Thursday December 13, 2018

Indian Origin Researcher part of team that developed a Test sensitive enough to detect “hidden” HIV

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Indian Origin Researcher part of team that developed a Test sensitive enough to detect “hidden” HIV. VOA
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New York, May 30, 2017: American researchers, including one of Indian origin, have developed a test that is sensitive enough to detect “hidden” HIV and yet is faster, less labour-intensive and less expensive than the current “gold standard” test.

HIV virus has a knack for lying dormant in immune cells at levels undetectable to all but the most expensive and time-consuming tests.

“Globally there are substantial efforts to cure people of HIV by finding ways to eradicate this latent reservoir of virus that stubbornly persists in patients, despite our best therapies,” said senior author Phalguni Gupta, Professor at University of Pittsburgh in the US.

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“But those efforts aren’t going to progress if we don’t have tests that are sensitive and practical enough to tell doctors if someone is truly cured,” Gupta said.

HIV spreads by infecting CD4+ T cells, which are a type of white blood cell that plays a major role in protecting the body from infection.

Once HIV therapy is working, it becomes critical to determine if the HIV DNA being detected by a test could actually create more virus and cause the person to relapse if therapy is stopped.

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Therefore, the test must be able to show that the virus it detects can replicate — typically by growing the virus from the sample.

To date, the best test available to do this is called a “quantitative viral outgrowth assay,” or Q-VOA.

The new test that Gupta’s team developed is faster, less labour intensive, and less expensive, according to the study published in the journal Nature Medicine.

Called TZA, it works by detecting a gene that is turned on only when replicating HIV is present, thereby flagging the virus for technicians to quantify.

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It also requires a much smaller volume of blood, the study said.

“Using this test, we demonstrated that asymptomatic patients on antiretroviral therapy carry a much larger HIV reservoir than previous estimates — as much as 70 times what the Q-VOA test was detecting,” Gupta said. (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.

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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)