Wednesday December 12, 2018

Computer Simulations can Predict HIV Spread

The researchers also plan to develop public health computational tools to help the agencies track the disease and allocate resources for targeted prevention campaigns

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Computer simulations can also predict the spread of HIV: Study. Flickr
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Researchers have found that computer simulations can accurately predict the transmission of Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) across populations, aiding in preventing the disease.

The study, published in the journal Nature Microbiology, found that the simulations were consistent with actual DNA data obtained from a global public HIV database.

“We looked for special genetic patterns that we had seen in the simulations, and we can confirm that these patterns also hold for real data covering the entire epidemic,” said lead author Thomas Leitner from the Los Alamos National Laboratory in the US.

HIV is particularly interesting to study in this manner as the virus mutates rapidly and constantly within each infected individual, the researcher said.

The changing “genetic signatures” of its code provide a path that can be followed in determining the origin and time frame of an infection, the study found.

HIV
For the study, the researchers used phylogenetic methods, examining evolutionary relationships in the virus’s genetic code to evaluate how HIV is transmitted. Pixabay

The rapid mutational capability of the virus is useful for the epidemiological sleuthing, but is also one of the features that makes it so difficult to tackle with a vaccine.

For the study, the researchers used phylogenetic methods, examining evolutionary relationships in the virus’s genetic code to evaluate how HIV is transmitted.

The research team found that certain phylogenetic “family tree” patterns correlated to the DNA data from 955 pairs of people, in which the transmitter and recipient of the virus were known.

Also Read: Every Three Minutes a Teenage Girl is Infected by HIV — UNICEF

“These HIV transmissions had known linkage based on epidemiological information such as partner studies, mother-to-child transmission, pairs identified by contact tracing, and criminal cases,” the researchers said.

The researchers also plan to develop public health computational tools to help the agencies track the disease and allocate resources for targeted prevention campaigns. (IANS)

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HIV Epidemic Spreading Rapidly In Pakistan: WHO

U.N. officials say the Pakistan government urgently needs to redouble efforts to "de-stigmatize HIV testing.

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HIV, AIDS Pakistan
The World Health Organization warns Pakistan is registering approximately 20,000 new HIV infections annually, the highest rate of increase among all countries in the region. VOA

Pakistan is registering approximately 20,000 new HIV infections annually, the highest rate of increase among all countries in the region, warns the World Health Organization (WHO).

The international body says mortality among Pakistanis living with the virus, which causes the deadly AIDS disease, is also rising, in spite of the availability of lifesaving antiretroviral therapy.

The latest government figures show that only 16 percent of the estimated 150,000 people living with HIV had been tested and only 9 percent have access to lifesaving treatment.

“The remaining 135,000 people are walking around in the communities as carriers of (HIV) infection who are ready to transmit infections to those who are not infected, even to their unborn babies,” Dr. Saima Paracha of the National AIDS Control Program, told VOA.

HIV. Pakistan
Participants hold placards in the shape of the red ribbon, the universal symbol of awareness and support for those living with HIV, as a hot air balloon is released during an awareness campaign ahead of World AIDS Day in Kolkata, India. VOA

Officials say the HIV epidemic in Pakistan remains largely concentrated among the key populations, including people who inject drugs, the transgender community, sex workers and their clients and men who have sex with men.

“The drivers of infection are now the sexual networks and they are ready to spill the infection into the general public,” Dr. Paracha cautioned.

Paracha says the Pakistani government offers free HIV testing and treatment, but she notes the marginalized key populations continue face widespread stigma and discrimination in the society.

The fear of maltreatment, and punitive actions by law enforcers impacts the willingness of these populations to pursue testing, which remains a major challenge facing national efforts to treat and prevent the spread of HIV, she lamented.

Official estimates show that Pakistan has seen a 45 percent increase in new HIV infections since 2010.

HIV AIDS, Pakistan
A patient is seen in a ward at the state-run Lavra clinic, Ukraine’s main HIV treatment center, in Kyiv. VOA

“The number of new HIV infections will continue to increase dramatically if implementation rates of intervention remain at current levels,” said Dr. Nima Saeed Abid, country head of WHO.

An official statement issued in connection with World AIDS Day quoted him as saying that Pakistan has the lowest rate of all regional countries in diagnosing people who are infected and linking them to care and treatment.

Naila Bashir, who heads the HIV treatment center at Islamabad’s Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS), told VOA the facility receives up to 40 new HIV patients every month, underscoring the alarming increase in the number of infections.

The center was established in 2005 and the number of patients has since increased from 22 to more than 3,000, including men, women and children of all ages, said Dr. Bashir.

HIV, Pakistan, AIDS
Nearly a million people still die every year from AIDS. VOA

HIV has never been a priority program in the national health system and the recent abolition of the federal health ministry and the devolution of its functions to the provinces, which lacked preparedness and capacity, have led to the increase in infections, say WHO experts in the country. However, they acknowledge the new government of Prime Minister Imran Khan is giving priority to tackling health emergencies in Pakistan, including HIV.

Federal Minister for National Health Services Regulation and Coordination, Aamir Mehmood Kiyani, says the government is working on a strategy to remove barriers and challenges in protecting people from HIV infections.

Also Read: Eastern Europe Sees A Rise In Number of HIV Cases

Kiyani told a seminar in Islamabad that since taking office three months ago, the government has moved to established 12 new HIV treatment centers while overall 33 such facilities have been working throughout Pakistan.

U.N. officials say the Pakistan government urgently needs to redouble efforts to “de-stigmatize HIV testing, advocate for confidential, non-discriminatory, community based care models and raise awareness about disease transmission, prevention treatment” to achieve reductions in new infections in affected populations. (VOA)