New developments in HIV research, South African Children affected by HIV, and more

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The following list of What We’re Reading is a compilation of recent releases and reports making headlines in global health:

Implementing Collaborative TB-HIV Activities – A Programmatic Guide: This guide from the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease summarizes The Union’s experience in developing approaches to integrated TB-HIV care for adults in resource-limited settings. It is recommended for health professionals at the implementation level and national program staff in charge of policy and practices for collaborative TB-HIV activities.

Time for an HIV Vaccine: This article written by Nelson Michael, MD, PhD, director of the Military HIV Research Program (MHRP) of the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, highlights the importance of developing an HIV vaccine to achieve an AIDS-free generation.  Dr. Michael explains that the MHRP has been at the forefront of HIV research since the beginning of the epidemic in the 1980s, and “continues to pursue the goal of developing a globally effective HIV vaccine to assist in the eventual eradication of HIV/AIDS.”  The MHRP has developed a next-generation HIV vaccine that is currently in clinical testing in Africa and Sweden.

People Living with HIV call on South African government to phase out D4T: In this petition published on change.org, people living with HIV are calling on the South African government to phase out the use of the HIV drug D4T, or Stavudine, and are calling for the Wits Reproductive Health and HIV Institute to stop the planned low dose D4T vs Tenofovir study in South Africa.  The petition claims that the drug causes long-term side effects and limits therapeutic durability because use of the drug compromises second-line drug options.  “People are more likely to adhere to simpler regimens and therefore are more likely to have better treatment outcomes, as well as limit resistance that requires more complex and expensive second-line regimens.”

HIV affects 25% of South African children: The UN recently found that more than half of South Africa’s children live in poverty and one in four is infected with HIV.  In a report published by UNICEF, the agency found that South African children are more likely to die from HIV/AIDS than other childhood illnesses, with more than five million infected.  The report also found that 1.4 million children live in homes that often rely on dirty streams for drinking water, 1.5 million have no flushing lavatories and 1.7 million live in shacks, with no proper bedding, cooking or washing facilities.

Reflections on the Atlanta Summit: Senior Vice President of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), J. Stephen Morrison, penned this article on CSIS’s recent global health summit in Atlanta, Georgia.  The summit featured panels on global health, water, partnerships and the American opinion climate.  The summit also featured the issue of the Atlanta Declaration, which argues “that making the world healthier is rooted in Americans’ humanitarianism, and that better health makes for a safer and more secure world, where communities can flourish and productivity can rise.”

Breast milk antibodies help neutralize HIV: Researchers at Duke University Medical Center have discovered that antibodies that help to stop the HIV virus can be found in breast milk.  Researchers isolated the antibodies from immune cells called B cells in the breast milk of infected mothers in Malawi, and showed that the B cells in breast milk can generate neutralizing antibodies that may inhibit the virus that causes AIDS.  “We are asking if there is an immune response that protects 90 percent of infants, and could we harness that response to develop immune system prophylaxis (protection) during breastfeeding for mothers infected with HIV-1,” said senior author Sallie Permar, MD, PhD, an assistant professor of pediatrics and infectious diseases at Duke.

 Antiretroviral therapy may be stabilizing HIV epidemic in Danish gay men: A new study published in the Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome found that the use of antiretroviral treatment appears to have stabilised the HIV epidemic in Danish gay men, even though rates of risky sex have increased.  “While unsafe sex among MSM [men who have sex with men] has increased substantially and the number of HIV-positive MSM living in Denmark has enlarged, the incidence of HIV diagnoses in this population has remained stable for more than a decade,” write the authors. “Our findings indicate that this paradox is due to effective antiretroviral therapy and not increased awareness of safe sex.”

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