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Cases Of Two AIDS Patients Renew Hope Of AIDS Cure For Many Scientists, New York Times Reports

The New York Times profiles two AIDS patients whose cases “suggest to many scientists that [curing AIDS] may be achievable,” according to the newspaper. “One man, the so-called Berlin patient, apparently has cleared his HIV infection, albeit by arduous bone marrow transplants,” and the other, “a 50-year-old man in Trenton, [N.J.,] underwent a far less difficult gene therapy procedure. While he was not cured, his body was able to briefly control the virus after he stopped taking the usual antiviral drugs, something that is highly unusual,” the newspaper writes.

Testing Of Vaginal Gel For HIV Prevention Halted After Interim Results Showed No Difference From Placebo

Researchers involved with a multi-armed clinical trial designed to evaluate different antiretroviral (ARV) interventions for HIV prevention on Friday announced the arm testing a vaginal gel had been stopped because it was not working, the New York Times reports. The announcement marks “a major disappointment for AIDS research” because the gel “had seemed to work surprisingly well in a previous” trial, according to the newspaper. That study, called CAPRISA, found that the vaginal gel, which contains the ARV tenofovir, reduced the risk of HIV infection by 39 percent among women overall and by 54 percent among women who used it most consistently, the newspaper notes, adding, “It was hoped that the new trial, nicknamed VOICE (for Vaginal and Oral Interventions to Control the Epidemic), would confirm that earlier trial” (McNeil, 11/25).

IPS Reports On Child Poverty In Lesotho

“The triple threat of HIV, poverty and food insecurity is increasingly exposing children to abuse, exploitation and other human rights violations” in Lesotho, Inter Press Service reports in an article examining child poverty in the small southern African country. “In the country of 1.8 million, a good 500,000 out of 825,000 boys and girls live under 1.25 dollars a day and without proper shelter, according to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). Almost 40 percent of children under five suffer from chronic malnutrition and are stunted. Both under-five and infant mortality have persistently gone up in the past decade,” IPS writes, adding, “To make matters worse, Lesotho is one of the three countries in the world worst affected by HIV/AIDS. Every fourth Basotho is infected with the virus, leaving a quarter of children orphaned” (Palitza, 11/23).

Obama Should Announce Scale-Up Of AIDS Treatment Programs

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s recent speech calling for an “AIDS-free generation” through the use of multiple prevention strategies, including more widespread antiretroviral therapy, “was a dramatic reversal of U.S. policy, which has historically viewed treatment more as a costly expense rather than our most powerful prevention investment,” physician Loretta Ciraldo and Katrina Ciraldo, a student at Boston University School of Medicine, write in this Miami Herald opinion piece.

IPS Examines HIV In The Caribbean, Highlights Challenges In Addressing At-Risk Populations

Inter Press Service examines HIV in the Caribbean, where “the HIV burden varies considerably among and within countries” in the region. “‘I think the prevention programs in many countries are not reaching the right people,’ Michel de Groulards, regional program adviser of the UNAIDS Caribbean Regional Support Team, told IPS,” the news service writes, adding, “One factor, de Groulards believed, may be that after 25 years of providing treatment, some countries have reached a plateau. In other cases, people considered at risk, including [men who have sex with men], are not targeted.” IPS writes that “even as Caribbean politicians, scientists, researchers, academics and other stakeholders continue to examine ways of dealing with the virus, 30 years after the first case was recorded in the region, there is growing recognition that cuts in overseas funding could seriously hamper future success” (Richards, 11/21).

Significant Drops Seen In AIDS-Related Deaths, New HIV Infections, UNAIDS Report Shows

UNAIDS on Monday released its World AIDS Day Report 2011 (.pdf), “which shows more people than ever living with HIV, but deaths and new infections steadily dropping,” the Guardian reports (Boseley, 11/21). The number of AIDS-related deaths in 2010 was 21 percent lower than its peak in 2005, and the number of new HIV infections in 2010 also was down 21 percent from its peak in 1997, according to the report, BBC News notes (11/21). The report credits more widespread treatment, behavior change and male circumcision for significant drops in the number of new cases, according to the Guardian (11/21). “Of the 14.2 million people eligible for treatment in low- and middle-income countries, around 6.6 million, or 47 percent, are now receiving it, UNAIDS said, and 11 poor- and mid-income countries now have universal access to HIV treatment, with coverage of 80 percent or more,” Reuters notes, adding, “This compares with 36 percent of the 15 million people needing treatment in 2009 who got AIDS drugs” (Kelland, 11/21).

Wall Street Journal CEO Council Highlights Global Health As Priority Area

The Wall Street Journal last week held its CEO Council, “assembl[ing] nearly 100 chief executives of large companies for a day and a half to discuss the policy choices facing business and government, and the effects those choices may have on the global economy.” The CEOs formed five task forces to discuss priority areas, including global health, according to the newspaper (11/21). The Wall Street Journal summarizes the top four recommended priorities from the task-force discussion on global health, which include fighting non-communicable diseases, encouraging the global use of health technologies, targeting vaccine-preventable diseases, and stopping the spread of HIV/AIDS (Landro, 11/21).

Potential Cuts To Global Health Spending Threaten Vision Of ‘AIDS-Free Generation’

The vision of an “AIDS-free generation” presented in a speech earlier this month by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton “is under threat in Congress,” as “[t]he House and the Senate are discussing significant cuts to the 2012 Obama administration request for global health funding,” Jeanie Yoon, a physician with Doctors Without Borders/Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), writes in a Baltimore Sun opinion piece. Yoon describes an MSF program in Zambia working to prevent mother-to-child HIV transmission (PMTCT), saying such programs “provide an opportunity for mothers be tested for HIV (as well as other dangerous conditions for pregnant women) and to take the steps needed for them and their babies to live healthy lives; as well as for communities to gain productive members instead of incurring yet more losses.”