HIV/AIDS Newsroom: December 20, 2000
There are at least 13 million children in Morocco, most of whom must make a living any way they can to help support their families, including prostitution. The threat of HIV is ever present for the street children of Morocco. But the actual number of reported HIV/AIDS cases (809) is low in comparison to the Health Ministry's total estimate of 400,000 sexually transmitted disease cases running through the country. The Moroccan AIDS Service Organization began a study to gather information regarding the habits of male prostitutes in hopes of recommending a preventative methods program. The study revealed that male prostitutes had little or no awareness of the dangers of HIV and had no skills sets with which to bargain with their clients for safe sex. Although a program educating people about the disease and the prevention of it was established as a result of the study, efforts are hampered because local police consider the possession of condoms as proof of illegal prostitution and, thus, many prostitutes are reluctant to carry the prophylactics with them.
An Isolated Region's Genetic Mother Lode
Washington Post (www.washingtonpost.com)
12/20/00; P. A1; Pomfret, John; Nelson, Deborah
During the 1990s, researchers from Harvard University and its corporate sponsor, Millennium Pharmaceuticals, asked hundreds of residents of China's impoverished, rural Anhui province to give blood in exchange for free medical care. A pamphlet explaining the deal to participants--many of whom could not read--said that the blood would be used for genetic research; the region is particularly homogenous, and researchers believe that DNA from the region could provide valuable genetic information. To encourage blood donations, some officials reportedly went to villages to do "thought work," which means meeting with local government and party officials and may involve using subtle or even blatant kinds of pressure. While Harvard and Millennium officials claim their project followed strict ethical guidelines, some participants in the study say they never received the promised medical care. The situation raises the question of the vulnerability of some populations for all but the most critical medical studies. In part because of complaints about the Harvard-sponsored research, the U.S. Embassy in Beijing recently cautioned U.S. medical researchers against working in poor, rural areas of China where "health care is poor and people are unable to protect their rights."
A new United Nations report concludes that small successes in fighting diseases in developing nations demonstrate that large epidemics can be controlled with the strong financial and political support of public and private organizations. According to officials from five U.N. agencies and the World Bank, it appears likely that the number of cases of AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, and other deadly diseases could be significantly lowered. The World Health Organization's Dr. David Heymann noted that effective programs to fight these diseases may be as simple as supplying medications, education, and care and services. The U.N. report also noted the success of HIV prevention efforts in Senegal, Uganda, and Thailand, which have increased access to condoms, provided counseling and testing, and educated people about safe sex and needle use.
Outspoken author and Shanghai sexologist, Liu Dalin, has opened the door to the traditionally hidden sexual lives of the Chinese people. Indeed, Liu was invited last month to open a sex museum in Shanghai, and he now displays over 1,000 pieces of sexual memorabilia. On the streets of today's China, shops specializing in sexual toys, pills, and lotions designed to enhance desire, even how-to videos, can be found next door to family grocery stores in residential areas. However, the new sexual revolution has brought back the dark side of sexual freedom, namely the prostitution trade--a business that former leader Mao had boasted of eradicating from the streets of China--and a resurgence of sexually transmitted diseases. According to estimates from the United Nations AIDS office in Beijing, there are currently at least 500,000 case of HIV in China.
Researchers are now saying that promotions of safe sex targeting the gay community may be causing a backlash in unsafe sexual behavior. One explanation for this reaction may involve simple rebellion to authority, the researchers said Tuesday. Dr. Michele Crossley, a University of Manchester researcher who presented her findings at the British Psychological Society's conference in London, explained: "Simplistic attempts at health promotion may have exacerbated the problem by failing to bring such psychological dynamics to the public domain, and thus creating a 'taboo' of unsafe sex." Also, research conducted by scientists at the Royal Free Hospital in London indicated that gay men who had taken at least three HIV tests were more likely to engage in dangerous sexual activities and had an increased incidence of HIV infection. The researchers noted that a negative test result seemed to spur some of the men to take more risks.
While the number of AIDS cases in younger people is reportedly declining, experts at the Administration on Aging (AOA) say that 11 percent of all AIDS cases reported in the United States are in people 50 years of age or older. As better treatments are developed for AIDS, baby boomers with the disease are living longer, increasing the actual reported senior cases of AIDS at a rate of 10 percent per year. The AOA noted that health care professional need to acknowledge that older people may engage in risky behaviors, and they should also learned to evaluate the symptoms of AIDS in this group.
The National Cancer Institute has renewed a contract with Bioqual of Rockville, Maryland, for AIDS research. Under the $4.6 million, five-year agreement, Bioqual will support AIDS researchers, providing research animals and helping the scientists evaluate possible HIV and SIV vaccines.
The number of HIV infections in East Baton Rouge, Louisiana, is increasing, especially among African Americans in the region. According to Ric Smith, executive director of Friends for Life, an area AIDS resource center, there are approximately 3,300 cases in the seven-parish area and the number of new cases has jumped substantially in the past year and a half.
Clinical Trials of First AIDS Vaccine to Begin in Kenya
On Tuesday, sources said that Kenyan authorities will soon announce that they will approve clinical trials for a new AIDS vaccine. The new vaccine was developed collaboratively by British and Kenyan scientists and is designed to primarily target HIV subtype A, which is common in eastern Africa. Researchers noted that their initial studies of 3,000 female prostitutes indicated that 30 showed resistance to HIV, while 60 displayed no symptoms even though they had been HIV-positive for more than 10 years. Development of the vaccine was based on the immune systems of the 90 women in those two groups.
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.