HIV/AIDS Newsroom: January 22, 2001
HIV Care in South Africa
Journal of the American Medical Association (www.jama.com)
01/10/01 Vol. 285, No. 2, P. 156; Voelker, Rebecca
During a recent health care resource allocation conference, the International Association of Physicians in AIDS Care (IAPAC) announced plans to develop a program of enhanced HIV care in South Africa. The not-for-profit managed care carve out program would carry a monthly premium of $7 for patients. According to IAPAC, existing programs of HIV care in South Africa tend to be too expensive, plagued by a lack of skilled health professionals, and patients are too often reluctant to trust the treatments. The new healthcare program -- which should become operational later this year -- will include voluntary counseling and testing, immune status monitoring, prophylaxis for opportunistic infections and antiretroviral treatments.
Thailand has changed its national drug registration laws in such a way that local equivalent generic drugs can now be marketed at the same time the expensive imported foreign patented drugs are, causing the prices to decrease into a more overall competitive and affordable range. According to a news release from the Health Ministry's Food and Drug Administration, the generic drugs can be distributed at the same time as the imported ones, instead of after a two-year testing period. The issue of high-priced drugs for which pharmaceutical giants hold the patents has attracted a lot of attention in developing countries in recent years, particularly for AIDS treatments. An estimated 1 million people in Thailand are infected with HIV.
Argentina Sets Effort to Curb Spread of AIDS
Washington Post (www.washingtonpost.com)
01/21/01 P. A22
As part of Argentina's largest anti-HIV effort so far, health officials in the country last week warned that the most critical items in vacationers' bags this year should be condoms, not sunscreen. For the new program, which targets young people, volunteers will distribute pamphlets and hundreds of thousands of condoms at the nation's top holiday spots this month. The campaign's slogan is "For a safer summer use the highest factor of protection." Religious officials in the mostly Roman Catholic nation, acknowledged some discomfort with public health official's public endorsement of safer sex activities, believing that the best protection is abstinence. Over 17,000 cases of AIDS have been recorded in Argentina; however, experts say the number of HIV infections could be as high as 130,000.
On Friday, at a special session held at the request of departing U.S. Ambassador Richard C. Holbrooke, the United Nations Security Council discussed the issue of HIV/AIDS among its forces. At the meeting, Holbrooke said the fight against AIDS must become a part of peacekeeping and should be factored into the budget for every mission. Holbrooke also asserted that the Security Council has not done enough to educate peacekeepers about AIDS; he noted, for example, that the pamphlets distributed to soldiers were outdated, difficult to understand, and printed in very small type. Security Council and UNAIDS officials acknowledged the problem that some U.N. peacekeepers infected with HIV may spread the virus in the countries where they are stationed, and they vowed to help better educate the troops about the disease. Jean-Marie Guehenno, the under secretary general for peacekeeping operations, noted, "The reality is that a number of peacekeepers, like any sample of people from around the world, are likely to have been infected by HIV prior to deployment, particularly bearing in mind that some peacekeepers come from countries with high prevalence rates." The second consideration is that many of the missions are assigned to countries with a high occurrence rating of HIV and that some peacekeepers are sexually active while on their missions. Dr. Peter Piot, the executive director of UNAIDS, said the issue of HIV testing in peacekeeping missions is a complicated one, but he and Guehenno plan to establish a panel of experts to discuss the situation.
Los Angeles County health officials recorded 53 cases of syphilis during the last six months, bringing the total for the county to 144 since an outbreak of the disease was discovered last March. Although officials are somewhat satisfied that the syphilis awareness program initiated last spring has been effective, there is little evidence of a decline in the rate of unprotected sex among gay and bisexual men, according to John Schunhoff, chief of operations for public health in Los Angeles County. State epidemiologist Kyle Bernstein noted that more than half of the men diagnosed with syphilis were also HIV-positive, indicating that the men continued to engage in unprotected sexual behavior despite knowing they could spread the deadly virus. HIV is easily transmitted when the sores characteristic of syphilis are present.
At Brush High School in Cleveland, Ohio, nearly 30 people have tested positive for tuberculosis (TB). Health officials noted, however, that there does not appear to be an outbreak of the disease. The chest exams of the students and staff members who tested positive for TB were normal, but the 29 individuals will take anti-TB drugs as a preventative measure.
Massachusetts health officials report that at least five preschoolers in Lowell will need to undergo nine months of drug therapy after recent tuberculosis (TB) skin tests gave positive results. The incident sparked a great deal of concern from parents who were told that the children may have been exposed to the disease unknowingly by their preschool teacher. The teacher was diagnosed with pneumonia last November and continued to work until she was hospitalized on January 2. As many as 262 additional children who were also exposed to the disease by the instructor are being prescribed a precautionary eight-week regimen of antibiotics; however, those who have two negative skin tests, at the beginning and end of the treatment period, will be able to stop taking the drugs. State health officials said that 158 children have tested negative thus far, but there are an additional 100 tests that have not been returned yet.
Only five of the 91 Maryland students and teachers recently tested for tuberculosis at Montgomery Blair High School were found to test positive on skin tests. The incidence of one student recently being diagnosed with the disease prompted school officials to conduct the broader tests. The five exposed students have been offered drug therapy at no cost.
A new report suggests that although some women who are infected with HIV, or at risk for infection, may feel isolated and depressed, many not receive the necessary mental health care. Researchers surveyed 871 HIV-infected women and 439 HIV-negative women who had similar socioeconomic and behavioral backgrounds. The results of the survey indicate that more than one-third of the respondents, including 38 percent of the women with HIV and 35 percent of the women who were not infected with the virus, felt they could have used some mental health care at some point during the previous six months. According to the report, published with an accompanying commentary in the Journal of the American Medical Women's Association (2001;56:4-8,9-10), only about 66 percent of these women actually obtained such services.
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.