Wednesday November 20, 2019

Experts Warn About The Return of AIDS Epidemic

In the U.S., HIV is increasingly an infection in communities with high rates of poverty and in black and Hispanic populations

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AIDS, Indonesia, HIV
Students with their faces painted with messages pose during an HIV/AIDS awareness campaign to mark the International AIDS Candlelight Memorial, in Chandigarh, India, May 20, 2018. (VOA)

Thirty-six million people currently live with AIDS, a disease that claimed the lives of nearly 1 million people last year. Experts predict that by 2030, 100 million people will have been infected with the HIV virus.

Despite the alarming numbers, there have been great strides in treatment. HIV is no longer a death sentence, and researchers say people receiving treatment for HIV are able to live normal lives and do not pose a risk to others when they are being treated proactively.

But success carries a price: complacency. Funding for AIDS research and treatment has declined, and in some places, so has government interest.

“When we talk to ministers of finance, they always say to me, ‘I thought HIV was over because I don’t see anybody dying,’” said Dr. Deborah Birx, a U.S. Global AIDS coordinator who oversees the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).

J. Stephen Morrison of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said, “We’re not reaching goals.” He added, “There’s going to be a struggle to hold ground. … There’s a widening deficit of political will and financial capacity that we face some really daunting challenges in prevention.”

AIDS
A man walks past a banner tied on a bus before the start of a charity walk on HIV/AIDS at the Ebute Mata district in Nigeria’s commercial capital Lagos, April 21, 2012. (VOA)

Dr. Chris Beyrer, with Johns Hopkins Medicine, predicted that things will get worse if governments and civilians continue their complacency.

“We are not done with AIDS,” he said. “It is much too early to declare victory, and the risks of a resurgent epidemic are real.”

Birx, Morrison and Beyrer discussed the challenges in ending AIDS at a program in Washington to evaluate the messages from this year’s International AIDS Conference in Amsterdam.

New infections are down from 3.4 million a year, but they’re stuck at 1.8 million per year. And there are 17 million people living with HIV who cannot be reached. They are in high risk groups: young women, particularly young African women; men who have sex with men; IV drug users; those in prisons and other closed settings; sex workers and their clients; and transgender people.

“Those key populations and young women account for over 50 percent of new infections, and they are really hard to reach,” Morrison said.

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Though it’s relatively easy to prevent HIV transmission during childbirth, Beyrer said about 30 percent of all infants born with HIV worldwide are born in Nigeria.

In the U.S., HIV is increasingly an infection in communities with high rates of poverty and in black and Hispanic populations.

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The National Institutes of Health announced Aug. 20 that getting these groups into care is critical to ending the HIV epidemic in the U.S. NIH also announced an international program to reduce the stigma around the virus so more people with the disease can seek treatment.

Experts agree it is possible to end the HIV pandemic, even without a vaccine. But to do this, governments and communities need to be involved, funding needs to be continued, and everyone with HIV needs to be treated. (VOA)

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Epidemic of Severe Lung Illness Related to E-Cigarettes Continues to Grow

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said as of Thursday there were 805 cases of confirmed

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Epidemic, Lung Illness, E-Cigarettes
FILE - a man exhales while smoking an e-cigarette in Portland, Maine, Aug. 28, 2019. VOA

The epidemic of severe lung illness related to e-cigarettes continues to grow, federal officials say, as they try to pinpoint the exact cause.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said as of Thursday there were 805 cases of confirmed or suspected vaping-related lung illnesses in 46 states and the Virgin Islands — up more than 200 since last week. Twelve deaths are reported.

Many of the victims say they used vaping products containing THC, the compound in marijuana that causes the high. But others say they only vaped nicotine.

The CDC is urging everyone to stop using e-cigarettes, but several states are not waiting for federal officials to take stronger action.

Epidemic, Lung Illness, E-Cigarettes
The epidemic of severe lung illness related to e-cigarettes continues to grow, federal officials say, as they try to pinpoint the exact cause. Pixabay

Massachusetts this week became the first state to temporarily ban all retail and online sales of e-cigarettes. The ban is set to last for four months.

Other states have stopped the sale of flavored vaping products, saying the fruit and candy flavors appeal to young people.

The largest e-cigarette maker, JUUL, announced this week it will stop advertising its products.

E-cigarettes heat up liquid inside a cartridge and create a nicotine-filled vapor.

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Federal officials have ordered JUUL to stop marketing e-cigarettes as a safer alternative to smoking tobacco cigarettes, saying such claims have never been proved.

They also strongly recommend e-cigarettes users not go back to regular cigarettes and to seek help if they have trouble quitting smoking. (VOA)