Thursday, January 8, 2009


A couple of new and interesting things about HIV and AIDS this last week or so...

  • A new study, probably considered a big duh to most advocates and prevention works, finds that binge drinking leads to increased HIV risks. Though the study is limited to New York City, I think it's probably generalizable out to most areas; the research was also done primarily in bars, which makes sense for a study of this nature. Some interesting bits of data out of it: 65% of men who have sex with men who use alocohol during receptive anal intercourse were likely to use a condom, versus 86% of those who do not consume alcohol. Meanwhile, 48% of men who have had 20 or more sexual partners in the last year reported being under the influence for their last sexual encouter. We are often asked, in our work, why we question peopel presenting for testing about their drinking behavior... I think it's clear.
  • The New York Times recently did a little look into hospitals that offer HIV-testing to clients presenting in the Emergency Department after 3 hospitals in Connecticut were added to the pilot CDC program. Cincinnati, specifically University Hospital, is part of this pilot program and has been met with tremendous success -- nearly 5,000 tests in the 2008 (which makes it the largest HIV-testing site in the city), and a huge portion of that comes from the OraQuik Advance 20-minute HIV screening test. Nothing major really comes out of the report, except that it has been met with some resistance by Emergency Department docs who feel that it may burden an already full system, as Emergency Depts are used these days as the primary health provider for uninsured or low-income persons. In Cincinnati, there is a separate program and separate staff providing the service.
  • The FDA has approved a new HIV-test for blood and tissue donors that is more sensitive and detects rarer strains of the virus. Like the current standard, which can detect infection two weeks out, the price tag is too large to provide for public health screening. (Comparisons: OraSure 2-week oral=approx. $3, OraQuik 20-minute oral/blood=approx. $20, Viral Load=approx. $400, etc.) The big problem with quicker detection has never been the technology, as we have been able to test for infection much sooner than the 3-6 months we currently quote patients, but that the price tag of that early of detection is so high.
  • Out of West Virginia, more calls for redirecting health money away from HIV/AIDS and into other diseases. Blah blah blah, no news there or even new points... but the comments are funny. -- "Our usually sure-footed conservative editors slipped here. We wouldn’t be in this saving-life “game” if it weren’t for deviant sex games played crudely by homosexual men." Teehee. Silly West Virginians.
  • This one is old but it's the first time I've heard about it: in 2007, researchers found that proteins from HIV can be injected into cancer cells to cause them to die. Because HIV is so efficient getting into cells, its proteins can be used to insert hormones into cancer cells that don't respond to the "now die" command in their DNA (the mutation that causes tumors). Once these hormones are inserted, the cancer cells get the message and die off. I'm surprised we've not heard any more about this...
  • And a strange bit on CNN where a woman was burned alive after being convicted by a mob of being a witch. Apparently, in Papua New Guinea, it is common for people to blame AIDS on witches... not on a disease. Whoa. 

And, of course...

  • South Africa has named Edwin Cameron to its highest court, making him the highest ranking openly gay and openly HIV+ public servant in the world. In fact, he may be the highest ranking openly (and publically) HIV+ person period. He has written extensively on the subject, as well as on the subject of being gay in South Africa. The more I read about him, the more impressive he is. Congratulations, Justice Cameron.

Picture courtesy the Queerty article.

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