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Ten News Items That Have Made Me Happy During the Past Month

By Nelson Vergel

May 31, 2012

These past several weeks have been great on many fronts. While taking a shower this morning, I counted a few of the great pieces of news that have come our way amidst all the negative news that the media dwells on to increase ratings.

  1. Obama supports gay marriage. Do I need to say more? This statement to the world will have ripple effects on many levels. I was more surprised when the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) also supported gay marriage right after Obama's statement. Even in Malawi, a country in Africa -- a continent where many countries are known for their brutally homophobic laws -- is now considering eliminating criminalization of homosexuality.
  2. Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) is almost a reality with an FDA panel backing Truvada for PrEP. No matter what critics say, having an effective option to prevent HIV infections is a good thing, provided that people take Truvada daily.
  3. One more once-a-day one-pill option is almost a reality with an FDA panel backing up QUAD for naive patients. The first once-a-day integrase inhibitor (elvitegravir) plus Truvada will likely be approved before August. Concerns remain about interactions and monitoring kidney function. Whether or not this once-a-day single-pill regimen will be a preferred option for naive patients will be up for discussion by the DHHS treatment guidelines panel, however.
  4. Progress towards a cure. A paper evaluated data from the SMART trial and found that treatment interruptions for up to 16 weeks may be OK to consider in cure-related studies that are currently evaluating what happens to viral load in patients taking HAART who are exposed to different options and then stop their medications. Another review of several stem cell studies showed that modified T cells lived for at least 10 years and that no adverse events have been seen in patients exposed to different genetic manipulations of their T cells. There is so much happening in this field that I cannot keep up even with reading papers every day!
  5. An over-the-counter fast HIV test is almost a reality with an FDA panel backing it up. Yes, we need to make sure people can call a counselor from home when they find out they are HIV+. That seems to be already in the works.
  6. Expanded access of dolutegravir (DTG) started in the United States. DTG is the only unboosted once-a-day integrase inhibitor that can still be effective in the presence of most integrase mutations in patients who have taken raltegravir or elvitegravir. It will eventually be formulated by GSK-ViiV in a once-a-day, single pill with Epzicom for treatment-naive patients.
  7. Effective interferon-free oral regimens are on the horizon for hepatitis C, even for hard to treat patients. Several studies presented at a recent liver conference showed great results with different all-oral regimens. Interferon causes side effects that are sometimes hard to tolerate for some patients. We will have them available through expanded access in 2-3 years.
  8. A transgender woman is allowed to compete in the Miss Universe Canada. After much controversy and a rule change, the first-ever transgendered contestant competed in Toronto. Jenna Talackova, 23, is from Vancouver, and though she was born male, she underwent sexual reassignment surgery four years ago and was allowed to compete.
  9. Denmark is considering eliminating an HIV criminalization law. Denmark's Justice Minister Lars Barfoed has suspended Article 252 of the Criminal Code -- the so-called 'HIV law' -- pending an inquiry by a government working group to consider whether the only HIV-specific law in Western Europe should be revised or abolished. A committee is looking at the legalities of this law after new data were published about a dramatic decrease in the risk of HIV infections caused by people on antiretrovirals with undetectable HIV virus in their blood.
  10. People are getting ready for the first International AIDS Conference in the United States since 1990. After more than 20 years and following the lift of the federal HIV immigration ban, this important conference returns to the U.S. and will take place in Washington, D.C., in July. Thousands will be marching and protesting lack of treatment access and other issues affecting people all over the world.

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