Posts

The Threat of a Major AIDS Resurgence
Is AIDS on the rise despite the increase in HIV treatment availability throughout the world? A recent report by the Joint U.N. Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and The Lancet, a medical journal, have called attention to the emerging risk of a major AIDS resurgence in already affected regions.

According to the study, high rates of population growth in heavily affected areas and staggering infection rates, which continue to only fall slowly, will increase the number of people who need access to life saving treatment.

Director of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and lead author of the report, Professor Peter Piot, stated, “We must face hard truths — if the current rate of new HIV infections continues, merely sustaining the major efforts we already have in place will not be enough to stop deaths from AIDS increasing within five years in many countries.”

Among the most vulnerable populations, women and girls have not reaped the same benefit from slowly falling infection rates in comparison to their male counterparts. According to U.N. News Centre, AIDS-related illnesses are the leading cause of death for Sub-Saharan woman and girls of reproductive age.

The population of HIV-positive adolescent girls reaches sevenfold that of males. Additionally, many adolescent girls become infected with HIV 5 to 7 years before men.

In a commitment to prevent new HIV infections and increase treatment among women and girls, UNAIDS and the African Union have come together in a report called “Empower young women and adolescent girls: Fast-Track the end of the AIDS epidemic in Africa”.

“As we work with our communities, our networks, our health service providers and our governments, we must commit to demanding a comprehensive focus on young women in the AIDS response,” said Rosemary Museminali, UNAIDS Representative to the African Union.

In this response lies the answer to the threat of resurgence. As the study argues, efforts to combat AIDS must be enhanced to proportionally treat those infected, improve knowledge and prevention, and provide better access to medication.

More recently, the United Nations sponsored a successful deal with Roche Diagnostics in order to reduce the price of early infant diagnostic technology by 35 percent to US$9.40. Early diagnosis of HIV is essential to accessing treatment at a vital stage since many children who go undiagnosed only live up to 2 or 5 years.

“We have to act now,” Michel Sidibé, executive director of UNAIDS cautions, “The next five years provide a fragile window of opportunity to fast-track the response and end the AIDS epidemic by 2030. If we don’t, the human and financial consequences will be catastrophic.”

– Jaime Longoria

Sources: UNAIDS, UN News Centre 1, UN News Centre 2, UN News Centre 3

Photo: HealthNest

HIV_treatment
The Food and Drug Administration will approve a new, antiretroviral formula of HIV and AIDS treatment for children, declared UNAIDS and UNICEF on June 5, 2015.

Within the first few weeks of approval, the first batches of the new drug will be shipped to Kenya. Organizations such as Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative will begin to introduce the formula to local communities to improve the health of children right away, said Dr. Marc Lallermant, head of DNDi’s Pediatric HIV Program.

The pioneer formula can be mixed with food, which makes it easier for children to consume. It is also heat stable, meaning it does not require refrigeration, and it is more palatable than the drug that is currently available.

The current drug comes in the form of a pungent, unappetizing syrup that is 40 percent alcohol. This harsh formula is difficult for young children to consume. The circulating formula also requires refrigeration, which inhibits treatment in poor areas that do not have electricity or access to refrigeration.

Though the number of children receiving AIDS and HIV treatment has increased from 70,000 in 2006 to 760,000 today, thousands of children remain without treatment. In fact, only one in four infected children are being treated. Today, 3.2 million children live with HIV, and fewer than 800,000 of them are receiving treatment.

“This new formulation is a step in the right direction towards saving more lives of children living with HIV. We expect it to greatly improve treatment access for many more children and support UNICEF’s equity-focused programming aimed at reaching the most disadvantaged children throughout the world,” said Craig McClure, UNICEF’s chief of HIV and AIDS Programs.

If antiretroviral treatment begins early in infected children, according to the World Health Organization’s recommendations, the risk of death is greatly reduced. HIV progresses rapidly in young children.

In many impoverished countries with a greater amount of infected children, HIV is a major contributor to child morbidity and mortality. UNAIDS said, “Without treatment, one in three children who become infected with HIV will die before their first birthday. Half will die before their second birthday.”

The FDA’s approval is to come soon, as an intellectual property issue surrounding who is able to access the new formulation has been resolved. The Medicine Patent Pool signed with AbbVie, the patent holder for the new formula, in December of 2014. “This is a crucial license for pediatric programs as it benefits low- and middle-income countries where 99 percent of children with HIV in the developing world live,” said Greg Perry, executive director of the MPP.

In the future, the organizations UNITAID, DNDi and Cipla aim “to develop two ‘4-in-1’ fixed-dose combinations of Lopinavir/ritonavir with other key antiretroviral components (zidovudine/lamivudine and abacavir/lamivudine) that are recommended by the World Health Organization,” said Medical News’ website. The completely taste-masked version beyond the new pellet will allow even more access for children with HIV.

– Margaret Anderson

Sources: FDA, News Medical, U.N. AIDS
Photo: Doctors Without Borders

world_aids_day
As World AIDS Day 2014 fast approaches, organizations strive to promote awareness and support for the cause. Led by groups such as the World Health Organization, World AIDS Day takes place on December 1 each year. This year’s campaign aims to promote social change and focuses on closing the access gap to important treatment.

Over 39 million people have lost their lives to HIV over the last few decades, and an estimated 35 million people were living with the disease in 2013. World AIDS Day is intended to pay homage to those who have died while advocating awareness and support for an HIV-free future.

The 2014 campaign asserts that closing the gap in HIV testing accessibility would help 19 million unknowingly affected people receive care and support. Additionally, the 35 million HIV-positive people across the world would gain access to vital medicine.

The campaign also aims to allow for children to receive better access to HIV treatment, as currently only 24 percent are able to receive care.

Organizations declare that by closing the access gap, the world could see an end to the AIDS pandemic by the year 2030.

The WHO plans to honor World AIDS Day by releasing new information and recommendations to assist countries in their progress toward HIV prevention and treatment. The new WHO guidelines will cover recommended use of antiretroviral drugs for those that have been exposed to HIV including healthcare professionals, sex workers and rape victims. The manual will also include information regarding the treatment of infections and diseases that can be detrimental to HIV patients.

For the last several years, the WHO has been a strong advocate of antiretroviral, or ARV drug treatment for HIV infections. The latest statement reported, “The ARV regimens now available, even in the poorest countries, are safer, simpler, more efficacious and more affordable than ever before.”

As World AIDS Day approaches, many are showing their support for the cause and the 2030 virus-free goal. Leader of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Anthony Fauci, states, “With collective and resolute action now and a steadfast commitment for years to come, an AIDS-free generation is indeed within reach.”

However, WHO officials urge that there is still a great deal of work to be done in order for these treatments to become accessible to communities in need. Officials hope that the new HIV guidelines will help to close the gap in prevention and treatment for everyone affected.

In honor of World AIDS Day 2014, many companies are providing special offers that allow for proceeds to go toward the fight against AIDS. The (RED) campaign has partnered with businesses including the Apple Store, Starbucks, CocaCola, Bank of America and many more to raise awareness and gain support for the cause.

Getting involved this holiday season, either by participating in the campaign or helping as a consumer, can make an enormous difference in the future of our world.

– Megan Douches

Photo: World Aid Day UN AIDS, WHO
Photo: Flickr

HIV/AIDS
Sex workers, along with other marginalized groups, are at high risk for contracting HIV/AIDS due to a multitude of reasons. The levels of risk vary greatly from country to country, depending on whether they work on the “streets” and have access to contraceptives, among other things. Even within countries, there can be great variance with the rates of HIV/AIDS. In Mumbai, India, sex workers have a HIV/AIDS prevalence of 4.6 percent, whereas brothels in Maharashtra have a rate of 29 percent. No matter the diversity, sex workers all over the world share common obstacles that increase their exposure to HIV/AIDS.

A sex worker usually has an extremely high number of sexual partners. If condoms are used consistently, then transmission of the disease is diminished, but that is not likely to be the case abroad. The 2010 UNAIDS global report found that only a third of the 86 countries researched reported 90 percent of workers using condoms with their last client. In many instances, sex workers lack access to condoms or are not aware of their importance. Moreover, many sex workers are not able to negotiate condom use, because it can mean he or she will be paid a lesser amount.

In addition, laws in many countries do little to protect sex workers, often ostracizing them from society. Although sex work can be partially legal in a few countries, legislation and policies do not punish the action of clients that can put these sex workers at risk for HIV/AIDS. For instance, a sex worker who has been raped will most likely be unsuccessful in taking the perpetrator to court. The lack of protection in these cases puts sex workers at very high risk of getting HIV/AIDS.

Despite all of this, there has been progress in places like Nairobi, Kenya, where women are taking charge of their own fate. Viviane Muasi, a female sex worker, is a peer educator with the Sex Workers Outreach Progamme. When she is not working at night, she spends most of her time advocating for HIV testing and consistent condom use. SWOP, run by the University of Nairobi and Canada’s University of Manitoba, has enabled over 3,000 women to get tested for a variety of sexually transmitted infections, including HIV/AIDS. During the clinic visits, medical staff hands out prevention packages to halt the transmission of HIV/AIDS. These packages include instructions for condom use, different family planning methods and treatment for sexually transmitted infections. Hopefully by promoting and supporting condom use and early detection, the rates of HIV/AIDS among sex workers will greatly decrease.

Leeda Jewayni

Sources: IRIN News, ADVERT
Photo: BAM

aids epidemic
Recent statistics released in a new report by UNAIDS show that the number of new HIV/AIDS cases have been decreasing steadily. This new data shows that for every 10 percent increase in treatment coverage, there is a one percent decline in new infections among those living with HIV. However, the report also noted that far more international effort was needed because this current pace is insufficient to completely end the AIDS epidemic.

In 2013, 2.1 million new HIV/AIDS cases were recorded, down from 3.4 million new cases in 2001. 2013 also saw an additional 2.3 million people gain access to the life-saving antiretroviral therapy (ART), which is a drug that substantially suppresses many of the symptoms of AIDS and increases life spans. This means that a grand total of 13 million people have previously had or currently have access to ART. AIDS-related deaths have fallen by one-fifth in the past three years.

The most headline-grabbing piece from the report came from Michael Sidibé, Executive Director of UNAIDS, who said, “If we accelerate all HIV scale-up by 2020, we will be on track to end the epidemic by 2030.”

However it is important to know that while there has been significant improvement, considerable work still needs to be done. Sidibé went on to say that if we don’t continue to scale up efforts, then we would “[add] a decade, if not more” to the 2030 goal.

Only 15 countries account for more than 75 percent of the 2.1 million new HIV infections in 2013. In Sub-Saharan Africa the countries of Nigeria, South Africa and Uganda account for 48 percent of all new HIV infections in the region. Fewer than four in 10 people currently with HIV lack the ART necessary to survive. HIV prevalence is estimated to be 12 times higher in sex workers, 19 times higher among gay men, 28 times higher in drug injectors and up to 49 times higher among transgender women. Sub-Saharan adolescent girls and young women account for one in four new HIV infections.

While there are a tremendous amount of fascinating statistics on the matter, it’s important to not get lost in them. This new report from UNAIDS shows that progress is being made, but an even stronger effort is needed in order to end the AIDS epidemic in a timely fashion and save millions more lives.

Andre Gobbo

Sources: BBC, UNAIDS 1, UNAIDS 2
Photo: New America Media

It is important for children to learn about and understand every pivotal moment they might encounter during their development. For many U.S. children, this includes going to the bathroom, learning proper manners and going through the strife of puberty. Unfortunately, many children across the globe are also fated to encounter HIV as a major factor in their lives.

Thankfully, UNAIDS and the United Nations World Tourism Organization’s (UNTWO) Sustainable Tourism for Eliminating Poverty have released an innovative book about HIV for children. The book aims to educate African schoolchildren and eliminate the stigma surrounding HIV in the hopes that community understanding will pave the way for better treatment for those affected.

Titled “The Bravest Boy I Know,” the story surrounds a girl called Kayla and an HIV-positive boy named Kendi. The story shows the carefree and happy lifestyle of Kendi, who is determined to overcome his affliction with the praise of Kayla who refers to him as “the bravest boy I know.”

Accompanied by beautiful illustrations, the book inspires children with HIV to persist with positive attitudes toward a fulfilling life despite what may seem as an end-all diagnosis. It will also teach countless African youths to accept and help their peers in need rather than scare away or even ostracize them due to misinformed beliefs.

“The Bravest Boy I Know” will be distributed to African schools through ST-EP’s Small Libraries project, aimed at children 5 years and older as well as families and wider communities. The book provides facts on HIV such as what it means, how it is contracted and how to deal with it and goes further to break down social barriers about the disease that prevent proper treatment and testing.

The fact that the book is aimed at small children emphasizes the effect social stigma has on the disease, which has been treated as a plague since its emergence. The outbreak of HIV in the U.S. is a case that illustrates the vast effects of misinformation even in a relatively educated society where people affected with HIV were once treated as lepers. In areas riddled with HIV, the stigma and lack of understanding are even more severe today.

The book is intentionally lighthearted, bringing its readers into positive acceptance through comfortable understanding. It is a resource for parents, caregivers, community members and even the children it may or may not affect.

In the wake of world crises and the modern media that can bring them to our living rooms, “The Bravest Boy I Know” is astoundingly innovative and may even be useful in U.S. schools. Education is the means to break cycles of poverty, disease and inequality for future generations, and children hold the future in their little book-reading hands.

– Edward Heinrich

Sources: UNAIDS 1, UNAIDS 2, YouTube
Photo: UNAIDS 3

aids_ribbon
According to UN officials, the global AIDS epidemic could be over by 2030. Significant progress has been made in treatment and control of the disease. Louis Loures, a deputy executive director of UNAIDS has confidently stated, “I think that 2030 is a viable target to say that we have reached the end of the epidemic.” In addition, Loures believes that the disease’s epidemic level will decrease by that time.

Unfortunately, HIV infections still continue to be a constant problem for this society. According to Inquirer News, “three million new HIV infections are reported each year, and the disease which attacks the immune system kills 1.7 people per year.” However, Loures believes that the end of this epidemic is near. He says “we can get to the end of the epidemic because we have treatments and ways to control the infection.”

Costs for the antiretroviral treatment against HIV/AIDS have also decreased. According to medical reports, the average annual cost of treatment per person in the early 1990s was $19,000. Today, prices have decreased to $150 per treatment. Thanks to new medical developments, antiretroviral drugs have become widely available to the public. The once untreatable disease can be diagnosed early and treated with a variety of drugs.

The advancements have been so great that UNAID reports state that “the annual incidence of new infections has fallen to under 20 percent in the past decade, and in 25 countries it has fallen to over 50 percent.” These trends show a consistent and credible path to Loures’ 2030 prediction. In addition, the number of people who have received treatment has decreased to 60 percent.

On the other hand, however, vulnerable groups such as sex workers and drug users often don’t know they carry the disease or have challenges seeking treatment. According to Loures, the groups who don’t get treated will risk the health and safety of the entire population. His assumption is that if people don’t get HIV/AIDS treated and under control then “the disease will stay with us.”

Most recently, new medical advances have shown signs of a possible cure. This new drug has passed the first round of experimental testing and medical experts are confident that this might be the cure to the fatal disease.

Moreover, it is recommended that people take the necessary measures to prevent the disease. New protection campaigns by HIV/AIDS groups have arisen.  More kids are being educated about the disease earlier on.

Based on all of this information, there is reasonable hope that 2030 could signal the end of AIDS. While there are still important obstacles to surmount, new medical advances, more focus on prevention and detection as well as advocacy have substantially increased the possibility of eradicating the disease.

– Stephanie Olaya

Sources: Courier Mail, Inquirer News, UNAIDS
Photo: Times Live