Wednesday November 13, 2019

To Counter AIDS Epidemic, Over Half of People With HIV Taking Drugs: UN

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FILE - A mother gets an antiretroviral (ARV) drugs at the Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital, South Africa's largest public hospital, in Soweto, May 16, 2012. VOA
  • 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.

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“When you think about the money that’s been spent on AIDS, it could have been better,” said Sophie Harman, a senior lecturer in global health politics at Queen Mary University in London.

She said more resources might have gone to strengthening health systems in poor countries.

“The real test will come in five to 10 years once the funding goes down,” Harman said, warning that countries might not be able to sustain the U.N.-funded AIDS programs on their own.

[bctt tweet=”AIDS deaths are also now close to half of what they were in 2005.” username=”NewsGramdotcom”]

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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Next Story

Scientists Discover New HIV Strain After Nearly 2 Decades

In order to utilise this technology, Abbott scientists had to develop and apply new techniques to help narrow in on the virus portion of the sample to fully sequence and complete the genome

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Since the beginning of the global AIDS pandemic, 75 million people have been infected with HIV and 37.9 million people day are living with the virus. Pixabay

A team of scientists at pharmaceutical major Abbott has identified a new subtype of the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), called HIV-1 Group M, subtype L.

The discovery marks the first time a new subtype of HIV-1 has been identified since 2000.

The findings, published in the Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes (JAIDS), show the role next-generation genome sequencing is playing in helping researchers stay one step ahead of mutating viruses and avoiding new pandemics.

Since the beginning of the global AIDS pandemic, 75 million people have been infected with HIV and 37.9 million people day are living with the virus.

“In an increasingly connected world, we can no longer think of viruses being contained to one location,” said Carole McArthur, Pofessor at University of Missouri, Kansas City, and one of the study authors.

Group M viruses are responsible for the global pandemic, which can be traced back to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in Sub-Saharan Africa.

To determine whether an unusual virus is in fact a new HIV subtype, three cases must be discovered independently.

The first two samples of this subtype were discovered in the DRC in the 1980s and the 1990s. The third, collected in 2001, was difficult to be sequenced at that time because of the amount of virus in the sample and the existing technology.

Today, next-generation sequencing technology allows researchers to build an entire genome at higher speeds and lower costs.

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To determine whether an unusual virus is in fact a new HIV subtype, three cases must be discovered independently. Pixabay

In order to utilise this technology, Abbott scientists had to develop and apply new techniques to help narrow in on the virus portion of the sample to fully sequence and complete the genome.

“Identifying new viruses such as this one is like searching for a needle in a haystack,” said Mary Rodgers, a principal scientist and head of the Global Viral Surveillance Program, Diagnostics, Abbott, and one of the study authors.

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“By advancing our techniques and using next generation sequencing technology, we are pulling the needle out with a magnet. This scientific discovery can help us ensure that we are stopping new pandemics in their tracks.” (IANS)