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Scientists At Seattle Conference Discuss Progress, Obstacles In Fight Against HIV/AIDS

“Scientists, stymied for decades by the complexity of the human immunodeficiency virus, are making progress on several fronts in the search for a cure for HIV infections,” but “[a] major stumbling block is the fact that HIV lies low in pools or reservoirs of latent infection that even powerful drugs cannot reach, scientists told the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections, one of the world’s largest scientific meetings on HIV/AIDS,” in Seattle last week, Reuters reports. “Promising tactics range from flushing hidden HIV from cells to changing out a person’s own immune system cells, making them resistant to HIV and then putting them back into the patient’s body,” the news service writes.

Report Calls For Compensation For People Infected By HIV Through Illegal Blood Sales In China

A new report (.pdf), “jointly published by the Korekata AIDS Law Center in Beijing and the U.S.-based non-governmental organization Asia Catalyst,” calls for the Chinese government to conduct “a full and independent investigation into the number of people affected” by illegal blood selling in central China in the 1990s that helped to spread HIV, “an official apology to the people affected, as well as compensation,” BMJ reports.

Global Burden Of Disease Revision Covers 225 Health Conditions, 50 Risk Factors

At a plenary session Thursday at the 19th Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections, Christopher Murray of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) “presented preliminary data from the 2010 revision of the Global Burden of Disease,” which “is aimed at analyzing global health trends to quantify the comparative magnitude of health loss due to diseases, injuries and risk factors by age, sex and geography for specific points in time,” the Center for Global Health Policy’s “Science Speaks” blog reports. Funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the study is a collaboration of IMHE, the University of Queensland, the WHO, and the Harvard and Johns Hopkins Schools of Public Health, according to the blog, which notes that the analysis of 225 health conditions and more than 50 risk factors is expected to be published this year and made available to the public online (Lubinski, 3/8).

South Africa’s Evolving HIV/AIDS Policy

In this interview in World Politics Review’s “Trend Lines,” Peter Navario, an adjunct associate professor of public policy at New York University and a former global health fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, discusses the evolution South Africa’s HIV/AIDS policy over the last decade, the country’s current relationship with pharmaceutical companies, and how South African President Jacob Zuma’s HIV/AIDS policy is received in the region and by international donors. “South Africa has gone from global laggard to playing a leading role in the global HIV response,” Navario said, adding that the country’s “policies are in lockstep with World Health Organization guidelines, and an aggressive new strategic plan aims to tackle HIV-related stigma, meet 80 percent of treatment need and cut new infections in half by 2016” (3/7).

Challenges To Achieving An AIDS-Free Generation

In a plenary presentation at the 19th Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI) in Seattle on Wednesday, Dorothy Mbori-Ngacha of UNICEF examined the challenges to reaching the goal of an AIDS-free generation, by “eliminat[ing] 90 percent of HIV infections among children by 2015,” and “outlined the four pillars of achieving that goal,” including preventing HIV among women, preventing unintended pregnancies, preventing mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT), and supporting HIV-positive women and their families, the Center for Global Health Policy’s “Science Speaks” reports. She called for strengthening family planning programs in the context of PMTCT, prioritizing “pregnant women for access to pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) or microbicides,” implementing strategies to initiate and care for women in treatment programs, and intervening early in pregnancy, according to the blog (Lubinski, 3/7).

Odds Of Adult Mortality Lower In PEPFAR Focus Countries Compared With Non-Focus Countries, Study Shows

“In an attempt to assess the impact of U.S. international assistance for AIDS, researchers from Stanford University carried out a review of the relationship between U.S. support provided through the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and adult mortality in PEPFAR focus countries in sub-Saharan Africa, and whether there were differences in outcome between these countries and other African countries which did not receive PEPFAR support,” NAM’s Aidsmap reports (Alcorn, 3/8). Presenting the results at the 19th Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI) in Seattle on Wednesday, Eran Bendavid said “[s]tatistical analysis found that adults living in focus countries between 2004 and 2008 had about a 20 percent lower odds of mortality compared to adults in non-focus countries,” the Center for Global Health Policy’s “Science Speaks” writes, adding, “Evidence for unintended health effects with respect to adult mortality is inconclusive, Bendavid said, but the likelihood of PEPFAR interventions eliciting unintended harms is low” (Mazzotta, 3/7).

Enhanced Linkage-To-Care Strategy Helps HIV Patients Receive, Remain In Care, Study Shows

At the 19th Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI) on Wednesday, Gabriel Chamie of the University of California, San Francisco “discussed outcomes in a routine linkage-to-care strategy versus and an enhanced strategy for accelerated antiretroviral therapy (ART) start in rural Uganda,” the Center for Global Health Policy’s “Science Speaks” blog reports. In the study, a higher percentage of people who were offered the enhanced strategy received follow-up care, began ART, and remained in care, and “Chamie highlighted the need for enhanced linkage to care efforts for patients at all CD4 cell counts,” according to the blog (Mazzotta, 3/7).

Integration Of HIV, Family Planning Services Will ‘Save Women’s Lives’

“Women who are at risk of unplanned pregnancy are also at risk of HIV, and vice-versa so separation of these services no longer makes sense. The global health community must work to bring family planning and HIV services together — and quickly — to save women’s lives,” by Dana Hovig, chief executive of Marie Stopes International, and Alvaro Bermejo, executive director of the International HIV/AIDS Alliance, write in this RH Reality Check blog post marking International Women’s Day. The authors conclude, “We call on the public to urge leaders to support integration of services in the developing world. We encourage organizations working with us to support the integration of family planning and HIV services” (3/7).

Studies Presented At CROI Examine Voluntary Medical Male Circumcision

“HIV incidence among non-Muslim men has decreased with greater uptake of voluntary medical male circumcision (MMC) in Uganda, according to data presented Tuesday” by Ronald Gray of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health at the 19th Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI) in Seattle, HIV Medicine Association Executive Director Andrea Weddle writes in this guest post on the Center for Global Health Policy’s “Science Speaks” blog. In the same session, Bertran Auvert of the University of Versailles “reported on a trial on MMC in the Orange Farm Township in South Africa among 110,000 adults” that found MMC prevalence has risen from about 11 percent among males ages 15 to 49 in 2008 to about 59 percent now, according to the blog (Mazzotta, 3/7).

Study Highlights Challenges Of Adherence In Successful Deployment Of PrEP Interventions

“Data presented from the FEM-PrEP trial by Dr. Lut Van Damme Tuesday [at the 19th Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections in Seattle] highlighted the challenge that adherence plays in successfully deploying effective Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) interventions,” HIV Medicine Association Executive Director Andrea Weddle writes in this guest post in the Center for Global Health Policy’s “Science Speaks” blog. “The FEM-PrEP study was conducted to evaluate the protective effect of a daily oral dose of emtricitabine/tenofovir disoproxil fumerate (FTC/TDF) among African women, but was halted early, in April 2011,” because of “interim data analysis showing similar rates of new HIV infections among women taking daily FTC/TDF and the placebo arm,” Weddle notes. Van Damme said blood monitoring did not show levels of the drug consistent with self-reported adherence rates, according to Weddle (3/6).

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