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HIV/AIDS Newsroom: January 8, 2000

'I'd Like to See America Used as a Global Lab'
Science (
12/22/00 Vol. 290, No. 5500, P. 2236

In a recent interview with Science editor Ellis Rubinstein, President Clinton discussed his personal and the nation's responsibility regarding science and technology. He feels that with the threat of bioterrorism, chemical warfare, and cyberterrorism so close at hand, "the language of science and the necessity of understanding at least the basic concepts will become a much more pervasive part of the average citizen's life in the next 20 to 30 years." Rubinstein asked Clinton to explain how he familiarized himself with scientific issues. The president explained, "I tried to imagine what our responsibilities in basic research ought to be and how I might make a stronger case to Congress," along with such global problems as "the fact that one-quarter of all the people who die in the world today die from AIDS, TB, and malaria." For his successor, Clinton said he hoped the next president will continue to finance international collaboration, such as the work the National Institutes of Health has done on the Human Genome Project with several other nations. On a personal note, Clinton said that after he leaves office, he plans to continue his work in the climate-change arena and will also focus on the "breakdown of public health systems in so many countries, and how it disables them from dealing with things like the AIDS epidemic and other problems."

Bristol-Myers Warns of AIDS Drugs' Use
Wall Street Journal (
01/08/01; P. B4; Harris, Gardiner

While the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) conducts a review of the two products, Bristol-Myers Squibb has issued a warning to AIDS doctors around the world cautioning that two of its AIDS drugs, Zerit and Videx, should be used sparingly in pregnant women after the deaths of three expectant mothers who were taking the medications. An FDA official suggested it is possible that although toxicity problems affect other drugs in the nucleoside analogue class -- which includes the GlaxoSmithKline drugs AZT and 3TC -- the reaction to a particular enzyme is stronger for the two Bristol-Myers products than for other drugs in the class. The deaths could have more far-reaching consequences than just the potential withdrawal of the drugs and the passing of the women: two of the deaths occurred in clinical trials abroad, with one of those deaths taking place in South Africa, where the issue of AIDS drugs is particularly volatile. The women died of lactic acidosis, a rare but recognized complication associated with the nucleoside analogue class, and seven other cases of nonfatal lactic acidosis have been reported among pregnant women taking either a combination of Zerit and Videx or of Zerit with 3TC.


South Africa's President Vows to Renew War Against Poverty
New York Times (
01/08/01 P. A4; Swarns, Rachel L.

This year marks the 89th year of the African National Congress (ANC) and a year of promised change for President Thabo Mbeki. In his speech on Sunday honoring the anniversary occasion, Mbeki promised to refocus the ANC's attention to creating jobs, ending corruption, and reducing poverty. Last year, Mbeki received sharp criticism from health experts by questioning whether HIV is the cause of AIDS. Critics condemned Mbeki for letting people think they could participate in unsafe sex because he had suggested that poverty was a greater factor than HIV in the spread of AIDS. South Africa has one of the highest rates of HIV infection in the world.

Fabled Silk Road Now Paved With Narcotics
Christian Science Monitor (
01/08/01 P. 1; Peterson, Scott

The increase of drug trafficking in remote Kyrgyzstan does more than just increase the usual related issues that go hand in hand with drugs. In some regions of Central Asia, there has been a 10,000 percent increase in new HIV cases, according to officials. The majority of these new infections are among intravenous heroin users.

Romania's AIDS Children: A Lifeline Lost
New York Times (
01/07/01 P. 1-2; McNeil Jr., Donald G.

There are an estimated 9,000 children infected with HIV in Romania. However, many of the children -- thousands of whom were infected via blood transfusions years ago -- can no longer obtain the necessary drugs to help them survive. Hospitals in the impoverished nation cannot afford pricey AIDS cocktails, lab tests, and top drugs for secondary infections for children. During the 1980s and the reign of Nicolae Ceausescu, there were many needless transfusions for Romanian children, as some received transfusions if they were anemic or malnourished, and school nurses sometimes reused needles for vaccinations. In the 1990s, after it was realized that thousands of infants and children had contracted HIV and the discovery was made public, assistance came in from all over the world, with improved blood testing and disposable syringes in hospitals just some of the changes. The advent of triple-drug therapy in Bucharest in 1997 and other cities soon after helped to reduce mortality among HIV-infected children in Romania. But the cost of the antiretroviral drugs is just too high in the face of slashed health budgets. Many of the drug companies that sell AIDS drugs in Romania do make some kind of donation, such as cash gifts or a few months' worth of drugs for some patients. Earlier last year, five drug firms said they would begin talks about steep price cuts for AIDS drug prices in poor nations; attention was primarily focused on Africa, but Romania was also part of the deal. UNAIDS reports, however, that thus far only Senegal, Swaziland, and Uganda have started negotiations with the companies.

Guards Force Tuberculosis Tests for Employees
Calgary Herald (
01/06/01 P. A8

Threatening a lockdown of all inmates, a union representing guards at the Hamilton-Wentworth Detention Center in Ontario, Canada, reportedly forced health officials there to test all employees for tuberculosis (TB). Guards sparked a protest when they found out that a female inmate known by officials to have TB was housed at the center for several weeks. The woman's health status was not revealed to the guards until the day she was released last month. Although approximately 50 people had close contact with the woman, none of the tests were positive, which is why the region's medical officer of health suggested that further tests were not needed.

Confidential Hot Line Helps Troubled Youths
New York Times (
01/07/01 P. 14-6; Rosenberg, Merri

Teenage peers helping each other is what the Teen-FYI hotline is about in Yonkers, New York. The confidential, anonymous program, which can be reached by calling (866) TEEN-FYI, was created by Family Information and Referral Service Teams Inc. of Westchester, and modeled after the New York City Youth Hotline. Teen-FYI is staffed by trained teenagers and supervised by adults. The teens cannot offer counseling or advice; however, they provide information to the caller about when and where to go for help regarding their problem, such as where to go for sexually transmitted disease testing. The $70,000 seed money for the project came from the county and various business and private foundations. The initiative behind the teen operated center is to attract troubled peers who may otherwise not seek assistance.

Few People Seek Help at Hepatitis Clinic
St. Petersburg Times (
01/08/01 P. 1; Davis, Ryan

The Good Samaritan Health Clinic in Pasco, Florida, recently reported that in the 14 months its hepatitis C testing and treatment program has been open, only 25 people have come in for testing and there are only six active patients. Based on the American Liver Foundation's estimate that 1.8 percent of the U.S. population has been exposed to hepatitis C, nearly 6,000 residents of Pasco could be at risk for infection and most would not have any symptoms. The Good Samaritan Health Clinic's hepatitis C program -- which was launched with a $2,800 grant from the American Liver Foundation -- offers for a $5 fee per visit confidential blood testing, counseling, medical work including biopsies, and treatment.

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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.