Tag Archives: Conditions and Diseases

It isn’t going away!!

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The story of how LASS has responded to the challenge of HIV and AIDS was featured at this year’s East Midlands Oral History Day at Nottingham Library.

Tim Burke, who helped run our 25th anniversary history project in 2014, spoke to the conference about how the project got off the ground and about the interviews with volunteers and staff past and present that resulted in our publication “…and it won’t go away”.

He also read some extracts from the book that showed how LASS volunteers over the years have supported people living with AIDS/HIV.

“There was a great deal of interest from conference participants and they snapped some of the few remaining copies of the book,” said Tim.

“It was something of honour to be asked to contribute to the conference and I hope it will have further raised awareness of the significance of LASS’s work since 1987.”

This year’s event had a theme of oral history and health and LASS’s project was featured alongside other oral history projects ranging from working at Boot’s the Chemist to the medicinal use of cannabis and people’s experiences of life in and out of mental hospitals.

For more, and for your own copy of “…and it won’t go away”. Read the following article:

“…and it won’t go away.” 25 Years of Leicestershire AIDS Support Services

Thanks for reading, let us know what you think in the comments below, or you can find us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter for more!

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HIV: Specialist clinical care, a UK national review

A new study on clinical care for for people diagnosed HIV is reporting excellent retention in care among UK adults with HIV, but also the high risk of disease progression among non-attenders.

Story via BioMed Central @biomedcentral 
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Regular clinical care is important for the well-being of people with HIV. The study sought to  audit and describe the characteristics of adults with diagnosed HIV infection not reported to be attending for clinical care in the UK.

Public Health England (PHE) provided clinics with lists of patients diagnosed or seen for specialist HIV care in 2010 but not linked to a clinic report or known to have died in 2011. Clinics reviewed case-notes of these individuals and completed questionnaires. A nested case–control analysis was conducted to compare those who had remained in the UK in 2011 while not attending care with individuals who received specialist HIV care in both 2010 and 2011.

Among 74,418 adults living with diagnosed HIV infection in the UK in 2010, 3510 (4.7 %) were not reported as seen for clinical care or died in 2011. Case note reviews and outcomes were available for 2255 (64 %) of these: 456 (20.2 %) remained in the UK and did not attend care; 590 (26.2 %) left UK; 508 (22.6 %) received care in the UK: 73 (3.2 %) died and 628 (27.8 %) had no documented outcome. Individuals remaining in the UK and not attending care were more likely to be treatment naïve than those in care, but duration since HIV diagnosis was not significant. HIV/AIDS related hospitalisations were observed among non-attenders.

Retention in UK specialist HIV care is excellent. The audit indicates that the ‘true’ loss to follow up rate in 2011 was <2.5 % with no evidence of health tourism. Novel interventions to ensure high levels of clinic engagement should be explored to minimise disease progression among non-attenders.

To see the full study, visit:  http://beta.bmcinfectdis.com/articles/10.1186/s12879-015-1036-3

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FREE TRAINING: HIV, Health & Wellbeing

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When we talk about mental wellbeing, we mean more than just happiness.  We know that physical and mental wellbeing are closely related.

Of course, feeling happy is a part of mental wellbeing but it is far from the whole. There is a deeper kind of wellbeing, which is about living in a way that is good for you and good for others around you.

Feelings of contentment, enjoyment, confidence and engagement with the world are all a part of mental wellbeing. Self-esteem and self-confidence are, too.  So is a feeling that you can do the things you want to do.  And so are good relationships, which bring joy to you and those around you.

Wellbeing and society

Over the last 50 years, we in Britain have become richer. Despite this, evidence from population surveys – in which people were asked to rate their own happiness or mental wellbeing – shows that mental wellbeing has not improved.

This suggests that many of the things we often think will improve our mental wellbeing – such as more possessions, more money to spend or expensive holidays – on their own do not lead to a lasting improvement in the way we feel about ourselves and our lives.

The message is clear: it’s time to rethink wellbeing.

Wellbeing in your life

Many factors influence our wellbeing. Evidence shows that the actions we take and the way we think have the biggest impact.  It can help to think about “being well” as something you do, rather than something you are.  The more you put in, the more you are likely to get out and the first thing you can do for your own wellbeing is become curious about it!

FREE TRAINING

We’re offering a free ‘HIV, Health & Wellbeing’ session .  The aim of this sessuin is to explore how overall health and wellbeing can be affected by being diagnosed with, living with or affected by HIV.  The session will explore different approaches to increase health & wellbeing for ourselves and for people we interact or work with.

This session will be of interest and benefit for people who are affected by HIV, those who work with people living with or affected by HIV and those who are involved in different wellbeing issues and solutions.

Date: Tuesday, 23rd June 2015
Time: 10:00 – 12:00am

To book, please download and complete this booking form and email it to, training@lass.org.uk.

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The Reason Why Experimental HIV Vaccines Backfire

"This study shows that if a vaccine induces high levels of activated CD4+ T cells in mucosal tissues, any potential protective effect of the vaccine may be hampered," senior author Guido Silvestri explains.

“This study shows that if a vaccine induces high levels of activated CD4+ T cells in mucosal tissues, any potential protective effect of the vaccine may be hampered,” senior author Guido Silvestri explains.

HIV Vaccines Should Avoid Viral Target Cells, Primate Model Study Suggests
Vaccines designed to protect against HIV can backfire and lead to increased rates of infection. This unfortunate effect has been seen in more than one vaccine clinical trial.Scientists at Yerkes National Primate Research Center, Emory University, have newly published results that support a straightforward explanation for the backfire effect: vaccination may increase the number of immune cells that serve as viral targets. In a nonhuman primate model of HIV transmission, higher levels of viral target cells in gateway mucosal tissues were associated with an increased risk of infection.The findings, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences , suggest that vaccine researchers, when evaluating potential HIV/AIDS vaccines, may need to steer away from those that activate too many viral target cells in mucosal tissues.

“One of the reasons why it has been so difficult to make an AIDS vaccine is that the virus infects the very cells of the immune system that any vaccine is supposed to induce,” says senior author Guido Silvestri, chief of microbiology and immunology at Yerkes National Primate Research Center.

Silvestri is also a professor of pathology and laboratory medicine at Emory University School of Medicine and a Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar. The first author of the paper is senior research specialist Diane Carnathan, PhD, and colleagues from the Wistar Institute, Inovio Pharmaceuticals and the University of Pennsylvania contributed to the study.

A large part of the HIV/AIDS vaccine effort has been focused on developing vaccines that stimulate antiviral T cells. T cells come in two main categories, defined by the molecules found on their surfaces. CD8 is a marker for “killer” cells, while CD4 is a marker for “helper” cells. CD4+ T cells are known to be primary targets for HIV and SIV (simian immunodeficiency virus) infection, while several studies have proposed that CD8+ T cells could be valuable in controlling infection.

In this study, researchers immunized rhesus macaques with five different combinations of vaccines encoding SIV proteins found on the inside of the virus only. This experimental strategy was designed to examine the effects of cell-mediated immunity, without stimulating the production of neutralizing antibodies, in what scientists refer to as a “reductionist approach”.

The monkeys received an initial immunization followed by two booster shots after 16 and 32 weeks. The monkeys were then exposed to repeated low-dose intrarectal challenge with SIV, once per week, up to 15 times. In general, the immunization regimens did not prevent SIV infection. While all the immunized monkeys had detectable levels of circulating “killer” CD8+ T cells, there was no correlation between these cells and preventing infection.

The most important result, however, was that the monkeys that became infected had higher levels of activated CD4+T cells in rectal biopsies before challenge, Silvestri says.

“This study shows that if a vaccine induces high levels of activated CD4+ T cells in mucosal tissues, any potential protective effect of the vaccine may be hampered,” he explains.

The study emphasizes the unique challenges that HIV poses in terms of vaccine development, and the importance of pursuing vaccine concepts and products that elicit strong antiviral immune responses without increasing the number of CD4+ T cells in the portals of entry for the virus.

The research was supported by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious diseases (AI080082) and the NIH Director’s Office of Research Infrastructure Programs (Primate centers: P51OD11132).

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Contraceptive injection raises risk of HIV, research warns

The implications of a possible link between hormonal injections and HIV alarm campaigners. Photograph: Alamy

The implications of a possible link between hormonal injections and HIV alarm campaigners. Photograph: Alamy

Lancet analysis finds 40% increase in infection risk for women using birth control jab compared with other hormonal methods

Contraceptive injections moderately increase a woman’s risk of becoming infected with HIV, a large scientific analysis has found.

The research in a leading medical journal will further fuel a controversy that has been raging for more than two decades. The implications of a possible link between hormonal injections and the virus alarm both HIV and birth control campaigners. Some countries in sub-Saharan Africa, where HIV rates are high, have considered withdrawing the contraceptive injections entirely from family planning clinics. About 41 million women use the jabs, in many cases because it allows them to control their fertility without their husband’s knowledge.

The analysis, in the journal Lancet Infectious Diseases, finds that in the pooled results of 12 observational trials, there is a 40% increase in the risk of HIV for women using the birth control jab compared with other hormonal methods such as the pill.

The US authors, from the University of California at Berkeley, said this was a moderate increase in risk. What it means for each individual woman will depend on her risk of HIV infection to begin with. For most women, the risk of an unwanted pregnancy and possibly death – maternal mortality rates are high in sub-Saharan Africa – may outweigh the increased risk of HIV.

For groups of women such as sex workers who have a high risk of HIV infection, the implications may be more alarming. However, the authors said there were only two studies that focus on this specific group and so the results were not conclusive.

The lead author of the research said the evidence was not strong enough to justify the complete withdrawal of depot medroxyprogesterone acetate (DMPA), more commonly called Depo-Provera, from women in the general population.

“Banning DMPA would leave many women without immediate access to alternative, effective contraceptive options. This is likely to lead to more unintended pregnancies, and because childbirth remains life-threatening in many developing countries, could increase overall deaths among women,” said epidemiologist Lauren Ralph.

But, she added: “Further evidence regarding the magnitude and mechanisms of the DMPA and HIV link among high-risk women, such as commercial sex workers and women in serodiscordant partnerships (where one partner is HIV-positive and the other is not), is urgently needed.”

The possible rise in HIV infections among women using the contraceptive jab was first noted in 1991. The debate over it has become “increasingly narrow and fierce”, said Christopher Colvin from the University of Cape Town in South Africa and Abigail Harrison from Brown University School of Public Health in the US in a comment in the journal.

“Like many scientific controversies, views have become hardened, personal, financial, or political agendas have been suggested, and there has even been intrigue in the form of leaked copies of articles under peer review,” said the commentary.

“Both sides have raised important, compelling arguments, but their partisan character can weaken the quality of the debates and restrict the view of the complex relation between evidence, policy, and practice.”

The debate is currently focused on whether there should be a large randomised controlled trial. This would need to compare HIV infections of women using the birth control jab probably with another group using the pill. Some would say that in the light of current evidence that would be unethical. Others warn a trial may not be decisive.

Colvin said that although trials can sometimes be the best option, they have their limitations.

“I do think that the debate over the trial, in both public and scientific circles, tends towards framing a trial as the way to ‘get the answer’ … which makes me nervous,” he told the Guardian.

The World Health Organisation advises that women at high risk of HIV should be told that the injectables “may or may not increase their risk of HIV acquisition”. Couples should be informed and given access to other methods, including male and female condoms.

Story via The Guardian

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Missed, HIV Testing Week? – Don’t worry we do it all year round :-)

We are pleased publish our advert to promote HIV testing, this advert speaks with 15 languages internationally.

Our message is clear, it is better to know your own HIV status and you can get a HIV test at LASS, and have the result within a minute!

Our team of volunteers have specialist training to provide a free and confidential test, we also have a fantastic support team to provide after-care and further information if required.  We also have established network links so we can refer to more specialist agencies so you can be sure to get expert advice for your needs.

We hope you like our advert and hope that you’ll feel comfortable to contact us if you would like a free and confidential test. (0116 2559995)

HIV Testing Training

Celia---HIV-Basics

Celia Fisher delivering HIV Training at The Michael Wood Centre

At the moment around 100,000 people in Britain are living with HIV, and it is estimated that as many as one in four of them don’t know they are infected. It’s hoped that making HIV tests much more accessible will encourage many people to take control over their own health.

HIV Testing has been available for just under 30 years, presently it’s available from GU clinics and registered testing centres such as LASS and from April next year, home testing for HIV will become legal in the UK.

To slow down the spread of HIV and help people to access treatment, LASS invests in rapid testing services in community settings. There is particularly low uptake in some African communities, so LASS trains volunteers from these communities to carry out testing and provide information.

They provide testing at a range of events and venues including African football tournaments to reach people who otherwise wouldn’t be tested. We also provides services for people with HIV who maybe coping with other issues like poor mental health.  We also provide healthy living training.

Would you like to become a community HIV tester with LASS? We are running the training sessions for this at LASS on Thursday 26th & Friday 27th September – from 9.30 to 4.30 each day at The Michael Wood Centre.

This course is available to LASS volunteers only.

The course covers theory and practice about HIV transmission, Basic HIV knowledge, treatment and benefits of testing, Pre-test “discussion” and information, Sharing test results, Inclusive practices and consideration of different communities and cultures, Role play scenarios, Procedures to use testing kits and Working with different clients.   Following the training, you will need to complete a written test.

To enrol on the course, please contact us on 0116 2559995 or email Celia or Eric for more information.

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