Monthly Archives: July 2012

I Am Living Proof That There Could Be a Cure For AIDS!

Timothy Ray Brown, known as the “Berlin Patient” and the only person to have been cured of AIDS, holds a press conference to announce the launch of the Timothy Ray Brown Foundation at the Westin City Center hotel on July 24, 2012 in Washington, DC. “I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy,” Brown said of the treatment process that eventually cured him. Planned to launch during the International AIDS Conference being held in Washington, the foundation will work to focus efforts on finding a cure for HIV and Aids. — AFP Photo

The only person believed to have been cured of HIV infection through a bone marrow transplant said Tuesday he feels wonderful and is launching a new foundation to boost research toward a cure.

Timothy Ray Brown, 47, an American from Seattle, Washington, rose to fame as the so-called “Berlin patient” after doctors tried a novel technique to use an HIV-resistant donor for a stem cell transplant to treat Brown’s leukemia.

Since 2007, he has had two high-risk bone marrow transplants and continues to test negative for HIV, stunning researchers and offering new pathways for research into how gene therapy may lead to a more widely acceptable approach.

“I am living proof that there could be a cure for AIDS,” Brown told AFP in an interview. “It’s very wonderful, being cured of HIV.”

Brown looked frail as he spoke to reporters in Washington where the 19th International AIDS Conference, the world’s largest meeting of scientific experts, policymakers and advocates is taking place.

The bone marrow transplant he received carried significant risks and may be fatal to one in five patients who undergo it. But he said his only complaint these days is the occasional headache.

He also said he was aware that his condition has generated some controversy, but disputed the claims of some scientists who believe he may still have traces of HIV in his body and may remain infectious to others.

“Yes, I am cured,” he said. “I am HIV negative.”

Brown said he fully supports more aggressive efforts toward finding a universal cure, and has met with a number of top scientists in recent days who have treated him “like a rock star.”

He said he hopes to harness some of that fame to encourage donors to fund more research, and noted that Europe and China spend far more on cure research than the United States.

“There are thousands of very able researchers who cannot get funded for research, so I want to change that. And there are a lot of researchers who are willing to work to find a cure for HIV.”

Brown was a student in Berlin, Germany, when he tested positive for HIV in 1995 and was told he probably had about two years to live.

But combination antiretroviral therapy emerged on the global market a year later, and eventually transformed HIV from a death sentence into a manageable condition for millions of people worldwide.

Brown tolerated the medications well but due to persistent fatigue he visited a doctor in 2006 and was diagnosed with leukemia. He underwent chemotherapy, which led to pneumonia and sepsis, nearly killing him.

His doctor, Gero Huetter, had the idea of trying a bone marrow transplant using a donor who had a CCR5 receptor mutation.

People without that receptor appear to be resistant to HIV because they lack the gateway through which the virus can enter the cells. But such people are rare, and are believed to consist of one percent of the northern European population.

It would be an attempt to cure cancer and HIV at the same time.

Brown’s leukemia returned in 2007, and he underwent a bone marrow transplant using stem cells from a CCR5 mutation donor, whom he has never met in person. He stopped taking antiretrovirals at the same time.

He soon had no HIV detectable in his system. His leukemia returned though, and he underwent a second bone marrow transplant in 2008, using stem cells from the same donor.

Brown said his recovery from the second operation was more complicated and left him with some neurological problems, but he continues to be free of leukemia and HIV.

Asked if he feels like his cure was a miracle, Brown was hesitant to answer.

“It’s hard to say. It depends on your religious belief, if you want to believe it’s just medical science or it was a divine intervention,” he told AFP. “I would say it’s a little bit of both.”

Original Article

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Scientists Develop Nanoparticle Which Completely Destroys Hepatitis C

Estimates suggest over 250,000 people in the UK have been infected with hepatitis C, but eight out of 10 don’t know they have it because they have no symptoms. About 75% of these people go on to develop a chronic hepatitis.

Because it can take years, even decades, for symptoms to appear, many people (possibly 100,000 or more) remain unaware they have a problem. By the time they become ill and seek help, considerable damage has been done to the liver. This might have been prevented if the person had been diagnosed earlier.

Elsewhere in the world, hepatitis C is even more common – the World Health Organization estimates that three per cent of the world’s population (about 170 million people) have chronic hepatitis C and up to four million people are newly infected each year.

While there’s increasing progress towards finding a reliable vaccine, results can’t come soon enough. Now, researchers have developed a nanoparticle that effectively eradicates hepatitis C 100 per cent of the time.

Researchers from the University of Florida have developed what they call a “nanozyme”. Based around gold nanoparticles, these things have their surface coated with two biological agents. One is an enzyme that attacks and kills the mRNA which allows hep C to replicate, while the other is a short string of DNA which identities the disease and sends the enzyme off to kill it.

While current hep C treatments attack the same replication process, they only work on about 50 per cent of patients treated. In lab-based tests, reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the Univeristy of Florida researchers showed that their approach was 100 per cent effective in both cell cultures and mice. They observed no side effects in the mouse models, either.

While it’s great news, such a treatment is some way off becoming available to patients any time soon. All targeted drugs have to be extremely carefully tested, as there’s always a risk that they could also end up targeting healthy parts of the body by accident. Given the current problems posed by hepatitis C, though, that testing can’t happen soon enough.

Original Articles via BBC, Gizmodo, PNAS & IEEE Spectrum

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Together We Will End AIDS

Entitled Together we will end AIDS, the new UNAIDS report contains the latest data on numbers of new HIV infections, numbers of people receiving antiretroviral treatment, AIDS-related deaths and HIV among children. It highlights new scientific opportunities and social progress which are bringing the world closer to UNAIDS vision of zero new HIV infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS-related deaths.

The report also gives an overview of international and domestic HIV investments and the need for greater value for money and sustainability.

Calling for global solidarity and shared responsibility, the UNAIDS report contains commentaries from global and community leaders as well as people living with and affected by HIV.

Download here

Link to UNAIDS Campaign 

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Desmond Tutu calls for end to gay stigma to help tackle HIV

Archbishop Desmond Tutu has called for homosexuality to be decriminalised to help tackle HIV.

His comments come in an analysis in The Lancet journal of why incidence of the virus continues to grow among men who have sex with men.

Dr Tutu said anti-homosexuality laws would in the future be seen as “wrong” as apartheid laws are now.

Campaigners said it was important for community leaders to speak out.

The archbishop is patron of the Desmond Tutu HIV Foundation, based in Cape Town, which provides treatment for HIV and carries out research.

Writing in The Lancet, he said: “In the future, the laws that criminalise so many forms of human love and commitment will look the way apartheid laws do to us now – so obviously wrong.

“Never let anyone make you feel inferior for being who you are. When you live the life you were meant to live, in freedom and dignity”.

Also writing in The Lancet, an international team of researchers, led by Prof Chris Beyrer of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in the US, said men who have sex with men (MSM) bore a “disproportionate burden” of HIV.

The fact HIV was first identified in gay men has “indelibly marked the global response” and “stigmatised those living with the virus”, they said.

The researchers’ paper said there was optimism among HIV specialists about the potential to use prevention, such as the drug Truvada, to reduce levels of HIV in men who have sex with men.

Earlier this week, the US Food and Drug Administration approved Truvada for preventative use in those at high risk of infection and who may engage in sexual activity with HIV-infected partners, the first time it has approved a drug to prevent HIV infection.

‘Struggle for equity’

But the international team said the picture was very different in many other countries.

“In too many settings in 2012, MSM still do not have access to the most basic of HIV services and technologies such as affordable and accessible condoms, appropriate lubricants and safe HIV testing and counselling,” they said.

“The struggle for equity in HIV services is likely to be inseparably linked to the struggle for sexual minority rights—and hence to be both a human rights struggle, and in many countries, a civil rights one.”

The paper, published on the eve of the international Aids 2012 conference, adds that by the end of 2011, only 87 countries had reported prevalence of HIV in MSM.

Data is most sparse in the Middle East and Africa, where homosexual activity is a criminal offence.

The researchers call for same-sex relations to be decriminalised in all countries, so that a true picture of the scale of HIV in men who have sex with men can be ascertained.

A spokeswoman for the UK’s Terrence Higgins Trust said: “We’ve got to have community leaders and people with influence speaking out.

“That’s why what Desmond Tutu is saying is so important.”

And she said it was right to focus efforts on men who have sex with men, in all countries.

She added: “In London, one in seven gay men has HIV.”

Original Article via BBC

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Nobel laureate, discoverer of HIV, says a cure for HIV is in sight!

Photo: REUTERS/Bob Strong
Françoise Barré-Sinoussi is the Nobel laureate who co-discovered the HIV virus.

The Nobel laureate who helped to discover HIV says a cure for AIDS is in sight following recent discoveries, in an interview with AFP ahead of AIDS 2012, the global conference for HIV.

Francoise Barre-Sinoussi, who won the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 2008 as part of a team that discovered the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), said scientific research was zeroing in on a cure for the illness.

She cited a patient in Berlin who appears to have been cured through a bone marrow transplant, “which proves that finding a way of eliminating the virus from the body is something that is realistic.”

Interested in that story? – it’s fascinating, here’s the links :

Other sources of optimism are the small minority of patients — less than 0.3 percent — who exhibit no symptoms of the virus without ever receiving treatment; and a small group in France who received antiretroviral drugs and now live without treatment or symptoms, Barre-Sinoussi said.

“There is hope… but don’t ask me for a date because we do not know.”

She also said that it would be possible “in principle” to eliminate the AIDS pandemic by 2050, if barriers to drug access could be eliminated.

The main barriers there were not scientific but political, economic and social, she said: the problem was lack of access to testing and drugs in poor and rural areas, as well as the stigma around the virus, which undermines early detection and treatment.

Some 25,000 people — including celebrities, scientists and HIV sufferers — are expected in the US capital on Sunday to call for more strident global action to address the three-decade AIDS epidemic.

Deaths and infections are down in the parts of the world most ravaged by the disease, while the number of people on treatment has risen 20 percent from 2010 to 2011, reaching eight million people in needy countries.

However this is only about half the people who should be on treatment worldwide, suggesting much more remains to be done.

More than 34 million people worldwide are living with HIV, a higher number than ever before, and around 30 million have died from AIDS-related causes since the disease first emerged in the 1980s, according to UNAIDS.

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Another view on Angels in America

The drama in Angels in America seems like a nightmare from a long time ago, but still stands as a challenge to change our attitudes to HIV.

In Angels in America, HIV is the spur that causes the truth to come out. The original play by Tony Kushner is set in 1980s New York at the height of the Aids epidemic. Not only does HIV reveal the truth about all the characters and their sex lives, it also (through each person’s attitude to the disease) tells us a huge amount about society in general.

It’s a complex story. Louis leaves his gay lover Prior, who has been diagnosed with Aids, because he can’t cope with it all. In a separate strand, Roy, an apparently rightwing lawyer, is gay yet extremely homophobic. He is dying but he won’t let what’s killing him be called Aids; he euphemistically terms it “liver cancer”. And Prior is bullied by angels, who tell him to be a prophet – but he rebels, retorting that all people with HIV and Aids want is to be “citizens”.

The play has now been turned into an opera by Péter Eötvös. When I saw it recently at London’s Barbican, I wasn’t convinced that the music brought much to the party. But the opera did successfully depict the complex and often messy reality of living with HIV. The shift between grim reality and leaps of fantasy echoes the double perspective of HIV: it is a terrible disease, but it is also a call to arms, prompting debate over gay identity and liberation.

In the 1980s, HIV challenged gay sufferers in two ways – with the threat of death, and with having to reveal their sexuality. Nowadays, treatment is widely available, so much of the drama in Angels seems like a nightmare from a long time ago. But the stigma surrounding HIV remains: I still get calls from people with HIV whose families have abandoned them, or who are excluded from jobs, healthcare or school.

The opera’s penultimate line, “we will be citizens”, stayed with me. It’s a fitting tribute to those who endured the first terrible onslaught of the HIV epidemic. It stands as a challenge to change our attitudes to the disease.

Original Article

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Even without a cure, the end of the AIDS pandemic is in sight

A very bold statement to make in the run up to AIDS 2012, none the less, this is the view of Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infections Diseases (NIAID )

NIAID director Dr. Anthony Fauci addressing the United Nations General Assembly special session on HIV/AIDS on 10June 2008.

Dr. Fauci was appointed Director of NIAID in 1984. He oversees an extensive research portfolio of basic and applied research to prevent, diagnose, and treat infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections, influenza, tuberculosis, malaria and illness from potential agents of bioterrorism. NIAID also supports research on transplantation and immune-related illnesses, including autoimmune disorders, asthma and allergies.  Dr. Fauci serves as one of the key advisors to the White House and Department of Health and Human Services on global AIDS issues, and on initiatives to bolster medical and public health preparedness against emerging infectious disease threats such as pandemic influenza.

Dr. Fauci has made many contributions to basic and clinical research on the pathogenesis and treatment of immune-mediated and infectious diseases. He has pioneered the field of human immunoregulation by making a number of basic scientific observations that serve as the basis for current understanding of the regulation of the human immune response. In addition, Dr. Fauci is widely recognized for delineating the precise mechanisms whereby immunosuppressive agents modulate the human immune response. He has developed effective therapies for formerly fatal inflammatory and immune-mediated diseases such as polyarteritis nodosa, Wegener’s granulomatosis, and lymphomatoid granulomatosis. A 1985 Stanford University Arthritis Center Survey of the American Rheumatism Association membership ranked the work of Dr. Fauci on the treatment of polyarteritis nodosa and Wegener’s granulomatosis as one of the most important advances in patient management in rheumatology over the previous 20 years.

AN END TO NEW INFECTIONS?

Three decades into the AIDS pandemic an end to new infections is in sight, according to Dr. Fauci.

“We don’t even know if a cure is possible. What we know is it is possible that we can end this pandemic even without a cure,”

Fauci told AFP in an interview ahead of the International AIDS conference 22nd -27th July in Washington DC, America.

Some 34 million people around the world are living with human immunodeficiency virus, which has killed 25 million since it first emerged in the 1980s.

The theme of this conference, which is held every two years, is “Turning the Tide Together,” and is based on experts sharing knowledge of the latest advances and how to best implement them in order to halt new cases of HIV/AIDS.

“We have good and effective treatments but we have to keep people on the treatments indefinitely in order to keep them well,” said Dr. Fauci, referring to antiretroviral drugs which have transformed a deadly disease into a manageable condition.

“When you have a very marked diminution of the number of new infections then you reach what we call and AIDS-free generation.”

Dr. Fauci said he did not expect any staggering breakthroughs to be announced at the conference, but that the gain would come though collaborating on ideas to speed progress by using the tools that practitioners have already at hand.

Otherwise, if progress continues at the present rate of reducing new infections worldwide by about 1.5 percent per year, the goal becomes too distant, he said.

Recent studies that tested antiretroviral drugs in healthy people as a way to prevent getting HIV through sex with infected partners have shown some promise, though getting people to take their medication daily had proven a challenge.

“The important thing is you have to take your medication,” Fauci said, noting that average HIV risk reduction in a study of men who have sex with men was just 44 percent.

The approach of treating healthy people with antiretrovirals is known as pre-exposure prophylaxis, and “is not for everyone,” Fauci said. “We have to selectively use it.”

The US Food and Drug Administration on Monday approved the first pill for HIV prevention, Truvada, despite concerns by some in the health care community that it could encourage drug resistance and risky sex.

Novel ways to boost testing are also good news, particularly with the recent US approval of the first at-home HIV test.

“It is so important in the quest to ending the AIDS pandemic to get as many people tested as possible. You can link them to care and get them on treatment. Anything that makes that goal easier would be an important advance.”

As far as an AIDS vaccine, Fauci said researchers have made “good progress” but “still have a long way to go.”

Experts are examining a trial done in Thailand that showed in 2009 modest efficacy of just over 30 percent, but is still considered a breakthrough and offers clues for future study into why some were helped and others were not.

Dr. Fauci also said he did not expect much concern to be raised over upcoming reports of the extent of drug resistance to antiretrovirals.

“People may think I am taking it lightly but quite frankly it is not a serious problem,” Fauci said.

He added that overall, AIDS research is “going well” even though “funding is restricted right now.”

And he expressed pride in the United States’ President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), “which has really transformed how you can get people in low income countries to get on treatment care and prevention.”

The United States provides almost half the world’s funding for international HIV assistance, according to UNAIDS.

The International AIDS Conference is returning to the United States after more than two decades away due to a ban on travel and immigration by people with HIV that was lifted in 2008 and signed into law in 2009.

Fauci called those restrictive laws “unfortunate” and “embarrassing.”

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