Friday, November 30, 2007
Annual HIV Infection Estimate to Rise in Report, Activists Say
Researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have said new technologies and statistical analyses show that 50,000 to 60,000 people were infected with the virus in 2005, said Walt Senterfitt, an epidemiologist with the
World health officials decreased their estimate of the global number people infected with HIV by about 16 percent to 33.2 million earlier this month. A higher
Senterfitt and other HIV advocates said that CDC officials have frequently referred to higher estimates of HIV infection in meetings and conferences. An article in the Journal of Medical Virology cited a figure of about 55,000 new annual infections. That article was based on a speech by a CDC official who requested that it be corrected, said Jennifer Ruth, a spokeswoman for the Atlanta-based government agency.
Ruth said the CDC's data on HIV infections is going through a review process for publication in a medical journal. Until that process is complete, CDC's estimate of annual infections remains unchanged, she said.
``Neither the data nor the publication date is finalized and we don't know what the final estimate will be,'' she said today in a telephone interview. ``We really can't speak to what the revised estimate will be, and it will be at least a few months until we're ready to do so.''
HIV advocates have been looking for the new data since 2005, believing that it shows that the need for stronger HIV prevention measures, said David Munar, board vice chairman of the National Association of People with AIDS, based in
``We thought we were going to receive an estimate last year and now they're talking about needing to go through a peer review process,'' he said today in a telephone interview.
``It's clear that the number is not good and the data is going to confirm what's going on: HIV is out of control and we're not making the progress we should be making.''
Thursday, November 29, 2007
In a passionate speech at the World Health Editors Network in London, a former United Nations Special Envoy for AIDS in Africa and Co-Director of AIDS-Free World, Stephen Lewis, warned that a recent UNAIDS document reporting decreased HIV infections has “undermined public confidence in the reliability of the figures, introducing completely unnecessary levels of doubt, contention and confusion”. Describing the UN as “stubborn and sloppy”, he expressed concern that the report does nothing to convince the world that we are “billions and billions of dollars behind, when it comes to funding all the components of the pandemic, from orphans to second line drugs.”
“For years, knowledgeable epidemiologists have been telling the UN that the figures were too high. They didn't whisper their criticisms: they wrote books and articles,” Lewis said. “But the UN chose a course of delay and dithering. It can never admit that it's wrong. So finally, and predictably, came the moment of truth: the result is an overall prevalence rate that is lower by almost seven million than last year's estimate.”
Lewis also expressed anger that the report did not address the human tragedy and focused too much on statistics.
In conclusion, Lewis stressed that more should be done no matter what statistical calculation is applied to the figures.
“Whether it's 40 million or 33 million, this plague continues to ravage humankind. I simply do not believe that the United Nations has done everything it can possibly do to turn the tide”.
The casualties are all in the region of Bundibugyo, on the border with the Democratic
Ugandan health officials originally suspected that the
"From the beginning we've been isolating cases... but we can't say it's contained," Reuters news agency quotes Dr Sam Okware, head of
The virus thought to be transmitted through the consumption of infected bush meat, can also be spread by contact with the blood secretions of infected people.
Some 174 people have died in DR Congo but only 13 of these have been confirmed as having Ebola.
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
Small studies have suggested that third-party notification is more successful at notifying partners than patient-initiated notification. But third-party notification is not routine in the
HIV partner notification outcomes for HIV-infected patients by duration of infection,
Ahrens, Katherine MPH et al
JAIDS Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes. 46(4):479-484,
reports an HIV/AIDS epidemic is re-emerging in the
The "silence on this subject is nearly pervasive,"
Between 2001 and 2005, the number of reported HIV/AIDS cases among men who have sex with men (MSM) rose 13 percent, from 16,167 to 18,296.
Surveys "document high rates of unsafe sex," and a 10-fold increase in syphilis among MSM may be helping boost transmission of the virus, wrote Dr. Jaffe and colleagues, Dr. Ronald O. Valdiserri of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and Dr. Kevin M. De Cock of the World Health Organization.
During the 1980s, community leaders galvanized homosexual and bisexual men with the slogan "Silence equals death." But this year, "AIDS is simply not as frightening as it was," they wrote. Antiviral treatments now allow HIV-positive men to live reasonably comfortable lives and "[y]ounger MSM have largely been spared the visible devastation of untreated HIV infection."
The authors called for public health and community leaders to step up calls for responsible sexual behavior and HIV/AIDS screening and testing. Leaders "must call for the end of stigma toward MSM, which may mitigate the internalization of homophobia leading to sexual risk behavior" and "advocate for legal domestic partnerships as a way to promote stable, longer term MSM relationships," they said.
Harold W. Jaffe et al
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
A team at the Brain Mapping Unit of the UK’s University of Cambridge found individuals with OCD and their close relatives have distinctive patterns in their brain structure. The genes responsible remain unknown, but it appears they change the brain's anatomy, which may aid diagnosis.
OCD is an anxiety disorder in which the person is compelled by irrational fears and thoughts to repeat seemingly needless actions over and over again. It can manifest itself in repetitive behaviors, such as excessive hand washing, cleaning or repeated checking, affects 2%-3% of the population and is known to run in families.
The study, published in the latest edition of the journal Brain, involved using magnetic resonance imaging. The
They found decreases of grey matter in brain regions important in suppressing responses and habits - the orbitofrontal and right inferior frontal regions.
Researcher Lara Menzies said: "Impaired brain function in the areas of the brain associated with stopping motor responses may contribute to the compulsive and repetitive behaviors that are characteristic of OCD.
"These brain changes appear to run in families and may represent a genetic risk factor for developing the condition.
"The current diagnosis of OCD available to psychiatrists is subjective and therefore knowledge of the underlying causes may lead to better diagnosis and ultimately improved clinical treatments."
But she said there was a long way to go to identify the genes contributing to the distinctive brain structure found in OCD patients and their relatives.
"We also need to identify other contributing factors for OCD, to understand why close relatives that share similar brain structures don't always develop the disorder."
[with link to the journal Brain]
Dr. Yesavage’s site at Stanford with lots of useful links including the Scale in various languages.
Link to Jerome Yesavage MD/
Monday, November 26, 2007
The next president will have to deal with yet another crippling legacy of George W. Bush --- the economy. A Nobel laureate, Joseph E. Stiglitz, sees a generation-long struggle to recoup and writes about it in the December issue of Vanity Fair.
"When we look back someday at the catastrophe that was the Bush administration, we will think of many things: the tragedy of the
war, the shame of Guantánamo and Abu Ghraib, the erosion of civil liberties. The damage done to the American economy does not make front-page headlines every day, but the repercussions will be felt beyond the lifetime of anyone reading this page." Iraq
Sunday, November 25, 2007
Saturday, November 24, 2007
Estonia has by far the highest rate of diagnosis, followed by Portugal and the UK, according to a report by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.
The ECDC says that the proportion of new cases reported per million inhabitants went up across the EU from 28.8 to 57.5 in 2006.
In Estonia, the rate last year reached 504 per million people.
The report says that more than half of infections are through heterosexual contact, although homosexual men remain at greater risk.
Higest EU rates
- 504.2 per million Estonia
- 205 per million Portugal
- 148.8 per million UK
- 130.3 per million Latvia
- 118.9 per million Luxembourg
A recent report from UNAids revealed much lower estimates of HIV infection worldwide than had been previously used - from nearly 40 million to 33 million.
But for people living in Europe and parts of Asia, the numbers tell a different story.
There were 26,220 newly diagnosed cases of HIV reported last year in 25 of the EU member states which gives an average of 67 cases per million.
Lowest EU rates
Bulgaria - 11.9 per million
Czech Republic - 9.1 per million
Romania - 8.3 per million
Hungary - 8 per million
Slovakia - 5 per million
Continuing high rates of HIV diagnoses in gay men and increases in diagnoses of many sexually transmitted infections in this population prompt the report’s authors to write, “current prevention efforts directed towards…MSM [men who have sex with men] are not succeeding adequately.” The report also calls for a review of HIV prevention campaigns targeted at gay men to make sure that they “are based upon proven interventions and authoritative recommendations”.
The report did find that more people attending sexual health clinics are being offered and accepting an HIV test, but an estimated third of all HIV infections in the
HPA figures suggest that 2,700 gay men were newly diagnosed with HIV in 2006, a total similar to the highest ever annual number of new diagnoses recorded in 2005.
New cases of syphilis fell in gay men and heterosexual women in 2006 compared to 2005, but there was an increase in heterosexual men.
There was a 3% increase in new diagnoses of genital warts in 2006 compared to 2005. Although most cases of genital warts were diagnosed in heterosexuals, the investigators note that there has been a 64% increase in diagnoses of this infection in gay men since 1997.
Increases were also noted in new diagnoses of genital herpes with a total of 21,698 infection in 2006. Only 7% of these were amongst gay men.
Along with gay men, young adults remain the group most affected by sexually transmitted infections.
The HPA make some 15 specific recommendations including a call for a “priority consideration” of “primary prevention policy and programmes directed towards MSM.”
Furthermore, the HPA recommends “all relevant bodies should give priority to supporting effective ways of addressing the steadily increasing problem of heterosexual HIV transmission within the
Improved needle-exchange services and heroin substitution services should be a priority, the HPA recommends. And to better understand sexual risk behaviours a new national survey of sexual attitudes and lifestyle, should be undertaken.
Health Protection Agency. Testing times. HIV and other sexually transmitted infections in the
Friday, November 23, 2007
They report reactions to a new cell phone operating system designed to encourage web surfing on the go which could trigger a fresh assault on privacy.
On 5 November, Google and 30 partners unveiled a joint venture called the Open Handset Alliance that aims to develop a Linux-based open-source cellphone operating system to be called Android. Anyone will be able to write applications for Android, and Google hopes this will lead to applications that free users from today's clunky handset browsers and web portals.
Link to New Scientist article [registration required]
20 years on . . . a Diana moment
Stephen Wakodo is HIV-positive. Yesterday he shook hands with the Queen in Uganda. The occasion was a first for both of them
It was a pure Diana moment. The late Princess used to touch, even hug, leprosy and Aids sufferers to show that those unfortunates need not walk the world with a warning bell.
But this was different. This time it was the Queen who shook the hand of Stephen Wakodo, who is HIV-positive. She may have been wearing a long black glove, and the physical encounter may have lasted barely a second, but for an 81-year-old monarch who does not, as a rule, do cuddly-touchy-feely, it was an undoubted first.
Unlike the Princess, who liked to court maximum publicity in her efforts to have Aids patients accepted by society, the Queen’s first encounter with the condition that is ravaging the whole African continent was conducted almost in private. Cameramen were not admitted to the ward in the Mildmay health clinic, peopled with the bedridden and the emaciated – several of them children – in Kampala, the Ugandan capital, where the Queen has arrived to open the biennial Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting.
In a 55-year reign, it was the first time that the Queen had visited an HIV/Aids centre. Observers noted that the Queen’s hand, unlike that of the Princess which generally went naked in the world, was gloved. But then, when the monarch is on parade in public view, it almost always is.
The teaching package states:
"Q: Can you accept evolution and still believe in religion?
A: Yes. The common view that evolution is inherently anti-religious is simply false."
According to Casey Luskin, an attorney with the Discovery Institute, this answer favours one religious viewpoint, arguably violating the
A lawyer for WGBH in Boston, Massachusetts, which produces the show, says the package is covered by the right to free speech. He declined to comment on the claim that teachers risked lawsuits.
Also links to the New Scientist Special Report on Evolution
Thursday, November 22, 2007
The coalition blames the situation mainly on increased poverty as well as government cutbacks in food aid.
"Given that hunger continued to increase in the city, even when the economy was still strong last year, it is no wonder that now, when the economy is weakening, lines at pantries and kitchens are getting even worse."
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
Induction of Pluripotent Stem Cells from Adult Human Fibroblasts by Defined Factors
Kazutoshi Takahashi et al
Cell Vol 131 issue 4: November 16, 2007 doi::10.1016/j.cell.2007.11.019
Link to Cell article [pfd]
Junying Yu et al
Published Online November 20, 2007
Science DOI: 10.1126/science.1151526
The BBC News coverage includes a comparison of the two techniques of stem cell creation
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
The observations of the contemporary Westminster Abbey service made by Alan Hamilton in The Times did rather tickle us, with his
Here are a few extracts:
When you have been married for 60 years, which few of us have, perhaps you don’t feel the need to do the touchy-feely-smiley eye-contact stuff any more. Love and companionship travel through the deep roots rather than the waving branches.
During an hour-long service to celebrate their diamond wedding anniversary, in the same Westminster Abbey in which they were married amid the grey, postwar austerity of 1947, the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh did not look at each other; there was no exchange of surprised, “Crikey, we’ve made it” glances.
In a white wool coat and matching hat, and bespectacled throughout, the Supreme Governor of the Church of England paid close attention to her order of service, putting it down only during the singing of the 23rd Psalm, which was performed at her wedding to the then unfamiliar but by now near-universal Scottish tune of Crimond; she clearly knows the words by heart.
Prince Philip, by contrast, kept the words open in front of him. As Dr Rowan Williams, the Supreme Governor’s highest priest on this Earth, delivered his address from the Abbey’s tall pulpit, the Duke wore one of his favourite slightly bemused expressions, as though not entirely believing that he was being preached to by a wildly bearded archdruid. The Queen fixed the Archbishop with a steady gaze, drinking in his every word.
The Primate of All England, whose sermons sometimes seem as focused as a gas cloud in a distant nebula, was on much sharper form than usual, given that he had something utterly specific to talk about: the longstanding marriage of two individuals.
If you are having a diamond wedding bash, you must wonder who to invite. The family, of course; more than 30 members of the Royal Family, including the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall, all seven grandchildren, and the junior Gloucesters, Kents and Michaels, were present. Former King Constantine of
and several of Prince Philip’s more obscure German relatives by marriages sat among the congregation of more than 2,000. Greece
Baroness Thatcher and Sir John Major had their seats in the choir stalls but Our Tone was too busy peacemaking in the
Middle Eastyesterday to attend. Never mind; his emptiness was filled by the Aga Khan, Sir David Attenborough, a welter of the great, good and worthy, 500 past and present Royal Household staff, and eight excited elderly couples who had been married on the same day as Elizabeth and Philip, and who exchanged brief reminiscences with their 81-year-old monarch as she left the Abbey.
Without the slightest disrespect to the excellent current holder of the post, a specially commissioned work from the Poet Laurate never seems quite the right thing to insert in a solemn service, even when recited by such perfectly enunciated tones as those of Dame Judi Dench. Prince William’s reading from
Gospel, frankly, sounded rather more in keeping with the moment. St John’s
Other telltale signs signified that this was 2007, not 1947. Clergy of other religions, from Cardinal Cormac Murphy O’Connor to a Zoroastrian and two Muslim clerics, had their honoured place by the altar. And the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, who led the guest clergy in prayers, was a woman. They’re quite enlightened up there.
And there was another sign, too, in the choir; two of the young choristers were black. Elizabeth and Philip were married a year before the Empire Windrush brought the first small wave of
Caribbeanimmigrants to . It is sometimes difficult to remember how long ago, and in what a different country, this particular marriage was cemented, and how little else of that grim but somehow hopeful postwar era endures. Britain
report from Washington, DC that vigils, services and a variety of other events are being held in 250 cities around the world today to mark Transgender Day of Remembrance — the day set aside to memorialize those who were killed due to anti-transgender hatred or prejudice.
The day will also draw attention to ENDA, the Employment Non Discrimination Act, which passed the US House of Representatives this month but without protections for the transgendered. It originally included all members of the LGBT community, but its sponsor, Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) one of only two openly gay members of Congress, removed gender identity fearing the legislation might not get out of committee.
"If we are serious about reducing violence towards transgender Americans, then we must proactively work towards providing all of our community equal protection under the law. It is our actions, rather than words, which will demonstrate our tribute."
But the rate of new cases and mortality levels are declining, although figures still show that there are 6,800 new cases each day and over 5,700 deaths.
There were 2.5m new cases in 2007, down from a peak in the late 1990s when there were over 3m new infections a year. The fall in annual deaths to 2.1m has been attributed to wider access to antiretroviral drug treatments.
Some 33.2m have HIV, down from 39.5m in 2006.
UNAids said the figures for 2006 were likely to be inaccurate after an intensive assessment exercise in
Experts say the true 2006 figure was likely to be about 32.7m.
Michael Weinstein, of the
Monday, November 19, 2007
Washington DC-based criminal justice research group, the JFA Institute in its report
The Unlocking America report recommends reducing the number and length of sentences, changing terms of parole and finding alternatives to prison as part of a major overhaul of the
US crime rates, which have been in decline since the 1990s, are about the same as those for 1973. Yet the incarceration rate has soared because sentences have got longer and those who violate parole or probation are more likely to be given prison terms.
The report said that every year hundreds of thousands of Americans are sent to jail "for crimes that pose little if any danger or harm to society". It cited several examples including a
Of course, its recommendations run counter to the Bush administration's policy of longer, harsher sentences, which the administration claims says has contributed to falling violent crime and murder figures.
The report was funded by the Rosenbaum Foundation and the Open Society Institute.
Adherence to HIV therapy linked to health literacy
Reports a study by Dr. Chandra Y. Osborn, at
The findings also indicate that African Americans with HIV infection are more than twice as likely to be nonadherent compared with their white counterparts. However, when the data were analyzed, lead investigator found that health literacy mediated the racial disparities.
The level of health literacy was determined by the subjects' overall literacy skills, the researchers explain. Past studies have shown that low health literacy is associated with poor health outcomes and is more common among African Americans than whites.
Osborn told Reuters Health that when the effects of literacy were considered, "literacy was a significant predictor of non-adherence, such that patients with low literacy were 2.1 times more likely to be non-adherent to their medication regimen than patients with adequate literacy."
Health Literacy An Overlooked Factor in Understanding HIV Health Disparities
Chandra Y. Osborn PhD et al
American Journal of Preventive Medicine Volume 33, Issue 5, November 2007, Pages 374-378