Category Archives: HIV

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.

Oct 9 2012
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Public Health News Roundup: October 9

MRI Could Help Identify Early Signs of Heart Disease
A new MRI technique could help physicians identify the early signs of heart disease, according to a study in the journal Radiology. Researchers used time-resolved multiframe acquisition MRI to find thickening of the coronary artery wall. While they caution that further study is needed, the new technique would be a valuable tool in efforts to combat heart disease. "We currently have no reliable way to noninvasively image coronary artery disease in its early stages, when the disease can be treated with lifestyle changes and medications to lower cholesterol," said Khaled Abd-Elmoniem, MD, lead researchers and a staff scientist in the biomedical and metabolic imaging branch of the U.S. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Read more on heart health.

Study: HIV Deaths Down in Most Demographics
Deaths due to complications from HIV were down for almost all U.S. demographic groups from 1993 to 2007. The lone exception was with poor black women. White people and people with higher levels of education saw the greatest drop in death rates. Multiple factors contributed to the overall decline, including access to highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART). Researchers concluded it is important to identify at-risk people early and to provide proper care for people in the “most vulnerable groups.” The study appears in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine. Read more on HIV/AIDS.

Study: Mom’s Positive Influence Can Also Benefit Teen Child’s Friends
A mother who practices authoritative parenting with their teen child can have a multiplier effect that also improves the behavior of the teen’s friends and others, according to a study in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine. Holly Shakya, a postdoctoral research fellow with the Gates Foundation Social Networks Project at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine, said that teens with strict parenting can then spread those lessons through their social network. The study found the friends were “40 percent less likely to get drunk, 38 percent less likely to binge drink, 39 percent less likely to smoke and 43 percent less likely to smoke marijuana,” according to HealthDay. Read more on community health.

Sep 28 2012
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Public Health News Roundup: September 28

Incidents of Smoking Up In Top American Films
For the first time in five years cases of smoking were up in top box office movies in America, according to a new study in Preventing Chronic Disease Journal. The study found approximately 1,900 tobacco “incidents” in 134 films, including movies aimed at the youth market, such as “Cowboys & Aliens,” “Green Hornet” and “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1.” “Hollywood has still not fixed this problem,” said lead author Stanton A. Glantz, PhD, a professor of medicine at UCSF and director of the Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education, in a release. “The result of the increase in onscreen smoking in youth-rated films will be more kids starting to smoke and developing tobacco-induced disease.” Read more on tobacco.

ASTHO Report: $2.4 Billion Could Be Cut From FY 2013 Federal Public Health Budget
The Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO) released a new report on how the federal sequester scheduled for Jan. 2, 2013, will affect public health. Sequestration is the process of making automatic budget cuts to federal government programs. The sequester was included as a budget reduction enforcement mechanism in the Budget Control Act of 2011. It will take effect in 2013 unless Congress passes legislation to postpone it or finds other ways to reduce the federal deficit. According to the ASTHO report, these cuts could have a significant impact on public health efforts across the country:

  • Between 210,000 and 840,000 children and adults would not get vaccines to help prevent hepatitis B, influenza, measles and pertussis outbreaks.
  • Approximately 659,000 individuals in the United States would not be tested for HIV due to reductions in the availability of HIV tests.
  • More than 750,000 mothers and infants would be cut from WIC.
  • Outbreaks of foodborne disease, meningitis, pneumonia, and other conditions would be investigated more slowly or not at all.

Read more news from ASTHO.

Multifaceted Care a Big Help for At-risk HIV Patients
A new study in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases finds that multifaceted treatment—such as substance abuse treatment, case management and transportation—can improve the health and extend the lives of people with HIV. The 15-year study followed primarily poor, black patients in Baltimore and shows how multifaceted care can help patients get the most out of advanced treatments, according to the study’s authors. "Just like over time we have developed medications that are easier to take, have fewer toxicities and are more effective, I think we've done exactly the same things in our ability to deliver quality care to this particular population," said lead author Richard Moore, MD, to Reuters. Read more on HIV.

Survey Can Help Identify Early Signs of Ovarian Cancer
A two-minute, three-question survey could help physicians and patients identify early signs of ovarian cancer, according to a new study in Open Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology. The study looked for six symptoms in 1,200 women ages 40 to 87, finding 5 percent had symptoms, of which 60 percent where later diagnosed with ovarian cancer. "Recent research indicates that approximately one in 140 women with symptoms may have ovarian cancer,” said lead author M. Robyn Andersen. “Aggressive follow-up of these symptoms can lead to diagnosis when ovarian cancer can be caught earlier and more effectively treated.” Read more on cancer.

Sep 13 2012
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Public Health News Roundup: September 13

Latinos May Be More Vulnerable to Type 2 Diabetes
A new study in Diabetes Care shows Latinos are more susceptible to type 2 diabetes than other groups due to how they store fat in the pancreas and release insulin into the body. The study was conducted by Cedars-Sinai’s Heart Institute, Biomedical Imaging Research Institute and Diabetes and Obesity Research Institute. “Prevention of diabetes is our goal,” said Richard Bergman, PhD, director of the Cedars-Sinai Diabetes and Obesity Research Institute. “Not all people who are overweight or obese and who have insulin resistance go on to develop diabetes. If we can determine who is most likely to develop diabetes and why, then we can make strides toward preventing it in those individuals. Read more on diabetes.

NIH Expands Safe Infant Sleep Campaign
The National Institutes of Health is expanding its “Back to Sleep Campaign” into the “Safe to Sleep Campaign.” Where before the campaign focused on reducing sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), it will now cover all sleep-related deaths for infants in the United States. The original campaign, founded in 1994, educated parents, caregivers and health care providers on how to prevent SIDS. “In recent years, we’ve learned that many of the risk factors for SIDS are similar to those for other sleep-related causes of infant death,” said Alan E. Guttmacher, MD, Director of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD). “Placing infants on their backs to sleep and providing them with a safe sleep environment for every sleep time reduces the risk for SIDS as well as death from other causes, such as suffocation.” Read more on infant health.

HHS Releases Common Application for AIDS Drugs to Help Streamline Access for Many Patients
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has started its program to help uninsured HIV patients apply for multiple assistance programs with a single application. The Common Patient Assistance Program Application (CPAPA) is a product of HHS and seven major pharmaceutical companies and foundations. Patient Assistance Programs help approximately 30,000 people in the United States each year. “The last thing someone living with HIV wants to think about is filling out another form,” said HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. “This application streamlines and simplifies the process, reduces barriers to medication access, and speeds access to lifesaving drugs.” Read more on HIV.

USC Study Finds Marijuana May Increase the Risk of Testicular Cancer
Recreational marijuana use may increase the risk of certain types of more serious testicular cancer, according to a new study from the University of Southern California published online in CANCER. The study looked at results of recreational drug use in 163 men with the testicular cancer—the most common type of cancer in men ages 15-45—and found they were twice as likely to suffer from non-seminoma and mixed germ cell tumors. The findings support previous studies showing a link between marijuana use and testicular cancer. Read more on cancer.

Sep 6 2012
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Public Health News Roundup: September 6

NFL Gives $30 Million to NIH for Brain Injury Research
A $30-million unrestricted gift to the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health from the National Football League (NFL) will go toward research to help both athletes and the general population. While the exact nature of the research has not yet been decided, it could include studies on chronic traumatic encephalopathy, concussions and the causes of late-life neurodegenerative disorders—all areas of importance to NFL players, coaches and owners. This is the founding donation to a new Sports and Health Research Program, a program of the National Institutes of Health. “We hope this grant will help accelerate the medical community’s pursuit of pioneering research to enhance the health of athletes past, present and future,” said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. “This research will extend beyond the NFL playing field and benefit athletes at all levels and others, including members of our military.” Read more on injury prevention.

New Million Hearts Campaign to Improve High Blood Pressure
The new “Team Up. Pressure Down” initiative from the Million Hearts Campaign health education program will help Americans improve their blood pressure by arming pharmacists with educational videos, a blood pressure control journal and wallet card to track medication use. The public health collaboration includes U.S. pharmacists and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. “This valuable Million Hearts initiative will prevent heart attacks and strokes by bringing pharmacists into the care team to help patients control their blood pressure,” said Surgeon General, Regina M. Benjamin, MD. “Pharmacists are able to talk to patients and families about using medication to manage, high blood pressure, and they can also help patients address barriers to taking their medication.” Read more on heart health. Read more on heart health.

Use of Effective HIV Treatment Up in the U.S.
Use of the highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) treatment for HIV was up across the United States from 2000 through 2008, according to a new study from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health appearing in the September 4 edition of Annals of Internal Medicine. The study of more than 45,000 HIV-infected participants also found them to be less infectious and have healthier immune systems. “This is good news for the HIV epidemic in the U.S., but there is room for improvement,” said Keri N. Althoff, PhD, MPH, the study’s author and an assistant professor in the Bloomberg School’s Department of Epidemiology. “We need to continue to focus on linking HIV-infected adults into care and effective treatment, not only for the individual’s health, but to reduce the likelihood of transmission to others.” Read more on HIV.

Jul 26 2012
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Girls, with Cameras and Computers, on the Road to a Better Life

>>EDITOR'S NOTE: On 9/13/2012 CeaseFire changed its name to Cure Violence.

Mandisa Madikane, a 20-year old, HIV-positive, newly minted journalist from Soweto, South Africa, was the star at a high-wattage Washington D.C. event Wednesday night hosted by the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for Aids Relief in conjunction with the 2012 AIDS International Conference meeting this week. Her co-panelists, who spoke about empowering women to protect them from rape, poverty, discrimination and humiliation included Tom Frieden, MD, director of the Centers for Disease Control; Rajiv Shah, Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development; and Melanne Verveer, U.S. Ambassador at Large for Global Women’s Issues. Discussion was helped by a video, “Mandisa’s Story,” aired at the event. Directed by the young journalist, it tells the story of her rape by a neighbor at age six, which is how Mandisa contracted HIV.

Mandisa is one of three HIV-positive young women from South Africa covering the AIDS conference who received their journalism training through GlobalGirl Media (GGM), a non-profit that teaches teenage girls from disadvantaged communities around the world, including the U.S., to become citizen-journalists. Launched in 2010 by a group of women broadcasters and journalists, GGM teaches girls to use print, video and electronic media to tell their stories in order to build their self-esteem and champion the role of girls throughout the world. The project currently has bureaus in South Africa, Morocco, Los Angeles and one opened just this month in Chicago. “The girls who train with GGM are a family, and we all have important stories to tell,” said Evelyn Mokele, one of the South Africa journalists in Washington this week. “When I found out I was HIV positive, I almost gave up on everything. But instead of letting my status be a death-sentence, I used it as a tool to find my voice.”

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