The following stories appear in full on today's Vidyya Medical News Service Web site.
As communities around the globe commemorate World AIDS Day, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) will announce a new initiative and strategic plan for global research on HIV/AIDS aimed at slowing the disaster and reversing its destruction of communities, economies and nations worldwide. The rate of new HIV infection is 50% higher than it was predicted to be in 1991. HIV/AIDS is the focus of today's issue of Vidyya.
All over the world, women find themselves at special risk of HIV because of their lack of power to determine where, when and whether sex takes place. What is perhaps less often recognized is that cultural beliefs and expectations also heighten men’s vulnerability. Men are less likely to seek health care than women, and are much more likely to engage in behaviours – such as drinking, using illegal substances or driving recklessly – that put their health at risk. Men are also less likely to pay attention to their sexual health and safety, and are more likely to inject drugs, risking infection from needles and syringes contaminated with HIV.
In the United States, complacency about the need for HIV prevention may be among the strongest barriers communities face as they plan to meet the next century's prevention needs. The great success that many people, but not all, have had with new highly active antiretroviral therapies (HAART, also known as drug "cocktails") and the resulting decline in the number of newly reported AIDS cases and deaths are indeed good news. The underlying reality, however, is that the HIV epidemic in our country is far from over. This is true not only for the nation, but for the continuing number of HIV-infected individuals who now must face years - perhaps a lifetime - of multiple daily medications, possible unpleasant or severe side effects, and great expense associated with the medicines needed to suppress HIV and prevent opportunistic infections.
To address the urgent need for an HIV vaccine, Thai officials have been working with the World Health Organization, the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI), the Government of Japan, the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH), the U.S. Department of Defense, various universities, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) since 1991 to prepare for HIV vaccine efficacy trials. In February 1999, Thailand became the first developing nation to announce a Phase III vaccine field trial. A Phase III trial is done to determine if a vaccine is effective in protecting against infection or disease and is an important step in the evaluation process leading to licensure.
The U.S. HIV epidemic, which began primarily among white gay men over a decade ago, has expanded to affect an increasing number of populations, with African-American communities among those most dramatically affected. Today, the
disease poses a fundamental threat to the future health, well-being, and human potential of many African-American communities. African Americans are almost ten times more likely to be diagnosed with AIDS than whites, and there is evidence that this disparity is increasing. Race and ethnicity are not, themselves, risk factors, but correlate with other more fundamental determinants of health status such as poverty, access to quality health care, health care seeking behavior, illicit drug use, and living in communities with high prevalence of sexually-transmitted diseases (STDs).
Today's Vidyya articles are:
As always, we hope you enjoy the issue.