Impact of HIV-HCV Co-Infection

Chhatra Karki, CNS Correspondent
Balbir Tamang (name changed), hails from Naubise, a small village just outside of Nepal’s capital Kathmandu. He went to India in search of a job three years ago. He was in unsafe sexual relationships with many sex-workers there. After nine months, he fell sick and returned home. His sickness became worse with time. Finally, he took a blood test and was diagnosed HIV positive.

“Do we count?” A question for AIDS 2014 and beyond

Photo Credit: India HIV/AIDS Alliance
James Robertson, CNS Columnist
(First published by India HIV/AIDS Alliance)
Every two years, researchers, implementers, policy makers, and community activists come together at the International AIDS Conference to take stock of the pandemic: Where are we now? Where have we been? Where are we heading? Discoveries are heralded and strategies dissected. There are always more questions than answers, but there is one question that needs to be answered at AIDS 2014 and beyond: Do we count?

22nd Cochrane Colloquium: A chance to influence trajectory of healthcare?

Photo credit:
Dr Prathap Tharyan, CNS Columnist
(first published on the blog: Evidence-informed musings)
With less than a week to go before the close of early registration (July 31st, 2014) and the beginning of regular registration (till September 1st, 2014), we are busy putting the finishing touches in our preparations to host the largest and most important business and scientific meeting that the world will see this year of people and organizations involved in producing, maintaining and disseminating credible evidence to inform health decisions. This gathering has the potential to affect the lives of millions of people living in the region and globally.

Malawi fails to commemorate World Hepatitis Day

Photo Credit: Owen Nyaka
Owen Nyaka, CNS Correspondent, Malawi
Viral Hepatitis is a global public health problem affecting millions of people every year, causing disability and death.  Yet Malawi seems to be showing no sign of safeguarding its citizens from the devastating health consequences of this dreaded disease.

Can innovation drive HIV responses to meet 90:90:90 targets by 2020?

Bobby Ramakant, CNS Special Correspondent
Joint United Nations programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) is mobilizing governments and other partners to achieve new set of targets, referred to as, 90:90:90 by 2020, but with current set of tools, approaches, funding commitments, and challenge that HIV poses to the world, the goal seems certainly a bold and ambitious one. Without innovation, at current pace of HIV responses on the ground, we are very likely to fail meeting the targets. We not only need to accelerate the search for better and effective technologies to help fight AIDS effectively but also need to improvise and innovate in rolling out evidence-based approaches.

'If I Could Do It, Anyone Can!'

Esther, Indonesia (CNS Images)
Shobha Shukla, CNS Columnist
According to a joint UN report entitled “HIV prevention, treatment and care in prisons and other closed settings: a comprehensive package of interventions,” at least 30 million men, women and children globally go through prison systems each year, and the prevalence of HIV, STIs, hepatitis B and C and TB is two to twenty times –even up to fifty times – higher in prison population than in general population. The proportion of people who use and inject drugs in prisons can reach half the incarcerated population, especially among women in closed settings. Access to health services is largely absent.

Multipurpose prevention technologies for HIV and STIs in spotlight at AIDS 2014

Dr Elizabeth Bukusi, KEMRI
Shobha Shukla, CNS Columnist
Women of reproductive age have a need for prevention of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) including HIV, and family planning methods. More importantly, women need prevention tools/methods that are under their control and do not leave them at the mercy of their partner, in as far as their sexual and reproductive health (SRH) is concerned. Dr Elizabeth Bukusi, Deputy Director (Research and Training), Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) spoke to Citizen News Service (CNS) at 20th International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2014).

Alarm rings on low uptake of existing prevention options for anal STIs and HIV

Bobby Ramakant, CNS Special Correspondent
[Images] Despite overall progress in HIV prevention, rates of HIV infection among key affected populations such as men who have sex with men (MSM) and transgender people remain alarmingly high. For example, recent data indicates that MSM are up to 19 times more likely to have HIV than the general population – transgender women are almost 50 times more likely. Overall new HIV infection rates have dipped by 26% in Asia and the Pacific region since 2001,but not for MSM and transgender. 

Drug Adherence Leads To Successful TB Treatment

Photo credit: Owen Nyaka
Owen Nyaka, CNS Correspondent, Malawi
“God is mysterious. I was nearly incapacitated by the TB infection since I could not do anything apart from sleeping in agony every day at home, my children were greatly affected by my illness because am the bread winner. My life is now back to normal,” says Eveless.

'When bacteria and virus can work so well together, why can't we?'

Shobha Shukla, CNS Columnist
[Images] Setting the pace for the press conference, Dr IS Gilada, President, AIDS Society of India, emphasized that collaborative activities between national TB and HIV programmes can help maximise strengthen public health outcomes. He said if HIV programmes do not pay adequate attention to TB, or TB programmes ignore HIV, then the progress made in responding to HIV and TB gets threatened.

Future milestones of HIV treatment and cure

Prakash Tyagi, CNS Correspondent 
“How come we have been able to bring everything that life needs into one mobile phone device and can keep it in our pockets, but can not find a cure for HIV,” asked a young man to Dr. Francoise Barre-Sinnousi, Nobel Laureate and Co Chair of the ongoing 20th International AIDS Conference in Melbourne.

Police, Sex workers and People Who Use Drugs

Ishdeep Kohli, CNS Correspondent
“While public health officials call sex workers and drug users ‘hard-to-reach populations,’ police have little trouble finding them,” said Daniel Wolfe, Director of the Open Society International Harm Reduction Development Programme.

Stigma blocks access to care for young gays and transgenders

Phillip, Gautam and Hender: YVC
Stigma related to HIV not only blocks access to existing services for key affected populations but also increases risk of HIV acquisition manifold. When self-stigma or shame seeps in, it pushes people into depression, aggression, self-harm, addictions or even suicide. HIV-related stigma and discrimination in the community further escalates self-stigma. At 20th International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2014), young men who have sex with men (MSM) and transgender people shared their experiences of external and internalized stigma they face.

Call to step up the pace of TB-HIV collaborative activities

CNS Image Library: AIDS 2010
 Shobha Shukla, CNS Columnist
“We must focus upon individual human beings rather than on individual diseases of TB and HIV. A person centric approach is bound to work together than a disease centric approach,” said Mark Dybul, Executive Director, Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria at a high level WHO consultation, held in conjunction with 20th International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2014), to discuss policies to catalyze the response for elimination of TB deaths among people living with HIV (PLHIV).

'Every TB-HIV case is a public health failure...'

CNS Image Library: AIDS 2010
Shobha Shukla, CNS Columnist
So said Helen Ayles. She was quoted by Dr Diane Havlir who was speaking in the plenary of the 20th International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2014) in Melbourne, Australia. Dr Diane Havlir who is a researcher at the University of California, San Francisco, was hopeful that "Every HIV/TB case prevented and every death averted should become a public health success and put us one step closer to ending the dual epidemic of HIV and TB."

Break the silos: drug use, HIV, HCV, TB, laws and funding

CNS image library: AIDS 2010
Shobha Shukla, CNS Columnist
Viet Nam is one of the countries in the world that has made remarkable progress over the last decade in not only making harm reduction and HIV services available and accessible for people who use drugs but also reforming laws for supportive health policies on the ground. Khuat Thi Hai Oanh who leads Centre for Supportive Community Development Initiatives (SCDI) in Viet Nam, was a plenary speaker at 20th International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2014) in Melbourne, Australia.

Are we hyping infection control inside clinics?

Shobha Shukla, CNS Columnist
Tuberculosis (TB) is an infectious bacterial disease and spreads through the air. When people with pulmonary TB cough, sneeze or spit, they propel the TB germs into the air and a person needs to inhale only a few of these germs to become infected. On the other hand, HIV/AIDS is a viral disease that is transmitted chiefly through unprotected sexual intercourse and  contaminated blood. Yet there is a deadly synergy between the two, with people living with HIV (PLHIV) being 30 times more likely to develop TB and one in every five deaths in them being attributable to TB.

Australia reinforces its commitment in fight against AIDS

Bobby Ramakant, CNS Special Correspondent
Australia has taken a lead in supporting public health in India over the years. With XX International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2014) being held in Melbourne, Citizen News Service (CNS) interviewed Bernard Philip, Deputy High Commissioner of Australia to India. "The conference is providing an opportunity to showcase Australia's leadership in the global HIV response, particularly in Asia and the Pacific. Over the past decade, Australia has provided over AUD 1 billion to support HIV-specific programmes in developing countries, and responding to HIV remains a priority for the Australian Government" said Philip.

New Drug Regimen: A miracle treatment for TB is a near possibility

Shobha Shukla, CNS Columnist
Two years after launching a first of its kind Combination Drug Study for TB treatment in 2010, the Global Alliance for TB Drug Development (TB Alliance) raised hopes of a novel drug regimen to treat both forms of TB—drug sensitive (DS) and multi drug resistant (MDR) TB, at the XX International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2014) in Melbourne, offering a new paradigm in TB treatment to treat patients with drugs to which they are sensitive, rather than based on what they are resistant to.

Will going digital expand mechanisms to engage young HIV key populations?

Bobby Ramakant, CNS Special Correspondent
Joe Rich, Midnight P, Kent Klindera
With increasing use of and access to internet in developing countries, digital tools provide another added way to engage HIV key populations, particularly young people. Asia Pacific Coalition on Male Sexual Health (APCOM) is managing an initiative in few South East Asian cities such as Bangkok (Thailand), Chengdu (China), Ho Chi Minh City (Vietnam), Jakarta (Indonesia), Manila (Philippines), and Yangon (Myanmar) to use digital tools to encourage young men who have sex with men (MSM) and transgender people to test, and opt for repeated HIV testing regularly. Initial pilot is being done in Bangkok (TestBKK) since April 2014.

'Homophobia is a choice, not homosexuality': Inter-faith message

Bobby Ramakant, CNS Special Correspondent
For believers of God, religious faith has a paramount influence on their lives. At XX International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2014) in the inter-faith session the message was loud and clear from different religious leaders: homophobia is a choice, not homosexuality; and religious scriptures teach us to be compassionate, non-judgmental and accept everyone else in totality without prejudice.

'Do not be a statistic, but own the information that shapes programmes'

Bobby Ramakant, CNS Special Correspondent
Midnight Poonkasetwattana, APCOM
[CNS images from AIDS 2014] Engaging key populations in HIV responses is fundamental not only because these affected communities are at an elevated risk of HIV acquisition but also they are key to HIV responses. Sonya Arreola from the Global Fund for MSM and HIV (MSMGF) said at a pre-conference meeting around XX International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2014) in Melbourne, Australia, that “How do we use PrEP with men who have sex with men (MSM) who do not feel safe to move outside of their space without risking violence and even death?”

What has TB got to do in an AIDS Conference?

Shobha Shukla, Citizen News Service - CNS
Well almost everything. Tuberculosis (TB) remains the most common AIDS-defining illness and the leading cause of death in people living with HIV (PLHIV) with 1 in 5 HIV-associated deaths in 2012 attributed to TB. At least one third of the 35.3 million living PLHIV worldwide are infected with latent TB. An estimated 1.1 million (13%) of the 8.6 million people who developed TB in 2012 were HIV-positive too.

"Raising our game, raising our voices": APCOM at AIDS 2014

The Asia Pacific Coalition on Male Sexual Health (APCOM) called for a greater focus on the rapidly escalating HIV epidemic among men who have sex with men (MSM) and transgender persons across Asia and the Pacific and seeking effective and innovative ways in which to address this challenge, at the XX International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2014) which will be held in Melbourne, Australia during (July 20 to 25).

Mumbai Doctor Trupti Gilada to get Fellowship Award at AIDS 2014

Dr Trupti Gilada Baheti
A Mumbai doctor, Dr Trupti Gilada Baheti, is a recipient of the prestigious Fellowship Award on HIV and Drug Abuse Research from the International AIDS Society (IAS), National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) and French National Agency for Research on AIDS and Viral Hepatitis (ANRS). This fellowship will be formally awarded on 23rd July 2014 at the XX International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2014), the premiere gathering of thousands of researchers, policymakers, and others committed to ending the pandemic, in Melbourne, Australia. The award comprises 18 months fellowship at Seattle under the Mentor Dr Ann Duerr for HIV Research, attendance at three International scientific events and an honour at AIDS 2014.

TB and Mines: Caring for miners is our business

Alice Tembe, CNS Correspondent, Swaziland
‘The fear of the immigration system, the stigma, and loss of jobs, has driven mine workers away from accessing the TB services they need’, this was the statement made by an ex-mine worker during the launch of a ‘TB and the Mines’ partnership project that Swaziland has embarked upon in collaboration with South Africa, Lesotho and Mozambique.

Press Conference at AIDS 2014: MSM and transgender people need more options to protect themselves from anal STIs and HIV

International Rectal Microbicide Advocates (IRMA), Research Institute for Health Sciences (RIHES) Chiang Mai University, AVAC - Global Advocacy for HIV Prevention, Asia Pacific Coalition on Male Sexual Health (APCOM), AIDS Society of India and Citizen News Service (CNS) are together organizing a press conference on "men who have sex with men (MSM) and transgender people need more options to protect themselves from anal STIs and HIV" at the XX International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2014).

Kenya: Why HIV Does Not Kill Anymore

Diana Wangari, CNS Correspondent, Kenya
(First published in The Star, Kenya)
When it comes to HIV, it is not the virus that kills you; it is everything else. Your body's immunity is weakened and some simple curable disease is what often gets you. The thought amongst many is that taking anti-retrovirals (ARVs) is all that one needs. But the struggle with HIV requires comprehensive treatment, including prevention of infection and psychological counseling. Therefore, the burden often lies in dealing with co-infections and, of these, TB is of great concern.

A polluted environment nurtures a disease ridden society

Shobha Shukla, CNS Columnist 
(Based on an interview with Dr KC Mohanty, Founder President of The Environmental Medical Association)
The 20th National Conference on Environmental Sciences and Pulmonary Medicine--NESCON, was organized in Mumbai in very green surroundings during the last week of June 2014, by the Academy of Respiratory Medicine under the auspices of the Environmental Medical Association. As always, this Environment and Lifestyle diseases conference emphasized upon the impact of various controllable environmental factors on human health through an increasing disease burden.

Press Conference at AIDS 2014: Dual challenges: Drug-resistant TB and HIV co-infection

AIDS Society of India, Global Stop-TB eForum and Citizen News Service (CNS) are organizing a press conference at the forthcoming XX International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2014) on Thursday, 24th July 2014 from 3pm to 3:45pm in Press Conference Room 2, MCEC, Melbourne, Australia. A report compiling personal stories of people with multi-drug resistant TB and HIV co-infection will also be released by CNS followed by a discussion.

Beware of the cough and spit: It can cause TB

Shobha Shukla, CNS Columnist
Several interesting aspects about the survival of the tuberculosis (TB) causing aerobic bacteria in real life environments were discussed in a lively talk by Dr Tushar Sahasrabudhe of Dr DY Patil Medical College, Pune, on the last day of the 20th National Conference on Environmental Sciences and Pulmonary Diseases (20th NESCON), organized by the Academy of Respiratory Medicine under the auspices of Environmental Medical Association in Mumbai. 

Tobacco use a big ‘No’ for people with TB and diabetes

Shrey Singh, CNS Correspondent
Tobacco use is anyways harmful for all, but it is especially hazardous for people living with diabetes and those suffering from or at risk of tuberculosis (TB). For the former it acts as an hindrance in their control of blood sugar and in case of the latter their ability to transmit the disease can be enhanced. Nicotine, which is accumulated in the body through smoking, reduces insulin sensitivity which proves detrimental in patients of diabetes.