Monthly Archives: April 2016

NHS England reconsiders decision over HIV PrEP drug


The HIV virus. Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis is a new way of using antiretroviral drugs that has been proven to stop HIV transmission in almost every case Photograph: GeoStock/Getty Images

NHS bosses in England will reconsider whether it is their responsibility to fund a new treatment that can prevent the spread of HIV.

Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) is a new way of using antiretroviral drugs that has been proven to stop HIV transmission in almost every case.

Story via

Last month NHS England said HIV prevention responsibilities lay with local councils as it announced it would no longer consider whether to offer the treatment, the National Aids Trust (NAT) said.

There was public outcry when NHS England said it was not their decision to make and the NAT threatened the health body with legal action.

However, NHS England said on Tuesday that its specialised commissioning committee will consider whether to put PrEP back into the NHS decision-making process.

“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. 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.”

An NHS England spokesman said: “Final decisions on PrEP have not yet been taken, and we have agreed to consider representations from some stakeholders before deciding on next steps on the appropriate way forward.”

Local Government Association community wellbeing spokeswoman, Izzi Seccombe, said it was pleased and encouraged by the NHS England’s decision.

“Councils are keen to work with NHS England and the Department of Health to find a solution which can enable this ground-breaking prevention method to be delivered throughout our communities,” she said.

“Councils have invested millions in providing sexual health services since taking over responsibility for public health three years ago, and this treatment could help reduce levels of HIV in the community. However, our position has always been that responsibility for funding PrEP should lie within the NHS rather than councils.

“We look forward to working with NHS England to find an agreeable way forward that will resolve this issue.”


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The world needs a healthier, rights-based approach towards people who use drugs


The world is failing to protect the health and human rights of people who use drugs.

As a result, people who use drugs, especially people who inject drugs, have been isolated and denied the means to protect themselves from HIV, hepatitis C, tuberculosis and other infectious diseases.

Among the estimated 12 million people who inject drugs globally, one in 10 is living with HIV. From 2010 to 2014, there was no decline in the annual number of new HIV infections among people who inject drugs, in contrast to the global trend of declining new HIV infections.

The evidence is overwhelming. The world needs a fresh approach towards people who use drugs that is people-, rights- and health-centered.

Story via 

In a new report, Do no harm: health, human rights and people who use drugs, UNAIDS presents the evidence for what works to reduce the impact of HIV and other harms associated with drug use. Countries that have shifted their focus away from laws and policies that are harmful to people who use drugs and that have increased investment in harm reduction programs have reduced new HIV infections and improved health outcomes.

For example, investment in needle-syringe distribution and opioid substitution therapy has proved effective at reducing the impact of the AIDS epidemic among people who inject drugs in several countries, including China, the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Republic of Moldova.

China’s free voluntary methadone program piloted in the early 2000s now serves more than 180 000 people. People who inject drugs represented less than 8% of people newly diagnosed with HIV in the country in 2013, compared with 43.9% in 2003. In prisons in the Islamic Republic of Iran, health clinics provide integrated services for the treatment and prevention of sexually transmitted infections and for injecting drug use and HIV, and new HIV cases among people who inject drugs fell from a peak of 1897 in 2005 to 684 in 2013. In the Republic of Moldova, the proportion of prisoners living with HIV having access to antiretroviral medicines has increased from 2% in 2005 to 62% in 2013.

Some countries, such as Australia, the Netherlands, Portugal and Switzerland, have de-penalized the possession and use of small quantities of drugs for personal use, encouraging people who inject drugs to access strengthened harm reduction programs.

UNAIDS would like to see a global adoption of a people-centered, public health and human rights based approach to drug use.

The world cannot continue to ignore what works.

In the coming weeks, the United Nations General Assembly will have two opportunities to consider the weight of evidence supporting a change in approach. This week’s United Nations General Assembly Special Session on the World Drug Problem provides an opportunity to refocus international drug policies on their original goal—the health and well-being of humankind. A few weeks later, from 8 to 10 June, the General Assembly will meet again for the High-Level Meeting on Ending AIDS, which must translate commitments to leave no one behind in the AIDS response into measurable progress for people who inject drugs.

There is a unique opportunity to begin to treat people who use drugs with dignity and respect, to provide people who use drugs with equal access to health and social services, to greatly reduce the harms of drug use and to take a step towards ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030 as part of the Sustainable Development Goals.

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HIV Stigma Is Still Killing (Literally)!

A man has admitted killing his partner and then setting fire to his flat after hearing his victim was HIV positive.

Hairdresser Ashley Gillard, 31, was discovered after the blaze in the third-floor property in Wolverton, Milton Keynes on 8 June.

Thomas White, 26, pleaded guilty to manslaughter by gross negligence.

Luton Crown Court heard White “flew into a rage”, before returning to the flat several days later in an attempt to destroy any evidence of the killing.

‘Wished him gone’

White, of Bibury Close in Wellingborough, was originally charged with murder but prosecutors have accepted his plea to the lesser charge.

The court heard the pair had been taking illegal drugs, including GHB, and Mr Gillard had probably died on 5 June.

A post-mortem examination could not identify a definitive cause of death, but it confirmed Mr Gillard was dead before the fire started.  Graham Smith, prosecuting counsel, said the killing happened after Mr Gillard told White he had HIV.

“The defendant was furious and got into a rage and turned the flat upside down trying to find medications that would confirm what he had been told,” said Mr Smith.

“He was later to tell his brother that he knew his friend needed medical attention but he did not help him, and put a duvet over him to shut him up.

“He said at that moment he hated him and wished him gone.”

Barricaded door

In the days between the killing and the fire, the prosecution said White had stolen cars and a forklift truck and was filmed by CCTV cameras buying petrol to start the fire.

The riverside flat in Trevithick Court where Mr Gillard’s body was found had had its door barricaded.

White also pleaded guilty to 10 other charges including arson being reckless as to whether life would be endangered, theft, fraud and possession of Class B and C drugs.

He will be sentenced at a later date.

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Magic Johnson – The Announcment

“The Announcement” (Documentary: Tomorrow night on BT Sport 1 (Sky: 413 / Virgin 530).  Magic Johnson narrates a powerful and moving documentary about his announcement in 1991 that he had the HIV virus.

Magic Johnson is a retired American professional basketball player who played point guard for the Los Angeles Lakers of the National Basketball Association (NBA).  After winning championships in high school and college, he was selected first overall in the 1979 NBA Draft by the Lakers.

He won a championship and an NBA Finals Most Valuable Player Award in his rookie season, and won four more championships with the Lakers during the 1980s

After a physical before the 1991–92 NBA season, Johnson discovered that he had tested positive for HIV.  In a press conference held in November, 1991 he made a public announcement that he would retire immediately and stated that his wife Cookie and their unborn child did not have HIV, and that he would dedicate his life to “battle this deadly disease”.  He went on to play on the 1992 gold medal Olympic Team and said he considered a comeback, but was disheartened when other players said they were scared they would contract the virus from his blood.

At the time, November 1991, his decision to announce his diagnosis to the world was considered exceptionally brave, since HIV/AIDS was heavily stigmatised to a greater degree than today.  Magic’s campaigns were pivotal in demonstrating to the world that the risk of infection was not limited to a specific creed of people.  Magic stated that his aim was to “help educate all people about what HIV is about” and teach others not to “discriminate against people who have HIV and AIDS” and when Johnson announced he had the virus, people started to realise the disease could – and was – affecting anyone.

The announcement became a major news story in the United States, and in 2004 was named as ESPN’s seventh most memorable moment of the past 25 years.  Many articles praise him as a hero, and former U.S. President George H. W. Bush said, “For me, Magic is a hero, a hero for anyone who loves sports.

After announcing his HIV status he created the Magic Johnson Foundation to help combat HIV and later, diversified the foundation to include other charitable goals.  In 1992, he joined the National Commission on AIDS, but left after eight months, saying that the commission was not doing enough to combat the disease.  He was also the main speaker for the United Nations (UN) World AIDS Day Conference in 1999 and has served as a United Nations Messenger of Peace.

Twenty years on and the former NBA great still devotes much time and effort to raise money for research and is an inspiration to many.  He remains a living face for HIV education and activism and for many, is an inspiration to HIV positive individuals and their friends and families.

He said he never considered not coming forward with the details of his diagnosis, because he wanted to be a face to help de-stigmatise  the virus and raise awareness for the less famous or privileged victims dying daily.

Johnson is still reportedly in good health, which he credits with Anti-HIV medicine, exercise, and a great support system.

He travels nationwide giving motivational speeches and works with public officials from the UN and international AIDS foundations to fight for policy, awareness and clinics that benefit victims worldwide. Though he says he is sometimes reminiscent of his basketball days, he is most proud of his accomplishments off the court to help fight the battle against HIV/AIDS.

Now, over twenty years after contracting a disease that was supposed to kill him, Magic Johnson is killing the disease by using his celebrity to raise millions for HIV/AIDS research.

The Announcment” is a documentary, directed by Nelson George and narrated by Magic Johnson and is Magic’s second film on HIV (The award-winning “Life Support” for HBO in 2007, starring Queen Latifah is the first).  He said, “For me, “The Announcement” is not just a look back at a fraught, unforgettable moment in U.S. history, but a vehicle for re-introducing the subject of HIV/AIDS to an audience that may not know that [people] are still getting infected and, yes, still dying from this big disease with a little name.

Article collated from Wikipedia, ESPN Films, TSN and Positivelife.

It’s worth watching and if you have BT Sport 1, set your recorder for 11:30pm tomorrow (Tues 19th) night.

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71-Year-Old Man Becomes World’s First HIV Patient With Alzheimer’s

Alzheimers Tree Memory

A 71-year-old man became the first HIV patient with Alzheimer’s disease, researchers from Georgetown University have found. The study published in the journal Alzheimer’s & Dementia: Diagnosis, Assessment & Disease Monitoring shows that HIV-associated brain inflammation does not prevent amyloid clumps formation, the cause of the degenerative disorder.

Story via Australia Network

 “This patient may be a sentinel case that disputes what we thought we knew about dementia in HIV-positive individuals,” says neurologist R. Scott Turner, head of the Memory Disorders Programme at Georgetown University Medical Centre.

Moreover, the researchers believe that some older individuals with HIV could have been misdiagnosed with HIV-associated neurocognitive disorders (HAND) when they could actually be suffering from Alzheimer’s. Apparently, HAND affects 30 to 50 percent of HIV-infected patients, with symptoms similar to the ones observed in Alzheimer’s.

“The medical community assumes that dementia with HIV is caused by HAND,” adds Turner. “Physicians haven’t considered Alzheimer’s, so it’s possible that a number of older HIV-positive individuals may be misdiagnosed.”

This opens up for speculation that patients with HAND and Alzheimer’s are suffering from a new type of mixed progressive dementia. As of now, both conditions are treated differently. So, the findings call for a new treatment that treats both condition.

The researchers warn that patients with HIV are increasingly suffering from dementia. Those over 55 years are the ones with the highest risk among the HIV-positive group, hence, the researchers urge further studies to help these individuals.

“This case report reveals important new insights into the specific issue of HIV-related neurological impairment,” concludes Jeffrey Crowley, program director of the National HIV/AIDS Initiative at the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law at Georgetown Law. “This finding must lead to additional population-based studies, as well as timely clinical and programmatic interventions to better support individuals with HIV who are facing neurological decline.”

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Warnings over five-fold increase in HIV in Glasgow area


Health officials in the Glasgow area have warned people who inject drugs about an outbreak of HIV after a near five-fold increase in the city.

On average, about 10 new cases are diagnosed in the Greater Glasgow and Clyde area each year as a result of drug injecting.  But the health board said that rose to 47 last year.

They are now warning drug users of the dangers of sharing needles and advising anyone who injects to get tested.  For the first time in almost 30 years, new diagnoses of HIV related to drug injecting was at a comparable level among gay and heterosexual men.

Investigations into the outbreak highlighted that some drug users were sharing needles, syringes, spoons and water when preparing and injecting their drugs.  It has also highlighted that there is low awareness of the risks of HIV from doing so.

Dr Catriona Milosevic, consultant in public health medicine at NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde (NHSGGC), said it was “vitally important” that people who inject drugs do not share or reuse equipment.

She said: “This includes when injecting with close friends or partners – you can’t guess whether someone has HIV, and they may have no symptoms and be unaware themselves.

“Everyone involved needs to use a new set of sterile injecting equipment every single time, including needles, syringes, water, filters, and spoons, to protect themselves and others. These are all available from injecting equipment services.”

Dr Milosevic said the goal was to get people drug free, but until that is achieved the focus had to be on harm reduction.

Although there is no cure for HIV, there are now treatments which reduce the virus to what doctors describe as “undetectable” levels.  Dr Milosevic added:

“Recent discussions have highlighted that those at risk are not aware of the huge advancements made in HIV treatment – there is still a perception that a diagnosis of HIV is a ‘death sentence’.

“If people are diagnosed and start treatment early, which requires a test, they can have a similar life expectancy as the rest of the population.”

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Positive Hell: Silencing The HIV Heretics


A controversial documentary has been censored by the London Independent Film Festival.

A screening of a documentary aimed at ‘exposing the myths of HIV and AIDS’ has been cancelled after threats of protest. Positive Hell, which features five individuals who have refused antiviral drugs for HIV and lived to tell the tale, was due to be screened at the London Independent Film Festival (LIFF). But it’s now been pulled from the programme.

Story via Spiked, a free speech website.

Producer and narrator of Positive Hell, Joan Shenton, tells me she is ‘flabbergasted’ by the move, adding that LIFF caved in to a ‘handful of emails’ designed to ‘shut down debate’ about HIV treatment. The email Shenton received from LIFF festival director, Erich Schultz, stated that ‘major HIV/AIDS organisations contacted me today, urging me not to screen Positive Hell, and warning of protests [against] LIFF, my screening venue and our sponsors if we don’t comply’. Shenton suggested the event should go ahead as planned despite the protests, but Schultz said he would not reconsider. Shenton says she had previously suggested a Q&A session to accompany the film screening, because she knew the film was ‘likely to provoke a heated discussion’. This suggestion was overlooked.

Shenton is known for her controversial views on what she calls the ‘HIV orthodoxy’, whereby, she claims, unnecessary antiviral treatment is being foisted on patients due to the influence of the pharmaceutical industry. However, she says she has never before experienced such blatant censorship: ‘We have had these kinds of protests in the past and just ignored them. What does it matter if, in a free society, some people demonstrate outside?’

According to some students in particular, it matters a lot. In Schultz’s email to Shenton he said he had received ‘20 protest letters, including one from the LGBT society of the university [University of London] where I teach (and where all of my selection committee comes from)’. As the University of London includes Birkbeck, King’s College, Queen Mary, UCL, Royal Holloway and Goldsmiths (all of which received a Red ranking in spiked’s Free Speech University Rankings), it’s unsurprising they wanted to block Shenton’s film.

You can watch the film in it’s entirety below, and visit their website

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