HIV/AIDS Newsroom: September 5, 2000
AIDS Activists Take South African Government to Court
08/26/00 Vol. 356, No. 9231, P. 746; Baleta, Adele
South African AIDS activists plan to take their government to court because it refuses to provide HIV-positive pregnant women with drugs to help prevent vertical transmission of HIV. The Treatment Action Campaign set an August 18 deadline for the health department to change its policies on treating pregnant women. After no response, legal action is expected. Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang recently announced that clinics will be chosen for research into nevirapine's use in protecting newborns from HIV. Antiretroviral drugs are only available in South Africa on a trial basis at selected sites. After the big AIDS conference in July, activists had hoped that a shift in policy would take place. The health department has offered several reasons for not providing the drugs, including toxicity and their high price.
The presidents of South Africa, Malawi, Namibia, and Zimbabwe will meet with United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan today to discuss war, debt relief, and AIDS in their countries. According to analysts, Africa's huge debt load has forced many countries to spend more on debt problems than on health issues like AIDS. U.N. statistics indicate that Africa needs at least $3 billion annually to battle AIDS.
Shared Cultures Aid HIV Program; Minorities Help Teach AIDS Prevention, Care
Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel (www.sun-sentinel.com)
09/03/00 P.1B; Melendez, Mel
Angel Nunez, an education coordinator for the Farmworker Coordinating Council of Palm Beach County in Florida, distributes HIV prevention information to migrant workers in the area. "It's easier for me to reach them," Nunez explains. "They know I understand where they're coming from because I'm Hispanic." Florida recently started funding such community-based programs to help fight HIV among minorities like Hispanics and African Americans. Hispanics make up 15 percent of the state's AIDS cases, while African Americans make up 46 percent. Spurred by the high rates of infection, health officials last year launched a $1 million Minority HIV/AIDS Task Force to work with community-based groups to help spread the word about safe sex and HIV testing and treatments. In addition to the Farmworking Coordinating Council, another group working with the Palm Beach County Health Department is the Haitian Center for Family Services in West Palm Beach. According to Paul Moore, HIV/AIDS program administrator for the Health Department, the two organizations focus on individuals who may fall through the cracks as the result of language, culture, or immigration status barriers. According to Nunez, many migrants are wary of asking officials for help, for fear that they might be deported. Nunez and other workers generally try to reach the migrants at night, since their long hours working on the farms makes it difficult to reach them otherwise.
Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman has appointed an advisory panel to study ways to reduce the spread of HIV, which has taken the lives of more than 3,000 state residents in the past 18 years. AIDS activists support the move, noting that for years Alabama paid little attention to AIDS. Kathy Hiers, executive director of Mobile AIDS Support Services, explained, "Obviously, the reason we are so excited about this is because it might lead to legislation. There are so many problems in this state in the AIDS arena." Two problems she hopes the commission will tackle are a lack of state funding to match federal dollars to help AIDS patients buy costly drugs, and the inability of Medicaid to help more people in Alabama. The new commission will include 21 members and will be chaired by State Rep. Laura Hall (D-Huntsville).
Men and women over age 50 represent over 10 percent of the nation's AIDS cases. A new program supported by Catholic Hospice and the Miami-Dade County Health Department in Florida is targeting baby boomers and senior citizens for its weekly education seminars. The meetings focus on living with HIV/AIDS and caring for loved ones who are infected.
A new study from Dr. R. Colebunders of the Institute of Tropical Medicine in Antwerp, Belgium, shows that protease inhibitors could lead to sexual dysfunction in some HIV-infected individuals. The survey of over 1,000 European adults with HIV found that 48 percent of the men and women taking protease inhibitors reported a drop in sexual interest, versus 32 percent for patients taking other medications, while 44 percent of the male protease inhibitor users reported a reduction in sexual potency, compared to 27 percent of males taking other drugs. Colebunders noted that further research is needed to determine if use of protease inhibitors is a cause of these individuals' sexual dysfunction. The research was reported at the 13th International AIDS Conference, held earlier this summer in Durban, South Africa.
The teenage birth rate in the United States has been falling since the early 1990s, but there is still the question of what is causing the decline. In a commentary, Tom Kean and Isabel Sawhill, the chairman and president, respectively, of the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, note that teenagers are being more cautious about having casual sex. A recent report from the Urban Institute found that high school students today are taking fewer health risks compared with a decade ago. Those teens having sex are also more likely to use birth control. To support their point that more teens are waiting to have sex, the authors cite several other studies, including one from their group that found that almost two-thirds of teens who have had sex said they wished they had waited longer. According to the National Campaign poll, nearly six in 10 of the teens surveyed said sex is not appropriate for high school-age individuals. Kean and Sawhill point out that the United States still ranks first among industrialized nations for teenage pregnancy and childbearing rates, but teens should be praised "for increasingly making more responsible decisions about sex."
Gro Harlem Brundtland, the director-general of the World Health Organization (WHO), is calling for better poverty relief action in India, to help prevent diseases like AIDS and polio. She said India has high rates of tuberculosis, AIDS, malaria, and polio, and needs to tackle poverty to reduce the spread of disease. Brundtland noted, "The inequities in the continent and India are a challenge and it's a challenge from a health perspective because if you don't tackle poverty, it's very hard to tackle health and disease." There are an estimated 3.7 million HIV cases in India, and the country last year accounted for about 70 percent of the world's 5,000 reported polio infections.
Nearly two-thirds of typhoid patients in Bangladesh are not responding to conventional antibiotic treatments, according to reports. Doctors, pharmacists, and others say that overuse, substandard drugs, self-prescription, and ignorance are all contributing factors to the drugs' ineffectiveness. A six-year study from the country's Center for Health and Population Research found that several "first-line" drugs used to treat typhoid, pneumonia, sexually transmitted diseases, malaria, and tuberculosis are virtually useless. Dr. Delavic Sack noted, "We have found drug resistance to a large extent while treating dysentery and intestinal infections as well as gonorrhea."
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Advisory Committee on Blood Safety and Availability has voted to increase public awareness of hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection, as part of the Surgeon General's nationwide effort. Surgeon General Dr. David Satcher had previously announced plans to send a "Dear Citizen" letter regarding the risks of HCV, but the project would cost an estimated $30 million. Executive Secretary to the Committee Dr. Stephen D. Nightingale said the letter has thus far been sent to every member of Congress and has been posted on the Web sites of both the Surgeon General and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The advisory panel is calling for the inclusion of funds in the fiscal year 2001 budget for the CDC to alert the public about the risks of HCV infection, including sending a "Dear Citizen" letter to the public by March 30, 2001.
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.