Monthly Archives: April 2016

Ireland: Government urged to act over HIV ‘crisis’ as cases rise


Each week about 10 people are being newly-diagnosed with HIV in Ireland

Campaigners are alarmed at a surge in HIV cases in Ireland after they jumped by more than third over the last five years.

 Almost 500 people were diagnosed as living with the infection last year – up from 372 on the previous year.

Around 10 people are being newly-diagnosed with HIV every week in Ireland.

HIV Ireland, a national charity set up to battle the spread of the infection, has urged a country-wide campaign to stem the “worrying trend”.

Niall Mulligan, the charity’s executive director, said he is “alarmed at the relentless upward trend in HIV diagnoses”.

“Official figures are likely to understate the scale of the crisis,” he added.

“According to the World Health Organisation, 30% of people living with HIV are undiagnosed.

“It is therefore likely the number of people living with HIV in Ireland is considerably higher than the number of diagnosed cases.”

Mr Mulligan has said the new government, when it is formed, needs to mount a public awareness drive, including free condoms and testing nationwide.

“We also need to focus on people who face a higher risk due to their circumstances – being homeless, being addicted to drugs, working within the sex industry, being in prison, suffering from poor mental health,” he added.

“Failure to do so runs the risk of creating a catastrophe out of a crisis.”

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Prince – Thank you for the music!


The music producer, songwriter, musician, singer and artist Prince Rogers Nelson died last Thursday at his home, Paisley Park in Minnesota.  How can one attempt to encapsulate his legacy in just a few words? – It may be impossible.

An artist so sexy while embracing the power of androgyny, strutting the stage in high heels and vamped in eye makeup. Prince eroded the stable categories of masculine and feminine, playing with both identities and showing how interchangeable they were. Whether it was his performance of machismo in Purple Rain or his deliberately feminine pantsuit on the cover of Esquire, Prince spent his career celebrating gender fluidity and defying categories of straight and gay.

Dancing with white men, writhing with black women, coupling with either, becoming one with all races and sexes yet neither in one, commanding frame.  Along the way, sell more than 100 million records worldwide.  Brutal as a rapper, tender as a balladeer, swooping smoothly from bass to falsetto.  An almost supernatural being while playing the guitar, soaring off into a universe of riffs and improvisations and that’s just one of all the instruments he plays across his more than 40 studio albums.  He was the most funkiest person in the music industry and he never stopped creating his passion, music-art.

It’s reported that Prince died from HIV/AIDS complications yet he never spoke about the disease in public nor ‘come out’ as HIV positive.  Staying private about HIV status is a matter of personal choice.  Maybe Prince lived in fear of stigma and discrimination, it’s a powerful emotion.  Like most of us, we are who we are and wish not to be defined by illness.  If Prince was openly HIV positive, perhaps more people could have been open about it themselves.  As a matter of personal choice, Prince decided to keep his diagnoses private.  After all, we love Prince for who he was, not for what he had.

The same is true of you and me.  We are not an illness, we are not statistics, we want not the stigma which unfortunately comes with a HIV diagnosis.  We are individuals living life.

So when the media descends into tabloid chaos and disorder with reports of ill health, drug taking, and not adhering to medicine, try to remember that it was Prince’s choice to be an artist, not a celebrity known for HIV.

Prince – Rest In Power, God of music!


1958 – 2016

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Project 100

Peer Mentor

As part of ‘Project 100’, Positively UK are working with LASS on a regional project to deliver accredited peer mentoring training for people living with HIV across Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland. Project 100 is a national programme funded by The Monument Trust and headed up by Positively UK. Over the next three years the aim of the programme is to train 1000 peer mentors across the UK.

Trained peer mentors are volunteers who are all living with HIV. Through their lived experience they are best placed to offer a wide range of support to others with HIV.

LASS is the training hub for Project 100 in Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland. We will be providing training for people across the region who wish to become peer mentors. Through promoting this training to other charities and NHS services across the county, we will engage a diverse range of people.

“This is an excellent opportunity for LASS not only to work together with Positively UK but also to build upon our existing peer support programme and work with partners to develop this across Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland. Already our previous experiences have shown how empowering peer mentoring can be and the potential for it to become a core part of HIV care in the UK.”

Jenny Hand – CEO, LASS.

“Positively UK are excited be to working with LASS and other partners to expand Project 100 across Leicester and the surrounding areas. We hope to recruit and train a number of great people who will then go on to provide quality peer support and mentoring to other people living with HIV.”

Marc Thomson – Peer Mentor Project Co-ordinator, Positively UK.

To find out more about volunteering as a Project 100 peer mentor,
simply complete the application form and we’ll get back to you.  More information is available at Positively UK on this link.

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Almost half of gay men ‘would use’ HIV-preventing PrEP drugs


A new study into PrEP and its usage found this week that nearly half of gay men would be interested in taking the medication if it were available on the NHS.

Truvada is a Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis [PrEP], which when taken regularly, can dramatically reduce the risks of HIV transmission. Despite the fact there have been a series of landmark success stories for PrEP, both in the UK and abroad, NHS England are still reconsidering if the drug should be made available to the public.

Article via GayTimes

This week, Glasgow Caledonian University and the University of Glasgow released the results of a study looking at attitudes towards PrEP, and the general awareness of its use. This first of its kind study was targeted at men who have sex with men [MSM], who are regularly referred to in other studies as a ‘high risk’ group.

Of the 690 MSM questioned by the Universities, nearly half of participants [47.8%] said that if PrEP was available they would use the drug.

This number rose in males under 25, and people who engage in ‘risky’ sex were far more likely to say they would like to use PrEP.

However, just 29% of MSM had heard of PrEP prior to the study, and weren’t fully aware of what it could do, highlighting a worrying lack of education on HIV preventative measures.

One of the researchers, Dr Jamie Frankis, commented: “This study adds to the current dialogue around PrEP provision on the NHS by clarifying that those men most likely to benefit from PrEP are also those who are most likely to say they will use it.

“Although men will use PrEP as part of their own sophisticated risk management strategies, relative lack of awareness means that comprehensive services to promote and support PrEP use must underpin any such implementation.”

Representatives of NHS England are reportedly going to meet in May, to decide on whether to re-start to the decision-making process on PrEP, following legal action taken by the National AIDS Trust.

If we do see a reversal of NHS England’s original decision, this could lead PrEP being considered at the Clinical Priorities Advisory group meeting in June – The organisation that decides on what NHS England will commission in the next 12 months.

Deborah Gold, Chief Executive, NAT, commented at the time: “We welcome this change of mind from NHS England. NHS England had previously told us that it was impossible for them to reconsider their decision. Faced with legal action, they have now changed their mind. We trust that NHS England, when it re-evaluates its position, will come back with a resounding yes.”

“PrEP is one of the most exciting prevention options to emerge since the HIV epidemic began and offers the prospect of real success in combating this virus,” Deborah Gold continued. “To deny the proper process to decide whether to commission PrEP, when 17 people are being diagnosed with HIV every day, is not only morally wrong but legally wrong also.”

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Junior doctors walk out of Leicester’s hospitals today and tomorrow.

Junior doctors on picket line at Leicester Royal Infirmary

Junior doctors on picket line at Leicester Royal Infirmary

The British Medical Association (BMA) have announced their intentions to take industrial action as follows:

  • Full withdrawal of labour by junior doctors – 8AM to 5PM on Tuesday 26 and Wednesday 27 April.

Health leaders from Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland have put robust plans that protect the safety, welfare and service provided to patients across the health system. All services in primary and community care will continue to operate as normal, with enhanced capacity in some cases, and we urge patients to use services in the community wherever possible.

  • NHS Choices – has created a new dedicated page for patient information about the upcoming action. From Monday 25 April will have a search facility linking patients to details of additional/extended services being provided in their own area.
  • Community Pharmacy – Pharmacies are unaffected by the strike and patients should visit their pharmacy for advice on minor illnesses and ailments as well as for over the counter medicinces.
  • General Practice – GP practices will be open as usual, and patients are urged to contact their GP on the strike days if they need non-emergency medical assistance. GPs across Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland have cancelled training days and non-essential practice meetings in order to provide appointments to meet the potential rise in demand, and all GPs sit on CCG boards and other committees have collectively agreed not to attend meetings so that they are available in practice and for wider clinical work if required.

For patients registered with a practice in Leicester City, the Healthcare Hubs will be open, offering walk in GP appointments from 6:30pm until 10pm. In West Leicestershire there will be additional resource available within the Acute Visiting Service so that GPs can refer additional patients who need an urgent home visit. In East Leicestershire and Rutland there will be additional staffing at the Oadby Urgent Care Centre.

  • NHS 111 – Patients should call 111 is they are unsure of how to access care, what is open or what is affected by the industrial action. 111 will have the latest information on what services are available, and will be able to direct patients to the local service which can help them best. Patients speak to a highly trained call advisor who will assess their condition and, if necessary transfer them to a clinician for a second opinion. There will be additional staff, including clinical staff, available to cope with a rise in demand.
  • Urgent Care Centres – Urgent Care Centres across the area are open as usual throughout the industrial action, and Loughborough Urgent Care Centre and Oadby Urgent Care Centre will both be adding additional clinical staff to meet any rise in demand. Patients should visit their local urgent care centre if they have an urgent, but non-life threatening medical need. People are asked to avoid the Emergency Department at Leicester Royal Infirmary if possible, unless it is a serious or life-threatening emergency.

Patients in need of urgent and emergency care will continue to receive the treatment they need, when they need it. Those in less urgent need of care, particularly those who feel they need to attend A&E or the Leicester Royal infirmary site, may experience longer waiting times than normal.  In all cases priority will be given to those patients with the most pressing health needs.

Nick Willmott, a GP in Hinckley and clinical lead at West Leicestershire Clinical Commissioning Group said: “Preparations have been made across community healthcare services in Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland to help ensure that the safety, welfare and services we provide for patients are protected while industrial action is taking place.

“If you have an urgent, but not life threatening medical need, attend your local urgent care centre, as they will be able to treat many injuries and ailments. If you’re not sure what service you need then NHS 111 will be able to help you, so call them for advice. Urgent Care Centres in Leicestershire and Rutland, including Loughborough Urgent Care Centre and Oadby Urgent Care Centre are unaffected by the strike and are adding additional staff to meet the demand so we urge people to make full use of them if they need immediate medical care.

“If you are feeling unwell please do not wait, take advice from your GP or pharmacist, or contact NHS111. Don’t wait until your condition is worse and becomes an emergency.

“NHS 111 is also unaffected by the strike, so it’s important for people to call 111 if they are unsure of the best way for them to access care, there will be additional call handlers available to meet the demand.

“If you are frail or have a long-term condition, or care for someone who does, we are asking you to take steps to know what to do if you or your loved one needs medical care during the course of this industrial action.  GPs have put plans in place to ensure that appointments are not affected, so we ask people to attend their appointments as normal unless you have been told otherwise by your practice.

“Also, if you have regular medication – please make sure you have collected your prescription from the GP and have been to the pharmacist to collect it, and have it to hand.”

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Happy 420 Day – What’s the deal with weed & HIV


Each year on 20 April marijuana advocates around the world, from Amsterdam to Zouch, celebrate cannabis culture – whether it’s legal or not.

Last year more than 1,000 people gathered in London’s Hyde Park to mark 4/20, smoking joints together at the designated time while calling for cannabis to be legalised.

Cannabis is a Class B Drug under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971. Although it is given the title of a “controlled drug” there is actually very little control that anyone has over it as the commercial market is predominantly run by organised crime and completely unregulated. There is no control over who produces it, who sells it, who it is sold to, or even that the quality of the product is safe to consume.  That’s how it is in places like the UK. (It’s legal in other areas like most of America and Holland)

However, legalising cannabis could generate hundreds of millions of pounds a year in tax and cut costs for the police and prisons, a government study has found.  The internal Treasury report, obtained by BBC Newsnight, said regulating the market would “generate notable tax revenue” and “lead to overall savings to the criminal justice system”.

Cannabis & HIV

Support for medicinal marijuana has reached an all-time high in the United States. with over 70 percent of Americans in favor of the use of cannabis to lessen the effects of a large number of chronic medical conditions.

People with HIV have long realized that cannabis can ease many HIV-related conditions, including nausea, loss of appetite, depression, weight loss, and neuropathic pain. In addition to treating common symptoms of HIV and side effects of antiretroviral drugs, research indicates that cannabis may help fight HIV itself.

An increasing number of scientific studies, conducted at well-known institutions and published in prominent medical journals, are revealing antiviral effects of cannabis against HIV. These studies detail diverse approaches in measuring favorable effects that cannabis may have in slowing HIV disease progression.

THC in monkeys may lessen HIV’s damage in the gut
During primary infection HIV attacks the gut-associated lymphoid tissue (GALT), where a substantial amount of the immune system is located, hitting CD4 cells hard and early during this process. The initial damage done to GALT is believed to be essential to the progression of HIV disease.

A study funded by the National Institutes of Health and the National Institute on Drug Abuse and published in AIDS Research and Human Retroviruses in 2014 found that THC, the best-known component of cannabis, had a positive effect on GALT in rhesus monkeys that were infected with SIV, the simian version of HIV, after 17 months of receiving THC. Checking the monkeys five months later, researchers from the Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center found that THC produced a generalized decrease in viral load and tissue inflammation and increased production of disease-fighting CD4 and CD8 central memory T cells in GALT.

Blocking HIV’s entry
2015-01-01-MedicalMarijuana_photoThe effects of cannabis are a result of interactions between cannabinoids and receptors located on many cells, including macrophages (a tissue cell of the immune system) and CD4 cells called cannabinoid receptor 1 (CB1) and cannabinoid receptor 2 (CB2). Researchers at New York City’s Mount Sinai School of Medicine published data in 2012 demonstrating that stimulation of CB2 with compounds called cannabinoid receptor agonists can block the signaling process between HIV and CXCR4, one of the main types of receptors that allow HIV to enter and infect a cell. CXCR4 is used by HIV during advanced disease and allows for faster disease progression.

By stimulating activation of CB2 with cannabinoid receptor antagonists, Mount Sinai researchers decreased the ability of HIV to infect cells that utilize CXCR4, reducing the frequency of infected cells by 30 to 60 percent.

Cannabinoids may help preventneurocognitive disorders
Research conducted at Temple University School of Medicine and published in the Journal of Leukocyte Biology suggests that compounds that stimulate CB2 on macrophages may weaken HIV infection. CB2 is the binding site for cannabinoids on macrophages, and stimulation of these receptors, unlike CB1, does not produce the euphoric effects associated with cannabis use.

Neurocognitive disorders are common in people with HIV even in the presence of a strong immune response and suppressed viral load. The virus establishes itself in the central nervous system early on in HIV infection and maintains a stronghold throughout the course of disease. Most antiretroviral medications are unable to cross the blood-brain barrier and thus cannot decrease the level of HIV in the brain, allowing for cognitive damage to continue.

Macrophages are long-lived cells that are targeted by HIV and exist throughout the body. Macrophages are present in the blood and all organs, including in the brain. Some researchers hypothesize that these cells may be key to ongoing replication that creates inflammation, a damaging effect of overstimulation of the immune system. Inflammation can greatly contribute to many non-AIDS-related illnesses, such as neurocognitive disorders, cardiovascular disease, bone disease, and some forms of cancer. The study authors found that anti-inflammatory compounds related to THC bind to CB2, effectively reducing viral replication and inflammation in the brain.

The future of cannabis in HIV
Although Big Pharma is yet to make a serious commitment to the study of cannabis for the treatment of disease, many universities and a small number of biotech companies are investing in the research and development of cannabinoid-based medications. One such company has taken an interest in cannabis and HIV.

Cannabis Science is exploring the use of cannabinoids to treat Kaposi’s sarcoma in people with HIV as well as a potential therapy directed at inhibiting the HIV protein Tat, which is key for viral replication and modulates the expression of genes that regulate a variety of cellular activities. This would be revolutionary for people living with HIV, as chemotherapy, a primary treatment for Kaposi’s sarcoma, is largely unavailable in Africa, which has the highest burden of the disease. A cannabinoid-based antiviral would be cheaper than currently available drugs, greatly decreasing the cost of treating HIV and allowing for increased access to treatment for the nearly 7 million HIV patients around the world who need antiretroviral drugs but do not currently have access to them.

Cannabis and Living with HIV.

Medical marijuana enables this person with HIV to go jogging, it increases their appetite, and it is the only treatment that hasn’t had severe lasting side effects on his body.  Also, in addition to the growing list of ways marijuana helps people with HIV, marijuana can also decrease the risk of seroconversion. Read more about Ben Adams story here.

Now, Cannabis, Weed, Marijuana (whatever you prefer to call it) is often a heated topic of discussion but the fact remains it’s illegal in the UK so we can’t condone it’s use (even if it helps you).  Google “Cannabis HIV” and make up your own mind, if you find something interesting, let us know in the comments.

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Global HIV drive hampered without drugs for ‘neglected’ West and Central Africa


A global drive to help curb the HIV epidemic by 2020 will fail unless millions of people with the virus in West and Central Africa receive life-saving drugs, Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) said on Wednesday.

Story via

The United Nations AIDS program (UNAIDS) launched a five-year treatment program in 2014 to ensure that by 2020 almost all people with HIV worldwide know their status and receive treatment.

The drugs used to treat HIV also help to curb the spread of the virus.

Only one in four adults and one in 10 children living with HIV in West and Central Africa have access to antiretroviral (ARV) drugs, compared to almost half of HIV sufferers in Eastern and Southern Africa, MSF said.

HIV treatment is not considered a priority in West and Central Africa by donors or governments, as the region has a smaller percentage of people infected with HIV than Eastern and Southern Africa, said Mit Philips, health policy advisor at MSF.

“Donors focus mostly on high prevalence countries, like in Southern Africa, where everyone knows someone affected by HIV,” Philips told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone from Brussels.

Parts of Southern Africa have the world’s highest HIV rates, including Swaziland where 27 percent of people aged 15 to 49 have HIV, and South Africa which has a prevalence rate of nearly 20 percent.

“People with HIV in West and Central Africa are neglected … the low prevalence rate is misleading but means there is a lack of interest and that the disease is less visible in society,” Philips added.

Two percent of people in West and Central Africa have HIV, yet the region accounts for one in five new infections annually worldwide, one in four AIDS-related deaths and almost half of all children born with HIV, according to MSF.

While conflict across the region and epidemics of other diseases like Ebola have hindered HIV treatment, stigma, weak health systems and lack of political will have worsened the situation, MSF said in a report published on Wednesday.

“Many people face an obstacle course to obtain ARV drugs – they face stigma within society and even prejudice from health workers, struggle to pay transport or consultation fees, and often find there are low stocks of the drugs,” Philips said.

Some 36.9 million people worldwide are living with HIV, which is spread through blood, semen and breast milk and causes AIDS, and more than half of them do not have access to treatment. Many do not know they have the virus.

UNAIDS said in November that its treatment program, called 90-90-90, was starting to show results as the nearly 16 million people being treated by June 2015 was double the number in 2010.

(Reporting By Kieran Guilbert, Editing by Alex Whiting; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking, corruption and climate change. Visit


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