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.
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)
New York, September 20, 2017: People living with HIV who adhere to antiretroviral therapy, but smoke tobacco cigarettes are more likely to die from lung cancer than from AIDS, a study led by an Indian-origin researcher has revealed.
The findings showed that overall people with HIV who take antiviral medicines, but who also smoke are six to 13 times more likely to die from lung cancer than from HIV/AIDS, depending on the intensity of smoking and their sex.
“Smoking and HIV are a particularly bad combination when it comes to lung cancer,” said lead author Krishna Reddy, MD, Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH).
“Lung cancer is now one of the leading killers of people with HIV, but most of these deaths can be prevented,” added Rochelle Walensky, Professor at Harvard Medical School.
Among men who continued to be heavy smokers, an estimated 29 percent would die of lung cancer by age 80, as would 23 per cent of moderate smokers and 19 per cent of light smokers.
For women who continued to be heavy smokers, an estimated 29 percent would die of lung cancer by age 80, as would 21 per cent of moderate smokers and 17 per cent of light smokers.
“The data tell us that now is the time for action: smoking cessation programmes should be integrated into HIV care just like antiviral therapy,” Reddy said in the paper published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine.
However, among those who managed to quit smoking at age 40, only about six per cent die of lung cancer.
“Quitting smoking is one of the most important things that people with HIV can do to improve their health and live longer,” suggested Travis Baggett, Assistant Professor at the Harvard Medical School.
AIDS deaths are also now close to half of what they were in 2005, according to the U.N. AIDS agency
The Trump administration has proposed a 31 percent cut in contributions to the U.N. starting in October
About 19.5 million people with HIV were taking AIDS drugs in 2016, compared to 17.1 million the previous year
South Africa, July 20, 2017: For the first time in the global AIDS epidemic that has spanned four decades and killed 35 million people, more than half of all those infected with HIV are on drugs to treat the virus, the United Nations said in a report released Thursday.
AIDS deaths are also now close to half of what they were in 2005, according to the U.N. AIDS agency, although those figures are based on estimates and not actual counts from countries. Further to counter the AIDS epidemic, people are also looking for HIV home tests so that medications related to HIV can be started in the early stages.
Experts applauded the progress, but questioned if the billions spent in the past two decades should have brought more impressive results. The U.N. report was released in Paris where an AIDS meeting begins this weekend.
The Trump administration has proposed a 31 percent cut in contributions to the U.N. starting in October.
According to the report, about 19.5 million people with HIV were taking AIDS drugs in 2016, compared to 17.1 million the previous year.
UNAIDS also said there were about 36.7 million people with HIV in 2016, up slightly from 36.1 million the year before.
In the report’s introduction, Michel Sidibe, UNAIDS’ executive director, said more and more countries are starting treatment as early as possible, in line with scientific findings that the approach keeps people healthy and helps prevent new infections. Studies show that people whose virus is under control are far less likely to pass it on to an uninfected sex partner.
“Our quest to end AIDS has only just begun,” he wrote.
The report notes that about three-quarters of pregnant women with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, now have access to medicines to prevent them from passing it to their babies. It also said five hard-hit African countries now provide lifelong AIDS drugs to 95 percent of pregnant and breast-feeding women with the virus.
“For more than 35 years, the world has grappled with an AIDS epidemic that has claimed an estimated 35 million lives,” the report said. “Today, the United Nations General Assembly has a shared vision to consign AIDS to the history books.” The death toll from AIDS has dropped dramatically in recent years as the wide availability of affordable, life-saving drugs has made the illness a manageable disease.
But Harman said that “Ending AIDS” — the report’s title — was unrealistic.
“I can see why they do it, because it’s bold and no one would ever disagree with the idea of ending AIDS, but I think we should be pragmatic,” she said. “I don’t think we will ever eliminate AIDS so it’s possible this will give people the wrong idea.” (VOA)
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Depending on the location, the proliferation of IS has drawn varied resistance from the Afghan military, U.S. air support and ground troops, local militias, Taliban forces and other militant groups
Afghan army planes on Wednesday night accidentally air dropped vital supplies of food and water to IS militants in the Darzab district of northern Jouzjan province instead of to their own besieged troops
In the Tora Bora area, where IS has made a strong stand in recent days, local villagers and militias joined with Taliban to rout IS
June 25, 2017: The Islamic State group is rapidly expanding in parts of Afghanistan, advancing militarily into areas where it once had a weak presence and strengthening its forces in core regions, according to Afghan and U.S. officials.
Depending on the location, the proliferation of IS has drawn varied resistance from the Afghan military, U.S. air support and ground troops, local militias, Taliban forces and other militant groups.
Attacking IS has become such a priority in the country, that disparate forces sometimes join together in the ad-hoc fight, with Afghan and U.S. forces finding themselves inadvertently supporting the enemy Taliban in battling IS.
Confusion leads to mistakes
All too often, officials say, mistakes are made due to confusion on the ground.
Afghan army planes on Wednesday night accidentally air dropped vital supplies of food and water to IS militants in the Darzab district of northern Jouzjan province instead of to their own besieged troops, provincial police chief, Rahmatullah Turkistani told VOA. The supplies were meant to help Afghan forces that are countering twin attacks by IS and Taliban militants but were used instead by IS.
“It’s not getting better in Afghanistan in terms of IS,” U.S. Chief Pentagon Spokeswoman Dana White told VOA this week. “We have a problem, and we have to defeat them and we have to be focused on that problem.”
Reinforcements for the IS cause reportedly are streaming into isolated areas of the country from far and wide. There are reports of fighters from varied nationalities joining the ranks, including militants from Pakistan, India, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Russia and Central Asian neighbors.
Still, the Islamic State-Khorasan (ISK) as IS is known in Afghanistan remains a fragmented group composed of differing regional forces with different agendas in different parts of the country.
“IS-K is still conducting low-level recruiting and distribution of propaganda in various provinces across Afghanistan, but it does not have the ability or authority to conduct multiple operations across the country,” a recent Pentagon report said. But where it operates, IS is inflicting chaos and casualties and causing confusing scenarios for disparate opponents.
In the Tora Bora area, where IS has made a strong stand in recent days, local villagers and militias joined with Taliban to rout IS. IS regained ground after a few days, leading to U.S. military air attacks on IS positions in conjunction with Afghan intelligence instructions and army operations.
IS fighters reportedly have fled from mountain caves of Tora Bora, where al-Qaida’s leader Osama bin Laden hid from U.S. attack in 2001.
IS fighters were also reportedly advancing in neighboring Khogyani district, displacing hundreds of families, according to district officials. It is one of several areas in Nangarhar province, near the Pakistani border, where IS has been active for over two years.
Fierce clashes in the Chaparhar district of Nangarhar last month left 21 Taliban fighters and seven IS militants dead, according to a provincial spokesman. At least three civilians who were caught in the crossfire were killed and five others wounded.
“IS has overpowered Taliban in some parts of Nangarhar because the Taliban dispatched its elite commando force called Sara Qeta (Red Brigade) to other parts of the country, including some northern provinces to contain the growing influence of IS there,” Wahid Muzhda, a Taliban expert in Kabul, told VOA.
IS has also expanded in neighboring Kunar province, where, according to provincial police chief, it has a presence in at least eight districts and runs a training base, where foreign members of IS, train new recruits.
Hundreds of miles from Nangarhar, IS is attempting to establish a persistent presence in several northern provinces where it has found a fertile ground for attracting militants and recruiting unemployed youths, mostly between the age of 13 and 20.
IS has been able to draw its members from the Pakistani Taliban fighters, former Afghan Taliban, and other militants who “believe that associating with or pledging allegiance” to IS will further their interests, according to the Pentagon report.
Hundreds of militants have joined IS ranks in northern Jouzjan and Sar-e-Pul province where local militant commanders lead IS-affiliate groups in several districts.
Qari Hekmat, an ethnic Uzbek and former Taliban militant who joined IS a year ago, claims to have up to 500 members, including around 50 Uzbek nationals who are affiliated with the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) — previously associated with al-Qaida and Taliban in Afghanistan.
IS and Taliban are reportedly fighting over the control of Darzab district in Jouzjan which they stormed this week from two different directions and besieged scores of government forces. The Taliban has reportedly captured the center of the district while IS militants control the city outskirts.
Afghanistan faces a continuing threat from as many as 20 insurgent and terrorist networks present or operating in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region, including IS, the Pentagon said.
“In areas where the government has limited influence and control, IS attempts to emerge and expand there,” Ateequllah Amarkhail, an analysts and former Army general in Kabul told VOA.
IS has also claimed responsibility for several recent attacks in urban areas, however, with a hit-and-hide strategy that is proving effective. And it is engaging too in more skirmishes with U.S. forces that initially were sent to the country to help Afghan forces halt the spread of Taliban.
Three American service members based in eastern Afghanistan were killed in April during operations targeting IS militants, according to the Pentagon.
“ISIS-K remains a threat to Afghan and regional security, a threat to U.S. and coalition forces, and it retains the ability to conduct high-profile attacks in urban centers,” the Pentagon said. (VOA)