June 28, 2011
Here is a quick look at a few HIV/AIDS stories recently reported in the media:
Researchers from the Institute of Genetic Medicine at Newcastle University in England have announced that a class of generic HIV drugs often used in Africa and in developing countries in other parts of the world can cause premature aging and lead to age-related illnesses, such as heart disease and dementia. They found that nucleoside analog reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NRTIs) -- the best known NRTI is Retrovir (zidovudine, AZT) -- damage DNA in the patient's mitochondria, the "batteries" that power cells.
"The DNA in our mitochondria gets copied throughout our lifetimes and, as we age, naturally accumulates errors," Patrick Chinnery, the lead author of the study, told Reuters. He added, "We believe these HIV drugs accelerate the rate at which these errors build up. So over the space of, say, 10 years, a person's mitochondrial DNA may have accumulated the same amount of errors as a person who has naturally aged 20 or 30 years."
In countries such as the U.S., people living with HIV are more likely to have access to newer classes of drugs, but in the developing world, cheaper generic medicines such as the NRTIs are the only meds that are available. Scientists said it was unlikely that newer cocktails of HIV drugs made by firms such as Gilead, Merck, Pfizer and GlaxoSmithKline would inflict similar levels of damage, since they are thought to be less toxic to mitochondria. But more research is needed to be certain.
The Impact of Having No Housing Program for People Living With HIV in Mississippi (From The Clarion-Ledger)
A new article in the Clarion-Ledger adds to the complaints by highlighting how the state turns its back on people living with HIV in Mississippi by having no housing policies for them. The article discusses how housing is a human rights issue; the difficulties that homeless people living with HIV have in receiving any kind of state funds; and how stigma and discrimination from landlords make it difficult for people living with HIV to rent apartments.
The Clarion-Ledger reported:
Mississippi received $1.92 million in HOPWA funds in 2010, according to the 2010 State Healthcare Access Research Project report.
Across the state, the number of people served amounted to fewer than 1,000.
HOPWA funds do not go to the homeless. You must have a home to be eligible for help.
And Mississippi does not participate in HOPWA programs that provide funds for long-term aid.
This failure to apply for all available federal funds "compounds an already urgent problem," says the Human Rights Watch Report, "Rights at Risk."
Still, the state of Alabama receives a similar amount of HOPWA funds but houses more people with it, said Megan McLemore, senior health researcher with Human Rights Watch.
Rhode Island a Model for HIV Testing and Treatment in Prisons Nationwide (From Corrections.com)
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) gave 12 grants aimed at improving HIV prevention and treatment among prison and jail inmates. The Miriam Hospital, in Providence, Rhode Island, has received three of the 12 grants for its collaborative work with Brown University, the Center for Prisoner Health and Human Rights, and the Rhode Island Department of Corrections.
The awards are part of Seek, Test, and Treat: Addressing HIV in the Criminal Justice System -- the NIH's largest initiative to date to aggressively identify and treat HIV-positive inmates, parolees and probationers and help them continue care when they return to their home communities. The grants will fund the following projects:
"The Miriam Hospital and our partners are proud to lend our collective expertise to this important initiative. Having the support of the NIH will go a long way toward our shared goal of improving HIV care and treatment in correctional facilities and ensuring HIV interventions continue after individuals are released from prison," says Timothy Flanigan, M.D., Director of Infectious Diseases at Rhode Island and The Miriam Hospitals.
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Kellee Terrell is the former news editor for TheBody.com and TheBodyPRO.com.
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