Fusion reported this week about a new bill to be introduced to the US Senate that will encourage the review of state laws on HIV criminalization. Thirteen states have laws that make biting or spitting a felony if the perpetrator has HIV, although CDC stated years ago that HIV cannot be transmitted via saliva. Additionally, 32 states and two territories have other laws pertaining to transmitting HIV between people.
Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) will introduce the “Repeal HIV Discrimination Act” next Monday. It is the same bill that Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) introduced last May. The legislation will encourage state governments to analyze laws that were put into place in the early years of the AIDS epidemic, which bill supporters claim were based on fear.
“Rather than recognizing that HIV/AIDS is a treatable medical condition, these laws perpetuate the idea that HIV is a deadly weapon and people with HIV/AIDS are dangerous criminals," Coons said. He continued that "Our laws need to catch up to our science, and this bill would take an important step in that direction.”
Dozens of countries followed the United States in placing HIV laws on the books. According to a 2010 report by the Global Network of People Living with HIV (GNP+), 24 countries have convicted at least 600 HIV-positive people. A 2012 University of Michigan study found most US convictions are men of color with female partners. The Center for HIV Law and Policy found that “the outcomes that are known often involve draconian penalties, including prison sentences that reach 25 years or more, even when no transmission of HIV occurred.”
Currently, 34 sponsors and more than 150 organizations endorse the bill, including the ACLU, Human Rights Campaign, and the American Psychological Association.
New Straits Times reported on the use of social media to curb HIV/AIDS in Malaysia. Data from the Malaysia Health Ministry indicate that 31 percent of the 3,438 new HIV cases in the country in 2012 were among 13–29-year-olds. In 1990, women accounted for one in every 100 new infections, compared with one in every four new cases (25 percent) in 2012. To help prevent HIV transmission, Durex Malaysia created the #SOMEBODYLIKEME campaign.
The campaign has partnered with PT Foundation and AIESEC Malaysia to educate youth through social media and make them aware that HIV/AIDS can infect anyone, even “somebody like me.” The campaign reaches out to youth to educate and discuss issues about HIV/AIDS using Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and blogs. The organizers have involved prominent Malaysians in social media and have produced videos featuring some of them for YouTube and Facebook as alternative educational tools to inform young people of the dangers of HIV/AIDS.
In addition to the awareness program, Durex and certain retailers are raising funds to support PT Foundation’s AIDS advocacy and educational programs. The organizers also believe that education through the campaign would help youth understand their responsibility as agents of change and encourage them to work toward ending stigma and discrimination against persons with HIV.
The campaign appeals to youth to fight HIV/AIDS by educating friends about the disease. To do so, the campaign asks young people to update their Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, or blogs on issues pertaining to HIV and use #SOMEBODYLIKEME until December 15 when the campaign ends.
To learn more about the #SOMEBODYLIKEME campaign, visit www.facebook.com/DurexMalaysia, www.twitter.com/DurexMY, www.youtube.com/user/durexmalaysia, or PT Foundation’s Web site at www.ptfmalaysia.org.
The Boston Globe reported that HIV has rebounded in two patients whom doctors had declared virus-free after having bone marrow transplants. Dr. Timothy Henrich, an infectious diseases associate physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, announced the preliminary findings at an international conference of AIDS researchers in Florida. Henrich explained that he released the findings prior to analyzing the results to notify others in the field as soon as possible.
Both patients had been HIV-positive for years and had received chemotherapy and other treatments as well as bone marrow transplants for Hodgkin’s lymphoma. They had agreed to stop using antiretrovirals to determine whether the drugs were responsible for the undetectable levels of HIV or whether the bone marrow transplant had fought off the virus. In July, after seven weeks without antiretirovirals for one patient and 15 weeks for the other, researchers reported no trace of virus. However, in August researchers detected HIV in one patient who resumed treatment, while the other patient chose to stay off medication. In November, after eight months of undetectable HIV, the second patient showed signs of the virus and the patient resumed treatment.
Henrich commented that the return of the virus meant that HIV has reservoirs hidden deeper in the body and that it is more persistent than realized. He suggested that researchers investigate deeper in other tissues such as the liver, intestines, and brain, for virus, but he acknowledged the difficulty and infrequency of removing tissue from these places.
An American patient, known as the “Berlin patient,” who received a bone marrow transplant for leukemia in Germany in 2009, seems to have been cured of HIV. This patient’s bone marrow transplant was from a donor with a rare gene mutation known as CCR5-delta32, which is believed to be resistant to HIV.
Henrich and colleagues are reviewing data to determine why one patient remained virus-free months longer than the other. The researchers plan to extend the study, enroll more HIV-infected individuals who have had bone marrow transplants, and search for signs of virus in additional tissues before allowing patients to stop their antiretrovirals.
An article in the Daily Titan reported on “Getting to Zero,” an event at California State University, Fullerton in honor of World AIDS Day. The event, sponsored by a handful of student and advocacy organizations, aimed to show that students can be both sexually active and stay healthy.
The event was a collaboration between the Peer Health University Network (PHUN), Student Health, the Associated Students Inc., the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Queer Center, the WoMen’s Center, and the AIDS Services Foundation (ASF). The event emphasized campus resources and ASF offered free HIV testing to all students. Patrick Avendano, PHUN sexual health chair, coordinated the event. “My main priority was to get as many people tested as I could,” Avendano said.
Other tables included: how the use of alcohol and drugs can increase risk of unhealthy and unsafe behavior; a display of female and male reproductive organs models; HIV myths, stigmas, and stereotypes; and demonstrations on how to put on a condom correctly. “A lot of students don’t know that there are actual steps on how to put on a condom,” said Yoanna Sahle, a 22-year-old health science major. “Some are too shy to do it, but we really try and encourage them…to try and practice and get it right.”
Skits by the Alcohol and Other Drugs committee highlighted different scenarios if someone tests positive for HIV. “I really enjoyed our skits and our guest speaker,” said PHUN Co-advisor Kerri Boyd. “It was really nice to have an HIV-positive person share their story and encourage others to get tested and just to understand more about HIV."
WALB News 10 recently reported that Dougherty County, Ga., health officials are encouraging increased HIV/AIDS education during the month of December since they believe it is crucial to cutting transmission of the virus. Zanora Sanders of the Dougherty County Health Department said that removing the stigma and providing a comfortable learning environment is important and the earlier individuals are tested, the greater the chance of staying ahead of the virus. According to the Georgia Department of Public Health, the state recorded more than 46,000 HIV diagnoses last year; approximately half of these individuals were receiving some form of treatment. Those who are interested in testing can call and arrange an appointment with their local health district, which provides free and confidential testing with results in 20 minutes or fewer.
MLT News reported that the public is invited to review the Edmonds, Wash., School District’s sexual education and disease prevention curriculum on December 11 from 4:00 to 7:30 p.m. at the Educational Service Center, 20420 68th Avenue West in Lynnwood, Wash. State law requires that schools teach sexual education and disease prevention to all grade 5–12 students each year. Teachers use two state-approved programs to teach about HIV/AIDS, STDs and their prevention, as well as the reproductive system, growth and development, and conception. The public also can review the curriculum materials by contacting teachers or Robin Sloate at firstname.lastname@example.org or (425) 431–7145.
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