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How A Red Ribbon Conquered The World

Thirty years after the HIV virus was first documented, the red ribbon is the ubiquitous symbol of support for those living with the illness. Who thought of it and how did it get so big?

In the sparse surroundings of a former classroom on a spring day in 1991 – a decade after the rise of AIDS – a group of 12 artists gathered to discuss a new project.

They were photographers, painters, film makers and costume designers, and they sat around in the shared gallery space known as PS122 in New York’s East Village.

Within an hour or so of brainstorming, they had come up with a simple idea that later became one of the most recognised symbols of the decade – the red ribbon, worn to signify support for people with HIV/Aids.

“We wanted to make something that was self-replicating,” says Patrick O’Connell, who chaired the meeting. “It’s extremely simple, like Bauhaus but half a century later. You cut the ribbon 6-7 inches, loop it around your finger and pin it on. You can do it yourself.”

The ribbon was the latest project by Visual Aids, a New York arts organisation that raises awareness of HIV/Aids.

When they sat down in the shared gallery space of PS122 in May 1991, they wanted to get people talking about the illness that was decimating their professional and social network, in the face of public indifference and private shame.

People were dying without even telling their friends why they were sick, and the artists wanted a visual expression of compassion for people living with Aids and their carers.

“Even in New York, we were very aware of how many people couldn’t talk about it, or were oblivious, or were going through it themselves but ashamed to talk about it,” says photographer Allen Frame, who was also one of the 12. “We wanted to make people feeling isolated more supported and understood.”

Their inspiration came from the yellow ribbons tied on trees to denote support for the US military fighting in the Gulf War, he says. Pink and the rainbow colours were rejected because they were too closely associated with the gay community, and this was an illness that went well beyond.

“Red was something bold and visible. It symbolised passion, a heart and love.”

The shape had no significance but was easy to make.

It took two more meetings to refine the design and then they set to work on making the ribbons themselves, distributing them around the New York art scene and dropping them off at theatres.

Initially there was a text that went with it, to explain why they were being worn, although this was later dropped because it became superfluous.

A few weeks after that first meeting, the group sent a box of 3,000 ribbons to the Minskoff Theatre on Broadway, ahead of the Tony Awards for the theatre industry. Some of them were making ribbons and watching the televised event as actor Jeremy Irons, one of the presenters, came on to the stage wearing one.

“Within three days, the media finally figured it out and it snowballed. I started being contacted by people in Hollywood,” says O’Connell.

Demand increased to such a degree that supply needed to be outsourced, and Visual Aids used a charity working with homeless women to make the ribbons. They sent out 10,000 ribbons for one Oscars ceremony, and over the coming years they made about 1.5m.

Stars like Bette Midler and Richard Gere were not only wearing them, but openly discussing why it was important. A ribbon-sporting culture developed within the acting profession.

“It became trendy and sometimes I think celebrities felt blackmailed and thought they had to show up wearing a ribbon, which wasn’t the case,” says O’Connell. “We weren’t keeping count that way.”

The ribbons first crossed the Atlantic in large numbers on Easter Monday in 1992, when more than 100,000 ribbons were distributed at an Aids benefit concert in London’s Wembley Stadium for Freddie Mercury.

They also began to proliferate in mainstream American life. Schools and churches across the US touched by the illness started to contact Visual Aids for advice on how they could explain it to children and parishioners – the answer was to hold a ribbon-making event.

“This was a way to educate people in a non-combative way,” says O’Connell, who has a ribbon on every item of clothing. Direct action was still important, he says – campaigners occupied the Stock Exchange and tried to re-enact a funeral on the White House lawn – but the ribbon was a way to broaden the conversation.

One unforeseen consequence has been the number of awareness ribbons that have been adopted since – pink for breast cancer being the most well known.

The artists purposefully never trademarked it – the point of the project was to invite more people in, says O’Connell – which meant it could appear anywhere without Visual Aids’ permission or any payments. It even turned up on a US Post Office stamp.

But he and some of the other artists behind the concept believe the proliferation and merchandising of the ribbon – ornamental ribbons selling for $19.95 in department stores and red ribbon mugs – has commercialised and trivialised their idea.

In a spirit more in tune with the one envisaged by Visual Aids, the ribbon is replicated in many different forms for memorials on World Aids Day, and its symbolism no longer needs any explanation.

In the poorest parts of the world, ribbon production has been central to efforts to raise funds and change attitudes, says Sir Nick Partridge, chief executive of the Terrence Higgins Trust in the UK.

Women’s collectives make ribbons and adorn them before selling them in their community.

“A number of people living with HIV really appreciate seeing other people wearing the red ribbon. They realise they’re not alone and recognise that the majority of people wearing them probably don’t have HIV themselves, and that sense of support and solidarity is very, very important.

“There has been some criticism, that it is only a symbol. But symbols are important, and the way in which the red ribbon was embraced by community activists, doctors and researchers is a unifying emblem in what is a very disparate epidemic.

“The brilliance of the artists was not copyrighting it. Making it freely available was a gift to the Aids community worldwide.”

Those 12 artists never worked together again as a group, but with the battle against the illness ongoing, their activism continues.

 

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Prayer is good, prayer and medication is better!

Pastor Elizabeth was told that prayer was all she needed to fight HIV, she stopped taking her medication after faith leaders insisted she cease taking anti-HIV and life saving drugs.  She wrestled with the decision and is now an advocate for taking medication.  She says “If you are sick, and someone tells you not to take medication, they are misleading you.  Pastor Elizabeth realises this and wishes to share that HIV is simply an illness which requires medication.

At the beginning of the HIV epidemic in the early eighties, some faith leaders preached that only ‘sinners’ contracted the virus, advising that the only solution for those living with HIV was to pray hard for forgiveness. While many faith leaders have since realised that HIV is simply a virus that can affect anyone, unfortunately some haven’t. In fact, a few have gone even further, telling those in their congregations who are living with HIV to stop taking their Antiretroviral treatment (ARVs) and instead concentrate on praying because that’s the only way they will experience emotional and physical healing.

Whether praying to be healed from HIV is being preached in select churches, or some church-goers living with HIV are misinterpreting what their faith leaders are telling them, a number of HIV positive people have died as a result of stopping their HIV medication. What remains unclear is how many people are being converted to this way of thinking. Is this a big problem warranting a global intervention, or are we making a mountain out of a molehill? I personally don’t know the definitive answers to these questions, but what I can say is that where prayer and HIV healing are concerned, I have witnessed and have heard of some pretty bizarre behaviour among people living with HIV, particularly within African communities in the UK and in some parts of Africa.

It was reported in October 2011 that blind faith in prayer claimed the lives of three people who were HIV positive.  At least three people in London with HIV died after they stopped taking life saving drugs on the advice of their Evangelical Christian pastors.

The women died after attending churches in London where they were encouraged to stop taking the antiretroviral drugs in the belief that God would heal them, their friends and a leading HIV doctor said.

HIV prevention charity African Health Policy Network (AHPN) says a growing number of London churches have been telling people the power of prayer will “cure” their infections.

“This is happening through a number of churches. We’re hearing about more cases of this,” AHPN chief Francis Kaikumba said.

Whether you believe in religion or not, there is absolutely nothing wrong with prayer to help you with HIV, however there is everything wrong with discontinuing medication in favour of prayer.  Take time to consider the different mechanises to combat HIV.  Prayer may help the soul and medication will help the body.  There are a lot of people of all faiths in within research and development who would hope you look after your body too.

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HIV in the UK: 76% diagnosed, 90% on treatment, 90% undetectable

HIV test

UK achieves two out of three UNAIDS targets, but undiagnosed infection remains a major problem

The UK’s annual epidemiological report, released yesterday, shows that the country already provides HIV treatment to 90% of people attending clinical services and that 90% of those on treatment have an undetectable viral load. But the country has a long way to go in ensuring that people with HIV are aware of their HIV status – only 76% of people living with HIV have been diagnosed. The problem is particularly acute in black African communities, as only 62% of African heterosexual men and 69% of African heterosexual women living with HIV have been diagnosed.

The figures can be compared to the ambitious targets announced by UNAIDS (the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS) earlier in the year: for 90% of all people living with HIV to know their status, 90% of those to be on treatment and 90% of those to have an undetectable viral load. If these figures could be achieved by 2020, the global AIDS epidemic would be over by 2030, UNAIDS said.

The UK appears to have achieved two out of three of the targets, but has a significant problem due to the high rates of undiagnosed infection. Overall, 61% of all people living with HIV in the UK have an undetectable viral load. This contrasts with the 73% that would be achieved if all three of UNAIDS’ 90/90/90 targets were accomplished.

New diagnoses, overall prevalence

Public Health England reports that 6000 people were newly diagnosed with HIV in the United Kingdom in 2013. The overall figure is lower than that seen a decade ago, due to fewer diagnoses among heterosexual men and women born in high-prevalence African countries. Among gay men, the number of diagnoses is as high as ever, with 3250 cases reported in 2013. An estimated 30% of the gay men diagnosed in 2013 were recently infected with HIV (within six months of their diagnosis).

There are now almost 110,000 people living with HIV in the country, including 26,000 who don’t know they have it. This can be broken down into risk groups:

  • Gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men (43,500 people; prevalence of 5.9%).
  • Black African heterosexual women (25,100 people; prevalence of 7.1%).
  • Black African heterosexual men (13,600 people; prevalence of 4.1%).
  • Heterosexual women of other ethnicities (10,300 people; prevalence of 0.06%).
  • Heterosexual men of other ethnicities (10,200 people; prevalence of 0.06%).
  • People who inject drugs (2400 people; prevalence of 0.7%).

High rates of undiagnosed infection, especially in black African communities

Overall, 24% of people living with HIV are unaware that they have it. The rates of undiagnosed infection are lowest among gay men (16%) and people who inject drugs (10%).

In relation to black African people, it’s worth noting that in previous epidemiological reports the description of a person as ‘black African’ primarily depended on whether they were born in an African country. In contrast, the new report focuses on a person’s ethnicity, so that someone born in the UK to Nigerian parents is considered in the ‘African’ category. As a result of this and other methodological changes, some of the figures for undiagnosed infection are not directly comparable to previous years’ – and paint a more worrying picture.

In 2013, 31% of black African heterosexual women and 38% of black African heterosexual men who had HIV were unaware of their infection. Rates of undiagnosed infection were somewhat lower among heterosexual people of other ethnicities: 27% in men and 23% in women.

The report also shows that rates of undiagnosed infection are far worse outside London, compared to the capital. Outside London, 41% and 49% of African men and women were undiagnosed. In London, 10% and 13% were undiagnosed. There is some fuzziness to these estimates: the true values could be up to 10% higher or lower than the figures given here. But a clear geographic difference would still be observed. This could reflect stronger community networks and more accessible health services, including targeted prevention, in the capital.

Another way to consider undiagnosed infection is to look at rates of late diagnosis – people diagnosed with a CD4 cell count below 350 cells/mm3. Rates of late diagnosis were highest among heterosexual men (62%) and heterosexual women (51%), with black Africans especially likely to be diagnosed late. The lowest rate of late diagnosis was seen in gay men (31%). Across all groups, older people and non-Londoners were more likely to be diagnosed late.

But progress has been made over the past decade – the overall rate of late diagnosis has gone down from 57 to 42%.

A higher uptake of HIV testing, including more frequent testing, is needed to improve the figures on undiagnosed infection and late diagnosis. The report shows that, at sexual health clinics, 86% of gay male patients take an HIV test, but only 77% of heterosexual men and 67% of heterosexual women do so. Whereas guidelines recommend that all people attending sexual health clinics are offered an HIV test, only one-in-seven clinics test at least 80% of their heterosexual patients. Public Health England recommends that clinics review their policies and training protocols.

But while PHE has been able to collect data on HIV testing in sexual health clinics, none are available for testing in GP surgeries, in other medical settings, or in community settings. A significant improvement in the proportion of people living with HIV who are diagnosed is thought unlikely to occur without improved provision of testing in non-specialist settings, as recommended in guidelines. The report notes that less than one in five of the black-African population attended a sexual health clinic in the previous five years.

“Reductions in undiagnosed infection can be achieved through increasing testing coverage in STI clinics, the introduction and consolidation of HIV testing in a variety of different medical services, in addition to further development of community testing, including self-sampling,” PHE comment.

Quality of care for people living with HIV

Considering the next stages of the ‘treatment cascade’ and the National Health Service’s performance in relation to UNAIDS’ targets, the report shows that 90% of people were linked to care within a month of their diagnosis (98% within three months). Moreover, 95% of those who received care in 2012 were retained in care in 2013. Results did not vary according to age, gender, ethnicity, sexuality or geographical area.

Further, 90% of people in care received antiretroviral therapy (up from 69% in 2004). This includes 92% of those with a CD4 cell count below 350 cells/mm3. Of all people taking treatment, 90% had an undetectable viral load, below 200 cells/ml.

Generally there was equality in treatment outcomes, although younger people were less likely to be taking therapy. Moreover, people in both the youngest (15-24 years) and the oldest (over 50) age groups were less likely to have an undetectable viral load.

Guidelines recommend that clinicians discuss treatment as prevention with patients, and give them the option to start treatment early for this reason. Probably as a result, average CD4 cell counts when starting treatment have risen in recent years. In 2013, 25% began treatment with a CD4 cell count between 350 and 500 cells/mm3, and a further 26% did so above 500 cells/mm3.

Article via NAM

For your full copy of the report, click here

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How does Childhood Sexual Abuse affect HIV prevention?

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Childhood Sexual Abuse (CSA) is a painful experience on many levels that can have a profound and devastating effect on later physiological, psychosocial and emotional development.

Childhood Sexual Abuse experiences can vary with respect to duration (multiple experiences with the same perpetrator), degree of force/coercion or degree of physical intrusion (from fondling to digital penetration to attempted or completed oral, anal or vaginal sex). The identity of the perpetrator–ranging from a stranger to a trusted figure or family member–may also impact the long-term consequences for individuals. To distinguish Child Sexual Abuse from exploratory sexual experimentation, the contact should be unwanted/coerced or there should be a clear power difference between the victim and perpetrator, often defined as the perpetrator being at least 5 years older than the victim.

People who experience childhood sexual abuse may feel powerless over their sexuality and sexual communication and decision-making as adults because they were not given the opportunity to make their own decisions about their sexuality as children or adolescents. As a result, they may engage in more high-risk sexual behaviour, be unable to refuse sexually aggressive partners and have less sexual satisfaction in relationships.

What seems to be common, is that people who come forward to report their abuse, only do so after the perpetrator has died or a number of other abuse survivors have come forward to present their case.  In high profile cases, this means victims of Jimmy Saville, Gary Glitter, Max Clifford, Rolf Harris, Chris Denning et al.  For more information on these investigations, search for Operation YewTree online.

The reality is much worse than what the papers are informing.  Child Sexual Abuse is more likely to occur in families under duress. Children are at risk of sexual abuse in families that experience stress, poverty, violence and substance abuse and whose parents and relatives have histories of child abuse.

Childhood Sexual Abuse can affect HIV risk because childhood and early adolescence are critical times in a person’s sexual, social and personal development, sexual abuse can distort survivors’ physical, mental and sexual images of themselves. These distortions, combined with coping mechanisms adopted to offset the trauma of abuse can lead abuse survivors into high-risk sexual and drug-using behaviours that increase the likelihood of HIV infection.

Childhood Sexual Abuse survivors may have difficulties forming attachments and long term relationships and may dissociate from their feelings, resulting in having multiple sexual partners, “one night stands” and short-term sexual relationships.  The effects of child sexual abuse may be different for adult men and women. Female survivors of abuse may have lower condom self-efficacy with partners, use condoms less frequently, exhibit more sexual passivity and attract or be attracted to overly controlling partners.  Male survivors of abuse may experience higher levels of eroticism, exhibit aggressive, hostile behaviour and victimize others.

Adults with child abuse histories may use dissociation and other coping efforts to avoid negative thoughts, emotions and memories associated with the abuse. One of the most common dissociation methods is alcohol and drug abuse. A study of men and women with a history of substance abuse found that 34% had experienced child sexual abuse.

More on historic Childhood Sexual Abuse

For years, there have been undercurrents on Twitter and other websites about a network of individuals who sexually abuse children.  It’s not a small network of people, it’s large and the organisation was called the Paedophile Information Exchange (PIE) between 1974 to 1984.  To research more for yourself, search #CSAInquiry or #PIE on Twitter or Google.

The Paedophile Information Exchange network was set up as a special interest group who’s stated aim was to “to alleviate suffering of many adults and children” by campaigning to abolish the age of consent thus legalising sex between adults and children. (Read More).  At the time, the Paedophile Information Exchange group was legal and sought to promote the rights of paedophiles by arguing that children had the right to indulge in their sexual feelings with adults, and argued the age of consent should be lowered to four years old, or abolished altogether.

Until recently, this story has been limited to activists and deemed ‘conspiracy’ because of the high volume of alleged abuse which has been reported by high profile celebrity’s and currently, alleged against politicians.

In October, 2012 ITV aired a documentary “Exposure: The Other Side of Jimmy Savile” (Available online here) which broke the story of Savile’s sexual abuse of young girls into the main stream media.  The programme contained several allegations by women who said that, as teenagers, they had been sexually abused by Savile, who had gained access to them through the television programmes he had presented.  Following the broadcast, many other people came forward to make allegations about Savile’s conduct towards young people, including sexual abuse that had taken place on BBC premises and in hospitals to which Savile had access.

It didn’t stop there, since the ITV documentary, journalists, magazines and newspapers have consistently reported stories of child sex abuse, gradually gaining traction until it exploded in most newspapers last weekend.

Read those stories:

What’s next, and how can we cope?

Although dealing with child sexual abuse may seem like a daunting task for many HIV prevention programs, there are a variety of usable approaches to address abuse in adults.  Programs can: include questions on abuse during routine client screening, reassess clients over time, provide basic education on the effects of Childhood Sexual Abuse and offer referrals for substance abuse and mental health services.

People who are likely to interact with Childhood Sexual Abuse survivors such as medical and other health professionals, religious and peer counsellors, including alcohol, substance abuse and rape counsellors, and probation officers need to be educated on the effects of child sexual abuse and on sexual and drug risk behaviours. They also need training on how to recognize symptoms of child sexual abuse and how to address these issues or provide appropriate referrals for treatment.

We hope you find this knowledge, educational and informative. To be perfectly honest, we hope it makes you angry, angry enough to research Childhood Sexual Abuse for yourself and ensure that you stay up to date with the developments which are unfolding now before our very eyes and ears, on the news, in the newspapers and on the radio.

Many survivors of child abuse believe they have been let down by the system of child protection in the UK.  Thousands had nowhere to turn. Nobody listened and nobody helped.

In fact, one person tried.  His name was Geoffrey Dickens who was the Conservative MP for Huddersfield West.  Dickens gave Leon Brittan, (then home secretary) a dossier of allegations about an alleged paedophile ring among MPs (Read more about that here)

On Tuesday last week, Simon Danczuk, Labour MP for Rochdale, called on Lord Brittan to say what he knew about the allegations made by Dickens, who died in 1995. On Wednesday, Lord Brittan said he had asked Home Office officials to report back to him at the time if “action needed to be taken”, but did not recall having been contacted further. The Home Office said on Wednesday that it had conducted a review of the matter last year and found that the concerns raised by Dickens had been passed on to the appropriate authorities.

It is one of 114 Home Office files relating to allegations of child sex abuse that it has admitted have either been destroyed, lost or gone missing.  The disappearance of the files was not disclosed in the 2013 Home Office review. Mark Sedwill, the permanent secretary of the department, has promised to appoint an independent legal figure this week to determine whether the conclusions of last year’s review “remain sound”.

The missing Home Office files and the failure of previous police and local authority inquiries has meant that MPs from all the political parties have supported calls for an overarching national inquiry, A Child Sex Abuse Inquiry (or #CSAInquiry for short).

A petition is available online (http://change.org/ukabuseinquiry) asking Theresa May to establish a national inquiry into allegations of organised child abuse.  Please visit it, we owe it to the survivors. They expect nothing less.

READ MORE

 

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Human Genome Tinkering Could Be Our Best Bet to Beat HIV

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The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is a crafty little beast, constantly mutating to mask itself from our body’s defenses, but always entering cells through the same molecular door. The design of that cellular door is governed by our DNA, so why not change the lock by modding our genetic code?

In 2006, a minor medical miracle occurred. HIV-positive leukemia patient Timothy Ray Brown—the second Berlin Patient—received a bone marrow transplant that saved his life in more ways than one. The marrow that he received was from a donor with a unique double mutation to a gene on the 3rd chromosome known as CCR5. This gene codes for the surface protein that the HIV virus uses to gain entry into our white blood cells (specifically, CD4+ T-cells); however the double mutation shuts down these sites and provides a natural immunity to HIV. This mutation is exceptionally rare, only occurring in about one percent of Caucasians and nowhere else. It’s been hypothesized that it’s this same natural immunity that allowed a small portion of Europeans to make it through the Black Plague unscathed.

While that was fantastic news for Brown, who nearly a decade later remains off of his retroviral drug regimen and maintains an undetectable level of the virus in his system, it’s not of much use to the rest of us. With both the mutation prevalence and bone marrow compatibility matches in general being so rare, there was no effective means of using transplants as delivery vectors for this beneficial genetic condition. And it’s worth noting that the very process of becoming HIV-free nearly killed Brown. But that’s where Professor Yuet Kan’s team at UCSF comes in.

Kan figured that if integrating this double mutation wouldn’t work on the macro level—that is, replacing a patient’s bone marrow with that of a naturally HIV-immune person’s—maybe it would at the molecular level, thereby allowing researchers to confer the benefits while cutting out the marrow donation. To that end, he and a team of researchers from the University of San Francisco are employing cutting-edge genetic editing techniques to snip out the beneficial length of DNA coding and integrate it with a patient’s own genome.

The technique they’re using is known as CRISPR (Cas9) genome-editing. CRISPRs, (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats) are DNA delivery vectors that replace the existing base codes at a specific part of a specific chromosome with new base pair sets. Cas9, on the other hand are the “molecular scissors” that Kan’s team employs to first cut out the offending DNA. It sounds easy, sure—just find the string of DNA you want to replace, then snip it out with Cas9 DNA scissors, and install some new DNA using a CRISPR—however the nuts and bolts of the process are far more technically challenging.

The patient’s own blood cells would be employed as a precursor. Researchers would then have to convert those cells into induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells by modulating a number of genetic switches, thereby instigating their regression to more basic stem cells. After that, the offending CCR5 gene would need to be knocked out and replaced with the better, double-mutated version before the now fortified blood cells were transfused back into the patient. Not only is there no chance of the body rejecting the new cells (they are the patient’s own after all), the technique also neatly sidesteps the whole embryonic stem cell issue.

While the technique is still in its early stages of development and no human trial dates have yet been set, it holds huge promise. Not just for the 35 million people annually infected by HIV, but also sufferers of sickle cell anemia and cystic fibrosis—two deadly diseases caused by a single protein deformation—could benefit from similar techniques. By figuring out which genes do what on our iPS cells, we could even theoretically grant everyone on Earth immediate immunity to any number of diseases.

Of course, being able to update and augment our genetic code opens up a whole slew of potential concerns, objections, and abuses. Just look at the ire raised over the use of embryonic stem cells in the early 2000s. People were lost their minds because they thought scientific progress was being built on the backs of fetuses. Researchers had to go and invent an entirely new way of making stem cells (the iPS lines) just to get around that one moralized sticking point, so you can bet there will be plenty of chimera, master race, and Island of Dr. Moreaureferences bandied about should we ever begin seriously discussing the prospect of upgrading our genes. And could certainly slow progress in this specific research.

That’s not to say that the hysteria that accompanies seemingly every news cycle these days is completely off base. Like cars, styrofoam, pressure cookers, and thermonuclear bombs, this technology can be used for evil just as easily as it can be for good. And while we’re not nearly as genetically complex as, say, an ear of corn, wrangling the myriad of interactions between our various genes is still an incredibly complex task and one with severe consequences should something go awry—even if we can avoid creating unwanted mutations through stringent testing and development methodology as we do with today’s pharmaceutical development. So why not turn ourselves into the ultimate GMOs? It certainly beats everyone becoming cyborgs.

Article via Gizmodo

Want more? – Read this..

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Tory warns sex health cash cuts could lead to rise in HIV cases

Tory councillor Roy Webb is concerned about the impact of spending cuts on sexual health services.

Tory councillor Roy Webb is concerned about the impact of spending cuts on sexual health services.

FEARS of an increase in HIV infection rates in Derby if cuts proposed by the city council go ahead have been voiced.

Tory opposition councillor Roy Webb’s comments came after a letter opposing one of the cuts was sent to the authority by us, Leicestershire Aids Support Services.

The authority is proposing to cut £430,000 from the sexual health budget in the 2014-15 financial year.  The mooted cut was included in its recent consultation on how it will find £9 million of savings on top of £20 million already found.

It says the move would involve “ending service contracts for specialist sexual health promotion services,” and renegotiating contracts for “sexually transmitted infections and pregnancy testing”.

The document adds that the council wants to “refocus free oral emergency contraception to under-18s available to pharmacy outlets only”.  The city council was, on Friday, asked for more details but said it was unable to provide them.

But Mark Tittley, cabinet member for adults and health, said that, if the cuts went ahead, the council “would still continue to fulfil our statutory and moral duty to provide open access sexual health services to all within our community who need them, including people affected by HIV/Aids”.

Mr Webb, who is shadow cabinet member for health and adult care, said part of the cuts would hit Derbyshire Positive Support which gives confidential, stigma-free, support to people with HIV, and their families.

He said: “The withdrawal of contract funding for Derbyshire Positive Support may well, if it follows the national trend, increase infection rates as it has in areas where similar services have been decommissioned.”

A letter to the council from Leicestershire AIDS Support Services carries another warning.

It says: “Cuts will increase the likelihood of early death, and ill-health resulting in high levels of need for costly social care support and can be avoided by maintaining effective local services.”

Mr Webb added that, having met with a “public health official”, it was clear that any savings made in the budget were not going to be used to improve services elsewhere but “just used to support the council’s budget position”.

He said: “I think this a dangerous position to take as the on-going health and social care cost of failing to support these services could be much more expensive than keeping them.”

Mr Tittley said: “It is important to note that if these proposals are accepted by the council, we will still continue to fulfil our statutory and moral duty to provide open access sexual health services to all within our community who need them, including people affected by HIV/Aids.”

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Admare Jinga sentenced for ‘HIV cure’ fraud

Jinga, Admare

Admare Jinga, 31, was sentenced at Belfast Magistrates Court on Tuesday

A man who was convicted of an on-line scam selling products that claimed to ‘kill’ the HIV virus has been sentenced to 240 hours community service.

Admare Jinga used his base in Belfast to set up a company that advertised and distributed products overseas, particularly to his native Zimbabwe.

In June, he was found guilty of fraud by false representation.  He had already admitted a second charge of marketing medicines for human use without proper authorisation.

The 31-year-old University of Ulster graduate was sentenced at Belfast Magistrates Court on Tuesday.
Jinga, who now lives in Hamilton, Lanarkshire, Scotland, will carry out his community service over the next 12 months.  During the trial, Belfast Magistrates Court had heard that Jinga established a company called Savec Healthcare Ltd in 2007, when he was living in south Belfast.

Up until 2009 it marketed products as alternative forms of treatment for the HIV infection.  They claimed to be able to kill, prevent or stop Aids, according to the prosecution.

In the witness box Jinga said he became involved with pharmacists, a microbiologist and other Zimbabwean professionals concerned with the impact of HIV in their country.  Jinga claimed that no complaints were ever received from people who used his products.
The case against him was taken by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).  In a statement issued after the sentencing, the MHRA said the case was its first ever prosecution of its kind.

The agency said it took action against Jinga after he was found to be selling a machine and accompanying medicine over the internet that he falsely claimed could cure HIV and Aids.

“There are no known cures for HIV so any claim to this effect is illegal,” the MHRA statement added.

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Are you interested in news and articles about genuine research into developing a cure for HIV? – We have some articles for you to read, take a look at these: