HIV/AIDS Newsroom: September 21, 2000
Drug-Resistant HIV Shows a Worrying Increase in the UK
09/14/00 Vol. 407, No. 6801, P. 120; Loder, Natasha
Deenan Pillay, a researcher at the Public Health Laboratory Service PHLS in Britain, is calling for increased testing for multidrug-resistant HIV. An increase in new resistant cases was reported by Pillay recently at the British Association's science festival at Imperial College in London. The data showed five of 24 patients infected with HIV had key resistance mutations, compared to one in 40 patients five years ago. Robert Shafer of the University of Stanford, California, notes if the data is correct, it is worrisome because it means that, in addition to people who do not know they are infected, people who are aware oftheir HIV infection may also be spreading the virus. Resistance to drugs develops due to the demands of a strict regimen and is inevitable, according to Pillay, who warned that the United Kingdom should be aware that drug resistance could threaten progress made in therapy. Protease inhibitors have helped reduce the number of AIDS deaths in England by 50 percent since 1995, but new drugs offer the most hope for patients with resistant HIV. Genetic tests are available to help patients identify whichdrugs are failing; however, the tests are expensive. Shafer believes, though, that the cost of genetic testing is balanced by lower use of ineffective drugs.
A report in this week's issue of Nature outlines how SIV evades the immune system. The primate virus is similar to HIV; however,it infects monkeys at a quicker rate than the human virus. Scientists from the University of Wisconsin and Wisconsin Regional Primate Research Center found that SIV replicates and mutates into a variant not recognized by killer T cells sent to destroy the virus. These results show that infected individualsdo make immune responses that the virus cannot tolerate, researcher David Watkins noted. The challenge will be to mimic these responses in an HIV vaccine.
New Cancer Test Catching On
Washington Times (www.washtimes.com)
09/21/00 P. A8
A new cervical cancer screening test is gaining support from doctors and insurance companies. The DNA test is used to check for the human papillomavirus HPV, the most common cause of cervical cancer, when a Pap smear is inconclusive. The nation's largest health insurer, Aetna, announced Wednesday that it will cover the cost of the test, joining the ranks of Kaiser Permanente, United Healthcare, and most Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans, according to the test's maker, Digene Corp.
Health officials report that Baltimore's rate of sexually transmitted diseases has fallen over the last year. According tonew statistics, syphilis cases last year declined about 45 percent from 1998, while cases of gonorrhea fell 10.8 percent andchlamydia cases dropped 5 percent.
Sandra Thurman, director of the White House Office of National AIDS Policy, was also made the presidential envoy for AIDS cooperation last month. Thurman's job has expanded to include international responses to AIDS, as the epidemic continues to spread. Although some people may underestimate her, James Carville says, She kind of has a cashmere glove over a steel fist. Thurman, for example, has made clear her disapproval of the president's decision to prohibit funding needle exchanges to stem the spread of HIV. Prior to coming to Washington, Thurman worked for five years as executive director of AID Atlanta, a community support and care program for AIDS patients.
A federal judge ruled this week that New York City's AIDS agency will run under federal authority for three years. The move, called vague by some, aims to end the delayed benefits to patients and help them as the agency sets out to do. Advocates believe federal authority will help speed support to AIDS patients, since the city will receive penalties for failure to doso. However, Michael Hess of the city's corporation counsel saidthe decision is not necessary. New York City provides more money and more services for AIDS patients than any other U.S. city. But Marc Cohan, director of litigation for the Welfare LawCenter, which has been involved in several class-action lawsuits in which the appointment of masters or other judicial oversight resulted, said the city must start being accountable for its lackof benefits to patients.
The United Nations Population Fund UNFPA has attacked the West's failure to send the money it promised for global population programs, which has led to a condom shortage. Speaking at the release of the U.N.'s annual population report, the retiring head of the UNFPA, Dr. Nafis Sadik, noted that largecountries spent lots of money for military programs, while committing little to key health and reproductive efforts. Sadik said that requests for condoms have skyrocketed, especially in sub-Saharan Africa; however, the United Nations cannot keep up with that demand. The author of this year's population report, Alex Marshall, also noted that funding problems forced the UnitedNations to reduce by 50 percent the number of condoms it providedin 1999.
The European Union EU has started a project to help developing countries export duty-free goods and develop AIDS programs. The initiative would start soon for other products if approved, but duty-free access for bananas, sugar, and rice would be phased in over a three-year period. A new policy approved by the European Commission urges the EU to do more in the war against AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis -- three diseases that are hitting developing nations hard. The document stated that the EU should work to make current disease-control efforts more effective, maketreatments more affordable, and boost research and development investments for drugs to treat diseases commonly seen in the developing world.
History will rate the South African government's lack of action against the AIDS epidemic as as serious a crime against humanityas apartheid, according to Archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane of Cape Town. Statistics show that as of year-end 1999, approximately 10 percent of South Africa's residents were infected with HIV.
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.