13 July 2010

US White House AIDS strategy to focus on prevention

A new White House strategy for fighting AIDS domestically will focus on preventing the spread of the virus, perhaps with the broader use of drugs and testing but also with a campaign to reduce stigma.


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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A new White House strategy for fighting AIDS domestically will focus on preventing the spread of the virus, perhaps with the broader use of drugs and testing but also with a campaign to reduce stigma.Obama administration officials will release the strategy on Tuesday and said it would focus on prevention, care and reducing disparities."The plan will serve as a roadmap for policymakers, partners in prevention, and the public on steps the United States must take to lower HIV incidence, get people living with HIV into care, and reduce HIV-related health disparities," the White House said in a statement on Monday.More than 1.1 million people in the United States are infected with the human immunodeficiency virus that causes AIDS, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with 56,000 new infections over the past decade.While only about 5 percent of patients infect someone else, this is enough to keep levels of the virus stable in the United States, the CDC says. The fatal and incurable virus is spread during sex, in blood and breast milk and by contaminated needles.The U.S. government has a program to fight AIDS globally - the so-called PEPFAR or President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief - but there has not been a similar coherent domestic strategy."The National HIV/AIDS Strategy is a comprehensive plan focused on: 1) reducing the number of people who become infected with HIV, 2) increasing access to care and optimizing health outcomes for people living with HIV, and 3) reducing HIV-related health disparities," the White House said.Experts have disagreed on how best to do this but recent studies have supported theories that treating HIV patients with drugs can not only keep them healthier, but help reduce the likelihood that they will infect someone else.One study of people across Africa showed those who took drugs infected their sexual partners who took AIDS drugs were 92 percent less likely to infect their partners with the virus. DRUG COCKTAILSMore than two dozen HIV drugs are on the market, including several in combination pills to make it easier to take a cocktail of the drugs.The CDC estimates that 79 percent of Americans with HIV know it and experts say people who know they are infected can take steps to avoid infecting others. The CDC recommends testing everyone for HIV, with an option to refuse the test, instead of forcing people to ask to be tested.The new U.S. strategy likely will include measures to broaden testing.Recent studies have shown that using tablets, insertable rings, gels or dissolving films with prescription AIDS drugs can help protect women and perhaps men from infection with the AIDS virus.Some of these so-called microbicides being tested use dapivirine, a drug made by Johnson & Johnson's Tibotec Inc, the entry inhibitor maraviroc sold by Pfizer under the brand name Selzentry, and another experimental HIV drug called DS003, licensed to the International Partnership for Microbicides by Bristol-Myers Squibb.The AIDS virus infects 33 million people globally and has killed 25 million since the pandemic began in the 1980s.In Africa, most new AIDS patients are women infected by men during sex. In the United States HIV disproportionately affects men who have sex with men, blacks and Hispanics.


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Dr Sindisiwe van Zyl qualified at the University of Pretoria in 2005. She is a patients' rights activist and loves using social media to teach about HIV. She is in private practice in Johannesburg.

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