PSI’s “Healthy Lives” blog reviews a recent Science magazine article written by James Shelton of USAID’s Bureau of Global Health in which he raises concerns about the use of antiretroviral drugs (ARVs) as a prevention strategy. The blog notes he especially expresses concerns over drug adherence and resistance. “Dr. Shelton does not entirely dismiss the usefulness of ARVs, but seeks to look a bit more critically at how effective they are as a prevention tool,” the blog states, noting that Shelton’s article concludes, “ARVs are no ‘magic bullet.’ But ARVs’ best potential is to contribute to the existing combination arsenal, which, well applied, can have a major impact in stemming the global HIV pandemic” (1/6).
A Congressional delegation consisting of six senators and one representative arrived in Africa on Thursday for an eight-day trip that “includes oversight of Department of Defense, Department of State, and USAID activities in Africa,” the Daily Republic reports (Lawrence, 1/8). “According to [Sen. Lindsay Graham’s (R-S.C.)] office, the delegation assessed ‘the impact of U.S. sponsored counter-terrorism programs and projects relating to health, economic development, and strengthened trade relationships with African nations,'” the ONE blog writes.
“The Kenyan government has changed its HIV testing algorithm following the withdrawal of a widely used brand of HIV test [based] on warnings from” the WHO, PlusNews reports. “In November, WHO removed the Standard Diagnostics Bioline HIV 1/2 3.0 Rapid HIV Test Kit from its list of approved rapid test kits with immediate effect … after Bioline failed quality assurance tests,” the news service notes. There is “concern about the impact the recall will have on public confidence in HIV testing, especially as the country pushes for universal access to HIV counseling and testing,” according to the news service (1/5).
Street News Service/Inter Press Service examines how Senegal is addressing HIV/AIDS among prisoners in a Dakar maximum-security facility. “Prisons are high-risk environments for the transmission of the disease, due to the prevalence of hard drugs, violence and sexual relations,” the news service writes and discusses how addressing such issues can present challenges in the majority-Muslim country. “There is no mandatory testing in prison, and for those prisoners who, either knowingly or unknowingly, are living with HIV, the stresses of living in prison — including overcrowding, unsanitary conditions, and poor nutrition — mean their health is even more compromised.”
“New HIV cases and AIDS deaths are both going steadily down in British Columbia, according to data released last week,” the New York Times reports. Julio Montaner, director of the British Columbia Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS, said, “We’re particularly pleased to see that our treatment-as-prevention strategy has taken off big-time,” the newspaper notes, adding that the strategy, which aggressively identifies and treats people with HIV, “lowers by 96 percent the chances that they will infect others.” The New York Times writes, “Montaner said he is frustrated that rich countries will not donate enough money to roll out the strategy in poor countries with huge HIV epidemics” (McNeil, 1/2).
“The quest for a vaccine against AIDS is gaining momentum, with research published Wednesday identifying promising new candidates that protected monkeys against a powerful strain of the virus and that soon could be tested in humans,” the Wall Street Journal reports (McKay, 1/5). Researchers treated different groups of rhesus monkeys with several different two-stage vaccine combinations and then exposed them to a simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) that was different than the one used to make the vaccines, according to Nature (Callaway, 1/4).
SmartGlobalHealth.org features the latest episode of “Small Screen Sessions,” in which J. Stephen Morrison, director of the Center for Strategic & International Studies’ Global Health Policy Center, discusses the policy changes that enabled the International AIDS Conference to return to the U.S. in 2012 after a 22-year hiatus, and the beginning of the “end of AIDS” (1/4).
PSI’s “Healthy Lives” blog features a video from the University of North Carolina (UNC) Medical Center News Office in which Myron Cohen, a professor of medicine, microbiology, immunology and public health at UNC-Chapel Hill and the director of the Institute for Global Health and Infectious Diseases, discusses his research into HIV/AIDS prevention, including his lead role in HPTN 052. That study, which found “that the sexual transmission [of HIV] can be virtually stopped when the infected person is treated with ARVs, this year was heralded as the ‘Breakthrough of the Year’ by Science magazine,” according to the blog (1/4).
“Ethiopia’s new plan to eliminate mother-to-child HIV transmission by 2015 cannot be attained unless men are more meaningfully involved in reproductive health, experts say,” PlusNews reports. Ethiopia launched an accelerated prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) program in December with “three objectives: reaching 90 percent of pregnant women with access to antenatal care services; ensuring universal access by pregnant women to a skilled attendant during delivery; and providing ARVs to at least 80 percent of HIV-positive pregnant women,” according to the news service.
In a year-end recap of major HIV-related headlines, IRIN/PlusNews writes, “It’s been a roller coaster of a year in HIV and AIDS. AIDS turned 30 in 2011, and with new evidence of the effectiveness of HIV treatment as prevention, experts are increasingly talking about ‘the end of AIDS.’ At the same time, however, funding for HIV has become ever more uncertain, jeopardizing efforts to put new, life-saving science into action.”