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Posts tagged ‘HIV’

Obama Administration Drops Proposal to Limit Medicare Drugs.

The Obama administration has abandoned a proposed change in Medicare after the plan was criticized by Republicans and Democrats alike.

The plan would have given health insurance companies more freedom to limit the number of drugs covered by Medicare. Those against the proposal said it would restrict seniors’ access to drugs they need.

Under current Medicare law, the majority of drugs across six classes are covered. The proposed plan would have limited that list to three classes — drugs that treat cancer, HIV and seizures.

“We will engage in further stakeholder input before advancing some or all of the changes in these areas in future years,” Medicare chief Marilyn Tavenner wrote to lawmakers Monday.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky responded by saying the Obama administration should not go forward with its proposed cut in Medicare Advantage, a program that helps seniors pay for select medical services — including prescription drugs, also known as Part D.

“We remain concerned about the impact of Obamacare’s looming cuts to Medicare Advantage, something that was not addressed in today’s announcement,” McConnell said in a statement. “Seniors need to know whether the president will stand by his word, and that they can keep the plans they have and like.”

As the administration tries to regulate the industry more under the Affordable Care Act, seniors’ access to drugs has become a hot-button issue. Several proposals have popped up, ranging from limiting certain drugs depending on where the patient lives to allowing all pharmacies to dispense medication, regardless of the patient’s plan or healthcare network.

“We plan to finalize proposals related to consumer protections, anti-fraud provisions that have bipartisan support and transparency after taking into consideration the comments received during the public comment period,” Tavenner wrote.

The Partnership for Part D Access, a coalition based in Washington that advocates for the right of seniors to continue to receive prescription drug coverage, was pleased with Monday’s decision to ax the proposal.

“We are thrilled that [the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services] has listened to the loud chorus of support for maintaining beneficiary access to the life-saving drugs provided under Medicare Part D,” said coalition member Chuck Ingoglia, senior vice president of the National Council for Behavioral Health.

“Although we need to remain vigilant on this issue, we commend today’s action by CMS, which will allow millions of seniors to continue to confidently rely upon Medicare to provide them the drugs they need.”

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© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.
By Jason Devaney

Second HIV Baby in Study Free of Virus.

Two children with HIV who were treated immediately after birth have no signs of the virus 9 and 23 months later, scientists said in a report that suggests a potential approach to curing HIV-infected babies.

The findings from the two children are spurring doctors in Canada, South Africa and the U.S. to try to replicate the results, and spawned a study in 54 babies, the researchers said yesterday.

The research suggests that deploying drugs early in life may help keep the virus from gaining a foothold. The importance of such a result is clear: More than 260,000 children were infected globally with HIV in 2012, either at birth or through breastfeeding.

While the early findings are promising, a final step is needed before determining that a cure is at hand, said Deborah Persaud, an associate professor of infectious diseases at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore.

“The only way we can prove that we’ve accomplished remission in these kids is taking them off treatment, and that’s not without risks,” Persaud, who was involved in the research on both babies, said in an interview yesterday at a medical meeting on infectious disease held in Boston.

While the latest HIV drugs can keep the virus in check, they don’t eliminate it from hidden reservoirs deep within the body. The drugs are taken for a lifetime and patients often have to cycle among different medicines to offset the disease’s ability to become resistant.

Los Angeles Baby

Persaud presented results yesterday from a child born last year in Los Angeles County. The baby began treatment with anti- HIV drugs four hours after being born and still has no trace of the virus in its blood, Persaud said. The baby remains on treatment, and there’s no immediate plan to stop the medicine to see whether the virus rebounds, she said.

The previous child, born in Mississippi, was cleared of the virus with a similar approach a year ago, and remains HIV-free 23 months after ceasing treatment, according to Persaud, who presented her report yesterday at the annual Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections.

Inspired by the Mississippi baby, doctors in Canada are now seeking to repeat the result in five newborns, and three babies in South Africa are also receiving medicines in an effort to cure them. Within the next few months, researchers also plan to start a trial in 54 children to test whether the approach can be repeated on a larger scale, Persaud said.

That larger study will start infected infants on treatment within 48 hours of birth, then take them off drugs two years later to see whether the virus rebounds.

Drug Combination

The babies will receive a three-drug combination of zidovudine and lamivudine, two now-generic medicines developed by GlaxoSmithKline Plc, and nevirapine, a treatment from Boehringer Ingelheim GmbH that has also lost patent protection.

The cases involving the two infants build on increasing evidence about approaches to curing a disease doctors once thought an insurmountable challenge.

To date, the only adult to have been cured of the virus is Timothy Ray Brown, the so-called Berlin patient. Brown has been clear of the virus since having a bone marrow transplant for leukemia in 2007 from a donor with a rare mutation to a gene called CCR5 that keeps HIV at bay without the aid of antiretroviral drugs.

While the case proves that HIV can be cured, bone marrow transplants are too expensive and dangerous to make them practical on a mass scale.

Sangamo Biosciences Inc. is trying to mimic the CCR5 mutation with a gene-altering technology. In a study published yesterday in the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers led by Carl June at the University of Pennsylvania infused 12 patients with Richmond, California-based Sangamo’s SB-728-T, an experimental treatment that changes CCR5.

While the trial was designed to assess the product’s safety, not its efficacy, it found that the treatment was associated with a drop in the amount of virus in some patients who were taken off their regular anti-AIDS drugs.


© Copyright 2014 Bloomberg News. All rights reserved.

Missionary Doctor Sees ‘Miracle’ in HIV Victim, Prays for More.

Hannah Gay
Hannah Gay, the pediatrician who functionally cured a baby of HIV, is shown in 1988 during her time as a Baptist representative in the Horn of Africa. (Joanna Pineo, courtesy Baptist Press)

People worldwide took note of Hannah Gay when an HIV-positive child in her care went into remission—the first functional cure of HIV in a child.

But the “shiest pediatrician in America” told Baptist Press (BP) she was just standing by as God performed a modern-day miracle.

It’s something she’s gotten to tell often in the more than a year and a half since the baby first went into remission, and in places as prestigious as the Oxford Union in England, where she presented a case study Nov. 5.

“I think [God’s] teaching me submission with all of the speaking business,” Gay, a pediatrician with University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson, Miss., told BP. “I don’t particularly like that, but it is an opportunity for me to be able to say … when I treated this baby I was not even thinking of curing the baby. That was the furthest thing from my mind. I was simply trying to prevent infection, and I failed at what I was trying to do.”

But her “failure” became a “miracle” in God’s hands, she says: “It was God that cured the baby, and I just happened to be standing close by at the time.”

Gay’s high view of God has been nurtured by years of trust in Him, including six years spent with the International Mission Board in West Africa.

“[Faith] influences every area of her practice,” Paul Gay, Hannah’s husband, told BP. “Hannah ministers through everything she touches. Her ministry is supported and guided by prayer. The affection, the love that she has for the families and the children, the commitment she has, all [stem] from her faith. She has a dedication that flows from her relationship with God, and I think that has attracted a team to work with her who share her commitment.”

While in Africa, the Gays came face to face with those dealing with AIDS and its effects.

“There [were] just huge numbers coming out of Uganda and some frightening numbers coming out of Kenya about HIV,” Paul Gay says. “There was great work going on in Uganda to try to get some kind of handle on the massive problem.”

At that time, a third of the adult population in Uganda was infected with HIV, Paul Gay told BP.

“Although we could not document it, the rumor was that [in Ethiopia] people who contracted HIV disappeared,” he says. “None of the nongovernmental organizations, none of the international organizations that were there in the country, did testing because we were afraid that a diagnosis would be a death sentence, not from the disease but from whoever was responsible for these disappearances.”

It was a silent problem, he says.

“It was only after the fall of the Communist government to the coalition of Eritrean and Tegrean forces in 1991 that people in authority began to speak,” he told BP.

Today in Africa

In Africa, the problem persists.

“Today in families where there is education concerning HIV/AIDS and the use of ARVs, there is less of an impact from AIDS as there was,” says Sharon Pumpelly, who served as a missionary in Uganda for 17 years. “But there are many families who do not fit in this category and AIDS has a devastating effect.”

The effects come in the form of loss of income, need for care and uncertainty for the family, she says.

“There are still elder-child-led families or grandma-led families,” Pumpelly says. “In our [True Love Waits] program, we ask youth to share their dreams for the future and base where we go from that.”

True Love Waits presenters noticed that Ugandan children raised by grandparents struggled to answer that question, she says.

“The older generation was supposed to relax, be cared for by their families and share stories and wisdom, not raise another generation,” Pumpelly says. “So this youth did not think about the future.”

AIDS affects people psychologically and socially, she continues.

“Through the Kenya government, Kenya Interfaith AIDS Consortium, I met a man who God saved after he tried to kill himself when getting a positive HIV diagnosis,” Pumpelly says. “His wife and children were HIV negative, but it was difficult for them financially.”

Though the government discouraged discrimination, that didn’t mean it stopped, she says. And the social embarrassment of AIDS is a problem too.

Pumpelly says she and her colleagues challenge missionaries to get tested for HIV, just so they know what it is like and mostly so they can encourage others to be tested.

“If testing for HIV did not carry a stigma, the amount of HIV in the world would be reduced,” she says. “No one is tested without counseling to help them deal with their results, which helps folks plan better for their future.”

Make a Difference

Christians can make a difference in the lives of those who test positive, Pumpelly says.

“AIDS is no longer on the world’s front burner, yet in poor countries or areas of countries, it is still forefront in the devastation it causes,” she says. “People need to look for ways to impact AIDS beyond just helping orphans—many want to only help the innocent victims.”

There are many ways to help. For instance, many missionaries would love to have teams trained to teach the Africa True Love Wins program.

“As Christians, we need to be encouraging life that glorifies God. Discipleship must include sexual purity and building right relationships in the marriage and home,” Pumpelly says. “People are suffering, and our hearts should be breaking.”

Help children in Africa affected by AIDS through these One Life projects:

  • One Orphan—Every child deserves a caring family. Sixty-five percent of the children in Zimbabwe have lost one or both parents to HIV/AIDS.
  • One Notebook—Provide composition notebooks for 150,000 orphan school children in 200 schools in Zimbabwe.
  • One Community—Transform a community by loving orphans, caring for the dying and bringing hope to those who live in poverty and despair. Many children become the head of their household because their parents have died of AIDS.
  • One School—Help transform the lives of students and their school, families and community. Hunger, poverty, absentee parents, gangs, HIV/AIDS and low academic achievement are daily challenges for these students.


HIV ‘Cure’ Hopes Dashed for Two US Cancer Patients.

The latest hopes of curing AIDS were dashed Friday when US researchers said HIV returned in two men who briefly eradicated the virus after bone marrow transplants for cancer.

Experts described the discovery as a “disappointment,” but said it offers important new clues in the hunt for the human immunodeficiency virus’s elusive hiding places in the body.

Only one person is believed to have been cured of HIV. American Timothy Brown, who suffered from leukemia, received a bone marrow transplant from a rare donor who was resistant to HIV, and has shown no sign of the virus for six years.

“The return of detectable levels of HIV in our patients is disappointing, but scientifically significant,” said Timothy Heinrich, a physician-researcher in the Division of Infectious Diseases at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.

“Through this research we have discovered the HIV reservoir is deeper and more persistent than previously known,” he said in a statement sent to AFP.

Heinrich first shared the news with fellow researchers at an international AIDS conference in Miami, Florida on Thursday.

Both HIV-positive men received bone marrow transplants as treatment for a kind of blood cancer known as Hodgkin’s lymphoma, one in 2008 and the other in 2010.

About eight months after their operations, HIV was no longer detectable.

The patients stayed on antiretroviral therapy even after their HIV was undetectable, and eventually decided to cease taking the drugs earlier this year.

In July, doctors announced early, encouraging results: one patient appeared to still be HIV-free after being off the drugs for seven weeks and the other for 15 weeks.

But signs of HIV soon returned. They were found in the first patient 12 weeks after stopping therapy, and in the second patient after 32 weeks.

“Both patients have resumed therapy and are currently doing well,” Heinrich said, adding that the patients do not wish to be identified in the media.

He said it was important to share the results with fellow researchers, because they signal “that there may be an important long-lived HIV reservoir outside the blood compartment.”

“We have demonstrated HIV can be reduced to undetectable levels by very sensitive research assays, and the virus persists,” he said.

Prior to the viral rebound, one of the patients had only about 1,000 cells in his body left with traces of HIV, and the other had just 100, according to the Foundation for AIDS Research, amfAR, which funded the study.

“These two cases are telling us some information that we weren’t otherwise going to be able to learn,” said Rowena Johnston, director of research at amfAR.

“As much as it is disappointing for the patients themselves, it is absolutely helping us to learn more about what it is going to take to cure HIV.”

Unlike Brown, these patients’ bone marrow transplants did not come from donors that carried a genetic resistance to HIV by lacking a CCR5 receptor, so they were not afforded protection against the virus by that mutation.

The two men received transplants from donors with the CCR5 receptor, which acts as a gateway allowing HIV to penetrate the cells.

Researchers had hoped that by continuing to treat the men with antiretroviral drugs during the transplant process and afterward, the medicine might have prevented the donor cells from becoming infected while a new immune system was established.

Instead, it appears the virus may have been lurking undetected in their bodies, infecting the men as if for the first time once repressive drug therapy was stopped.

Still, Myron Cohen, an expert on HIV/AIDS at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, said it was too early to draw conclusions.

“I think we need more information,” he told AFP in an email.

“The reason(s) for suppressed growth of HIV in these patients is still being studied, so recurrence — if it occurred — needs to be seen as part of a continuum,” he said.


© AFP 2013

What Does World AIDS Day Mean To A Journalist Who Has Worked In The Field Of HIV For 7 Years?.


By Okechukwu Jake Effoduh

Okechukwu Jake Effoduh has been a radio presenter for 7 years, anchoring a radio programme on HIV and other issues. He shares his experience to mark the celebration of 1st December – World AIDS day.

In 2006, after rounds of auditions, I was privileged to be selected as the anchor of the radio programme called FLAVA, a youth lifestyle radio gig on sexual reproductive health under the BBC Media Action (then known as BBC World Service Trust). For the 7 years of doing this programme, it was aired every week in every state in Nigeria with about 105 radio stations subscribed to it and 24 million listeners tuning in every week.

At the start of the same, my first radio interview was with this young lady who needed a lawyer to help her challenge the government for not making adequate health needs available for people living with HIV. As a law student at that time and a new radio presenter on FLAVA, I was very gingered to assist her, so I went all the way to join her in advocacy including making placards for demonstrations and writing a letter to the National Assembly. She was the first person I was meeting who was living with HIV and was open about it so I had my initial fears, shock and a lot of questions. But even with that, I was very impressed with her confidence, her openness and her drive to advocate for the rights of people living with HIV.

My job required a lot of research and reading on sexual reproductive health and not just standing behind a microphone. Another fun part was the many trips I made round this beautiful country! As I travelled to a new state almost every month, interviewing health care workers, people living with HIV, their families and friends, etc. My understanding on HIV began to broaden and I begun to set into the realisation that a person’s HIV status makes no difference to what a person can look like, do, or become. I met people who have been living with HIV for 10 years, 12 years and even 18 years – living healthy and strong, some even without drugs or medication. In just 3 years I had met over 200 people living with HIV and by this time my fears vamoosed. I didn’t see HIV as the “deadly disease” anymore neither did I cringe when a person disclosed their status to me.  From one episode of FLAVA to another, the listenership of the programme grew and with the topics, many Nigerians had begun moving from a place of ignorance to a place of understanding about HIV.

I was really touched by the stories of discrimination and stigmatization faced even from family members or friends who they confided in to tell their HIV status to – all stemming from the ignorance that people have about HIV. I was tripped by the way some people were able to encourage themselves to do even much more than they would have done if their status was other wise: starting a fish farm, opening a restaurant, getting married and having kids, setting up an NGO, opening a record label, applying for a masters degree etc. As the presenter of FLAVA, people reached out to me personally, asking lots of questions that I had to answer or respond to because of my position as the radio presenter of a radio programme: “I just slept with a guy and we didn’t use a condom, what do I do?” ,“ I just went for a test and it says I am HIV positive, where do I go from here?” I got text messages like these often, even to my private line so I had to make close friends with health consultants and doctors who would always step in to assist with information and services. I learnt about Pre and Post Exposure prophylaxis – to prevent a person from contracting HIV even when they have been recently exposed to the virus, I learnt about the correct and consistent use of use of condoms (male and female condoms) and even microbicides, I leant really technical stuffs like prevention of mother to child transmission (PMTCT) and sperm washing to decrease and even prevent HIV transmission completely, from parents to their offspring.

Asides the technical stuff, I learnt that a person can live to the fullness of his/her life with whatever their HIV status is and I learnt that I cannot contract HIV by caring or showing love and affection to people living with HIV. I realized that anyone could be infected hence the need to always reiterate the mode of transmission and ways to prevent the same. Above all, I recognized the need for legal protection of people living with HIV hence I took interest in pushing for the HIV anti-stigma bill yet to be passed by the National Assembly.

In my 6th year as a radio presenter, my advocacy was deep in and had moved beyond the radio programme FLAVA. I went further by attending and organizing support group meetings for people living with HIV. The very first court case I took up when I was called to the Nigerian Bar as a barrister was a case on employment discrimination faced by 2 people living with HIV. It’s been 7 years and I am very grateful for what I have learnt and how I have been able to contribute my quota to the cause but more needs to be done. The theme for this year’s World AIDS day is “Shared Responsibility: Strengthening Results for an AIDS-Free Generation” this means that all hands much be on deck, every single person in whatever area of employment or sphere of life has a role to play in ensuring that AIDS becomes history. Even as the HIV prevalence rate in Nigeria is declining, we need to double up to achieve our desired goal. Lets beat that fear and go for the HIV test because knowledge is power, lets abstain from sex or make correct and consistent protection the gate pass of every sexual activity and most importantly let us show love, care and support to all those who are living with HIV.

Okechukwu Jake Effoduh is an award winning radio presenter and human rights lawyer advocating for the rights of minorities in Nigeria, he is also the anchor of the radio programme “Talk Your Own” a 30 minutes governance radio magazine under the BBC Media Action aired on over 115 Radio stations


Hard View : Know The Facts To Get Ahead Of Aids By Hannatu Musawa.

Hannatu Musawa

Hannatu Musawa

The World Aids day, first held on 1 December 1988, is a day set aside each year for people globally to unite in the fight against HIV/AIDS scourge. It is a day to show support for people living with the disease and also, to significantly commemorate those who have died from the ailment. The World Health Organization (WHO) have estimated that more than 25 million people between 1981 and 2007 have died from the virus, thus, making it one of the most deadliest epidemic the world has seen, and about 34 million people worldwide are currently living with HIV/AIDS.

The virus is particularly widespread in sub-Saharan African countries, having high prevalence rates, with South Africa reported to have the largest population living with the disease globally. HIV/AIDS has had a great impact on society; as an illness, as a source of discrimination and as having significant economic impact, as it has over the years, attracted large-scale funding and international medical and political attention.

Human Immunodeficiency Virus/Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (HIV/AIDS) is a disease of the human immune system caused by infection with HIV. For many years, scientists and researchers have theorized about the origins of HIV since it came into light in the 1980s. The first recognized case of AIDS occurred in the US in the early 1980s whereby a number of men in New York and California suddenly began to develop rare opportunistic infections cancers that seemed stubbornly resistant to any treatment. At this time, AIDS did not yet have a name, but it quickly became obvious that all the men were suffering from a common set of symptoms.

HIV primarily attacks the immune system, and weakens the ability to fight infections and disease, while AIDS is the final stage of HIV infection when the body can no longer fight life-threatening infections. HIV is transmitted mostly via unprotected intercourse, contaminated blood transfusions, hypodermic needles, and from mother to child during pregnancy, delivery or breast-feeding. Essentially, with early diagnosis and effective treatment, most people with HIV will not go on to develop AIDS. Prevention of HIV infection has been primarily through abstinence and needle-exchange programs. It is a key strategy to control the spread of the disease. Overtly, there has been no cure or vaccine; however, antiretroviral treatment can slow the course of the disease and may lead to a near-normal life expectancy.

Regrettably, people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) are often discriminated against because of (often unfounded) fears of infection and because infection is negatively associated with promiscuity and drug addiction. Additionally, fear-based HIV campaigns have been known to intensify the stigma against PLWHA. They are particularly vulnerable to discriminations, as HIV remains a highly stigmatized condition. One in three people diagnosed with the virus would have experienced HIV-discrimination at certain points in their lives.

According to W.H.O, Africa, particularly sub-Saharan Africa countries, such as South Africa, Nigeria, Swaziland, Uganda, Zimbabwe, etc., is the most affected region of the HIV/AIDS pandemic worldwide, thus, having the highest number of PLWHA. One in every twenty adults is living with the virus and 69% of all people living with HIV are living in the region. It is a well-known fact that people with HIV-related disease occupy more than half of most hospital beds in the region.

In Nigeria, the HIV prevalence rate amongst people between the ages of 15-49 is 0.9%, and an estimated 3.7% of the total population is living with HIV/AIDS making her as having the second largest number of PLWHA; whereby, according to the National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA), the majority of people living with the disease are women, and Benue State tops the list of high prevalence rate in the country, followed by Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Anambra, the FCT, Plateau and Nassarawa respectively.

There are many risk factors that contribute to the spread of the virus in Nigeria, such as; high-risk practices among itinerant workers, high prevalence of Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs), clandestine high-risk practices, irregular blood screening and international trafficking of women.

Hitherto, as afore-mentioned, ARVs are the only drugs available in the management of HIV/AIDS. It attempts to control HIV infection by decreasing the patients total burden of HIV, maintains function of the immune system, and prevents opportunistic infections that often leads to full blown AIDS and death.

However, optimistically waiting a defining ‘Eureka’ moment, there is hope in the horizon for a cure for PLWHA. Ongoing researches are being carried out in the search for a cure of the pandemic in different climes worldwide. Consequently, after decades of the epidemic, there is now a renewed and expectant verve, as the cure for HIV/AIDS is closer than before. In March this year, a baby was functionally cured of HIV after physicians treated the infant with antiretroviral (ARVs) beginning about 30 hours after the child was born. In June, the New York Times reported at the 7th annual international AIDS Society Conference in Kuala Lumpur, that preliminary results from a trial in which two HIV-positive people with lymphoma received stem cell transplants and later stopped taking their ARVs have shown that as of now, neither of them has any sign of the virus.

On the 7th of November, it was reported that Scientist at the University College London had uncovered a ‘molecular cloaking technique’ used by the HIV virus that enables it to become invincible within human cells, preventing the body’s natural defense systems from reacting. This discovery can further assist scientist in finding a drug that can ‘uncloak’ the virus, thus, allowing the body’s natural defense/immune system to stop the virus from replicating.

On the 26th of November, it was reported by Imperial College London, that scientists and clinicians from five leading UK universities would begin a groundbreaking trial beginning from 2014, to test a possible cure for HIV infection. This impending breakthrough combines standard ARVs with two new weapons; a drug that reactivates dormant HIV, and a vaccine that induces the immune system to destroy the infected cells. The researchers expect to know the results of the trials by 2017. With these researches and breakthrough in the search for an explicit cure for the pandemic, HIV/AIDS would soon be a thing of the past in the not too distant future.

Also, there have also been burgeoning proven and practicable innovations in attempting to curb the spread of HIV, especially with regards to mother-to-child transmission. The transmission of the virus from a HIV-positive mother to her child during pregnancy, labor, delivery or breast-feeding is referred to as mother-to-child transmission. Nascent innovations has been able to reduce mother-to-child transmission up to below 1%, by the appropriate use of HIV treatment during pregnancy and labour; by having a caesarean delivery if you have a ‘high detectable viral load’; and (when safe alternatives are available) by not breastfeeding. For instance, since 2000, in countries like Denmark, there have been no mother-to-child HIV transmissions when guidelines are followed. With regards to breastfeeding, effective HIV treatments have been proven to significantly reduce the risk of infection if the mother breastfeeds her child, as infection has been roughly estimated as 1 in 3 if the mother breastfeeds her child.

World Aids Day also brings about knowledge, awareness and consciousness of HIV/AIDS prevention. In Nigeria, HIV prevention involves the following:

Firstly, encouraging and promoting abstinence is an effective way of curbing the spread of the virus.

Secondly, HIV/AIDS pandemic can be prevented through the successful dissemination and delivery of much needed education. Successful delivery of alternative preventative measures, such as life-skills based HIV education and HIV/AIDS education initiatives, would definitely go a long way in curbing the epidemic, especially among youths.

Thirdly, prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV is very crucial, as a small proportion of pregnant women with HIV access antiretroviral therapy to protect their children. Improvements in the uptake of HIV testing, counseling and scaling up access to most effective ‘antiretroviral regiments’ amongst pregnant women are essential targets if the country wants to halt the rising number of children being infected and living with HIV.

Fourthly, media campaigns and public awareness of HIV/AIDS are practical methods of reaching out to many people in different parts of the country, as there is still a reasonable level of denial of the existence of the scourge among the populace. Electronic, print and social media can be utilized in achieving this aim.

Fifthly, sharing of needles and injecting equipment as already observed, contributes to the spread of the virus, and this is prevalent amongst drugs users. Reversing this trend should be a priority if HIV transmission through injecting drugs is to be minimized.

Sixthly, knowing ones HIV status can go a long way in curbing this pandemic especially in timely HIV treatment and care, and somewhat reduces the risk of onward transmission. In Nigeria, most people do not know their HIV status and are skeptical in carrying out tests until they get very sick due to the spread of the virus.

Notably, HIV/AIDS is no respecter of persons, age, race, class, wealth and gender. Interestingly though, other diseases such as Cancer and Diabetes kills faster than HIV/AIDS, while in Nigeria, road accidents kills more adults and Malaria kills more children than the virus.

Please this World AIDS day; make it your priority to know all the facts about HIV and AIDS. It’s important to know the facts so that you can get ahead of AIDS before AIDS get ahead of you!

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Foreskin 419 – The Heaviest Assault On African Men’s Sexual Life Since Colonial Times Remains Uncovered.

By Felix Riedel

In the ages of Muslim, Christian and indigenous slavery, many African men were castrated to serve as eunuchs. In colonial racist regimes African men were forbidden to mate white women. Not few were abused for medical experiments in the twentieth century – even in the USA, the Tuskegee syphilis experiment denied treatment to 399 poor black men until 1972[1]. Racism has always paired with sexual aggression. Today, African men take part in a mass-experiment by the WHO and UNAIDS[2] and African doctors, who all promise to eradicate HIV through circumcision – the force is less brutal but far more effective than ever. Global health agencies and local authoritarian structures pressurize and bribe men into sacrificing a part of their genitals.

Zimbabwe’s circumcision rates had been as low as 10 % until 2009, when a government campaign vowed for the circumcision of at least 1.2 million men.[3] From 1997 to 2007 the HIV-infection rates dropped from 29% to 16% of the population,[4] but the winning team of awareness campaigns was changed in favour of circumcision. This campaign no longer alters the minds of men and women but male genitals. Authoritarian systems don’t want their populace to think, but to obey with their bodies. Similar campaigns are running in Uganda and Swaziland. Discrimination of uncircumcised men has been reported in the course of those campaigns. Uncircumcised Ugandan men were threatened by mobs who blamed them for infecting women. At the same time circumcision rates dropped heavily in Western countries, where individuals have free access to information about circumcision.

The moderate sceptic might ask: To eradicate HIV, wouldn’t it be a small price to sacrifice a tiny part of male skin?

First of all, it is not a tiny part of skin. The external part of the foreskin protects the glans from sunburn and injuries while the interior mucosa keeps the glans moist and sensitive. Both parts together make up to 60 % of the penile skin including the most sensitive areas of the penis at the tip of the foreskin. You would not sacrifice a finger to prevent HIV, but the foreskin underwent decades of heavy discrimination as small, smelly, wizened, ugly and useless – a discrimination strategy well known from the discrimination of female genital organs.

But does circumcision indeed prevent HIV? First of all, circumcision inflicts a wound that needs at least 4 weeks to heal. In the meantime the entire penis remains swollen and is very open to infections of all kind. The scar is vulnerable to unsensitive techniques of masturbation and rough sexual intercourse – it can open up any time and especially in the first year which results in bleedings and itching. In the months after circumcision, the glans skin totally alters into a rather dry, hard skin with sharp transition areas around the external urethral orifice. The peeling of callused skin often creates micro-fissures on the glans. Any of these side-effects increases the risk of infection with HIV. Also consider the fact, that the foreskin provides moisture and enables the penis to perform elastic movements, and that the inflexible state of a circumcised penis creates more friction and fissures on all involved sexual organs.

Therefore, common sense dismisses the claim, that circumcision would decrease the risk of contracting sexual diseases. Anyone can easily compare infection rates in different countries and find not a single hint at any beneficial effect of circumcision. Just the opposite: the HIV-rates in the USA (0.6%) with a majority of circumcised men are six times higher than in Norway (0.1%) with only a small minority of circumcised men.[5] If other factors dominate the infection rates in such a massive way, it is irresponsible to promote the amputation of the foreskin as a cure for HIV.

The most optimistic studies boast 60% of prevention rates for circumcised men. Here we come to methods. Critical medical doctors are very wary against strategies used by pharmaceutical companies to produce bloated figures to sell their products. If you have two cohorts of 1000, then the difference between 4 infected persons in the first cohort and 6 infected persons in the other, the overall insignificant difference can be inflated easily through percentage calculation. Undisputedly, a condom offers up to 99% of protection – subject to the condition of proper use. In the aftermath of circumcision-campaigns, more men and women will pressurize and seduce their partners into unprotected intercourse.

Until more of the affected African men will have the means to question the onslaught carried out on their private sphere by campaigns masked as modern medicine, some will already have died from fatal complications, others will have suffered from severe complications like necrosis of the penis and all will have lost their foreskin. In a far future, cultural anthropology will produce nice volumes discussing the bygone bio-politics of African authoritarian systems. They should rather use their privileges now and today to advise African men against such campaigns and to speak out publicly against one of the most destructive features of Global Health policies in recent times.




[3] See: National AIDS Council Zimbabwe.



Are Pentecostal Pastors Telling HIV Patients to Give Up Medicine?.

HIV medicine
Medicines for HIV-positive patents are seen at a clinic. (Reuters/Soe Zeya Tun)

Young people with HIV are allegedly giving up their medicine after Pentecostal pastors told them to instead rely on their faith in God, the BBC reports.

According to BBC News, medical staff said “a minority of pastors in England were endangering young church members by putting them under pressure to stop medication.”

The Children’s HIV Association surveyed 19 doctors and health professionals who work with babies and children in England after its members reported hearing about HIV patients stopping their anti-retroviral drugs because of their pastors’ advice.

Among 10 doctors who said they have witnessed this problem in the last five years, 29 of their patients said they were pressured to stop taking medicine; at least 11 had done so.

There were a variety of cases. Health care workers dealt with parents who felt pressure to stop giving their young children their HIV medicine—and some did so; some patients were breastfeeding mothers with HIV who declined the medicine that would stop the virus from being passed to their children; others were young people who made the decision for themselves.

The respondents also reported that some patients had been told by their pastors they would be healed by prayer or by drinking blessed water.

Some pastors, however, are refuting the claim.

Stevo Atanasio, a Pentecostal pastor from the East London Christian Church, says he has seen blind people recover their sight, deaf people hear again and those who were diagnosed with terminal illness cured.

“We don’t say to people, ‘Don’t take your medication, don’t go to the doctor.’ I mean we never say that,” the BBC reports him saying.

“But we believe that the first healing comes from inside, it’s a spiritual healing. Some people are hurt, they have broken hearts. If you are healed from inside, then you are healed from outside as well.”

Pentecostalism is booming in the United Kingdom—the number of Pentecostal churches in London has doubled since 2005. But the amount of incidents of HIV patients being told to stop taking medicine is thought to be a small group of people from a minority of churches.

A former Pentecostal pastor says he has seen it happening.

“I’ve heard languages like that: ‘Put your trust in God, don’t put your trust in medicine,” says the Rev. Israel Olofinjana, who is now a Baptist minister.

“Within the context of African churches, if you’re coming from a culture where the pastor is like your fathers or mothers, like your community keepers, the word of your pastor becomes very important,” he explains.

“It becomes very significant. … There is a minority who say, ‘Because God can heal absolutely … what’s the need for medicine?’”

Dr. Steve Welch, chairman of the Children’s HIV Association, says it can be difficult to engage with some faith leaders.

“We need to stay engaged with the families and understand that … their faith is an important part of the support they get in their condition, and engage positively with them and not make it a clash of cultures.

“I think it’s about engaging with the pastors and faith leaders who are giving this advice because that’s how we will actually address the root of the problem.”



Brazilian Scientists to Test AIDS Vaccine on Monkeys.

Brazilian scientists have developed an HIV vaccine and plan to begin testing on monkeys later this year, a sponsor institution said Monday.

Known as the HIVBr18, the vaccine against the virus that causes AIDS was developed and patented by a team from the Medicine Faculty of the University of Sao Paulo, the Sao Paulo state Research Foundation (FAPESP) said.

The scientists said that, at its current stage of development, the vaccine would not totally eliminate the virus from the organism.

But the vaccine would be able to maintain it at a viral load low enough that the infected person will neither develop an immunodeficiency nor transmit the virus, they explained.

The foundation said the monkey trials are expected to last two years.

“Our goal is to test various immunization methods to select the one capable of inducing a stronger immunological response and thus be able to test it on humans,” FAPESP quoted Cunha Neto as saying.

Provided adequate funding is available, the first clinical trials could then be launched, it added.

Work on the vaccine began in 2001 and the research team — Edecio Cunha Neto, Jorge Kalil and Simone Fonseca — plan to test it on a colony of rhesus monkeys provided by Sao Paulo state’s Butantan biomedical research institute.

The monkeys were chosen for the test because their immune system is similar to that of humans and they are susceptible to SIV (Simian immunology Virus), which is believed to have led to HIV when it crossed the species barrier.

© AFP 2013

Keeping the Heart of Israel Beating.

Heart to Heart Blood Drive 2009
Heart to Heart Blood Drive 2009

I don’t recall her name, but I will never forget the encounter I had with a woman visiting Israel in July 2006. The anniversary of our meeting always reminds me of the experience, what Israelis went through that summer, and ongoing and wider implications today. I think of her as “Sarah,” matriarch and protector of the Jewish people.

Earlier that year, I launched a program to proactively bring Americans visiting Israel to donate blood. Little did I know then the nerve (or more accurately, the vein) it would touch and what a success “Gift From the Heart” would become. I coined the phrase “The best gift to bring home is the one you leave behind” and other seasonal and holiday-themed marketing ideas that would bring thousands of Americans and others to donate blood. One of Israel’s daily newspapers picked up on the trend and called it “Israel’s newest tourist attraction.”

On July 9, 2006, I arranged a blood drive for a tourist group of hundreds of people in a classy five-star hotel. The hotel pulled out all stops and provided abundant refreshments, all for free because they, too, wanted to share in this special event. The mood was truly festive, and it overwhelmed me how dozens of people gave of their time, and of themselves physically, to go out of their way to donate blood when they could have been out shopping, swimming or at any of the limitless religious and historical sites.

About halfway through the afternoon, a woman came up to me with the Hebrew questionnaire in her hand. Usually that meant the person had questions about how to fill out the form. Instantly, she became animated, even agitated, waving her hand with the form in it, and the other to balance the waving of the one with the form, to accentuate the passion of her words.

“I only want to donate blood to go to the brave soldiers of the Israeli army,” she emphasized, as if to suggest it wasn’t worth her time if it wasn’t going to a soldier, complementing the public awareness that Israeli soldiers selflessly give of themselves to defend the land.

I remember my reply, all the more impressive now given how new the “Gift From the Heart” blood donation program was: “Israel’s national blood service provides 100 percent of the blood to the IDF in the event that there is a soldier injured, but also provides 97 percent of the blood in the country to save lives of all Israelis. Thank God, things are quiet now but if there were a need, you can be sure your blood will go to a soldier.”

As I spoke, I thought to myself how admirable her intention was, but that all Israelis need the benefit of a safe and plentiful blood supply. My words were sincere and designed to get her to donate all the same. I didn’t want her to walk away. Comforted by my assurance, she filled out the form and joined the line of people waiting their turn.

The blood drive ended, a great success, and I packed up and went home, happy and proud. In only a few months, the idea of Americans donating blood in Israel had taken off, and this one set an early record for the largest number of Americans donating in Israel at one time.

Barely had the good feeling of the success of July 9 passed when three days later, my words from that day became prophetic. On the morning of July 12, an Israeli patrol along the Lebanese border was attacked by a brazen incursion from Hezbollah terrorists, leaving soldiers dead on the scene, and two soldiers kidnapped and held for ransom, only to be returned years later, dead, and clear that they were killed in action from injuries suffered on the scene.

This became the trigger for what’s called the Second Lebanon War, leaving 44 Israeli civilians and 119 Israeli soldiers dead. During the monthlong war, nearly 4,000 rockets landed on Israel, more than 900 in urban areas. An additional 4,262 civilians were treated in hospitals. Six thousand homes were hit, 300,000 residents displaced, and more than a million people were forced to live in shelters. Almost one-third of Israel’s population—more than 2 million people—were directly exposed to the missile threat. (Click here to see a moving video, “Roy’s Story.”)

By the time the July 9 blood drive was done, the blood arrived at the national blood center and was processed over two days, July 10 and 11. By the time it was ready to be sent to a hospital somewhere in Israel, it was July 12, the first day of the war. We don’t know for sure who received “Sarah’s” blood, but it’s probable that it went to a soldier, just as she had pleaded.

A year ago, it seemed as if war with Iran was imminent. Today, while that’s less so, what I have learned is that while it may be quiet today, we literally don’t know what tomorrow may bring. For that reason, maintaining and preserving Israel’s precious blood supply is a must.

It’s why “Gift From the Heart” took off and became so popular and why people throughout the U.S. who have a heart for Israel have joined Heart to Heart, the innovative “virtual blood donation” program I was blessed to establish. This way, both individuals and ministries everywhere can participate and partner, to be sure Israel’s blood supply is always safe and abundant, even from the comfort of their own home, thousands of miles away.

I pray that Israel will never have the need to provide blood to soldiers again as we did in 2006. But, not knowing what may come, I am comforted by the “outpouring” of love and generosity to support Heart to Heart, and that if there is ever a need, the millions of people praying for us and helping to save lives through Heart to Heart is, well, heartwarming.

At a blood drive in Jerusalem some time after the 2006 war ended, another woman summed up the emotion and experience so well: “My heart is in Israel, and now my blood is too.”


Jonathan Feldstein is the director of Heart to Heart, a unique virtual blood donation program to bless Israel and save lives in Israel. Born and educated in the U.S., Feldstein emigrated to Israel in 2004. He is married and the father of six. Throughout his life and career, he has been blessed by the calling to fellowship with Christian supporters of Israel and shares experiences of living as an Orthodox Jew in Israel.

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