Saturday February 24, 2018

Partially Effective HIV Vaccine can Help to prevent millions of infections Each Year: Researchers

According to the model by the scientists of Oregon State University the world might expect to see about 49 million new cases of HIV in the next 20 years

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Pharmacist Mary Chindanyika labels a fridge containing a trail vaccine against HIV on the outskirts of Cape Town, South Africa, Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2016. A new trial for a vaccine against HIV was launched in South Africa Wednesday, amid hopes that even a modest protection rate could help stem the spread of the disease. The trial, known as HVTN 702, will enroll 5,400 sexually active men and women between ages 18 and 35 at 15 sites across South Africa. (AP Photo/Schalk van Zuydam), VOA
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Washington, March 22, 2017: When it comes to the deployment and use of an HIV vaccine, researchers say even a partially effective vaccine, although not perfect, still could prevent millions of infections each year.

There are no AIDS vaccines in use, but many are in the development pipeline or clinical trials. The problem is the vaccines are turning out to be less effective than hoped.

To get a handle on what the future might hold, scientists at Oregon State University developed a mathematical model of HIV progression, transmission and intervention, tailored to 127 countries around the world.

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According to the model, using current interventions, the world might expect to see about 49 million new cases of HIV in the next 20 years.

But the study concluded that 25 million of those infections might be prevented if ambitious targets for diagnosis, treatment and viral suppression set by the United Nations are met.

And that’s where an HIV vaccine comes in.

Jan Medlock, the study’s lead author, said adding a vaccine to the mix — even one that is only 50 percent effective — by 2020 could prevent another 6.3 million new infections, potentially reversing the HIV pandemic.

“Partial efficacy is still better than zero efficacy, and it really becomes (a matter) of thinking about the cost and trade-off,” she said. “Are you taking away money from treatment or some other health program to buy these vaccines? If not, then they’re probably worth doing, even at very low efficacy.”

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Medlock’s model — reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences– input clinical data from a vaccine that’s now in large-scale trials in South Africa.

Until it was modified for the phase-three trial in the hopes of boosting its effectiveness, the vaccine candidate showed about a 60 percent efficacy in preventing infection for the first year. The effectiveness dropped to 31 percent 3½ years later.

Even without an improvement in current levels of HIV detection and treatment globally, a vaccine that’s only 50 percent effective has the potential to avert 17 million new cases during the next two decades, Medlock said.

Medlock added an even less effective vaccine could make a sizeable dent to slow the pandemic.

“Twenty percent efficacy at the global population scale is still going to prevent several million infections,” she said.

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Medlock said many countries will inevitably fall short of the U.N.’s ambitious goals to contain the HIV pandemic.

That’s why researchers believe the firepower of imperfect HIV vaccines should be brought to bear in the fight against the AIDS virus. (VOA)

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Can Flourishing Islamic State (ISIS) be Stopped in Afghanistan?

The truth about IS and Afghanistan is definitely no picnic

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Taliban fighters react to a speech by their senior leader in the Shindand district of Herat province, Afghanistan, May 27, 2016.
Taliban fighters react to a speech by their senior leader in the Shindand district of Herat province, Afghanistan, May 27, 2016. The rise of IS in Afghanistan has become such a priority that U.S. and Afghan forces sometimes support the Taliban while battling IS, VOA
  • 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.

Confusing scenarios

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.

Families displaced

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.

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Recruiting unemployed youths

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.

Darzab district

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.

Hit-and-hide strategy

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)