HIV/AIDS Newsroom: December 4, 2000
Complementary Hypothesis Concerning the Community Sexually Transmitted Disease Mass Treatment Puzzle in Rakai, Uganda
AIDS Online (www.aidsonline.com)
(11/10/00) Vol. 14, No. 16, P. 2583; Boily, Marie-Claude; Lowndes, Catherine M.; Alary, Michel
Canadian researchers performed an analysis of a mass sexually transmitted diseases (STD) treatment program to clarify the results of an STD treatment trial in Rakai, Uganda. Using simulations of STD mass treatment interventions, the scientists found that mass treatment reduces STD prevalence to a low level but does not eradicate infections. In a scenario with 80 percentcoverage of high- and low-risk groups, the number of HIV cases prevented through STD mass treatment was over 35 percent during the 20 months of the first round. However, if coverage is only 40 percent of those at risk for STDs, then the HIV prevention fraction falls to around 19 percent, and it would drop to 15 percent for 25 percent coverage. In conclusion, the researchers note, "This modeling exercise suggests that although an 80 percent coverage appears high, the differential coverage of low- and high-risk populations may seriously impair our ability to test the STD-HIV interaction hypothesis."
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said last week that even with close government inspection, there are still problems at the American Red Cross that could possibly endanger the nation's blood supply. An FDA inspection of Red Cross headquarters earlier this year revealed violations of manufacturing standards, including a quarantine system that did not keep unusable blood from being released and a failure to follow directions for HIV tests. The blood agency has been under a consent decree with the FDA for the past seven years, during which time the FDA has sent the Red Cross 10 letters regarding problems found during reviews. The FDA's latest findings appeared in briefs filed in U.S. District Court in Washington last week as part of the agency's efforts to amend the decree so it could fine the Red Cross for further violations. Red Cross head Bernadine Healy said the blood agency has started borrowing $100 million to make improvements in the system.
Pfizer, South Africa Agree on Donations for AIDS Medicine
Wall Street Journal (www.wsj.com)
(12/04/00) P. B15; Waldholz, Michael
After months of discussions, South Africa has agreed to accept a donation of $50 million of Pfizer's drug Diflucan. The drug is used to treat to two AIDS-related infections, cryptococcal meningitis and esophageal candidiasis. According to Pfizer's Jack Watters, the initial deal is for two years and the program will be reevaluated after that time. Approximately 150,000 South Africans will receive treatment each year under the deal, which also provides funding for professional training, distribution costs, and other supplies.
President Clinton announced Friday a $100 million strategy to increase AIDS research throughout the world. Speaking at Howard University in Washington, D.C., Clinton discussed the National Institutes of Health's strategic plan for international AIDS research, increasing funding and training in over 50 nations worldwide and increasing access to new drugs and prevention methods in poor countries. The president noted in particular the AIDS epidemic's toll in Africa and the former Soviet Union and said the disease is a threat to international security.
African leaders, international donors, and the United Nations secretary-general are meeting in Ethiopia this week to discuss strategies for curbing the AIDS epidemic. The five-day conference will bring together 1,500 participants to discuss HIV prevention and treatment as well as national responses to the disease that has taken the lives of over 13 million Africans. The meeting opened Sunday in Addis Ababa.
Health officials in Massachusetts announced Friday $100,000 in grants to nine communities they hope will launch needle exchange programs. Dr. Jean McGuire, head of the state's HIV-AIDS bureau, asserted that injection drug use is a "primary engine behind the epidemic here," making up more than 50 percent of HIV and AIDS cases throughout Massachusetts. The recipients of the new grants have until next summer to develop plans for needle exchanges in their areas. The communities that received the funding include Fall River, Fitchburg, Gloucester, Holyoke, Lynn, New Bedford, Springfield, the upper Cape, and Worcester. There are already four needle exchange programs in the state.
New projections from England's Public Health Laboratory Service (PHLS) indicate that the number of HIV-infected individuals in England and Wales increased by 40 percent over the last three years and will likely rise another 40 percent in another three years. While antiviral drugs have helped to reduce the number of AIDS deaths, there were over 3,000 new HIV diagnoses in 1999, said PHLS public health consultant Dr. Barry Evans, and a similar number is expected for 2000. A total of 20,800 people in England and Wales have been diagnosed with HIV; however, another 10,000 are thought to be living with undiagnosed infection. Dr. Evans noted, "We simply cannot afford to be complacent and people must heed the safe sex messages."
Senegal's Health Minister, Abdou Fall, reported that the country will provide antiretroviral drugs free of charge to HIV-infected mothers and pregnant women. The move, an effort to reduce mother-to-child HIV transmission, was announced on Friday, World AIDS Day. An estimated 90,000 people are infected with HIV in Senegal.
The international relief organization Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) cautioned African countries on Thursday not to accept offers of reduced AIDS drug prices from big drug companies without weighing other options, such as importing or producing cheaper generic versions of the medicines. MSF campaigner Indra Van Gisbergen questioned why international drug firms do not allow Kenyan manufacturers, who have the capacity to produce the drugs themselves, to do so under voluntary licensing. The group noted that in Brazil more than 90,000 patients are using antiretroviral drugs that are non-proprietary versions while African nations continue to try to work with the drug companies directly.
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.