The Star Tribune reported that Minnesota health officials are concerned by last year’s statewide increase in STDs, and at least one organization has planned a public awareness campaign to increase testing. Between 2012 and 2013, chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis rates increased, with cases going up by 4, 26, and 64 percent, respectively. The majority of cases comprised young adults between the ages of 15 and 24.
State clinic data suggest that fewer than one-third of clinic groups that report to the nonprofit Minnesota Community Measurement give chlamydia tests to more than half of young female patients who are sexually active. Other large health providers in Minnesota tested no more than 25 percent of young women for chlamydia, while rural clinics tested fewer than 10 percent.
Health officials also theorize that many youth do not seek testing because they do not want their parents or doctors to know they are sexually active, they do not recognize symptoms, or they are unaware of the risks. Several STDs have few symptoms but can cause serious, long-term health complications, including infertility and death. Most can be treated easily with antibiotics, especially if diagnosed early.
Dr. Andrew Zinkel, associate medical director for health plan quality at HealthPartners, a Bloomington-based medical provider, speculated that STD rates have increased because many youth do not realize that they are “silent carriers who can infect other people.” HealthPartners is the organization that will roll out an awareness campaign this year to remove testing stigma and encourage minorities and low-income youth to get tested. “They shouldn’t let fear, or fear of disapproval, prevent that [testing],” added Zinkel.
The Guardian reported that National Health Service (NHS) England plans to treat approximately 500 individuals with end-stage liver disease caused by hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection using the new drug sofosbuvir. Present treatments are not successful with all patients, while studies show that the new drug has cured 90 percent of people with HCV infection. Of the approximately 216,000 HCV-infected individuals in the United Kingdom, the 500 who will receive sofosbuvir treatment are seriously ill and in danger of dying; many are on a waiting list for liver transplant.
In the United Kingdom, sofosbuvir costs £34,983 per patient for the 12-week treatment program. NHS England plans to spend £18.7 million to treat the 500 cases without waiting for the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence’s (NICE) guidance. Although NICE will assess the drug this year, the government has been urged to begin using it because of the dire condition of so many individuals. The Hepatitis C Trust applauded NHS England’s decision. The trust had warned that people may die while awaiting NICE’s decision; Chief Executive Charles Gore has complained of the United Kingdom’s slow drug approval process.
James Palmer, clinical director of specialized services at NHS England, commented that the decision exemplified NHS England’s “commitment to widen access to cutting edge drugs, treatments, and therapies where both clinically appropriate and cost-effective.” NHS England expected that NICE would find the drug cost-effective compared to the cost of caring for a chronic HCV patient or a liver transplant, which can cost more than £50,000.
Medical Xpress reported on a study of HIV-positive women’s response to the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine. Dr. Erna Milunka Kojic, associate professor of medicine at the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University and the Miriam Hospital, and colleagues investigated the safety of and immune system response to the HPV vaccine in 315 HIV-positive women between the ages of 13 and 45 with varying immune levels at sites in the United States, Brazil, and South Africa.
The researchers grouped participants by CD4 cell count, an indicator of immune system health. Group A had a CD4 cell count of more than 350; Group B between 200–350; and Group C lower than 200. The participants received the vaccine Gardasil, which protects against four types of HPV––HPV 6, 11, 16, and 18. The researchers measured each group for antibodies against the four HPV types and defined success as seroconversion in approximately 70 percent of participants for each type.
Results show that the vaccine built immunity to HPV antibodies in participants and there were no serious adverse events in the 28 weeks of the study, even though participants were in treatment for other conditions. Kojic noted that participants with the weakest immune systems experienced lower seroconversion rates, but those rates were high enough to be considered successful. Kojic hoped that the results would encourage more doctors to vaccinate HIV-positive patients.
The full report, “Immunogenicity and Safety of a Quadrivalent Human Papillomavirus Vaccine in HIV-1-Infected Women,” was published online in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases (2014; doi: 10.1093/cid/ciu238).
The Augusta Chronicle reported that Georgia’s Richmond County Health Department will give TB skin tests to Hephzibah High School students, staff, and bus drivers who had direct contact with a student who recently presented with TB symptoms to a family physician. The county also will retest the close contacts in 8–10 weeks to ensure they remain TB-free.
The school held a public meeting this week for concerned parents and staff. A health department official gave a presentation at the meeting and explained to parents who demanded that the entire school body be tested that only people with close and prolonged contact with the student were at risk for contracting TB.
“Everything the health department said tonight is correct,” stated Hephzibah High School Principal Walter Reeves. “We are cooperating with the department and making sure this gets done correctly. The procedure for handling this is in place. They have done this before, and if we follow the process everything will be done effectively.” The health department official told concerned parents they could visit county medical facilities for TB testing if they still were concerned about their children’s possible exposure.
Air Force Reserve Command reported that a recent change in US Department of Defense (DoD) immunization regulations requires approximately 8,800 Air Force Reservists to receive hepatitis B virus (HBV) vaccinations. DoD now requires all service members to be immunized against HBV, and has vaccinated all new service members since 2002 as well as healthcare workers and most deployers. However, several thousand reservists remain at risk for the disease. According to the Air Force Reserve Command Surgeon General’s Office, reservists born prior to 1990 are the current focus for vaccinations. Officials said reservists have one year to complete the three-shot series. Service members may check their immunization status online by visiting the Air Force Surgeon General’s Web site at https://imr.afms.mil/imr/MyIMR.aspx.
GlobalPost reported that the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) announced on April 16 that, in buildup for the World Cup, it had named Brazilian football star David Luiz as its “International Goodwill Ambassador” to help encourage fans, especially younger ones, worldwide to participate in efforts to prevent the spread of HIV. The program also intends to target discrimination toward individuals diagnosed with HIV. According to UNAIDS Chief Michel Sidibe, the appointment of Luiz could make a powerful difference, since the player’s homeland is hosting the World Cup in June and “everyone’s eyes will be on Brazil and David will be an inspiration both on and off the pitch.” UNAIDS statistics reveal that approximately 5.4 million of the estimated 35.3 million individuals diagnosed with HIV globally are between 10–24 years of age.
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