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News & Notes

April 2000

WHO and UNAIDS Join Forces to Launch HIV Vaccine Initiative

Cooperation in the search for an AIDS vaccine is intensifying with the creation of a new initiative by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) to promote the development of a vaccine.

According to an announcement issued jointly by the two agencies, the WHO-UNAIDS Vaccine Initiative is set to heighten international cooperation into researching HIV vaccines in the face of mounting urgency as the epidemic spreads. The announcement goes on to say that the initiative will focus on strengthening the capacity in developing countries to ensure that vaccine trials are conducted with the highest ethical and scientific standards.

A major challenge facing HIV vaccine development is finding a vaccine that will be effective worldwide, including developing countries, where 95 percent of infections occur. According to Dr. José Esparza, coordinator of the new initiative, the multitude of HIV strains and the number of potential vaccines being tested make it imperative to coordinate research efforts. "Vaccine development efforts require concentrated international coordination and collaboration with the full involvement of industrialized and developing countries, the public and private sectors, governmental and nongovernmental organizations, and the pharmaceutical industry," he says. "They also require the creation of financial incentives to stimulate more research and development.


AIDS Action Leadership Awards

This month, AIDS Action will celebrate the tenth anniversary of its National Leadership Awards by saluting leaders in the fight against AIDS before an audience of Washington decision makers, philanthropists, and community leaders. Theatre organization Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, media giant MTV, and 96-year-old AIDS activist Frances Peabody will be among the honorees.

The event coincides with the ten-year anniversary of the death of Ryan White, the young man for whom the Ryan White CARE Act was named. Jeanne White, Ryan's mother, is national spokesperson for the Ryan White Project at AIDS Action. The ceremony will be held on April 10 at Washington, D.C.'s Lansburgh Theatre.

Brooklyn Program Gets Grant

A program at Brooklyn's Brookdale University Hospital and Medical Center will be the first recipient of a grant from the newly launched BMS Community Leaders Fund.

Brookdale's STD Call Back Program is designed to ensure that access to healthcare is available and continuously provided to patients with sexually transmitted diseases and at high risk for HIV infection. An STD clinic will be open in the hospital's emergency room for those seeking help, and aggressive efforts will be made to contact every patient with an STD for follow-up visits for STD/HIV diagnostic, prevention, and treatment programs.

"Through our ER screening system, the STD Call Back Program will allow us to identify people who may be infected with HIV/AIDS much earlier," said Cheryl Croney, M.D., Medical Director of Brookdale's Treatment for Life Center. "This is an extremely innovative concept because this process allows us to follow up with all patients who enter the emergency room."

The BMS Community Leaders Fund is a multimillion-dollar grant program designed to provide financial support for organizations and community groups that develop and implement innovative HIV/AIDS programs. It is a project of Bristol-Myers Squibb Immunology and was developed with the support of BMSI Community Liaison Specialists, who partner with HIV/AIDS treatment and community-based organizations in supporting prevention education, testing, and referral to medical care. Their mission is to extend and enhance the lives of persons with or at risk of acquiring HIV disease.

The BMS Community Leaders Fund, which will distribute more than two million dollars in grants over the next two years, is designed to provide financial support for organizations and community groups that develop and implement innovative HIV/AIDS programs.

The grants will be targeted to cities with an extremely high incidence of HIV/AIDS: New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Chicago, Miami, Los Angeles, Houston, and Dallas. New York City is considered the epicenter of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, and Brooklyn has one of the highest rates of infection in the city.

Florida Viatical Firm Indictments

In early February, Florida Insurance Commissioner Bill Nelson announced the indictment of a viatical firm and five individuals on charges of operating multimillion-dollar insurance scams. "The suspects were charged with 240 counts of grand theft, organized fraud, and dealing in stolen property in the purchase and resale of about $9 million worth of life insurance policies fraudulently obtained from 53 insurance companies," he said.

The scheme, according to the state grand jury that handed up the indictments, involved terminally ill people, including individuals with AIDS, hiding their illnesses from insurance companies to secure policies that they otherwise might have been denied. The indictments charge that the suspects would then help resell the policies to investors who would collect after the policyholders died. "For more than a year now, we've been digging into the viatical industry," said Nelson in a statement. "Our investigation so far suggests widespread fraud." None of the policyholders were charged, but state officials say the investigation is ongoing and could result in more charges.

Back to the April 2000 Issue of Body Positive Magazine.

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This article was provided by Body Positive. It is a part of the publication Body Positive.