Tag Archives: news

Pope Francis I & Interactions with HIV/AIDS Patients

popefrancis

Argentine Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio has been elected the Catholic Church’s Pope, taking the name Francis, (The first time a pope has taken that name). The 76-year-old from Buenos Aires is the first Latin American and the first Jesuit to be pontiff.

Appearing on a balcony over St Peter’s Square in Rome yesterday, he asked the crowds to pray for him, with cheers erupting as he gave a blessing. Messages of goodwill have poured in from around the world. The Pope’s inaugural Mass will be next Tuesday.

As Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, he showed compassion for HIV/AIDS patients, when in 2001 he visited a drugs rehabilitation centre in Buenos Aires, Argentina where he is from and washed the feet of twelve recovering drug addicts, diagnosed with HIV during the Mass of the Lord’s Supper.

Each year, repeating the gesture, said to be done by Jesus at the Last Supper with the Apostles, is a reminder of the attitude the church says it should have.

The following video contains photo slides from the event.

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Baby Cured of HIV – Here’s the real message..

caduceus-and-red

Late Sunday night, the world media started to report about a baby, born with HIV had been cured.  Everybody got talking; scientists, people of faith, doctors, the public, HIV experts, me, you!

It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of a cure, I honestly didn’t think I’d be writing the phrase ‘HIV Cure’ for at least a few more years yet, but as it were, we were given a flurry of media reports about how this case was set to change the HIV treatment paradigm, prevent babies from being infected, and, to quote the principal author of the study, Dr Deborah Persaud, “transform our current treatment practices in newborns worldwide”.

There are reports that parents and guardians are asking if this means that children who are infected at birth can stop their drugs.  People are very over-optimistic, and have been calling their doctors and specialists raising the question of whether they, or their child could also be cured!

More Data Needed

We need to slow down, and get some perspective.  The news was only announced five days ago.

To quote a famous professor of HIV pharmacology: “We need more data.” We need to take stock, get the facts right, and allow for scrutiny of the case by the scientific community.

There are many questions to be asked of the case. For instance, was the baby truly infected in the first place? From reviewing the data presented at the conference, it certainly seems possible. But how established was this infection? Had it established itself in so-called long-lived memory T cells?

Furthermore, when was the actual point of infection? This is not clear. Could it have been just prior to delivery? If so, it is possible that by serendipity the doctors intervened with drugs just as the virus was trying to become established.

A Cure, or PEP?

It’s imperative, then, that we attempt to understand when exactly this baby was infected. Was it just before birth, or several months before birth? The longer the period of time, the more interesting the case becomes.

However, if the intervention simply aborted the establishment of infection then Dr Persaud’s results are less exciting.

If drugs were introduced very shortly after infection, the treatment may have actually acted as PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis) – a strategy already used by HIV doctors to try and avoid establishment of infection

Think of a fire which has just caught alight, but has yet really to take hold. Pouring a bucket of water on it at this point may kill the fire dead. Was there actually a flame, or the presence of detectable virus, in this case? Yes, of course. But this bucket of water may not have worked had you allowed the ‘fire’ to become properly established.

The case being described by many as a ‘cure’ may in fact be like this bucket of water – effective, but only because it was delivered so early.

Taking the fire analogy further, after we have put out the flames we may still see the residues it left behind. It might even reignite at a later point in time. The Mississippi baby has been off anti-retroviral drug treatment [ARVs] for less than a year – there are currently no flames, but we are waiting to see if the embers are truly burned out.

Currently, and beyond this headline case, we have no way to completely put out the fire of HIV once it has caught hold. Our current ARV treatments, then, are the firemen who keep the flames of HIV at bay. As long as they are there, you can begin to rebuild the house – a fact born out by the fact that hundreds of thousands of our patients have been on totally suppressive regimens for up to twenty years.

Currently, it is a truth that, if you stop therapy, the virus inevitably rebounds when you –cease medication usually within two weeks. Admittedly, there are a very few rare cases where the virus may simply smoulder away at very low levels for many years (so-called “post treatment controllers”).

All of these considerations and unanswered questions mean that we have a long way to go yet before we fully understand this case. We must fully explore the baby’s immune make-up. What about the characteristics of the mother’s virus, which was curiously low for someone not on treatment? There are so many questions before we should really call this a cure.

Other than the potential of Dr Persaud’s research to stimulate further investigations, then, what is the best thing that can come of all this media frenzy?

The great hope is that this moment represents the greatest mass HIV awareness campaign since the Don’t Die of Ignorance ‘tombstone’ campaign of the 1980s. Rarely does HIV make such headlines, and we have a real chance to educate people whilst their interest is piqued.

We must tell people that the story of HIV is very different now, and we must take this opportunity to communicate new messages through the media whose attention we currently have – messages which can correct people’s out-dated misconceptions.

  • Let’s talk about testing, and the importance of early diagnosis.
  • Let’s talk about effective drugs, which when prescribed early enough can help a patient live a long and full life.
  • Let’s talk about condoms and prevention.
  • Let’s tackle stigma!

Today there is no reason for any baby to be become HIV positive, if the mother is tested and diagnosed early in pregnancy – and if she and the baby have access to effective treatments which can prevent transmission. Sadly, 590,000 babies every year are still born HIV-positive in the developing world: an unnecessary tragedy.

We can do something about that right now, with the tools we have – If we increase testing and make it more regular and consistent. In the UK, 95% of women take the HIV tests during pregnancy. And with effective treatment the chance of the baby being born positive is less than 0.5%. We should be aiming for the same success all over the world

Above and beyond a media storm about a supposed ‘cure’, there are good news stories we can make happen today.

Is the ‘cure’ story exciting? Yes. Is it scientifically plausible? Yes. Will it stimulate more research? Almost certainly. But it is extremely premature to hail it as a cure that will translate into routine clinical care any time soon. We need much more data.

So if you or your child are HIV-positive, then please… don’t stop taking your tablets. And if you have had unprotected sex, take the test. Condoms, education, testing, and access to treatment are our real weapons against HIV, and we need to learn to use these correctly if we want to make a real impact today.

When was your last HIV test?

We offer offer a completely free and confidential rapid HIV test (results within 60 seconds from a simple finger prick test)!  We use the Insti HIV test produced by BioLytical laboratories. The test is 99.96% accurate from 90 days after  contact for detecting HIV 1 and 2 antibodies.  We also have a mobile testing van which is often out in communities providing mobile rapid HIV tests. Appointments are not necessary, call us (0116 2559995) we’re here to help.

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Another Major HIV Breakthrough

ProfLewin

Yesterday, the world was taken by storm when it was announced that a baby, born with HIV had been cured.  On the same day, it was announced a team from The Alfred hospital have uncovered HIV’s genetic hiding place and found a drug able to wake it up so that it can be destroyed.

The Alfred’s director of infectious diseases, Prof Sharon Lewin, said waking up HIV with doses of a highly toxic cancer drug was a huge step in curing a disease that has already claimed an estimated 30 million lives.

“What we thought would happen happened: the virus woke up, and we could measure it,” Prof Lewin said. “That is a big step.

“There are more possibilities of getting rid of it by making it visible to drugs and visible to the immune system (and) that we now know we can do.  Now the big challenge is working out, once it is visible, what are the ways to get rid of that infected cell.”

Traditional antiviral medications have been able to stop the virus infecting cells, giving patients a greater life expectancy.

But the virus remained “sleeping” in their DNA, unable to be found or treated, so patients had to take expensive medication daily to suppress its effects.

“It jumps in, buries itself into the DNA and sits there lurking. At any time, if the cell becomes active, the virus then becomes active,” Prof Lewin said.

“It is like having the embers of a fire sitting there . . . the minute you take away the anti-HIV drugs, the embers relight the fire and the whole thing gets going again.”

But by using cancer drug, Vorinostat, for two weeks, Prof Lewin had been able to turn on sleeping HIV-infected cells so they could be detected.

Researchers at The Alfred were able to bring the virus to notice in 18 of 20 HIV patients in a trial that concluded in January.

Prof Lewin hopes a new generation of drugs able to kick-start the immune system may now be able to kill the virus.

Prof Lewin and her team — which included collaboration with Monash University, the Burnet Institute, the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre and the National Association of People Living with HIV/AIDS — will soon publish their full results.

For David Menadue, who has lived with HIV for almost 30 years, the results bring a new hope.

“Just having the existence of HIV in your body does do damage to your body every day. It puts pressure on your organs, your heart, your kidney, your liver.

“People with HIV would just love to get rid of this and go back to a normalised life. We are never really going to be able to get on top of the virus in developing countries without some sort of magical cure.”

Original Article via Herald Sun

Channel 4 news interviewed Professor Lewin yesterday, click here to see. (Sorry, we can’t embed this video)

Professor Lewin’s news isn’t new, she spoke about this at the 2012 CROI (Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections)  – He she speaks with Matt Sharp about HIV Latency and Eradication using Vorinostat.

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World AIDS Day 2011: LASS In The News – ITV1 Julie’s Real Story and Our Free Rapid HIV Testing Service!

We are pleased publish our local advert to promote HIV testing, in our office location in Leicester Town Centre, on Regent Road.

This advert speaks with 15 languages internationally.  This advert cost marginally and considerably less than the Governments 1987 “Tombstone” Advert.

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 all around Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland so you can be sure to get expert advice for your needs.

We also have a support group called LhivE, a group of people from Leicester, Leicestershire & Rutland who are living with HIV.  Living with HIV brings a whole set of its own issues and LhivE demonstrate that people living with HIV can lead fulfilling and safe lives with choices.

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

The city of Leicester has the fastest-rising HIV rate in the east Midlands and the sixth-highest in the country.

Meanwhile, in 2009/10, national research demonstrated that community testing was effective in delivering tests to those at risk, preventing late diagnosis and thereby reducing onward transmission. As there was no such community testing service in Leicester, we set about creating one!

It is the training of our volunteers which makes the project unique as a method of engaging with specific African communities which are considered to have a high need.  As well as delivering courses to train volunteers to carry out tests among Zimbabwean and Congolese community groups, we also provide a safe and confidential place for people to receive a test.

Our volunteers have created a 50-second advert promoting the value of knowing your HIV status in 15 languages.

We have delivered more than 400 tests, more than half of which are to the BME communities in the region.  While the first phase of the project involved delivering tests only from our building, funding has ensured  we can use our van to take testing to more venues across Leicester, Leicestershire & Rutland.

We were delighted to be highly commended by the Charity Awards, the UK charity sector’s most prestigious awards scheme earlier this year, after being short-listed in the Healthcare & Medical Research category.   This means we have been judged to be of the best 32 Charities in the whole country. Our sincere thanks go to all our service users, volunteers, staff and people in partner organisations who are the real reason we have achieved such a magnificent accolade. Community based HIV testing and our advertisement for this service were the basis of for our application.

WIDESPREAD TESTING IS URGENTLY NEEDED – Health Protection Agency.

The Health Protection Agency (HPA) predicts that unless more focus is given to HIV prevention and routine testing, more people could become infected.

It is 30 years since the first case of HIV was formally diagnosed, and since then there have been several major breakthroughs in medical treatment resulting in longer life expectancy for those infected by the virus.

But some medical experts now believe because of the success of anti viral drugs in prolonging the lives of carriers, it has led to complacency.

HPA figures show that in the last three decades 115,000 people have been diagnosed with HIV in the UK alone, with 27,000 people having gone on to develop full-blown Aids – and 20,000 of those having since died.

We need a complete and wholesome approach to treating HIV and most importantly help prevent its spread – Dr Rupert Whitaker, a long-standing HIV survivor

But what is worrying the medical profession and campaign pressure groups is that, despite all the medical advances over the last three decades, the number of HIV cases in the UK is expected to rise next year to 100,000 and some of those cases will be people who do not yet realise they have been infected by the virus.

Dr Valerie Delpech, Head of HIV surveillance at the HPA, believes widespread testing is urgently needed to help get new cases diagnosed.

“It is so crucial when treating someone who is HIV positive as quickly as possible. That way their lives can be prolonged considerably,” she said.

“Provided someone is tested within the early stages of infection, so they have only had HIV for a short time, and they receive effective medication followed up by effective therapy, then their life expectancy is very good.

“In fact we can safely say HIV is no longer a life threatening illness but a chronic life long condition which if treated correctly can mean people can live to their normal life expectancy.”

LASS are registered for JustTextGiving which enables supporters to make donations of up to £10 by text message.

It’s easy to donate to LASS, and it takes no time at all, simply text: “LASS25 £10″ to 70070.  (You can change the amount of your donation to: £1, £2, £3, £4 or £5 if you prefer) and you’ll receive a text message receipt, and the chance to add Gift Aid by text or in web form.  More details are available from this link.

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AIDS Related Deaths ‘Down 21% From Peak’ – Says UNAids

Aids-related deaths are at the lowest level since their 2005 peak, down 21%, figures from UNAids suggest.

Globally, the number of new HIV infections in 2010 was 21% down on that peak, seen in 1997, according to UNAids 2011 report.

The organisation says both falls have been fuelled by a major expansion in access to treatment.

Its executive director, Michel Sidibe, said: “We are on the verge of a significant breakthrough.  Even in a very difficult financial crisis, countries are delivering results in the Aids response.  We have seen a massive scale up in access to HIV treatment which has had a dramatic effect on the lives of people everywhere.”

This latest analysis says the number of people living with HIV has reached a record 34 million.  Sub-Saharan Africa has seen the most dramatic improvement, with a 20% rise in people undergoing treatment between 2009 and 2010.

About half of those eligible for treatment are now receiving it.

UNAids estimates 700,000 deaths were averted last year because of better access to treatment.  That has also helped cut new HIV infections, as people undergoing care are less likely to infect others.

In 2010 there were an estimated 2.7m new HIV infections, down from 3.2m in 1997, and 1.8m people died from Aids-related illnesses, down from 2.2m in 2005.

The figures continue the downward trend reported in previous UNAids reports.  The UN agency said: “The number of new HIV infections is 30-50% lower now than it would have been in the absence of universal access to treatment for eligible people living with HIV.”

Some countries have seen particularly striking improvements.

In Namibia, treatment access has reached 90% and condom use rose to 75%, resulting in a 60% drop in new infections by 2010.

UNAids says the full preventive impact of treatment is likely to be seen in the next five years, as more countries improve treatment.

Its report added that even if the Aids epidemic was not over: “The end may be in sight if countries invest smartly.”

The charity Medecins Sans Frontieres urged governments to keep up their funding.

MSF’s Tido von Schoen-Angerer, said: “Never, in more than a decade of treating people living with HIV/Aids, have we been at such a promising moment to really turn this epidemic around.

“Governments in some of the hardest hit countries want to act on the science, seize this moment and reverse the Aids epidemic. But this means nothing if there’s no money to make it happen.”

The International HIV/Aids Alliance said: “We welcome the ongoing commitment of UNAids to changing behaviours, changing social norms and changing laws, alongside efforts to improve access to HIV treatment.

“For bigger and better impact though, we must not be complacent. There is still much more to do.”

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Doctors Criticise London HIV Drugs Cost-Cutting Deal

Medical professionals and patient support groups have raised concerns after people with HIV in London have been asked to switch to taking different antiretroviral drugs, as part of cost-cutting measures.

In April, London HIV Consortium, which is responsible for the capital’s HIV services, was tasked with saving £8m over two years, having to manage growing patient numbers on a budget that has not increased in line with inflation.

London Specialised Commissioning Group (LSCG), which commissions the capital’s HIV treatment, negotiated terms with atazanavir manufacturer Bristol Myers Squibb to receive discounts for larger orders of the drug.

As a result, clinics have been given new “prescription messages” – recommending doctors ask certain HIV patients who take a life-saving protease inhibitor other than atazanavir to switch to atazanavir – with saving money given as the overriding justification.

But now HIV doctors and support groups have raised concerns that switching prescriptions creates “medical risks” and raises “ethical issues”.

LSCG HIV drugs commissioner Claire Foreman said: “It is not in anyone’s interest – not our patients nor the taxpayer – to treat fewer people with more expensive drugs.

“There are no financial incentives for clinics to switch patients.”

No HIV patient will be prescribed an incorrect medicine as a result of this process” – Claire Foreman, Lead commissioner, LSCG

However, an HIV specialist at a London clinic, who wanted to remain anonymous, told the BBC: “Clinics are under financial pressure to contribute to the £8m savings.

“A confidential statement went out to doctors saying ‘there is a carrot and sticks approach to this. If you reach your targets each individual service will be set, there will be benefits for you this year, and clearly be benefits for you in next year’s budget’,” he added.

“Claire Foreman has back-pedalled on this.”

Ms Foreman denied this allegation, adding: “Doctors are taking a leading role to ensure patients can be treated despite the pressure on budgets.”  The clinician added it was “clearly evident” if doctors did not meet targets for patients switching to atazanavir.

“Doctors are under pressure from the LSCG to get patients to swap to cheaper prescriptions.  I’m not sure if it was taken into account the pressure that would put clinicians under,” he added.  “Not only does that discomfort the patient, it’s costing us in terms of clinic visits.”

Ms Foreman said this was not the case, adding: “No HIV patient will be prescribed an incorrect medicine as a result of this process.”

The anonymous specialist went on to say: “It’s difficult to prescribe certain pills in London, that people outside London can get, due to financial pressure from doctors’ managers.”

Patient Choice

LSCG said its prescription messages were in line with British HIV Association guidelines, but these were last updated in 2008 so did not consider drugs licensed since then.

More recent guidelines, including those of the European AIDS Clinical Society, recommend a range of drugs which are available through the NHS but are not suggested for prescription in LSCG’s messages.

However the specialist cited raltegravir as an example of an antiretroviral drug “that everyone wants access to, because it has few side-effects.

AHPN chief Francis Kaikumba fears African communities will be adversely affected

“But commissioners have stated it will only be used under certain circumstances.

“That’s entirely down to cost pressures. It would be easier to get outside London,” he said.  The specialist added: “The prescription messages stop putting patient choice at the centre of care in London.”

“This could potentially damage doctor-patient relationships.”

LSCG said: “All standard of care drugs licensed in the UK are available for use by HIV doctors.”

Dr Mike Youle, an HIV consultant at north London’s Royal Free Hospital, told the BBC about potential ethical and medical implications of switching patients’ prescription.

“When you’re talking about someone who has been stable on a drug for five years, I see no medical reason to change their prescription,” he said.

“There’s an ethical issue about switching people.”

But Prof Brian Gazzard, chairman of the drug purchasing group which advised the consortium, said: “All the doctor needs to do is note the reason the patient doesn’t want to switch.”

Meanwhile, African Health Policy Network chief Francis Kaikumba said: “Vulnerable African communities will be adversely affected as studies have shown African people are far less likely to question their health advisors.”

Ms Foreman said: “Clinicians and commissioners have been clear that any targeting would be unacceptable.”

Side Effects

Addressing the medical implications, Dr Youle said: “Every time you change medication with HIV, you run two risks.  One is having a side-effect. Something might go wrong.  The second is you might fail on the next drug. The virus might be resistant and you may put your health at risk.”

Prof Gazzard said: “Switching can involve side effects. If it does the patient will be told ‘we’ll switch you back’.”

Switching HIV drugs can involve side effects

Dr Yusef Azad, from the National Aids Trust, highlighted emotional pressures patients might come under saying: “With HIV, daily adherence is vital. Concerns about their medication might undermine a patient’s willingness to adhere to treatment.”

Prof Gazzard said: “If stress is being introduced into that system it’s a problem between the doctor and patient, not the London Consortium.”

Meanwhile, Dr Youle asked: “What happens when the next tender goes out and a different drug becomes the cheapest?”  You then have to say the drug you were originally on is cheaper and we’re going to move you back.”

Prof Gazzard said: “There will be a balance between the saving and the difficulties of switching people every two years.”

Some HIV support groups have said the deals between the LSCG and pharmaceutical companies were rushed through.

Robert Fieldhouse, editor of Baseline, a magazine for people living with HIV, said: “The consultation took place behind closed doors with the wider HIV community in the dark.”

But Ms Foreman said: “Commercially confidential processes mean specific prices of companies cannot be shared.”

Dr Asad said a wider debate should have been had before procurement.  “It would have been better to have a more open discussion earlier – asking ‘is it ok to switch stable patients simply on the basis of cost?’,” he said.

Meanwhile, with the government’s Health and Social Care Bill proposing to shake-up the way the NHS in England works, London’s HIV drugs procurement will be closely scrutinised to see how money savings could be implemented on a wider scale.

Original Article By Andy Dangerfield via BBC News

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Gaddafi’s HIV Shakedown

Zakia Saltani has been warned not to talk to the press. She doesn’t care. She has waited 13 years to tell her story, and the Libyan government’s threats can’t stop her now. “After what happened to my family, what more can they do?” she asks. “I am beyond fear.”

At her friend’s house in Benghazi, with the red-black-and-green flag of the anti-Gaddafi rebellion spread proudly across her shoulders, she shows a framed photograph of her son, Ashur. He died of AIDS-related complications in May 2005, when he was 8. He had been one of more than 400 Libyan children who were admitted to the Al Fateh pediatric hospital in Benghazi 13 years ago with routine complaints like colds and earaches. They left with HIV. Like Ashur, roughly 60 have since died. Others are hanging on.

Until the Feb. 20 liberation of Benghazi by anti-Gaddafi protesters, the regime was able to bully people like Saltani into silence. Meanwhile, the government blamed the outbreak on five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor at the hospital, falsely accusing them of deliberately infecting their young patients, and sentencing them to death. The medics were finally released in 2007, but not before the regime had extorted an Eastern European debt-forgiveness package and roughly three quarters of a billion dollars in supposed compensation and health-care assistance, together with a civilian nuclear-development deal and a “very good military accord” (in the words of Gaddafi’s British-educated son Saif al-Islam) with the French government “and other confidential stuff we shouldn’t discuss on the record,” the smiling Saif told NEWSWEEK at the time.

Now Saltani and other ordinary Libyans are starting to speak out at last. She says this is the first interview she has ever given—and her anger against Muammar Gaddafi and his 41-year dictatorship begins to spill out. “On Feb. 2, 1998, we went to the hospital because Ashur had a fever and a cough,” she says. “He was 4 months old, and we stayed two days. We went back two weeks later for the same problems.” Shortly afterward she took her 5-year-old daughter, Mouna, to the same hospital with a high fever. Mouna also went home with HIV, although at the time Saltani had no way of knowing that either child had become infected.

The truth began to emerge a few months later. “In October we learned that the doctors were hiding something,” Saltani recalls. “They said there was something in his blood that they couldn’t identify. The head of the hospital told us not to say anything. When we found out it was HIV, the government told us the infection originated from outside Libya, and that it only affected 10 kids. Another doctor even tried to convince us that it wasn’t HIV, but tuberculosis.” When the families finally discovered just how many children had been infected, the regime sent many of the patients to Italy for analysis and treatment.

Foreign medics made useful scapegoats—and lucrative hostages.

Even then the regime still did its best to cover up the outbreak. Mohammed El Agili, 20, says he was 8 when his parents took him to Al Fateh for an eye operation in March 1998. Three days later he returned, still dizzy from the procedure. When rumors of AIDS swept through the city, he underwent HIV testing, along with all the other children who had been admitted to the hospital in early 1998. The result came back positive. “When I found out, I ran shouting through the streets like a lunatic,” says his father, Mahmoud. “And we made sure the government heard our cries. Gaddafi invited all the families to a tent in the desert outside Sert, saying he would give us whatever we wanted, but we had to keep quiet. ‘We don’t want foreigners to become involved in this,’ Gaddafi told us. ‘We don’t want this to get out of Libya.’ He warned us that our relatives outside Libya would be in danger if we talked. We were afraid. We had to keep quiet.”

The news blackout may have suited Gaddafi’s purposes, but it didn’t help young Mohammed deal with insensitive classmates. They bullied him until he finally gave up school at 12. A rabid fan of the Real Madrid football team, he now helps his brother run a mobile-phone shop near their house. Asked about his future, the HIV patient smiles at the question’s naivete. “My generation doesn’t think about the future,” he says. “Even without this disease, Gaddafi has destroyed all our futures.”

Although the cause of the outbreak remains a mystery, outside studies implicate poor hygiene at the hospital rather than any of the conspiracy theories that abound in Libya. According to a 2002 report by Italian medical investigators, all the infected children had received intravenous fluids, antibiotics, steroids, or bronchodilators, but no blood or blood products. Saltani says she found it hard to accept the regime’s allegations against the hospital’s foreign medical workers. “At first I didn’t believe it was them,” she says. “The Palestinian doctor and the Bulgarians had always taken good care of the children, but everyone was blaming them, so we believed it. We wanted to confront them face to face, but the government wouldn’t let us.”

Still, the foreign medics made useful scapegoats—and lucrative hostages. The ransom Gaddafi received for freeing them enabled him to pay the victims’ families roughly $1 million each, helping him to buy a little more silence. For 41 years he has controlled the country through a combination of violence, intimidation, and strategic payoffs. To test the regime’s limits on free speech was to risk imprisonment, torture, and death. And old habits persist, even in liberated Benghazi, where anti-Gaddafi rallies occur daily. The current director of Al Fateh Hospital, who was working there as a doctor when the infections took place, refuses to speak as long as Gaddafi holds sway in Tripoli.

Just before Saltani’s interview, her phone rings. The caller is Ibrahim El Oraibi, the representative who deals with the regime on behalf of the HIV families. She puts it on speakerphone so a reporter can hear. He screams at Saltani for violating the government’s gag order. “If Tripoli finds out, they will get angry and will stop sending AIDS medication to Benghazi!” Oraibi shouts. That could be a death sentence for Saltani: she herself contracted HIV from breast-feeding Ashur. Doctors say it’s a thing that happens only rarely, but it can happen. She has been taking antiretroviral drugs for a year, and has only two months’ supply left.

But she refuses to back down. “I don’t believe anything Gaddafi says anymore,” Saltani tells Oraibi. “I have been quiet for 13 years and I’m tired of it. I want to fight.” The intermediary pleads: “Don’t talk until we receive the medicine.” Saltani is unmoved. “Gaddafi needs to go—and you can go with him,” she says. “I’ve been waiting 13 years and I’m not going to wait any longer. He’s a liar, and I’m going to talk with whomever I wish.”

She hangs up on the caller and begins her interview.

Original Article by Mike Elkiin at The Daily Beast (March 2011)

Further reading: HIV Trial in Libya (Wikipedia)

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The following video is a Documentary by Mickey Grant about the Bulgarian Nurses in Libya.  It’s titled “INJECTION – AIDS, How Gaddafi and Son murdered over 400 Libyan children”.  Gaddafi used the possibility that he was executing these nurses partly because he was angry at having to pay the several billion dollar settlement to the families of the Pan Am Lockerbie Terrorist act he was responsible for.  In effect, he told behind the scenes negotiators that he wanted that same amount of money and was even willing to sale the oil exploration rights for 1 billion.

He also wanted the prisoner released in Scotland who was convicted of planting the bomb that blew up the Pan Am plane.  He stated that if this was done, he’d release the nurses and Palestinian doctor.  BP gave him the billon and hired lawyers and “others” to engineer the release of this terrorist.

The only newspaper that covered this was the Financial Times.

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Information about the effort and influence surrounding HIV/AIDS prominent people is available here.