need of HIV treatment by the end of this year (10/16).

Offering Methadone Treatment To Drug Users Significantly Reduces HIV Infection, Transmission Risk, Study Shows

Offering methadone treatment to people who use injection drugs “substantially reduces the risk that they will get HIV or give it to anyone else,” according to a BMJ study published this month that pools data from studies done in nine countries, the New York Times reports. “Methadone itself does not affect the virus; scientists believe it works because [drug users] on treatment become better able to stop sharing needles and selling sex for drugs,” the newspaper writes, noting “the risk of catching HIV is one in 125 from a syringe, about one in 122 from anal sex, and less than one in 2,000 from vaginal sex, according to an editorial published with the study.” The newspaper adds, “Many countries, including Russia, have large HIV epidemics among addicts but nonetheless outlaw methadone and buprenorphine treatment for political, religious, or other reasons” (McNeil, 10/15).

Global Fund Invites Myanmar To Apply For Additional Funding

“Health workers in Myanmar are confident that efforts to narrow the country’s huge gap between access to, and need for, life-saving medicines to treat HIV/AIDS are back on track after the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria invited the country to apply for additional funding,” IRIN reports. “The agency’s coordinator for Myanmar, Eamonn Murphy, said new funds will allow the country to close a ‘treatment gap’ where only one-third of the 120,000 people nationwide who need [antiretrovirals (ARVs)] receive them,” the news service notes. “A spokesman for the Global Fund said it ‘had encouraged an application by the country for more money’ following an August visit to Myanmar by its general director,” IRIN writes. “Health officials drafted a ‘concept note’ outlining how additional funding might be used, which will be reviewed by the Global Fund’s board, Murphy said,” according to the news service, which notes, “It offers two scenarios: the first ensures 85 percent of those who need ARVs receive them by 2015; while with the second, 76 percent of people would be covered, he said.” The news service adds, “Based on feedback from the board, the government will choose a strategy for the proposal to be submitted early next year” (10/12).

U.S. Can Draw Lessons From PEPFAR Success To Address Epidemic In Black America

“Thirty years ago, the CDC reported the first cases of HIV/AIDS in New York and Los Angeles,” Foreign Policy In Focus columnist Kwei Quartey writes in the Huffington Post World Blog, noting, “Since the beginning of the epidemic, over 600,000 people have died of AIDS in the United States, and 1.2 million people are currently living with HIV.” He briefly recounts a history of the disease in both the U.S. and Africa, writing, “Initially thought to be a disease of gay white men, AIDS is now a global epidemic.” He continues, “Whatever its origins, HIV/AIDS became a severe epidemic in East Africa in the 1980s,” noting, “The initial response by African governments to the AIDS crisis was inadequate, and in some cases absent.”

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