Filling the need for trusted information on national health issues

IAS Conference: Low-Cost CD4 Tests; HIV Prevalence Among Pregnant Zimbabweans; Treating HIV-TB With ARVs; Vaccine Trials

The following are stories from this week’s 5th International AIDS Society (IAS) Conference on HIV Pathogenesis, Treatment and Prevention meeting in Cape Town, South Africa:

SciDev.Net: Steven Reid of the Imperial College London spoke of three prototype tests he and his colleagues have been working on that would help to increase access to CD4 count measurements for HIV-positive patients in the developing world. The prototype tests – which analyze “finger prick blood” –would allow “patients to receive their results within about 20 minutes of testing, Reid said, and could be used by untrained technicians.” The cost of the tests range from $2 – $7 (Mengo, 7/23).

AP/Yahoo! News: Michael Silverman, an infectious disease expert, presented HIV infection rate data in Zimbabwe, based on his survey of 18,746 pregnant women at a rural prenatal clinic from 2001 to 2008. He found the “prevalence of the virus that causes AIDS fell from 23 percent in 2001 to 11 percent at the end of 2008.” The news service writes, “AIDS experts have long noted that the richest countries in Africa are also those with the highest infection rates,” and “Silverman said he concluded that ‘a lot of the effect (of the decline in HIV infections) is from the collapsing economy.'” He added, “You can’t pay the sex worker if you have no currency. It’s hard to have a concurrent relationship if you’re always in earshot of your spouse, because you can’t afford to travel.” The article includes several refutations of Silverman’s theory (Faul, 7/24).

Mail & Guardian: Researchers also discussed the high mortality rates caused by HIV and tuberculosis co-infection. “About 1.4-million of the 9.27-million people infected with TB worldwide are also infected with HIV, and 80 percent of the world’s co-infected live within sub-Saharan Africa, with 29 percent in South Africa alone,” the newspaper writes. Gerald Friedland of Yale University said that several studies have shown antiretroviral therapy is “essential to saving the lives of those co-infected” (Kardas-Nelson, 7/23). Examines South Africa’s HIV vaccine trial – a Phase I trial that will test the safety of the vaccine in humans – one of “about 30 [other] HIV vaccines undergoing clinical trials” (Goldberg, 7/22).