Africa ‘must not stop HIV vaccine trials’

August 6, 2008

Shutting down clinical trial centres in Africa in response to continued failure of HIV vaccine candidates would be a big mistake, researchers warned at the International AIDS Conference in Mexico City yesterday (5 August).

They stressed the pivotal role played by Africa and African researchers in the search for a HIV vaccine.

Read the full story on SciDev.Net

The Lancet: special issue on HIV/AIDS

August 6, 2008

Here is an opportunity to keep updated on HIV/AIDS. The Lancet, the UK medical journal, launched a special issue on HIV prevention at the AIDS 2008 conference yesterday (5 August).

The issue features a series of six papers and two comments – all previously published online – approaching the theme of HIV prevention under different perspectives, including history, biomedical interventions and behavioural strategies to reduce HIV transmission.

It includes information and experiences from around the world.

For more information, visit The Lancet website.

WHO launches new HIV/AIDS guide

August 6, 2008

The WHO has launched a package “designed to help low- and middle-income countries to move towards universal access to HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment, care and support”.

Priority Interventions: HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment and care in the health sector, launched at the AIDS 2008 conference yesterday (5 August)  is a compilation of WHO-recommended priority HIV/AIDS health-sector interventions.

The publication includes treatment recommendations, guidelines and standards.

According to the WHO, it’s is intended to be a ‘living’ web-based publication, periodically updated with new recommendations based on the rapidly evolving experience of the health-sector response. However, it is not available in the website yet, only in CD-ROM format.

For more information, visit the WHO website

Luisa Massarani, SciDev.Net/Latin America and the Caribbean

Increasing coverage of treatment ‘significantly reduces new HIV infections’

August 5, 2008

Increasing the coverage of HIV treatment from the current level of 50 per cent of those in need of medical care to 75 per cent could reduce the new HIV infections by at least 30 per cent, according to a study conducted in Canada and published last month by The Journal of Infectious Diseases.

The results were based on a mathematical model using a multiple source of infection framework to assess the potential effect of the expansion of highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) coverage among those in medical need on the number of individuals HIV-positive and on related costs in Canada over the next 25 years.

The model was calibrated using retrospective data describing the use of antiretroviral therapy and HIV-positive people in the province.

“It’s speculation, it’s a mathematical model and may be the figures can change a bit, but people who is needing treatment needs it now. We are missing the opportunity of saving lives and reducing the transmission”, says to SciDev.Net the Argentinean Julio Montaner, one of the authors of the paper and director of the British Columbia Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS, as well as elected president of the International Aids Society (IAS).

According to Montaner, even in Canada about 50 per cent of the HIV-positive people start the treatment late or never receive treatment.

In Africa, the implications of the study suggesting the widening of the coverage of HAART was welcomed by Elly Katabira, professor of the Makerere University in Uganda and the incoming president of IAS.

“Most of our patients we initiate on antiretroviral therapy are very sick and some have close to death”, said Katabira in a press conference.

“Sucessful treatment makes them excellent advocates for both treatment and prevention. They would not want themselves or anyone else to be where they have been”, he said.

Luisa Massarani, SciDev.Net/Latin America and the Caribbean

Countries ‘denying entry to HIV-positive people’

August 5, 2008

An issue widely discussed in the AIDS 2008 conference is the fact that several countries deny the entry, stay or residence of HIV-positive people because of their HIV status.

According to the publication Entry denied, published by UNAIDS in partnership with other organisations and distributed at the conference, at least 67 countries are on the list of those that deny the entry to people living with HIV/AIDS.

“Stigma and discrimination around Aids remain as strong as ever: and in this context I join my voice with the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, and call on all the countries to drop restrictions on entry to people simply because they are living with HIV”, Peter Piot, executive director of UNAIDS, is quoted as saying in the publication.

A working group was created in February by UNAIDS and recommendations are expected by the end of the year for tackling the problem.

Last month (30 July), US President George Bush signed a law for the reauthorization of the president’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR/Emergency Plan), which includes the promise for banning  prohibitions on HIV-positive people travelling to United States.

Luisa Massarani, SciDev.Net/Latin America and the Caribbean

Latin America ‘delivering on HIV treatment’

August 4, 2008

Latin America and the Caribbean has the highest proportion of people actually receiving of HIV/AIDS treatment actually receiving the treatment in comparison to any developing country, according to Luis-Soto Ramirez, co-chair of AIDS 2008 – the XVII International AIDS Conference.

“Sixty-two per cent of the people in need are on treatment in the region – the highest proportion of any developing country”, he said in his opening speech at the conference (3 August).

However, Pedro Cahn, co-president of the AIDS 2008, urged that Latin America and the Caribbean – in which two million people are HIV positive – should be not excluded from the international agenda because of its success in fighting the disease.

“Latin American and the Caribbean are also suffering of the consequences of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the context of poverty and marginality”.

According to Ban Ki-Moon, secretary-general of the UN, in a speech, Latin America is “the source of some of the most dynamic responses to AIDS, but also home to the greatest challenges”.

This is the first time that the International AIDS Conference has been hosted in Latin America.

Luisa Massarani, SciDev.Net/Latin America and the Caribbean

AIDS 2008: urging universal action

August 4, 2008

Human rights, gender issues and the strengthening of health systems are among the top issues of the AIDS 2008 – the XVII International AIDS Conference, which is joining 22,238 worldwide participants in Mexico City this week (3-8 August).

“AIDS 2008 is taking place at an unique moment in the epidemic, when there is widespread consensus on the urgency of ensuring access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support by 2010”, said Pedro Cahn, co-president of the AIDS 2008 and president of the International AIDS Society, in a press release.

However, Ban Ki-Moon, the secretary-general of the United Nations, in his speech on the opening of the meeting, called the attention to the fact that “most countries still have a long way to go to meet the goal they set two years ago at the United Nations General Assembly – the goal to scale up towards universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support by 2010”.

Ban Ki-Moon warmly congratulate the United States government on the new legislation that will allow for US$ 48 billion to be spent on the fight against Aids, TB and malaria over five years.    

Luisa Massarani, SciDev.Net/Latin America and the Caribbean

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