April 21, 2011
Here is a quick look at a few HIV/AIDS stories recently reported in the media:
The Tennessean Fails at Fully Addressing the State's Epidemic, Blames Down-Low (From The Tennessean)
In an attempt to address the growing HIV epidemic in Tennessee -- a 32 percent increase in newly diagnosed cases among 15-24 year olds -- one of the state's largest newspapers, the Tennessean published "HIV surges among young Tennesseans." What started off shaky, got worse as the article progressed.
Not only were there some factual errors, but when writing about why the epidemic is so prevalent among African-American women in the state, Tom Wilemon, the article's author, wrote:
Black men on the "down low," who keep secret about having sex with other men, and the higher incarceration rate for black men are factors for the spread of the disease among African-American women, said [Donald J.] Alcendor, [a professor with Meharry Medical College who works with the Center for AIDS Health Disparities Research] and [Rev. Ed] Sanders, [who sits on the Presidential HIV/AIDS advisory board].
"There are certain things that happen in prison that men won't talk about," Alcendor said ...
It's unclear if either one of these experts actually blamed the down-low or is this a result of Wilemon's own bias, but it's incredibly ironic that an article that implicitly states that myths around the disease fuel the epidemic, then goes and perpetuates more myths. Existing data has found that the down-low is not a major factor in why black women bear the brunt of the AIDS epidemic.
What's even more frustrating was that no was mention of institutional risk factors such as poverty; the lack of mandatory comprehensive sex education in the state; poor access to health care; gender inequality; homophobia; the lack of needle-exchange programs; untreated sexually transmitted diseases; and people having unprotected sex while unaware that they are positive, and who thus go untreated while they're highly infectious.
Another day, another missed opportunity to educate people.
* TheBody.com plans on writing a longer piece about this issue in the near future.
Abbott Agrees to Pay $52 Million in Class Action Suit (From Bloomberg Business Week)
Last month we reported that Abbot Laboratories was being sued by GlaxoSmithKline, Rite Aid Corporation and other drug retailers for $4.5 billion in damages. They accused Abbott of quadrupling the price of its HIV medication Norvir (ritonavir) to monopolize the HIV treatment market.
Bloomberg Business Week now reports that Abbott Laboratories has agreed to pay $52 million to resolve a class action lawsuit by direct drug buyers.
Abbott increased the wholesale price of a Norvir capsule containing 100 milligrams to $8.57 from $1.71, the Abbott Park, Illinois-based company said in court documents. GlaxoSmithKline Plc and drug retailers and distributors sued, claiming other drug makers that used Norvir in their medicines couldn't compete on price with Kaletra, and the price increase penalized drug customers that wanted to buy medicines that competed with Kaletra.
Abbott said it increased Norvir's prices for legitimate business purposes and Kaletra lost market share after the price increase.
The settlement is still subject to court approval.
Looks like Florida isn't the only state trying to make it harder for people living with HIV/AIDS to access ADAP as a means to cut the state budget. On April 19, The Illinois Department of Public Health announced that starting on July 1, there will be new income requirements for people who want to apply for ADAP. All new applicants must have incomes at or below 300 percent ($32,670) of the federal poverty level. The current limit to qualify is 500 percent ($54,450).
"I have been working like a dog to stop this looming restriction to living-saving HIV/AIDS medication from happening, and I am furious with this decision," said State Rep. Sara Feigenholtz (D-Chicago), Chair of the House Human Services Appropriations Committee.
"This is a sad day for the fight against HIV/AIDS in Illinois," said David Ernesto Munar, President/CEO of the AIDS Foundation of Chicago. "The new policy will keep ADAP out-of-reach for hundreds of individuals who have nowhere else to turn for help. Many will simply forgo treatment."
Jointly funded by the federal government and the state, ADAP provides assistance to more than 4,000 Illinois residents. All current ADAP participants will continue to receive services.
Nonprofit Hopes Education Is Best Tool Against HIV/AIDS (From the Maryland Gazette)
Starting HIV Drugs Earlier May Delay AIDS but Not Death (From Business Week)
The Epidemic is NOT Over: A Call to Action (From The Savannah Tribune)
Kellee Terrell is the former news editor for TheBody.com and TheBodyPRO.com.
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