Monday July 16, 2018

AIDS is the second leading cause of death among adolescents globally

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New York: The number of adolescent deaths from AIDS has tripled over the last 15 years, most of the patients having acquired the disease when they were infants, according to new data released on Friday by Unicef.

AIDS is the number one cause of death among adolescents in Africa and the second leading cause of death among adolescents globally. Among HIV-affected populations, adolescents are the only group for which the mortality figures are not decreasing, according to Unicef, as reported by a news agency.

In sub-Saharan Africa, the region with the highest prevalence, girls are vastly more affected, accounting for 7 in 10 new infections among 15-19-year-olds. However, among adolescents in that age group in the region, just over 1 in 10 are tested for HIV, it said.

“It is critical that young people who are HIV-positive have access to treatment, care and support,” said Craig McClure, head of Unicef’s global HIV/AIDS programmes. “At the same time, those who are HIV-negative must have access to the knowledge and means to help them stay that way.”

According to the data in Unicef’s Statistical Update on Children, Adolescents and AIDS, less than half of children under 2 months old are tested for HIV. Only 1 in 3 of the 2.6 million children under the age of 15 living with HIV is on treatment.

The new data states that most adolescents who die of AIDS-related illnesses acquired HIV when they were infants, 10 to 15 years ago when fewer pregnant women and mothers living with HIV received anti-retroviral medicines to prevent HIV transmission from mother to child.

However, since 2000, nearly 1.3 million new infections among children have been averted, largely due to advances in the prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV.

By 2014, 3 in 5 pregnant women living with HIV received anti-retroviral treatment to prevent transmission of the virus to their babies. This has translated into a 60 percent reduction in AIDS-related deaths among children under 4 years of age since 2000, according to the Unicef.

The data reveal that currently among adolescents (15-19): 26 new infections occur every hour; and about half of those living with HIV are in just six countries: South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya, India, Mozambique and Tanzania.

(IANS)

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HIV Drug Is Not Linked to Depression: Study

A new study of a popular HIV drug could ease concerns about its link to depression

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A doctor draws blood from a man to check for HIV/AIDS at a mobile testing unit in Ndeeba, a suburb in Uganda's capital, Kampala.
A doctor draws blood from a man to check for HIV/AIDS at a mobile testing unit in Ndeeba, a suburb in Uganda's capital, Kampala. VOA

A new study of a popular HIV drug could ease concerns about its link to depression. Researchers in Uganda found that efavirenz, once feared to lead to depression and suicide, did not cause the expected negative side effects in their patients.

Efavirenz is an affordable, once-a-day pill used around the globe to treat and prevent HIV/AIDS. It’s “the treatment of choice” in most of the world, according to Africa Health Research Institute’s Mark Siedner, “especially [in] countries that depend on global aid to treat HIV.”

But some fear that efavirenz may come with a cost.

Some studies in the United States and Europe found the drug increased patients’ risk of depression or suicide, although other studies did not.

The mixed results prompted many doctors in the United States to prescribe more expensive but potentially safer drugs.

Siedner wanted to take another look at the risk of depression, this time in an African population. From 2005 until 2015, he and a team of Ugandan and U.S. doctors tracked 694 patients who took either efavirenz or another antiretroviral medication. They regularly asked the patients whether they experienced depression or suicidal thoughts.

No difference

Their analysis, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, showed there was no difference between the two treatments. Siedner told VOA, “In other words, efavirenz was not associated with a risk of depression. If anything, there seems to be a signal that potentially it was associated with a decreased risk. But it wasn’t a strong enough [signal] for us to say that.”

The authors also reported that of the 17 participants who died in the course of the study, not a single death was a suicide.

Siedner has two possible explanations for why their findings differed from those in Western countries. “One potential cause is that every single ethnic group in the world, of course, is different, and different in many different ways — different socially, different environmentally, and in this case they may be different genetically.” His team is looking at whether the genes that control metabolism of the drug have a role to play in this story.

HIV Aids is a deadly disease.
HIV virus is Not Linked To Depression. Flickr

A second explanation could be the effectiveness of the drug. Because efavirenz is so potent, it could be keeping people healthier than they expected, so patients are less likely to report negative emotions.

The study is important, said Anthony Fauci, who heads the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, because it pushes back against “the initial observation of suicidal ideation and suicide and depression” as caused by efavirenz. He told VOA, “I think now what you’re seeing is that with these conflicting reports, it’s likely someone will come in [with] the proposal to do a randomized study and take a look. So the story isn’t ended with this paper.”

As more research on the safety of efavirenz is conducted, new and cheaper drugs that might replace it are on the horizon. One of them, dolutegravir, might also pose a risk, however. A study in Botswana found dolutegravir was linked to neural tube defects in embryos, meaning it might not be safe for pregnant women. As always, further research is needed to confirm whether this is a common problem or specific to the population studied in Botswana.

Also read: UNAIDS : World Is At A “Defining Moment” In A Battle Against HIV/AIDS

“I think the whole field right now is in a bit of a holding pattern,” Siedner said when asked about dolutegravir and the future of HIV medication. (VOA)