HIV/AIDS Newsroom: January 24, 2001
HHS Office to Monitor Overseas Research
Washington Post Times (www.washingtonpost.com)
01/24/01; P. A8; Nelson, Deborah; Flaherty, Mary Pat
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has decided to initiate a new department, the Office of International Activities, in an effort to directly oversee the activities of foreign research studies. The new office will address issues raised in a recent series of articles in the Washington Post, called "The Body Hunters." Post reporters investigated the overseas activities of researchers and studies being done in foreign countries as the search for medical cures continues. One federally funded program in Thailand, the authors noted, involved HIV-infected pregnant women and withheld drugs known to prevent virus transmission. Nearly 60 babies were born infected with HIV. E. Greg Koski, director of the Office for Human Research Protections at HHS, explained that the new office will educate and assist U.S. research scientists working overseas, in an effort to monitor the impact of the studies on the people in those countries.
Several community-based AIDS organizations in South Florida convened on Tuesday at a conference in Fort Lauderdale. The "Community Challenges for HIV Prevention" workshop, which was sponsored by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, was intended to help the groups come together and discuss which programs help increase AIDS awareness. The outreach programs are making some progress by enlisting local churches in the effort to educate people in HIV. However, officials noted that some religious leaders are still hesitant to discuss the disease openly. Meanwhile, the Gay and Lesbian Community Center of South Florida has set up a prevention effort that uses movies and games when discussing the AIDS epidemic at its monthly youth group meetings.
Cellucci Wins OK to Expand Medicaid Coverage for HIV
Boston Herald Times (www.bostonherald.com)
01/23/01; P. 2; Macero, Jr., Cosmo
Massachusetts Gov. Paul Cellucci has decided to add more than $13 million in funding into the state's public health battle against HIV, after receiving the federal blessing to expand Medicaid coverage to HIV patients. Last week, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services approved a waiver that enables HIV-infected individuals in Massachusetts to qualify for comprehensive health coverage from Medicaid. While the state health department has provided basic care to uninsured people with HIV for years, comprehensive care through Medicaid was only available to people diagnosed with AIDS. To qualify for the program, individuals infected with HIV in Massachusetts must be at or below the federal poverty income level of $16,704 for individuals and $32,064 for families of four.
A new legislative bill up for review in Indiana would require that an HIV test be part of standard prenatal tests for pregnant women. Current laws only require physicians to educate pregnant patients about HIV and offer them HIV tests. If the new law is passed, every pregnant woman would be tested for HIV, unless she refuses. State Sen. Patricia L. Miller (R-Indianapolis), who has introduced similar measures twice before, noted, "At first people were reluctant, but now I think more and more people are recognizing it's time for something like this." Since the early 1980s, 261 Indiana children were born to HIV-positive mothers. Of those children, 33 tested positive for the virus, 34 developed AIDS, and 128 tested negative. If Miller's bill passes, the state will pick up part of the expense of the testing for women covered by Medicaid and for state employees.
During the last two decades, the number of American prison inmates has increased by nearly 400 percent, for a total of over 2 million inmates, and the social costs are beginning to add up. Diseases like AIDS, hepatitis, and drug-resistant tuberculosis (TB) are common in prisons, according to psychiatrist Terry Kupers, and as many as 20 percent of inmates have some form of mental illness. In New York City, for example, the majority of the drug-resistant TB cases that started appearing in the late 1980s were linked to individuals who contracted the infection while incarcerated.
Gamma-Dynacare of Ontario will offer Digene's Hybrid Capture II HPV test to detect the presence of human papillomavirus (HPV), which is associated with cervical cancer. The announcement comes after the publication of a report in the Journal of the Canadian Medical Association that backs the use of the DNA-based assay as a primary cervical cancer test for women over the age of 30. Digene's test -- the only HPV test approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration -- has been cleared in the United States for use as a secondary test when Pap smears provide inconclusive results.
According to a study published in the February 1st issue of the Journal of Infectious Diseases (2001;183:401-408), long term HIV-1 suppression is better predicted by phenotypic drug susceptibility testing than treatment history. Researchers from the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Medicine studied plasma samples from 86 HIV-infected individuals who were starting new antiretroviral regimens after experiencing treatment failure. The authors discovered that the length of time until failure on the new treatment program was not related to drug susceptibility predicted on the basis of treatment history.
Health officials in Bangladesh reported Monday that at least 157 Bangladeshis have contracted HIV and there have been 27 cases of AIDS. Some health groups say, however, that the actual number of HIV infections is much higher. Health Minister Sheikh Fazlul Karim Selim told parliament that the primary goals of a new $58 million, anti-AIDS program were to increase public awareness of the disease and to ensure safe blood transfusions. The World Bank, which recently approved a $40 million credit to help finance the four-year plan, noted that although the number of HIV/AIDS cases in Bangladesh is still fairly low, certain widespread behaviors -- such as needle sharing and low condom use within the commercial sex industry -- could cause the disease to explode.
The All Africa Conference of Churches (AACC) recently convened near Kampala, Uganda, with the World Council of Churches (WCC) and others to discuss how to address the AIDS epidemic. The AACC announced that it was time for churches to become actively involved in the struggle and assist in making the population aware of the seriousness of the disease. "There is [an] urgent need for the churches in Africa to break the silence and myth surrounding the deadly virus and create awareness, improve pastoral care for the affected, share information on various approaches, form networks, and give support, especially to youth and women, who are most affected," a statement from the AACC said.
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.