Category Archives: HIV

May 31 2013
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Public Health News Roundup: May 31

Around the Globe Anti-Smoking Ads Work
Awareness of anti-smoking messages on television, radio, billboards, newspapers and magazines significantly increased the odds that current smokers intend to quit in 14 of the 17 countries surveyed, according to a study of thousands of adults smokers published by the by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The survey was released today in observance of World No Tobacco Day. It is sponsored by the World Health Organization (WHO), which is calling on countries to ban all forms of tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship to help reduce the number of tobacco users. Tobacco use kills nearly 6 million people every year worldwide. According to WHO, countries that have introduced bans have seen smoking drop by an average of 7 percent. WHO research has found that about a third of youth tobacco use occurs as a result of exposure to tobacco advertising, promotion and sponsorship. Worldwide, 78 percent of teens ages 13 to 15 say they regularly see some form of tobacco promotion. Read more on tobacco.

Google Adds Nutrition Information to Search Function
Just as the tool includes shortcuts to finding places and even the local time for the sunrises and sunsets, Google is now adding nutrition information to its search function. Simply typing basic questions such as “how many carbs are in an apple?” will bring up not only the answer to that particular question, but also additional relevant nutrition information and the ability to search by different foods and serving sizes. More than 1,000 fruits, vegetables, meats and meals will be covered by the new online tool. Read more on nutrition.

HUD: $32M in Grants to Support Housing for People, Families Living with HIV/AIDS
Thirty local HIV/AIDS housing programs will share $32 million in U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development funds to provide more stable living environments. More than 1,300 extremely low-income people and families dealing with HIV/AIDS will helped under the program, which includes housing assistance and access to supportive services such as job readiness and employment training programs. “These grants will provide our local partners with crucial funding that is necessary to provide individuals and families living with HIV/AIDS a place to call home,” said Secretary Shaun Donovan.  “The comfort of knowing that you have a roof over your head makes a huge difference in the wellbeing of families and gives hope to those who might otherwise end up living on the streets.” Read more on HIV/AIDS.

Survey: Math, Reading ‘Summer Slumps’ Puts Kids at Disadvantage in Classrooms
A new survey from PBS KIDS shows that while 84 percent of parents say they see the importance of supporting their child’s learning in the home, the average teacher must spend four to six weeks re-teaching forgotten material at the beginning of each school year—with the loss of knowledge even more severe in low-income communities. Parents’ anxiety over math makes them even less likely to support math learning at the earliest ages, and these deficits and deterioration in math and literacy skills can put kids at a distinct disadvantage in the classroom. A Q&A from PBS has tips on how parents can prevent this “summer slump” when it comes to reading. Read more on education.

Apr 30 2013
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Public Health News Roundup: April 30

USPSTF Recommends HIV Screening for All Americans 15-65
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) now recommends that all Americans ages 15 to 65 be screened for HIV, according to new guidelines appearing in the Annals of Internal Medicine. USPSTF’s previous 2005 guidelines recommended screening for only those people categorized as high-risk. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention already recommends this course of action. "We do hope the fact that the guidelines are all very similar will provide an impetus for people to offer screening because it is a very critical public-health problem,” said task force member Douglas Owens, MD, a medical professor at Stanford University. Experts noted that the change will likely mean that testing will be covered as a preventive service under the Affordable Care Act. Read more on HIV/AIDS.

HUD’s $1.83B Plan Will Help Rebuild New Jersey, Prepare for Future Disasters
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) $1.83 billion New Jersey disaster recovery plan will help residents continue to recover from the damage caused by Hurricane Sandy and better prepare for future extreme weather events. “This infusion of federal funding will help New Jersey continue to recover from Superstorm Sandy and ensure that our state is rebuilt stronger and better prepared for future storms,” said Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ). “Families that are rebuilding their homes, small businesses that are getting back on their feet, and communities that are repairing damaged public infrastructure will all benefit from this federal grant program.” The plan is funded through HUD’s Community Development Block Grant Program. The infrastructure restoration efforts will including elevating some homes to guard against future flooding. Read more on Hurricane Sandy.

Early Obesity Dramatically Increases Men’s Risk of Poor Health, Death
Obesity in the early 20’s can dramatically increased a man’s chance of suffering from serious health problems or even dying by the age of 55, according to a new study in the journal BMJ Open. A study tracking Danish men found that approximately half of the participants who were obese at the age of 22 had developed diabetes, developed high blood pressure, had a heart attack, had a stroke, or experienced blood clots or died by age 55. Men of a normal weight at age 22 saw only a 20 percent risk of developing these problems by age 55. Each unit increase in body mass index raised the risk of heart attack by 5 percent; high blood pressure and clots by 10 percent; and diabetes by 20 percent. In the United States approximately 35.7 percent of adults and 17 percent of children are obese, according to the U. S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Read more on obesity.

Survey: Many Americans Still Unaware of or Confused About the Affordable Care Act
Signup for the Affordable Care Act (ACA) Health Insurance Marketplace begins in October, but a new poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation finds that many Americans are still confused about the law, which will require virtually all Americans to sign up for health insurance coverage that will take effect January 1, 2014.

Key poll findings include:

  • More than 40 percent of Americans aren’t aware that the ACA is the law of the land.
  • Of those who aren’t aware that the ACA is now law, 12 percent think the law was repealed by Congress and 7 percent think the law was overturned by the Supreme Court.
  • About half of the respondents said they did not have enough information about the health reform law to understand how it will impact their family.

The poll findings also showed that people who are currently uninsured and those in low-income households were the most likely groups to say they did not understand how the ACA benefits them and their families. Read more on access to health care.

Apr 26 2013
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Public Health News Roundup: April 26

Mammography Rates Remained Steady After Change in Guidelines
The proportion of women undergoing screening for breast cancer every year did not change after U.S. Preventive Services Task Force released recommendations saying there wasn't enough evidence to support routine mammograms for women in their 40s, according to a new study published in the journal Cancer. In 2009, the Task Force changed their recommendations to state that women aged 50 to 74 should have a mammogram every other year, and screenings for women under age 50 should be evaluated by each woman with her doctor, according to individual risk factors. "When there are conflicting versions of guidelines, providers may err on the side of screening," said David Howard, a health policy researcher from Emory University in Atlanta, in an interview with Reuters. Read more on cancer.

Latest HIV Vaccine Study Halted
The National Institutes of Health halted a study testing an experimental HIV vaccine after an independent review board found the vaccine did not prevent HIV infection and did not reduce the amount of HIV in the blood. The trial, started in 2009, is the latest in a series of failed HIV vaccine trials, according to Reuters. The halted study included more than 2,500 volunteers in 19 U.S. cities. Study populations included men who have sex with men and transgender people who have sex with men. Read more on HIV.

CDC's Food Safety Report Card: Some Foodborne Illnesses Spiked in 2012
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently released the "nation’s annual food safety report card," and it shows that 2012 rates of infections from two types of foodborne bacteria—campylobacter and Vibrio—have increased significantly when compared to a baseline period of 2006-2008, while rates of most others have not changed during the same period. The data are part of the Foodborne Diseases Active Surveillance Network report. Campylobacter infections have been linked to tranmission in many foods, including poultry, raw milk and produce. These infections were at their highest level since 2000, up 14 percent since 2006-2008. Vibrio infections, often associated with raw shellfish, were up 43 percent.

“The U.S. food supply remains one of the safest in the world,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden, MD, MPH. “However, some foodborne diseases continue to pose a challenge. We have the ability, through investments in emerging technologies, to identify outbreaks even more quickly and implement interventions even faster to protect people from the dangers posed by contaminated food.” Read more on food safety.

Mar 6 2013
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Kaiser Family Foundation Report Highlights U.S. Engagement in Global Health: A NewPublicHealth Q&A with Josh Michaud

The increasing globalization of the world circles back to health as well. That’s a key tenet in a new report, The U.S. Government Engagement in Global Health: A Primer, from the Kaiser Family Foundation. The report describes the U.S. agencies and programs involved in global health and the federal budget supporting these efforts. Following the release of the primer, NewPublicHealth spoke with Josh Michaud, a Principal Policy Analyst at the Kaiser Family Foundation focused on the U.S. government’s role in global health.

NewPublicHealth: Why did the Kaiser Family Foundation create the global health primer?

Josh Michaud: The Kaiser Family Foundation has produced primers for other health issues on which we work, including Medicare and Medicaid. We felt that global health was an area in which we’ve built up some good data and analysis and we wanted to put it together in a format accessible to as wide an audience as possible. There has also been a growing interest at universities among young people in global issues, in particular global health issues.

Another critical reason to produce the primer is to set out a baseline for discussions, whether it is for different sides of a policy debate, student’s writing papers or people just getting started in the field. We don’t come at this with a particular recommendation, it really is meant to be a portrait of all the different parts of the U.S. government that are involved in global health. In the final section of the primer, we pulled together some policy issues that are of particular importance right now.

NPH: What trends or changes does the report note?

Michaud: The major trends have been increased levels of funding and an engagement by many different parts of the U.S. government in global health. The budget has increased significantly. In fiscal year 2001 the global health budget was about $1.5 billion. In fiscal year 2012 it was $8.8 billion. And while the United States is the most important and largest donor to global health, contributions from other governments have also grown significantly.

Much of the increased funding has been driven by increases for HIV/AIDS programs worldwide, and in particular, the PEPFAR program that the United States funds, as well as U.S. funding in support of Malaria. Earlier in the decade, there were significant increases year by year. That’s now leveled off and we don’t know what will happen in the future.

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Feb 22 2013
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Public Health News Roundup: February 22

IOM Report Finds U.S. Global AIDS Efforts Successful, Stresses the Need to Help Countries Manage their Own Programs
A new report from the Institute of Medicine finds that the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) has saved and improved millions of lives around the world. The report says the program also shows that HIV/AIDS services can be effectively delivered on a large scale even in countries with high rates of disease and resource challenges. The report also stresses the need for the program to increase its efforts to help partner countries develop the capacity to manage their own programs, sustain the gains that have been made in controlling the HIV epidemic and improve their citizens' access to services. PEPFAR was established in 2003 through legislation that authorized $15 billion for HIV/AIDS and other related global health issues over five years. In 2008, the legislation was reauthorized, providing up to $39 billion through 2013 for PEPFAR bilateral HIV/AIDS programs as well as U.S. contributions to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria. PEPFAR has supported HIV/AIDS programs in over 100 countries. As part of the reauthorization, Congress requested that IOM evaluate the program. That evaluation included visits to thirteen countries by the IOM's international committee of experts. Read more on HIV/AIDS.

Flu Vaccine 56 Percent Effective Overall, 27 Percent for Seniors
This season’s flu vaccine has been only 56 percent effective as of February and largely ineffective at protecting the elderly, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It was only 27 percent effective for people ages 65 and older; 71 percent of Americans in that age group have been vaccinated. “The older you get, the less potent is your immune response,” Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told Reuters. “This is just a fact of physiological life in the immune system.” He said better data on seniors is needed and there are ways to improve the vaccine going forward. Read more on influenza.

‘Smarter Lunchroom’ Setups Increase Kids’ Consumption of Fruits, Vegetables
Improving the location and attractiveness of fruits and vegetables in school cafeterias can help kids make healthier food choices, according to a new report in the Journal of Pediatrics. Researchers at the Cornell Center for Behavioral Economics in Child Nutrition Programs, in Ithaca, N.Y. also found that simply asking kids if they want to try one of the healthier choices can increase the odds. The inexpensive “smarter lunchroom” setup "not only preserves choice, but has the potential to lead children to develop lifelong habits of selecting and consuming healthier foods even when confronted with less healthy options," said study author Andrew Hanks. They found that post-makeover kids were 13 percent more likely to choose fruits and 23 percent more likely to choose vegetables. Read more on nutrition.

Dec 20 2012
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Public Health News Roundup: December 20

Regular Marijuana Use by Teens Continues to be a Concern
The annual survey of teen drug use by the National Institute on Drug Abuse finds continued high use of marijuana by 8th, 10th and 12th graders, as well as a drop in how dangerous students think the drug is. The survey found that 6.5 percent of high school seniors smoke marijuana daily, up from 5.1 percent five years ago. Nearly 23 percent say they smoked it in the month prior to the survey, and just over 36 percent say they smoked within the previous year. The survey found that use escalates after eighth grade. “We are increasingly concerned that regular or daily use of marijuana is robbing many young people of their potential to achieve and excel in school or other aspects of life," said NIDA Director Nora D. Volkow, MD. "THC, a key ingredient in marijuana, alters the ability of the hippocampus, a brain area related to learning and memory, to communicate effectively with other brain regions. In addition, we know from recent research that marijuana use that begins during adolescence can lower IQ and impair other measures of mental function into adulthood." Volkow says that marijuana use that begins in adolescence increases the risk of addiction to the drug. Read a NewPublicHealth interview with R. Greg Kerlikowske, Director of National Drug Control Policy.

HIV Infections Among African-American Women Drop, But Rise in Young Gay, Bisexual Men
New HIV infections among African-American women dropped for the first time, by 21 percent between 2008 and 2010, according to a report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, African-American women still account for almost two-thirds of new HIV infections among American women. Overall, the number of new infections among Americans was stable at about 50,000 per year over the last decade, but new infections among young gay and bisexual men ages 13 to 24 continue to rise, increasing 22 percent between 2008 and 2010. Read more on HIV.

Heart Association: Heart Health Varies from State to State
A new study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association finds that heart health varies among the fifty states. Researchers used 2009 data on seven heart health factors from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, including blood pressure, total cholesterol, smoking, body mass index, diabetes, physical activity, and fruit and vegetable consumption.

Findings include:

  • The percentage of the population reporting optimal levels of all seven factors was lowest in Oklahoma, West Virginia and Mississippi, and highest in Washington, D.C., Vermont and Virginia.
  • About 3 percent of the total U.S. population reported having ideal heart health.
  • About 10 percent of the total population reported having poor cardiovascular health, with two or fewer heart-health factors at optimal levels.
  • In general, people living in western and New England states reported having a higher percentage of ideal cardiovascular health.
  • Those who were 65 or older reported the lowest percentage of ideal heart health, while the 35-54 age group reported the highest percentage of ideal heart health.
  • Women said they were faring better than men.
  • Whites and Asian/Pacific Islanders reported highest rates of heart health, while Blacks, Native Americans and Alaska Natives reported the worst results.
  • Those in the highest education group reported better health than the other groups.

Americans can learn more and determine their heart health score and find out about the 7 heart health factors at www.MyLifeCheck.heart.org . Read more on heart health.

Nov 30 2012
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I’m Positive—World AIDS Day Documentary

Otis Harris Jr. Otis Harris Jr.

On World AIDS Day, Saturday, December 1, I’m Positive, a new documentary produced by the Kaiser Family Foundation and MTV, will introduce three young adults living with HIV. The documentary is part of a project called GYT: Get Yourself Tested, a campaign to encourage testing for STDs, including HIV. GYT is a sexual health public information partnership between the Kaiser Family Foundation and MTV.

NewPublicHealth spoke with cast member Otis Harris, who is an HIV/AIDS peer advocate who lives in Chicago.

NewPublicHealth: How old are you and how old were you when you found out that you were HIV positive?

Otis Harris Jr.: I am 25 years old and I was 22 [when I found out I was HIV positive].

NPH: What do you wish you had known then that you know now?

Otis Harris Jr.: I wish that I could have been a little more educated about the virus and what to look for and how to protect myself. And if I would have known what I know now then I probably wouldn’t have been infected.

NPH: People have been working on HIV/AIDS education efforts for so many years now, but clearly they weren’t getting through. What are the ways in which they didn’t communicate well and how can they communicate better?

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Nov 30 2012
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Public Health News Roundup: November 30

Tomorrow, December 1, is World AIDS Day
Stopping the stigma and discrimination that can come with an HIV/AIDS diagnosis is a critical part of a recent initiative launched by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), called Facing AIDS. The goal is to encourage people who are HIV positive to share their photos, write their own messages and upload them to the online gallery. “By putting human faces to HIV/AIDS, we can help reduce the stigma around the disease and promote HIV testing,” says HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. Read more on HIV.

Suicides by Hanging or Suffocation on the Rise
Recent studies have reported on a recent increase in suicides in the United States. Now a new report by researchers from the Johns Hopkins Center for Injury Research and Policy finds that many of those suicides are done by hanging or suffocation, which increased to 26 percent of all suicides in 2010 from 19 percent in 2000. The researchers say people ages 45 to 59 are the most likely to choose hanging or suffocation as a suicide method. The study was published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. Read more on mental health.

Calorie Counts at Fast Food Restaurants Haven’t Dropped Much in the Last Decade
A new study on U.S. fast food outlets finds that the number of food options has increased by over 50 percent in the last 14 years, but that there has been little change in the average calorie counts for all food items. The researchers, from the department of public health at Temple University, say that one reason average calories haven’t dropped is that while many chains have added salads, the salads often have high-calorie dressings and fried chicken or fish. Read more on obesity.

Nov 28 2012
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Public Health News Roundup: November 28

More than Half of Young People With HIV Go Undiagnosed
About 60 percent of people ages 13 to 24 who are infected with HIV don’t even know it, according to a new Vital Signs report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The report, which comes shortly before World AIDS Day on December 1, found about 12,200 new infections in that age group in 2010. The rates were the highest for African Americans and gay and bisexual men. The high number of undiagnosed HIV cases is in part because only 35 percent of 18-24 year olds and only 13 percent of high school students have been tested. “That so many young people become infected with HIV each year is a preventable tragedy,” said CDC Director Thomas R. Frieden, MD, MPH. “All young people can protect their health, avoid contracting and transmitting the virus, and learn their HIV status.” Read more on HIV/AIDS.

Study: Whooping Cough Vaccines Weakens Over Time
The 2010 pertussis—or whooping cough—outbreak in California indicates the vaccine guarding against it weakens over time, so health officials may need to revise the vaccination schedule, according to a new report in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The outbreak killed 10 infants and sickened more than 9,000. There have been more than 36,000 cases in the United States this year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Researchers found that while the vaccine was effective when given to infants, by the time those children were 7 to 10 years of age it had weakened and left them more vulnerable to the disease. "Within the first few years, the vaccine's efficacy was around 98 percent," said Lara Misegades, study author and a CDC epidemiologist."Five or more years out, the vaccine effectiveness had dropped to about 71 percent." The DTaP vaccine also immunizes against diphtheria and tetanus. Read more on vaccines.

Court Orders Tobacco Companies to Fund a Media Campaign Admitting Deceptions
A U.S. District Court has ruled that several major tobacco companies must pay for and run a public advertising campaign admitting they spent years lying about the dangers of tobacco. The ruling is part of the case brought in 1999 by the U.S. Department of Justice. The details of the campaign are not finalized and the decision may be appealed. The media campaign, which could run for up to two years, would include messaging such as "Smoking kills, on average, 1,200 Americans. Every day." "Requiring the tobacco companies to finally tell the truth is a small price to pay for the devastating consequences of their wrongdoing," said Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, according to Reuters. Read more on tobacco.

Nov 2 2012
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Public Health News Roundup: November 2

Half of HIV Patients on Meds Skip Treatment When Drinking
A new study in the Journal of General Internal Medicine finds that about half of HIV patients taking antiretroviral medications stop taking the drugs when they drink alcohol, in part due to a mistaken fear that mixing the two is toxic. "I think it's pretty well demonstrated that alcohol use is tied to poor adherence, and I think most people think it's because they're impaired in some way or they forget... whereas here it shows they're (often) intentionally missing their medications," said Catherine Grodensky, a researcher at the Center for AIDS Research at the University of North Carolina, according to Reuters. In addition to not actually treating the disease, failure to take HIV drugs continuously can also lead to drug resistance. Read more on HIV/AIDS.

Youth Deaths from Diabetes Down Significantly Over Past Several Decades
Child and teen deaths related to diabetes have dropped by 61 percent in the last 40 years, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Potential contributing factors to the impressive decline include improved care and treatment, as well as increased awareness of symptoms that helps doctors treat the disease sooner. However, the rate increased for youth ages 10-19 between 1984 and 2009, which researchers say will require further study to explain. "Physicians need to emphasize diabetes awareness, lifestyle modification, psychological issues, and use of insulin pumps in young diabetic patients," said Spyros Mezitis, MD, an endocrinologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, who was not involved with the study. Read more on diabetes.

Study: Regular Exercise Cuts the Risk of Dementia
The risk of dementia in old age is lower for people who exercise regularly, according to a new study in the journal Stroke. Researchers looked at approximately 600 people in their 60s and 70s, finding exercise cut the risk by about 40 percent and demonstrating the importance of at least 30 minutes of exercise three times a week. "The health of the body and brain are indelibly linked, and caring well for the one benefits the other,” said David Katz, MD, director of the Yale University Prevention Research Center. “One may think that exercise is mostly about conditioning muscles, but this study suggests it is just as important for preserving a well-functioning mind." Read more on older adults.