HIV/AIDS Newsroom: August 28, 2000
Gates Foundation on Big Funding Spree
08/11/00 Vol. 289, No. 5481, P. 845; Hagmann, Michael
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has made several large donations for health studies recently. These include $40 million for the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine to study malaria, $44.7 million for the Harvard Medical School for tuberculosis (TB), $20 million to Johns Hopkins School of Public Health for child and maternal health, and $90 million for HIV/AIDS-related studies at a number of institutions. Jim Yong Kim of Harvard Medical School -- working with the World Health Organization, local health officials, and others -- will be investigating a treatment program for multidrug-resistant TB patients in Peru.
President Clinton, in his visit to Nigeria this week, has urged the country to confront AIDS and overcome taboos. This is a challenge not just for Nigeria but for all of Africa, which has been slow to educate its people about AIDS and the virus that causes the disease. Clinton said, "We have to break the silence about how this disease spreads and how to prevent it. And we need to fight AIDS, not people with AIDS." Clinton offered American support for Nigeria's battle against AIDS, but he did not offer any new funding. He did, however, discuss the $20 million the United States is providing to control AIDS, malaria, and polio in Nigeria this year. Clinton stated that freedom for Nigeria would come only after infectious diseases are controlled. Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo also urged debt relief for his country. He noted, "We don't see [AIDS] as a Nigerian disease. We see it as a world disease that is ravaging Africa most." According to the White House, approximately 5.4 percent of Nigeria's 114 million people are infected with HIV.
Syphilis: New World May Not Have Been First
Washington Post (www.washingtonpost.com)
08/28/00 P. A9; Gugliotta, Guy
Evidence from recently excavated medieval skulls in England suggest that syphilis existed in Europe before Columbus returned from the New World. Syphilis is said to have spread from Barcelona to all of Europe after 1493, and Europe has considered it an American disease from the start. However, archaeologists have uncovered three skulls in Hull, England, which show lesions associated with third-stage syphilis. The friary church in Hull held 245 skeletons, with at least 12 having significant lesions, according to University of Bradford paleopathologist Anthea Boylston. Myron Cohen, director of the University of North Carolina's Center of Infectious Diseases, stated that the discovery does not end the debate. The spirochete microorganism that causes syphilis is identical to the childhood diseases yaws and bejel, and can be transmitted from mother to fetus, causing birth defects like blindness. The folklore of syphilis has always centered on promiscuity; but in the Middle Ages, people died from other causes before syphilis could reach its last stage. A single shot of penicillin can kill the disease if given before the third stage. The skeletons at Hull date to between 1300 and 1450, but it is unknown if the disease was endemic or epidemic. If endemic syphilis was found in Europe before Columbus, the question is when it became a sexually transmitted disease.
Center One, a nonprofit group in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, is asking people who have been HIV-positive for many years to get retested as part of an effort to secure more federal grants. Center One believes that estimates of HIV infection in the region could leave out thousands of patients who tested positive years ago. Broward County could gain hundreds of thousands of dollars in funding if the numbers are too low, claims John Weatherhead, the executive director of Center One. While the state has always counted AIDS patients for funding purposes, it only began counting HIV patients three years ago. People who tested positive before July 1997 and who have not developed AIDS are not counted for the grants, according to Weatherhead.
Dr. Gabriel Torres of Bentley-Salick Medical Practice in New York City is leading a pilot program to give nonoccupational postexposure prophylaxis to patients at high risk for HIV, including gay and bisexual men, minorities, women, and injection drug users. The program provides rapid HIV testing, screening for sexually transmitted diseases, antiviral therapy, risk counseling and referrals for drug treatment. Dr. Torres stated the program is customized for the individual, and that if the patient is resistant to the medications or suspected to be, a new treatment is given. A total of 28 people have enrolled in the program.
A student at El Modena High School in Los Angeles, California, has been diagnosed with active tuberculosis (TB). The Orange County Health Care Agency will perform precautionary skin tests at the school, contacting everyone close to the teenager. El Modena parents and students have been sent letters about the testing program. A chest X-ray will be given if the skin test is positive. Dr. Penny Weismuller, TB controller for the Health Care Agency, noted, "It is important to remember that TB is a curable disease and treatable with modern medicine." Each year, the county deals with about 300 cases of active TB.
Over 50 South African doctors have been accused of testing patients for HIV without their knowledge or consent, and then giving the results to the individuals' employers. According to a report in the Saturday Star newspaper, most of the patients were not counseled about HIV, and tests results were often given only to the employer.
According to a report from Radio Australia News, HIV is spreading throughout Papua New Guinea, threatening all parts of society. Health Minister Ludger Mond said the country has recorded 2,800 confirmed HIV cases, 1,031 cases of AIDS, and 232 AIDS-related deaths. Mond asserted, however, that the actual number of HIV cases could be much higher, with significant increases in infections in Western Highlands, Simbu, and Western Provinces.
China has approved Calypte Biomedical Corp.'s urine test for HIV-1. The urine test measures IgA antibody levels and does not require a blood sample or medical training to take. The test reduces the risk of accidental needle sticks and also does not require refrigeration. According to Toby Gottfried, director of research and development at Calypte, the urine test costs more than a blood test; however, it will save money in the long run because no one needs to be trained to draw blood or dispose of syringes.
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.