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February 24, 2011

Get Twitter Announcements for Retroviruses Conference and Beyond - CURE4

AIDS Treatment News set up Twitter account cure4 for communication at the 18th Conference on Retroviruses (formerly called CROI), February 27 - March 2 in Boston.

Main purpose: to let activists and writers at the conference know about important events before they happen. We also tweet conference and related news. We already have 58 tweets there, 3 days before CROI begins.

Anyone can read our tweets; you do NOT need a Twitter account. Just visit Or see the latest announcements on this page, in the right-hand column.

Alternatively, you can follow cure4 on almost any mobile phone (even without a Twitter account). Just send the text message:
follow cure4
to 40404 (Twitter's U.S. short code -- see Twitter support for more info). To turn off the tweets, send:
unfollow cure4
Note that capitalization does not matter.

If you do have a Twitter account and want us to retweet conference-related events and news, then include the hashtag #cure4 in your tweet, so we can find it quickly.

Statins Might Help HIV Patients, Study Suggests

HON: "Preliminary research suggests that statins restrain the immune systems of HIV patients and may stave off progression of the AIDS-causing virus.

Although it's too soon to recommend the drug for this purpose, the findings of this small study raise the possibility that 'there might be drugs that can help adjust the immune response in HIV patients whether they're taking AIDS medications or not,' said Dr. Brian Agan, director of HIV research with the Infectious Disease Clinical Research Program at the Uniformed Services University in Bethesda, Md. He works with some of the study's authors."

U.S. & U.K political climate impacting HIV prevention

Chelsea Now: "As each speaker came to our class, a clear theme of regression began to emerge. Where once these same speakers had talked about social and contextual influences of risky sex and substance use, they now spoke of campaigns based on overly simplistic notions of individual responsibility without context or social influence. We also heard about cuts to NHS funding and a shifting of responsibilities from medical providers who have spent years learning about and treating person with HIV to clinicians who are our equivalent of general practitioners/ family clinicians, untrained in the complexities of HIV medical care."

In Kato’s Africa, USAID Money Spurred Spread of HIV Criminalization Laws

Housing Works: "A decade ago, not a single African country had a law that specifically criminalized HIV exposure. Now, at least 27 African nations punish exposure. These laws open the door for the jailing—or worse—of people with HIV who practice safer sex; mothers who transmit the virus to their children; and even those who have HIV but are undiagnosed.

"The spread of such laws is in part the result of a 2004 model law created by Action for West Africa Region-HIV/AIDS, a five-year project funded at just under $35 million by USAID.

“By funding the creation—and wide dissemination—of a ‘model’ HIV-specific law, USAID has sent mixed messages from the United States,” said Edwin Bernard, editor of HIV and the Criminal Law. “On the one hand, the model law supports human rights by criminalizing stigma and discrimination. But by using vague and imprecise language in its HIV criminalization statute it also creates fear, confusion and the further stigmatization of people living with HIV.”

February 22, 2011

Nano-sized vaccines

MIT news release: "MIT engineers have designed a new type of nanoparticle that could safely and effectively deliver vaccines for diseases such as HIV and malaria."

February 21, 2011

CDC Estimates Half of New HIV Infections Occur Among Black Americans

HIV/AIDS Clinical Care: "CDC researchers analyzed data on new HIV diagnoses from 2005 through 2008 in 37 states that had longstanding HIV surveillance systems. Although blacks made up only 14% of the population in these states, they accounted for half of the new HIV diagnoses made. Forty-five percent of the men with new diagnoses were black, as were 66% of the women."

Dr. Robert C Gallo Interview: HIV Research at a Crossroad? (Jan. 13, 2011): "Alain Lafeuillade: it looks like the terms ‘HIV sterilizing cure’ and ‘HIV functional cure’ are no longer ‘dirty’ words for scientists. What is the main gap in our knowledge about HIV persistence that should be resolved before we can envision new strategies to reach these goals?

"Robert C. Gallo:  The answer is clearly demonstrating the precise cell types that are the source of persisting HIV.  This means cells that go beyond the common memory T cells that currently are chiefly studied, and demonstrating that by so-called “purging” these cells by activation mechanisms will lead to death of these cells.  At the moment this is the assumption."

February 20, 2011

Fast online review of antiretroviral advances at CROI, March 3

ViralEd: "This 1.5-hour live Internet symposium will review and discuss the key studies on antiretroviral therapy presented at the 18th Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections. The symposium will feature five well-known and recognized thought leaders in the HIV field, with four serving as presenting faculty/discussants and one as program moderator."

Comment (JSJ): There will be many reviews of the important Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI) in Boston (Feb. 27 - March 2), most of them weeks or months later. This review has 5 top experts -- and happens on March 3, the day after the conference ends. It's free online for anyone, but you need to preregister.

I'm attending CROI, but will also watch this summary on the antiretroviral therapy advances presented there.

Positively Confined

Positively Confined [POZ blog]: "An HIV positive man incarcerated somewhere in America shares his insight and advice from behind bars."

Safety, Efficacy, and Pharmacokinetics of TBR-652, a CCR5/CCR2 Antagonist, in HIV-1-Infected, Treatment-Experienced, CCR5 Antagonist-Naive Subjects

JAIDS Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes: "Conclusions: TBR-652 caused significant reductions in HIV-1 RNA at all doses. Significant increases in MCP-1 levels suggested strong CCR2 blockade. TBR-652 was generally well tolerated with no dose-limiting AEs. PD indicate that TBR-652 warrants further investigation as an unboosted, once-daily, oral CCR5 antagonist with potentially important CCR2-mediated anti-inflammatory effects."

February 18, 2011

Most detailed 3D-model of HIV ever made

Photoblog: "The winners of the 2010 International Science and Engineering Visualization Challenge, sponsored jointly by the journal Science and the National Science Foundation, share spectacular photographs, graphics, illustrations and videos that engage viewers by conveying the complex substance of science through different art forms. This detailed 3-D model of the human immunodeficiency virus won first place in the illustration category."

February 16, 2011

Statins as Anti-inflammatory Therapy in HIV disease? — J Infect Dis

J Infect Dis: "The present study has additional limitations. Unfortunately, levels of inflammatory serum proteins, such as C-reactive protein, were not measured. Moreover, the duration of statin exposure was only 4 weeks, so it is not known whether the anti-inflammatory effects observed would be sustained with longer statin exposure.

"Unless other statins have modes of action that are different from those of high-dose atorvastatin, it seems unlikely that other statins will be found to suppress HIV replication. However, the present data suggest that statins merit evaluation over longer periods in HIV-infected adults who are receiving effective antiretroviral therapy but who have persistent T cell activation, given that ongoing inflammation in HIV-infected adults receiving therapy is associated with a greater risk of HIV disease progression and death. A very large study would probably be required to determine whether the potentially positive effects of statin therapy on inflammatory biomarkers will translate into less HIV disease progression and fewer cases of inflammatory non–AIDS-related illnesses, such as cardiovascular disease and end-stage liver disease."

Learn From Zim How To Fight HIV/AIDS

RadioVop Zimbabwe: "'The modelling showed it couldn't just be the natural curve [of the epidemic]; the decline was too dramatic,' he told IRIN/PlusNews. 'The modelling suggested it was also due to behaviour change and behavioural data also suggested a change, but what was missing was the all important `why'.'

According to Halperin, Zimbabwe's success story points to the power of social change and the need for more detailed analyses of HIV success stories in Africa. He compared it to the role of partner reduction in the fight against HIV in Uganda, which promoted a reduction in concurrent partners as the key focus of its HIV prevention campaigns in the late 1980s and early 1990s."

Stop Using Laws as Weapons Against HIV Prevention

Open Society Foundations Blog: "These stories stand beside countless others as testament that what is written in the statute books, and what is done by governments and others in the name of the law, can significantly increase the vulnerability of groups that are already at a high risk of HIV and other serious diseases. This week in Bangkok, Thailand, civil society groups that represent sex workers, drug users, men who have sex with men, people living with HIV, women and children, and those seeking access to essential medicines, will sit down with government officials and policymakers from across the Asia-Pacific region to share their experiences of how the law affects their daily lives."

Interim CDC Guidance on Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis for HIV Prevention in MSM - HIV/AIDS Clinical Care

HIV/AIDS Clinical Care: "These guidelines provide basic recommendations for clinicians who are interested in implementing PrEP based on the data that are currently available."

February 15, 2011

New Cure-Related Research: Antabuse to Flush HIV Reservoir

POZ, Feb. 8: "A new clinical trial has just gotten underway to test the ability of Antabuse (disulfiram)—a drug used for years to treat alcoholism—to flush out the hidden reservoir of HIV that evades both the immune system and antiretroviral (ARV) drugs. Though the trial will be small and isn’t seeking to cure the study participants, it could help propel HIV cure research forward."

Math Wizards Develop New HIV Drug Candidates

POZ, Feb. 9: "Using a blend of high-level math and chemical engineering, a team of researchers at Princeton University has discovered several new drugs that their colleagues at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore say are potent against HIV. Their process for finding new drugs against diseases, outlined in a paper published online November 17 in Biophysical Journal, could significantly speed up the laborious task of searching for and testing promising chemical compounds."

February 14, 2011

Sutherlandia plant begins HIV drug safety trials

SciDev.Net: "A traditional medicine that may relieve symptoms in AIDS patients is to undergo safety and efficacy tests in South Africa.

"The department of science and technology (DST) has awarded 10 million rand (US$1.4 million) for the study of Sutherlandia frutescens, which is often called the 'cancer bush' and is credited with wide-ranging powers to alleviate symptoms.

"The phase IIb trial will be conducted at the University of the Western Cape's South African Herbal Science and Medicine Institute (SAHSMI), which has been conducting scientific and clinical studies on the plant for seven years."

HIV Protection Without Circulating Blood Antibodies

Biomed Middle East: "New research shows that protective immunity against HIV can be achieved without the presence of virus neutralizing antibodies in the blood. The study, published by Cell Press in the February issue of the journal Immunity, demonstrates that a vaccine which stimulates production of specific anti-HIV antibodies in the vaginal tissue was sufficient to protect monkeys from exposure to live virus. The results may also help to explain why a few individuals who lack anti-HIV antibodies in the blood are able to resist infection, even when they are repeatedly exposed to HIV. ...

"We may have been able to recapitulate in a vaccine what a few individuals do naturally."


The AIDS Institute: "'While there is a waiting list of over 6,000 people in ten states to receive lifesaving AIDS medications from the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP), and thousands more are being removed from the program, the House Republican spending proposal will seriously exasperate the crisis,' added Schmid. Low income people with HIV/AIDS were counting on an increase of at least $65 million, including continuation of $25 million that state ADAPs received this summer to help reduce the waiting lists. 'Not only did the House Republicans erase any funding increase, they failed to continue to fund the $25 million in FY11 and, in effect, will be taking away medications from people. If we have long wait lists now, just imagine what the situation will be like next year with no increases in funding,' he added. Access to early quality care and treatment keep people with HIV/AIDS healthy and free from opportunistic infections, resistance to medications, and away from expensive emergency rooms.

"'With over 56,000 new HIV infections annually in the U.S., now is not the time to cut CDC’s prevention funding,' said Michael Ruppal, Executive Director of The AIDS Institute. 'We only spend 3 percent of our federal HIV spending on prevention. Cutting CDC’s budget by 15 percent and prohibiting scientifically proven effective prevention programs, such as syringe exchange, will lead to even more HIV infections,' he added. The bill even goes as far as preventing the District of Columbia, a place with one of the highest rates of HIV in the country, from spending its own money on syringe exchange programs. It is far more cost-effective to invest in prevention now rather than paying for care and treatment later. Preventing one infection will save approximately $355,000 in lifetime medical costs. Preventing all the new 56,000 cases in just one year would translate into an astounding $20 billion in lifetime medical costs.

"The proposal authored by the House Republicans cuts research funding at the National Institutes of Health by over $1.6 billion. Investing in HIV research will help in the discovery of new medications, new tools in the prevention of HIV, including vaccines, and ultimately a cure. 

"The bill cuts over $500 million from the U.S. historic humanitarian commitment to treating and preventing HIV in the poorest countries in the world, where the economic downturn has crippled economies and their people. "

February 13, 2011

Africa: U.S. Seeks to Cut Costs in Sustained War Against HIV/Aids "Goosby said that PEPFAR has a special focus on children.

"'In the last year alone, we have been able to prevent 114,000 transmissions to children during pregnancy of HIV-positive mothers,' he said, adding that 3.8 million vulnerable children are cared for by PEPFAR programs. 'From birth until they are 18 years old, we feed them, clothe them, house them, educate them, train them for jobs and turn them loose, and we have a case management relationship with them as they go into young adulthood. This is a remarkable example of the American people's tax dollars having a high impact to stabilize lives and save lives, stabilize communities and stabilize countries.'"

February 12, 2011

Chinese AIDS activist jailed for criminal damage "Tian has campaigned for compensation to be given to thousands of Chinese who contracted HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, through blood transfusions.

"He was told shortly before his arrest that local authorities had demanded he be detained, according to China's Aizhixing Association for the Fight Against AIDS.

"Tian had worked for the group, helping to uncover a scandal over the trafficking of blood in the 1990s in Henan Province, which led to more than 150,000 people becoming infected with HIV."

Fear factor in Aids breakthrough

Times LIVE, Zimbabwe: "'Given the continuing, and worrying, trend for high HIV/Aids infection rates in many sub-Saharan African countries, we felt it was important to understand why the disease has taken such a dramatic downturn in Zimbabwe. Very few other countries around the world have seen reductions in HIV infection and of all African nations, Zimbabwe was thought least likely to see such a turnaround. This is why there was such an urgent need to understand its direct and underlying causes,' said Professor Simon Gregson, who was part of the research team based at the School of Public Health at Imperial College London. ...

"Zimbabwe had one of the highest HIV/Aids rates in the world over a decade ago. But these infection rates have been halved from 29% in 1997 to 16% in 2007. This happened amid massive social, political and economic instability. In 2003 Zimbabwe was estimated to have 1.8-million people infected out of a population of 12-million.

"The study further stated that the difficult economic environment played a key role in ensuring that men reduced the number of multiple concurrent partners, as this meant digging more into their wallets."

Big Pharma shows willingness to pool HIV and Aids drug patents "Not long ago there were those who doubted whether the Geneva-based Medicines Patent Pool would manage to persuade any of the big pharmaceutical companies that it was a reasonable idea to allow their patents on Aids drugs to be 'pooled'. Unitaid, which works to improve access to medicines in developing countries and set it up, argued long and hard that the pool was necessary. It would allow generic manufacturers in countries like India and China to make legitimate cheap combinations of some of today's advanced HIV medicines. Cheap new combinations are going to be vital in the fight to keep millions alive in the developing world as HIV inevitably develops resistance to the basic drugs now available in poor countries.

"But today, two months after sending out letters inviting the major makers of Aids drugs to get involved, the patent pool announced that it is in negotiations or preparing to enter negotiations with F. Hoffman-La Roche, Gilead Sciences, Sequoia Pharmaceuticals, and ViiV Healthcare (a joint venture of GlaxoSmithKline and Pfizer). The big surprise for the sceptics is Viiv."

Sangamo's Bet Against AIDS: Gene Therapy

BusinessWeek: "Timothy Brown may be the only person cured of AIDS. Brown, who lives in San Francisco, in 2007 received a stem-cell transplant in Berlin that transferred genetic material to him from one of the up to 2 percent of humans with a natural immunity to the disease. He has been off treatment since then, and no traces of the AIDS virus have been found in his body, says his hematologist, Gero Hütter, now with the German Red Cross in Mannheim. His case has encouraged tiny Sangamo BioSciences (SGMO) to develop a new form of gene therapy that could offer others the same result."

February 7, 2011

PEPFAR’s Smart Investments to Save More Lives: Efficiencies, Innovation, Impact

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE: "On Thursday, February 10, 2011, PEPFAR will hold a one-day forum entitled “PEPFAR’s Smart Investments to Save More Lives: Efficiencies, Innovation, Impact.” The meeting will spotlight PEPFAR’s work to gain greater impact and efficiency through smart investments in programs working to save lives from HIV/AIDS. The discussion will build upon PEPFAR’s ongoing efforts to maximize the impact of every dollar spent."

Note: Draft agenda at

Race, Sex, and Clinical Outcomes in Early HIV Infection

HIV/AIDS Clinical Care: "Of all the groups analyzed, nonwhite women in the South had the highest rate of HIV/AIDS-related events (81%).

"Comment: The data presented in this paper open the door for further investigation into the influence of biology on the course of HIV infection. However, removing sociodemographic barriers to optimal care will likely have a much greater impact on outcomes than understanding biological determinants of progression and response to treatment."

February 5, 2011

Simple life changes could stop millions of cancers

Reuters: "About a third of all common cancers in the United States, China and Britain could be prevented each year if people ate healthier food, drank less alcohol and exercised more, health experts said on Friday."

February 4, 2011

Mouse hormone trial raises hopes for HIV cure

ABC Australia: "MARC PELLEGRINI: If we treat those mice with interleukin therapy we can actually clear this virus which is really quite overwhelming in the mice and is never cleared.

"So if we have two cohorts of mice, one given a placebo, those mice never clear the infection and it really overwhelms the immune system and the immune system succumbs to the disease.

"Whereas in the mice that are treated with interleukin-7 for three weeks we can actually effect the cure such that the virus is actually eliminated from their blood and from most of their, or indeed all of their organs like the lung and the brain which are sort of reservoirs for that particular virus in the mice.

"SIMON LAUDER: Does it follow that the same therapy could be used to clear HIV in humans?

"MARC PELLEGRINI: It would certainly follow that the same therapy could be used to boost immunity in HIV and either better control or perhaps even cure HIV in the long term."

Note: Technical abstract at

February 2, 2011

Florida Avoids HIV Medication Crisis: Welvista Agrees to Provide Free Drugs Until April 1 - Miami News - Riptide 2.0

Miami New Times - Riptide 2.0: "Roughly a week before Florida was set to exhaust all funding for its life-saving AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP), non-profit pharmacy Welvista has agreed to help the cash-strapped state by providing poor Floridians with free anti-retroviral medications.

"As we wrote last week, the funding snafu threatened to disrupt treatment for over 10,000 state residents who can't afford HIV medications. Now approximately 6,500 ADAP recipients will be covered until state funds kick in on April 1. But activists who helped negotiate the deal warn that it's a temporary fix.

"None of us are happy with the Florida fiasco," said Lynda Dee, a spokesperson for the Fair Pricing Coalition, which helped broker the deal.
In fact, the donated meds just reduce the number for other HIV patients, such as those already stuck on an ADAP waiting list, she said in a statement issued Tuesday afternoon. The real answer, Dee argued, was more funding for the drug program.

"We clearly recognize this is a one-time, emergency rescue of a program that cannot be repeated or duplicated by Florida or any other state," she said. "We therefore implore the federal government and all state governments, especially Florida, to provide adequate funding to state ADAPs to meet the medication needs of its uninsured people living with HIV."

Open Access and the developing world | Improving access

Biomed Central "Open access to the results of scientific and medical research has potential to play an important role in international development, and this conference will discuss the benefits of open access publishing in an African context, from the perspective of both readers seeking access to information, and researchers seeking to globally communicate the results of their work."

Comment: The conference occurred in Nairbi in November 2010, and videos of the presentations are now online.

Senate GOP To Attach Health Care Repeal As Amendment to FAA Reauthorization Bill

The Note -- "Now the GOP is poised to push Democrats into allowing a full repeal vote. In the past few days Democrats have touted the FAA reauthorization as the “first jobs bill” of the new Congress & said it would save or create an estimated 280,000 jobs"

Comment: Republicans are trying to repeal the whole healthcare reform bill, by tying it to jobs legislation in the Senate.

WIPO, WTO to hold 2nd technical symposium on patents, access to medicines

World Trade Organization: "World Health Organization (WHO), World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and World Trade Organization (WTO) will hold a technical symposium on “Access to Medicines, Patent Information and Freedom to Operate” on 18 February 2011 at the World Health Organization in Geneva. Before this second in a series of joint symposiums, an optional workshop on “Patent searches and freedom to operate” will be offered on 17 February 2011."

Flaw in induced-stem-cell model

Nature News: "Medical researchers' hopes of replacing politically fraught embryonic stem (ES) cells with stem cells derived from adult tissues have suffered a setback. ...patterns of epigenetic changes — alterations that affect gene expression without changing the DNA sequence — tell a different story about iPS cells, a team led by Joseph Ecker, a molecular geneticist at the Salk Institute in La Jolla, California, reports online in Nature this week."

Tough on truth

Nature : Nature Publishing Group: "'Fraud plagues global health fund,' screamed the title of an article published last month by the Associated Press ...

"The reputation of the fund — which by its own estimates saved more than 4.9 million lives by 2009 — has been unfairly tarnished, and its fund-raising efforts perhaps hampered at a time when the economic crisis is already making donors reconsider the size of their contributions.

When it comes to being transparent over problems of corruption in recipient countries the Global Fund has been far better than most aid donors or agencies"

State of Florida to Move 6,000 People From Life Saving AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP)

The AIDS Institute: "Tampa, FL – In an unprecedented move in the treatment of HIV/AIDS in the United States, the State of Florida is finalizing a plan to move 6,000 low-income people from its AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP).  The Florida ADAP program currently serves about 10,000 people across the state but officials say they only have enough money left to support roughly 3,500 patients until April 1, 2011 when new federal dollars are expected.

“This is devastating,” stated Michael Ruppal, Executive Director of The AIDS Institute. “Efforts to fill the financial gap from additional state or federal sources have yielded nothing. We are in a perfect storm with the loss of jobs and health insurance, increased infections and increased diagnoses through expanded testing programs, while at the same time State and Federal governments are cutting their budgets.” Ruppal continued, “We are risking peoples’ lives with the potential of treatment interruptions that dramatically increase their chances of becoming resistant to the same drugs that are currently saving their lives.”

"ADAP’s provide HIV-related medications to uninsured and under-insured people living with HIV/AIDS or about one-quarter of the people with HIV/AIDS estimated to be receiving care in the U.S. ADAP is part of the Ryan White HIV/AIDS program, which is funded by both federal and state resources. Receiving medications daily is critical to effective AIDS treatment."