Posts Tagged ‘Women


HIV Is Top Killer Of Young Women Worldwide

If you answered heart disease, you’d be on the right track for older women, particularly those in richer countries. But for women age 15 to 49, the No. 1 killer worldwide is HIV, the World Health Organization says.

Of the 30.8 million HIV-positive adults in 2007, 15.5 million were women, says the WHO. Prevalence of the virus runs highest in Africa, where 6 percent of women of childbearing age have it. The findings appear in a report on women’s health just released by WHO.

In Swaziland, half of women age 25 to 29 are infected with HIV. The tiny country of a little more than 1 million people ranks first in HIV prevalence, according to the CIA “World Factbook,” with 26.1 percent of the population infected with virus.

Women are “particular vulnerability” to infection by HIV, WHO says, due to both biology and gender inequality.

The WHO report aims to draw attention to the health plight of women and improve care for them around the world. “It’s time to pay girls and women back, to make sure that they get the care and support they need to enjoy a fundamental human right at every moment of their lives, that is their right to health,” WHO Director General Dr Margaret Chan said in a statement.

Separately, Morning Edition’s Steve Inskeep talks with New York Magazine writer David France about the premature aging of people taking drugs to treat AIDS.




PR group tests syringe vending machine for addicts

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — A needle exchange program in Puerto Rico is testing a vending machine that provides drug users with clean syringes after-hours to fight the spread of HIV and hepatitis C.

Dr. Jose Vargas Vidot is the founder of Community Initiative, the U.S. island territory’s only needle-exchange group. He says a single machine will make clean syringes available at night outside the group’s office in Hato Rey.

Vargas said Tuesday that drug counseling offices that distribute syringes are open only during daylight hours.

The vending machine program targets young addicts reluctant to seek help.

Drug users can get syringes, cookers, cotton filters, gauze and sterile water to prepare drugs for injection by inserting a special card.


Proposed legislation to end written consent for HIV testing in Mass. sparks controversy

Two bills pending in the Massachusetts Senate that would eliminate informed, written consent before administering HIV tests continue to stir debate. Supporters say the proposed legislation would increase the chances of treating the virus in its early stages. Opponents, on the other hand, maintain written consent is crucial in building trust between doctor and patient.

The Centers for Disease Control issued a non-binding recommendation in 2006 that written consent for HIV testing is no longer needed. The CDC concluded general consent for medical care should be considered sufficient.

Only eight states currently still require written consent before a patient undergoes an HIV test. Besides Massachusetts, they are Alabama, Michigan, Nebraska, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Wisconsin.

The Massachusetts bills, sponsored by state Sens. Patricia Jehlen and Robert O’Leary, both Democrats, would replace written consent with requirements health care providers verbally discuss the test, outline treatment options if it comes back positive, recommend patients who test negative but remain at-risk undergo periodic testing in the future and advise them they have the right to decline the test.

O’Leary’s bill also would require the state’s Department of Public Health to undertake a study on how to best reach those who are at increased risk for contracting the HIV virus, but are not getting tested.

In making the case for eliminating written consent, Jehlen’s office reported 20 percent of Massachusetts residents with HIV/AIDS are unaware of their status because they have not been tested. It also
referenced the fact HIV testing rates at San Francisco General Hospital rose by 44 percent after administrators eliminated its written consent regulation. The number of positive test results increased by 67 percent.

The Boston Globe recently endorsed the proposed legislation in an editorial. And many healthcare providers and activist organizations support it. They include Gary Daffin, executive director of the Multicultural AIDS Coalition.

Fenway Health, a Boston-based provider that treats LGBTs and has been at the forefront of HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention since the early days of the epdemic, also maintains believes it is time to end what many believe is an outmoded policy.

“We’re very supportive of moving in this direction,” Fenway president Dr. Stephen Boswell told EDGE in a phone interview.”The goals of the CDC are to help identify as many of the people who are HIV positive in the country, but don’t know it, as possible. Study after study has shown that the current testing paradigm for HIV is interfering with making testing readily available in some of the sites where the largest number of people who are positive, but don’t know it, are going for care.”

But some Massachusetts LGBT and HIV/AIDS service organizations remain opposed the bill. Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders opposed it during a state house hearing last week. The AIDS Action Committee also remains opposed..

Bennett Klein, director of GLAD’s AIDS Law Project, testified before the Joint Committee on Public Health on Oct. 6 he feels written consent provides important protections to those HIV/AIDS. He further argued there is no evidence to suggest it is a barrier to people getting tested.

“Solving this problem requires a comprehensive public health solution, including determining how to reach populations, such as the homeless or immigrants, who may not make contact with the traditional healthcare system,” Klein told the panel. “If we could solve a difficult social and public health problem by simply getting rid of a piece of paper, we would be very lucky. But that is not the case.”

In a phone interview, Klein further contended the bills leave open the possibility some people will be tested without knowing it or without believing the test was voluntary and that they were in control of the situation.

“There are also larger repercussions in terms of the public response to the epidemic, such as creating a sound and trusting relationship between provider and patient, and patients being able to talk frankly about risk behaviors,” he explained. “This is particularly important in adherence to medication. If people are distrustful of the healthcare system, you are much less likely to ensure that there is a patient-provider relationship that can address those issues.”

The AAC told EDGE in a statement that while it welcomes efforts to eliminate barriers to HIV testing and supports the goals of the proposed legislation, it cannot endorse the bills as they currently are written.

The organization said it could support proposals that required documentation of verbal informed consent and imposed enforceable penalties for failure to document consent and for violations of patient confidentiality.

AIDS Action further called for a statute to require a funded study of the reasons people with HIV often enter treatment late and to propose solutions.

“Because written informed consent is perceived to be a barrier to testing in medical settings, moving to verbal consent with appropriate documentation and confidentiality protections can be an important first step toward increasing the number of HIV tests offered and ensuring routine HIV testing in medical settings,” the statement read.

The organization added it feels the full integration of routine HIV testing in medical practices will help reduce the stigma still associated with the virus because of its association with sex and drug habits.

“HIV/AIDS disproportionately impacts gay men and women of color,” AIDS Action said. “People at risk for HIV should not have to seek out extra services or special sources of care to be screened for a medical condition that disproportionately impacts them. HIV screening and testing should be available everywhere in the Commonwealth.”

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health has not taken a position on the legislation, but it noted in a statement it has long supported routine screening.

Among its initiatives are pilot routine screening projects in urban areas, a public information campaign promoting knowledge of HIV status and guidance to providers about how to reduce the administrative burden of obtaining consent under current law.

“We are invested in reducing barriers to HIV screening for both patients and providers while preserving the strict confidentiality of individual medical information,” Kevin Cranston, director of the agency’s Bureau of Infectious Disease, said.


Sex education for four-year-olds

Children as young as four are to become the youngest in Scotland to be given sex education lessons under a new curriculum from Glasgow City Council.

Lessons begin in P1 with children being taught about body parts and conclude in S6 with classes on sexually transmitted infection, especially HIV and Aids.

However, the Scottish Conservative Party said there would be “massive concerns” about the scheme.

It said parents would question the need to involve primary one pupils.

The new sexual health and relationships curriculum was piloted in 13 primary and two secondary schools.

The council said teachers, pupils and parents gave it “overwhelming support”.

Maureen McKenna, service director of education, said the programme was devised to build knowledge year-on-year.

“What we have is a broad curriculum which deals with emotions, friendships, self-esteem and respect as well as physical development and sexual health,” she said.

Many parents will question whether this is really the most appropriate priority in primary one classes – especially when there is yet more evidence published today that Scotland is performing poorly when it comes to teaching children to read, write and count
Liz Smith MSP
Scottish Conservatives

“From P1 onwards, topics and issues are introduced at an appropriate age and handled in an appropriate way. It is tailored to meet the needs and development of young people in Glasgow.

“Parents have a crucial part to play too and by keeping them involved through supporting their child’s learning they are prepared for any questions that may crop up at home.”

Following the pilot period in 2007/08, the curriculum was extended across other areas in the east end of Glasgow.

The roll-out is continuing in the north and west of the city during this academic year with plans now being put in place to extend the curriculum across the remaining areas of Glasgow.

Councillor James Coleman, who chairs Glasgow’s young person’s sexual health steering group, said the curriculum could be “a blueprint for others to follow”.

‘Significant step’

“Both parents and children made it very clear to us they wanted to be closer to one another on this issue and this curriculum allows for that to happen,” he said.

“Stronger bonds between parents and their child help to encourage young people to delay engaging in sexual activity until they are physically and emotionally equipped to deal with the consequences.

“What we are now rolling-out in Glasgow represents a significant step forward in the provision of sexual health and relationships education.”

The Scottish Conservative spokeswoman for schools, Liz Smith, said there would be “massive concerns” about the new curriculum.

“Children as young as four – and just out of nursery – will be involved in this new curriculum,” she said.

“Just how well can they be expected to cope with understanding even some of the more simple facts in what is a very complex and sensitive issue?

“Many parents will question whether this is really the most appropriate priority in primary one classes – especially when there is yet more evidence published today that Scotland is performing poorly when it comes to teaching children to read, write and count.”


New HIV cases set to increase



Tribune Staff Reporter


THE number of new HIV cases in The Bahamas is set to increase, health experts have revealed.

If trends recorded in the early part of this year hold until its end, this year will see a worrying rise, said Dr Perry Gomez, director of the National AIDS Programme.

From January to April 2009 Mr Gomez said 57 more people — 29 men and 28 women — were added to the list of people infected with the virus in The Bahamas.

Meanwhile, during the same period, 42 people with HIV saw their disease progress to the critical AIDS stage of the illness, resulting in 22 deaths during those four months.

“If we multiply 57 times four, we get 228. That would be more than we had last year. We’ll have to see how things pan out,” said Dr Gomez.

This potential rise in new HIV cases comes even as the National AIDS Programme has had impressive success in minimising the number of cases which are progressing to the critical AIDS stage of the disease, suggesting that while access to treatment and education in this regard has had an impact, people are still not getting the message about HIV prevention.

Dr Gomez disclosed the latest figures as he, with President of the AIDS Foundation Camille Barnett, and organisers of this year’s Red Ribbon Ball appealed to the public to continue to support the annual fundraising gala despite hard economic times.

Tickets are $200 each for the November 21 event, which has over the past 16 years raised $700,000 for the AIDS Foundation — a non-governmental organisation that assists in providing education, counselling, housing, medication and other basic necessities to people “infected and affected” by the virus.

Sandra Knowles, a director at major sponsor Colina Imperial Insurance Ltd and co-chair of the organising committee for the ball, reminded the public that “need knows no season” and now is not the time to give up on supporting the HIV/AIDS fight.

“We are hoping to raise at least $50,000…but if we could maintain what we got last year, that would be a miracle and God’s blessing,” said Mrs Knowles.

Mrs Barnett noted that within the next couple of months the AIDS foundation is embarking on a new outreach initiative which will cost a significant amount of money.

The programme, aimed at providing support to adolescents suffering from HIV/AIDS, is expected to see trained professionals connect with the young people, who often struggled to cope with their healthcare regimes, on a weekly basis.

“The foundations wants to assist these young people to achieve their right to health and right to life. We would like to empower these youths to truly believe they are accepted, safe and well,” said Mrs Barnett.

In this regard, Dr Gomez commented on the case of a 20-year-old man born with HIV as a result of his mother being infected who died in the last six weeks, “in short, because of neglect.”

“He had no support, he lived alone, aged 20, parents deceased, no help,” said Dr Gomez.

Despite advances made by the National AIDS programme and the AIDS foundation, the NAP director said the fight against HIV/AIDS still has a long way to go in The Bahamas and therefore still needs the support of members of the public and corporate donors.

Highlighting this, he noted that although The Bahamas has been described as a model of best practice for reducing mother-to-child HIV transmission, last year saw four babies born with HIV to HIV positive mothers.

“Stigma and discrimination remains a huge problem that keeps people away from care. In the mother-to-child programme we went for a few years with almost no transmission at all from mother to child in people who came for care.

“We normally have one or two (babies born with HIV each year). Last year we had four women who had no ante-natal care, so we had four children born with HIV last year.

“That’s the most we’ve had in ages and so there’s still a lot to do with maintaining the programme of awareness and care and making sure that people get in for care,” said Dr Gomez, who also noted that The Bahamas’ standout reputation for good ante-natal care for HIV/AIDS infected mothers has seen numerous women travel here in recent years from across the region seeking care in the country’s public clinics.

Providing a cumulative overview of the impact of HIV/AIDS in the Bahamas since it was first detected in this country, Dr Gomez said that up to the end of 2008 a total of 6,103 people in The Bahamas have contracted AIDS — 3,626 men and 2,477 women. Of these, “4,000 plus” have died already, or 66 per cent, while 2,078 are “alive and living well with AIDS.”

Meanwhile, up to the end of 2008 there was also a cumulative total of 5,387 people infected with HIV, 2,678 men and 2,726 women.

That means that there are around 7,400 people living in The Bahamas at the moment who are known to be infected with HIV/AIDS, with a current “one to one” male to female ratio — a change from the historically greater prevalence of HIV/AIDS in men than women.

Dr Gomez noted that there are also “certainly people who have HIV/AIDS and do not know because they have never been tested”, meaning that the actual rate may be much higher.




Study Finds That Certain Cancers Are More Common In HIV-Infected Individuals


A recent study published in the Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes (JAIDS) found that the incidence of non-AIDS defining malignancies, such as anal and lung cancer, is increased for HIV-infected individuals.

“Non-AIDS defining illnesses” includes all forms of cancers except skin, lymphoma, cervical carcinoma, Kaposi’s sarcoma and some ill-defined cancers. These are considered AIDS defining and are known to be of higher prevalence in HIV-positive individuals.

In this study, it was found that HIV-infected patients also have a higher risk of developing certain non-AIDS defining illnesses.

The study was conducted on 33,420 HIV-infected and 66,840 HIV-uninfected patients for a period between 1997 and 2004. The incidence rate of cancerous malignancies was measured. Factors such as age, gender, and race were taken into account.

The results showed that HIV-infected individuals were 60 percent more likely to have anal, lung, Hodgkin’s lymphoma, melanoma, prostate, and liver cancer than non HIV-infected individuals.

One theory for the possible cause of this trend is that antiretroviral therapy that HIV-positive individuals undergo might increase their risk of developing those particular cancers. Another possibility is that HIV-infected individuals are more prone to traditional risk factors due to lifestyle or other situations.

Another theory is that HIV itself increases an individual’s chance of developing cancer inherently.

One weakness of the study is the lack of female participants; males represented about 98 percent of the study’s population.

This study has led to plans for further research on immune function in patients with or without cancer.

For more information, please see the original study in JAIDS (abstract) and the press release from Southwestern Medical Center.


Condoms are not reliable in fight against HIV, says African cardinal

They are at it again! Condoms are not 100% effective in preventing HIV but can reduce your risk greatly, if used properly and consistantly. 


By Carol Glatz
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Condoms are not always effective in preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS in Africa, said Cardinal Peter Turkson of Cape Coast, Ghana.

Abstinence, fidelity in marriage and universal access to antiretroviral drugs are the strategies the church continues to promote in the fight against AIDS, he said.

The cardinal, who will turn 61 Oct. 11, made the comments during a Vatican press conference Oct. 5, presenting some of the issues to be discussed during the second special Synod of Bishops for Africa.

Cardinal Turkson was asked about the AIDS epidemic in Africa and what position the synod will take, specifically concerning the use of condoms in HIV prevention.

He said when “people propose the use of condoms it becomes effective only in families where they are going to be faithful.”

However, condoms give “people a false sense of security, which rather facilitates the spread of HIV/AIDS,” he said.

Condoms cannot be relied upon to provide 100-percent protection against HIV transmission because “there are condoms which arrive in Ghana, which in the heat and whatever burst during sex,” he said.

Because there is always a chance condoms might break during sexual intimacy, he is reluctant to recommend condom use even to married couples in which one partner is affected with HIV, he said.

The priorities for African bishops at the synod will remain “abstinence and loyalty and fidelity” within marriage, he said.

During pastoral counseling, he said he presents the issues and discusses them with the person seeking advice, which “allows the person to decide, to (make) his own decision.”

He said he does not “undervalue the possibility that somebody who has AIDS recognizes his own Christian commitment (and) would simply just decide to refrain from sex,” even if he or she were in a faithful marriage, in order to prevent the spread of HIV.

“Some would in such a situation have advised the use of condoms by a partner who has HIV so that it doesn’t spread, but again, in our part of the world, even the use of condoms is sometimes risky,” he said.

“If we have proper, top quality condoms, then one can probably with certainty speak about” the effectiveness of an infected partner using condoms, “but that is also not the case” in Ghana, he said.

Cardinal Turkson said he would rather see the resources spent on manufacturing and providing prophylactics to Africa be earmarked for subsidizing antiretroviral drugs for the people there.

“Let us use those resources to support the production of antiretroviral drugs so (they) would be more available to people,” he said. “That’s probably the big favor that we can do for the people suffering from HIV/AIDS.”

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