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Archive for November, 2007

DC Has Highest AIDS Rate In Nation

Posted by pozlife on November 28, 2007

by 365Gay.com Newscenter Staff

Posted: November 27, 2007 – 5:00 pm ET

(Washington) A new report by District of Columbia health officials paints a bleak picture of Washington’s efforts to curb the rising rate of HIV/AIDS, showing that the district has the highest infection rate of any city in the country.

Almost one in every fifty people in Washington is living with HIV/AIDS – a total of 12,400 people.

The report found that at the end of 2006 there were 8,368 reported cases of HIV/AIDS, a 43 percent increase from 2001.

African Americans make up 57 percent of the district’s population but accounted for 81 percent of the new cases of HIV and total nearly 86 percent of PWAs in the city.

The report also said that the virus is spreading more quickly among heterosexuals than gay men.

Between 2001 and 2006 37 percent of the new cases of HIV were among heterosexuals while men who have sex with men accounted for 25 percent.

The new cases also are growing among mature men and women. The change began showing up in 2004 and since then the number of new HIV cases in people between 40 and 49 has outpaced every other age group.

"HIV/AIDS in the district has become a modern epidemic with complexities and challenges that continue to threaten the lives and well-being of far too many residents," the report said.

Unprotected sex was the most common way HIV. is spread, followed by intravenous drug use.

In September the district stopped distributing free condoms imported from China following widespread concerns about their effectiveness. Instead, the Health Department will give name brand condoms to HIV/AIDS groups to hand out.

Nearly 200,000 condoms were returned by community groups after people complained that the cellophane yellow, purple and yellow wrappers were either open when they were distributed or came open when people put them in their pocket or wallet.

There also were concerns that the expiration on the packages was illegible.

The health department said in a statement it believed the condoms are safe and effective. But with people unwilling to use them the districts program to combat HIV/AIDS was in jeopardy.

Curbing HIV drug use infections also has proved difficult. Washington, which is controlled by Congress, is the only city in the country barred by federal law from using local tax money to finance needle exchange programs.

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Stark Differences Between Candidates On HIV/AIDS Issues

Posted by pozlife on November 28, 2007

112807pby 365Gay.com Newscenter Staff

Posted: November 28, 2007 – 3:00 pm ET

(New York City) Three of the nation’s largest HIV/AIDS care groups have polled the 16 presidential hopefuls and found marked differences between Democrats and Republicans.

Housing Works, Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC), and the AIDS Foundation of Chicago questioned the candidates on a range of AIDS-related issues from funding to education in advance of World AIDS Day.

"World AIDS Day is this Saturday, but you could also say that World AIDS Day is Election Day 2008. That’s because our next President will have the opportunity and the responsibility to end AIDS," said Charles King, President and CEO of Housing Works.

"She or he will have the tools to treat 33 million people living with HIV-including over a million Americans-around the planet, as well as the tools to stop the spread of the virus. We’re here to build the political will to make that happen."

Seven of the Democratic candidates have committed to investing $50 billion to fight HIV/AIDS globally over the next five years the survey found. No Republican candidate has made a similar commitment.

All eight Democratic candidates support comprehensive sex education, whereas seven of eight Republicans have opposed it.

Most of the Democrats support lifting the ban against HIV-positive foreign nationals visiting and/or immigrating to the U.S.; most Republican candidates either support the existing ban or have not come out against it.

The three leading Democratic candidates – Sen. Barack Obama, former Sen. John Edwards, and Sen. Hillary Clinton – have all publicly supported ending the ban on federal funding for needle exchange, a scientifically proven intervention to reduce the spread of HIV without increasing drug use. President George W. Bush and former President Bill Clinton faced stiff criticism by public health experts for failing to lift the ban during their terms in office.

The survey also found that for the first time, five presidential candidates – Clinton, Edwards, Obama, Rep. Dennis Kucinich, and Gov. Bill Richardson – have committed to crafting a national AIDS strategy early in their first term if elected.

"More than ever, the American public is calling for meaningful health care reform which includes bold leadership in the area of AIDS," said GMHC Chief Operating Officer Robert Bank.

The three advocacy groups have created a web site, AIDSVote.org, to show where each of the candidates stands.

"Voters need to know what the candidates will do to fight AIDS when determining their readiness to be President," said Bank.

The website includes domestic and global AIDS platforms, which detail how the next president of the U.S. can end AIDS in places as far away as South Africa and as close as South Carolina.

"We not only hope to better inform voters about how important HIV/AIDS policy issues and the need for a national AIDS strategy are in the election but also hope to better inform the candidates themselves," said Rebecca Haag, AIDS Action Council executive director.

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Addiction Conference Told Gays Need Safe Places To Get Help

Posted by pozlife on November 28, 2007

by The Canadian Press

Posted: November 28, 2007 – 5:00 pm ET

(Edmonton, Alberta) Gays, lesbians, transsexuals, or bisexual people with drug and alcohol addictions face barriers that prevent them from seeking treatment, says the developer of Vancouver program.

Devon McFarlane, who developed the Prism Alcohol and Drug Services programs for Vancouver Coastal Health, says gays and lesbians are reluctant to get help because they have faced discrimination and homophobia in the health-care system.

“They need a place where they can be treated well and respectfully,’’ McFarlane told delegates at a national substance abuse conference in Edmonton.

Counselors and health service workers also need to know what questions to ask, and how to ask them.

“You’re in this society where you’re queer or trans, there’s homophobia, transphobia, heterosexism … you could be anticipating that, `If I go into a residential treatment centre with a bunch of guys and I disclose that I’m gay, am I going to be hurt or harmed, are people going to support me, are they going to protect me?’’’ said Stacey Boon, an addictions counselor at Vancouver Coastal Health.

Some counselors believe being gay or lesbian causes substance abuse problems, and some believe therapy can cure homosexuality, Boon said, which turn people off to seeking help.

Boon said she’s had clients who have gone through formal substance abuse programs and were not asked about their sexual orientation, but she said that’s a problem, too.

“They say they were told it wasn’t an issue or they were told not to say anything,’’ she said.

McFarlane noted that people must feel safe enough to be able to tell a counselor about their sexual orientation or gender identity.

“If people don’t disclose or don’t feel comfortable to disclose, they may not have a chance to work at the some of the core issues that have led them to their substance abuse, such as if they were beaten up repeatedly as a kid for acting too fag-like or like a sissy,’’ he said.

Vancouver is the second Canadian city _ Toronto is the other _ to offer addiction services specifically for lesbian and gay populations.

Boon said Prism counselors ask about sexual orientation and gender identity, allowing clients to be matched to counselors who may have identified themselves as being gay or lesbian, or as an ally _ someone who does not identify as one of those groups, but will support those groups.

McFarlane said studies have found that gays, lesbians and bisexual people have a higher incidence of substance abuse than heterosexual populations.

He said people who work with those groups need to know how homophobia and heterosexism _ defined as believing that heterosexuality is normal and everything else is abnormal _ has affected clients.

The also need to know how certain groups abuse substances.

For instance, there’s the “circuit party cocktail’’ _ a mix of Viagra, ecstasy and crystal methamphetamine _ that leads to hypersex and a lack of inhibitions.

Boon said studies have shown that people who use ecstasy also have more unprotected sex.

Counselors may also need to refer people to get other services, such as testing for HIV, she added.

Prism has more than 20 gay, lesbian, bisexual or ally counselors that are available at various locations around Vancouver to help people.

It has an outpatient treatment program for gay and bisexual men who use methamphetamine, a day detox program for men and women of varying gender identities, early recovery programs for both sexes, nicotine dependence programs for lesbian women and programs for “two-spirited’’ aboriginals.

It also offers training sessions for counselors or other service providers who want to learn how to treat those groups.

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Staph Undermines Body’s Defenses

Posted by pozlife on November 27, 2007


by Randolph E. Schmid, the Associated Press

The aggressive antibiotic-resistant staph infection responsible for thousands of recent illnesses undermines the body’s defenses by causing germ-fighting cells to explode, researchers reported Sunday. Experts say the findings may help lead to better treatments.

An estimated 90,000 people in the United States fall ill each year from methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA. It is not clear how many die from the infection; one estimate put it at more than 18,000, which would be slightly higher than U.S. deaths from AIDS.

The infection long has been associated with health care facilities, where it attacks people with reduced immune systems. But many recent cases involve an aggressive strain, community-associated MRSA, or CA-MRSA. It can cause severe infections and even death in otherwise healthy people outside of health care settings.

The CA-MRSA strain secretes a kind of peptide – a compound formed by amino acids – that causes immune cells called neutrophils to burst, eliminating a main defense against infection, according to researchers.

The findings, from a team of U.S. and German researchers led by Michael Otto of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, appeared in Sunday’s online edition of the journal Nature Medicine.

While only 14 percent of serious MRSA infections are the community associated kind, they have drawn attention in recent months with a spate of reports in schools, including the death of a 17-year-old Virginia high school student.

Both hospital-associated and community-associated MRSA contained genes for the peptides. But their production was much higher in the CA-MRSA, the researchers said.

The compounds first cause inflammation, drawing the immune cells to the site of the infection, and then destroy those cells.

The research was conducted in mice and with human blood in laboratory tests.

Within five minutes of exposure to the peptides from CA-MRSA, human neutrophils showed flattening and signs of damage to their membrane, researchers said. After 60 minutes, many cells had disintegrated completely.

"This elegant work helps reveal the complex strategy that S. aureus has developed to evade our normal immune defenses," Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, NIAID director, said in a statement. "Understanding what makes the infections caused by these new strains so severe and developing new drugs to treat them are urgent public health priorities."

Dr. George G. Zhanel, a medical microbiologist at the University of Manitoba in Canada, said the study was the first he had seen that identifies the peptides involved.

This shows at least one of the reasons CA-MRSA is able to cause serious problems, Zhanel, who was not part of the research team, said in a telephone interview.

Findings like this may help lead to better treatments, such as ways to neutralize the peptides or to activate the immune system to defeat them, he added.

Dr. Lindsey N. Shaw of the division of cell biology, microbiology and molecular biology at the University of South Florida, also was enthusiastic about the research.

"Specifically identifying a factor which seemingly makes CA-MRSA more pathogenic than HA-MRSA is a real find," Shaw, who was not part of the research group, said via e-mail. The "molecules identified in the study are indeed novel."

Zhanel noted that while hospital-based MRSA seemed to concentrate on "sick old people," the community-based strain can break out in on sports teams, prisons, cruise ships and other places where people are not necessarily sick or have weakened immune systems.

In a worrisome development, he noted that the more aggressive strains have started appearing in hospitals.

Dr. Clarence B. Creech, an assistant professor of pediatric infectious disease at Vanderbilt University, said every time scientists find a new way that staph uses to make people sick, "we open up the field of developing new vaccine targets and new drug targets."

"This is one of the papers we can look to as we develop new vaccines and drugs," Creech, who was not part of the research team, said in a telephone interview.

The research was funded by the National Institutes of Health, the German Research Council and the German Ministry of Education and Research.

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CDC: New Cold Bug Killed 10

Posted by pozlife on November 27, 2007


by Mike Stobbe, the Associated Press

A mutated version of a common cold virus has caused 10 deaths in the last 18 months, U.S. health officials said Thursday. Adenoviruses usually cause respiratory infections that aren’t considered lethal. But a new variant has caused at least 140 illnesses in New York, Oregon, Washington and Texas, according to a report issued Thursday by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

CDC officials don’t consider the mutation to be a cause for alarm for most people, and they’re not recommending any new precautions for the general public.

"It’s an uncommon infection," said Dr. Larry Anderson, a CDC epidemiologist.

The illness made headlines in Texas earlier this year, when a so-called boot camp flu sickened hundreds at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio. The most serious cases were blamed on the emerging virus and one 19-year-old trainee died.

"What really got people’s attention is these are healthy young adults landing in the hospital and, in some cases, the ICU," said Dr. John Su, an infectious diseases investigator with the CDC.

There are more than 50 distinct types of adenoviruses tied to human illnesses. They are one cause of the common cold, and also trigger pneumonia and bronchitis. Severe illnesses are more likely in people with weaker immune systems.

Some adenoviruses have also been blamed for gastroenteritis, conjunctivitis and cystitis.

There are no good antiviral medications for adenoviruses. Patients usually are treated with aspirin, liquids and bed rest.

Some people who get infected by the new bug probably would not suffer symptoms, and some may just feel a common cold. Sick people should see a doctor if they suffer a high fever or have trouble breathing, Anderson said.

In the CDC report, the earliest case of the mutated virus was found in an infant girl in New York City, who died last year. The child seemed healthy right after birth, but then became dehydrated and lost appetite. She died 12 days after she was born.

Tests found that she been infected with a form of adenovirus, called Ad14, but with some little differences, Su said.

It’s not clear how the changes made it more lethal, said Linda Gooding, an Emory University researcher who specializes in adenoviruses.

Earlier this year, hundreds of trainees at Lackland became ill with respiratory infections. Tests showed a variety of adenoviruses in the trainees, but at least 106 – and probably more – had the mutated form of Ad14, including five who ended up in an intensive care unit.

In April, Oregon health officials learned of a cluster of cases at a Portland-area hospital. They ultimately counted 31 cases, including seven who died with severe pneumonia. The next month, Washington state officials reported four hospitalized patients had the same mutated virus. One, who also had AIDS, died.

The Ad14 form of adenovirus was first identified in 1955. In 1969, it was blamed for a rash of illnesses in military recruits stationed in Europe, but it’s been detected rarely since then. But it seems to growing more common.

The strain accounted for 6 percent of adenovirus samples collected in 22 medical facilities in 2006, while none was seen the previous two years, according to a study published this month in the medical journal Clinical Infectious Diseases.

The new bug could have implications for the military. Other forms of adenoviruses have been a common cause of illness in recruits. Military officials are bringing back an adenovirus vaccine – administered as a pill – that was given to recruits from 1971 to 1999, CDC officials said.

A Barr Pharmaceuticals vaccine for the military, currently being tested, is expected to be licensed in 2009. Like the old pill, it focuses on adenovirus serotypes 4 and 7, because those bugs have been persistent problems, said Col. Art Brown, an Army physician involved in the product’s development.

Some CDC officials said a vaccination against the mutant Ad14 might be needed. Brown said it isn’t clear if the mutant Ad14 will be an enduring threat, but the military will monitor illness reports.

"If it persists, then we’d consider if the vaccine needs to be modified further," said Brown, of the U.S. Army Medical Materiel Development Activity.

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Medical Records Hacked In Canadian Province

Posted by pozlife on November 27, 2007

by The Canadian Press

Posted: November 26, 2007 – 5:00 pm ET

(St. John’s Newfoundland) Police are investigating whether computer hackers viewed sensitive patient information, including test results on HIV and hepatitis, that was on a Newfoundland government computer.

Attorney General Jerome Kennedy said the release of the information from a computer taken home by a private-sector consultant is “a very serious matter that required immediate action.’’

He said police are investigating to see “if there is any illegal activity or hacking.’’

He said in an interview that it’s still not clear how many patient records were accessed on from the databank collected by the Provincial Public Health Laboratory.

“We don’t now the extent of the breach, we just know a breach has occurred,’’ he said.

A news release said the material involved included “names, health numbers, age, sex, physician and test results for infectious diseases, including HIV and hepatitis.’’

The province says that the files were obtained through an open Internet connection when the files were on the computer that was brought home by the consultant on contract with the lab.

The consultant became aware of the breach when called by someone who identified himself as a representative of a computer security company.

The caller claimed he was in possession of some of the patient information stored on the consultant’s computer.

Both Kennedy and Health Minister Ross Wiseman said they believe department guidelines had been breached by the consultant bringing the materials home.

“These are the sort of things that are being looked at by the Health Department,’’ said Kennedy.

“The computer equipment and the information on in it should not have been outside the office.’’

Kennedy claimed the incident appears to “be an isolated situation,’’ and that no files were lost from the province’s wider computer network.

The Royal Newfoundland Constabulary is investigating to see if any criminal charges can be laid.

In a news release, the police force said they’re in the process of assessing the information, but “due to the sensitive nature of this matter,’’ it would not provide any further information at this time.

The province’s Office of the Chief Information Officer is also opening a formal investigation into the incident.

No patients have been informed of the security breach and the Health Department doesn’t expect to have information on the incident until a private consultant has examined the computer involved over the next few days.

The lab acts as Newfoundland’s centre for infectious disease surveillance and control, and also provides lab services to the province’s hospitals and clinics.

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Final Preps Underway For World AIDS Day

Posted by pozlife on November 27, 2007

by 365Gay.com Newscenter Staff

Posted: November 26, 2007 – 5:00 pm ET

(San Francisco, California) On December 1 communities across the globe will observe World AIDS Day with memorials to concerts.

An estimated 40 million people around the world are living with HIV/AIDS.

In South Africa, the country with the largest number of people with HIV/AIDS, an international concert will be held in Johannesburg. It is the fifth in a series of annual concerts that Nelson Mandela has used to raise awareness about AIDS.

The concert, expected to attract 30-35 international and local artists and draw a crowd of over 50,000 people. Among those participating will be U2, Annie Lennox, Peter Gabriel, Beyonce, Bob Geldof and Angelique Kidjo.

The funds raised through the concerts are used to create awareness of the AIDS pandemic among young people.

An estimated 5.4 million South Africans are infected with the AIDS virus.

In San Francisco, where the first AIDS patient was diagnosed in 1980, a special service will be held at the National AIDS Memorial.

The Memorial was conceived in 1989 by a small group of San Franciscans who had lost loved ones to AIDS.

Development of the Memorial in Golden Gate Park began in 1991. The site was designated a national memorial by act of Congress in 1996.

The Memorial is a seven-acre wooded basin historically known as de Laveaga Dell. Its gathering areas are constructed of stone and wood.

The keynote speaker this year will be Charles King, president of New York’s Housing Works, the largest community-based AIDS service organization in the U.S. It provides a full range of services including housing, health care, mental health services, chemical dependency services, legal advocacy, and job training and placement for homeless men, women, and children living with HIV/AIDS.

An award will be presented to Ruth Brinker, founder of San Francisco’s Project Open Hand, the country’s first food service organization for people living with AIDS.

In 1985, Brinker started making dinner in her own kitchen for seven neighbors with AIDS. Demand for her meals grew, and with volunteer help, Brinker started Project Open Hand.

Today it feeds over 6,000 people a year in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Earlier this week the Centers for Disease Control said that gonorrhea rates are jumping again after hitting a record low, and an increasing number of cases are caused by a "superbug" version resistant to common antibiotics. The CDC also said that Syphilis is rising, too. (story)

The increase in incidences of STDs is considered an indication people are increasing having unprotected sex – a precursor to rising HIV cases.

For one state that concern became all to apparent this week when Florida’s Health Department issued a new report showing one in every 22 gay and bi men across the state is HIV-positive, and in South Florida the rate is much higher. (story)

In Broward County, which encompasses Fort Lauderdale, one in every 11 gay white men is estimated to be positive. For gay Black men the rate it is 1 in 17. The results were similar for Dade County, which includes Miami and South Beach, and for Palm Beach County.

LGBT activists said the report shows education methods are not working. They called for a new look at how to reach gay and bi men.

They also said that many gay men have hit HIV information overload, becoming complacent in the wake of new drugs that give people with HIV a near normal life span.

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Ending the epidemic

Posted by pozlife on November 24, 2007


With HIV infection rates among black gay and bisexual men rising in recent years, compounded by the scarcity of HIV-prevention messages that explicitly address the experience of being black and gay, AID Atlanta is turning to the source to come up with creative ways to get these men to embrace safer sex.

AID Atlanta’s “Evolution Project,” which targets young black gay men, celebrates it first anniversary by hosting the ­­­­­­ “Final Fantasy Ball” on Dec. 2 in conjunction with World AIDS Day, which is observed Dec. 1.

“We thought it was really important to tap into the community and get some of their creative input,” says Stephaun Clipper-Wallace, a community building specialist at AID Atlanta and a mainstay in Atlanta’s gay ballroom scene.

Known for their flamboyant fashion and their imaginative environment, house balls are pageants where gay “house” members compete in a variety of make-up, fashion, voguing and gender-twisting categories. Themed after the popular “Final Fantasy” video game, the “Final Fantasy Ball” features several categories inspired by the video game’s characters and themes, including who can most realistically impersonate specific characters.

The event culminates with a trio of categories where house members will apply their creative genius to come up with novel HIV-prevention messages. In one category, participants must create a two-minute HIV-prevention public service announcement, and create an outfit that incorporates their favorite brand of lube and condoms.

In another category, contestants are charged with countering the notion that safer sex is boring by creating a cleverly erotic HIV-prevention message into their appearance.

“Our goal is to put on a really good event, and one where people can learn and get information,” says Clipper-Wallace, who is also known by his ballroom name, Stephaun Elite Manolo Blahnik.

The Final Fantasy Ball, which takes place at the Georgia World Congress Center, is one of several house balls the “Evolution Project” has produced this year in an attempt to tap into an underserved population that is also the group hit hardest by HIV/AIDS, black gay men.

“The ballroom scene is a population here that is really consistent with the target population for our agency — there’s a lot of overlap there,” says Clipper-Wallace, who notes that AIDS agencies in Atlanta have not been as successful reaching out to the ballroom scene as agencies have in other large cities.

“Since the ballroom community had typically not been tapped, I thought it was something good for the ballroom scene and the community in general,” he says. “This is not just about us coming into the ballroom community, this is about us nurturing a relationship with the ballroom community.”

SEVERAL LEADING NATIONAL FIGURES in the ­­fight against HIV/AIDS bring their voices to Atlanta for World AIDS Day. Emory University hosts a Dec. 1 networking breakfast and speeches by Helene Gayle, president and CEO of CARE USA, and former U.S. Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders.

Also on Dec. 1, AIDS Survival Project hosts a “Call to Action” fundraiser featuring speeches by state Rep. Kathy Ashe (D-Atlanta) and Robert Greenwald of the Harvard Law School’s Health Law Clinic. A foremost authority on healthcare issues, Greenwald says he plans to talk about the lack of access to healthcare in the U.S., as well as recent efforts to improve a “system that is basically broken.”

“Healthcare should be a right, and not a privilege in this country, and somehow, that our elected officials have failed to make sure that healthcare is available to all is unacceptable,” says Greenwald, author of the Early Treatment for HIV Act now stalled in Congress.

“What ETHA would do is, the moment a person tests positive for HIV, if they are poor or low-income, they would immediately be enrolled in Medicaid,” says Greenwald, noting that current Medicaid rules allow many states to wait until a person has full-blown AIDS until granting them Medicaid eligibility.

Speaker of the U.S. House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has been ETHA’s chief sponsor in the past, but that has yet to help the bill’s prospects for becoming law, Greenwald says.

AIDS Survival Project also hosts a “Call to Worship” on Dec. 2, with a special AIDS-themed service at Central Presbyterian Church, officiated by Rev. Bradley Schmeling, who is gay.

THE NATIONAL CENTER for Human Rights Education is also coordinating a faith-based World AID Day campaign, asking black churches to display panels of the AIDS Memorial Quilt in their churches from Nov. 28-Dec. 2.

“Ignorance, prejudice and silence are fueling the spread of a preventable disease,” says Dorinda Henry, an Atlanta lesbian serving as interim executive director of NCHRE. Some 800 panels of the AIDS Quilt will also be on display at Emory University’s Quad area on Nov. 30.

Georgia representatives of the Prevention Justice Mobilization, a national group designed to increase political awareness about the inter-connected social factors that help spread HIV, host a World AIDS Day “Speak Out” at the Martin Luther King Center on Dec. 1. The group will continue advocacy and protests throughout the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention’s National HIV Prevention Conference, which starts Dec. 2.

Also on Dec. 1, the Spruill Gallery in Dunwoody hosts a one-day show by gay artist Terry S. Hardy entitled

“The Lost Boxes — Mourning the Loss,” which features boxes Hardy created after his partner died of AIDS complications.

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Expert: China lower AIDS Estimate Likely Accurate

Posted by pozlife on November 24, 2007

by The Associated Press

Posted: November 23, 2007 – 2:00 pm ET

(Hong Kong) China’s recently lowered AIDS estimates are probably accurate since they are in line with other countries which have scaled back their numbers because of a change in the way data are collated, a leading AIDS researcher says.

China’s leaders had denied AIDS was a problem in the past, leading some to doubt the country’s most recent figures, which sharply lowered the estimated number of people living with the disease.

But David Ho, a well-known AIDS researcher who also runs a public awareness and prevention program in mainland China, said the new figures reflected a change in methodology used by the United Nations and the World Health Organization.

In 2004, China scaled back the estimated number of people infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, from nearly 1 million people to 840,000, and then further lowered the estimate to 650,000 in 2005.

"I have no basis to say whether the official AIDS estimates are right or not, but I feel that it is consistent with what the calculations are showing for the world," Ho said in a speech at the University of Hong Kong.

Worldwide, the estimated number of people infected with HIV fell from almost 40 million last year to about 33.2 million this year, global health officials said Tuesday.

Ho said the international organizations reduced their estimates by giving more weight to samples from low-risk instead of high-risk groups.

Previous estimates were based largely on the numbers of infected pregnant women at prenatal clinics, as well as projections of the AIDS rates for certain high-risk groups such as drug users to the entire population. Officials said those estimates were flawed and are now incorporating more data such as national household surveys.

In recent years, officials in China have confronted the disease more openly, promising anonymous testing, free treatment for the poor and a ban on discrimination against people with the virus.

China’s traditional hotspots for AIDS are the central Henan province, where tainted blood helped spread the disease, and southwestern Yunnan province, where drug-use transmission is common.

Ho, however, urged officials to pay more attention to sexual transmission of the disease, which health experts have warned could cause a huge spike in numbers as infected sex workers pass the virus to clients who then pass it to their wives.

"I think we have to look out for that burgeoning epidemic," he said.

The U.N. has praised China’s progress, but said authorities need to reach more patients and overcome a lack of cooperation from some government officials.

Ho has been researching AIDS for nearly 25 years and helped set up the Aaron Diamond AIDS research center at Rockefeller University in New York.

His research into how HIV replicates led to development of anti-retroviral treatment, which has drastically reduced mortality rates associated with AIDS since 1996.

His China AIDS Institute is a joint venture between Chinese and U.S. organizations to help address the disease in China.

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Drop In Worldwide AIDS Cases Based On Poor Data

Posted by pozlife on November 21, 2007

by The Associated Press

Posted: November 20, 2007 – 9:00 am ET

(London) The number of AIDS cases worldwide fell by more than 6 million cases this year to 33.2 million, global health officials said Tuesday. But the decline is mostly on paper.

Previous estimates were largely inflated, and the new numbers are the result of a new methodology. They show AIDS cases in 2007 were down from almost 39.5 million last year, according to the World Health Organization and the United Nations AIDS agency.

Although the decline is largely due to revised numbers, U.N. officials said it still showed the AIDS pandemic was losing momentum.

"For the first time, we are seeing a decline in global AIDS deaths," said Dr. Kevin De Cock, director of WHO’s AIDS department.

The two agencies will issue their annual AIDS report Wednesday after convening an expert meeting last week in Geneva to examine their data collection methods.

Much of the drop is due to revised numbers from India – which earlier this year slashed its numbers in half, from about 6 million cases to about 3 million – and to new data from several countries in sub-Saharan Africa.

Previous AIDS numbers were largely based on the numbers of infected pregnant women at clinics, as well as projecting the AIDS rates of certain high-risk groups like drug users to the entire population at risk. Officials said those numbers were flawed, and are now incorporating more data like national household surveys.

U.N. officials could not rule out future downward corrections. WHO and UNAIDS experts reported 2.5 million newly infected people in 2007. Just a few years ago, that figure was about 5 million.

While the global AIDS numbers are falling, there are huge regional differences. Sub-Sarahan Africa remains the epicenter of the epidemic. AIDS is still the leading cause of death in there, where it affects men, women and children. Elsewhere in the world, AIDS outbreaks are mostly concentrated in gay men, intravenous drug users, and sex workers.

But the U.N. said progress was being made, and that the global epidemic peaked in the late 1990s.

"There are some encouraging elements in the data," said De Cock. He said the dropping numbers were proof that some of the UN’s strategies to fight AIDS were working.

Not everyone agrees. Some critics have accused the U.N. of inflating its AIDS numbers, and say the revised figures are long overdue.

"They’ve finally got caught with their pants down," said Dr. Jim Chin, a clinical professor of epidemiology at the University of California at Berkeley. Chin is a former WHO staffer and the author of "The AIDS Pandemic: The Collision of Epidemiology with Political Correctness."

He said that it was difficult to tell whether the lowered numbers were evidence that AIDS treatment and prevention strategies were working, or whether the decrease was just due to a natural correction of previous overestimates.

Even with the revised figures, "the numbers are probably still on the high side," said Daniel Halperin, an AIDS epidemiologist at the Harvard School of Public Health. Halperin attended the WHO/UNAIDS meeting last week that reviewed the figures, and said that the estimates were getting closer.

Chin and Halperin said AIDS officials may be reluctant to admit that fewer people are infected because it may translate into less funding for efforts to fight the disease.

"On the one hand, it would be a mistake to radically decrease funding for HIV," Halperin said. "But on the other hand, why not put more money into family planning or climate change?"

Other experts said that even with the decreased figures, much more is needed to stop the AIDS pandemic.

"We are still failing to respond to the crisis," said Dr. Paul Zeitz, executive director of the Global AIDS Alliance. "The overall prevalence of AIDS may have stabilized, but we are still seeing millions of new infections and it is not time yet to step back from this battle."

©365Gay.com 2007


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