Monthly Archives: January 2014

Organizations taking part in groundbreaking study to cure HIV

alg-hiv-cure-jpgFrom The Philadelphia Gay News

With the support of a multimillion-dollar federal grant, several local organizations are taking part in a groundbreaking study that aims to develop a cure for HIV. The Wistar Institute, in partnership with Philadelphia FIGHT, the University of Pennsylvania, University of California and Merck, is undertaking a trial study based on a therapeutic strategy that has already shown promise at reducing HIV-1 virus levels.

Dr. Luis J. Montaner, a professor at The Wistar Institute and director of Wistar’s HIV-1 Immunopathogenesis Lab, and collaborators received a four-year, $6.2-million grant from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease of the National Institutes of Health to support the study. Montaner said his team has been pursuing the grant for several years. “There is a lot of preamble before the award is given,” he said. “We have been chasing the opportunity to do this study since 2011.”

The study is based on a prior pilot trial in which a protein called interferon-alpha was shown to reduce persistent HIV-1 in patients being treated with antiretroviral therapy. The grant will pay for the management of the clinical and administrative expenses of the study and for laboratory follow-up, which will allow researchers to calculate the study’s outcome. Montaner said the team will perform an initial evaluation of the study in mid-2016, and it will be finalized in 2018.

Read more: PGN-The Philadelphia Gay News

NY Dept of Health cleares way for PrEP

From DNAinfo New York

The [New York] Department of Health has cleared the way for more New Yorkers who have not been diagnosed with HIV/AIDS to use the HIV medication Truvada to try to prevent new infections. After months of anticipation, the Health Department’s AIDS Institute released thorough clinical guidelines for pre-exposure prophylaxis, commonly known as PrEP, which is a daily dose of HIV medication that people who are HIV-negative but at-risk of contracting the virus can take to drastically reduce their chance of infection.

The drug, known by its prescription name Truvada, can reduce the chance of infection by as much as 73 percent, according to studies funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. However, the AIDS Institute stressed that PrEP alone was not enough to prevent new infections. “PrEP should not be offered as a sole intervention for HIV prevention. PrEP should only be prescribed as part of a comprehensive prevention plan,” the report says.

Advocates say the drug is needed, in combination with prophylactics including condoms, because the HIV infection rate in New York is growing among certain populations — including young men who have sex with men and injection drug users — even as the statewide infection rate is shrinking. “PrEP may be an effective option to augment behavior change in these high-risk populations,” according to the report, which found the new infections are primarily in minority communities.

Many AIDS organizations have recommended PrEP since the Food and Drug Administration approved it in July 2012, but the new state guidelines are a major step forward in increasing its use among at-risk populations, officials said. Advocates hope the state’s endorsement of the strategy will lead to more doctors prescribing it.


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High viral load levels in young MSM


Approximately a third of young people newly linked to HIV care in the United States have viral loads that indicate a high risk of onward transmission, according to research published in the online edition of AIDS. Young men who have sex with men (MSM) had a mean viral load of approximately 125,000 copies/ml, significantly higher than the average of 47,000 copies/ml recorded in their heterosexual peers.

Moreover, a potentially highly infectious viral load of 50,000 copies/ml or above was recorded in 30% of young MSM compared to 22% of young heterosexual people. “These viral load levels are associated with high rates of transmission,” comment the authors. “YMSM [young MSM] are well represented in these data…and they have the highest viral loads, which is consistent with the high rates of ongoing transmission in this population in the United States.”

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White men with HIV can now expect to live as long as the average American, though non-whites lag behind in health gap


Although HIV infection was once considered a certain death sentence, research published [December 18th] shows that the average person infected with HIV in North America can expect to live to the age of 63. Gay men with HIV can expect to live even longer, to an average age of 77, according to the findings published in PLOS One.


Kyle Murphy, assistant director of communications for the National Minority AIDS Council, called the disparity in life expectancy between whites and non-whites with HIV “very real and devastating.”

“Across the board, communities of color fare worse than their white counterparts,” he told Healthline. “They are diagnosed much later and are less likely to be retained in care or to be virally suppressed.” Dr. Joel Gallant, chair of the HIV Medicine Association, told Healthline he does not believe that race is an independent factor affecting life expectancy. “It’s a proxy for more infections from drug use and later presentation to care,” he said. The gay demographic, he said, tends to get tested for HIV regularly and to begin antiretroviral drugs immediately. Gallant, who said he sees HIV patients even in their eighties, noted that more people are being diagnosed at a later age, in part because older people tend not to get tested as often.

Early detection and treatment can now mean a normal lifespan for otherwise healthy Americans. The study results show that people who begin taking antiretroviral drugs earlier live longer. By lowering the number of viral cells in the blood, antiretroviral therapy, or ART, also helps to prevent HIV transmission.

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