HIV/AIDS Newsroom: September 13, 2000
Caribbean, Badly Hurt, Is Promised Help on AIDS
New York Times (www.nytimes.com)
09/13/00 P. A5; Gonzalez, David
International donors have pledged $120 million to help the Caribbean fight HIV and AIDS. The pledge, which includes a World Bank plan for $85 million to $100 million in loans, came after a conference on AIDS in Barbados highlighted the rise of the epidemic in the region. Officials estimate there are 360,000 HIV and AIDS cases in the Caribbean, although the actual number could be over 500,000. The Caribbean has the highest HIV rate next to sub-Saharan Africa, and has been slow to act as its economies falter. Barbados Prime Minister Owen Arthur said action is needed now, as AIDS threatens the region's young people. Tourism, poverty, and cultural resistance to sex education have helped spread HIV. The majority of the HIV cases in the Caribbean are spread via heterosexual contact, and AIDS has become the chief cause of death for men and women between the ages of 15 and 44 there. Still, current AIDS spending in the region is only 10 percent of the $258 million forecast as necessary per year.
The World Bank has called for a new approach to poverty, giving more power to the poor in times of crisis. The bank's "World Development Report" holds a new view: that the best way to stop poverty is for rich nations to emphasize better government institutions in poor nations. Nicholas Stern, World Bank chief economist, said new studies show that the poor benefit from open markets, but economic growth occurs more often in countries with a small gap between rich and poor. Stern noted that poverty rates in regions like sub-Saharan Africa have skyrocketed due to drought and AIDS. An impoverished region will require government intervention to escape, since even markets that are functioning properly may underinvest in vaccine development or drought-resistant crops.
Top AIDS Researchers Need to Focus on Developing Nations
Reuters Health Information Services (www.reutershealth.com)
09/12/00; Ault, Alicia
UNAIDS Director Dr. Peter Piot called on top AIDS researchers to focus on helping HIV-infected people in developing countries. Speaking at an international meeting of the Institute for Human Virology in Baltimore on Monday, Piot criticized researchers for focusing too much on the Western world. He also urged scientists to work more with colleagues in Africa and Asia. Piot noted that scientists need to help convince political leaders that sex education, needle exchanges, and condom use can help prevent HIV without encouraging promiscuity or further drug abuse.
A new survey from Liberty Mutual and Students Against Drunk Driving shows that teenagers and parents both say that the threat of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases is their greatest concern. But after that top concern, parents and teens differ, the report found. The teens surveyed then focused more on drinking, driving, and suicide, while the parents expressed concerns that their teens could be in a car accident or participate in casual sex. The study involved 405 parents and 687 high school students.
Men who have sex with men have been prohibited from donating blood since 1985, but better HIV tests and an increase in HIV infections among heterosexuals has led federal officials to reconsider that policy. There is a growing need for blood, the demand for which outpaces the number of donations per year. Blood banks are rethinking why they must automatically disqualify millions of possible male blood donors, since blood donations are tested for HIV and other diseases many times. A U.S. Food and Drug Administration advisory committee will address the issue this week.
On Monday, the Rev. Jesse Jackson called on St. Louis-area ministers to be tested for HIV, as part of his effort to end the silence regarding AIDS in African-American communities. Jackson urged 100 area ministers, as well as community leaders and athletes, to get tested for HIV. "It is time for us to fight the taboo and fear of the disease," Jackson said. "It you do not have it, then you have been saved by grace. If you do, then early detection will save your life." Statistics from the St. Louis Health Department show that 88 percent of all new HIV cases in the city last year were among African Americans, and both Kansas City and St. Louis have declared a health state of emergency because of AIDS.
Three Toronto hospitals are experimenting with a C$20,000 isolation booth that may help keep tuberculosis (TB) and influenza from spreading among patients and staff. The easy-to-set-up booth, which includes a pump that changes the air in the negative-pressure space every six seconds, can hold patients without placing them in a separate room. Dr. Jay Keystone, director of tropical diseases at two of the hospitals testing the product, explained the device is "primarily for respiratory airborne diseases and not for other secretions coming off the patient." Patients with suspected TB infection are currently placed in negative-pressure isolation rooms; however, the new device can be set up quickly and protects staff and other patients as long as they do not put their heads inside the booth's curtains. Toronto has approximately 500 TB cases a year, many of which are drug-resistant.
According to South African Education Minister Kader Asmal, South African children need more sex education to stop unplanned pregnancy and HIV. Asmal said that sex education has been lacking for decades and has not been taken seriously in schools. Teachers are now receiving training to teach safe sex as a way to prevent unwanted pregnancies and HIV infection. Asmal acknowledged that HIV infection may cause AIDS, although he kept with the government's controversial position that there is no concrete evidence.
Christine Maggiore is head of Alive & Well AIDS Alternatives, a group that does not promote the usual AIDS activism. Instead, Maggiore is part of a school of thought that does not believe HIV causes AIDS. She tells "patients" to stop taking medication and to forget about condoms to contain the virus. Her opinion has taken hold among many people, including the rock band Foo Fighters. South African President Thabo Mbeki also agrees with some of her beliefs about HIV. Maggiore sifts through scientific literature claiming they should not be trusted. She believes that HIV antibody tests are oversensitive, detecting HIV after a flu shot or pregnancy. The rise in deaths from a pandemic in Africa is explained by Maggiore, who tested positive for HIV in 1992, by it simply not being a rise. Those who have died of AIDS actually died from prescription or recreational drugs, or fear, she says. Critics of Maggiore are angry that she would lead people to go untreated or to abandon condom use. Dr. Luc Montagnier, the co-discoverer of HIV, asserts that "many people will die because they will go untreated." In addition, White House AIDS policy director Sandra Thurman states, "Christine is putting lives in jeopardy." Stephen Thomas of the University of Pittsburgh's Center for Minority Health notes that some people have wrongly begun to focus on conspiracies instead of HIV testing and treatment.
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.