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Archive for April, 2008

Global Climate Change to Increase Vulnerability to HIV/AIDS of People in Developing Countries, Panel Says

Posted by pozlife on April 30, 2008


April 30, 2008

Climate change is the newest threat to the increasing HIV/AIDS epidemic worldwide, panelists said Wednesday at an HIV forum at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia, the AAP/Age reports (McLean, AAP/Age, 4/30).
The forum, titled “A Future Free of HIV,” was moderated by Justice of the High Court Michael Kirby and included several HIV/AIDS researchers, according to a UNSW release. Topics covered at the forum included the social and human rights implications of HIV, the latest scientific perspectives on the disease, and the social and behavioral aspects of the epidemic (UNSW release, 4/30).
Speaking at the forum, Daniel Tarantola, a professor of health and human rights at UNSW, said that global warming will indirectly increase vulnerability to HIV infection for people living in developing countries. Tarantola said, “Climate change will trigger a chain of events which is likely to increase the stress on society and result in higher vulnerability to diseases, including HIV.”
David Cooper, director of the National Centre in HIV Epidemiology and Clinical Research at UNSW, said that environmental change would have a negative impact on people living with HIV/AIDS. “Climate change will lead to food scarcity and poorer nutrition, putting people with perilous immune systems at more risk of dying of [AIDS-related illnesses], as well as contracting and transmitting new and unusual infections,” Cooper said.
Cooper said that with 16,000 HIV new cases daily and the failure of research to produce a vaccine or cure, the outlook for fighting the pandemic was “pretty grim.” He said, “I don’t think we have any idea of how to harness a vaccine for this, and we need a strong basic science breakthrough to get anywhere with it.”
Cooper said that it is important to increase preventive measures that work, including condoms and male circumcision, as well as work towards the development of microbicide gels and drugs to block HIV infection (AAP/Age, 4/30). “Science has achieved great strides towards shaping a more effective response to HIV,” but “research has not succeeded in producing the hoped for ‘magic bullets’ of either a cure or a vaccine,” Cooper said, adding, “We need to escalate our research efforts while sustaining and expanding what we know works: good prevention and access to life-saving antiretroviral therapy and integrated care” (UNSW release, 4/30).


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Suppression of Human Protein Reduces HIV’s Ability to Enter T Cells, Replicate, Study Finds

Posted by pozlife on April 30, 2008


April 30, 2008

Researchers have found that suppressing the human protein ITK in CD4+ T cells reduces HIV’s ability to enter the cells and replicate, according to an NIH study published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Reuters reports.
For the study, Pamela Schwartzberg of Boston University and colleagues used human cells in a laboratory to test two methods of inactivating ITK. One method stopped ITK from functioning. In the other method, the researchers used a drug to chemically interfere with the protein (Dunham, Reuters, 4/28). “Suppression of the ITK protein caused many of the pathways that HIV uses to be less active, thereby inhibiting or slowing HIV replication,” the researchers said (AFP/Google.com, 4/28). Schwartzberg added that the researchers did not “completely block (infection), but we certainly severely impaired it. It has minor effects at multiple stages of HIV life cycle, and together that all adds up to a more profound effect” (Reuters, 4/28).
The researchers said that they were concerned that ITK suppression “might kill or otherwise impair the normal functions of T cells.” However, both suppression methods slowed HIV replication but did not interfere “significantly” with T cell survival, according to the study. In addition, the researchers said that mice with ITK deficiencies were able to fight other viral infections (AFP/Google.com, 4/28).
According to the PA/Google.com, ITK suppression could help address the emergence of drug-resistant strains of HIV because it targets a human protein rather than the virus (PA/Google.com, 4/28). Study researcher Andrew Henderson of Boston University added that treatments based on ITK suppression could complement existing antiretroviral drugs. Schwartzberg said that it likely would be several years before a drug that suppresses ITK could enter human clinical trials. She added that more lab experiments are needed to assess other ways of suppressing the protein.
NIH and the researchers have filed for a patent on suppressing ITK to treat HIV with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The protein also is being examined as a possible target to treat asthma and other illnesses involving the immune system, Reuters reports (Reuters, 4/28).

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Egypt Sentences 4 Gay HIV-Pos Men To Prison

Posted by pozlife on April 11, 2008

by The Associated Press

Posted: April 9, 2008 – 5:00 pm ET

(Cairo) An Egyptian court convicted five men Wednesday on charges of homosexual behavior and sentenced them to three years in prison, officials said.

Defense lawyer, Adel Ramadan, said the judge found the men guilty of the “habitual practice of debauchery” – a term used in the Egyptian legal system to denote consensual homosexual acts.

The convictions were confirmed by a judicial official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to journalists.

Homosexuality is not explicitly referred to in Egypt’s legal code, but a wide range of laws covering obscenity, prostitution and debauchery are applied to homosexuals in this conservative country.

The five men were arrested in what human rights groups describe as a crackdown on people with the AIDS virus, using the debauchery charges as a means to prosecute them.

Four of the five men tested HIV-positive after all were forced to undergo blood tests in custody, Human Rights Watch says. The New York-based rights group issued a statement Tuesday signed by more than 100 other organizations around the world condemning the prosecutions.

Ramadan, a lawyer with the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, said the five men were abused and tortured over the past several months to “extract confessions” from them.

Along with three years in prison, the men were sentenced to an additional three years of police supervision.

Ramadan said the defendants were shocked by their convictions.

“Two of them cried, screamed and shrieked,” Ramadan said. He said the others “remained silent, but I saw anger in their eyes for the injustice they have been exposed to.”

Ramadan said he appealed the verdict to Egypt’s Court of Cassation, the country’s highest appellate court.

Dozens of human rights groups have criticized this trial and other similar ones as being driven by ignorance and fear of AIDS. They have warned that the convictions could undermine AIDS prevention in Egypt.

The five convicted Wednesday were among 12 people arrested in a sweep that began in October, when police arrested a man during an altercation with another man on a Cairo street, Human Rights Watch said.

After one of the men said he was HIV-positive, authorities opened investigations into other men whose names or contact information were uncovered in interrogations of the first group of men, Human Rights Watch said.

Egyptian police have denied making any arrests because of a person’s HIV condition.

In mid-January, four other HIV-positive men from the group of 12 were sentenced to one-year prison terms on similar charges of debauchery. (story)  Three others from the 12 were not prosecuted, Human Rights Watch said.

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Medicare, Social Security & the LGBTs

Posted by pozlife on April 10, 2008


Article Date: 03/30/2008

By Scott Schmidt

Medicare and Social Security are considered the “Third Rail of American Politics” for a reason. No right-minded politician dare touch them. But the next President, if she or he serves more than one term, will be thrown on the tracks, if a new report from the program’s trustees is to be believed.

For gays and lesbians, the crises in these entitlement programs can be even more acute—but some proposed solutions might help move towards greater equality—so bear with me for a quick summary of how we got here, because very few people really understand how the system works.

Most Americans see a sizable chunk of their paycheck taken out every two weeks in payroll taxes, and then every so often get a “statement” at home from the Social Security Administration telling them how much they should get in benefits when they retire.

Many folks think that, somewhere in the ether, this money is being set aside for them. They’re wrong. The money you pay into the system today is going directly to your parents, grandparents or sugardaddies—and because there are fewer people working and more people hitting the retirement age, the system is about to collapse.

For the first time ever, spending on Medicare will exceed the revenues generated from payroll taxes. Starting in 2017, Social Security will start spending more money than it takes in.

In theory, both programs have a trust fund which will keep them solvent a little while longer—Medicare until 2014 and Social Security until 2041. These are what Al Gore called the “Lock Box”—but unlike a traditional lock box, these trust funds are as valuable as writing “IOU” on a cocktail napkin and sticking it in your wallet.

Back in the New Deal Era, Social Security and Medicare were created to be self-funded programs. Taxes went in from people’s paychecks, and benefits went out. With the post-World War II baby boom, there were plenty of workers to pay in to the system, and fewer senior citizens to draw from it. So when the general accounts of the federal government started going into the red, Congress started “borrowing” money from Social Security and Medicare. They established these “trust funds” in order to account for the money Congress had taken out of the systems, with the promise that the Federal Government would pay them back.

Well, starting in 2008, it’s payback time for Medicare. The cost of running the system is now draining money from general fund revenues—like personal income taxes—which go to pay for funding things like the Defense Department, subway construction and AIDS research.

Within the decade, Social Security will start drawing down on the general fund, too, and by the next visit of Haley’s Comet, those non-existent “lock boxes” will be empty.

Those like me who are halfway to collecting on Social Security will remember a Presidential Candidate named Ross Perot who bought 30-minute TV spots and stood around pointing at charts. This is what he was talking about!

For the gay and lesbian community, the crises in Social Security and Medicare hurts three-fold. First, programs that many of us hold dear can be endangered as the Federal Government scrambles to pay off its “debts” to these systems.

1) Programs for AIDS assistance and the arts will be cut from the federal budget long before, say, missile defense systems.

2) Because gays and lesbians must file income taxes individually, we are among the first to get thrust into higher tax brackets—which will get even higher as the government seeks to pay for these entitlements.

3) Because the federal government does not recognize marriage equality, the benefits of Social Security are not transferable between partners the way they are for heterosexuals.

None of these are particularly appealing, which is probably why one of the early pioneers in fixing Social Security was a gay Congressman.

Retired Congressman James Kolbe became the first out man to speak at a Republican Convention back in 2000—not because he was gay, but because of his passion for finding a solution to the entitlement tsunami. He worked across the aisle with Democrat Chuck Stenholm to put together a system that would keep Social Security solvent and create equality for gays and lesbians, without raising taxes.

Which of course means it went nowhere.

Kolbe-Stenholm was one of the first plans to introduce personal savings accounts into Social Security. What it proposed was that payroll taxes would go to pay current benefits, and whatever was left over, would go into a personal account. Then, once those people with personal accounts retired, their benefits would first be paid off from their personal accounts, then from the current payroll taxes.

In theory, people under 35 years of age could save enough money in their personal savings account that almost nothing would be needed to come from payroll taxes to pay their benefits—thus keeping the system solvent. And for gays and lesbians, there’s an added benefit. Because the personal accounts actually existed, and was your money—not the federal government—your domestic partner could benefit from it as well, unlike the current system where only married couples can get such benefits out of Social Security. While it’s not gay marriage, it is step towards equality!

Of course, once George Bush warmed up to the idea of personal accounts, they became stigmatized as “privatization” and the idea got shot down faster than a hunting partner on the Cheney ranch.

So far, the Presidential Candidates are treating Social Security and Medicare like a gay wedding. They’re staying far, far away.

Barack Obama promises to be honest with the nation about the “hard choices” in fixing the systems—which means either raising taxes or cutting benefits, while Hillary Clinton talks about “strengthening Social Security”. Republican nominee John McCain has called the current system “unsustainable”.

None of the Presidential candidates really wants to talk about just how bad things have gotten with Social Security and Medicare, because any solutions they propose will either offend senior citizens or people with jobs—which are both large voting blocks.

For them, it seems, it’s better to just have faith that hope alone can change the system.

Further Reading:

>> Presidential hopefuls are mum on Medicare and Social Security woes
>> Medicare spending triggers new funding proposal

>> Social Security looms for next president

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Man Accused Of Bilking Gays With Fake AIDS Drug

Posted by pozlife on April 3, 2008

by 365Gay.com Newscenter Staff

Posted: April 3, 2008 – 3:00 pm ET

(St. Petersburg, Florida) A Florida man has been charged with fraud and misrepresenting himself as a health care professional over the treatment of people with HIV/AIDS and the sale of what police say was a phony drug.

Investigators say that Wesley Perry promoted himself and his AIDS drug, which he called APEX, at area gay bars and LGBT events. 

The indictment against Perry says that he created two corporations, Thrift International and Health Education and Safety First to bilk the public.

According to the police complaint Perry, 56, is a former Certified Nursing Assistant but currently does not hold any medical certifications or licenses.

Nevertheless, police allege, Perry regularly provided AIDS and HIV testing and counseling to clients. It is not known if blood tests were ever actually sent to an accredited lab for testing.

He promoted APEX to patients claiming the drug would cure HIV/AIDS cancer, and diabetes. He also allegedly told people who had HIV/AIDS to stop taking their meds while taking APEX.

Perry allegedly sold APEX for $450 for a 3-month supply. 

After receiving a complaint by a suspicious client police set up a sting operation.

On four occasions Perry sold APEX to undercover officers, telling them that after taking the drug for a period of 120 days they would be cured of HIV and that the result would be verified by an HIV test.

Detectives said it was one of the worst scams they had ever seen.

“I would characterize him as being a snake oil salesman. He was peddling his wares to desperate people who were hoping he was going to help them and he wasn’t,” St. Petersburg Police spokesperson Bill Proffitt told WTVT-television news.

“He’s a con man. He’s selling them something that’s not real and that’s the kind of people you want to get off the street. People in that condition, they’re desperate. They don’t know who to turn to and then he takes advantage of them,” said Proffitt.

Ann Sherman-White of the AIDS Service Association of Pinellas said she is glad the scam has been halted.

“My heart bleeds and I am so upset when I hear of acts like this. Unfortunately, there are people who will take advantage of folks that are dying – at the end of life – that are experiencing issues that contribute to end of life and people take advantage of it,” she told WTVT.

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