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17 March 2017 VOLUME 18 ISSUE 11

Media Coverage

  • President Trump’s budget...cuts are deep and broad. They also go beyond what many political observers expected....The National Institutes of Health, for example, would be cut by nearly $6 billion, about a fifth of the NIH budget. The shock waves of this blueprint will be felt far beyond the walls of government bureaucracies.

    March 16, 2017
    Washington Post
  • The National Institutes of Health would absorb an enormous $5.8 billion cut under President Trump’s first budget proposal — equal to about 19 percent of its current $30.3 billion discretionary budget. The plan “includes a major reorganization” of NIH’s 27 institutes and centers and would eliminate the Fogarty International Center, a $69.1 million program dedicated to building partnerships between health research institutions in the United States and abroad.

    March 16, 2017
    Washington Post
  • US Global AIDS Coordinator Ambassador Deborah Birx played down the potential impact of the reinstated 'global gag rule' on PEPFAR...."We're lucky we have comprehensive data now so if there are budget cuts, we will be able to make them in areas that won't impact our ability to control this epidemic," she said.“You’ll see a comprehensive discussion of what does risk reduction look like in that subset of girls we know are out there that are particularly vulnerable to HIV.”

    March 14, 2017
    Devex
  • In a letter to the president Tuesday, the co-chairs of the Congressional HIV/AIDS Caucus urged Trump to continue decades of effort to make battling the epidemic a public health priority at the federal level....The bipartisan letter also urges Trump to maintain the Office of National AIDS Policy [ONAP]...and Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS....In January, the Advocate reported that the [ONAP] page on the White House website had been shut down. Following its URL currently leads to a blank website with no information.

    March 14, 2017
    Mic
  • The staff and board of San Francisco’s National AIDS Memorial Grove...are exploring the idea of a permanent national exhibition about the AIDS epidemic,...a commemoration of tragedy along the lines of the September 11 Memorial & Museum. An AIDS museum would tell more than a public health story. It would also be about “humanity, social justice, human rights and what it means to be a citizen of the world,” said John Cunningham, the grove’s executive director.

    March 14, 2017
    Global Health News
  • Kelly Austin, Lehigh University assistant professor of sociology, finds in the first research paper to consider the role of unemployment in predicting the female HIV rate, that unemployment among young women significantly impacts the proportion of female HIV cases among those aged 15-24 in developing, especially Sub-Saharan African, countries. Results of the study, "Trading Sex for Security: Unemployment and the Unequal HIV Burden Among Young Women in Developing Nations," were published last week in International Sociology.

    March 14, 2017
    News-Medical.net
  • Representatives from the European Medicines Agency met with medicines regulators from Africa last week to discuss how to improve availability of high quality, safe and effective medicines to patients in countries beyond Europe. One of the tools discussed was the scientific assessment of medicines or vaccines for use outside the European Union...in cooperation with the WHO...to increase access by patients in low- and middle-income countries.

    March 14, 2017
    BIO SmartBrief
  • The Kenyan government will next month roll out a new drug meant to protect HIV-negative people from contracting the virus. The drug, known as Pre-exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP), will be given to those at high risk of contracting the virus before being made accessible to the rest of the population. This is after pilot studies conducted in Kenya and Uganda showed that if taken once daily, the drugs can prevent HIV infection by more than 96 per cent.

    March 13, 2017
    East African Business Review
  • For this reason, the department of gender affairs and District Multi Sectoral AIDS Committee hosted a workshop for engaging partners in coming up with new strategies to attract men in large numbers to go for testing....District AIDS coordinator Mr Shathiso Daki...stated that a study in 2016/2017 showed that of 13,348 people in Selebi Phikwe tested, 8,123 were women while men were 5,255, [and] of the people who tested positive, men were 285 and women were 624.

    March 13, 2017
    East African Business
  • Sexting has pushed risky sexual behaviour to an all-time high among students, psychologists at Catholic University of Eastern Africa have said. The craze, according to a study by the university’s Department of Psychology, has made it more challenging to contain adolescent pregnancies, HIV/Aids and sexually transmitted diseases. “The pace, frequency and impact (of sexting) on the children’s lives is mind-boggling. It’s a time-bomb in our hands,” Stephen Asatsa, the principal investigator, said.

    March 13, 2017
    General
    Standard Media
  • The State Department budget won’t be cut as deeply as President Trump initially suggested after Secretary of State Rex Tillerson successfully pushed back....The budget blueprint expected later this week will still trim funding for both the State Department and USAID next year, but by less than the 37 percent initially floated....The budget revision is expected to include “staged cuts”...over several years,...giving Tillerson time “to do a deeper analysis on foreign aid.”

    March 13, 2017
    Politico
  • Scientists have developed a way to use MRI scans to help identify when HIV is persisting in the brain despite effective drug treatment. The study, published in Clinical Infectious Diseases and funded by Wellcome, shows that patients can have HIV in the brain even when the disease is kept under control by treatment.

    March 13, 2017
    Science Daily
  • One of the many challenges with existing HIV therapies is that a dormant version of the virus is always lurking in the background, ready to attack the immune system as soon as treatment is interrupted. Now, new research from Rockefeller University and NIH suggests that treatment with two anti-HIV antibodies immediately after infection enables the immune system to effectively control the virus, preventing its return for an extended period.

    March 13, 2017
    Science Daily
  • Susan Wood, PhD,...a former assistant commissioner for women's health...at the FDA at the same time as Gottlieb,...had two main questions--how would he withstand industry pressure and...political pressure? As for access to reproductive products, including contraception or abortion medication, "Will he stand up to political pressure, not just on behalf of the FDA, [but] on behalf of people in the United States who depend on the FDA making decisions based on science and good medicine?”

    March 13, 2017
    MedPage Today
  • Kisumu Medical and Education Trust receives $200,000 per year from the US government to train doctors to treat postpartum haemorrhaging and receives money from European donors and others to provide comprehensive reproductive health services, including abortion counselling. After President Trump’s recent executive order reinstating and expanding the so-called “global gag rule,” KMET – and many more organisations like it – will have to choose between life-saving programmes.

    March 13, 2017
    Gulf Times
  • I was alarmed to read the article titled Playing with fire (City Press, March 5, 2017). It makes the claim that “reckless sexual behaviour among gay teens and men” is being fuelled by the increasing use of PrEP. This claim rests on a conceptual misunderstanding and some factual errors.

    March 12, 2017
    News24
  • A growing number of countries around the world now offer people who test positive for HIV to be put on treatment immediately...But...there’s a need for innovations to reduce pressure on health systems while still ensuring patients get quality care. One example [is]...a vending machine, developed by South African health NGO Right to Care, that allows patients to collect their drugs at shopping centres or transport hubs. Another resource-saving innovation is the do-it-yourself HIV test.

    March 10, 2017
    Guardian
  • With two months to go before election of a new WHO director-general, the outcome remains far from clear. The process has worked well until now, whittling six candidates to three....Each candidate has drawbacks, and none has so far significantly differentiated themselves on fundamental but sensitive issues. These include relations between Geneva HQ and regional organisations within WHO, and how to prioritise in an agency facing tough budgetary pressures, criticisms of inefficiency and mission creep.

    March 10, 2017
    Financial Times
  • Analysts at Barclays have taken the unusual approach of writing an open letter to [Gilead] to help it reshape and earn back lost value and confidence after 18 months of shares decline....Declining Hep C sales and setbacks in the clinic have meant that Gilead, in the near-term, will have to focus on its HIV meds and pipeline far more, but Barclays warns that, despite being sturdy in this area: “A strong HIV franchise alone isn’t likely to drive a re-rating.”

    March 10, 2017
    Fierce Biotech
  • A shoulder to cry on, someone to hang out with, a friend to talk to about money and health or with whom to grab a bite: All of these things make up a life and a community of support. But could they also play a role in HIV status? That was the question Wenjing Zheng, a biostatistics PhD student at UC Berkeley, sought to answer when she started looking at relationships between people in three Kenyan villages. And the verdict? There is some relationship.

    March 8, 2017
    BodyPRO
  • The introduction of the International AIDS Society’s annual letter summing up the state of progress against global HIV, notes the impacts of policies on the practice of proven interventions, and expresses concerns that political changes can slow evidence-based advances. But it also notes that activism sparked the global response to HIV...[and] highlights the value of existing interventions, the need to accelerate their use, and does the math to show how that can happen.

    March 6, 2017
    Science Speaks
  • amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research, is pairing HIV cure scientists with bioengineers for six new research projects that will use novel technology to investigate latent HIV reservoirs, which remain a key barrier to a cure. Each research team will initially receive a $200,000 investment grant from amfAR, totaling $1.2 million, for their project. The awards — part of amfAR’s $100 million Countdown to a Cure for AIDS initiative — are milestone-based grants that will provide each team with up to $1.5 million over a 4-year period.

    March 4, 2017
    Infectious Disease News
  • As Zimbabwe's health service buckles amid low levels of public funding and a government freeze on hiring medical staff, volunteers have stepped in to take the strain. Home-based carers can be found across Bulawayo, Zimbabwe's second largest city, where they work with local clinics to monitor tuberculosis and HIV patients, making sure they take their medication as prescribed. Led by local religious organisations such as the Roman Catholic Church, Seventh Day Adventists and Brethren in Christ, the volunteers - almost all women - work in groups to attend patients who need support.

    March 2, 2017
    General
    allAfrica.com
  • Recently circumcised men do not necessarily adopt riskier sexual practices because of perceived protection from HIV after the procedure, a study conducted in Kisumu shows....Walter Jaoko, Matthew Westercamp and others conducted three cross-sectional surveys of...households in Kisumu, [in which] 7,507 people took part....Prevalence of male circumcision in Kisumu increased steadily from 32 per cent in 2009 to...60 per cent in 2013,...associated with a fall in sexually transmitted infections in the community, especially in circumcised men.

    March 2, 2017
    Star
  • At least 5 drug candidates are under development now because of their potential to be delivered in long-acting formulations, while existing daily antiretroviral drugs could also be "extendified" to be suitable for longer-acting formulations....Dr. Charles Flexnor of Johns Hopkins University countered arguments against the feasibility of [such] an approach....[and] supported his points with science, including developments released [at CROI].

    February 23, 2017
    BodyPRO

Published Research

  • It is deeply concerning that newly elected President Donald J Trump has, through an executive order, reinstated a Reagan-era prohibition on disbursement of federal funding to non-governmental organisations and agencies that provide, promote, or make referrals to abortion services, or give information about abortions....South Africa is an example of a country that stands to be adversely affected. The country bears the world's largest burden of HIV and is a major recipient of US federal funding.

    April 1, 2017
    Lancet
  • A European global health strategy would be a practical step towards ensuring coherence with its substantial global aid programme and its economic interests beyond EU borders. It would...not only benefit global health. It would also show leadership from Europe, promoting the values of which the EU is justifiably proud: respect for human dignity and human rights, freedom, democracy, equality and the rule of law.

    April 1, 2017
    Lancet Global Health
  • BMC Infectious Diseases & BMC International Health & Human Rights are pleased to announce launch of a new collection on human rights infringements and social and structural drivers of sexually transmitted infections. Edited by Stefan Baral, Benjamin Mason Meier and Joseph Tucker, the collection will include original research articles characterizing human rights infringements as structural determinants of infectious diseases, including sexually transmitted infections.

    March 16, 2017
    BMC
  • Here we show that early administration of bNAbs in a macaque simian/human immunodeficiency virus model is associated with very low levels of persistent viraemia, which leads to establishment of T-cell immunity and resultant long-term infection control, [and that]....passive immunotherapy during acute SHIV infection differs from combination ART in that it facilitates the emergence of potent CD8+ T-cell immunity able to durably suppress virus replication.

    March 13, 2017
    Antibody Related Research
    Nature
  • The board of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria last week [reopened] the search for a new Executive Director and...announced the appointment of Marijke Wijnroks as Interim Executive Director to serve from June 1 “until a new Executive Director selected by the Board is able to begin”. Wijnroks is currently Global Fund's Chief of Staff and a former HIV/AIDS ambassador for the Netherlands.

    March 11, 2017
    Lancet
  • The announcement by the Trump administration that it wants to massively reduce foreign assistance has sent a shock wave through the global health community, concerned that such steep cuts could have devastating consequences, affecting millions of people around the world....Direct US Government-funded programmes, such as the politically popular PEPFAR, are likely to be insulated from cuts, most experts speculate. Instead, the more likely targets are multilateral institutions like the UN and WHO.

    March 11, 2017
    Lancet
  • Adolescents...made sense of sex by acquiring information about sexual intercourse, reproduction and pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections and relationships....Whether sex was wanted, coerced, or violent, adolescents experienced worry about sexually transmitted infections or premarital pregnancy.

    March 9, 2017
    PLoS
  • The prevalence and incidence of hypertension were high in our cohort [in Tanzania]. Traditional cardiovascular risk factors predicted incident hypertension, but no association was observed with immunological or ART status. These data support the implementation of routine hypertension screening and integrated management into HIV programmes in rural sub-Saharan Africa.

    March 8, 2017
    PLoS
  • Although retaining Francis Collins as NIH director signals some continuity for biological and biomedical research, it is uncertain how federal funding will fare under the new administration, and fears abound that ideology might drive changes in regulation and policy....To safeguard the future of research the scientist citizen must advocate using our most reliable weapons: critical thinking, rational debate and evidence-based approaches. Science should not be influenced by politics, but scientists must be political animals.

    March 1, 2017
    Nature Cell Biology
  • Conclusions: The conditions necessary for the voluntary medical male circumcision(VMMC) program to have a significant public health impact are present in Kisumu, Kenya. Between 2009 and 2013, circumcision prevalence increased from 30% to 60%; HIV prevalence in circumcised men was half that of uncircumcised men, and there was no or minimal sexual risk compensation.

    February 1, 2017
    JAIDS
  • An opportunity to increase overall protection to sexual and reproductive health threats by exploiting synergies in demand for protection is emerging with development of multipurpose prevention technologies that offer protection from HIV, STIs, and unwanted pregnancy....Investments in attractive multipurpose products that meet a range of sexual and reproductive health needs could have greater effect than vertical spending on STIs. Combined with existing...infrastructures, multipurpose prevention could be much greater than the sum of its parts.

    January 31, 2017
    Lancet

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