Friday, November 4, 2011

AIDS and the children of Africa

Most of us are busy with the season of Christmas, baking, shopping, wrapping, card writing, caught up in the wonder of giving and receiving. Christmas is a joyous and wondrous time for most that live amidst abundance of the West. Most of us have healthy children, have good jobs, have homes, food for the table and enough left over to give generous gifts to family and friends

This is the season where my thoughts and heart turns to the children of Africa, for many of whom will be the first Christmas without mom and dad. Thousands of Africa’s AIDS orphans are fending for themselves this Christmas. Children who are living in a survival mode without hope for the future.

The extended African family that used to take care of orphans has broken down due to the plague of AIDS that is ravaging the lands, reaping a harvest of fathers and mothers, uncles and aunts, grandmothers and grandfathers, brothers and sisters with no end in sight. The projections are for 20 million orphans due to AIDS related deaths. Only one country in sub-Sahara will have less AIDS related orphans in 2010 than now and that is Uganda, all other countries will have dramatic increases since most of them are late in putting together a program that will make a difference in their society as Uganda has.

Numbers are one thing, we see statistics and often do not stop to think that behind the numbers, behind the statistics, are living beings that are now on their own. Children who lack most everything, deprived of hope, deprived of family, unable to live out a meaningful existence unless help comes fast but it takes years to reverse the present trends of AIDS infection and this Christmas there are no thoughts of Santa, of Christmas, of gifts and giving, of receiving, there is only thought in the mind of boys and girls orphaned by AIDS…”living another day without dying.”

One in 10 sub-Sahara African children are orphaned at the present time. Orphan rates that are over 5% mean that the local community, the family, extended family units are unable to help due to the overwhelming numbers. As we approach Christmas 2003, the question of the hour is, “how do these children cope with their losses, how do their cities and countries deal with the sheer numbers that are there. The answer is a sad one, “these children become living dead who wander the streets of the cities of Africa looking for a handout, looking for some work, looking with bellies empty, bodies sick due to malnutrition, minds empty except for the worries that are there, many of them suffer from post-traumatic stress related to their losses. They are not likely to attend school (but does not take into consideration school clothing, transport, lunches), they will try to work for someone and often will be exploited, in some African cities 2/3rds of the child prostitutes are AIDS orphans. Not aAids and the Children of Africa future to look forward to for a newly orphaned child. Often these orphans will be separated from their siblings, and of course these orphans will grow up without learning parenting skills from Mom and Dad, and their future as adults is bleak to say the least it will continue to be a mere existence.

Church groups, Mosques, Non Governmental Agencies are busily working in attempting to find solutions for this problem; a problem that translates into billions of dollars annually, 4 billion each year is the estimate from Columbia University. Some talk of building thousands of orphanages across Africa. Noble thoughts, but unrealistic since the need will exceed the capacity such homes provide. The only practical solution for the present and future situation is to enlist thousands of African families into providing foster care for such orphans. Giving them the money needed for the basics for that child or children and allowing these orphans to grow up in a family structure where they car relate, make a home and find the reasonable security and peace so necessary during the growing up years. (Some agencies are doing just that presently and it was something that I advocated whole heartedly during my time in Africa)

Some years back, I came across the woman in a slum with two little children. She was dying of AIDS, her husband had already died and the extended family was broken down due to the AIDS plague. She looked to me and told me “No one cares, my children will have no mother, no father, no one cares. The church cannot help, the government does not help, my neighbors cannot help, and no one cares.” Those words have haunted me and at times I can recall that conversations ever so clearly. She is long gone, her children are a bit older now, there are new orphans that have come along and the words are still true today “No one cares.” This Christmas, think about that statement; ask yourself, how can I make a difference in the life on one child? This Christmas the question to us who live in the prosperous West, “Do I care?

Friday, October 21, 2011

Hydeia Broadbent HIV/AIDS activist

Hydeia Broadbent's debut as a HIV/AIDS activist and public speaker began at the age of six. By the age of 12 she was appearing on national television programs including Oprah, 20/20, Good Morning America and "A Conversation with Magic Johnson." Over the next ten years Broadbent became a notable speaker and guest panelist at some of America's most respected educational institutions: Duke University, Clark Atlanta University, UCLA, USC, and Howard University. Since 1996, she has been featured in some of today's most prominent publications, including Essence, Ebony, New York Times, POZ Magazine, Seventeen, and Heart & Soul, and has appeared on such television networks as Nickelodeon, MTV, and BET. Broadbent has also been honored with an American Red Cross Spirit Award and a 1999 Essence Award. She was a featured speaker for the International AIDS Conference in Toronto, Canada, in 2006, and in a year later had the honor of speaking at the 2007 Essence Music Festival, as well as the 2007 Bishop TD Jakes first Aids Rally at the Potter's House in Dallas, TX.

Ebony named Broadbent one of the "Most Influential African Americans" in a list of a 150 people in 2008. She has also been a part of some of America's top radio talk programs including, but not limited to, Russ Parr Morning Show and The Tom Joyner Morning Show. She also took part in the first satellite radio programs dealing with HIV/AIDS. Recently, she was invited by BET Network's Chairman and CEO Debra Lee to participate as a panelist in the first annual Leading Women Defined Summit in Washington, DC.

At birth, Broadbent was abandoned at the University Medical Center of Southern Nevada in Las Vegas where Patricia and Loren Broadbent adopted her as an infant. Although her HIV condition was congenital, she was not diagnosed as HIV-positive with advancement to AIDS until age three. The prognosis was that she would not live past the age of five. Now at the age of 25, Broadbent spends her time spreading the message of HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention by promoting abstinence, safe sex practices for people who chose to have sex and "Knowing Your HIV/AIDS Status." Remarks Broadbent, "People think because I was born with HIV my story does not apply to them. Well this same disease I am living with is the same disease you can get if you don't practice abstinence or safe sex. I ask people to use my testimony as a warning of what you don't want to go through."

Today, Broadbent is a distinguished international public speaker and HIV/AIDS activist with a mission to educate women of all ages, especially young girls of the 13 to 21 age range. She has an innate ability to bond with any audience. When addressing the public about the issues of HIV/AIDS, her primary goal is to provide a clear understanding of how to avoid at-risk behaviors through self-examination and informed decision-making. She succinctly stated: "With all that we know about the virus, it is clear to me that contracting HIV/AIDS today is a choice and we CANNOT allow anyone the power to make that choice for us!"

Friday, October 7, 2011

Vaccine could reduce HIV to minor infection

HIV could be reduced to a "minor chronic infection" akin to herpes, scientists developing a new vaccine have claimed.
Spanish researchers found that 22 of 24 healthy people (92 per cent) developed an immune response to HIV after being given their MVA-B vaccine.

Professor Mariano Esteban, head researcher on the project at the National Biotech Centre in Madrid, said of the jab: "It is like showing a picture of the HIV so that it is able to recognise it if it sees it again in the future."

The injection contains four HIV genes which stimulate T and B lymphocytes, which are types of white blood cells.

Prof Esteban explained: "Our body is full of lymphocytes, each of them programmed to fight against a different pathogen.

"Training is needed when it involves a pathogen, like the HIV one, which cannot be naturally defeated".

B cells produce antibodies which attack viruses before they infect cells, while T cells detect and destroy infected cells.

The study showed that almost three-quarters of participants had developed HIV-specific antibodies 11 months after vaccination.Over a third developed one type of T cell that fights HIV, called CD4+, while over two-thirds developed another, called CD8+.

Overall, 92 per cent developed some sort of immune response. However, that is not the same thing as being protected from HIV infection: the response could be inadequate to provide protection.

Prof Esteban acknowledged the vaccine was at an early stage, describing it as "promising".

The next step is to test it in people with HIV to see if it works as a "therapeutic" - reducing the viral count.

The researcher was optimistic, saying: "MVA-B vaccine has proven to be as powerful as any other vaccine currently being studied, or even more.

"If this genetic cocktail passes Phase II and Phase III future clinic trials, and makes it into production, in the future HIV could be compared to herpes virus nowadays."

By that he meant HIV could become a "minor chronic infection" that only resulted in disease when the immune system was otherwise compromised.

Other vaccines are in development. One, called the HIV-v vaccine, developed by British researchers, resulted in a 90 per cent reduction in viral count in HIV-infected people. Most trials so far have been small scale.

There have also been many false dawns with prospective HIV vaccines.

Jason Warriner, clinical director for the Terrence Higgins Trust, described the Spanish project as "a step in the right direction".

Monday, October 3, 2011


Atripla (a-trip-la) is a medicine which is used in HIV infection and preventing transmission of HIV infection from mother to baby during pregnancy. Atripla contains tenofovir disoproxil fumarate/efavirenz/emtricitabine. It is supplied by Gilead Sciences Ltd.The information in this Medicine Guide for Atripla varies according to the condition being treated and the particular preparation used.
Your medicine

Atripla is an anti-HIV medicine that is used in the treatment of infection with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). It contains three medicines–efavirenz, emtricitabine and tenofovir disoproxil fumarate.

HIV weakens the body's immune system and reduces the body's ability to fight infections. Anti-HIV medicines do not kill the virus but they slow down or stop the HIVvirus from making copies of itself. This allows the body's immune system to keep working and gives the body a chance to fight other infections. Anti-HIV medicines do not cure HIV infections or prevent you from getting other infections.

Anti-HIV medicines are most effective when taken in combination with other anti-HIV-medicines. Combination therapy reduces the chances of the virus becoming resistant to a single medicine. Resistance to medicines makes HIV treatment more difficult. For HIV therapy to be effective and to reduce the chances of developing resistance to your medicine, it is important you take the full daily dose and take your medicines exactly as prescribed by your doctor.

Some people with hepatitis Binfection may find that their infection becomes worse when they stop taking Atripla. Your prescriber may arrange for you to have tests to monitor your hepatitis for at least four months after stopping treatment with Atripla.

Treatment with anti-HIV medicines does not reduce the risk of passing the virus on to other people through sexual contact or through contact with blood. It is important you take precautions against passing HIV to other people.

Women who are infected with HIV should not breast-feed their babies as the virus may be passed to the baby.

Do not share your medicine with other people. It may not be suitable for them and may harm them.

The pharmacy label on your medicine tells you how much medicine you should take. It also tells you how often you should take your medicine. This is the dose that you and your prescriber have agreed you should take. You should not change the dose of your medicine unless you are told to do so by your prescriber.

If you feel that the medicine is making you unwell or you do not think it is working, then talk to your prescriber.
Whether this medicine is suitable for you

Atripla is not suitable for everyone and some people should never use it. Other people should only use it with special care. It is important that the person prescribing this medicine knows your full medical history.

Whether this medicine is suitable for you

Atripla is not suitable for everyone and some people should never use it. Other people should only use it with special care. It is important that the person prescribing this medicine knows your full medical history.

Your prescriber may only prescribe this medicine with special care or may not prescribe it at all if you:

are aged over 65 years
are allergic or sensitive to or have had a reaction to any of the ingredients in the medicine
are on a diet which must be low in sodium from all sources, including medicines
have had skin problems such as Stevens-Johnson syndrome after taking non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors
have liver problems or have risk factors for developing liver problems such as if you have hepatitis B or C infection, drink alcohol heavily or are a female and are overweight
have metabolic problems
have or have had kidney problems
have or have had psychiatric problems such as depression
have or have had seizures
have or have had thoughts of committing suicide or have attempted suicide
have recently taken medicines that damage the kidney
have risk factors for developing kidney problems
have risk factors for developing lipodystrophy syndrome

Furthermore the prescriber may only prescribe this medicine with special care or may not prescribe it at all for someone under 18 years of age.

As part of the process of assessing suitability to take this medicine a prescriber may also arrange tests:

to determine whether or not the medicine is suitable and whether it must be prescribed with extra care
to check that this medicine is not having any undesired effects

Over time it is possible that Atripla can become unsuitable for some people, or they may become unsuitable for it. If at any time it appears that Atripla has become unsuitable, it is important that the prescriber is contacted immediately.

Alcohol can interact with certain medicines.

In the case of Atripla:

there are no known interactions between alcohol and Atripla


Medicines can interact with certain foods. In some cases, this may be harmful and your prescriber may advise you to avoid certain foods.

In the case of Atripla:

this medicineinteracts with grapefruit juice. Grapefruit juice may affect the level of Atripla in your blood

For more advice speak to your prescriber, nutritionist or pharmacist.
Driving and operating machinery

When taking any medicine you should be aware that it might interfere with your ability to drive or operate machinery safely.

In the case of Atripla:

this medicine could affect your ability to drive or operate machinery

You should see how this medicine affects you before you judge whether you are safe to drive or operate machinery. If you are in any doubt about whether you should drive or operate machinery, talk to your prescriber.
Family planning and pregnancy

Most medicines, in some way, can affect the development of a baby in the womb. The effect on the baby differs between medicines and also depends on the stage of pregnancy that you have reached when you take the medicine.

In the case of Atripla:

children born to mothers who took Atripla during pregnancy may need regular check-ups
you should only take this medicine during pregnancy if your doctor thinks that you need it
your prescriber will only start your treatment with Atripla once they are certain that you are not pregnant. For more information talk to your prescriber
if you are taking Atripla and you could become pregnant, you must use effective non-hormonal contraception or abstain from penetrative sex during treatment and for at least 12 weeks after stopping Atripla
this medicine may make hormonal contraceptives such as oral contraceptives less effective. If this could affect you, it is important that you also use effective non-hormonal contraception

You need to discuss your specific circumstances with your doctor to weigh up the overall risks and benefits of taking this medicine. You and your doctor can make a decision about whether you are going to take this medicine during pregnancy.

If the decision is that you should not have Atripla, then you should discuss whether there is an alternative medicine that you could take during pregnancy.

Certain medicines can pass into breast milk and may reach your baby through breast-feeding.

In the case of Atripla:

women who are taking Atripla should not breast-feed
women who are infected with HIV should not breast-feed their babies as the virus may be passed to the baby

Before you have your baby you should discuss breast-feeding with your doctor or midwife. They will help you decide what is best for you and your baby based on the benefits and risks associated with this medicine.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Pregnancy and HIV/AIDS

Motherhood is a wonderful experience. Regardless of your HIV status, you may want to have children. HIV can be spread to your baby during the pregnancy, while in labor, while giving birth, or by breastfeeding. You will have many choices to make about lowering the risk of passing HIV to your baby.

If you want to become pregnant, talk to your doctor right away. Your doctor can tell you how HIV can affect your health or your unborn baby's health. Your doctor can tell you how to prepare for a healthy pregnancy. There are ways for you to get pregnant that will limit your partner's risk of HIV infection. You can ask your doctor about ways to get pregnant without having unprotected sex with your partner.

If you just found out you are pregnant, see your doctor right away. Find out what you can do to take care of yourself and to give your baby a healthy start to life.

With your doctor's help, you can decide on the best treatment for you and your baby before, during, and after the pregnancy. You should also take these steps before and during your pregnancy to help you and your baby stay healthy.

Take these steps to lower the risk of giving HIV to your baby

Just because you have HIV doesn't mean your child will get HIV. In the United States, before effective treatment was available, about 25 percent of pregnant HIV-positive mothers who didn't breastfeed and did not receive anti-HIV treatment in pregnancy passed the virus to their babies.

Today, the risk of giving HIV to your newborn is below 2 percent. But you and the baby must get the right HIV drugs at the right times. You also can't breastfeed. The steps below can lower the risk of giving HIV to your baby.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


News that the U.S. government willingly infected Guatemalans with gonorrhea and syphilis without their permission from 1946 to 1948 gives new credence to often dismissed claims by African-Americans and Latinos of government-backed conspiracies to harm them. As ridiculous as many may find such claims, unfortunately, history such as this supports their suspicions. It's very hard not to recall the Tuskegee Syphilis Study, better known as the Tuskegee Experiment.

From 1932 to 1972, physicians from the U.S. Public Health Service recruited 399 black men, the majority of them poor, from the Tuskegee, Alabama area to purportedly provide them with medical care they could not afford. Instead, the many men, who had syphilis, received little care. In fact, the U.S. Public Health Service intended all along to do nothing. The study's purpose was to observe the progression of syphilis, not to treat it. So, for 40 years, government-sanctioned medical professionals sat idly by as scores of black men died from a curable disease.

Reporting on the story on July 26, 1972, the New York Times referred to the Tuskegee Experiment as the "longest running non-therapeutic experiment on human beings in medical history." Because of the Tuskegee Experiment, it has been increasingly difficult for many medical professionals to recruit African-Americans specifically for clinical trials that could help fight key diseases and conditions that affect them.

In August, Doreen Gentzler from NBC's Washington D.C. affiliate helmed a special report about the lack of African-American participants in clinical trials. Noting that only one percent of current clinical trial participants are African-American, in that report, Gentzler and Dr. Monica Swain, who are both white, shared information that highlighted not just the paucity of clinical trial participants but also cited the Tuskegee Syphilis Study as one of the primary reason why.

Statistics cited in a 2009 report on racial differences related to parental distrust of physicians and medical research by the University of Pittsburgh's Dr. Kumaravel Rajakumar "found that 67 percent of African-Americans distrusted the medical establishment compared with 50 percent of white parents." And, interestingly, such distrust was found in all levels of the African-American community, regardless of income.

This level of distrust is obviously not healthy for many reasons. Chief among them is that it hinders the medical community's ability to effectively combat diseases. African-Americans die of many diseases like breast cancer and diabetes at higher rates and, in order to pinpoint why, medical research is a necessary evil. But, as Somnath Saha, M.D., M.P.H., of the Portland VA Medical Center in Portland, has noted, "If we want minority communities to participate in our work, we must first fix the racial and ethnic imbalance that continues to tilt our ivory towers."

Righting those towers with appropriate representation doesn't mean that all will be right in the world. After all, the African-American nurse Eunice Rivers was very much a part of the Tuskegee Experiment. In fact, many of the participants probably participated because of Rivers's involvement so it's deeper than having a few non-white faces. Instead there is a pressing need for black and brown medical professionals who will not just execute experiments that others have decided that are needed. There is a need for medical professionals who will identify conditions and diseases that cannot be ignored and then design ways in which they can be addressed.

The road to creating African-American trust in particular in medical institutions, especially government-backed ones, will be hard. Even now, it is not uncommon to hear African-Americans assert that HIV/AIDS is indeed a man-made disease that was purposely put into the black community. While these claims seem ridiculous to other Americans, African-Americans know of other "ridiculous" situations that have turned out to be horrifically true.

With former President Bill Clinton issuing a formal apology from the federal government for the Tuskegee Syphilis Study in 1997, not to mention the congressional reforms introduced in the 1970s, along with Secretary of State Clinton standing up strongly today in the wake of this Guatemalan discovery, Washington certainly has a new attitude. Consistent and caring outreach from the government and the medical community as a whole will continue to create goodwill and, in time, save more lives.

Bayer Exposed HIV Contaminated Vaccine

Bayer Sells AIDS-Infected Drug Banned in U.S. in Europe, Asia - Unearthed documents show that the drug company Bayer sold millions of dollars worth of an injectable blood-clotting medicine -- Factor VIII concentrate, intended for hemophiliacs -- to Asian, Latin American, and some European countries in the mid-1980s, although they knew that it was tainted with AIDS. Bayer knew about the fact that the drug was tainted and told the FDA to keep things under wraps while they made a profit off of a drug that infected its patients. If these allegations are true, then both Bayer and the FDA are at fault for this catastrophe. FDA regulators helped to keep the continued sales hidden, asking the company that the problem be ''quietly solved without alerting the Congress, the medical community and the public,'' according to the minutes of a 1985 meeting