HIV/AIDS Newsroom: November 9, 2000
Kissing and Herpes Virus
Washington Post (www.washingtonpost.com)
11/09/00; P. A8
New findings published in today's New England Journal of Medicine (2000;343:1369-1377) show that a form of herpes virus may be spread through kissing. Herpes virus 8 causes an AIDS-related skin cancer known as Kaposi's sarcoma. John Pauk and colleagues from the University of Washington tested 39 gay men who were infected with HIV but not Kaposi's sarcoma. They found the virus in 30 percent of saliva and mouth swabs, but only 1 percent of anal-genital samples. The research also indicated that "deep kissing" could place gay men at greater risk for the virus.
The Stop AIDS Project, a San Francisco-based nonprofit agency that has fought AIDS since the early 1980s, is now taking its campaign to Internet chat rooms that are popular with gay men. To that end, the city's Department of Public Health recently awarded the group $130,000 for the online project. Specifically, the researchers will train four disease-prevention counselors to go through gay and bisexual chat rooms and field questions about safe sex. Research indicates that gay men are more likely to go online to find a sex partner than lesbians and heterosexuals, and people who do use the Internet to set up sexual encounters are at greater risk for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Marcel Miranda, deputy director of outreach and organizing at Stop AIDS, works in chat rooms answering explicit questions about risky sex. The profile for his America Online moniker, StopAIDSMM, notes, "We're not the sex police. We just want to make sure you have the information to make informed choices." Chat rooms were associated with a syphilis outbreak among gay men in San Francisco last year. A cluster of six cases was traced back to a chat room, with some of the patients reporting that they only knew their partners by their screen names. Dr. Ronald Valdiserri, deputy director of the AIDS division at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, says that as technology evolves, methods of combating HIV and other STDs need to change as well. The Stop AIDS program, he notes, "is not, in practice, different from providing outreach services on a street corner where injecting drug users might hang out or in a public park after hours where sex takes place."
OraSure Gets $1 Million Grant to Make Test for Syphilis
Allentown Morning Call Online (www.mcall.com)
11/09/00; Berg, Christian
OraSure Technologies has received a $1 million grant to create an oral test for syphilis. The grant, from the National Institutes of Health, will help the Bethlehem, Pennsylvania-based company develop a test that works in under 20 minutes. OraSure hopes to sell the oral syphilis tests by fall of 2001. Company CEO Robert Thompson noted that "the ultimate users of our products will range from lab-based testing for clinics to street corner outreach testing," although only lab tests will be available at first. OraSure's chief financial officer, Charles E. Bergeron, also pointed out that funds for its syphilis test research -- which found the oral fluid testing procedures to be as accurate as standard blood tests for syphilis -- came from the syphilis eradication program started by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last year.
A study from Drs. Vincenzo Puro and Giuseppe Ippolito of the National Institute for Infectious Diseases in Rome notes that antiretroviral drugs do not have a direct effect on T-cell counts in HIV-negative patients. The research, published in the Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes (2000;24:440-443), goes against the proliferation hypotheses. The scientists looked at data from 448 healthcare workers who had been exposed to HIV-1, including 284 who received prophylaxis after HIV-1 exposure. Puro and Ippolito found that CD4 and CD8 cell counts rose slightly in both treated and untreated patients, increases that were not correlated with the length of postexposure prophylaxis, sex, or side effects.
The British government has proposed tax relief for drug companies to help reduce the cost of vaccines in poor countries. The Treasury is looking into a new tax incentive that would help ensure the supply of tuberculosis, malaria, and AIDS drugs to developing nations. Chancellor Gordon Brown created the tax relief plan for Britain as part of international efforts reduce world poverty by 50 percent and infant mortality by 66 percent. In a statement, the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry said, "The industry has been saying there is a need for joint action from industry and government to help the Third World countries access medicines that are currently unavailable."
The Canadian Red Cross had a hard time screening high-risk blood donors in 1983, according to an attorney for the agency, because it was not acceptable then to ask men if they had sex with other men. Attorney Peter Boekle defended the Red Cross' policies during the early years of the AIDS epidemic before the Supreme Court of Canada earlier this week. The Red Cross is appealing a ruling that its negligence in screening led to the death of an Ontario woman who contracted HIV after a cesarean section. The woman received blood donated by a gay man who later died of AIDS. In a videotaped testimony before he died, the man estimated he had engaged in as many as 1,000 sexual encounters with men; however, he said he was not aware he was not supposed to donate blood. A lawyer for the Ontario woman's estate asserted that the Red Cross should have told the man about the risk involved.
Botswana's president, Festus Mogae, claims that AIDS is responsible for at least half of the country's natural deaths. Mogae told Parliament that he wanted to review government AIDS strategies, noting that "the killer disease had raised the national human toll to nightmarish proportions." According to the United Nations, Botswana has the highest infection rate worldwide, with more than one-third of the country's adults infected with HIV. Mogae said he wants to discontinue any outdated prevention strategies, and he supports new international anti-AIDS programs, including efforts from Bill Gates' Foundation and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Dr. Prakash Kothari, a prominent Indian doctor, reportedly has recommended the creation of a "Ministry of Sex" to the AIDS epidemic in India. Speaking at a seminar in Chandigarh this week, Kothari said the country will see an explosion in HIV cases if it continues to ignore the disease. Furthermore, he asserted that if the country spends approximately $385 a month on every AIDS patient, it will have no resources left to finance anything else.
A study from Nicholaos Bellos of Bellos Southwest Infectious Disease of Dallas shows that steroids, exercise, and diet changes are useful treatments for AIDS-related lipodystrophy. Patients who follow a regimen to fight fat redistribution can be helped by these treatments, according to Bellos. Interim data from his study found that the patients following this regimen experienced up to a 15 percent increase in lean body mass. Lipodystrophy is not to be confused with AIDS wasting, which reduces fat mass. Weight loss along with fat redistribution is a sign of lipodystrophy, which repositions fat in the abdomen and face. Bellos' study was an extension of a previous one from the University of California at Berkeley, published last year in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Patients treated with oxandrolone, an anabolic medication, showed an increase in lean body mass; however, their body fat did not change. Bellos' approach for treatment includes a dietitian's analysis and photographs to monitor appearance, along with a strict exercise program.
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.