Monthly Archives: May 2014

Monthly Roundup

LASS-News

MONTHLY ROUND UP

We at LASS would like to say thanks for reading this blog and following us on Twitter.  Not only did you give us yet another outstanding month of views, including our recent piece on The Criminalisation of HIV Transmission, but a lot of our older content is still being read, and shared.

In case you’ve never delved into our archives before, here’s a roundup and summary of the top few most popular posts in the past month.

Why are we afraid to get tested for HIV?

hiv-test-kits-300x300For some people the idea of being tested for HIV is as simple as making a note in a calendar, an entry which sits comfortably beneath a dentist appointment and above a mother’s birthday. For others, the idea of making that appointment, or taking that long walk to the clinic, is one of the most nerve-wracking experiences they can imagine. However, in an age where the numbers of people diagnosed with HIV are increasing, has our natural fear of the unknown become a luxury we simply can’t afford? (Read More)

Can Blood Transfusions Cure HIV?

cureIs it possible to cure, or at a minimum delay the effects of, HIV by simultaneously drawing infected blood and transfusing in ‘clean’ blood into the patient? You would still have tainted blood in the system, but wouldn’t this turn the clock back a bit in regard to how much of the virus is in the person’s blood stream?” (Read More)

Fighting Fire with Fire.. How HIV is Used to Cure Cancer!

If you never thought you’d see the day when you’d appreciate HIV . . . check this out, When all conventional forms of treatment were exhausted, Emma Whitehead, 6, was entered into a clinical trial where she was injected with a disabled form of the HIV virus to reprogram her immune system and genetically kill cancer cells.  The result, as seen in the video, exceeded all expectations. Emma is now in remission and her progress is being tracked everyday. (Read More)

HIV Treatment at 500 CD4 Level Would Put Half of Patients in Need of ART Within a Year of Seroconversion

HIV_Life_cycleRaising the CD4 cell threshold for the initiation of antiretroviral therapy to 500 cells/mm3 would mean that almost 50% of patients would need to start HIV treatment within a year of their infection with HIV, investigators from an international study of seroconverters report in the October 15th edition ofClinical Infectious Diseases. (Read More)

 Soy sauce molecules effectively fight HIV

soy-sauce-sq-bowlMore than a decade after a Japanese soy sauce manufacturer said it had discovered a molecule in its sauce that could be used to fight HIV, the findings have been confirmed by university scientists. (Read More)

Dear Michael Gove, you could have saved me from HIV

L AlexanderA HIV-positive teenager has written an open letter to Michael Gove asking him to make lessons about the virus a compulsory part of sexual education in schools, amid fears of growing ignorance about it among young people. (Read More)

Marks & Spencer found to have harassed and victimised female worker who contracted HIV

MandsA female employee was harassed and victimised by Marks & Spencer after she was allegedly raped by a colleague at a works party and contracted HIV, an employment tribunal has ruled.

Knowing, a short film by John Saint-Denis.

From Impulse Group and The Advisorie, comes this artistic and educational short, a sexy portrayal of a couple taking the next step in their relationship, and the influence that knowledge, communication and compassion has on their deeper connection. (Read More)

We hope you continue to read and share our articles.  Remember, our archive is available at: http://blog.lass.org.uk and you can follow us on twitter @LASSLeics.  To read more about our activities, please also visit Well for Living’s blog and their twitter account @WellforLiving.  For more strategic updates about our charities updates, follow our CEO @LASSJennyHand on twitter.

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HIV can “cut & paste” parts in the human genome

genelights

For the first time, researchers have modified HIV virus particles so that they can simultaneously, as it were, ‘cut and paste’ in our genome via biological processes.

Developed by biologists from the Aarhus University, the technology makes it possible to repair genomes in a new way. It also offers new perspectives for treating several viral infections:

“Now we can simultaneously cut out the part of the genome that is broken in sick cells, and patch the gap that arises in the genetic information which we have removed from the genome. The new aspect here is that we can bring the scissors and the patch together in the HIV particles in a fashion that no one else has done before,” says associate professor in genetics Jacob Giehm Mikkelsen from Aarhus University.

HIV has been known for being able to alter the human genome – as a matter of fact, this is the mechanism for every retrovirus out there – that’s just how they work. This mechanism is extremely interesting, and at a very basic level, it works like this: when a retrovirus enters a cell, its genetic information is in the form of RNA, which is different to DNA. The retrovirus uses a special enzyme to make a DNA copy of the RNA genome of the virus; this DNA copy travels to the nucleus of the cell, where it is spliced into the host’s genome, thus ordering it to create new virus particles.

What this research team has done is develop a technique that increases the safety of the cutting process, the so-called “gene editing”:

“In the past, the gene for the scissors has been transferred to the cells, which is dangerous because the cell keeps on producing scissors which can start cutting uncontrollably. But because we make the scissors in the form of a protein, they only cut for a few hours, after which they are broken down. And we ensure that the virus particle also brings along a small piece of genetic material to patch the hole,” says Jacob Giehm Mikkelsen.

According to them, there is no risk of further infection, and it has no negative effects:

“We call this a ‘hit-and-run’ technique because the process is fast and leaves no traces”.

This kind of treatment is called gene therapy – it has been proposed for quite a while, but so far, it has only been trialled with limited success – working around a person’s DNA is extremely dangerous, and cancer is always a potential result. However, if their results are as good as they claim, this might finally overcome that hurdle.

HIV infection is one of the areas where the researchers want to make use of the technique, and here the goal is to stop a specific gene from functioning – something that the protein scissors used here can do.

“By altering relevant cells in the immune system (T cells) we can make them resistant to HIV infection and perhaps even at the same time also equip them with genes that help fight HIV.

“So in this way HIV can in time become a tool in the fight against HIV,” says postdoc and PhD Yujia Cai of the research team.

The scientific paper is available here: Targeted genome editing by lentiviral protein transduction of zinc-finger and TAL-effector nucleases

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The Criminalisation of HIV Transmission

hivribbon

Recently, LASS ran a workshop to provide up to date information about HIV & the Law.  The law relating to the transmission of HIV is based on case law, as courts have responded to new situations by expanding the scope of existing legislation and setting precedents. This case law can only be created through contested trials or appeals.

The law used in England and Wales to prosecute people for HIV transmission is the Offences Against the Person Act 1861 (OAPA 1861), under the sections relating to ‘grievous bodily harm’ (GBH). Proving GBH originally depended on physical evidence – the existence of a mark, but in the 1990s, in the context of concern about the ineffectiveness of the law to deal with high profile cases of stalking, courts succeeded in broadening the definition to include psychological harm. This subsequently meant that the transmission of disease could be defined as a crime. For a detailed timeline of legal developments, visit AIDSMAP for for more information.

Our recent workshop provided participants with up to date information about HIV and the law, using recent research by Sigma Research, updates from the National AIDS Trust (NAT) and policy statements by the British HIV Association and the Expert Advisory Group on AIDS. The workshop consisted of a presentation by Birkbeck lecturer Robert James, group work analysis of case studies, and action planning.

Presented here, is a summary record of the workshop which can also be used as a general briefing on the issues relating to HIV transmission and the law. This document will be of particular interest to people in the health profession, legal profession, police and CPS who may be involved with possible prosecutions. It is highly relevant for health workers and other support workers for clients who may have a blood borne virus or may be vulnerable to other transmitted infections.

Obtain your copy of the report by clicking here.

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Boys who like boys: A survey of understanding about sex

gaykiss

HIV diagnoses among young gay and bisexual men have more than doubled in the past 10 years and rates of HIV transmission among gay and bisexual men remain constant, with no evidence of decline. (Get the data)

We know that there is now more opportunity for gay and bisexual men to meet sexual partners and form relationships; however this is not being matched with increased provision of information and support around relationships, safer sex, HIV and their general health and well-being.

Much more can be done to better meet the health and wellbeing needs of young gay and bisexual men to help reduce HIV transmission and to improve their general health and well being irrespective of HIV. Part of this is responding specifically to support and information related need. For example, research also shows that sex and relationships education (SRE) in schools is often inaccessible and not relevant to the needs of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) young people, which threatens to undermine this group’s right to education.

In addition, where young gay and bisexual men might conventionally learn about safer sex, relationships and HIV, such as educational settings, they can experience marginalisation and homophobic prejudice.  (See the School Report, Stonewall 2012)

The National AIDS Trust (NAT) have designed a survey looking at where and how young gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men (MSM)  source information, advice or support about sexuality, sex and relationships, safer sex, and HIV; whether they think these sources are helpful; and what types of additional information and support they would like more of. The survey will also assess respondents knowledge around HIV, safer sex and human rights, and reported sexual behaviour. The survey is targeted at young gay and bisexual men aged 14 – 19.

Access the survey (and enter for a chance to win a £75 voucher) by clicking this link.

Take our survey of understanding about sex

 

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Marks & Spencer found to have harassed and victimised female worker who contracted HIV

Mands

A female employee was harassed and victimised by Marks & Spencer after she was allegedly raped by a colleague at a works party and contracted HIV, an employment tribunal has ruled.

Charmaine Wakelin, 42, said at the time of the alleged attack she was working as a personal assistant at the retail giant’s head office in north west London.  Ms Wakelin told the tribunal that she had been attacked in July 2008 and discovered she was HIV positive later that year.

The tribunal heard that Ms Wakelin’s ten-year marriage collapsed and she went on to suffer depression.  As Ms Wakelin’s mental and physical health worsened, her relationship with her employers deteriorated and she was sacked by the company in 2012.

Ms Wakelin said she had been victimised and harassed after a new manager took over her department in 2010.  She claimed that the new manager had leaked information about her HIV diagnosis to a colleague.

The tribunal heard that Ms Wakelin made a complaint to the retailer’s human resources department but was unable to complete a formal grievance procedure due to acute stress. She was sacked in April 2012 after an internal investigation.

The employment tribunal found in Ms Wakelin’s favour on three of her 16 allegations.  Ms Wakelin decided to waive her right to anonymity in so she could name-and-shame M&S over the way she had been treated.

Ms Wakelin said her strong Christian faith had made her ordeal worse as she believed that God had punished her for being a bad person.  Charmaine Wakelin said she considered taking her own life during the employment tribunal due to he stress of being cross examined in the witness box

Charmaine Wakelin said she considered taking her own life during the employment tribunal due to he stress of being cross examined in the witness box
Speaking after the tribunal, Ms Wakelin said: ‘At the time, the word HIV conjured up horrific flashbacks of the rape. I couldn’t even say HIV out loud.
‘It was absolutely the worst thing that could have happened to me in my life. I was mortified that I had contracted something that I had spent my whole life trying not to get. I was absolutely, fanatically, religiously self-protective against HIV, having grown up in South Africa and being very aware of HIV and Aids. I suffered self-stigmatisation and believed that God was punishing me for being a bad person.’

Ms Wakelin told The Times newspaper that she had considered suicide: ‘The only thing that stopped me was that I didn’t want them to get away with it. The humiliation [under cross-examination] was unbearable and completely unnecessary.’

Marks & Spencer said they were ‘extremely disappointed’ by the ruling.
A spokesman said: ‘M&S prides itself on being an equal opportunities employer and works hard to create a positive and inclusive workplace.’

The company stressed that the rape allegation was separate to the claims heard by the employment tribunal and were being investigated by the Metropolitan Police.   Scotland Yard confirmed that a man has been arrested on September 19, 2013 who has been bailed.

This story arrives via the Daily Mail.

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Take action against drug-resistant tuberculosis (DR-TB)

treatmetestme

Next week, Phumeza Tisile, a former patient and survivor of one of the most severe forms of drug-resistant tuberculosis (DR-TB), will travel to Geneva to help Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) deliver the ‘Test Me, Treat Me’ DR-TB Manifesto directly to governments and policymakers as they convene for the 2014 World Health Assembly.

With World Health Assembly delegates due to discuss the next global 20-year plan to control TB, MSF and Phumeza will be appealing for urgent action to prioritize the fight against drug-resistant forms of TB which have been reported in virtually all countries worldwide and are spreading at an alarming rate.

MSF has set a goal of 50,000 supporting signatures to help send a strong message to WHA delegates

Please take a minute to click here and sign TODAY, and spread the word to your friends, family and professional networks

What does it mean when you sign the petition to support the ‘Test Me, Treat Me’ DR-TB Manifesto Campaign?

You are showing your support for three urgent demands being made by DR-TB patients and their medical care providers:

1) Universal access to testing and treatment
2) Better treatment regimens
3) International financial support for the fight against DR-TB

Please take a minute to sign the petition now and help MSF reach their 50,000 signature goal by May 19th.

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Dear Michael Gove, you could have saved me from HIV

L Alexander

A HIV-positive teenager has written an open letter to Michael Gove asking him to make lessons about the virus a compulsory part of sexual education in schools, amid fears of growing ignorance about it among young people.

Luke Alexander, 19, who discovered that he had HIV a year ago, said he received “absolutely no information” on the subject when he was at school and that he may have avoided becoming infected if he had.

In his letter, published in the form of a petition to the Education Secretary on the Change.org website, Mr Alexander says the “vast majority of young people today have little or no common knowledge” about HIV.

“I myself strongly believe that if I (19 years of age) had learnt about HIV during my secondary education, I might have avoided being infected with HIV myself at just 18 years old,” he adds.

Mr Alexander, an employee of Selfridges from Oldbury in the West Midlands, told The Independent that men and women of his generation had never been exposed to the kind of Aids awareness campaigns such as those of the 1980s, so education was now the only way for the message to get through.

“I went around my [sixth form] college and asked a few people what they knew about HIV,” he said. “It was really quite shocking. Two people had never heard of it, and half thought you could transmit it through saliva – there were so many misconceptions.”

Although all schools in England are obliged to teach pupils about HIV and AIDS as part of the science curriculum when they learn about viruses, campaigners say the approach is “patchy” in practice. A survey carried out by the Sex Education Forum in 2011 found that one in four young people learnt nothing about HIV while at school.

Government guidelines state that schools should also cover the issue in Personal, Social, Health Education (PSHE) classes, but as the subject is not compulsory they can choose not to follow this advice.

Daisy Ellis, acting director of policy at the Terence Higgins Trust, said there was “too much variability” on how sex education was taught in schools and that children should not have to rely on a “random biology lesson” to be taught about HIV.

She added: “There really is no guarantee that young people are getting the right skills, the right knowledge and understanding that they need to have healthy adult relationships. We want to see sex and relationships education as part of the curriculum so it has that equal footing and isn’t just something that’s pushed to one side.”

She added that the rise of free schools – which Mr Gove has played a leading role in promoting – was also a concern as they are not obliged to follow the guidelines for sex education.

Plans to make sex education compulsory in state-funded primary and secondary schools were voted down by MPs last year, but Labour leader Ed Miliband has pledged to push the change through if his party wins the next general election in 2015.

In Wales, compulsory sex education was introduced in 2002, but in Scotland there is no statutory requirement for schools to teach it.

Susie Parsons, chief executive of the National AIDS Trust: said “There is a chronic lack of commitment and investment in sex and relationships education in the UK, in particular education about HIV… This hands-off and inconsistent approach is failing our young people and is reflected in low awareness and understanding of HIV in this age group.”

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “Pupils must learn about sexually transmitted infections such as HIV/AIDS as part of sex and relationship education.”

Story via The Independent 

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