New Test Aims to Make AIDS Diagnosis Easier

A new device intends to make diagnosing AIDS easier and more accessible for people in developing countries.

The instrument would eliminate the need for expensive equipment and highly trained staff, resources that are not available in many areas where the HIV epidemic is most severe.

HIV kills by destroying a particular type of disease-fighting white blood cells called CD4+ T lymphocytes. Full-blown AIDS sets in when patients’ CD4 counts fall below a critical level and they are unable to fight off infections. That’s when antiretroviral drugs are critical.

But counting CD4 cells requires a blood sample and a lab equipped to analyze it. In many areas hardest hit by the AIDS epidemic – much of sub-Saharan Africa, for example, “there is just no way to get the patient or the blood very easily to the lab,” said Rashid Bashir, head of the bioengineering department at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Lab on a chip

So, Bashir and colleagues have developed a prototype “lab on a chip” with all the equipment and chemicals to do the job in a 3-centimeter-by-4-centimeter cartridge.

Full story of new AIDS testing at Voice of America

This Mom Lost 3 Children To HIV. She’s Making Sure No Other Mother Suffers Such A Devastating Loss

One by one, each of Connie’s three children died before her eyes in the 1980s from a relentless disease she had suspected was HIV, but didn’t have the “courage” at the time to find out.

Today, the grieving mother is working to make sure that no parent makes the same tragic decision.

In Zambia, where Connie lives, and other parts of the sub-Saharan Africa — HIV and AIDS still carry a pervasive stigma, a stigma so strong that it keeps people from even getting tested.

Once Connie’s husband fell ill, the two felt that they had no choice but to find out if they were infected. They both tested positive.

The pair enrolled in the Kanyama Health Center, a clinic that offers free life-saving drugs –- a decision that has kept Connie alive and has also helped her find a new purpose.

Connie now serves as an AIDS ambassador and peer counselor. She tests people in the comforts of their own homes and helps them navigate their treatment options.

Full story of HIV and loss at Huffington Post

HIV spread may be prevented with discovery of new gene

Scientists have discovered a new gene that may have the ability to prevent human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) from spreading once it enters the body, according to a study published in the journal Nature.

HIV May Be Prevented With New GeneResearchers from King’s College London in the UK say the gene, called MX2, could lead to new effective and less toxic treatment against HIV – the virus that causes acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS).

For the study, the researchers conducted experiments on human cells, in which they introduced the HIV virus to two different cell lines. One cell line had the MX2 gene “switched on,” while the other cell line had no MX2 expression.

On observing the effects, the researchers found that in the cells in which the MX2 gene was expressed, the HIV virus was unable to replicate, therefore stopping new viruses from being produced.

In the cell line in which the MX2 gene was switched off, the HIV virus replicated and spread.

Full story of HIV prevention from gene at Medical News Today

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Making sure HIV-positive women get the care they need

In the back of a skid row community health center, a woman with teardrop tattoos under her eyes begins to tell her story.

Making Sure HIV Postive Women are Getting CareTo a circle of other women, she says she ran away from home and joined a gang at 13. She started injecting PCP, and as a teen spent time in jail. By 22, she worked as a prostitute. At 37, she was diagnosed with HIV.

Now 50, the woman known as Hilda tells the circle that the only time she took her HIV medication was when she was in jail. “Why?” someone asks. “I wanted to die,” she answers.

Welcome to a weekly support session sponsored by the Ladies of Diversity, a federally funded program that works to give HIV-positive homeless women of color a reason to stay connected to medical services. Leaders allowed the Los Angeles Times to attend one gathering on the condition that clients be identified only by their first names.

The organization aims to better understand the challenges that keep infected black and Latina women from connecting to HIV care, said Tina Henderson, an HIV/AIDS researcher for 20 years and the program manager of the Ladies of Diversity.

California is one of eight states where such a project has been given money by the federal Health Resources and Services Administration.

Full story of care for HIV positive women at the Los Angeles Times

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HIV: New East Bay program gives prevention pill to high-risk youths

Prevention Pill to HIV High-Risk YouthsDavid was skeptical. It sounded too good to be true. A once-a-day pill that could help healthy people avoid HIV infection?

But David also knew he was at high risk because his partner was HIV-positive.

So after careful research, the 21-year-old Oakland resident decided to join an unusual program that will give the drug known as Truvada to more than 100 East Bay youths, along with safe-sex counseling and other sexual health services.

Those overseeing the program hope it can help solve a serious problem: The number of people nationwide who are newly infected with HIV, the virus that can cause AIDS, has held steady at about 50,000 annually in recent years after dropping sharply in the late 1980s, despite health professionals’ best efforts to tackle the problem.

“There is a degree of frustration — we don’t seem to be able to reduce the level of transmission,” said George Lemp, director of the University of California Office of the President’s HIV/AIDS Research Program.

“A lot of people felt that we needed more aggressive approaches,” he said.

Full story of prevention pill to high-risk youths at Mercury News

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HIV epidemics and extra-couple relationships: an interview with Steve Bellan, University of Texas

HIV Edpicemic and Extra Couple RelationshipsThe epicentre of the HIV pandemic is in sub-Saharan Africa, though prevalence of infection varies dramatically between countries for reasons not completely understood.

According to UNAIDS estimates, the four countries with the most severe epidemics are Botswana, Lesotho, South Africa, and Swaziland. In these countries, HIV prevalence ranges from 13-21% and 23-30% in adult males and females, respectively.

Until recently, we have had surprisingly poor estimates of country-wide HIV prevalence. For a long time, all country estimates of HIV prevalence were based on anonymous testing of pregnant woman at antenatal clinics. This has been the best available data, but sexually active women are hardly a representative sample of the whole population.

Only with the start of more representative surveys that included HIV testing in the mid 2000’s (such as the Demographic and Health Surveys that we analyzed) did we really begin to understand exactly how severe the epidemics were.

Full story of HIV epidemics at News Medical

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Year in review: Home HIV tests become available

HIV Home Test KitKnown as the OraQuick In-Home HIV test, the test was developed by OraSure Technologies, Inc.

“The test has the potential to identify large numbers of previously undiagnosed HIV infections, especially if used by those unlikely to use standard screening methods,” the FDA said in a new release.

“Knowing your status is an important factor in the effort to prevent the spread of HIV,” said Dr. Karen Midthun, director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research. “The availability of a home-use HIV test kit provides another option for individuals to get tested so that they can seek medical care, if appropriate.”

The FDA says clinical studies of the test showed a 92 percent sensitivity rate, which means that of every 12 HIV-infected individuals tested with the kit, one negative result could be expected.

Full story of home HIV tests at Washington Blade

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Hope amid frustration as World AIDS Day approaches

World AIDs DayThirty-four million people live with HIV today, and 1.7 million became newly infected in 2011.  But on the eve of World AIDS Day, many experts see room for some optimism.

Studies now show that identifying — and effectively treating — people who are HIV-positive early in the course of their infections will not only reduce sickness and deaths for those patients but will also reduce the risk of spreading the virus to others. That’s because the antiretroviral medications keep the levels of virus low in a patient’s body.

For those reasons, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force this month released draft advice for the government and U.S. physicians proposing that HIV screens should be routine for most people — not just those whose behavior puts them at high risk. A commentary by AIDS experts published in the Canadian journal CMAJ suggested the same thing for our neighbors to the north. The advice is in line with CDC guidelines as well as with ones from a variety of medical groups.

“Yet less than a third of HIV-infected people in the United States are being treated successfully for their infection such that the virus is fully suppressed, and similarly low percentages have been observed in other countries,” noted a statement released by the National Institutes of Health. It was coauthored by Dr. Anthony Fauci (director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases), Jack Whitescarver (director of the NIH Office of AIDS Research) and NIH director Dr. Francis Collins.

Full story of world aids day at Los Angeles Times

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New test to improve HIV diagnosis in poor countries

AIDS Control. A woman performs some tests in a beaker.Scientists have come up with a test for the virus that causes AIDS that is ten times more sensitive and a fraction of the cost of existing methods, offering the promise of better diagnosis and treatment in the developing world.

The test uses nanotechnology to give a result that can be seen with the naked eye by turning a sample red or blue, according to research from scientists at Imperial College in London published in the journal Nature Nanotechnology.

"Our approach affords for improved sensitivity, does not require sophisticated instrumentation and it is ten times cheaper," Molly Stevens, who led the research, told Reuters.

Simple and quick HIV tests that analyze saliva already exist but they can only pick up the virus when it reaches relatively high concentrations in the body.

Full story of new HIV test at Reuters

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Poor HIV patients improve with care beyond drugs: study

AIDS Control. A woman performs some tests in a beaker.Patients stepping into Johns Hopkins University’s HIV clinic in east Baltimore do not just see a doctor or get prescriptions for their antiretroviral drugs. Many also get help finding a place to live or bus fare to make it to their next appointment.

Such care that goes beyond the examination table and into patients’ often challenging lives has been key to helping poorer HIV patients – particularly blacks and women – live long, healthier lives, according to a 15-year study published on Thursday in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases.

Researchers at the university followed 6,366 patients in the mostly black, low-income part of a city marked by abandoned buildings and plagued by an illegal drug trade that drew national attention on the gritty television series "The Wire."

Full story of hiv patients at Reuters

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