Showing posts with label International HIV/AIDS. Show all posts
Showing posts with label International HIV/AIDS. Show all posts

October 12, 2018

Catholic Church in Kenya Refuses Condoms to fight HIV/AIDS




Image result for aids in africa condoms and the church
 Religious dogmas are killing people still in 2018

In this day and age in which we know so much about HIV/AIDS the catholic church and many of the Pentecostals still have the same message: Abstinence only! The priests still tell the old wife tales of HIV/AIDS to be demonds and pusnishment by god for having sex. The amazing part is that you no longer hear about this anymore. No press, no pushback to this church that will rather allowed people to get sick and die of a 100% preventible disease. 
One of the forms of incomes in Africa is selling sex. Even in areas where you have a fishing village, in order for the buyers to get the fish they have to give more than money to the fisherman which are all men in order to have them sell them fish. You have generations of kids in which they don't have parents because they both have died of AIDS. Are they also going to become victims of this preventable disease? The current administration in Washington is gotten off from fighting AIDS They are completely absent from it. Both through the UN and in direct effords of education and condoms also meds. There are thousands dieying every day and why not when thee are no meds. You don't get AIDS but you contract HIV which if left untreated will become AIDS and AIDS will kill you. But there is time to at least save many of the ones that become HIV but that has been abandoned. 
We had the Gates foundation, the Clinton foundation but for political dirty fighting even foundations have gotten a dirty name. The Clinton foundation was made to close it's doors. It didn't affect the Clinton's but the peoeple getting those meds are either dying or dead. The human race has change so little in the way we process information and what we do with it. So many think that things have to be the way they believe it to be or otherwise is not true. This is never going to stop but there was hope with all the advances we have made that less people would behave like idiots. When we add 7 and 6 it is equal to 13. Even if we don't like the number 13 we can't pick a number we like better because 13 will bring us bad luck. Still it might surprise some there are elevators without the number 13 because the builders followed the owners instructions in not naming a floor 13 but does that mean there is no 13 floor? The owners were afraid of the no.13 but only in a finacial way they wanted to please some tenants that would not want to live on a flor with bad luck. 
The following poasting is from crux now which is a publication seen on hospices and hospitals. 🦊Adam

YAOUNDÉ, Cameroon - Condom use can never be advocated by the Catholic Church, according to the bishops of Kenya at a health conference taking place in Mombasa.
During the Oct. 1 meeting, the bishops insisted the use of condoms was not part of the Church’s moral teachings, even as they expressed alarm at the rather high rate of new infections in the country.
“The Church has its doctrines of what it teaches and it is the greatest advocator fighting against AIDS but the use of condoms is not part of the agenda of the Church. The Church is at the front line to see how we can reduce the spread of the disease,” said Bishop Joseph Obanyi Sagwe of Kakamega.
“There are very many other proven ways to prevent the spread of AIDS. We will not choose to advocate for approaches that are not moral. When it comes to discordant partners, we also have a counseling approach to guide the couples to live morally,” Obanyi added. 
According to Kenya’s National Aids Control Council, more than a million people are on anti-retroviral therapy, with 1.4 million people living with HIV. Over 28,000 people died from AIDS-related complications in 2017.
The bishops insist that the only sure and morally upright approach to the spread of HIV/AIDS is abstinence.
It is a stance taken by Pope Benedict XVI during his first visit to Africa. He said then that HIV/AIDS “cannot be overcome by the distribution of condoms.”
That statement led to an outcry, and the pope later noted that the use of condoms could be a “first step” toward moral responsibility to prevent sexually transmitted infections.
In May 2013, the U.S.-based Catholics for a Free Choice began a campaign in Kenya to promote the use of condoms. It came up with ads announcing “Good Catholics Use Condoms” and urging married women to use condoms, claiming that it was “an authentically Catholic message.”
“We believe in God. We believe that sex is sacred. We believe in caring for each other. We believe in using condoms,” the advert continued.  
The campaign was condemned by the bishops, who said the group was carrying out anti-Catholic activities.
“Catholics for Choice are not Catholics in the sense of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church,” said Cardinal John Njue, then-chairman of the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops. “Remember if the moral fiber of any nation is destroyed, then you have destroyed the nation as well.”
Dr. Peter Cherutich, deputy director of Kenya’s National AIDS and STI Control Program, has defied the bishops on the matter, saying condom use is important to stop the spread of HIV.
“Catholics can in good conscience use condoms. Catholics in Kenya are no different. They can take the steps to protect themselves and their partners against HIV,” he said.
However, Obanyi insisted the Church cannot change its teachings, and abstinence is the best prevention for AIDS.
“The use of condoms is immoral and is not one of the ways we would embrace in our campaigns. The biblical teachings we share are enough to guide what the society needs to do,” the bishop said. 
“We have ways of reducing high rate of AIDS infections and condoms are not part of it. We sensitize our people to see the need for testing so that they can know their status. The Church is a body of doctrines, it teaches, what is right and wrong,” he continued.
The Catholic Church runs around 500 medical facilities in Kenya and is often on the front lines in the country’s battle against HIV/AIDS.
Across the world, the Church provides about a quarter of the care for patients with the diseaseCatholoc Church.

August 29, 2018

HIV+ Man Charged with Not Taking HIV Meds




                                                   Image result for hiv meds               



Authorities have taken the unprecedented step of charging a Vancouver man under the province's Public Health Act for allegedly refusing to comply with a medical health officer's orders for HIV treatment.
Vancouver's medical director of communicable disease control told CBC News the issuing of an order is rare enough in itself. But the case is the first time her office has resorted to the courts for enforcement. 
"I cannot impress upon you to what extent this is an unusual step for us to take. This is not the norm," said Dr. Reka Gustafson.
"One of the worst outcomes of taking this step is that the public mistakenly gets the impression that something like this can happen to them either easily or that there isn't due process or fairness or ethics."

'Criminal prosecution is not appropriate'

CBC News has decided not to publish the 34-year-old man's name.
His lawyer sought a publication ban Wednesday on details of a hearing held last month resulting in the man's release on $500 bail and four conditions that include complying with Gustafson's orders.
According to a court document sworn in June, the four Public Health Act charges concern a nine-month period from August 2017 until this April. Vancouver Coastal Health medical officer Dr. Reka Gustafson said the case is the first time her office has ever gone to the courts under the Public Health Act to force someone to comply with an order. (CBC)
The man is accused of failing to collect medication and failing to attend clinic appointments, the document says.
The court document says the order was tied to the level of human immunodeficiency genetic material in his blood: once it exceeded a level that would make him infectious he was supposed to attend daily appointments.
Gustafson would not comment on the specifics of the case itself, but stressed that the charges were sworn under legislation designed to protect public health as opposed to the Criminal Code.
"Criminal prosecution is not appropriate for HIV," she said. "It's not appropriate for communicable diseases — period. It's not appropriate; it's not effective."

Intervening when HIV/AIDS a risk to others

The B.C. Centre for Disease Control published guidelines last summer for medical health officers considering intervention when people with HIV/AIDS pose a risk of harm to others.
The document was designed primarily for situations where people diagnosed with HIV engage in high risk sexual behaviour or share needles or drug paraphernalia without informing others about their infection and the related risk.
Tests and treatment for HIV have drastically improved the lives of people with the virus and helped to combat the stigma once associated with HIV and AIDS. (Ron Boileau/CBC)
It says people with a "viral load" less than the level cited in the charging document have "a negligible risk of transmitting HIV to their sexual partners."
​Gustafson said she has directly managed the public health management of 2,000 cases of HIV in the past decade, working with clinicians and agencies to develop plans for treatment and support.
Her office has only issued a handful of orders. But they have never before sought the help of the courts to force someone to comply.
"You don't take a step like this lightly or without consultation with colleagues, with individuals who would have concerns about taking this step," she said.
"The order wouldn't be very meaningful if you weren't able to enforce that order with potential support of the courts."
According to the centre for disease control's guidelines, the issuing of an order can be considered if a medical health officer "reasonably believes that the person continues to pose a risk of harm to others, and voluntary and other measures have been exhausted."
The document says medical health officers should discuss the use of such measures with the provincial health officer and legal counsel. Gustafson said she also consulted ethicists and other clinicians.

'Testing works … treatment works'

Potential penalties for conviction under the relevant section of the Public Health Act include fines of up to $25,000 and imprisonment for up to six months.
Gustafson said her office's aim would be that "the person would be required by the courts to take whatever prevention measures would be needed to reduce the probability of transmission." 
​She said the past decade has seen great success in tackling both the stigma around HIV and the rate of new infections.
She also pointed to the province's decision as of last January to cover prophylactic medication, which effectively acts as a vaccine for people who fear they may be at risk of exposure to HIV.
"There has been a steady decline in new HIV infections because testing works, because treatment works, because of supporting people to live with their infection which is now a chronic manageable condition," she said.
Gustafson said the public should know that any decision to go to court would not be taken lightly.
"The last thing we want is for people to get the impression that this happens often or that it can happen easily and that it makes them feel unsafe to be diagnosed and treated," she said.
"So what's at stake is the potential undermining of the measures that we know are very, very effective at a population level based on a very, very uncommon occurrence."
  Jason Proctor · CBC News 

August 1, 2018

Proposed Cuts to AIDS Funding Will Set Us Up For AIDS II Still Without a Cure






The State Department is trumpeting U.S. progress combating HIV and AIDS worldwide, but nongovernmental organizations warn that the Trump administration’s plans to slash AIDS funding could lead to millions more infected, with many dying.

“The U.S. government, under the leadership of President Trump, continues to lead the way in the global HIV/AIDS response,” said Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan at a State Department event on Thursday commemorating World AIDS Day, which is Dec. 1. “We are closer than ever before to ending this pandemic,” he said. A blistering new report from the ONE Campaign, an international nonprofit focused on poverty and preventable disease, argues that the administration’s proposed budget cuts would derail all the progress made to date, just when an end to the disease is in sight.

The Trump budget “would have led to the first global increase in new HIV infections since 1995, with nearly 200,000 additional HIV infections in the first year,” according to the report, “Red Ribbon or White Flag? The Future of the U.S. Global AIDS Response.”

In its budget proposal for the fiscal year 2018, the Trump administration proposed cutting some $800 million from the global fight against HIV and AIDS, including the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), a program former President George W. Bush established in 2003. PEPFAR has provided treatment to nearly 8 million HIV-infected people in developing countries and is estimated to have saved some 11 million lives.

New proposed cuts, if enacted, could force initiatives such as PEPFAR to scale back their treatment programs, potentially leading to 26 million additional infections and 4 million additional deaths in the next 15 years in sub-Saharan Africa alone, the report said. “The billions of dollars that Congress has already invested in fighting AIDS would be squandered at the very moment when control of the disease is in sight,” it said.

The Trump administration’s proposed budget request calls for eliminating PEPFAR funding entirely to seven countries — Brazil, Djibouti, Liberia, Mali, Nepal, Senegal, and Sierra Leone — and reducing funding to 17 countries, including the Democratic Republic of Congo and other sub-Saharan African countries still struggling to recover from the disease: South Africa, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, and Namibia. Seventy percent of the nearly 37 million people with HIV/AIDS globally are in sub-Saharan Africa, and only half receive treatment. 

U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator Ambassador Deborah Birx declined to respond to the ONE Campaign report but told reporters Thursday that the United States has “dramatically increased results” in 2017 even with a flat budget, and that lower funding doesn’t mean a lessened commitment.

“Translating that money into the most effective programs that we can, that reaches the most lives in the most impactful way — that’s our job,” she said.
ONE Campaign spokesman Sean Simons said advocacy groups are pinning their hopes on Congress to stop Trump’s plan. “If the Trump Administration once again tries to cut funding for global HIV/AIDS programs in the future, Congress must do the responsible thing and restore the money,” he said.

On Wednesday, a group of nearly 40 advocacy groups sent a letter to Congress urging them to push back against the Trump administration’s plans to slash global health funding. “We are writing to sound the alarm,” the letter said.

Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle have pushed back on the Trump administration’s budget proposals, especially the drastic cuts to the State Department and USAID. Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, took aim at the proposed PEPFAR cuts on Friday.

“Success is possible,” he said. “Cutting funding now – shrinking from our commitment now, instead of sustaining it – will negate the investments and progress we have made so far.”

Robbie Gramer is a diplomacy and national security reporter at Foreign Policy. @robbiegramer

June 2, 2018

Enough People Are Taking PrEp to Lower HIV Infection Rates Around The World





Six years after the Food and Drug Administration approved a revolutionary HIV prevention pill known as PrEP, public health officials in select US cities have finally begun to conclude that it is likely taking a bite out of local HIV infection rates.
PrEP, short for pre-exposure prophylaxis, is akin to a birth control pill—only one that prevents HIV instead of pregnancy. The powder-blue tablet, which goes by the brand name Truvada, contains a pair of antiretroviral medications that were first approved to treat HIV in 2004. Truvada works by blocking HIV from replicating in the immune cells the virus infects—and, when used daily as PrEP—from establishing a permanent infection if someone is exposed to the virus. In other words, PrEP harnesses the power of a medication designed to control the virus in people living with HIV to prevent those without the virus from contracting it in the first place. Haven’t heard of PrEP? You like will soon thank its first-ever television ad campaign that will debut this month from Truvada’s manufacturer, Gilead Sciences. 
When HIV-negative men take Truvada daily, they lower their risk of contracting the virus through sex with men by an estimated 99% or more. This fact holds considerable promise considering that gay and bisexual men made up about 70% of the estimated 38,500 new HIV cases in the United States in 2015—the most recent year for which such a figure from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is available. Owing to a less robust pool of related data regarding vaginal intercourse, scientists have a foggier picture of how well Truvada prevents HIV transmission through this route; still, studies indicate that PrEP is at least 90% effective among women. PrEP, which has a wholesale cost of over $1,000 per month, is generally covered by insurance, including Medicaid. Gilead Sciences will cover up to $4,800 per year in out-of-pocket expenses related to filling the prescription. Many people—at least for now—pay nothing for their pill bottles 
Daily Antiretroviral Pill Found To Protect Healthy From AIDS Transmission




The drug’s game-changing potential notwithstanding, PrEP got off to a surprisingly inauspicious start. Probably only about 10,000 people tried PrEP during the first year or so after its approval in July 2012. Then, in late 2013, a slew of media reports began to question why so few people were taking PrEP. By early 2014, PrEP’s use began to pick up—and then soar. According to Gilead, an estimated 167,000 were on PrEP in the US as of early 2018. That’s up from 153,000 during the last quarter of 2017 and 125,000 during the first quarter of that year. Meanwhile, across the globe, an estimated 300,000 people are now using PrEP—and the medication has recently been approved for use by teenagers.
Study after study has found consistent demographic patterns in the US behind these figures: In short, PrEP users are predominantly white, gay and bisexual men over 25. (A modest proportion of users are women, although this population isn’t expanding too rapidly.)
What such data reveals, sadly is that among gay and bi men, the folks who would most benefit from PrEP are actually those using it the least—gay and bi African Americans, who account for one in four new infections in the United States. Indeed, researchers have found that perhaps no more than 10% of PrEP users are black. What’s more, Latino gay and bi men—whose increasing HIV rate has alarmed and perplexed public health experts—apparently use PrEP only a bit more common than their African-American counterparts. 
STD advertising on the subway in New York
Advertising on the subway in New York on Sunday, January 3, 2016 promotes the use of HIV testing, prophylactic drugs and condoms to combat the spread of AIDS and sexually transmitted infections. (Photo by Richard Levine/Corbis via Getty Images)
  all STI rate in their communities. 




PrEP’s introduction has certainly raised various concernsmost notably regarding the question of whether Truvada will accelerate the long-declining rate of condom usage among gay and bi men. A recent review of numerous PrEP studies conducted from 2014 to 2017 found that starting Truvada for HIV prevention was associated in an uptick in sexually transmitted infection (STI) diagnoses, which suggests that men were indeed forgoing condoms more often during the period immediately following going on PrEP. That said, a CDC modeling study recently projected that even if these men’s condom adherence plummets, their use of PrEP may actually help lower the overall STI rate in their communities. That’s because PrEP users typically undergo STI screening every three to six months—which can identify and treat infections promptly.
On the side-effect front, PrEP often gets a bad rap. One study found its safety, at least in the short-to-medium term, was favorable to aspirin. Truvada is associated with small, initial reductions in bone mineral density and kidney function. However, studies have indicated that both shifts are reversible after individuals stop taking PrEP, and there have been no reports of Truvada leading to an actual bone fracture or kidney disease among HIV-negative individuals using it for prevention. How do we know if PrEP is driving down HIV?
The strongest evidence to date that PrEP works on a grand scale come from a recent Australian study. Starting in early 2016, researchers in New South Wales provided PrEP to an enthusiastic surge of 7,600 gay and bi men living in the state. After its first year, the study saw an astonishing 32% decline in diagnoses of recently contracted HIV among all gay and bi men in New South Wales.
This demographic’s HIV diagnosis rate had been stable during the preceding years—a fact that contributed to the study authors’ conclusion that PrEP was the key variable propelling this plunge in HIV transmissions.
As for the US HIV epidemic, local governments in New York City, San Francisco, and Seattle have been particularly proactive in promoting PrEP (and collecting data about its use), and now seem to be reaping the benefits.
In New York City, there was a nearly 15% drop between 2015 and 2016 in new HIV diagnoses among gay and bi men, to just over 1,200 cases—the steepest one-year drop on record.
“The only major change we saw [during this period] was explosive increases in the uptake of PrEP” among gay and bi men, said Demetre Daskalakis, deputy commissioner of the city’s Division of Disease Control. “With some of our data indicating that nearly 30% of these men currently use PrEP. It seems clear from our data and the reports from other jurisdictions that PrEP is an effective strategy to eliminate new HIV transmissions and could be a scalable public health intervention.”
In other words, PrEP works and is certainly poised to benefit other populations at high risk for HIV in cities across the country.
San Francisco’s overall HIV diagnosis rate has been on a freefall in recent years—dropping from 532 in 2007 to 223 in 2016, including a 50% reduction after 2012. Susan Buchbinder, a leader of the HIV team at the San Francisco Department of Public Health, said that “PrEP is likely helping to drive down new infections” in the Bay Area city. An estimated 20,000 people take Truvada for prevention there—representing perhaps half of those residents who are at significant risk of HIV.
The HIV diagnosis rate in King County, which includes Seattle, has charted its own healthy HIV decline of late, with local public health officials also coming to the conclusion that the local popularity of PrEP is apparently contributing to this shift.
All these data strongly suggest that there’s a sea change benefitting white gay and bi men in particular who live in those major urban areas where PrEP has woven its way into the fabric of gay sex. For them, HIV transmission is becoming increasingly uncommon, and may soon collapse.
Meanwhile, their black and Latino counterparts, especially those in the US South—the new hotbed of the US epidemic, where PrEP happens to lag behind other regions—are essentially being left behind.

January 8, 2018

Trump(Genius) Anti Abortion Gag Order Also Keeps Funds From Fighting AIDS

Accompanied by a line-up of his white male advisers, President Donald Trump signed a
In January 2017, accompanied by a line-up of his white male advisers, President Donald Trump signed a “global gag order” that prohibits U.S. funding for many programs affecting the health of LGBT people and millions of women. (AP photo courtesy of The Nation)
2017 IN REVIEW  
As soon as Donald Trump became U.S. president in January 2017, he imposed a “global gag rule” that bars use of U.S. funds from going to any program whose employees even discuss abortion. The full impact of that decision has not yet been measured.
The rule applies to $9.5 billion in funding for health programs, including those targeting HIV/AIDS, malaria and children’s health. It forces many anti-AIDS health agencies serving LGBT people and many other populations to choose whether to deny their patients lifesaving anti-HIV therapy or unrestricted lifesaving counseling about reproductive health services.
Logo of PEPFAR, the U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief.
Logo of PEPFAR, the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief.
The rule applies to PEPFAR, a George W. Bush initiative that has reduced HIV infections, so PEPFAR-funded organizations have to decide whether to cut budgets and close down clinics or muzzle employees whose job is to counsel pregnant women about their health-care options. The Ugandan government has estimated that unsafe abortions contribute to 8 percent of maternal deaths.
In October, a study by Human Rights Watch found that the policy had indeed triggered reductions in key sexual and reproductive health services in Uganda and Kenya by well-established organizations that cannot easily be replaced.
For example, Family Health Options Kenya (FHOK), which ran 16 healthcare facilities in the country, decided that it could not comply with the restrictions and therefore will lose US funds, which make up roughly 60 percent of its budget. It said it may have to cut as many as half of its services. By the fall, the organization had already closed one clinic and canceled 100 planned outreach events, including for cervical cancer screening, HIV testing, and family planning counseling, which typically reach 100 people each time.
In other words, in that one example, Trump’s decision denied anti-AIDS and other health-care services to 10,000 people.
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December 4, 2017

Trump Proclaimed HIV/AIDS Day Without Mentioning LGBT, The Hardest Hit








In honor of World AIDS Day on Dec. 1, President Trump issued a written proclamation Thursday as a tribute to those living with or lost to HIV/AIDS. However, the proclamation made a very obvious exclusion: Trump failed to mention the LGBT community, a population that is disproportionately affected by HIV/AIDS.

“Today, on World AIDS Day, we honor those who have lost their lives to AIDS, we celebrate the remarkable progress we have made in combatting this disease, and we reaffirm our ongoing commitment to end AIDS as a public health threat,” read the statement in part.

World AIDS Day was instituted in 1988 as the first-ever global health day in an effort to show support for and solidarity with the approximately 37 million people suffering from AIDS worldwide, according to UN AIDS statistics. 
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Protection, also known as the CDC, approximately 1.12 million Americans were living with HIV as of the end of 2015, most of whom were gay or bisexual men. As well, initial studies when AIDS became an epidemic in the 1980s were largely sparked by efforts within the gay community, which was disproportionately affected from early on, according to a CDC report.

The report also states that by the time the first cases were reported, hundreds of thousands of gay men could have already been infected. Of the 774,467 of all cases reported by the end of 2000, 448,060 of these people died, according to the CDC in 2001. 

Further CDC statistics indicate that in 2016, gay and bisexual men made up 67 percent of the HIV-affected population. Gay or bisexual black men made up the largest portion of diagnoses at 10,223, outnumbering both the affected Hispanic/Latino and white gay or bisexual male population affected by nearly 3,000 cases.
Trump’s proclamation also failed to mention people of color, who are disproportionately affected by HIV. 

According to the CDC, black Americans comprised 44 percent of HIV cases in 2016 while only making up 12 percent of the population. Hispanics and Latinos accounted for 25 percent of cases while making up 18 percent of the population. Transgender people are also at increased risk, specifically transgender people of color and transgender women.

The omissions in this year’s proclamation were a regression in comparison to President Obama’s statement in 2016, which read: “Gay and bisexual men, transgender people, youth, black and Latino Americans, people living in the Southern United States, and people who inject drugs are at a disproportionate risk. People living with HIV can face stigma and discrimination, creating barriers to prevention and treatment services.”

Trump's exclusion certainly isn’t surprising given his history concerning the LGBT community and people of color. He has supported “religious freedoms” that allow for discrimination against LGBT individuals, attempted to ban transgender people from serving in the military and has repeatedly attacked racial minorities. His call for a wall on the southern border was a key component of his campaign.

Another significant omission in a similar proclamation came in his January statement for Holocaust Remembrance Day. In it, Trump made no mention of Jews or anti-semitism, simply “innocent people” who suffered due to “Nazi terror.”

Second Large HIV Vaccine Study Fuels Hope







Scientists announced the launch of another large HIV vaccine efficacy study on Thursday, fuelling hopes for a protective shot against the virus that causes AIDS, despite past disappointments.

The start of the new trial involving 2,600 women in southern Africa means that for the first time in more than a decade there are now two big HIV vaccine clinical trials taking place at the same time. 

The new study is testing a two-vaccine combination developed by Johnson & Johnson with the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The first vaccine, also backed by NIH, began a trial last November.

Both studies aim to build on the modest success of a previous trial in Thailand in 2009 when an earlier vaccine showed a 31-percent reduction in infections.


“We’re making progress,” said J&J Chief Scientific Officer Paul Stoffels, who believes it should be possible to achieve effectiveness above 50 percent.

“That is the goal. Hopefully, we get much higher,” he told Reuters.

The new vaccines require one dose to prime the immune system and a second shot to boost the body’s response.

Significantly, J&J’s latest vaccine uses so-called mosaic technology to combine immune-stimulating proteins from different HIV strains, representing different types of virus from around the world, which should produce a “global” vaccine.

One reason why making an HIV vaccine has proved so difficult in the past is the variability of the virus.

Although modern HIV drugs have turned the disease from a death sentence into a chronic condition, a vaccine is still seen as critical in rolling back the pandemic, since the number of people infected is still growing.

Some 37 million individuals around the world currently have HIV and around 1.8 million became newly infected last year.

For the new study, sexually active women in South Africa, Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia, and Zimbabwe will be given the experimental vaccine or a placebo and then followed for three years to see if it prevents infections.

Initial clinical results reported at an AIDS conference in Paris in July showed the mosaic vaccine was safe and elicited a good immune response in healthy volunteers. 

(Reporting by Ben Hirschler; Editing by Andrew Heavens)
Reuters

December 2, 2017

30 Years After The Plague The Long Term Survivors Tell It How It Was




The Gay Men's Health Crisis (GMHC) holds the first AIDS Walk New York in 1986 in Manhattan, New York. Photo courtesy of GMHC.1996-98 AccuSoft Inc. /





"If you could take a test that would tell if you would be alive in two years, would you take it?"

That was the question Mark S. King said he had to ask himself in the early '80s when friends and loved ones were dying of the "gay plague."

"I decided I wanted to know," King told NBC News, reflecting back on the day he decided to get tested. On March 15, 1985, King received a call from his friend, a nurse, who had discreetly tested him for the virus — he was positive.  

Gay men weren’t supposed to get tested at the time, King said because there wasn’t a single treatment available anyway. In fact, activists were urging people not to take it.

“The only thing that could happen would be getting fired from your job or kicked out by your roommate or disowned by your family,” King explained. “None of the outcomes were good.”

"AWAITING GAME"

America was in the throes of panic on the day King picked up the phone in Los Angeles. On TV, politicians on both sides of the aisle were debating in earnest whether gay people should be quarantined. In the White House, Reagan hadn’t so much as mentioned AIDS. But everywhere and every day, friends, relatives, acquaintances and partners were dying.

“It was like a 'Twilight Zone' episode where everyone in town just starts disappearing,” King said of that time. “It was the bank teller at your bank who wasn’t there one day. It was your favorite bartender. It was the guy who did your hair. They just stopped being there.” 

Death was the last thing King thought he would have to confront when he moved to West Hollywood from Houston to pursue an acting career. He was 24 years old and eager to enjoy life. Instead, he found himself at an epicenter of the HIV outbreak that would shape the gay world in the United States for years to come.

“Numb,” King said of what he felt when his friend told him he had tested positive. “I was simply numb. I immediately went into denial. Protective denial. ‘Maybe I’ll be someone who survives,’ I told myself.”

But King had no evidence to suggest he would. Everyone he knew who had been diagnosed had gone to the hospital and died. The bars were emptying out. No one felt like celebrating anymore, he said. Life was, as King described it, “a waiting game.” And so he waited for the day he would get a cough, or see a spot, and the countdown would begin.

“I FELT BOMBS WERE DROPPING ”

A year before King's life-changing phone call, in 1984, Nelson Vergel was settling into Houston. An immigrant from Venezuela, Vergel told NBC News he left his home country because he was gay and seeking a more supportive environment. As an aspiring chemical engineer, he also wanted to attend a better school. When he met and fell in love with his boyfriend, Calvin, at a chemical engineering conference in Houston, Vergel decided to live there.

The “gay plague,” as it was referred to at the time, was rocking the nation. But it was thought to be confined to the coasts, to San Francisco, Los Angeles, and New York. Vergel was 24, a recent immigrant ready to try to make it in the U.S. with a new boyfriend on his arm and a promising career ahead of him. Then Calvin got tested behind his back. 

“Back then, we weren’t keen to get tested, because there was nothing you could do, and the stress would just kill you faster,” Vergel said. “Calvin got tested without me knowing and told me he was positive. I got tested right away, and I found out.”

Amid the depression that followed his diagnosis, Vergel’s friends began to die. He "closeted" himself, he said, both at work and in the gay community. At work, he didn’t want anyone to know he was gay. At the gay clubs, he didn’t want anyone to know he was HIV positive.

He intended to come to the U.S. for a new life, but instead, he said it felt like he "came to this country to die."

Vergel decided to keep himself busy by channeling his anxiety into volunteer work. By day, he worked in the oil business. By night, he worked at an HIV clinic administering tests. He would visit hospitals, where he said HIV patients were covered in HAZMAT suits. He was surrounded by death, but the alternative, he said, was worse. He thought he would die of depression if he didn’t do something.

“I’ve never been in a war, and when they were dropping bombs in the city, I always wondered how people could sleep or live through that. But you just do,” he said. “That’s how I felt. I felt bombs were dropping and one might hit me eventually, but I just had to keep on going.”

"FURY, RAGE AND ACTION"

In 1987, a fiery speech was delivered at the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community Services Center in Manhattan. Gay playwright and activist Larry Kramer, who would go on to found the Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC), had been slated to be a substitute speaker for writer and activist Susan Sontag. What he said on that day ignited a movement.

Kramer asked two-thirds of the room to stand up and told them they would be dead in five years.

“If my speech tonight doesn’t scare the shit out of you, we’re in real trouble,” he said. “If what you’re hearing doesn’t rouse you to anger, fury, rage, and action, gay men will have no future here on earth. How long does it take before you get angry and fight back?”

It was a call to arms, and Eric Sawyer, a young gay man from upstate New York, answered it. Sawyer himself had become symptomatic in the early onset of the virus, in '81 when the first reports on HIV were coming out, and his boyfriend died from complications due to AIDS in 1984.

“I was extremely angry that I hadn’t been able to do anything to save my boyfriend’s life. I was still grieving," Sawyer said. “So I turned my grief and anger into rage and action and got involved with the movement."

Sawyer had already been told to "get his affairs in order" when he was finally diagnosed with HIV in '83 after showing symptoms for years. His doctors had initially told him it was Hopkins disease or mononucleosis, but when the source of his ailments was discovered, Sawyer said he was told he’d be dead in two years.  

The situation was bleak. Sawyer said there was a limited number of hospitals in New York City that would accept people with HIV/AIDS and only two funeral homes that would bury people who had succumbed to the illness. Knowing your status, he said, echoing King and Vergel, was, in fact, detrimental, because it could mean being fired or discriminated against.

It was amid that darkness that the dawn of HIV activism came about. In March of 1987, Kramer and Sawyer founded the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP), a radical AIDS activism organization that sought to wake people up to the devastation of HIV/AIDS.

DAWN OF HIV ACTIVISM

ACT UP began meeting regularly and planning demonstrations of civil disobedience. Sawyer described one such action, an effort to force the government to develop medically appropriate housing for people with HIV because the shelters were full of people with tuberculosis, which people with HIV were particularly susceptible to. 

“We collected furniture when apartments put them on the street with my pickup and stored it in the basement of my brownstone in Harlem,” Sawyer said. “Then we’d take the furniture to lower Manhattan and block both ends of the intersection by setting up living rooms and kitchens and bathrooms in the street and chaining ourselves to the toilets and beds.”  
Sawyer said the city had to collect the furniture in tow trucks and use chain cutters to release them from the furniture. Lower Manhattan was tied up and on the news, and ACT UP’s demand for medically appropriate housing, Sawyer said, was met within less than a month.

Among ACT UP’s targets were President Reagan, whose administration, Sawyer said, had mocked those with HIV. But other targets included the National Institute of Health and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for, as Sawyer put it, not doing anything to develop the treatment. The mayor of New York, Ed Koch, was also a target for not doing anything to help gay people.

In these aims, ACT UP was uncompromising and willing to shock people who preferred to ignore the epidemic. He talked about demonstrations where the ashes of people who had died because of AIDS were scattered on the White House lawn.

“We carried the people who had died of AIDS from our membership through the streets of New York in open caskets in funeral processions to make the government and society in general smell, see and be disrupted by our literal dead bodies,” Sawyer said. “We were saying if you’re going to do nothing about the genocide, you’re going to have step over our bodies and smell our rotting flesh.”

"LAZARUS EFFECT"

In 1996, new drug therapies came out, a combination of medicines known as antiretroviral therapy. For King, that was the demarcation between life and death, and the moment he realized he would live.

“People who were dying were coming out of their deathbeds,” he said. “It was only then that I could exhale and go, OK, I think I’m going to be around a while longer.” In its wake, HIV had taken much from King. His boyfriend Emil had died. Many of his friends had died. He had been prepared to die young. He, like many gay and bisexual men with HIV, had been holding on to a folder with his memorial service plans. Then, another world opened up.

“All sorts of things happened to us after that,” King said. “We made changes in our jobs and our relationships. I broke up with a long-term boyfriend. I know a lot of men who did that. The person you want to die with isn’t necessarily the person you want to live with.” 

Vergel’s boyfriend, Calvin, died of "wasting" in 1992, as Vergel described it. Vergel, because he is among the men whose virus mutated and was aggressive, said he didn’t have an undetectable viral load until just four years ago. It was only then, he said, that he breathed a sigh of relief.

“At the beginning, you wonder how long this one is going to last,” Vergel said of each new treatment. “But then I wondered two years ago, maybe this is it.”

Sawyer, who is still active in ACT UP, said it was in '96 when things changed for him.

“The protease inhibitors came out in '96, and my health started rebounding pretty miraculously — the Lazarus effect that people often write about,” he said, referring to the experience of being on death's door and then being revived.

He also said it was around this time when it finally became profitable for pharmaceutical companies to get involved in the research and production of HIV treatment.

AN ONGOING BATTLE

According to King, Vergel and Sawyer, the fight against HIV/AIDS is far from over. For Sawyer, there are many vulnerable communities still at risk, and he said drug companies are still putting profit over the wellbeing of people with HIV.

“We really have to work on social equity and equitable actions to health care and to HIV education testing treatment,” he said. “There are so many people, poor people and people in rural areas, trans people and people of color, who don’t have equitable access to testing or treatment, and they continue to die of AIDS.”

 Mark S. King Jonathan Timmes
Vergel said while advancements in treatment like pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) are now available and can reduce the viral loads of people with HIV to undetectable, people with HIV still die before they should, and the mental and emotional scars linger.

“Some of us have PTSD,” he said. “But some of us have managed to put that aside because life goes on. We are celebrating the success of antiretrovirals. Every gay man should be in PrEP, and every gay man should get tested.”

King has since immersed himself in the world of HIV activism, running the website My Fabulous Disease, where he writes about his experience that began with a phone call in West Hollywood in 1985. He said he wants a new generation of gay men to be proud of the community they come from.

“We stepped up and faced down primal fear and hatred at a time when no one else would take care of us,” he said. “We took care of one another.”


by John Paul Brammer 


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