Wednesday December 11, 2019

Stem Cell Transplant Shows Promise For AIDS Treatment: Study

The doctors stressed the need for proper guidelines around the new treatment, which, if proved successful in more cases, could change lives of millions of people

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School girls light candles in the shape of a ribbon during a HIV/AIDS awareness campaign ahead of World Aids Day, in Ahmedabad, India, Nov. 30, 2016. (VOA)

Although the news of a second person being cured of HIV through stem cell transplant is exciting and may pave the way for future treatments, experts say the treatment may not work in case of all patients infected with the AIDS causing virus.

“The Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) attacks and weakens the immune system, reducing its ability to fight diseases or infections,” Girish Badarkhe, Haematologist at HCG Cancer Centre, Bengaluru, told IANS.

“The stem cell transplant primarily involves reprogramming the immune system to be HIV-resistant. But there a small percentage of people who are naturally resistant to HIV infection due to rare genetic mutations known as CCR5-delta 32,” he stressed.

According to a study published in the journal Nature, a man in London, who prefers to remain anonymous, was treated with stem cell transplants from donors with CCR5-delta 32 mutation. It made him resistant to HIV, just like the first cured case of Timothy Ray Brown, better known as the “Berlin patient”, a decade ago.

The London man was diagnosed with HIV infection in 2003 and was put on anti-retroviral therapy in 2012. He was later diagnosed with advanced Hodgkin’s lymphoma, cancer of the immune system.

After undergoing chemotherapy, he underwent a stem cell transplant in 2016 and also continued with anti-retroviral drugs for 16 months.

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Scientists have been searching for a cure for HIV/AIDS for close to 40 years. The director of UNAIDS called news that a man in London has been functionally cured of HIV a “breakthrough.” VOA

He did not experience HIV rebound, during the 18 months he did not take anti-viral medication.

“While the development is exciting, it cannot be applied to a normal HIV patient who can be treated with the regular anti-retroviral drugs, as the London man was also suffering from cancer of the immune system,” Badarkhe said.

“Stem cell transplants are an established treatment, particularly for blood related cancer with 70 per cent success rate. “In this case, he got cured both from cancer as well as the AIDS,” Badarkhe said.

Globally, 36.9 million people were living with HIV in 2017. With an HIV prevalence of 0.26 per cent in the adult population, India has an estimated 2.1 million people with HIV, shows UNAIDS data.

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“Besides, the stem cell therapy is also linked to increased death risks and is also not cost-friendly,” Badarkhe said.

However, experts are enthusiastic about the promise that the cure of the London patient showed.

“It is a positive news. But there is a need for more scientific facts and evidence to be established,” V. Sam Prasad, Country Programme Director at AIDS Healthcare Foundation India, told IANS.

The doctors stressed the need for proper guidelines around the new treatment, which, if proved successful in more cases, could change lives of millions of people. (IANS)

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More than Half of European Women Diagnosed at a Late Stage of HIV Infection: WHO

More than half of European women with HIV diagnosed late

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A study by WHO revealed that most of the European women with HIV are diagnosed at a late stage. Wikimedia Commons

More than half of European women, particularly those in their 40s, diagnosed at a late stage of HIV infection when their immune system is already starting to fail, says a new study by WHO, adding that they are three to four times more likely to be diagnosed late than younger women.

According to 2018 data released by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and World Health Organisation (WHO) Regional Office for Europe, women accounted for one-third of the 1,41, 000 new HIV diagnoses in the region, indicating that this population needs more attention in Europe’s prevention and testing efforts.

“Late diagnosis in women indicates that gender-sensitive counselling and testing, including information about sexual health, is not reaching this population. It’s time to end the silence about sexual health, especially when it comes to HIV, and ensure that women are well informed and enabled to protect themselves,” said Piroska Ostlin, WHO Regional Director for Europe ad interim.

“If we are to achieve universal health coverage, we need to improve prevention, treatment and care for women and reduce missed opportunities for testing those vulnerable to HIV in health facilities and in the community,” Ostlin added.

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The regional director of WHO said that the treatment and care for women with AIDS needs to be improved. Lifetime Stock

The HIV epidemic in the region is driven by a persistent problem with late diagnosis, and this affects 54 per cent of known cases among women, said the study published in the journal Eurosurveillance.

Such proportions of late diagnoses are partly a result of relatively low HIV testing coverage and uptake in the region and are an indication that sexual risks, including HIV and other sexually transmitted infections, are not being adequately addressed with older adults.

Two-thirds (60 per cent) of the HIV diagnoses among women in 2018 were in the age group 30-49 years old. Heterosexual sex was the most commonly reported HIV transmission mode (92 per cent) among women in the Region.

Countries in central Europe reported almost six times fewer diagnoses among women compared to men in 2018, and three times fewer diagnoses among women than men were reported in the European Union and European Economic Area (EU/EEA).

The only exception is the eastern part of the region, where there is a more even distribution between women and men, and where 86 per cent of the almost 50,000 cases among women were reported in 2018.

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“Too many people living with HIV are still not aware of their status. The sooner women and men know of their HIV status, the sooner they can be put on antiretroviral treatment and halt transmission of HIV sexually,” said Vytenis Andriukaitis, the European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety.

“We must all ramp up our efforts to halt and reverse the HIV epidemic in order to achieve our Sustainable Development Goals by 2030,” Andriukaitis added. (IANS)