Monthly Archives: March 2013

Salt & Peppa – Let’s Talk About Sex

Last week, we spoke briefly about how music affects the body, mind and mood and introduced Music Mondays! Sharing music with a HIV or sexual health spin.
Last week featured Neneh Cherry’s, rework of Cole Porter’s “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” and as promised, this week, It’s all about sex!

Let’s Talk About Sex is a message about safe sex, the positive and negative sides of sex and the censorship that sex had around that time in mainstream media.  An alternate version of the song entitled “Let’s Talk About AIDS” was released to radio on a promotional single and included as a b-side on various singles for the song.  The lyrics were changed to more directly address the spread of AIDS and HIV.

The music video for “Let’s Talk About Sex” directed by Millicent Shelton starts in a black-and-white scene with a girl turning on a radio and listening to the song. Then she starts kissing her boyfriend and scenes of Salt-N-Pepa and other couples kissing and hugging are shown. Next the video colorizes when Salt-N-Pepa are shown dancing. Another version of the video has a scene in which a skeleton is shown after the word ‘AIDS’ with a stamp written ‘censored’ in his mouth.

Let’s Talk About AIDS

If talking about sex is too ‘in your face’ we slow it down a little next week and talk about the emotional side of love, and waiting for the right time.

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Early HIV drugs ‘functionally cure about one in 10’

HIV Medicine

Rapid treatment after HIV infection may be enough to “functionally cure” about a 10th of those diagnosed early, say researchers in France.

They have been analysing 14 people who stopped therapy, but have since shown no signs of the virus resurging.  It follows reports of a baby girl being effectively cured after very early treatment in the US.  However, most people infected with HIV do not find out until the virus has fully infiltrated the body.

The group of patients, known as the Visconti cohort, all started treatment within 10 weeks of being infected. The patients were caught early as they turned up in hospital with other conditions and HIV was found in their blood.

They stuck to a course of antiretroviral drugs for three years, on average, but then stopped.  The drugs keep the virus only in check, they cannot eradicate it from its hiding places inside the immune system.  Normally, when the drugs stop, the virus bounces back.

Control

This has not happened in the Visconti patients. Some have been able to control HIV levels for a decade.

Dr Asier Saez-Cirion, from the Institute Pasteur in Paris, said: “Most individuals who follow the same treatment will not control the infection, but there are a few of them who will.”  He said 5-15% of patients may be functionally cured, meaning they no longer needed drugs, by attacking the virus soon after infection.

“They still have HIV, it is not eradication of HIV, it is a kind of remission of the infection.”

Their latest study, in the journal PLoS Pathogens, analysed what happened to the immune system of the patients.  Early treatment may limit the number of unassailable HIV hideouts that are formed. However, the researchers said it was “unclear” why only some patients were functionally cured.

Dr Andrew Freedman, a reader in infectious diseases at Cardiff University School of Medicine, said the findings were “certainly interesting”.

“The presumption is that they’ve started treatment very early and the virus hasn’t spread to so many of the long-term reservoirs and that’s why it works.  Whether they’ll control it forever, or whether it’ll be for a number of years and subsequently they will progress and the virus will reappear, we don’t know.”

However, he cautioned that many patients would be diagnosed much later than in this study.

Deborah Jack, the chief executive of the National AIDS Trust said it was “exciting times” in progress towards an HIV cure, but the key was early treatment.

“This just underlines the importance of people being testing and diagnosed early. Currently half of people living with HIV in the UK are diagnosed late – indicating that they are likely to have been infected for five years.”

Analysis

There have been two stories about HIV ‘cures’ in two weeks now – yet the latest developments offer little to the majority of people living with HIV.

In the Mississippi baby case and in the Visconti cohort the infection was caught very early, within weeks, at a vulnerable stage.

This suggests that by hitting the virus hard when it first infects the body, it might be possible to live for years without needing treatment – a functional cure.

However, these patients were the lucky few who were detected in the days and weeks after infection. Most cases are detected years later. For these patients a cure looks, at best, distant.

The hope is that by investigating how patients treated early, and a group of people who are genetically resistant to HIV, can combat the virus – it will give scientists clues for developing cures for everyone else.

Original Article by James Gallagher
Health and science reporter, BBC News

WHEN WAS YOUR LAST HIV TEST?

If all the recent news about the importance of an early HIV diagnosis is persuading you to think about having a HIV test, you should know we offer offer a completely free and confidential rapid HIV test.  This means you will get your test results within a couple of minutes, and it’s a simple simple finger prick test.  (We don’t collect blood and send it off, we do it there with you)!

We use the Insti HIV test produced by BioLytical laboratories. The test is 99.96% accurate from 90 days after  contact for detecting HIV 1 and 2 antibodies.  We also have a mobile testing van which is often out in communities providing mobile rapid HIV tests. Appointments are not necessary, call us (0116 2559995) we’re here to help.

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Pope Francis I & Interactions with HIV/AIDS Patients

popefrancis

Argentine Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio has been elected the Catholic Church’s Pope, taking the name Francis, (The first time a pope has taken that name). The 76-year-old from Buenos Aires is the first Latin American and the first Jesuit to be pontiff.

Appearing on a balcony over St Peter’s Square in Rome yesterday, he asked the crowds to pray for him, with cheers erupting as he gave a blessing. Messages of goodwill have poured in from around the world. The Pope’s inaugural Mass will be next Tuesday.

As Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, he showed compassion for HIV/AIDS patients, when in 2001 he visited a drugs rehabilitation centre in Buenos Aires, Argentina where he is from and washed the feet of twelve recovering drug addicts, diagnosed with HIV during the Mass of the Lord’s Supper.

Each year, repeating the gesture, said to be done by Jesus at the Last Supper with the Apostles, is a reminder of the attitude the church says it should have.

The following video contains photo slides from the event.

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Neneh Cherry – I’ve Got You Under My Skin

igyums

NATURALLY, music affects the body and mind in many wonderful ways. Music affects human thoughts, feelings and behaviors  Just its rhythm affects the body, making the pulse and respiration to flow in tune with the music’s beat or rhythm.  Music can relax or energise an individual, and affect some of  us deeply, in a personal way.

What is more, research has also shown that music has a profound effect on the human body and psyche. As a matter fact, there’s a growing field of health care known as music therapy, which uses music to heal.

As a resource which shares with you HIV and Sexual Health articles, it’s about time we started sharing HIV from other angles.

Introducing “Music Monday’s”!

Over the next few weeks on Monday nights, we’ll bring a featured HIV or sexual health awareness track from over the years and we’ll start it right now with Neneh Cherry!

In 1990 the Red Hot Organization, a non-profit organisation dedicated to fighting HIV/AIDS though pop culture released “Red Hot + Blue”, featuring contemporary pop performers reinterpreting several songs written by Cole Porter. It sold over a million copies worldwide and was heralded as one of the first major HIV/AIDS benefits in the music business.

“I’ve Got You Under My Skin” was written by Cole Porter in 1936, it was nominated for the Academy award of Best Song. It became a signature song for Frank Sinatra and in 1966, became a top 10 hit for the Four Seasons. Since then, it has gone on to be recorded by many leading pop artists and jazz musicians.

Neneh Cherry’s reworked version of I’ve Got You Under My Skin was released as the lead single for the album in the UK and Europe.  Video follows, stay tuned because next week it’s all about sex!

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Baby Cured of HIV – Here’s the real message..

caduceus-and-red

Late Sunday night, the world media started to report about a baby, born with HIV had been cured.  Everybody got talking; scientists, people of faith, doctors, the public, HIV experts, me, you!

It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of a cure, I honestly didn’t think I’d be writing the phrase ‘HIV Cure’ for at least a few more years yet, but as it were, we were given a flurry of media reports about how this case was set to change the HIV treatment paradigm, prevent babies from being infected, and, to quote the principal author of the study, Dr Deborah Persaud, “transform our current treatment practices in newborns worldwide”.

There are reports that parents and guardians are asking if this means that children who are infected at birth can stop their drugs.  People are very over-optimistic, and have been calling their doctors and specialists raising the question of whether they, or their child could also be cured!

More Data Needed

We need to slow down, and get some perspective.  The news was only announced five days ago.

To quote a famous professor of HIV pharmacology: “We need more data.” We need to take stock, get the facts right, and allow for scrutiny of the case by the scientific community.

There are many questions to be asked of the case. For instance, was the baby truly infected in the first place? From reviewing the data presented at the conference, it certainly seems possible. But how established was this infection? Had it established itself in so-called long-lived memory T cells?

Furthermore, when was the actual point of infection? This is not clear. Could it have been just prior to delivery? If so, it is possible that by serendipity the doctors intervened with drugs just as the virus was trying to become established.

A Cure, or PEP?

It’s imperative, then, that we attempt to understand when exactly this baby was infected. Was it just before birth, or several months before birth? The longer the period of time, the more interesting the case becomes.

However, if the intervention simply aborted the establishment of infection then Dr Persaud’s results are less exciting.

If drugs were introduced very shortly after infection, the treatment may have actually acted as PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis) – a strategy already used by HIV doctors to try and avoid establishment of infection

Think of a fire which has just caught alight, but has yet really to take hold. Pouring a bucket of water on it at this point may kill the fire dead. Was there actually a flame, or the presence of detectable virus, in this case? Yes, of course. But this bucket of water may not have worked had you allowed the ‘fire’ to become properly established.

The case being described by many as a ‘cure’ may in fact be like this bucket of water – effective, but only because it was delivered so early.

Taking the fire analogy further, after we have put out the flames we may still see the residues it left behind. It might even reignite at a later point in time. The Mississippi baby has been off anti-retroviral drug treatment [ARVs] for less than a year – there are currently no flames, but we are waiting to see if the embers are truly burned out.

Currently, and beyond this headline case, we have no way to completely put out the fire of HIV once it has caught hold. Our current ARV treatments, then, are the firemen who keep the flames of HIV at bay. As long as they are there, you can begin to rebuild the house – a fact born out by the fact that hundreds of thousands of our patients have been on totally suppressive regimens for up to twenty years.

Currently, it is a truth that, if you stop therapy, the virus inevitably rebounds when you –cease medication usually within two weeks. Admittedly, there are a very few rare cases where the virus may simply smoulder away at very low levels for many years (so-called “post treatment controllers”).

All of these considerations and unanswered questions mean that we have a long way to go yet before we fully understand this case. We must fully explore the baby’s immune make-up. What about the characteristics of the mother’s virus, which was curiously low for someone not on treatment? There are so many questions before we should really call this a cure.

Other than the potential of Dr Persaud’s research to stimulate further investigations, then, what is the best thing that can come of all this media frenzy?

The great hope is that this moment represents the greatest mass HIV awareness campaign since the Don’t Die of Ignorance ‘tombstone’ campaign of the 1980s. Rarely does HIV make such headlines, and we have a real chance to educate people whilst their interest is piqued.

We must tell people that the story of HIV is very different now, and we must take this opportunity to communicate new messages through the media whose attention we currently have – messages which can correct people’s out-dated misconceptions.

  • Let’s talk about testing, and the importance of early diagnosis.
  • Let’s talk about effective drugs, which when prescribed early enough can help a patient live a long and full life.
  • Let’s talk about condoms and prevention.
  • Let’s tackle stigma!

Today there is no reason for any baby to be become HIV positive, if the mother is tested and diagnosed early in pregnancy – and if she and the baby have access to effective treatments which can prevent transmission. Sadly, 590,000 babies every year are still born HIV-positive in the developing world: an unnecessary tragedy.

We can do something about that right now, with the tools we have – If we increase testing and make it more regular and consistent. In the UK, 95% of women take the HIV tests during pregnancy. And with effective treatment the chance of the baby being born positive is less than 0.5%. We should be aiming for the same success all over the world

Above and beyond a media storm about a supposed ‘cure’, there are good news stories we can make happen today.

Is the ‘cure’ story exciting? Yes. Is it scientifically plausible? Yes. Will it stimulate more research? Almost certainly. But it is extremely premature to hail it as a cure that will translate into routine clinical care any time soon. We need much more data.

So if you or your child are HIV-positive, then please… don’t stop taking your tablets. And if you have had unprotected sex, take the test. Condoms, education, testing, and access to treatment are our real weapons against HIV, and we need to learn to use these correctly if we want to make a real impact today.

When was your last HIV test?

We offer offer a completely free and confidential rapid HIV test (results within 60 seconds from a simple finger prick test)!  We use the Insti HIV test produced by BioLytical laboratories. The test is 99.96% accurate from 90 days after  contact for detecting HIV 1 and 2 antibodies.  We also have a mobile testing van which is often out in communities providing mobile rapid HIV tests. Appointments are not necessary, call us (0116 2559995) we’re here to help.

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Another Major HIV Breakthrough

ProfLewin

Yesterday, the world was taken by storm when it was announced that a baby, born with HIV had been cured.  On the same day, it was announced a team from The Alfred hospital have uncovered HIV’s genetic hiding place and found a drug able to wake it up so that it can be destroyed.

The Alfred’s director of infectious diseases, Prof Sharon Lewin, said waking up HIV with doses of a highly toxic cancer drug was a huge step in curing a disease that has already claimed an estimated 30 million lives.

“What we thought would happen happened: the virus woke up, and we could measure it,” Prof Lewin said. “That is a big step.

“There are more possibilities of getting rid of it by making it visible to drugs and visible to the immune system (and) that we now know we can do.  Now the big challenge is working out, once it is visible, what are the ways to get rid of that infected cell.”

Traditional antiviral medications have been able to stop the virus infecting cells, giving patients a greater life expectancy.

But the virus remained “sleeping” in their DNA, unable to be found or treated, so patients had to take expensive medication daily to suppress its effects.

“It jumps in, buries itself into the DNA and sits there lurking. At any time, if the cell becomes active, the virus then becomes active,” Prof Lewin said.

“It is like having the embers of a fire sitting there . . . the minute you take away the anti-HIV drugs, the embers relight the fire and the whole thing gets going again.”

But by using cancer drug, Vorinostat, for two weeks, Prof Lewin had been able to turn on sleeping HIV-infected cells so they could be detected.

Researchers at The Alfred were able to bring the virus to notice in 18 of 20 HIV patients in a trial that concluded in January.

Prof Lewin hopes a new generation of drugs able to kick-start the immune system may now be able to kill the virus.

Prof Lewin and her team — which included collaboration with Monash University, the Burnet Institute, the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre and the National Association of People Living with HIV/AIDS — will soon publish their full results.

For David Menadue, who has lived with HIV for almost 30 years, the results bring a new hope.

“Just having the existence of HIV in your body does do damage to your body every day. It puts pressure on your organs, your heart, your kidney, your liver.

“People with HIV would just love to get rid of this and go back to a normalised life. We are never really going to be able to get on top of the virus in developing countries without some sort of magical cure.”

Original Article via Herald Sun

Channel 4 news interviewed Professor Lewin yesterday, click here to see. (Sorry, we can’t embed this video)

Professor Lewin’s news isn’t new, she spoke about this at the 2012 CROI (Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections)  – He she speaks with Matt Sharp about HIV Latency and Eradication using Vorinostat.

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MEDICAL HISTORY – Child Born with HIV Cured!

cure

It’s all over the internet.. click here to see for yourselves…

Doctors in the US have made medical history by effectively curing a child born with HIV, the first time such a case has been documented.

The infant, who is now two and a half, needs no medication for HIV, has a normal life expectancy and is highly unlikely to be infectious to others, doctors believe.

Though medical staff and scientists are unclear why the treatment was effective, the surprise success has raised hopes that the therapy might ultimately help doctors eradicate the virus among newborns.

Doctors did not release the name or sex of the child to protect the patient’s identity, but said the infant was born, and lived, in Mississippi state. Details of the case were unveiled on Sunday at the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections in Atlanta.

Dr Hannah Gay, who cared for the child at the University of Mississippi medical centre, told the Guardian the case amounted to the first “functional cure” of an HIV-infected child. A patient is functionally cured of HIV when standard tests are negative for the virus, but it is likely that a tiny amount remains in their body.

“Now, after at least one year of taking no medicine, this child’s blood remains free of virus even on the most sensitive tests available,” Gay said.

“We expect that this baby has great chances for a long, healthy life. We are certainly hoping that this approach could lead to the same outcome in many other high-risk babies,” she added.

The number of babies born with HIV in developed countries has fallen dramatically with the advent of better drugs and prevention strategies. Typically, women with HIV are given antiretroviral drugs during pregnancy to minimise the amount of virus in their blood. Their newborns go on courses of drugs too, to reduce their risk of infection further. The strategy can stop around 98% of HIV transmission from mother to child.

In the UK and Ireland, around 1,200 children are living with HIV they picked up in the womb, during birth, or while being breastfed. If an infected mother’s placenta is healthy, the virus tends not to cross into the child earlier in pregnancy, but can in labour and delivery.

The problem is far more serious in developing countries. In sub-Saharan Africa, around 387,500 children aged 14 and under were receiving antiretroviral therapy in 2010. Many were born with the infection. Nearly 2 million more children of the same age in the region are in need of the drugs.

In the latest case, the mother was unaware she had HIV until after a standard test came back positive while she was in labour. “She was too near delivery to give even the dose of medicine that we routinely use in labour. So the baby’s risk of infection was significantly higher than we usually see,” said Gay.

Doctors began treating the baby 30 hours after birth. Unusually, they put the child on a course of three antiretroviral drugs, given as liquids through a syringe. The traditional treatment to try to prevent transmission after birth is a course of a single antiretroviral drug. The doctor opted for the more aggressive treatment because the mother had not received any during her pregnancy.

Several days later, blood drawn from the baby before treatment started showed the child was infected, probably shortly before birth. The doctors continued with the drugs and expected the child to take them for life.

However, within a month of starting therapy, the level of HIV in the baby’s blood had fallen so low that routine lab tests failed to detect it.

The mother and baby continued regular clinic visits to the clinic for the next year, but then began to miss appointments, and eventually stopped attending all together. The child had no medication from the age of 18 months, and did not see doctors again until it was nearly two years old.

“We did not see this child at all for a period of about five months,” Gay told the Guardian. “When they did return to care aged 23 months, I fully expected that the baby would have a high viral load.”

When the mother and child arrived back at the clinic, Gay ordered several HIV tests, and expected the virus to have returned to high levels. But she was stunned by the results. “All of the tests came back negative, very much to my surprise,” she said.

The case was so extraordinary, Dr Gay called a colleague, Katherine Luzuriaga, an immunologist at Massachusetts Medical School, who with another scientist, Deborah Persaud at Johns Hopkins Children’s Centre in Baltimore, had far more sensitive blood tests to hand. They checked the baby’s blood and found traces of HIV, but no viruses that were capable of multiplying.

The team believe the child was cured because the treatment was so potent and given swiftly after birth. The drugs stopped the virus from replicating in short-lived, active immune cells, but another effect was crucial. The drugs also blocked the infection of other, long-lived white blood cells, called CD4, which can harbour HIV for years. These CD4 cells behave like hideouts, and can replace HIV that is lost when active immune cells die.

The treatment would not work in older children or adults because the virus will have already infected their CD4 cells.

“Prompt antiviral therapy in newborns that begins within days of exposure may help infants clear the virus and achieve long-term remission without lifelong treatment by preventing such viral hideouts from forming in the first place,” said Dr Persaud. “Our next step is to find out if this is a highly unusual response to very early antiretroviral therapy or something we can actually replicate in other high-risk newborns.”

Children infected with HIV are given antiretroviral drugs with the intent to treat them for life, and Gay warned that anyone who takes the drugs must remain on them.

“It is far too early for anyone to try stopping effective therapy just to see if the virus comes back,” she said.

Until scientists better understand how they cured the child, Gay emphasised that prevention is the most reliable way to stop babies contracting the virus from infected mothers. “Prevention really is the best cure, and we already have proven strategies that can prevent 98% of newborn infections by identifying and treating HIV-positive women,” she said.

Genevieve Edwards, a spokesperson for the Terrence Higgins Trust HIV/Aids charity, said: “This is an interesting case, but I don’t think it has implications for the antenatal screening programme in the UK, because it already takes steps to ensure that 98% to 99% of babies born to HIV-positive mothers are born without HIV.”

Original Article via The Guardian

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