HIV/AIDS Newsroom: September 12, 2000
Tests Fail to Show Link Between HIV, Polio Vaccine
Washington Post (www.washingtonpost.com)
09/12/00 P. A23; Reid, T.R.
New evidence presented in London shows that it is unlikely that the AIDS epidemic began from a mistake among polio researchers in the 1950s. Claudio Basilico of the New York University School of Medicine stated at London's Royal Society on Monday that there is no evidence of HIV in seven samples of the oral polio vaccine from 1950. The theory that the oral polio vaccine carried the chimpanzee virus that became AIDS is still controversial, as the vaccine scientists stated they never used chimpanzees as hosts. Hilary Koprowski of Thomas Jefferson University fears his life work on the oral polio vaccines will be forgotten amidst the polio-to-AIDS theories. Edward Hooper, author of "The River," a book published last year that espouses the theory that contaminated polio vaccine transferred HIV from chimpanzees, continues to believe his theory. Even after tests of the seven samples revealed no evidence of HIV or SIV, Hooper says that other batches of polio vaccine could have been used and destroyed. Hooper explains that he is sticking to his hypothesis because he does not believe the more widely accepted "direct-transfer" or "cut-hunter" theory, in which an African hunter, who may have had an open wound, was infected with a monkey's blood and then transmitted the virus to other humans via sexual contact.
The World Bank is starting a campaign that promises what is almost unlimited funds to fight AIDS in Africa. The bank is upholding its pledge to not let money prevent anti-AIDS plans. The bank's board is expected to provide an initial $500 million in emergency credit, getting the money quickly to the countries, according to bank president James Wolfensohn. He noted, "What I'm trying to do is get money out there as quickly as I can. I honestly don't think in a crisis as grave as this that money is going to be the problem." Approval time for the loans -- which will likely be secured by Nigeria, Zimbabwe, and Zambia, among others -- may only take six months, versus the standard one or two years. The World Bank said that with additional funding from the United Nations, private organizations, the United States, and Europe, most African nations should have sufficient resources for HIV education programs, condom distribution, and health-worker training. It remains to be seen if African governments can take advantage of using the money and form effective campaigns with their poor infrastructure. Tadelle Teferra, economic counselor at the Ethiopian Embassy, believes that $500 million is barely enough, after the long wait for outside funding. The World Bank knows it has acted slowly in helping start AIDS programs. The bank has funded a number of AIDS projects since the 1980s, but overall it did not realize the severity of the toll AIDS has had on economies and education. The World Bank's most inexpensive loans cost under 1 percent a year and mature in 40 years, with a 10-year grace period; however, only the world's poorest nations can take advantage of them. Two countries particularly hard hit by the AIDS epidemic, South Africa and Botswana, would be ineligible for the extremely low-rate loans.
Grass Roots Seeded by Drugmaker
Washington Post (www.washingtonpost.com)
09/12/00 P. A1; O'Harrow, Robert, Jr.
New healthcare groups are calling attention to hepatitis C virus (HCV), as they form coalitions in 11 states, distributing information packets. These coalitions are not formed by citizens, but are part of a marketing campaign by Schering-Plough to sell their HCV therapy, called Rebetron, which costs $18,000 a year. The coalitions, the first of which began in 1997, are receive funding from the drug company, including toll-free phone numbers paid for by Schering-Plough. Medical ethics experts believe the Schering coalitions have a conflict of interest and are deceiving the public. Allan Rosenfield, dean of Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health, plans to resign from the group's board, after learning of Schering's full involvement. Schering-Plough claims it wants to educate people about hepatitis C and raise sales of Rebetron, which have grown over 60 percent in the last two years. The Food and Drug Administration will intervene only if the drug company controlled information released by the groups. Donations from Schering help pay for over 12 percent of the American Liver Foundation's budget. Schering also helped found the Frontline Healthcare Workers Safety Foundation in 1998. The coalition effort is based in Minneapolis, where they train volunteers and patients to discuss the virus and send materials across the nation. Some volunteers say they feel duped by the coalitions, after learning that the drug company is behind them. Experts note they are glad that HCV is gaining public awareness, but some feel the conflict of interest is too great.
A New York-based foundation called the International Educational Foundation has spent years spreading its message of abstinence before marriage in China. The group believes sex before marriage is wrong and that only abstinence can prevent HIV infection. The foundation, started by Rev. Sun Myung Moon, founder of the Unification Church, is supported by conservative Chinese officials, who ignore the religious background of the foundation. Qiu Renzong, a specialist in medical ethics at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, believes the group is hindering China's fight against AIDS. Moon-affiliated groups have found success by minimizing their religious aspects and using their wealth to back various conservative social causes. Some critics in China assert that the foundation is promoting a health policy that is based on conservative values instead of research, while ignoring the need for sex education to stop AIDS. Lecture material used by the foundation denies that condoms prevent pregnancy, HIV, or other sexually transmitted diseases, and lecturers promote the idea that "safe sex" does not exist. Other critics claim that the group is obscuring its religious ties, particularly its association with the controversial Unification Church.
Secretary of State Madeleine Albright joined with 12 female foreign ministers on Monday to "lend momentum" to the global fight against AIDS. Albright noted that throughout the world, nearly 3 million people die from AIDS every year, with more than 10,000 new infections a day and an increasing number of women being affected. The Clinton administration has pledged $225 million funding for AIDS, with further increases proposed for 2001; but Albright said more is needed besides money. In a letter to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, the 13 foreign ministers called on the United Nations to make AIDS a permanent part of its agenda.
Dr. Stephen Smith of the Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center in New York reported at the meeting of the Infectious Diseases Society of America that topical estrogen creams could prevent heterosexual HIV transmission in women taking progestin-only contraceptive pills. Smith explained that women using Depo-Provera or other progestin-only contraceptives are estrogen-deficient and studies have shown they are two to three times more likely to contract HIV than women not using the contraceptives. He noted that estrogen has a lower pH, which viruses do not like. Smith and colleagues studied macaque monkeys with their ovaries removed, treating half with estrogen and half with progesterone, and the early results indicate that the estrogen-treated monkeys were protected against HIV infection.
A prospective study from Dr. Bernardino Roca of Hospital General in Castellon, Spain, shows that women are more likely than men to adhere to highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART). A study of 65 HIV-positive subjects who stopped previous antiretroviral treatment due to suboptimal efficacy or side effects showed that 67 percent of the women adhered to the therapy, but only 38 percent of the men did, after follow-ups every three months for a year. A total of 11 percent of the participants stopped the therapy because of side effects. The research is published in a recent issue of the Journal of Infection (2000;41:50-54).
Members of the Caribbean Community are meeting in Barbados for two days to discuss forming a regional response to the AIDS epidemic. Haiti and the Dominican Republic account for the overwhelming majority of HIV and AIDS cases in the Caribbean, but the virus is quickly spreading throughout the region.
The International Conference on Emerging Infectious Diseases, held July 16 to 19 in Atlanta, brought together 2,000 researchers, health workers, biologists, and others. The meeting covered topics from politics, economics, and weather, to malaria, polio, AIDS, tuberculosis, Nipah virus, and bioterrorism. The Nipah virus first appeared as an outbreak in Malaysia and Singapore during October 1998 to March 1999. The virus apparently was passed from a fruit bat to pigs to humans, causing cases of severe encephalitis. There were 269 human cases last year, with 108 deaths. The viral disease had jumped species, demonstrating a new threat to humans. After destroying piggeries, the disease seemed to disappear, but signs of infection have returned. As fruit bats change geographic distribution, they will likely spread more diseases to humans. The future of HIV was another topic at the conference. Using mathematical models, Emory University's Bruce Levin came up with a bleak outlook for the epidemic. He said, "We can't count on evolution to reduce the incidence or rate of mortality of HIV/AIDS in our lifetime, or that of many generations to come."
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.