Archive for April 2016

Having HIV — or getting treatment for it — speeds up the aging process, scientists report in a new study

April 27, 2016

From NPR online

Having HIV — or getting treatment for it — speeds up the aging process by about five years, on average, scientists report in a new study.

The findings, published in the journal Molecular Cell, fit with what doctors have seen in clinics: HIV-positive people tend to get hit earlier in life with age-related diseases, such as osteoporosis, heart disease and dementia.

But the study also opens up the possibility of addressing a broader question: How to measure a disease’s impact on aging.

“We all know that some people appear to age faster than others,” says Trey Ideker, a biologist at the University of California, San Diego, who co-led the study. “There are external signs of aging, like gray hair and wrinkles. But the inside of our bodies also show signs.”

One of those signals is hidden in our genomes — not the genetic code itself but how the genome is decorated.

Before you’re born, your DNA gets decorated with little tags, called methylation, which help turn genes on and off. As you age, some tags fall off. Others get added. By looking at the pattern of these tags, Ideker and his colleagues found they could estimate how fast a person is aging.

“And that measurement is better at predicting when someone will die than their chronological age — or the number of years they’ve been on Earth,” Ideker says.

For instance, say you’re 50 years old, but your DNA tags look like you’re 55. Then your body is aging about 10 percent faster than the average 50-year-old’s body. And you might want to get screened for age-related diseases five years earlier.

That’s exactly what Ideker and his team found for men with HIV.

Read the full article.

30th anniversary of the PATF honors Dr. Tony Silvestre

April 21, 2016

Hundreds gathered at the WQED studios in Oakland on Thursday, April 14th at a fundraiser to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Pittsburgh AIDS Task Force.  The evening’s honoree, Dr. Anthony Silvestre received the prestigious Kerry Stoner Award in recognition of his extraordinary efforts in the fight against HIV and AIDS.

Dr. Tony Silvestre, Professor at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health

Dr. Tony Silvestre, Professor at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health

Dr. Silvestre became an integral part of the Pitt Men’s Study—a groundbreaking research project at the University of Pittsburgh’s Graduate School of Public Health—in the early days of the AIDS epidemic. Silvestre, known for his experience in community organization, recruited 4,000 participants from the greater Pittsburgh area—the vast majority of whom would spend the next 33 years donating blood and answering in-depth sexual health questions as a means to understand and therefore combat the disease. The Pitt Men’s Study played a key role in research that not only helped determine how the virus was spread, but also the effectiveness of modern anti-viral medications (also known as HAART).

In addition to the Kerry Stoner Award, Silvestre also received a citation honoring his achievements in combating HIV/AIDS statewide from the Pennsylvania House of Representatives.

“People don’t realize that this disease is still tragically affecting many—with young black gay kids at a rate as high as in some developing nations. Those who are marginalized by race, age and sexual orientation are not on anyone’s agenda and, as a result, are often left out of the health care system,” Silvestre commented at the event. “That’s why we need organizations like PATF and the Pitt Men’s Study.”

For most of his adult life, Silvestre was central to the LGBTQ community in Southwestern Pennsylvania, lending his skills and experience to effect positive change for marginalized communities. In addition to his efforts with the Pitt Men’s Study, he worked to establish a Center for LGBT Health Research within the Graduate School of Public Health and is currently the co-director of the HIV Prevention and Care Project—an organization also within the University that provides technical assistance to the Pennsylvania Department of Health in creating a state-wide response to the AIDS epidemic.

The Kerry Stoner Award is presented annually to honor a person who has, through a longtime dedication to Pittsburgh AIDS Task Force’s mission, shown commitment to Kerry Stoner’s legacy and vision. Stoner, a tireless HIV/AIDS activist who died of complications from AIDS in 1993, was a founder and the first Executive Director of the PATF.

The PATF 30the anniversary event raised over $100,000 in support of people living with HIV/AIDS and in support of the PATF HIV prevention programs.

 

Web series explores what it means to be undetectable

April 13, 2016

From the Huffington Post

A new web series from Todd Flaherty is elevating the conversation surrounding what it means to have an undetectable HIV-positive status and helping to break down stigma for those living with HIV.

what is undetectableAccording to Tyler Curry, creator of The Needle Prick Project, “an HIV-positive person can achieve undetectable levels after undergoing antiretroviral therapy (ART). A level of a person’s HIV viral load is what causes them to be more or less likely to transmit the disease. An undetectable viral load reduces the likelihood of transmission by 96 percent.”

Many people, queer and straight alike, are still uneducated about what exactly undetectable means. Flaherty’s new web series, appropriately titled “Undetectable,” follows a fictional gay man after he finds out about his own HIV diagnosis and his subsequent journey.

The Huffington Post chatted with Flaherty this week about his new project.