Monday, August 31, 2009

Joyce Grenfell

HIV & the Law

Angela Xu for the Shanghai Daily (August 31, 2009)

Male prostitute charged over spread of AIDS

In Shanghai, China , a homosexual prostitute has been charged with having unprotected sex while knowing he had AIDS. Shanghai prosecutors said over the weekend that it was an unusual case in a gray area of the law.

The Jiangxi Province native, identified by his surname of Zhang, became the first suspect to face this kind of charge in the city this year, according to Huangpu District prosecutors.

Late on the night of April 10, Zhang, 32, was "lingering" in a downtown green area, police told prosecutors.
When a middle-aged man stopped, he and Zhang spoke for a while before agreeing to have sex. The two then went to a secluded area.
There they became involved in a heated argument over the fee for sex, attracting attention from several police officers who were patrolling nearby.The men told police they had sex but disagreed over Zhang's asking price.

Zhang was sent for a medical examination where it was established that he was suffering from ‘AIDS.’ Zhang admitted he had known about his condition.
He said he was caught for gay prostitution in February and tested positive for ‘AIDS’ at that time.

However he continued to work as a prostitute, prosecutors said.
"I didn't think much about the consequences ... I just wanted excitement," Zhang told them.

Lu Qinjian, a prosecutor of Minhang District Prosecutors' Office, said criminal cases involving homosexuals were rare in the city. He stressed that while homosexuality was legal, any form of prostitution was not.
Homosexuals were either criminals or victims in such cases, Lu said.
They would not be discriminated against or insulted and would be fairly treated according to the law, Lu said.
Their privacy would also be well protected, he added.

Link to the Shanghai Daily article

Alan Turing ‘ prejudice’

BBC News on line (August 31, 2009)

Thousands call for Turing apology

Thousands of people have signed a Downing Street petition calling for a posthumous government apology to World War II code breaker Alan Turing. Writer Ian McEwan has just backed the campaign, which already has the support of scientist Richard Dawkins.

The petition was the idea of computer scientist John Graham-Cumming.
He is seeking an apology for the way the young mathematician was treated after his conviction. He has also written to the Queen to ask for a posthumous knighthood to be awarded to the British mathematician.

In 1952 Turing was prosecuted under the gross indecency act after admitting to a sexual relationship with a man. Two years later he killed himself.

Alan Turing was given experimental chemical castration as a "treatment" and his security privileges were removed, meaning he could not continue work for the UK Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ).

"This added insult and humiliation ultimately drove him to suicide," said gay-rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, who also backs the campaign. "With Turing's death, Britain and the world lost one of its finest intellectual minds. A government apology and posthumous pardon are long overdue."

Alan Turing is most famous for his code-breaking work at Bletchley Park during World War II, helping to create the Bombe that cracked messages enciphered with the German Enigma machines.

However he also made significant contributions to the emerging fields of artificial intelligence and computing.
In 1936 he established the conceptual and philosophical basis for the rise of computers in a seminal paper called "On Computable Numbers", whilst in 1950 he devised a test to measure the intelligence of a machine. Today it is known as the Turing Test.
After the war he worked at many institutions including the University of Manchester, where he worked on the Manchester Mark 1, one of the first recognizable modern computers.

Graham-Cumming has so far collected more than 5,500 signatures.
He admits that an official apology to Alan Turing is "unlikely", as Mr Turing has no known surviving family, but he says that the real aim of the petition is symbolic.
"The most important thing to me is that people hear about Alan Turing and realize his incredible impact on the modern world, and how terrible the impact of prejudice was on him," he said.

Link to BBC News story

Tagged World

Science Daily (August. 30, 2009)

An Intelligent System Helps Elderly Or Memory-impaired To Remember Everyday Tasks

A team of researchers from the University of Granada (UGR) has created a system with Artificial Intelligence techniques which notifies elderly people or people with special needs of the forgetting of certain everyday tasks. This system uses sensors distributed in the environment in order to detect their actions and mobile devices which remind them, for example, to take their keys before they leave home.

An elderly lady is about to go to bed. She goes into her room, sits down on the bed, takes off her slippers and turns off the light. Suddenly, before getting into bed, a small alarm goes off and a mobile device reminds her that she has not taken her tablets.

This is how the new intelligent system developed by researchers from the Department of Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence of the UGR works. María Ros Izquierdo is from the Higher Technical School of Computer Engineering of the UGR and the co-author of a study which is published this month in the Expert Systems with Applications journal. "It is a prototype which, in a non-intrusive manner, facilitates the control of the activity of people with special needs and increases their independence", she explained.

The system recognizes the everyday actions of the users by means of RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) labels. These labels are discreetly placed on the objects that the individuals touch most often, in such a way that, when they do so, a signal is sent to a computer or mobile device situated in the house itself or at an assistance centre some distance away.

The activities of the people are assessed with Artificial Intelligence techniques (data mining and formal grammar) in order to compile a list of actions such as remembering to take the keys or the mobile phone before leaving home. "It is not necessary to use cameras or microphones, and the devices which are used do not entail any technological complications for users, nor do they modify their daily routines", clarified Ros.

In order to evaluate the system, the scientists have designed a Tagged World, an intelligent space which simulates the rooms of a house, with sensors embedded in the environment which help to recognize the behavior of its occupants. The researchers monitored each user so as to obtain an individualized database. They later verified with a test the reliability of the system and the degree of intrusion felt by the participants.

"The system does not modify the life of the users, but does positively modify that of the people who look after them", indicated Ros, who recalled that elderly people or those with special needs often reject the aid of others and demand more independence. The new system may help to achieve this objective.


Correct behavior identification system in a Tagged World.
Miguel Delgado, María Ros, and M. Amparo Vila
Expert Systems with Applications, 2009; 36 (6): 9899 DOI: 10.1016/j.eswa.2009.01.077

Link to ESA abstract

Link to Science Daily article

bone metabolism

Hospital for Special Surgery, New York (August 30, 2009)

Researchers Identify Protein Involved In Causing Gum Disease, Osteoporosis, Arthritis

Investigators at Hospital for Special Surgery, collaborating with researchers from other institutions, have contributed to the discovery that a gene called interferon regulator factor-8 (IRF-8) is involved in the development of diseases such as periodontitis (gum disease), rheumatoid arthritis and osteoporosis. The study, published online August 30, ahead of print, in the journal Nature Medicine, could lead to new treatments in the future.

"The study doesn't have immediate therapeutic applications, but it does open a new avenue of research that could help identify novel therapeutic approaches or interventions to treat diseases such as periodontitis, rheumatoid arthritis or osteoporosis," said Baohong Zhao, Ph.D., lead author of the study and a research fellow in the Arthritis and Tissue Degeneration Program at Hospital for Special Surgery located in New York City.

Dr. Zhao initiated the study while working in the laboratory led by Drs. Masamichi Takami and Ryutaro Kamijo at Showa University, Tokyo, where much of the work was performed. Dr. Zhao completed the study and extended the work to human cells during the past year at Hospital for Special Surgery working with Dr. Lionel Ivashkiv.

Specifically, the researchers discovered that downregulation of IRF-8 (meaning that the gene produces less IRF-8 protein) increases the production of cells called osteoclasts that are responsible for breaking down bone. An osteoblast is a type of cell that is responsible for forming bone and an osteoclast is a type of cell that breaks down bony tissue (bone resorption). In humans and animals, bone formation and bone resorption are closely coupled processes involved in the normal remodeling of bone. Enhanced development of osteoclasts, however, can create canals and cavities that are hallmarks of diseases such as periodontitis, osteoporosis and rheumatoid arthritis.

Previous researchers have spent time identifying genes that are upregulated during enhanced development of osteoclasts, such as NFATc1, but few studies have identified genes that are downregulated in the process. To fill this knowledge gap, scientists at Hospital for Special Surgery, collaborating with researchers at other institutions, used microarray technology to conduct a genome-wide screen to identify genes that are downregulated during the formation of osteoclasts. They found that expression of IRF-8 was reduced by 75 percent in the initial phases of osteoclast development.

The researchers then genetically engineered mice to be deficient in IRF-8 and gave the animals x-rays and CT (computed tomography) scans to analyze IRF-8's influence on bone. They found that the mice had decreased bone mass and severe osteoporosis. Experiments demonstrated that this was due not to a decreased number of osteoblasts, but because of an increased number of osteoclasts. The researchers concluded that IRF-8 suppresses the production of osteoclasts.

Tests in human cells confirmed these findings. This included a study that showed that silencing IRF-8 messenger RNA in human osteoclast precursors with small interfering RNAs resulted in enhanced osteoclast production. In other words, decreased IRF-8 means more osteoclasts are produced.

This led the investigators to examine the effect of IRF-8 on the activity of a protein called NFATc1 that was previously reported to interact with IRF-8. They found that IRF-8 inhibited the function and expression of NFATc1. This makes sense given that upregulation of NFATc1 is involved in triggering osteoclast precursor cells to turn into osteoclasts.

"This is the first paper to identify that IRF-8 is a novel key inhibitory factor in osteoclastogenesis [production of osteoclasts]," said Dr. Zhao. "We hope that the understanding of this gene can contribute to understanding the regulatory network of osteoclastogenesis and lead to new therapeutic approaches in the future."


Interferon regulatory factor-8 regulates bone metabolism by suppressing osteoclastogenesis
Baohong Zhao et al
Nature Medicine Published online: 30 August 2009 | doi:10.1038/nm.2007

Link to Nature Medicine abstract

Link to Hospital for Special Surgery news release

Adam Zyglis - Buffalo News

Saturday, August 29, 2009



Mitchell and Webb

to punish or reward . . .

Science Daily (August 28, 2009)

Outcome Matters More Than Intention When Punishing Or Rewarding Accidents

Outcomes matter more than intention when choosing to punish or reward individuals who've caused accidents, according to new research from Harvard University.

Published in PLoS One, the study was led by Fiery Cushman, a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Psychology in Harvard's Faculty of Arts and Sciences, along with Anna Dreber of the Program for Evolutionary Dynamics at Harvard and the Stockholm School of Economics.

"Punishing those who've caused accidents seems to be something that people do routinely" says Cushman. "I think that it's useful for ordinary people and policymakers to notice this and to ask whether it might be fairer to focus on intent."

He says that while we may not often consider – and might even disavow – our tendency to punish those who've inadvertently caused damage, it's possible that punishing accidents has an adaptive value by teaching others when to "watch out."

The findings have implications for legal and policy decisions, since our laws often punish accidental outcomes, regardless of intent. For example, Cushman says, a distracted driver talking on a cell phone who causes property damage generally receives a much more lenient sentence than one who crashes into a person – even though the nature of the damage is pure chance.

Cushman's study involved a two-player economic game where one participant had some control over how to allocate $10. By choosing which of three dice to roll, this player could try to keep all the money, a tactic referred to as "stingy" in this study; give the money to a second player, a behavior called "generous"; or split the money evenly, called "fair."

Each of the three dice was weighted with a high probability for either a stingy, generous, or fair outcome. By selecting the stingy die, the participant demonstrates intent to keep all the money, but an "accidental" generous outcome remains possible. Similarly, an unexpected stingy outcome is possible even when using the generous die.

After the die was rolled and the outcome determined, the second player had the opportunity to punish or reward the first by subtracting from or adding to their winnings. The second player tended to deduct money from the first if he or she didn't receive any money, even when the intention was to be fair or generous. Similarly, when the first player hoped to keep all the money but a generous outcome resulted, the second player gave more money to the first.

"If you chose the stingy die and were trying to keep the money for yourself, but it happened to all go to me, I tend to reward that behavior," says Cushman. "And if you chose the generous die that was supposed to give all of the money to me, but then accidentally it came up that the money went to you, I might actually tend to punish that behavior, even though there was a generous intention."

Previous work in behavioral economics has argued that intent drives punishments and rewards. Past studies by Cushman and others have challenged this assumption, but only by posing questions about hypothetical scenarios. In future research, Cushman plans to examine whether focusing on outcome or intent can shape behavior.


Accidental Outcomes Guide Punishment in a “Trembling Hand” Game
Fiery Cushman, Anna Dreber, Ying Wang, Jay Costa
PLoS ONE 4(8): e6699. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0006699

Link to PLoS ONE article

Link to Science Daily article

No Bran - Psyllium instead

BBC News on line (August 27, 2009)

Soluble fiber 'effective for IBS'

A soluble fiber supplement should be the first line of attack in treating irritable bowel syndrome, according to researchers from Utrecht University in the Netherlands, who compared adding bran, a soluble supplement called psyllium and a dummy supplement to sufferers' diets.

As many as one in 10 people is estimated to have the condition, which characterized by abdominal pain and an irregular bowel habit.
Its exact cause is unknown and recommendations for treatment include dietary advice, antidepressants and drug treatments.

Many relying on dietary adjustments still turn to bran in a bid to help improve the way the intestines work.
But the Dutch study of 275 patients questions the wisdom of this approach.

The team gave patients 10g of either psyllium, bran or rice flour twice a day for 12 weeks.

At the end of the study, those on psyllium, a naturally occurring vegetable fiber, reported symptom severity had been reduced by 90 points using a standard scale of rating problems.
For bran it was 58 points and for the placebo group, 49.

The report also showed that patients seemed less tolerant of bran, with more than half of the group dropping out during the trial, mostly because their symptoms worsened.

Soluble fiber can also be found in fruit such as apples and strawberries, as well as barley and oats.
But Dr Niek de Wit, one of the researchers, said: "It is unlikely that people with IBS would get enough from fruit and other foods to help them.
"I think adding psyllium to the diet is the best treatment option to start with. In the study, people did this by adding it to things such as yoghurt and it had a real effect."


Soluble or insoluble fibre in irritable bowel syndrome in primary care? Randomised placebo controlled trial
C J Bijkerk
, N J de Wit, J W M Muris, P J Whorwell, J A Knottnerus, A W Hoes,
BMJ 2009;339:b3154

Link to BMJ abstract

Link to BBC news report

Specific Language Impairment

Science Daily (August 28, 2009)

Gene Associated With Language, Speech And Reading Disorders Identified

A new candidate gene for Specific Language Impairment has been identified by a research team directed by Mabel Rice at the University of Kansas, in collaboration with Shelley Smith, University of Nebraska Medical Center, and Javier Gayán of Neocodex, Seville, Spain.

The finding, reported in the current issue of the Journal of Neurodevelopmental Disorders, was discovered by examining genes previously identified as candidate genes for reading impairments or speech sound disorders.

The results point toward the likelihood of multiple genes contributing to language impairment, some of which also contribute to reading or speech impairment.

A gene on Chromosome 6 – KIAA0319 – was associated with variability in language abilities in a study of children with Specific Language Impairment (SLI) and their family members, as well as with variability in speech and reading abilities. Children with SLI who were selected for the study had no hearing loss, general intellectual deficit or autism.

Language ability involves vocabulary and grammar, whereas speech involves the accuracy of sound production. Both language and speech ability contribute to a child's ability to read. The finding that a candidate gene could influence all three abilities suggests a common pathway that could contribute to overlapping strengths or deficiencies across speech, language and reading.

According to Rice, "We don't understand the biological mechanisms yet but it's important that we have identified the first gene that could be involved across these three different dimensions of development."

Previous research has established that Chromosome 6 is among those that are linked to Speech Sounds Disorder (SSD) and Reading Disability/Dyslexia (RD). Rice said the findings are consistent with numerous reports documenting that language impairments and reading disability often co-exist.

"We have come to realize that language really sets the platform for reading to emerge and to thrive," Rice added. "Without a solid language system, it's much harder to get reading going."


Convergent genetic linkage and associations to language, speech and reading measures in families of probands with Specific Language Impairment
Mabel L. Rice, Shelley D. Smith and Javier Gayán
Journal of Neurodevelopmental Disorders Published online: 26 August 2009 doi 0.1007/s11689-009-9031-x

Link to JND abstract

Link to Science Daily article

Friday, August 28, 2009

'strange & peculiar' dedications

Worst Person in the World

swine flu in birds?

Sudeep Chand Science reporter for BBC News (August 27, 2009)

UN warns over swine flu in birds

The discovery of swine flu in birds in Chile raises concerns about the spread of the virus, the UN warns.

Last week the H1N1 virus was found in turkeys on farms in Chile. The UN now says poultry farms elsewhere in the world could also become infected.
Scientists are worried that the virus could theoretically mix with more dangerous strains. It has previously spread from humans to pigs.

Chilean authorities first reported the incident last week. Two poultry farms are affected near the seaport of Valparaiso.
Juan Lubroth, interim chief veterinary officer of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), said: "Once the sick birds have recovered, safe production and processing can continue. They do not pose a threat to the food chain."

Chilean authorities have established a temporary quarantine and have decided to allow the infected birds to recover rather than culling them.
It is thought the incident represents a "spill-over" from infected farm workers to turkeys.

Canada, Argentina and Australia have previously reported spread of the H1N1 swine flu virus from farm workers to pigs.

The emergence of a more dangerous strain of flu remains a theoretical risk. Different strains of virus can mix together in a process called genetic reassortment or recombination.
So far there have been no cases of H5N1 bird flu in flocks in Chile.

However, Dr Lubroth said: "In Southeast Asia there is a lot of the (H5N1) virus circulating in poultry.
"The introduction of H1N1 in these populations would be of greater concern."

Link to BBC news report

HIV discrimination

Michelle Garcia for (August 25, 2009 )

State Dept. Settles, Changes HIV Policies

A U.S. Army veteran settled out of court with a federal contractor after it denied him a job because he is HIV-positive.

The U.S. State Department, which contracts with the company that denied employment to the man -- whose name was withheld -- has agreed to policy changes that will prevent people with HIV from being automatically barred from working under department contracts in the future, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.

The ACLU filed the case in September 2008 against the State Department and one of its contractors, Triple Canopy Inc. The suit claimed that John Doe, as he is identified in court documents, was illegally fired, violating the Rehabilitation Act and the Americans With Disabilities Act.

A day before he finished training for a job providing security for the Haitian embassy, Doe was told by a director for Triple Canopy that he could not be employed because the State Department would not allow workers with HIV to be deployed overseas. The department also mandated that all contractor personnel be free from communicable diseases.

Doe is a 20-year veteran of the military who was diagnosed with HIV in 2000. He retired in 2001, and did contract work with the U.S. Defense Department from 2004 to 2005, where he led security teams on military bases. According to the ACLU, both the Army and the Defense Department were aware of his HIV status and he was still able to serve as a contractor in Iraq.

"I'm relieved that I can finally put this experience behind me and move on with my life," the veteran said in a statement. "I feel a lot better knowing that this kind of discrimination shouldn't happen again."

Link to article

WA State – Disclose your HIV Disease!

As yet, nothing has shamed the State of Washington and its Department of Health into admitting its crass error in requiring applicants to disclose their “HIV Disease” nor explaining how it should prevent an applicant from functioning effectively as a 'counselor'.

‘stigma and 'discrimination create more problems than ill-health’

Roger Pebody for Aidsmap (August 27, 2009)

HIV health problems cause few problems in employment, but discrimination still a reality in UK

A majority of people with HIV employed in the UK report that HIV has no impact on their working life at present, according to research conducted by City University on behalf of the National AIDS Trust. Although most of those who disclosed their HIV status at work had had a generally positive reaction, stigma and discrimination create more problems at work than ill-health. However, only a minority of people with HIV are fully aware of the provisions of the Disability Discrimination Act.

Although the quantitative findings only relate to gay and bisexual men living with HIV, the researchers also conducted focus group discussions with a more diverse mix of people with HIV, and they say that the points of similarity between the black Africans and the gay men were striking.

Previous research in other countries has identified barriers to employment for people with HIV, and levels of employment tend to be lower than in the general population. However improved treatments mean that more people with HIV are able to remain in employment.

While the experiences of people working in the UK remain under-researched, a previous study among HIV clinic attendees in East London did identify that white gay men were more likely to be in employment than heterosexual black African men and women. More part-time working and financial problems were reported by Africans. White gay men reported higher rates of disclosure to employers than either black African heterosexuals or gay men from minority ethnic backgrounds.

Seventy per cent of gay men living with HIV had taken no HIV-related sickness days in the last 12 months, and took no more sick days than HIV-negative men. Only a third had made any changes to their working lives because of their HIV status, with the most common change being alterations to working hours.

A fifth of men who had disclosed their HIV positive status at work had experienced HIV discrimination in a current or previous job (7% current; 14% previous). A similar proportion had experienced discrimination related to their sexual orientation.

The research asked respondents to describe the nature of the discrimination they had experienced. The two most commonly reported forms of discrimination were to perceive being treated differently or excluded or to have their confidentiality breached in relation to information about their HIV status. A total of 40% of those who had experienced discrimination in a previous job believed they had lost their job as a result.

Only a third of those who had experienced HIV-related discrimination had sought redress through official complaint mechanisms or grievance procedures. Moreover a third of the complaints were not resolved to the satisfaction of respondents.

Since 2005, in the UK people with diagnosed HIV have had a legal recourse against discrimination in the workplace. Two-thirds of the gay men with HIV surveyed said that they were aware of the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA), but more were aware of their rights around sexual orientation.

Moreover, 30% of those who knew about the DDA were not aware of the one of its key features - the entitlement to ask for ‘reasonable adjustments’ (changes to enable people to continue with their employment, taking into account their medical condition).

Deborah Jack, Chief Executive of the National AIDS Trust, commented: “The overall picture for people with HIV at work is a positive one. It is important for employers and HR professionals to realize that people with HIV can and do make valuable contributions to the UK workforce. Today, often it is not the health of people with HIV that affects their working ability but attitudes of employers or colleagues.”

“A cultural change is needed in workplaces across the UK. Simple, proactive steps by employers to show they are understand HIV and would be supportive of disclosure will have a dramatic effect on the working lives of people with HIV.”


Working with HIV: a summary of NAT’s HIV employment research
National AIDS Trust, 2009.
Link to NAT report [pdf]

I just get on with it… A study of the employment experiences of gay and bisexual men and black African men and women living with HIV in the UK.
Douglas N.
National AIDS Trust, 2009.
Link to NAT report [pdf]
(This is a more detailed report, including analysis of the focus groups).

Link to Aidsmap article

Whispers (getting louder?)

So how ironic is it that we, here, get from the Corridors of Power (or is it the Rat Holes of Bureaucracy?) such things as:

‘What are you worried about? Your people have new contracts and you just beef up your training’
‘So - you aren't a counselor anyway'
'just get on with your job and leave the politics out of it'
‘We might have our budget cut '
‘Will only affect a few people'
‘HIV is a disease - isn't it'
‘Is it SO bad?'
‘Just don't say anything about that stuff'
‘We will give you an answer when we hear back from Health'

But if we are hearing it, at least not everyone is pretending that the stone won’t roll.
Thank you!

Still off the record!

Rachel Maddow

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Remember the Secret Policeman's Ball?

Alan Bennett's Geography of Linguistics

Growler Vac

‘Organizational Justice’

Science Daily (August. 27, 2009)

Employee’s Loyalty To Workplace Damaged By Unfair Treatment

In organizational settings, managers as well as others in leadership roles should perhaps think twice before ridiculing subordinate employees on their choice of lunch, attire, or habits, or generally acting disrespectfully towards them. Recent research from the Journal of Management Studies shows that when an employee believes that he or she has been treated unfairly, the employee is not likely to forgive and forget.

The research, headed by Michael S. Cole, PhD at the Texas Christian University, tracks the downward spiral process which is triggered when an employee experiences perceived injustices at the work. Such events create a major stressor which may potentially lead to damaged psychological well being and extreme emotional exhaustion, which directly affect a worker’s ability to cope with workload demands and performance-related expectations.

These individuals are also likely to feel singled out within their work environment and may start to feel unhappy about their jobs as a whole, leading to a change in job-related attitudes and behavior. This in turn leads to a general depletion in their sense of commitment to the organization, and in the worst-case scenario, an increased risk of voluntary termination and high turnover within organizations.


Organizational Justice and Individuals' Withdrawal: Unlocking the Influence of Emotional Exhaustion
Michael S. Cole, Jeremy B. Bernerth, Frank Walter, Daniel T. Holt
Journal of Management Studies Early View, Date: September 2009
Link to JMS abstract

Link to Science Daily article

HIV dementia - 'reassurance'

Michael Carter for Aidsmap (August 27, 2009)

Reassurance that patients with good CD4 cell counts not at risk of HIV-related brain impairment

HIV-positive patients with a good CD4 cell count do not have an increased risk of developing neurocognitive impairment, a study published in the online edition of the Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes suggests. All the patients in the study had a CD4 cell count above 350 cells/mm3 and the majority had been infected with HIV for over five years. The only characteristic that was associated with an increased risk of impairment was older age.

“Our patients do not have a higher risk of HIV-associated dementia”, emphasize the investigators, who were from three HIV treatment centers in Buenos Aires.

Cognitive impairment is common in patients with HIV, with the range of disorders associated with it ranging from the asymptomatic to HIV-associated dementia.

Earlier research has identified that 20% of patients with early HIV infection had asymptomatic impairment, with the prevalence increasing to approximately 80% in older patients with AIDS.

Cognitive impairment can be associated with worse outcomes in HIV-positive patients, therefore its diagnosis in patients in the early stages of HIV infection is important. Furthermore, research has suggested that although the prevalence of HIV-associated dementia has fallen dramatically since effective HIV treatment became available, a small number of patients still develop the condition and the CD4 cell count at which the disease is diagnosed is increasing.

“Patients with preserved immune status do not seem to be at a high risk of developing clinically significant neurocognite impairment measured by [the] International HIV Dementia Scale”, conclude the researchers.


Good neurocognitive performance measured by the International HIV Dementia Scale in early HIV-1 infection.
Lopardo, Gustavo D MD et al.
Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes (Published ahead of print), 2009. doi: 10.1097/QAI.0b013e3181b06348

Link to JAIDS abstract

Link to Aidsmap article

‘Dangerous For Teen's Sexual Health’

Science Daily (August 27, 2009)

Working Too Much Can Be Dangerous For Teen's Sexual Health, Study Shows

Allowing teens to work too many hours in the wrong environment can be dangerous for their sexual health by fostering conditions that lead them to older sex partners, a new study shows.

This is just one of the key findings in a University of Michigan study of youth on what predicts age of sex partners. Jose Bauermeister, one of the authors, says age difference of sex partners is important, because a larger age difference is associated with riskier sexual behavior and STDs, including HIV.

The study found that a youth's self esteem and alcohol use also play a role in the age difference between sex partners, says Bauermeister, an assistant research professor in the School of Public Health.

Bauermeister stresses the research shows that overall, teenagers who work part-time benefit in almost all areas over those who don't have jobs. However, those benefits come with caveats, he said.

Bauermeister's team followed youths in Flint, Mich. as they transitioned from adolescence to young adulthood (ages 14 through 25), to see what factors predicted sex partner age difference. Many factors can lead to age differences in sex partners, with girls usually dating older than boys and young men, the study found.

Working too many hours in an adult atmosphere without adequate supervision can lead to exposure to adults and eventually sexual activity with older partners, especially for young girls, Bauermeister said. Age and number of work hours matter in adolescents, but any negative impact isn't apparent after age 18 or 19, the study found.

"It's OK to let kids work," Bauermeister said. "We want to make sure they are spending time in an environment where it's safe to work. Parents must ask the right questions and make sure it's a safe place for their children."

High self esteem and low use of alcohol offset the negative effects of working too many hours, he said. Those factors also protect youths overall from engaging in riskier sexual behavior.

The study also found that girls tend to date older from age 14 on, as do high school dropouts and teens who use alcohol. Boys at age 14 date their own age until they reach age 18, when they start dating younger women, Bauermeister said.

Sex education programs and other efforts to reduce young sex partners' age differences should aim to enhance self-acceptance and academic achievement and decrease alcohol use, the study said.


What predicts sex partners' age differences among African American youth? A longitudinal study from adolescence to young adulthood.
Joséa A. Bauermeister; Marc A. Zimmerman; Cleopatra H. Caldwell; Yange Xue; Gilbert C. Gee.
Journal of Sex Research, 2009 DOI: 10.1080/00224490903015850

Link to JSR abstract

Link to Science Daily article

MS Hopes

BBC News on line (August 24, 2009)

Hopes raised for MS treatment

Scientists at the UK University of Bristol claim results from a research project into multiple sclerosis (MS) could lead to treatment to reduce the severity of the disease. The team carried out tests on mice and then on human brain tissue and found galanin, a protein within brain nerve cells, was resistant to MS.

Professor David Wraith of the University of Bristol said the results were "extremely promising". But the team said it could be at least 10 years before a drug is developed.

Professor David Wynick, who works on the function of galanin, set up the project with a group of other scientists working on the development of a vaccine for the treatment of multiple sclerosis. He said: "It has been known for some time that galanin plays a protective role in both the central and peripheral nerve systems - when a nerve is injured levels of galanin increase dramatically in an attempt to limit cell death."

The team discovered that mice with high levels of galanin were completely resistant to the MS-like disease, experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis (EAE). Transgenic mice that contained no galanin at all developed a more severe form of the disease.


A role for galanin in human and experimental inflammatory demyelination
David C. Wraith et al
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences online, 26 August 2009 doi
Link to PNAS abstract

Link to BBC News report

The Pastor

The Flock

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Funny Politics

Pst - Wanna buy a bridge?

Science Daily (August 26, 2009)

Majority Of Americans Believe 'Myths' About Health Care Reform, National Survey Finds

Do Americans believe controversial assertions about health care reform including death panels, threats to Medicare, abortions, illegal immigrants and other claims which the White House administrators have labeled as untrue "myths?"

Findings from a new national survey of Americans by researchers from Indiana University Center for Health Policy and Professionalism Research (CHPPR) and the Indiana University Center for Bioethics says that Americans do believe the "myths" about health care reform, confirming that the White House may indeed be losing this battle.

"A surprisingly large proportion of Americans believe what the White House has dubbed 'myths' about health care reform," said CHPPR director Dr. Aaron Carroll. "Ironically, we found that the least believed myths, such as those related to mandatory end-of-life decisions and euthanasia counseling, are those that have gained the most traction in the media and have resulted in changes to the House bill."

From Aug. 14 -18, a random sample of 600 Americans in the 48 contiguous states and the District of Columbia were asked 19 questions about their personal beliefs concerning health insurance reform assertions. A majority believed most of these statements to be true, with an overwhelming number of Republicans and -- for many issues -- Independents finding truth in the controversial assertions.

Who and what types of services will be covered if the proposed reforms are passed:

  • 67 percent of Americans believe that wait times for health care services (such as surgery) will increase (91 percent of Republicans, 37 percent of Democrats, 72 percent of Independents).
  • Roughly six out of 10 Americans believe that taxpayers will be required to pay for abortions (78 percent of Republicans, 30 percent of Democrats, 58 percent of Independents).
  • 46 percent believe that reforms will result in health care coverage for all illegal immigrants (66 percent of Republicans, 29 percent of Democrats, 43 percent of Independents).

Level of government involvement with health care if the proposed reforms pass:

  • Five out 10 believe the federal government will become directly involved in making personal health care decisions (80 percent of Republicans, 25 percent of Democrats, 56 percent of Independents).
  • However only three out of 10 Americans believe that the government will require the elderly to make decisions about how and when they will die (53 percent of Republicans, 14 percent of Democrats, 31 percent of Independents) -- a topic that has received a considerable amount of media attention.

Impact on current health insurance coverage if the proposed reforms are passed:

Interestingly, fewer people surveyed believe statements regarding the impact of proposed reforms on current health insurance coverage.

  • Only 29 percent of respondents believe that private insurance coverage would be eliminated (44 percent of Republicans, 11 percent of Democrats, 33 percent of Independents), and only 33 percent believed that reforms would result in the elimination of employer-sponsored health insurance coverage (56 percent of Republicans, 14 percent of Democrats, 31 percent of Independents).
  • Additionally, only 36 percent of Americans believe that a public insurance option will put private insurance companies out of business (56 percent of Republicans, 18 percent of Democrats, 35 percent of Independents).

Costs of the proposed reforms and how the reforms will be paid for:

  • Almost six out of 10 Americans believe that a public insurance option as proposed would be too expensive for the United States to afford (84 percent of Republicans, 27 percent of Democrats, 58 percent of Independents).
  • 51 percent believe that the public insurance option will increase health care costs (79 percent of Republicans, 21 percent of Democrats, 53 percent of Independents), and 54 percent believe that the public option will increase premiums for Americans with private health insurance (78 percent of Republicans, 28 percent of Democrats, 58 percent of Independents).
  • Five out of 10 Americans think that cuts will be made to Medicare in order to cover more Americans (66 percent of Republicans, 37 percent of Democrats, 44 percent of Independents).

"It's perhaps not surprising that more Republicans believe these things than Democrats," said Carroll. "What is surprising is just how many Republicans -- and Independents -- believe them. If the White House hopes to convince the majority of Americans that they are misinformed about health care reform, there is much work to be done."

A full report on the survey can be found at:
Link to the Survey

Link to Science Daily report

What killed the bees? Can it kill me?

Science Daily (August. 26, 2009)

Heat Forms Potentially Harmful Substance In High-fructose Corn Syrup

Researchers have established the conditions that foster formation of potentially dangerous levels of a toxic substance in the high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) often fed to honey bees. Their study, which appears in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, could also help keep the substance out of soft drinks and dozens of other human foods that contain HFCS. The substance, hydroxymethylfurfural (HMF), forms mainly from heating fructose.

In the new study, Blaise LeBlanc and Gillian Eggleston and colleagues note HFCS's ubiquitous usage as a sweetener in beverages and processed foods. Some commercial beekeepers also feed it to bees to increase reproduction and honey production. When exposed to warm temperatures, HFCS can form HMF and kill honeybees. Some researchers believe that HMF may be a factor in Colony Collapse Disorder, a mysterious disease that has killed at least one-third of the honeybee population in the United States.

The scientists measured levels of HMF in HFCS products from different manufacturers over a period of 35 days at different temperatures. As temperatures rose, levels of HMF increased steadily. Levels jumped dramatically at about 120 degrees Fahrenheit.

"The data are important for commercial beekeepers, for manufacturers of HFCS, and for purposes of food storage. Because HFCS is incorporated as a sweetener in many processed foods, the data from this study are important for human health as well," the report states. It adds that studies have linked HMF to DNA damage in humans. In addition, HMF breaks down in the body to other substances potentially more harmful than HMF.


Formation of Hydroxymethylfurfural in Domestic High-Fructose Corn Syrup and Its Toxicity to the Honey Bee (Apis mellifera).
Blaise W. LeBlanc et al
Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 2009; 57 (16): 7369 DOI: 10.1021/jf9014526

Link to JAFC abstract

Link to Science Daily article


BBC News on line (August 25, 2009)

How flesh bug fools immune system

Scientists have shown how flesh-eating parasites responsible for the disfiguring tropical disease leishmaniasis produce a gel which can fool specialized immune cells into feeding rather than killing them.

The study, led by Imperial College London, appears in PLoS Pathogens.

Leishmaniasis is a serious problem in tropical and sub-tropical countries.Symptoms include disfiguring and painful skin ulcers, and in severe cases the infection can also spread to the internal organs. Patients with the infection often suffer from social exclusion because of their disfigurement.

Leishmania parasites are carried in the guts of sandflies. The parasites produce a gel which turns into a plug which effectively blocks up the fly's digestive system.
When an infected fly bites a human it regurgitates this gel plug, which enters the skin alongside the parasites.

The latest study - carried out on mice - shows that the plug acts to entice immune cells called macrophages to the bite site. Macrophages usually kill invading pathogens by eating and digesting them. But the gel persuades macrophages to engulf the parasites, and feed them rather than digest them. This happens within the first few days following infection, enabling the parasites to establish themselves and infect the skin.

Lead researcher Dr Matthew Rogers said previous studies might have failed to explain leishmaniasis infection because they injected parasites directly into tissue without including the gel plug.
He said: "Our research shows that leishmania parasites are very cunning - they make their own gel to control the human immune system so they can establish a skin infection."
Dr Rogers said work suggested a synthetic version of the gel might offer protection against infection.

The researchers found that the gel attracted 108 times more macrophages to the bite site than a saline solution.
They also showed that the number of parasites that survived the first 48 hours following infection, and the number of host cells that were infected, were both eight times higher when the gel was present.


Proteophosophoglycans regurgitated by Leishmania-infected sand flies target the L-arginine metabolism of host macrophages to promote parasite survival
Matthew Rogers et al
PLoS Pathogens, 21 August 2009.
5(8): e1000555. doi:10.1371/journal.ppat.1000555

Link to PLoS Pathogens article

Link to BBC news report

PTSD - suicide thoughts

Science Daily (August. 26, 2009)

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Primary Suicide Risk Factor For Veterans

Researchers working with Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans have found that post-traumatic stress disorder, the current most common mental disorder among veterans returning from service in the Middle East, is associated with an increased risk for thoughts of suicide.

Results of the study indicated that veterans who screened positive for PTSD were four times more likely to report suicide-related thoughts relative to veterans without the disorder. The research, published in the Journal of Traumatic Stress, establishes PTSD as a risk factor for thoughts of suicide in Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans. This holds true, even after accounting for other psychiatric disorder diagnoses, such as substance abuse and depression. Veterans who screened positive for PTSD and two or more comorbid mental disorders were significantly more likely to experience thoughts of suicide relative to veterans with PTSD alone.

As many as forty-six percent of veterans in the study experienced suicidal thoughts or behaviors in the month prior to seeking care, and of those veterans, three percent reported an actual attempt within four months prior to seeking the care. Suicide-related thoughts and behaviors discovered in a returning veteran who has been diagnosed with PTSD, especially in the presence of other mental disorders, may suggest an increased risk for suicide.


Posttraumatic stress disorder as a risk factor for suicidal ideation in Iraq and Afghanistan War veterans
Matthew Jakupcak, Jessica Cook, Zac Imel, Alan Fontana, Robert Rosenheck, Miles McFall
Journal of Traumatic Stress Volume 22 Issue 4, Pages 303 – 306 Published Online:
22 Jul 2009 DOI: 10.1002/jts.20423
Link to JTS abstract

Link to Science Daily article

‘way to correct an inherited disorder’

Pallab Ghosh science correspondent for BBC News on line (August 26, 2009),

Genetic advance raises IVF hopes

Researchers have found a potential way to correct an inherited disorder affecting thousands of women. Working on monkeys, they transferred genetic material needed to create a baby from a defective egg to a healthy one, resulting in healthy births.

The US work, featured in the journal Nature, raises hopes of a treatment enabling women with defective eggs to have a child without using donor eggs.
However, the child would have a small number of genes from a "third parent".
The treatment would involve so-called "germ line" genetic changes which would be passed down through generations.

The genetic fault is contained in structures in the egg called the mitochondria, which are involved in maintaining the egg's internal processes.
If an egg with faulty mitochondria is fertilized the resulting child could have any of hundreds of different diseases including anemia, dementia, hypertension and a range of neurological disorders.

US researchers have previously tried and failed to correct this defect by adding healthy donated mitochondria into the eggs of patients wishing to have children. But these attempts resulted in birth defects - probably because mitochondria are so delicate that they are damaged when they are transplanted from one egg to another.

As a result, the treatment was banned by the US until it could be demonstrated that it was safe in animal experiments. A group at the Oregon Health and Science University has now done just that.

They transferred the DNA needed to make a baby out of monkey eggs, leaving behind the potentially diseased genes in the mitochondria. This was transplanted it into eggs emptied of DNA but containing healthy mitochondria.
The technique resulted in three healthy births with no sign of any birth defects.

Lead researcher Dr Shoukhrat Mitalipov believes the technology is now ready to be tried out on human patients.
He said: "It is estimated that every 30 minutes a child is born with this devastating disease and I believe we could prevent that."

Dr Mitalipov has applied for a research license to work with human eggs and embryos, and hopes to work with patients soon.
He said: "Moving to human trials could be very quick, maybe within two to three years.
"This type of gene therapy is much closer to clinical application than anything else before."

Some groups have expressed concern that this method involves making a genetic change to an egg that can be passed down through generations.

Dr Helen Wallace, of the campaign group GeneWatch, said: "The fact that treatment effects would persist for generations means ethical debate is needed, as well as more safety tests."

But according to Professor Robin Lovell-Badge, of the National Institute for Medical Research in Mill Hill London, people should not worry unduly over the germ-line alterations.
He said: "Mitochondria do not confer any human-specific qualities.
"It would be similar to changing the bacteria in our intestines, which I suspect no one would care about.
"Altering the nuclear genome is a different matter. As it would be difficult and risky there would have to be very good reasons for doing this."


Mitochondrial gene replacement in primate offspring and embryonic stem cells
Masahito Tachibana et al
Nature advance online publication 26 August 2009 |
Link to Nature abstract

Link to Nature news article

Link to BBC News report

The Tobacco Atlas –‘ Catastrophic Toll Of Tobacco’

By 2015 Two Million Will Die Each Year From Tobacco-induced Cancers

The Tobacco Atlas, Third Edition, published by the American Cancer Society and World Lung Foundation, estimates that tobacco use kills some six million people each year- more than a third of whom will die from cancer- and drains US$500 billion annually from global economies. Unveiled at the LIVESTRONG Global Cancer Summit, the Atlas graphically displays how tobacco is devastating both global health and economies, especially in middle- and low-resource countries, and tracks progress and outcomes in tobacco control.

The Most Preventable Cause of Cancer:
According to The Tobacco Atlas, 2.1 million cancer deaths per year will be attributable to tobacco by 2015. By 2030, 83% of these deaths will occur in low and middle-income countries. Unique among cancer-causing agents, the danger of tobacco is completely preventable through proven public policies. Major measures include tobacco taxes, advertising bans, smokefree public places, and effective health warnings on packages. These cost-effective policies are among those included in the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), a global treaty endorsed by more than 160 countries, and recommended by the World Health Organization MPOWER policy package.

The new edition was previewed in March at the World Conference on Tobacco OR Health, and is now being released with the most up-to-date information on tobacco and tobacco control available. Data contained within the Atlas is gathered from multiple sources and validated to ensure it presents a holistic and accurate picture of tobacco and tobacco control across the globe. The updated version is also being released online at, where policy makers, public health practitioners, advocates and journalists interact with the data and create customizable charts, graphs and maps.

Link to the Tobacco Atlas

Link to the Press Release