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Today is World AIDS Day, and this year’s theme is Universal Access and Human Rights. MMWR offers the following statistics to illustrate the scope of the issue:

  • An estimated 16.5 million women worldwide were HIV positive at the end of 2008
  • Approximately 4 million people in low- and middle-income countries were getting antiretroviral therapy at the end of 2008
  • Worldwide, women and girls account for almost 60% of new infections; in the US, HIV infections disproportionately affect blacks, Hispanics, and men who have sex with men
  • In the US, an estimated 1.1 million people were HIV positive in 2006

Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, who serves as an ambassador for The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, is emphasizing the importance of treating all HIV-positive pregnant women to reduce the transmission of HIV between mothers and babies during birth and breastfeeding. Currently, only about one-third of pregnant women in Africa receive HIV testing, and only about 45% of those who test positive get the medication to stop HIV transmission to their children.

The treatment of HIV-positive individuals doesn’t just refer to drugs, though; discrimination against those with HIV and AIDS is also a serious problem. That’s why it was welcome news recently when President Obama announced the end to a ban on travel to the US by those infected with HIV. The ban had remained in effect even though last year Congress passed, and President Bush signed, legislation that repealed the statute on which the ban was based.

by revere, cross-posted at Effect Measure

A powerful Editorial in today’s Nature (the world’s premier science publication) shines a strong light on a tragic violation of human rights in Iran involving two leading AIDS physicians, brothers Arash and Kamiar Alaei. We’ve posted about it twice (here and here). Declan Butler, a senior correspondent at Nature summarizes the story over at his blog:

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by revere, cross-posted at Effect Measure

Last week we alerted you to a gross miscarriage of justice involving two doctors in Iran. Many of you responded by calling the Mission of Iran at the UN and signing a petition. I wish I could report good news in this update, but so far what we have heard is not encouraging. From an email from Physicians for Human Rights USA:

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by revere, cross-posted at Effect Measure

Many of you were readers here when science bloggers and scienceblogs in particular played a pivotal role in the case of the Tripoli 6, medics under sentence of death in Libya over trumped up charges of infecting children with HIV. Another urgent matter now confronts the worldwide scientific community involving two Iranian doctors. Declan Butler, Nature senior correspondent, has described the situation in a post at one of the Nature blogs:

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Today is the 20th annual World AIDS Day, and World Health Organization Director-General Margaret Chan reflects on what the global community has achieved over the past two decades:

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by revere, cross-posted at Effect Measure

Scientists have been using genetic data to estimate when species first appeared for some time. The basic idea is to use differences between species and a guess as to how fast sequences change as a molecular clock, running it backward until they show the same sequence. The same trick can be done with viral genetic information. If you know the genetic sequence of a virus at one point in time and then at a later time you can make an estimate of how fast the clock is ticking. An analysis along these lines has just been done with a newly found lymph node sample from Kinshasa (Democratic Republic of the Congo) that was archived from a woman patient in 1960. It was the only one of 27 archived tissue blocks from patients that showed evidence of HIV infection. Lymph nodes are loaded with T cells, the cells in the immune system that HIV attacks. Using some new techniques the researchers have fished out some fragments of the HIV virus that were incorporated in the T-cells:

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The International AIDS Conference took place this week in Mexico City, and bloggers have plenty to say about it:

Elsewhere:

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By Aman
Cross-posted with permission from Technology, Health & Development

Tomorrow is World AIDS Day and instead of “barraging you with [another set of] statistics, gruesome photos, or heart-wrenching stories” (quote credit to Mr. Casnocaha), I want to alert you to something we prefer here – solutions, problem solving, technology, and creative thinking. Piya Sorcar, a doctoral student in Stanford’s Learning, Sciences & Technology Design program has used her considerable skills to figure out how to reach the minds of children in devleoping countries when it comes to HIV/AIDS education.

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Bloggers have been looking at the numbers related to our health. WSJ’s The Numbers Guy sheds light on the calculations behind global HIV-infection figures, which the U.N.’s AIDS agency has revised sharply downwards, and Mead Over at Global Health Policy hopes that the revision will re-focus attention on the need for cost-effectiveness estimates in the global response to AIDS. Shirley S. Wang at the WSJ Health Blog busts the myth that suicide rates rise during the winter holidays, while Merrill Goozner at GoozNews explains a mysterious Congressional Budget Office claim that health care co-pays by individuals have fallen as a share of health care spending.

Elsewhere:
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At the opening general session of the American Public Health Association’s 135th Annual Meeting in Washington, DC, speakers urged the public health professionals in attendance to address the glaring inequities in the U.S. and throughout the world.

Carlos Cano, interim director of the DC Department of Health, told the audience that in the District of Columbia, a few blocks from the Capitol building, exist “some of the most glaring health disparities in the Western Hemisphere.” CDC Director Julie Gerberding stressed that as a nation, we’ve failed to address disparities not only in healthcare, but in access to opportunity. Keynote speaker Laurie Garrett, author of The Coming Plague and Betrayal of Trust and senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations, focused on the inequities between the rich world and poor world, which are visible in dramatically different life expectancies and maternal mortality rates.

Speakers offered a range of solutions, most of them linked to this meeting’s theme of politics and policy.
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