INDIA: Doctor Presses Bank on HIV Tests
AIDS expert Kunal Saha is calling on World Bank officials to release a report on faulty diagnostic HIV test kits that could be putting Indians at risk for the virus. Saha, a professor at Ohio State University, also wants officials to ensure the kits, which he said produce false negative results, are removed from blood banks and hospitals in the country.
Earlier this year, Saha went on a bank-sponsored mission to India to examine a program to combat the spread of HIV. He and two India-based medical specialists visited hospitals and blood banks in major cities, gathering lab documents concerning the faulty kits. He cited 2004 and 2005 test results from two Indian hospitals in which blood samples that were known to be HIV-positive instead tested negative during a second, confirmatory test using the defective kits.
A draft report by Saha and the other doctors warns of serious quality issues with the kits at blood banks and hospitals between 2003 and 2006. “If people are getting HIV because of defective test kits, it’s horrendous, it’s unthinkable,” said Saha.
The World Bank’s top public health expert in South Asia, Kees Kostermans, said the bank’s partners at India’s National AIDS Control Organization have assured him the kits are no longer being purchased and that none remain in use, he said.
Saha said he has seen evidence suggesting some of the flawed kits were in use as recently as April. But Kostermans disputed this, saying Saha was “mistaken”. (Carrie Johnson, Washington Post)
CANADA: ‘John Letters Are Dangerous’: AIDS Group
Some activists are responding angrily to an Ottawa police plan to send warning letters to the homes of men observed seeking commercial sex. The letters will put women “at greater danger by making them even more invisible within our community,” said Michelle Ball, coordinator of education and health promotion with the AIDS Committee of Ottawa. “Sending sex trade workers even further underground creates systemic barriers in providing support to women working in the trade, their children, access to health care and community social services.”
Under the plan approved Monday, men observed talking with prostitutes or cruising in areas where prostitution is common would be sent “community safety” letters. The letters warn of a “clear correlation” among prostitution, drug use, and diseases like HIV and hepatitis. The letter “is meant to educate the driver who is engaged or attempting to engage in conversation with a sex trade worker,” said the department’s Superintendent Larochelle.
But Ball said not all sex workers are drug addicts, and “It’s not being in the sex trade that puts you at risk. It’s how much information you have, how marginalized you are, and what resources you have to protect yourself.”
The letter “marginalizes the fundamental issues surrounding the sex trade, including homelessness, racism, violence and poverty,” said Colleen Whiteduck of the Elizabeth Fry Society, which advocates for women and girls in the justice system.. (Andrew Seymour, Ottawa Citizen)
MALAYSIA: Malaysia Expected to Achieve Millennium Development Goals on HIV/AIDS
After a meeting of the Cabinet Committee on AIDS, Malaysia’s deputy prime minister said the country is well on track to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) on HIV/AIDS, due to the success of several government programs. Najib Tun Razak said Monday the long-term impact of methadone replacement therapy, syringe exchanges and antiretroviral treatment programs is anticipated to be seen by 2010.
“If this is achieved, Malaysia is expected to achieve the [MDGs] in three target areas, namely reducing child and maternal mortality and the spread of HIV,” Najib was quoted by the national Bernama news agency as saying.
The methadone replacement program is set to expand from 5,000 people this year to 25,000 by 2010, said Najib. The initiative has helped 66 percent of HIV patients to hold down permanent jobs and 24 percent to do general work after 12 months of treatment, he said.
Approximately 76,389 HIV/AIDS cases were recorded in Malaysia in 2006. Of the 5,800 new cases diagnosed last year, 32 percent contracted the disease through sex. According to Najib, 15.6 percent of the new HIV cases were diagnosed in drug rehabilitation centers, 5.3 percent in prisons, and 8.9 percent in tuberculosis centers, while 0.13 percent were detected through pre-marital testing, and 0.03 percent involved pregnant women. (Xinhua News Agency)
UNITED STATES: Obesity a Problem in HIV Population
The weight loss and wasting syndrome long associated with AIDS has now been replaced – for some HIV-positive people who have not progressed to AIDS – by obesity, according to a new study being presented today at an infectious-disease meeting in San Diego.
Doctors report there is a growing need for HIV patients to be screened for obesity, which raises the risk of diabetes, high blood pressure and cholesterol. “We used to worry that they would lose weight and become wasted,” said Dr. Nancy Crum-Cianflone of San Diego’s TriService AIDS Clinical Consortium. “Maybe we should redirect our concerns to making sure they are maintaining a healthy, normal weight.”
At the height of the US AIDS epidemic, many patients experienced wasting syndrome, the uncontrollable loss of greater than 10 percent of body weight, along with symptoms like diarrhea and fever. Medical advances have resulted in more HIV patients living longer than their counterparts two decades ago, causing them to be prone to the same habits as uninfected Americans – poor eating choices and lack of exercise.
After observing that her patients were steadily getting fat, Crum-Cianflone decided to study how prevalent obesity was in the HIV population. She and her colleagues analyzed the medical records of 663 HIV patients at Navy hospitals in San Diego and Bethesda, Md. The researchers looked at medical records, duration of HIV infection, and whether patients had a history of diabetes or high blood pressure.
Sixty-three percent of the patients were overweight or obese, while just 3 percent were underweight, and none were considered to be “wasted.” Among those with fully developed AIDS, around 30 percent were overweight or obese, the researchers found.
The study did not show a link between excess weight and AIDS drugs. Patients who gained weight tended to put on an average of 13 pounds over a decade. Those who become infected younger, were infected for a longer time, or had high blood pressure were more likely to get fat.
The rise in obesity among HIV patients appears to mirror the US population in general. (Alicia Chang, Associated Press)