Category Archives: Features

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.

PBS airs series The End of AIDS: Far from Over

PBS NewsHour is airing a series called The End of AIDS: Far from Over from correspondent William Brangham and producer Jason Kane. The five reports describe why, despite major advances in the treatment of HIV and AIDS, places such as Russia, Nigeria and Florida are still struggling to contain the virus.

While the series explores some of the impediments to successful treatment in these places, it also shows promising developments — like several Russians who are promoting treatment and battling discrimination in their communities.

TV Rain news anchor Pavel Lobkov, who went public with his HIV-positive status three years ago, became one of the only public figures in Russia to disclose their status. Lobkov said he wanted to show people that one can live a healthy life with HIV treatment.

Tatiana Vinogradova, deputy director of the St. Petersburg AIDS center, and her husband Andrei Skvortsov, who is living with the virus, appeared in a public ad campaign that says “People with HIV are just like you and me.”

And Alexander Chebin runs an informal network of activists in Russia collecting antiretroviral drugs and mailing them for free to HIV-positive people throughout Russia who can’t otherwise access them.

Here is a look at other efforts that are exploring new treatments or trying to lift the stigma around HIV and AIDS.

These gay men have spent 30 years learning how to be long-term HIV survivors

From the Huffington Post

Sean McKenna, 55, was diagnosed with HIV in 1992. He takes 22 pills a day and deals with diarrhea, joint pain and HPV. He’s been on disability, unable to work, for over 20 years. Luigi Ferrer, 59, has been HIV-positive since 1985, but he works full time and takes only one pill a day. McKenna has survived bouts of pneumocystis pneumonia and other HIV-related complications that have killed many of his peers. Ferrer has never had a life-threatening complication. Scott Kramer, 50, was diagnosed in 1988. He survived a bout of PCP in 1992 but was able to return to work full time.

“There’s no one way to be a long-term HIV survivor,” said Kramer, a therapist who specializes in people with HIV and runs support groups in New York City for gay men with the virus. “We’ve all been through trauma, but with a mix of support and luck, we’ve survived longer than we ever imagined.”

Sean McKenna shortly after learning he was HIV-positive in 1992.

Long-term HIV survivors ― generally defined as those diagnosed before lifesaving drugs were released in 1996 ― face their own set of physical and emotional challenges as they age. Some were lucky to have relatively mild bodily symptoms. Others became isolated by illness, stigma and the inability to work. But all dealt with a terrifying diagnosis at a time when doctors had little to offer.

In recent years, a few survivors have emerged to speak up for their peers, whose lives and stories they say are unappreciated or forgotten by today’s gay community.

Read the full article.

By 2030, top cancers among people with HIV expected to be prostate and lung

From POZ Magazine online

By 2030, the most common cancers among people with HIV are projected to be prostate and lung cancer.

Publishing their findings in the Annals of Internal Medicine, researchers analyzed data from the National Cancer Institute’s HIV/AIDS Cancer Match study, modeling cancer diagnosis rates during 2000 to 2012 to make projections about how rates will change from 2013 to 2030.

The U.S. HIV population is steadily aging, thanks to effective antiretroviral treatment. In 2006, an estimated 27 percent of the population was age 50 or older, a proportion that increased to 45 percent in 2014. Between 2010 and 2030, the proportion of the population age 65 and older is expected to increase from 8.5 percent to 21.4 percent, while the proportion that is age 45 to 64 is expected to increase from 39.4 percent to 47.7 percent.

Between 2000 and 2012, the 463,300 HIV-positive adults in the HIV/AIDS Cancer Match Study were diagnosed with 23,907 cancers. During this period, the annual diagnosis rates (known as incidence) declined for Kaposi sarcoma (KS), non–Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL), cervical cancer, anal cancer (among men who have sex with men), lung cancer, Hodgkin lymphoma and other cancers among all age types. Colon cancer incidence decreased among those age 65 and older. Meanwhile, prostate cancer incidence increased among men ages 35 to 64.

Overall, cancer incidence among the U.S. HIV population is expected to decline through the next decade.

Among three AIDS-defining cancers, the estimated numbers of diagnoses seen in the U.S. HIV population in 2010 and projected to occur in 2020 and 2030, respectively, according to the study authors’ analysis were: 8,150, 7,490 and 6,690 diagnoses of NHL; 1,490, 750 and 450 diagnoses of KS; and 120, 50 and 30 diagnoses of cervical cancer.

As for non-AIDS-defining cancers, the respective numbers of diagnoses seen in 2010 and projected to occur in 2020 and 2030 were: 5,420, 6,150 and 5,980 diagnoses of lung cancer; 830, 910 and 1,030 diagnoses of prostate cancer; 750, 1,340, 1,590 diagnoses of anal cancer; 360, 460 and 480 diagnoses of liver cancer; 300, 200 and 120 diagnoses of Hodgkin lymphoma; 250, 320 and 340 diagnoses of oral cavity/pharyngeal cancer; 220, 260 and 260 diagnoses of breast cancer; 220, 230 and 200 diagnoses of colon cancer; and 1,910, 1,880 and 1,510 diagnoses of other types of cancers.

The study authors concluded that their findings stress the importance of expanding access to HIV treatment and cancer prevention, screening and treatment.

To read a press release about the study, click here.

To read the study abstract, click here.

HIV damages the Brain, but treatment halts progression

From Poz Magazine

Not long after an individual contracts HIV, the virus penetrates the brain and begins to cause progressive damage to the volume of the organ as well as cortical thickness. Antiretroviral (ARV) treatment apparently halts this progression and is able to dial back some of the damage.

Publishing their findings in Clinical Infectious Diseases, researchers studied 65 people who entered the study soon after they contracted HIV, in a period known as primary HIV infection. These participants, 30 of whom started ARV treatment during the study, received multiple MRIs of their brains over time.

The researchers compared the brain scans of the participants with scans of 16 people with long-term, or chronic, HIV infection as well as 19 HIV-negative individuals.

The study authors found that before participants began ARV treatment, a longer time spent with untreated HIV was associated with loss in volume in various parts of the brain, including the thalamus, caudate and cerebellum. More time living with untreated HIV was also linked with cortical thinning in the frontal and temporal lobes and the cingulate cortex.

After individuals started ARVs, the progression of such brain damage stopped, and there were some small increases in cortical thickness measures.

“We knew HIV could cause neurological damage, but we did not know it happened so early in the infection,” Serena Spudich, MD, MA, a professor of neurology at Yale and a co–senior author of the paper, said in a press release. “The findings emphasize the importance of identifying infected people early and treating them so we can halt its progression.”

To read a press release about the study, click here.

To read the study abstract, click here.

HIV-infected people are living for years, but age-related diseases set in early

From the Washington Post

David Hardy has been treating HIV-infected patients since the early 1980s, when the epidemic began. In those days, people newly diagnosed with AIDS lived for only about six months. Hardy, an infectious-disease specialist and internist, was ecstatic when powerful new drug combinations came into widespread use in 1996, enabling HIV-infected people to measure their lives in decades rather than months. But in recent years, his euphoria has turned bittersweet.

“Most people assume that the medicines have worked and that everything has gone back to normal, and that’s not really true,” says Hardy, who directs research for Whitman-Walker Health in Washington and who still sees patients weekly. “While we have suppressed HIV very well, we’ve now discovered that the medicines only treat part of the problem.”

Many HIV-infected people, now in their 50s and 60s, who have lived for years with HIV under control, are developing aging-related conditions — heart, liver and kidney disease, certain cancers and frailty, for example — at a rate significantly higher than uninfected people of the same age. “These are things that people develop all the time as they get old, but they are occurring at an earlier age in HIV-positive people,” Hardy says.

Read the full article.