VIRGINIA: "Smart Phones Become Weapon Against HIV"
Infection Control Today (02.26.13):: University of Virginia Health System
The University of Virginia (UVA) School of Medicine has won $525,000 from the AIDS United Foundation to develop its project plan to use smart phones to improve care of individuals recently diagnosed with HIV in rural Virginia. The project’s smart phone application (app) will provide personalized, interactive reminders and offer access to a virtual community. It will also monitor treatment adherence and potential barriers to care so that the provider can respond quickly in nearly real time.
A one-year review indicated that individuals newly diagnosed with HIV infection missed an average of 1.7 scheduled appointments before reaching the UVA Ryan White Clinic, the largest HIV care provider in western Virginia. That delay can cause their health to worsen, increase the amount of virus in their blood, and add to the chances of spreading the disease to others. The new initiative will focus on problems such as depression, stigma, and poverty that often prevent or delay care for rural persons with HIV infection.
According to Rebecca Dillingham, MD, MPH, of the UVA Ryan White Clinic, the Positive Links program will provide a pathway to earlier entry into HIV care, building and reinforcing strong links to care through the tailored smart phone app. Counseling sessions based on the CDC-endorsed Antiretroviral Treatment and Services program will provide information about the disease and present skills and strategies for living with HIV; these lessons will be reinforced by the app. Also, a priority access pathway for newly diagnosed HIV-infected persons will ensure that they receive care within 24 hours of contacting the Positive Links coordinator. Project staff hopes the app will provide the critical support the newly diagnosed person needs. Project staff is in the process of developing the app and expects to begin recruiting participants this summer.
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SYRIA: "Syria Disease Outbreak: Typhoid, Hepatitis A Infections on the Rise, Warns WHO"
GlobalPost (Boston, MA) (02.21.13):: Allison Jackson and Tracey Shelton
The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned that contagious diseases like typhoid and hepatitis A are spreading in Syria because people are drinking contaminated water from rivers and wells in the war-torn country. According to IRIN news service, the rising number of infections has coincided with the collapse of the country’s health system, with more than half of the hospitals damaged and more than one-third not functioning. Also, many doctors have left the areas of conflict.
The UN has registered 800 cases of hepatitis in Syria. Elizabeth Hoff, WHO representative in Syria, commented, “There is not enough fuel or electricity to run the pumps so people [are drinking] water from the Euphrates [River], which is contaminated, probably with sewage.”
In the town of Atmeh, approximately 12,000 refugees are living in tents. Children play in areas where rain water has formed unsanitary stagnant pools among muddy trails between the tents and garbage litters the area. Refugees complain about the lack of places to shower, the lack of water, and the bitter cold and unsanitary conditions, which result in children being constantly sick. They explain that the doctor is not always present in the medical tent; he comes late in the afternoon and if anyone is ill before that time, they simply have to wait. Also, people are being turned away from the hospital, which is only accepting those who are injured.
The UN has estimated that the war has forced approximately 850,000 refugees to leave Syria for neighboring countries. Approximately four million people still in Syria have been displaced and need aid.
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UNITED STATES: "HIV Speeds Up Liver Disease in HCV"
MedPage Today (02.26.13):: Michael Smith
Researchers found that HIV infection promotes the progression of liver disease in people coinfected with the hepatitis C virus (HCV). David Thomas, MD, of Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and colleagues conducted a prospective observational study in a cohort of HCV-infected people. The researchers were aware that although people with HIV have been reported to develop age-related disease at a younger age, it has not been determined whether the observations are caused by HIV infection or other risk factors.
The researchers used data from the AIDS Linked to the IntraVenous Experience (ALIVE) cohort of current and former injection drug users in Baltimore. They compared liver fibrosis severity by age (assessed every six months by liver stiffness measurements) among HCV-infected individuals with and without HIV who were being followed up over time with the same protocol.
Of the 1,176 participants (median age of 49 years), 34 percent were coinfected with HIV. Participants had 5,634 liver fibrosis measurements throughout 2.9 years of follow-up. Individuals with both HCV and HIV infection had significantly more cirrhosis or clinically significant fibrosis without cirrhosis at the beginning of the study. Liver fibrosis was independently associated with older age and HIV infection. Using a multivariate model, researchers calculated the expected liver fibrosis value by age and found that, with age held constant, fibrosis was 1.17 to 2.02 kilopascals greater in individuals with HIV than those without. This means that HIV-infected people had liver fibrosis measurements equal to those of uninfected individuals approximately 9.2 year older. Also, liver fibrosis among HIV-infected individuals was associated with lower nadir or current counts of CD4-positive T cells and with higher levels of HIV RNA.
The full report, “HIV, Age, and the Severity of Hepatitis C Virus–Related Liver Disease: A Cohort Study,” was published online in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine (February 26, 2013).
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NEBRASKA: "Sessions Aim to Help Middle School Parents Have 'The Talk' about Sex"
The Independent (Grand Island, Nebraska) (02.23.13):: Harold Reutter
Susan Goodman of the Central Health Center and staff members from the Grand Island (Neb.) school district are talking to middle school parents about sex so that the parents can talk about sex with their children. The school staff has already held morning and afternoon sessions with parents from Walnut and Barr Middle Schools. On February 27, they are meeting with Westridge Middle School parents. Associate Superintendent Robin Dexter said, “We wanted to have morning and afternoon sessions to make it possible for all parents to attend.” Grand Island Public School (GIPS) officials believe parents should be responsible for transmitting their own values and beliefs to their children; thus, it will be up to parents whether to talk about contraceptives with their children.
The district adopted its current sex education curriculum—called WAIT, which stands for “Why Am I Tempted?”—for the 1998–1999 school year as part of a multi-year federal grant to see if the abstinence-only curriculum was effective in preventing teen pregnancies. At the time, Hall County had a higher-than-average rate of STDs and unwed teen mothers, which is still true today. According to a Robert Woods Johnson report, Hall County’s birth rate for teens ages 15 to 19 was 67 per 1,000 girls in 2012, in comparison to a statewide rate of 36 births per 1,000 girls ages 15 to 19 for Nebraska.
Dexter explained that the GIPS district received the federal grant and adopted the WAIT curriculum before she began working for the school district. Even though the federal grant has ended, GIPS still uses the WAIT curriculum, said Dexter, adding that it appears to be the best available abstinence-only curriculum. Despite the abstinence-only curriculum, some GIPS students are choosing to be sexually active. “Last spring, we had 79 students who were either pregnant or who had given birth,” Dexter said. She estimated the district also might average one or two middle school pregnancies per year. Dexter emphasized that the school district’s sex education program is designed to be age appropriate.
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MASSACHUSETTS: "Chlamydia Targeted in Bowdoin-Geneva"
Boston Globe (02.25.13):: Meghan E. Irons
Community groups in Dorchester’s Bowdoin-Geneva section and Boston health officials are launching a campaign to stop chlamydia, an STD that is disproportionately afflicting neighborhood young adults and teenagers. Chlamydia rates among Bowdoin-Geneva residents ages 15 to 24 are twice that of the rest of Boston. This statistic concerns the city public health commission, which has made the disease one of its top three priorities; low birth weight and obesity are the other two priorities.
Bowdoin-Geneva reported 719 chlamydia cases, a rate of 1,454 per 100,000 residents, according to data provided by the Boston Public Health Commission. For those 15 to 24 years old, the difference in the infection rate is even greater—2,350 per 100,000 for Boston as a whole compared with 6,275 per 100,000 in Bowdoin-Geneva. Women and girls are generally hit hardest by the disease, and statistics for both Bowdoin-Geneva and the city as a whole reflect that, indicating that females report contracting chlamydia at a far higher rate than males. Healthcare advocates and youth are greatly concerned about the numbers. Officials are challenged in curbing the disease’s spread because adolescence and young adulthood are “often a time of exploration, and part of that for many young people is sexual exploration,’’ according to Dr. Anita Barry, director of the Boston Public Health Commission's Infectious Disease Bureau.
Local health officials have tried to curb the disease. Big Sister officials discovered the problem in the Bowdoin-Geneva area while working with the mayor’s office more than a year ago. As they studied health data to determine which issues were most urgent, they became distressed by the number of young people who tested positive for chlamydia. Big Sister attempted unsuccessfully to obtain grant funding for the effort, but the organization mobilized its campaign and will get together with other groups to forge a plan. They have linked with the health commission, the mayor’s office, and the Catholic Charities’ Teen Center on Bowdoin Street to train teenagers to spread the prevention message. Big Sister said it will provide mentors and work with young girls who participate at the neighborhood’s community center.
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CALIFORNIA: "Elton John Oscar Party Raises Millions for AIDS Research"
Ultimate Classic Rock (02.26.13):: Jeff Giles
Elton John’s latest Oscar party on February 24 raised an impressive $6 million for AIDS research this year. The annual event has brought in a total of more than $300 million in funds throughout the last 21 years and is considered to be a popular celebrity event. John encouraged attendees to practice activism, declaring it was “…needed now more than ever if we are to achieve the promise of an AIDS-free generation…And I promise you that we’ll keep on fighting until the politics and bureaucracies yield to reason and justice.” Items auctioned during the party included a five-day stay at Steven Tyler’s Hawaiian retreat for $250,000 and four private performances from John at $250,000 each.
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TEXAS: "ExxonMobil Funds Summer Interns at 2 AIDS Agencies"
Dallas Voice (02.26.13)
ExxonMobil is funding summer internships for college students at 30 nonprofit organizations, including AIDS Service Dallas (ASD) and Legacy Counseling Center. The Legacy intern will assist the program director of Legacy Founders Cottage. Melissa Grove, Legacy’s executive director, describes the program director’s job as coordinating care of persons at the house, ensuring that the house is moving smoothly, getting individuals to appointments, and picking up medication and groceries. ASD’s Chief Executive Officer Don Maison describes their intern’s position as working with the children living at the facility to keep them off the street. In addition to Legacy and ASD, other agencies available for interns are the Center for Nonprofit Management, which has been a resource for a number of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) and AIDS organizations; and Promise House, which partners with Youth First Texas for emergency youth shelter and transitional living. Additionally, arts organizations such as Dallas Black Dance Theater and Undermain Theater have open ExxonMobil intern positions. Interested college students should contact the agencies.
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