Category Archives: Features

HIV research pioneer involved in creation of COVID-19 test for UPMC

Press release from UPMC

UPMC has developed a test for the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 — the virus that causes COVID-19 — UPMC will use this test to diagnose select, symptomatic cases. The health system plans to rapidly increase capacity at its central laboratory and, if there is a need, could test hundreds of patients per week in the near future, filling a critical gap before other commercial tests come online.

“Developing this test for a never-before-seen virus in the midst of a pandemic was a tremendous challenge, even for our academic medical center with its long history of such developments,” said Alan Wells, M.D., D.M.Sc., medical director of the UPMC Clinical Laboratories and Thomas Gill III Professor of Pathology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. “But testing capabilities are absolutely essential to managing a pandemic. If the communities we serve see a surge in severe illnesses, we must be able to diagnose people quickly to give them the appropriate care while protecting our staff and the broader community.”

Additionally, UPMC will begin directing patients with symptoms consistent with COVID-19 to a specimen collection site in Pittsburgh’s South Side neighborhood. The site is not open to the general public. Patients must have a physician referral approved by UPMC’s infection prevention team and an appointment to have their specimen collected for testing by either UPMC or public health authorities.

UPMC will later open additional specimen collection facilities in Harrisburg, Erie, Williamsport and Altoona at an as-yet undetermined date after gaining experience with the South Side facility and after UPMC’s testing capacity increases. […]

The test was created by a virology team led by Tung Phan, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor of pathology at Pitt and assistant director of clinical microbiology at UPMC; Charles Rinaldo, Jr., Ph.D., chair and professor of the Pitt Graduate School of Public Health’s Department of Infectious Diseases and Microbiology and director of the UPMC Clinical Virology Laboratory; and Stephanie Mitchell, Ph.D., assistant professor of pathology at Pitt and director of clinical microbiology at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh. Implementation work was done by Arlene Bullotta, Barbara Harris and Kathy Greenawalt of the Section of Virology at UPMC Clinical Laboratories. “This was a tireless effort by a team dedicated to serving the needs of our patients,” said Wells.

Read the full article on UPMC.com.

LGBTQ Agenda: LGBT people may be at higher risk from COVID-19

From the Bay Area Reporter

More than 100 organizations sent an open letter to medical groups and the news media stating that LGBT people are at greater risk from the novel coronavirus due to other social and medical issues that affect the LGBT community.

Scout is the deputy director of the National LGBT Cancer Network.

Scout is the deputy director of the National LGBT Cancer Network.

Scout, who goes by one name, is a bisexual and trans man who is the deputy director of the National LGBT Cancer Network. That organization took the initiative on drafting the letter, which was released March 11, and gathering co-signers.

Local organizations that signed the letter include Equality California, Horizons Foundation, National Center for Lesbian Rights, the San Francisco LGBT Community Center, and the Transgender Law Center.

The letter highlights three issues that may put LGBTs at greater risk during the COVID-19 epidemic: higher tobacco use than among the general population, higher rates of cancer and HIV-infection, and instances of discrimination on account of sexual orientation and gender identity (COVID-19 is the respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus.)

“We’re really concerned because we know that whenever there’s a health issue, the pre-loaded issues in our community create an issue for us,” Scout, a Ph.D., said in a phone interview with the Bay Area Reporter March 16. “We have more social isolation, more smoking. But we know how to offset that. As coronavirus expands so fast, we wanted to let the public health community know we can take steps to avoid another health disparity.”

Read the full article on the Bay Area Reporter Website.

The true story behind the AIDS documentary 5B

From People.com

This was a time when people weren’t even touching patients with HIV,” says Priyanka Chopra, a prominent supporter of the film on behalf of the AIDS charity RED, which will receive 30 percent of all box office proceeds. “They would lay in their soiled bedsheets for days where nobody would come and even enter their room to feed them. At that time, these nurses chose to not think about whether they would live or die and actually the nobility of the profession is what you see in this movie.”

The film, which received a four-minute standing ovation at the Cannes Film Festival last month, features the nurses of ward 5B at San Francisco General Hospital who didn’t allow societal ignorance, prejudice and fear curtail their drive to administer compassionate health care to patients who had otherwise been cast aside. These were patients who most health care professionals wouldn’t touch without wearing gloves, even a hazmat suit.

Read the full article.

 

Fighting HIV: Gaps in treatment, testing drive new infections

From Modernhealth.com

An estimated 80% of the nearly 40,000 new HIV infections that occurred in the U.S. in 2016 were transmitted from those who either did not know their diagnosis or were not receiving regular care to maintain their virus at nearly non-transmissible levels, according to health officials.

In a new report, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Monday highlighted the gaps in access to treatment and testing resources that exists within the HIV care continuum. Those gaps have led to a halt in recent years to the progress made over the past two decades in reducing HIV infections.

An estimated 15% of people with HIV don’t know they have the virus, and that population accounted for 38% of all new infection, according to the study. Those who know their HIV status but are not receiving care make up 20% of people living with the virus but account for 43% of new infections.

CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield said the epidemic could end over the next few years by expanding access to testing and consistent treatment.

Read the full article.

Dr. Anthony Fauci discusses the case of the London Patient

From NBC News

Dr. Anthony Fauci on MSNBC

Dr. Anthony Fauci, one of the nation’s top HIV/AIDS doctors, cautioned that the highly publicized case of the so-called London Patient — the second person in the world confirmed to be cured of HIV infection — does not mean a widely available cure is on the horizon anytime soon.

“To think that bone marrow transplantation is going to be a scalable, feasible, safe way to treat infections is really, unfortunately, misleading, because it is not,” Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Disease, said Tuesday on MSNBC.

The ‘London Patient’ was cured of HIV in the process of being treated for a much deadlier disease: Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. This cancer of the lymphatic system can be treated with a risky bone marrow transplant from a donor whose marrow matches. “This was really his last chance of survival,” Dr. Ravindra Gupta, the patient’s doctor, told Reuters.

Watch the video here.

Kofi Annan’s AIDS legacy

From thebody.com

When Mr Annan began his term as the new United Nations Secretary-General in 1997, the outlook for the AIDS epidemic was bleak — some 23.9 million people were living with HIV, there were 3.5 million new HIV infections and access to life-saving treatment was only available to a privileged few.

Kofi Annan, 1938-2018 (Courtesy of UNAIDS)

He cajoled world leaders, humbly, diplomatically, and when the message did not sink in he spoke out publicly and forcefully. “Friends, we know what it takes to turn the tide against this epidemic. It requires every president and prime minister, every parliamentarian and politician, to decide and declare that ‘AIDS stops with me. AIDS stops with me,'” he said.

Under his leadership, in 2000 the United Nations Security Council adopted resolution 1308, identifying AIDS as a threat to global security. In 2001, the United Nations General Assembly Special Session on HIV/AIDS was held — the first-ever meeting of world leaders on a health issue at the United Nations.

In 2000, at a time when less than US$ 1 billion was being invested in the AIDS response, he called for a war chest of at least US$ 7-10 billion for AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. That call, and his concerted lobbying of world leaders, led to the creation of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, which went on to save millions of lives. Mr Annan remained a patron of the Global Fund, helping to ensure that it is fully funded.

Read the full article.

New HIV research findings from AIDS 2018 with NIH’s Dr. Carl Dieffenbach

From AIDS.gov

The first full day of sessions at the 22nd International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2018) in Amsterdam was filled with new scientific findings shared by researchers from around the world. In a Facebook Live interview with HIV.gov, Carl Dieffenbach, Ph.D., discussed highlights of three studies presented today at the conference, including:

  • an update on a potential association between the HIV treatment medication dolutegravir and birth defects;
  • additional research on the effectiveness of HIV treatment as prevention among gay male serodifferent couples; and
  • a study on whether there may be drug-drug interactions between PrEP and feminizing hormone therapy for transgender women.

Dr. Dieffenbach is the Director of the Division of AIDS at NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID).

Watch the video here.