Tag: hiv infections

Bioethics Blogs

A Reflection on Blood Donation Policy in Canada

Landon J. Getz reflects on the current sexual abstention period within Canada for blood donations by men who have sex with men.

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Driving through Halifax during pride week, I noticed a Pride advertisement on the back of a city bus. It noted a headline from a Global News article titled: Canada’s limitations on gay blood donations ‘ridiculous’: HIV researchers. Currently, in Canada, men who have sex with men are prohibited from donating blood if they have had sex with a man in the year prior to their donation. Even though many LGBTQ advocates and HIV researchers are saying this deferral period on blood donation by men who have had sex with men is ‘ridiculous,’ Canadian Blood Services and Health Canada do not seem to agree. Approximately one year ago, the current 1-year deferral period policy replaced a 5-year deferral period. The anniversary of this policy change marks an opportunity to reflect on Canada’s blood donation policy and what it means for the LGBTQ community.

Historically, bans, deferral periods, and restrictions on blood donation by gay/bisexual men have been rooted in fear of harming patients by exposing them to contaminated blood. HIV was discovered in 1983, and from there new methods of diagnosis were discovered. Unfortunately, this did not stop HIV-infected blood from entering the blood supply, leading to what is known today as the “Tainted Blood Scandal.” Consequently, roughly 2000 Canadians were exposed to HIV via blood products in the early 1980s. However, a lack of policy and proper diagnostic testing procedures played important roles in this problem.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics News

Massive Drop in London HIV Rates May Be Due to Internet Drugs

Four London sexual health clinics saw dramatic falls in new HIV infections among gay men of around 40 per cent last year, compared with 2015, new figures show. This decline may be mostly due to thousands of people buying medicines called pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), which cut the chance of catching the virus, online

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

Leadership. Commitment. Hype. December 1, 2016 Today is World AIDS Day. It is, in fact, the …

December 01, 2016

by Sean Philpott-Jones, Chair, Bioethics Program of Clarkson University & Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai

Leadership. Commitment. Hype.

Today is World AIDS Day. It is, in fact, the 29th annual World AIDS Day, which is held every year on December 1st to honor the 35 million people who have died from the disease and to support the 40 million who currently live with HIV/AIDS. The theme for this year’s event, at least according to the US federal government? “Leadership. Commitment. Impact.” You’ll have to excuse me if I scoff openly at the audacity of that motto.

Let’s consider the leadership and commitment of our politicians in fighting HIV/AIDS. When AIDS was first identified in 1981, it was seen as a disease that primarily affected socially marginalized populations, notably gay men, injection drug users and immigrants from poor Caribbean countries like Haiti. As long as it was confined to those ‘undesirable’ groups, there was no need for upstanding American citizens to pay it much heed. Following the lead of then-President Ronald Reagan – who didn’t even mention the word ‘AIDS’ publicly until 1985, and then only sparingly — politicians and other members of his conservative administration largely ignored the looming public health crisis.

American leadership failed when it was needed the most, by refusing to tackle the nascent AIDS crisis with measures like comprehensive education, blunt messaging and active promotion and widespread distribution of condoms. Had federal officials not been so afraid of ruffling conservative feathers, it is entirely possible that the HIV/AIDS epidemic might have be thwarted then and there.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics News

Needle Exchanges, Once Met with Fierce Resistance, Are Working

December 1, 2016

(STAT News) – New data released by federal health officials Tuesday further demonstrated the value of needle exchanges, suggesting they had contributed to a major reduction in new HIV infections among people who inject drugs. But the report also included some warnings. There aren’t enough needle exchanges or clean needles being supplied, and few drug users use only sterile syringes, researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found. Plus, changes in the demography and geography of drug users suggest problems to come.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics News

Controversy swirls around AIDS drug in UK

When a conservative Christian journalist writes a story about a highly-praised AIDS drug headlined “Killing Grandma for Gay sex” and an AIDS activist describes it as a “profit-driven sex toy for rich Westerners”, you know that you’ve uncovered an ethical controversy.

This month the UK’s National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) issued a published an evidence summary on the use of Truvada, a lucrative Gilead drug for HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). In a number of other countries, Truvada has already been rolled out as a way of keeping gay men safe from infection with HIV. If taken every day, it prevents infection – a kind of pharmaceutical condom.

The controversy in the UK is not so much over whether it works, but whether it should be government funded. “There is little doubt that Truvada is effective in reducing HIV acquisition in high-risk people who are HIV-negative,” says the NICE advice.. “However, issues relating to uptake, adherence, sexual behaviour, drug resistance, safety, prioritisation for prophylaxis and cost-effectiveness are also important to consider, especially at a population level.

In August, the High Court ruled that the UK’s National Health Service had to supply Truvada because children with cystic fibrosis, amputees and blood cancer victims could be disadvantaged. It would cost the NHS up to £20 million a year. Outraged critics said that the money would be better spent on treatments for sick people rather than healthy people engaging in risky behavior.

On a public health level, there are concerns about whether the men could commit to taking the drug regularly.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

The Politics of HIV

Harry Critchley argues that laws and policies can contribute to the spread or reduction of HIV infections.

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The International AIDS Conference has returned to Durban, South Africa for the first time in nearly two decades. When the conference was last held there in 2000, President Thabo Mbeki shocked attendees by publicly questioning the causal link between HIV and AIDS and walking out during an impassioned keynote address by a young boy born with HIV. In a recent op-ed, South Africa’s health minister, Aaron Motsoaledi, noted that the conference in 2000 marked a low point in the country’s official attitude towards HIV/AIDS—a failure on the government’s part that is estimated to have led to nearly 330,000 premature deaths between 2000 and 2005.

In the intervening years, however, South Africa has experienced a sea change in its approach to HIV, in large part because of greater synergy between government policy makers and the scientific community. The country now operates the world’s largest drug treatment initiative and has seen significant improvements in its life expectancy and newborn infection rates. South Africa is also at the forefront of new prevention, testing, and treatment programs for HIV. The country still faces steep challenges, however. It has the largest population with HIV in the world and struggles with high rates of infection amongst young women aged 15 to 24. Nonetheless, the ambitious ’90-90-90’ UNAIDS global targets for 2020—90% of persons with HIV diagnosed, 90% of those diagnosed receiving treatment, and 90% of those receiving treatment virally suppressed—appear for the first time to be within reach.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

Toward an AIDS-Free Generation: Can Antibodies Help?

Caption: Left: Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV); Right: VRC01 antibody (blue and green) binding to HIV (grey and red). The VRC01-HIV binding (red) takes place where the virus attaches to primary immune cells.
Credits: C. Bickel, Science Translational Medicine; National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

This year, an estimated 50,000 Americans will learn they have been newly infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), which causes AIDS [1]. The good news is that if these people are diagnosed and receive antiretroviral therapy (ART) promptly, most will enjoy a near-normal lifespan.The bad news is that, barring any further research advances, they will have to take ART every day for the rest of their lives, a regimen that’s inconvenient and may cause unpleasant side effects. Clearly, a new generation of safe, effective, and longer-lasting treatments to keep HIV in check is very much needed.

That’s why I’m encouraged to see some early signs of progress emerging from a small, NIH-supported clinical trial of an HIV-neutralizing antibody. While the results need to be replicated in much larger studies, researchers discovered that a single infusion of the antibody reduced levels of HIV in the bloodstreams of several HIV-infected individuals by more than 10-fold [2]. Furthermore, the study found that this antibody—known as a broadly neutralizing antibody (bNAb) for its ability to defend against a wide range of HIV strains—is well tolerated and remained in the participants’ bloodstreams for weeks.

While the human immune system is generally unable to fend off HIV—in part because the virus tends to mutate as it multiplies—a minority of infected individuals eventually do produce bNAbs with the ability to target the virus in its many forms.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics News

Homosexuals blood donation. Prohibited by the EU Court

The European Court of Justice considers prohibiting homosexuals blood donation may be justified, if there are no alternatives to protect transfusion recipients from potential infections.

According to data compiled in the ruling, in the period between 2003 and 2008 (years immediately prior to this case), 48% of all new HIV infections were in men who had sex with men. During the same period, the gay collective were the group most affected by the virus, with an infection rate 200 times higher than the heterosexual population. (Click HERE)

 Homosexuals blood donation risks

More recent figures (these are not yet mentioned in the ruling) do not suggest any improvement. In 2012, of new HIV infections, 42% still corresponded who had sex with men. Between 2011 and 2012, the number of infections within this group rose by 14%, while it remained almost stable (+1%) among the others (Aceprensa, 30-IV-2015).

La entrada Homosexuals blood donation. Prohibited by the EU Court aparece primero en Observatorio de Bioética, UCV.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.

Bioethics Blogs

Ottawa Public Health Needs to Come “Clean”

Michael Orsini and Marilou Gagnon criticize Ottawa Public Health’s recent sexual health campaign.

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Public health folks are normally on the right side of things, but sometimes they get it colossally wrong.

Ottawa Public Health recently apologized for creating a banner ad that featured the caption “Was he lying when he said he was clean?” which was featured in Xtra, a popular lesbian and gay newspaper. The ad was part of the Public Health unit’s Sex it Smart campaign, which began several years ago to encourage condom use among youth aged 15-29 and address the growing tide of chlamydia and gonorrhea cases.

While the ad has since been pulled following an outcry from some members of the HIV community, serious questions remain.

First, how could Ottawa Public Health, which has patted itself on the back for creating public health programs that are creative, technology-savvy and responsive to the demands of a weary public, be so out of touch with the HIV community? You do not have to be an HIV expert to appreciate that more than three decades into the epidemic, HIV-positive people remain the objects of stigma and fear, and that this stigma has real consequences for their lives. AIDS activists and researchers have worked long and hard to combat stigma and discrimination, which was a defining feature of the epidemic when it unfolded in the early 1980s.

Ottawa Public Health’s half-hearted response to the controversy was to suggest that it sought input from the youth advisory committee about this particular ad, and that the committee suggested that they go ahead despite some of the concerns raised.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.