HIV/AIDS Newsroom: December 21, 2000
Eliminating Global Health Disparities
Journal of the American Medical Association (www.jama.com)
12/13/00; Vol. 284, No. 22, P. 2864; Satcher, David
In a commentary in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Assistant Secretary of Health and Surgeon General of the United States David Satcher states that he is focusing on wiping out the disproportionate health care issues not only in the United States, but also at a global level. Satcher notes that 90 percent of malaria deaths take place in Africa, and 4 million of the 5.4 million people worldwide who contracted HIV last year live in sub-Saharan Africa. Other issues are smoking, mental health, and infant mortality. Satcher's three "prescriptions" for ending health disparities worldwide include continuing and improving public health efforts; engaging in a multisector approach, working with the private sector; and advocacy, noting that "we must be willing to argue that public health should take a higher place on political and budgetary agendas." Satcher believes a strategy that involves improving communications, response coordination, and a dedicated commitment to the most at risk populations will help to break down the inequities in the overall global healthcare system.
Judge Upholds Ruling That Hepatitis Is a Work-Related Injury
Philadelphia must increase its funding for firefighters and paramedics who contract the hepatitis C virus (HCV) while working, a judge ruled Wednesday. The judge upheld an arbitrator's decision that Philadelphia must provide $4.8 million over two years to these workers' health plans, an increase from the $3 million annually the city had already committed. City officials are expected to appeal the judge's ruling because of the cost. "We are concerned that the award would be precedent-setting and dangerous to the overall finances and the future finances of the city of Philadelphia," said City Managing Director Joe Martz. The union has also announced that it may appeal, because Common Pleas Judge Allan L. Tereshko rejected a provision mandating that the city pay for sick leave for HCV-infected workers.
A new report in the New England Journal of Medicine reveals that a medical technician with a cut on his finger inadvertently infected five hospital patients with the hepatitis C virus (HCV). German researchers note that this is the first documented case of HCV being transmitted by medical personnel who are not doctors; the authors did not identify the hospital or give its location. The researchers said that an anesthesiology technician, who generally did not wear gloves because he said they reduced the sense of touch he requires for work, likely transmitted the virus from a cut on his finger.
Bristol-Myers Squibb's employee Christmas party was disrupted on Wednesday afternoon by a group of AIDS activists. The protestors shouted accusations that the firm was involved in price-gouging practices for its new AIDS drug Videx. The demonstrators, organized by the New York chapter of ACT UP, were able to enter the drug maker's building but were quickly evicted by security personnel. The activists were apparently concerned with the price of a new formulation of Videx that is easier to take and has fewer side effects to the gastrointestinal tract.
Ventura County News: Supervisors OK Needle Exchange Program
Declaring a medical emergency, health officials in Ventura County, California, voted Tuesday to launch a needle exchange program in an effort to stop the spread of HIV and hepatitis. Dr. Robert Levin, medical director of the county Public Health Department, noted that approximately 50 percent of the injection drug users in the county are infected with hepatitis B or C, while injection drug use is behind the infections of nearly 20 percent of the men with AIDS in the county and 45 percent of the women with AIDS. The nonprofit Rainbow Alliance plans to start the needle exchange program in Ventura and Oxnard in March. Workers will provide clean needles, information about where to get treatment for drug addiction, and HIV testing.
Ted Turner's United Nations Foundation announced on Wednesday that, as part of its latest round of grants, it will invest $12 million in HIV prevention projects in eight southern African nations. Turner, an Atlanta businessman, has personally pledged $1 billion of his own funds over a 10-year period to the United Nations. Included among the new grants are $2.3 million over 18 months for the U.N. Development Program, U.N. Population Fund, and UNICEF to fight AIDS in South Africa; $2 million over 18 months for an Adolescent Program Initiative in southern Africa run by UNAIDS; and $821,000 over two years to UNAIDS for its global initiative to close the gap between the worldwide need and available resources for fighting AIDS. In addition the AIDS-related grants, the foundation is also providing funding for energy projects in developing nations and energy efficiency programs in the largest greenhouse gas-emitting countries.
The Nelson Mandela Award for Health and Human Rights, an annual award established in 1993 by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, has been given to two South African AIDS activists. According to the foundation, the recipients of this year's award are Dr. Hoosen Coovadia, the head of the department of pediatrics at Natal University, and Judge Edwin Cameron, who revealed in 1998 that he was infected with HIV. Coovadia, the chair of the AIDS 2000 Conference held in Durban earlier this year, was recognized for his commitment to studying pediatric AIDS in the country. Cameron, meanwhile, attracted worldwide attention at the AIDS conference when he publicly condemned international pharmaceutical firms and South Africa's president, Thabo Mbeki.
Kenya's public health minister, Sam Ongeri, announced on Wednesday, that the testing of a new HIV vaccine will be launched in early 2001, targeting the "A" strain of the virus. The vaccine was developed after studies showed that some Majengo-area prostitutes were not infected with the virus despite repeated exposure. The vaccine is currently being tested on healthy, HIV-negative individuals in Britain who are considered to be at low risk for infection. The Kenyan studies will focus on individuals at high risk for HIV infection.
Chinese Measures to Slow HIV Spread Appear Ineffective
A new report suggests that despite China's efforts to end them, prostitution and drug abuse are the primary modes of HIV transmission in the country. According to Dr. Ai-xia Wang of Peking Union Medical College Hospital in Beijing, who presented her findings at the Seventh Western Pacific Conference on Chemotherapy and Infectious Diseases in Hong Kong, condoms are widely used in China; however, they are mostly promoted for family planning, instead of for the prevention of sexually transmitted infections. A separate report estimated that the actual number of HIV infections in China is up to 25 times higher than the official 20,711 cases reported. The report predicted that there might be 10 million HIV cases in China by 2010.
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.