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California considers providing condoms - but not STD testing - to prisoners
Date: 2013-07-08 00:00:00

A bill in the California Senate will determine whether the state will provide condoms to prisons in order to help alleviate the epidemic of sexually transmitted infections, namely HIV. The bill, AB999, proposed by Democratic Assemblyman Rob Bonta of Oakland, Calif., would compel the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to provide condoms, via dispensing machines donated to the state, to five prisons by 2015 and to all 33 adult prisons by 2020. Since the prevalence of HIV is approximately 10 times higher among California prisoners than the general population, according to the University of California, San Francisco, the problem is of an urgent nature.

According to the CDC, condoms - if used "consistently and correctly" - can reduce but do not eliminate one's chance of developing a sexually transmitted disease. In addition, since individuals with STDs - especially HIV - often do not exhibit symptoms, the most effective way to reduce one's risk of contracting an STD is for one and one's partner to receive STD testing before engaging in sexual intercourse.

Prison contraception in California... Full Story

HIV treatment delay could affect brain function
Date: 2013-08-26 00:00:00

A new study has shown that delaying treatment for HIV could lead to neurocognitive issues. These problems affect motor and processing skills in the brain that treatments can help reduce. The five-year study was published by the National AIDS Research Institute based in Pune, India, along with the HIV Neurobehavioral Research Program at the University of California, San Diego.

Brain function... Full Story

Antiretroviral drugs may reduce HIV infections for uninfected partners
Date: 2013-09-12 00:00:00

For partners of people infected with the human immunodeficiency virus, antiretroviral drugs may provide a shield against infections. A study funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation showed that taking the drugs, which are normally used to treat people who are HIV positive, can reduce infection rates.

Protection from HIV infections... Full Story

Phase 1 successful in HIV vaccine testing
Date: 2013-09-10 00:00:00

The first phase of a trial for a vaccine against human immunodeficiency virus has proven successful, according to an announcement from Sumagen Canada Inc. and Western University of Ontario earlier this week. The group now plans to move on to Phase 2 and Phase 3 of testing.

Vaccine... Full Story

Social media use can encourage STD testing
Date: 2013-09-16 00:00:00

Researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles have found that using social media can be a strong tool to encourage people at risk for sexually transmitted diseases to get STD tests. While the study only involved those diagnosed with the human immunodeficiency virus, similar programs may also be effective for other STDs.

Using social media to combat STDs... Full Story

Research shows potential for human HIV vaccine
Date: 2013-10-10 00:00:00

New research has shown the possibility of creating an HIV vaccine for humans. The research found that a vaccine for simian immunodeficiency virus, a sexually transmitted disease that is essentially the primate version of HIV, worked on 9 out of 12 monkeys tested with the vaccine.

How the vaccine works... Full Story

HIV patients may be at greater risk for neurological complications from syphilis
Date: 2013-10-21 00:00:00

Patients with HIV may be more likely to have neurological complications from syphilis infections, according to a new study. Of the patients studied, a large majority showed indications of having neurosyphilis, a condition that generally develops in patients with the long-untreated sexually transmitted disease syphilis.

Patients with HIV and syphilis... Full Story

New lab test shows possible HIV cure
Date: 2013-12-09 00:00:00

New findings presented at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America showed a significant breakthrough in HIV research. A team of scientists from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine testing the efficacy of radioimmunotherapy on patients treated with antiretroviral therapy have successfully destroyed HIV-infected cells, giving new life to the hope of curing HIV infection.

Led by lead author Ekaterina Dadachova, Ph.D., the team was looking at the shortcomings of highly active antiretroviral therapy when it came to curing HIV. While HAART succeeded in suppressing the replication and spread of the virus, it failed to completely eradicate the cells. Scientists believe that leftover infected cells remained in the body after treatment, preventing a permanent cure.

"In an HIV patient on HAART, drugs suppress viral replication, which means they keep the number of viral particles in a patient's bloodstream very low. However, HAART cannot kill the HIV-infected cells," explained Dadachova, professor of radiology, microbiology and immunology at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York.

During their study, the researchers carried out blood testing using RIT on samples from HIV patients who were previously treated with HAART. Previously used to treat cancer, RIT uses cloned cells to determine and counteract antigens that cause an immune response in the body. Once injected into the patient's bloodstream, the cloned cells travel to the targeted infected cells where the radiation therapy is applied.

"In RIT, the antibodies bind to the infected cells and kill them by radiation. When HAART and RIT are used together, they kill the virus and the infected cells, respectively," continued Dadachova.

Conducting their lab tests using collaborative therapy, the team discovered that RIT reduced the blood samples' levels of HIV infection to undetectable numbers.

"The elimination of HIV-infected cells with RIT was profound and specific," Dadachova affirmed.

Moving forward, their next step is clinical trials with HIV patients using the combination of RIT and HAART treatments.

Treatment of the brain and nervous system... Full Story

Cases of STDs in South Dakota on the rise
Date: 2013-12-11 00:00:00

A report released this month noted that the number of sexually transmitted disease cases in South Dakota has risen from the median average of the last five years. Published by the state's Department of Health, the results detailed the increase in cases of gonorrhea, syphilis, HIV and chlamydia.

According to the findings, HIV and chlamydia rose the least, with instances for both in the neighborhood of 22 and 25 percent increases, respectively. However, it was gonorrhea and syphilis that saw the biggest spike in cases, as their numbers were up by 76 percent and 1,050 percent, respectively.

Many STDs can go untreated, as they do not display noticeable symptoms. For instance, those infected with HIV would display symptoms equivalent to that of a flu or common cold. Because of this, these diseases are not detected unless specifically tested for.

"Sometimes you'll never know. It's simply found by screening and that's the scary part," said Melissa Shefl, a physician's assistant at the Sanford Health Vermillion Clinic in South Dakota.

"The majority of the people we see are 15- to 24-year-olds, and that is your student as far as high school student to a college student," added registered nurse Joan Beach, a member of the Family Planning department at Vermillion.

In order to spread HIV awareness on college campuses, Planned Parenthood and the Sanford Health Clinic work together throughout the year, teaching the importance of practicing safe sex and getting tested regularly for STDs.

Facts about STDs in America... Full Story

Monkey vaccine study may advance HIV vaccine research
Date: 2013-12-18 00:00:00

Following a vaccine study to determine if monkeys could be protected against contracting simian immunodeficiency virus, or SIV, the animal equivalent to HIV, researchers have uncovered fresh insight into HIV vaccine research. The mechanism that prompts protection from the disease may prove to be comparable in treatment for humans.

To identify the process of protection from SIV, the research team examined amino acid sequences that were viral and the monkeys' immune system responses. Their goal was to determine measures of immune responses in the animals that predict protection from SIV. The results showed that antibodies that attacked the virus were sufficient in prevention of the disease.

Utilizing the results of their study, team leaders Mario Roederer, Ph.D., and John Mascola, M.D., discovered that both HIV and SIV used similar methods to escape the immune system. The viral spikes that were resistant to neutralization in SIV tended to cause infection. To combat this resistance, the scientists administered new amino acid sequences that changed the resistant spikes to sensitive ones, thus altering their composition and neutralizing infectious cells. Lab tests conducted on viral HIV cells had a similar effect. According to Mascola and Roederer, the reasons for the success or failure of future vaccine trials in human HIV will be more apparent if scientists take their amino acid research into consideration and work to decrease neutralization resistance in infectious cells.

HIV vaccine research... Full Story

Study shows addicts offered less STD testing at for-profit facilities
Date: 2013-12-30 00:00:00

According to a study carried out at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, the number of drug treatment programs that offer both HIV and STD testing has fallen. This was driven by the decline of nonprofit and public programs, the researchers

Led by Marcus Bachhuber, M.D., and Chinzao Cunningham, M.D., the team reviewed information gathered by the National Survey of Substance Abuse Treatment Services, which is conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. It is distributed to treatment facility directors and has a very high response rate of more than 95 percent. The scientists analyzed results from 2002 to 2011 for trends in treatment programs and HIV/STD testing.

In 2000, the number of opioid treatment programs in the country was at 849. By 2011, that number had risen to 1,175. Over the study's 12 years, the amount of non-profit facilities decreased from 43 percent to 36 percent, while for-profits rose to 54 percent from 43 percent. Additionally, programs directly run by federal and local governments reduced from 14 percent to 10 percent.

Coinciding with the decline of non-profit drug treatment facilities was a dip in HIV and STD testing. STD tests dropped down to 13 percent and HIV tests slipped to 18 percent. Throughout the study, onsite exams for these diseases did not change much over time with more than 75 percent of facilities offering testing.

The researchers concluded that their results suggest people may face higher risks for late diagnosis and continued passing of disease due to a decrease in beneficial non-profit treatment facilities. Individuals who believe they may have contracted an STD might consider ordering lab tests online to determine their status.

The high costs of drug addiction... Full Story

HIV-positive patients treated with ART have increased life expectancy
Date: 2013-12-30 00:00:00

Following thorough examination of participants from the North American AIDS Cohort Collaboration on Research and Design, researchers have determined that HIV-positive patients treated with antiretroviral therapy have a higher life expectancy than ever before. Published in the journal PLOS ONE, their results estimated that a 20-year-old adult living with HIV may live into their early 70's, an age similar to that of the general population.

Led by Hasina Samji, a doctoral student at the British Columbia Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS, the team from the Canadian university worked with the NA-ACCORD to determine the efficacy of ART on life expectancy for HIV-positive individuals. More than 23,000 patients, aged 20 or older, were examined based on mortality rates from the early 2000's. The scientists discovered that between 2000 and 2007, the average lifespan of an HIV-positive individual on ART jumped from 36.1 to 51.4 years. There was no gender bias, as both men and women had comparable expectancies throughout the study.

However, expectancy was considerably lower for individuals that began ART with low CD4 count, which are cells that accumulate to kick start the immune response to HIV, than those with a higher count. Additionally, a history of drug use via injections decreased life expectancy as well.

Using ART for HIV... Full Story

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