Sunday, November 29, 2009

A day of awareness and advocacy

1 December 2009: World AIDS Day

On Tuesday UNAIDS—a joint UN program which seeks to fight HIV/AIDS through the partnership of 10 different non-governmental programs—will remember those affected by HIV/AIDS; raise awareness about the effects of HIV/AIDS; advocate for increased HIV/AIDS research, treatment, and prevention; and celebrate their accomplishments in the battle against HIV/AIDS. According to the WHO, the purpose of World AIDS Day is to “draw[s] together people from around the world to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS and demonstrate international solidarity in the face of the pandemic.” After reading several personal accounts, posted on the World AIDS Campaign site, regarding the effects of HIV/AIDS, I could not help but post a response to my October 22 post relating to the continuance of HIV vaccine research.

On November 24 a news release was published by UNAIDS stating a 17% reduction in new HIV infections since 2001. As stated in the press release, HIV prevention programmes are making a difference!

· An estimated 33.4 million people are currently living with HIV worldwide. There were approximately 2.7million people newly infected in 2008. Additionally, an estimated 2million people died of an AIDS related illness in 2008

· A higher amount of HIV-infected people are currently living than ever before, due to the increased life-expectancies of HIV-infected individuals as a result of the benefits of antiretroviral therapy.

· The number of AIDS related deaths has declined by over 10% in the past 5 years, as treatments become more available worldwide

· HIV prevention programs are not commonly made available to married couples, individuals over the age of 25, or widowers and divorcees, in many countries. However, the highest population of HIV-infected individuals falls under one or more of those categories, in most countries.

This just goes to show how important and beneficial HIV/AIDS research is. In relation to the last bullet point, it is critical that HIV/AIDS research continues and that more HIV prevention programs are either established or expanded. In the words of Dr. Margaret Chan, Director General of WHO, “We cannot let this momentum wane. Now is the time to redouble our efforts, and save many more lives."

Saturday, November 28, 2009

An update on H1N1

According to this week’s HealthMap Blog Somalia reported its first cases of H1N1, raising the pandemic into 86 different nations. Furthermore, HealthMap reported on the emergence of Tamiflu-resistant strains among hospitalized patients in Wales. The BBC News reported, last Friday 20 November, that while the strain does not appear to cause more severe illness in patients than the common H1N1, and while this was expected by virologists and public health officials, its rise and even more so person-to-person transmission is of serious concern to public health. Additionally, similar cases were reported last Friday at the Duke University Hospital in North Carolina. Little more information was found regarding these cases; however, reports have stated that much ongoing research is investigating the detriment caused by this strain.

In addition to the rise of the tamiflu-resistant strain, HealthMap also noted the most recent detection, by Norwegian scientists, of a mutated viral strain potentially causing infection deeper into the airways leading to more severe disease. However, the same mutated strain was also observed in Finland, where at least 14 lives have been claimed out of the Nation’s near 5,900 reported cases, yet the strain was not found to cause more severe illness. According to the WHO, this same mutation has been observed in China, Japan, Mexico, Ukraine, and the United States without appearing to give rise to increased virulence.

As the “swine flu” or, to be politically correct, H1N1 continues to wage war against the strength of the human immune system, supplemented with anti-viral drugs, and the management of public health; we should not succumb to public fears. Despite the approximate 525,000 reported cases, the near 7,000 deaths caused by H1N1, and the eastward spread of the virus, its activity has significantly decreased in the United States, where cases run the highest.

Happy Thanksgiving