HIV Prevention Pill Now Available

HIV Infected H9 T-Cell, photo by niiaid

HIV Infected H9 T-Cell, photo by niiaid

ATLANTA, Georgia -- An HIV prevention pill is recommended by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) for those at risk for contracting HIV.  The pill, called pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP, brand name Truvada), works by lowering the amount of the virus circulating in a person's bloodstream.  It has already been used as part of some HIV/AIDS treatment plans, but recently has been approved as a prevention method as well.

Each year in the United States, there are 50,000 new cases of HIV. Currently there are about 1.1 million people in the US who are living with HIV.  PrEP trials have shown that users of the pill can reduce their chance of contracting HIV by up to 92%.

Naysayers of the pill claim that with increased availability of Truvada, at-risk individuals will be less careful with other methods. Dissenters also say that it will be hard for people to remember to take the one-a-day pill.

However, supporters say that there is no evidence that the availability of the pill will lead people to neglect other methods of HIV prevention. The CDC says that for various reasons, there are many at-risk people who have not been using condoms or who do not use condoms correctly. PrEP will provide another option for these people.

A three-city initial trial of the pill showed that 98% of subjects involved had some amount of the drug in their system at the end of the trial period -- disproving fears that people will forget to consistently take the daily dosage.

PrEP, which currently costs about $13,000 a year and is covered by most insurance companies, is not recommended for everyone. Its target group is people who are at a substantial risk for HIV, such as someone with a partner who has tested positive for an HIV, people not engaged in mutually monogamous relationships, people who practice anal sex without regular condom use and people who inject drugs under potentially unsanitary conditions.

Currently a vaccine version of PrEP is being tested in monkeys.  This injectable version would have the convenience of giving several months worth of protection.

Saudi Arabia Blames Camels for MERS Outbreak in US


Allyson Cartwright, Contributing JournalistLast Modified: 20:24 p.m. DST, 14 May 2014

Riyadh Camel Market, Photo by Charles Roffey SAUDI ARABIA, Riyadh— A second case of an American infected with the MERS virus has been confirmed in Orlando, Florida. As MERS breaches the US border, death tolls of those infected with the virus in Saudi Arabia continue to rise. MERS originated in Saudi Arabia, where they claim that camels are the source of the pathogen that causes the respiratory virus.

There are near 500 diagnosed cases of MERS—short for Middle East Respiratory Syndrome— in Saudi Arabia alone. The Saudi health ministry reports that half of these MERS victims were diagnosed in April of this year. According to Ahram Online, the death toll of MERS victims in Saudi Arabia stands at 121 deaths, four of those within the last week.

The Saudi Ministry of Agriculture has issued a state public health through the official Saudi Press Agency. They urge people who are handling animals to “exercise caution and follow preventive measures”. This kind of warning has not come from Saudi officials since the MERS virus was discovered in 2012. Health experts conclude that the most dangerous animals to handle are camels, a vital livestock for the nomadic culture of Saudi Arabia.

The Ministry of Agriculture suggests when dealing with camels, "It is advisable to wear protective gloves, especially when dealing with births or sick or dead.” The National Turk says that the ministry has also warned that any camel milk should be boiled and camel meat thoroughly cooked before consumption. Also, gloves and face masks should be worn when handling animals or coming in contact with infected people. Despite the link between the MERS pathogen and camels, ABC News says that scientists do not know how the virus is spreading from the animal to people.

There is international concern as the virus is spreading globally. The hajj, the pilgrimage of Muslims to the Saudi cities of Mecca and Medina, will be occurring in this fall as well as during the Ramadan holy month of July. The large numbers of people, estimated at two to five million, will be travelling to Saudi Arabia from all over the world and putting themselves at risk of MERS infection. Some countries have even considered imposing travel restrictions to Saudi Arabia.

In Egypt, where their first case of MERS was diagnosed this April, there is deliberation on banning pilgrims from participating in the Hajj. Ahram Online reports that former Egyptian health minister and member of the special task force for the MERS virus, Mohammed Awad Tag El-Din, said if the “epidemic status of the virus and its development” gets worse then travel restrictions will be considered.

The World Health Organization (WHO) conducted a 5-day mission to the kingdom of Saudi Arabia to evaluate the outbreak of the virus. WHO determined that they “recommend the application of any travel or trade restrictions, including for upcoming pilgrimage travel to Saudi Arabia.”

NBC News reports that 17 countries, mostly on the Arabian Peninsula, currently have cases of infected individuals. Countries that have reported MERS infections include Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, the United States and several countries in Europe. NBC News also say that with Dubai being the world’s busiest airport and the Middle East’s growing role in international trade, the MERS virus could eventually have economic implications that go beyond its dangers to health.

Follow Allyson on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Contributing Journalist: @allysoncwright

Fowl Play? China to Serve as Middleman in Chicken Processing for American Consumers


WASHINGTON, DC - In case you were looking for another reason to try a vegetarian diet, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) will likely allow the exportation of U.S. grown chickens to China for processing and packaging.

China's limited food regulations have tarnished the nation's reputation in terms of food safety. While seafood sold throughout the world is commonly prepared in Chinese butcheries, many Americans are alarmed that the USDA would oversee the outsourcing of even more raw foodstuffs.

While American butchers and processors earn around $11 an hour for their work, their Chinese counterparts earn $2 at best. Beyond the apparent human rights implications, Americans should also question the final product.

Unless the USDA reverses their decision, the poultry that ordinary Americans will soon consume will have made a round trip of over 14,000 miles. All the while, it will be exposed to undocumented risks and unknown contaminants.

Health and capitalism are often at odds throughout the United States. The shortcomings of the fast food industry have been the subject of nationwide media attention in recent years. ABC News educated the American people about the use of "pink slime" in beef products in 2012, alerting the public that ammonia was commonly used to sanitize the bacteria-ridden ingredient. Since then, many corporations have pledged to discontinue the unsafe practice. By informing consumers about the dangers of the USDA's plans to cut chicken costs, activists hope that people will vote against the measure with their purchasing dollar.

A major problem with the USDA's plans is that Americans would be unable to discern meat processed domestically from meat sent abroad. The Chinese government's lax oversight into food production is a continued problem. In 2008, hundreds of thousands of Chinese civilians became sick from milk that included dangerous adulterants. The same agents found their way into baby formula, forcing over 50,000 children to seek medical treatment. Six would later die from the contaminants.

A similar story reached international headlines in 2012. The Inner Mongolia Yili Industrial Group, a Chinese top-producer in the dairy industry, was forced to recall thousands of baby formula units after testing showed signs of mercury contamination. While the incident is disturbing in its own right, the response of the Chinese government exacerbated the issue.

The Republic censured reports of the Yili mercury scare to ease concerns and protect the name of the corporation. This approach is reckless, and prioritized money interests over the awareness about the serious and ongoing health risk. While government's lack of foresight in terms of health standards is regrettable, their ongoing censorship is far worse than the original indiscretion.

The inclusion of Chinese processed chicken in the American diet would be a seeming step backwards in a country vying to source higher quality meat into school cafeterias, drive-through establishments and high-scale chains alike. The benefits are far outweighed by the potential dangers, as quick-fix business dealings will do little to help our consumers or domestic meat processors. While our capitalist economy is naturally concerned with the bottom-line, the unscrupulous actions of the Chinese government could return mainstream American cuisine to the former trajectory of "pink-slime," or worse.

Follow Michael on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Senior Correspondent: @MAndrewRansom

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So You Love Me? Use The FDA HIV Test Kit


Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 00:57 AM EDT, 16 May 2012

AIDS Awareness, Photo by CancerdotscWASHINGTON, DC – David Morgan of Reuters UK first broke the news that the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is considering approval of an over-the-counter home HIV test kit. If approved, the test could further empower sexually active men and women, by arming them with a tool to quickly determine the HIV status of their partner.

However, other than abstinence, there is nothing which can provide 100% protection against contracting the HIV virus that causes AIDS. Although the FDA is considering various drugs and vaccines which could prevent the virus from proliferating if someone is exposed, this is an unlikely near-term solution.

By contrast, the over-the-counter HIV test is on the verge of approval despite criticisms about the potential accuracy of the test as well as the lack of governmental oversight. Similar to a home pregnancy test which is self-administered using urine, the home HIV test kit will use a mouth swab to gather saliva which is then tested. However, in both tests any number of factors could alter the accuracy of the outcome.

Usually, a false negative or positive is the result of administering the test incorrectly, but in the case of pregnancy, a false negative is not a life threatening miscalculation. By contrast, a false negative HIV test could have calamitous effects for the individual and each of their subsequent partners. The current home HIV test kits require a drop of blood which is securely packaged and sent to a certified medical testing lab for analysis and results.

There are many reasons why people would prefer to take the test in private. They are in complete control of the results of the tests and don’t have to inform anyone of their status. In some American states, when an individual is tested by their physician or at a public clinic, if it is determined that they are infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, these results are reported to the State Health Department.

This becomes public knowledge and it is incumbent upon the individual to inform their sexual partners or risk legal action should someone contract the virus because of their duplicity. Additionally, the home HIV test kit would eliminate the ability for the medical and healthcare community to track the results or accurately gauge the rate of increase or decrease of the spread of AIDS.

For at least 30 years AIDS awareness campaigns have been aggressively promoted by public and private health organizations, so this option for self-diagnosis seems to be the next logical step in the fight against this pandemic. The Centers of Disease Control (CDC) estimates that there are about 1 in 5 people with HIV who are sexually active but don't know they are infected.

For information about HIV Counseling and Testing: Facts, Issues, and Answers click here.

The UNAIDS 2008 Report on the Global AIDS Epidemic estimates that young people aged 15 to 24 accounted for 45 percent of all new HIV infections. Today’s youth are much more comfortable discussing birth control options with their partners and this test may further empower them in their self-protective efforts.

Though it is true that some unethical individuals may utilize the test but not disclose the results, or use the test on an unsuspecting sexual partner and disclose an incorrect diagnosis of this individual’s status to the community; the benefits far outweigh these risks.

Many young people have lost their virginity, their health, and their lives to the promise of everlasting love in a moment of passion. Both men and women can recall at least one youthful indiscretion in which they compromised their health through the denial of the possibility that what has happened to other people could happen to them. Almost everyone can recall at least one episode of sweet, cajoling murmurs, “If you loved me you would let me do it…”

To which we can now respond, “I do love you, so in addition to a condom, please use this kit.”