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7% of Sub-Saharan’s old people living with HIV

SENIOR Citizens Association of Zambia National Co-ordinator Rosemary Sishimba has said seven per cent of the older people in Sub-Saharan African countries are living with HIV/AIDS pandemic.

Officiating at media breakfast organised by Helpage International on Wednesday, Sishimba said it was sad that the media had not prioritised coverage of the elderly in society.

“Little is known about the vital role of older persons in social development, in the context of the HIVand AIDS pandemic a disease that has ravaged African countries socially and economically,” Sishimba said.

She said the evidence suggests that the older persons had taken the burdensome role of caring for the children as a result of HIV and AIDS in sustaining families,usually with scanty resources.

“We carried out regional consultative meetings on HIVand AIDS for the older people in eight African countries and we found out that in Kenya 72,550 older people were living with the pandemic,” she said. “As at now we have not yet established the per centage rate for Zambia as we are still carrying out the survey,” Sishimba said.

She said it was important for the government and cooperating partners to ensure that the older people in society were sensitised on the social norms of condom use.

“The problem that the older people are facing right now is that they think HIV and AIDS is a disease that can only be contracted by the young in society,” she said. “The existing preventive education message targets younger people, leaving out or programme that would be relevant to older people,”

Sishimba said the media should play an active role in reporting and sensitizing the aged in society about the pandemic.

“The Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO) need to collaborate with media to sensitize the public and government about the need and circumstances of older people in general and older care givers. It is however very unfortunate that the media houses hardly have interest in reporting on issues concerning the older people in society,” Sishimba said.

She said if the Sub-Saharan countries were to win the fight against HIV and AIDS more concerted efforts was an important aspect.


HIV-Infected Postmenopausal Women at High Risk for Bone Fractures

“As HIV-infected individuals live longer with potent antiretroviral therapy (ART), metabolic complications such as low bone density and osteoporosis are increasingly recognized,” said Michael Yin, MD of Columbia University Medical Center in New York and lead author of the study. “Although numbers of HIV-infected postmenopausal women are increasing and postmenopausal women are at highest risk for osteoporotic fractures, few studies have evaluated skeletal status in this group. We hypothesized that postmenopausal women might be particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of HIV infection or ART on the skeleton and our results indicate that this may indeed be the case.”

To test their hypothesis, Yin and his colleagues initiated a longitudinal study to assess bone health in 92 HIV-positive and 95 HIV-negative postmenopausal women. Bone mineral density of the lumbar spine, femoral neck and hip as well as body composition were measured by dual x-ray absorptiometry (DXA). Researchers found that HIV-positive postmenopausal women had lower bone mineral density at both the spine and hip than HIV-negative postmenopausal women.

“HIV infection was independently associated with lower bone mineral density after adjusting for body mass index (BMI) and traditional osteoporosis risk factors,” said Yin. “While the reason for HIV-associated bone loss remains unclear, it may be related to increased levels of cytokines (proteins produced by cells that aid communication between cells), direct effects of antiretrovirals on bone cells or hormonal/nutritional deficiencies that are common in HIV.”

“Estrogen protects against the effect of cytokines on bone resorption,” said Yin. “Therefore, as HIV-positive women become estrogen deficient during menopause, they may be at higher risk for accelerated bone loss and fracture.”

Other researchers working on the study include Don McMahon, Chiyuan Zhang, Aimee Shu, Ronald Staron, Ivelisse Colon, Jay Dobkin, Scott Hammer and Elizabeth Shane of Columbia University Medical Center in New York, N.Y.; David Ferris of Bronx-Lebanon Hospital Center in N.Y.; and Jeffrey Laurence of Weill Cornell Medical College in New York, N.Y.

The article, “Low bone mass and high bone turnover in postmenopausal HIV-infected women,” will appear in the February 2010 issue of JCEM.


NJ Activist Lobbies Religious Leaders on HIV Prevention

AIDS activist Deloris Dockery is having some success lobbying religious leaders in Newark, New Jersey, to discuss HIV prevention with their congregations, reports.

According to the article, Dockery was diagnosed with HIV in 1994. She has since earned a master’s degree in public health and now heads the One Conversation program at the New Jersey–based Hyacinth AIDS Foundation.

As part of her outreach work, Dockery travels to churches throughout the Newark area giving presentations and organizing testing centers. She urges religious leaders to talk about safer sex, needle exchange programs and early detection.

One in 47 people in Newark is living with HIV/AIDS. And one in 62 African Americans in New Jersey is living with HIV/AIDS compared with one in 705 whites, according to the city’s Department of Health and Senior Services.


California AIDS Group Seeks Law to Require Condoms in Adult Films

The California-based AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) has filed a petition to amend state regulations to explicitly require condom use in the Los Angeles adult film industry, which has an ongoing sexually transmitted infection (STI) epidemic.

AHF’s petition calls on the California Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board (Cal/OSHA) to clarify protection for adult film industry workers and to include a condom requirement to the “bloodborne pathogens” regulations.

“We are taking this action on behalf of the thousands of workers who are needlessly exposed to [STIs] during the production of adult films in California. We look forward to Cal/OSHA’s swift action on this issue,” said Michael Weinstein, AHF’s president.

According to the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (LADPH), transmission of STIs is 10 times more likely to occur among adult film workers than the general population.

Between 2003 and 2007, LADPH documented 2,013 chlamydia cases and 965 gonorrhea cases among adult film workers. There have been at least 25 industry-related HIV cases since 2004.


United States Global AIDS Coordinator Ambassador Eric Goosby traveled to Malawi recently to meet with senior officials of the government of Malawi, members of the international donor community, and representatives of Malawi’s civil society to discus joint efforts in the fight against HIV/AIDS and other health challenges.

Ambassador Goosby visited programs jointly supported by the Global Fund, the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), the Government of Malawi and other cooperating partners.

U.S. Ambassador to Malawi Peter Bodde and Malawi’s Minister of Health Professor Moses Chirambo joined Ambassador Goosby in Lilongwe on December 15 at a ceremony inaugurating the HIV Department of Malawi’s Ministry of Health, which was built with funding from the United States government.

The new 960 square meter office complex, built at a cost of over $1 million, is a state-of-the-art building that will support prevention, care, and treatment for HIV/AIDS. It represents the growing partnership between the 2 nations in fighting HIV/AIDS.

Ambassador Goosby noted that HIV/AIDS remains a high priority for the U.S. government. “We have increased funding, and we will continue to support this program and expand it in prevention, care and treatment,” he said.

Ambassador Goosby said he was impressed by the Malawi government’s commitment at the district and national levels to fight the AIDS epidemic. “The Malawian government has shown strong leadership in responding to the AIDS epidemic,” said Ambassador Goosby. “It has created the National AIDS Commission. It has created a number of groups that are in advisory as well as implementation and oversight roles within the Ministry of Health that engage with civil society, patients affected with HIV, as well as the faith based community.”

PEPFAR and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria have supported countries in placing more than 3.7 million people on antiretroviral treatment and delivered prevention interventions to millions more globally. Malawi has received support for the prevention, care and treatment of HIV and AIDS and for health systems strengthening initiatives. The government of Malawi and its partners, including PEPFAR and the Global Fund, provide life-saving antiretroviral therapy to over 170,000 Malawians, and have delivered counseling and testing for HIV to over 300,000 pregnant Malawian women.

The U.S. is committed to working with Malawi, other nations and international partners in the fight against HIV/AIDS.


Open Wide: Dentists Now Offer Quick HIV Tests

“Don’t forget to floss” may soon be followed by “and don’t forget to wear a condom,” as dentists and clinics have started to administer state-of-the-art saliva tests that can detect HIV in minutes.

“The surprise factor is you are offering this,” said Dr. Catrise Austin, who has tested some 100 patients for HIV at VIP Smiles, her New York City clinic, since July.

“The topic of HIV can be uncomfortable for some, so we decided we would talk about it with patients in a matter-of-fact way, the way we talk about cavities and gum disease.”

To test for the AIDS-causing virus, all Austin needs to do is swipe a patient’s upper and lower gums with a $15 OraQuick Advance kit.

Within 20 minutes, the swab will change colors to indicate a positive or negative result — just like a home pregnancy test.

Nationwide, a handful of public health agencies, including in New York City, are trying to bring HIV testing to the dental chair.

Approximately one in 10 Americans visit a dentist but not a physician each year, and about a quarter of HIV-infected people don’t even know their status, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

The city is funding dental HIV testing programs at Metropolitan Hospital, Harlem Hospital and Jacobi Medical Center, as well as small community dental clinics.


Congress lifts federal funding ban for needle exchanges

One promise made by United States President Barack Obama during his election campaign is coming to fruition after the U.S. Congress voted to lift federal funding restrictions on needle exchange programs last week. Obama is expected to sign the legislation just after the New Year.
AIDS activists are cheering the move, saying it legitimizes programs that studies have shown help to reduce greatly HIV infections.
“It humanizes the issue rather than criminalizing the behavior,” said South Florida AIDS activist Michael Rajner. “There are a lot of people who take great strides to making sure that people are getting clean needles.”
For more than two decades, needle exchange programs in 33 states have provided clean needles to intravenous drug users as a way to reduce the transmission of
HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis C. A backlash from opponents forced officials during President Bill Clinton’s administration to ban federal funding and programs have relied solely on state and local funding.
In South Florida, needle exchange programs operate on the down low, away from the watchful eye of law enforcement.
For the past three years, George Gibson has operated
Flashlight of Hope, Inc. a needle exchange program in Miami. Gibson goes out once or twice a week at night to places where intravenous drug users hang out and gives out clean needles to people as well as free condoms and offers them counseling and information about how to help get them clean.
“Sometimes you can gain their trust and they will take you back to their home and you can start going and meeting them there,” Gibson said.
Gibson said all of the funding for ‘Flashlights’ comes from the
North American Syringe Exchange Network (NASEN).
Represenatives from NASEN did not return phone calls before publication but according to their website, they offer grants of up to $15,000 per year for organizations looking to start needle exchange programs in their city. A startup kit of 14,000 syringes and other supplies to be able to take used needles costs about $1,200 through NASEN’s bulk buying procedures.
According to the
Miami-Dade County HIV Health Department, 5,071 people who are HIV positive in Dade County contracted the disease through intravenous drug use. Another 1,251 people contracted HIV through sharing needles or unprotected sex with a male in Dade County. Those two categories account for roughly 20 percent of the 31,755 people who currently live with HIV in Dade County.
According to the
Broward Health Department, 22 out of the 729 people who became infected with HIV in Broward County from January-July 2009, contracted the disease from shared needle use.
Gibson became involved in the needle exchange programs after going to the gay pride festival in Key West and speaking with some of the
HIV testing counselors. Gibson used to go out with a group, but now the work is a lonely endeavor.
“I know I need to keep going out there because these people need my help,” Gibson said.
Broward Sheriff Al Lamberti wrote a letter to congress expressing his desire to see successful needle exchange programs set up in the county.
Lamberti’s letter stated: “The dramatically high rate of new HIV infections in South Florida is directly related to widespread substance abuse. These co-occurring epidemics create a synergy that heightens risk behaviors and results in tremendous costs to both the affected individuals and the community. While substance abuse prevention and treatment remain vital, it is also essential that the health consequences of injection drug use be mitigated by needle exchange programs.”
Lamberti also expressed his concern for tax payers having to foot the bill for caring for inmates who are HIV positive.
Lamberti wrote: “Until we can get drug and substance abuse under control and find a cure for the spread of the AIDS virus, containment of the disease should be one of our strategies. As we speak today, there are 200 inmates in the Broward County jail who are HIV positive. The cost of providing AIDS medications to these inmates is approximately $1,000 per month per inmate. This equates to a $200,000 monthly expenditure for AIDS medications alone for our jail system. This represents an extreme tax burden to the residents of Broward County. Considering the economic stress that our citizens face today, any efforts to reduce the HIV infection population should be pursued.”
Once the bill is signed, the US Health and Human Services department will be able to provide grants for needle exchange programs throughout the country.

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