Sunday December 1, 2013
In what can only be described as an unprecedented blunder, the World Health Organization (WHO) apologized for reporting that half of new HIV infections in Greece are self-inflicted by those wanting to obtain a $1000 per month governmental benefit.
The WHO has since claimed that an editorial error in the 184-page report -- entitled the Review of Social Determinants and the Health Divide in the WHO European Region -- was the cause for the blunder, and insists that they meant to say that half of all new infections are "self-inflicted" through intravenous drug use. (Shared needles still remain a major route of HIV transmission in Greece.)
However, many are not buying the excuse. By placing such emphasis on the $1000 per month pay-out, the report squarely put the blame for infection in the hands of the infected rather than in growing gaps in public healthcare caused by the Greek economic crisis. Few can argue that cuts in vital HIV/AIDS services, including free needle exchange programs for addicts, are directly linked to the astonishing 1500% rise in new HIV infections since austerity measures were put into place back in 2010.
Sunday December 1, 2013
Neurocognitive impairment is frequently associated with long-term HIV infection, affecting more than 50% of HIV-infected people, with conditions ranging from mild memory loss and deterioration of fine motor skills to more serious disorders like AIDS dementia complex.
While the mechanism for this impairment remains less than certain, it has long been postulated that neurotoxins secreted by HIV-infected cells may cause nerve cell death, gradually (and sometimes profoundly) deteriorating synaptic pathways in the brain.
A new study from the University of Minnesota Medical School suggests that this may not be the case. According to research published in the Journal of Neuroscience, a specific protein called Tat (or transactivator of transcription) is actively shed by HIV-infected brain cells and, rather than killing nerve cells, causes an over-stimulation of the neural network as the protein binds with and effectively alters synaptic connections in the brain.
Friday November 29, 2013
Since 1988, December 1 has been designated as World AIDS Day, and in keeping with this year's theme, "Shared Responsibility: Strengthening Results for an AIDS-Free Generation," we'd like to offer a few suggestions on what you can do to help move forward this global HIV/AIDS initiative:
1. Educate and protect yourself. Start by learning the facts and by doing a personal risk assessment to better understand your personal vulnerabilities to HIV infection.
2. Get tested. With advances in therapy now affording people near-normal life expectancy and good quality of life, it's more important than ever to get tested. Find your nearest testing center (many of which offer free, anonymous, rapid HIV testing) through the AIDS.gov Service Locator.
Monday November 25, 2013
Despite impressive strides made in recent years to reduce the number of HIV transmissions worldwide, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) reports that a number of key targets are likely to be missed as donor funding continues to stall, while at-risk populations remain ever-vulnerable to HIV infection and illness.
In a report released on November 20, UNAIDS officials cite troubling signs in regions where access to essential HIV services is lagging -- most specifically in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, where infection rates have increased by 13% since 2006; and in the Middle East and North Africa, where HIV infections have nearly doubled since 2001.
Investment in these regions have simply not kept pace, say officials, particularly when instituting programs targeted to stigmatized populations such as men who have sex with men (MSM), injection drug users (IDUs), transgendered people, or commercial sex workers (CSWs).
In fact, according the report, many of these groups continue to be blocked from accessing HIV services, despite a staggering increase in the number of new infections each year.