Saturday January 25, 2020

Progress in Combating Global HIV/AIDS Epidemics Receding

The joint U.N. program on HIV/AIDS, known as UNAIDS, warns the pace of progress in reducing new HIV infections

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Photo shows the headquarters of the World Health Organization in Geneva, Switzerland, May 22, 2019. VOA

A report issued on the eve of an international AIDS conference in Mexico finds progress in combating the global HIV/AIDS epidemic is receding.  The joint U.N. program on HIV/AIDS, known as UNAIDS, warns the pace of progress in reducing new HIV infections is slowing because nations lack the political will needed to end this scourge.

UNAIDS latest global update finds 1.7 million people were newly infected with HIV in 2018 and 770,000 died of AIDS-related illnesses.  The report finds more than 23 million people are receiving anti-retroviral treatment, but another 15 million are still not receiving this life-saving treatment.

UNAIDS Acting Executive Director Gunilla Carlsson says the report for the first time shows key populations and their sexual partners account for more than half of all new HIV infections.  She notes up to 54 percent of new infections is being spread by sex workers, drug users, men having sex with men, transgenders and prisoners.

She tells VOA these key populations suffer from stigma and discrimination.  Consequently, she says they are not being reached at the scale needed to stop transmission of HIV.

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A report issued on the eve of an international AIDS conference in Mexico finds progress in combating the global HIV/AIDS epidemic is receding. Pixabay

“The risk of those people being left behind and not being treated in a proper manner with access not only to rights, but also to treatment and care–if we cannot talk about that, we will not solve this.  We see in special regions then where this is extra-noticeable,” Carlsson said.

Carlsson says new infections have risen by 29 percent since 2010 in Eastern Europe and Central Asia.  During the same period, HIV infections have risen by 10 percent in the Middle-East and North Africa.

She says the global HIV/AIDS map shows a mixed picture.  She says some progress has been made in Western Europe and North America, though the number of new infections and deaths there remains unacceptably high.

As in the past, the report finds the majority of people living with HIV and new infections is in Eastern and Southern Africa.  However, it notes interventions in heavily-affected South Africa have succeeded in reducing HIV infections by 40 percent.

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Carlsson warns efforts to bring an end to the HIV/AIDS epidemic will fail without adequate funding.  She says available resources to respond to AIDS has fallen by nearly $1 billion.  Furthermore, she notes the UNAIDS program is more than $7 billion short of the estimated $26.2 billion needed by 2020. (VOA)

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Here’s how HIV Patients Lose Immunity to Smallpox Despite of Vaccinations

HIV patients lose smallpox immunity despite vaccine says a new study by health experts

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The study found the immune systems of HIV-positive women who were on antiretroviral therapy had a limited response when their blood was exposed to the vaccina virus. Pixabay

HIV patients lose immunity to smallpox even though they were vaccinated against the disease as children and have had much of their immune system restored with anti-retroviral therapy, says a new study.

Antiretroviral therapy (ART) is the use of HIV medicines to treat HIV infection. It helps people with HIV live longer, healthier lives and reduces the risk of HIV transmission.

The study, published in the Journal of Infectious Diseases on HIV-associated immune amnesia could explain why people living with HIV still tend to have shorter lives on average than their HIV-negative counterparts despite being on antiretroviral therapy.

The study follows other research recently published in the journals Science and Science Immunology that found the immune systems of children who contracted measles similarly ‘forgot’ their immunity against other illnesses such as influenza.

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Researchers have found that HIV patients lose immunity to smallpox even though they were vaccinated against the disease. Pixabay

For the study, lead researcher Mark K. Slifka from Oregon Health and Science University in US, and his colleagues compared the T-cell and antibody responses of a total of 100 HIV-positive and HIV-negative women who were vaccinated against smallpox in their youth.

The research team chose smallpox because its last known US case was in 1949, meaning study participants haven’t recently been exposed to its virus, which would have triggered new T-cell and antibody responses.

They found the immune systems of HIV-positive women who were on antiretroviral therapy had a limited response when their blood was exposed to the vaccina virus, which is used in the smallpox vaccine.

Normally, those vaccinated against smallpox have CD4 T cells that remember the virus and respond in large numbers when they’re exposed again.

Previous research has shown smallpox virus-specific CD4 T cells are maintained for up to 75 years after vaccination.

This finding happened despite the fact that antiretroviral therapy works by boosting CD4 T cell counts in HIV-positive patients.

This indicates that while antiretroviral therapy may boost total T cell counts overall, it can’t recover virus-specific T cells generated from prior childhood vaccinations.

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The research team plans to evaluate whether the same phenomenon occurs in HIV-infected men, and if people living with HIV also lose immune memory to other diseases.

Researchers from SUNY Downstate, Georgetown University, Cornell University, University of Southern California and John Hopkins University, also contributed to this study. (IANS)