Australian teens having more sex, but safely
The number of young Australians who are sexually active is increasing, according to a La Trobe University study. But there is no sign of a decline in condom use, with about 90 percent of young people reporting using condoms ‘always’ or ‘sometimes’. The survey, of 2388 year 10 and 12 students, also found that knowledge of sexually-transmissible infections, including HIV, was poor and had declined compared to earlier studies. A quarter of the students didn’t know that HIV could be passed from mother to baby, 15 percent didn’t think that someone who looked healthy could pass it on, and 10 percent did not know that it could be transmitted via male-male sex.
HIV on the rise in our region
The Asia-Pacific region “could become another epicentre of the [HIV/AIDS] epidemic, to rival Africa,” the Australian foreign minister, Alexander Downer has told the United Nations. Mr Downer was speaking at a special session of the UN to review progress since the 2001 special session on HIV/AIDS. The meeting was told that AIDS had slipped from the global agenda due to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and that too little is now being done to reverse the global epidemic. “We are not on track to begin reducing the scale and impact of the epidemic by 2005,” UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said. Only 300,000 people in the developing world have access to antiretroviralA medication or other substance which is active against retroviruses such as HIV. medication.
‘I don’t know anyone with AIDS’: Mbeki
His country has more people living with HIV/AIDS than any other, but the President of South Africa, Thabo Mbeki, claims not to know any of them. “Personally, I don’t know anybody who has died of AIDS,” Mr Mbeki said in a controversial interview with the Washington Post. Nor, he added, does he know anyone living with HIV. The comments drew sharp criticism from the Treatment Action Campaign, which accused Mbeki of “not living in the real South Africa” where more than one person in ten is infected. Mbeki has previously caused controversy by claiming that HIV does not cause AIDS. — BBC
HIV transmission through unusual routes
HIV can be transmitted, albeit very rarely, within families via unusual routes, Australian researchers have reported. While stressing that the results do not change the existing advice about avoiding HIV transmission, Dr Martyn French and co-researchers described two cases where transmission occurred between family members who had no sexual or blood contact. In one case, a 16-year-old Russian woman apparently became infected after sharing her HIV-positive sister’s razor, and in the other, a 55-year-old woman became infected after applying medication to her son’s psoriasis lesions. — AIDS 2003;17:1977-1981
Food & Wine Fair
More than 40,000 people braved inclement weather conditions to attend the annual Food and Wine Fair in Sydney’s Hyde Park on 27 September, raising about $280,000 for the AIDS Trust of Australia. More than 130 of Sydney’s restaurants, wineries, brewers and other companies hosted stalls at the fair, one of the largest annual fundraisers for HIV/AIDS in the country. Buoyed by the success of the Sydney event, now in its 13th year, the Trust is progressively extending the concept to other capital cities.
The winner of the Positive Living Cairns scholarship competition was Rik Gebalski, of Sydney. Rik, who has never been to an AIDS conference, will attend the 2003 NAPWHA Conference with our compliments. Congratulations Rik and thanks to all who entered.
Vitamin C and indinavir
Taking high doses of vitamin C can reduce blood levels of the protease inhibitor indinavir (Crixivan), according to the results of a small American study presented at the ICAAC conference in Chicago last month. In the study, conducted in HIV-negative volunteers, taking one gram of vitamin C per day reduced total indinavir concentrations by about 15 percent. — NATAP
HAARTHighly Active AntiRetroviral Therapy ??? aggressive treatment of HIV infection using several different drugs together. associated with heart surgery
Canadian researchers have found that HIV-positive people taking antiretroviral treatment were more likely to have undergone heart surgery in the last few years than similarly-aged people in the general population. By comparing two large databases listing recipients of HIV treatment and of heart surgery, researchers found the rate of heart surgery for people on HAART was higher than that in the general population. The results show that “there is a significantly increasing rate of interventional cardiovascular procedures among HIV-infected individuals undergoing antiretroviral therapy,” the researchers say. — AIDS 17: 2071-2075
Kaletra may cause opiate withdrawal
The dual protease inhibitor Kaletra (lopinavir + ritonavir) may trigger opiate withdrawal in people taking methadone, according to American researchers. In a study involving 30 volunteers, Kaletra produced a significant drop in methadone levels, increased methadone clearance, and increased opiate withdrawal symptoms. This is despite a known interaction whereby ritonavir increases methadone levels. — Clin Infect Dis 2003;37:476-482
Scan can detect hidden HIV reservoirs
Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scans have been shown to be capable of detecting reservoirs of HIV hidden in lymph nodes, according to a report in the Lancet last month. Using the scans, researchers have been able to detect different levels of lymph node activation between recently infected patients and those infected for longer periods. Importantly, the studies suggest that, in people with undetectable viral loadA measurement of the quantity of HIV RNA in the blood. Viral load blood test results are expressed as the number of copies (of HIV) per milliliter of blood plasma., the amount of HIV in hidden lymph reservoirs may not be as great as previously thought. The researchers also suggest that surgical removal of lymph nodes may one day play a part in HIV treatment. — Lancet 2003;362: 945-950, 959-961
Short-term cannabis use OK: study
HIV-positive people who use medicinal cannabis do not experience any short-term harmful effect on viral load or CD4 levels, an American study has found. The study enrolledThe act of signing up participants into a study. Generally this process involves evaluating a participant with respect to the eligibility criteria of the study and going through the informed consent process. 62 people who were being treated with antiretroviral regimens including a protease inhibitor. One third also smoked marijuana, one third took the synthetic cannabinoid drug dronabinol, and one third took a placeboA dummy medical treatment, designed to have no pharmacological effect, administered to the control group of a clinical trial.. After three weeks, the researchers found no change in HIV viral loads, CD4 or CD8 counts associated with either cannabis or dronabinol. The study contradicts earlier research, which suggested that smoked marijuana could suppress the immune system.
New antifungal agent shows promise
Two large open-labelA clinical trial in which doctors and participants know which drug or vaccine is being administered. trials of the experimental(Of a drug) Not licensed for use in humans, or as a treatment for a particular condition. Experimental drugs are studied in clinical trials to determine their safety and efficacy, and are sometimes made available via Special Access Schemes prior to their approval. antifungal medication, posaconazole (Noxafil), have shown the drug is effective against a wide range of life-threatening fungal infections, some of which do not respond to currently-available therapies, the ICAAC conference was told last month. The results suggest that posaconazole may be an important development in the treatment of opportunistic fungal infections which remain relatively common in people with severely weakened immune systems.