Tag Archives: current-events

Bill to lift ban on HIV positive organ donation passes House committee


USA: A bill which could eventually allow the donation of HIV positive organs to HIV positive recipients has passed the House after having passed the US Senate back in June.

The HIV Organ Policy Equity Act (HOPE), which is sponsored by both Democrats and Republicans would allow organs from HIV positive people to be donated to HIV positive recipients, and more so would allow researchers to study the safety of such practice.

The Human Rights Campaign also commended the passage of the bill. Back in March, the HRC praised the passage of the bill in the Senate Committe, and in June it passed in the full Senate.

“The HOPE Act represents sound public health policy,” said HRC legislative director Allison Herwitt. “The action by the House Energy & Commerce Committee is a major step forward in removing an outdated barrier which impedes access to lifesaving transplants for persons living with HIV and AIDS.”

HIV-positive patients in the US have been lobbying for the right to receive HIV-infected transplant organs for some time. They argue that there are hundreds of HIV-infected organs available every year and that making the change would save lives and give more people the chance of a transplant.

There are more than 100,000 actively waiting for life-saving organs, and around 50,000 more are added annually, and lifting the ban could decrease waiting time for all.

Allowing organs from HIV positive donors to HIV positive recipients with liver or kidney failure could save up to 1,000 people each year.

The ban on HIV positive organ donation was put in place in 1988, and aruments for it being lifted come partly from the fact that the treatment of HIV and AIDS has advanced significantly since.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) issued draft Public Health Service Guidelines in September 2011, recommending research in this area, but said that in the US, federal law blocks it from taking place.

Over 40 medical and patient advocacy groups endorse the act, including the United Network for Organ Sharing, which manages the US’s organ transplant system.

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A History of HIV & AIDS – 1989

As we prepare to enter our 25th year, we are reflecting on the global HIV events from the last three decades.  HIV has swept across the globe and support touching communities on every continent.  Here’s an introduction to some of the key moments in the early global history of HIV.  Catch up on the story using the ‘Recent Posts’ link to the right.

1989: On February 7th, the FDA announced that it was going to approve an aerosol form of the drug Pentamidine for the treatment of PCP (Pneumocystis Pneumonia) AIDS Patents.  It’s still in use today for some people with PCP.

By March 1st, 145 countries had reported 142,000 cases of AIDS to the World Health Organisation (WHO). The WHO regarded this as under-reporting, and estimated the actual number of people with AIDS around the world to be over 400,000. It was predicted that this figure would rise to 1.1 million by 1991. It was also estimated that 5-10 million people were already infected with HIV.

Click to read Hans Paul’s letter to the US Government

A Dutch man, Hans Paul Verhoef, was imprisoned in Minnesota, USA because did not declare that he had HIV when he entered the country.  Mr. Verhoef landed at Minneapolis St. Paul International Airport en route to a gay and lesbian health conference in San Francisco in April 1989.

After his medicine was found (AZT) in his luggage he was detained under a 1987 law that allows the Immigration and Naturalization Service to deny entry to visitors with AIDS or the AIDS virus. (sic)

Supporters intervened in his behalf, and Mr. Verhoef was released after five days and allowed to attend the conference.

In August, results from a major drug trial known as ACTG019 were announced.  The trial showed that AZT could slow progression to AIDS in HIV positive individuals with no symptoms.  These findings were thought to be extremely positive; on August 17th a press conference was held, at which the Health Secretary, Louis Sullivan said:

“Today we are witnessing a turning point in the battle to change AIDS from a fatal disease to a treatable one.”

The initial optimism was short-lived when the price of the drug was revealed. A year’s supply for one person would cost around $7,000, and many Americans did not have adequate health insurance to cover the cost.  Burroughs Wellcome, the makers of AZT, were accused of ‘price gouging and profiteering’.  In September, the cost of the drug was cut by 20 percent.

By this time, 100,000 people diagnosed with AIDS had been reported to the CDC.  The proportion of AIDS diagnoses among women had increased, and smaller cities and rural areas were increasingly affected.

The television movie “The Ryan White Story” aired. It starred Judith Light as Jeanne, Lukas Haas as Ryan and Nikki Cox as Sister Andrea. Ryan White had a small cameo appearance as Chad, a young patient with AIDS.

Another AIDS-themed film, The Littlest Victims, also debuted in 1989, biopic-ing James Oleske, the first U.S. physician to discover AIDS in new born children during the early years of AIDS when many thought it was only spread by homosexual sex and drug use.

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A History of HIV & AIDS – 1987

The first drug licensed to treat HIV was Zidovudine, (AZT). Dr. Robert E. Windom, assistant secretary for health at the Health and Human Services Department, emphasized that AZT, to be sold under the trade name Retrovir, is not a cure for AIDS (sic) but he said the action “means that significant medical relief will be available to thousands of those afflicted with this dreaded disease.”

Windom said that licensing of the drug, “Marks an important step but by no means a final victory in our ongoing war against AIDS.” AZT was expected to be expensive, costing each patient as much as $10,000 a year.

Final approval of AZT, first administered to AIDS patients in human studies begun in July, 1985, came in record time, the result of a decision by the Food and Drug Administration to consider AIDS drugs as a top regulatory priority. Typically, the process takes an average of 8½ years from the earliest studies to licensing, AZT smashed this timeframe and was licenced after just 2 years.

Soon after its introduction, activists establish the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP) to challenge high drug prices and rally on Wall Street where “17 homosexual-rights protestors” were arrested, charged then released.

AIDS activism continues around the world to raise awareness of HIV and AIDS, and to challenge the stigma and prejudice faced by those living the disease. In the US, the AIDS memorial quilt is displayed for the first time during the National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights.

The US government closes its country’s borders to HIV-positive immigrants and visitors which eventually lead to many non-profit organisations to boycott the international AIDS conference in San Francisco in 1990. By 1992, the conference moves from Boston to Amsterdam because of America’s border controls.

An advert featuring The Grim Reaper was launched in Australia to warn people about the dangers of HIV was launched by the National Advisory Committee on AIDS (NACAIDS). The advertisement depicted the Grim Reaper in a bowling alley, bowling over various people from men and women to babies and toddlers, knocking over human ‘pins’ which represented people with HIV.  The commercial first screened on 5 April 1987 and was highly controversial; one reason is the unfortunate blow to the gay community, which had already taken the lead in AIDS awareness and safe sex practices.

The Grim Reaper became identified with gay men rather than as the Reaper which was unintentional, however viewers believed that the Reaper was people with HIV infection, rather than the Reaper harvesting the dead.

The commercial was widely criticised at the time, but it succeeded in creating widespread discussion about AIDS.

1987 also marked a UK Government Cabinet Committee devoted to combatting the epidemic. £20 million was earmarked for a publicity campaign, £5 million of which was to be spent on television commercials which could be adapted for cinema. The dilemma facing the government and advertising agency was whether to use shock tactics, as recommended by health groups or take heed of moral campaigners like Mary Whitehouse, who called for the promotion of “monogamy, not sexual precautions”. Another contentious issue was whether to overturn the Independent Broadcasting Authority’s restriction on commercials recommending condom use.

The result was a hard-hitting campaign containing apocalyptic images of icebergs, crumbling mountains and falling monoliths crashing on our screens.  The aim was to shock people into practising safer sex.

The most remembered of the five advertisements were Tombstone and Iceberg, with their iconic, nightmarish imagery, compounded by John Hurt’s chilling commentary.

The television advertisement campaign was accompanied by educational television and radio programmes on AIDS and related leaflets, bearing the ‘Don’t Die of Ignorance’, slogan were sent to every home in the country. (Click the image above for a copy).  Despite widespread apprehension, the campaign was later acknowledged that it had been successful in precipitating more open discussion about AIDS in the media.

Although cases of AIDS in the UK had remained low, due in part to high profile campaigns, it had become a global epidemic, by this time, the World Health Organisation had been notified of nearly 44,000 cases of AIDS in 91 countries including the cases first recorded in the Soviet Union.

At a time with high ignorance and constant struggle in the face of stigma and discrimination, most of the population thought you could get AIDS from touching someone or sharing equipment or facilities. This was the experience of Mike Sisco, a gay man with HIV.

Mike simply took a dip in a local swimming pool. Word spread quickly, and by the next day fear, panic and rumours – including one that claimed Mike had spit on food at a grocery store—had forced the pool to be closed and prompted a front-page banner headline in the local newspaper which also made the national news.

Mike says that when he went swimming at the pool, the lifeguard was the first person to recognise him, but soon the other bathers did as well. “They kind of ran like in those science fiction movies where Godzilla walks into the street.”

This wasn’t the first time the community had reacted negatively to seeing Mike in public. He says he returned home after contracting AIDS (sic) while living in Dallas. He says his illness quickly became known in the community through the whispers of small-town gossip.  The Opera Winfrey show examed the case in an hour long special filmed at the town hall.

Watch Mike tell Oprah his story in his own words here  and read more about it here.

At a time when panic, fear, prejudice, stigma and discrimination were wide spread, people with HIV were often rejected by friends and family, and ostracised by society, there seemed to be little hope of educating socialy. What was needed was a public figure to openly demonstrate that HIV could not be caught by sharing cups, towels or even air and that support came in the form of Princess Diana.

Diane was drawn to people she felt were not treated fairly and did not receive the support they deserved. She understood that people living with HIV were desperately in need of understanding and support and that is why HIV was a cause she supported so passionately.

She knew that her public profile meant any cause she supported would receive enormous public attention and recognition. For this reason, she chose to support causes which were not considered popular and glamorous – as she knew it was these causes she could make a major difference to.

Princess Diana worked tirelessly both in front of the cameras and behind the scenes to support people living with HIV and to change society’s attitude to HIV – whether visiting HIV positive people in hospital, opening wards, attending conferences and events or supporting fundraising initiatives.

Princess Diana’s commitment and dedication to raising the profile of HIV helped challenge the stigma of the virus. She often publically wore a red ribbon and was the first prominent public figure in the UK to be pictured holding the hand of a person with AIDS in his hospital bed. This iconic image was seen by millions all over the world and had an amazing effect in challenging attitudes towards people living with HIV and breaking down stigma and misconceptions.

In Leicester, an initial meeting brings together around 40 people with an interest in practical action to address the issues related around AIDS and HIV.  A general meeting adopts a constitution and elects a management committee which carries on the work of an initial steering group forming links with other agencies pursuing funding and seeking premises.  The organisation is called: Leicestershire AIDS Support Services.

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