Tagged: AIDS

  • A new study published in the on line journal Nature Medicine over the weekend brings exciting news in the race to find an AIDS vaccine. Researchers from the Centre for the AIDS Programme of Research in South Africa (CAPRISA) have found that a key change in the outer coating of the HIV virus allowed two HIV positive women to develop “broadly neutralizing antibodies,” which are antibodies that can be used to target and fight most strains of HIV.

    The first broadly neutralizing antibodies were discovered over three years ago, and since then dozens more have been identified. But until now, researchers haven’t been able to pinpoint how they develop, which is critical to developing a vaccine. The new findings establish a link between a change in the virus after infection and the formulation of the antibodies that fight it.

    According to Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, the study is “an important step in trying to understand just how these broadly neutralizing antibodies evolve.”

    Continue reading

  • Ending AIDS Among Latino Americans: ¡Sí se puede!

    The past three years have seen tremendous breakthroughs in HIV prevention research. Since 2009, we have seen the first vaccine to show effectiveness, a microbicide that was found to be modestly efficacious and two studies demonstrating that an HIV medication could be used as a pre-exposure prophylaxis or could reduce new infections by treating those with HIV earlier. These advances have led many to herald a new era in our 30-year campaign to end the epidemic.

    Continue reading

  • The Co-founder of National HIV Testing Day asks, “Why do we need a special day for HIV testing?"

    Today, June 27, is National HIV Testing Day in the United States. It is an observance that is now recognized in many countries around the globe. Why set aside a special day for something that should be a routine part of medical care for people at risk of getting HIV? Because ending the stigma of HIV and creating multiple opportunities for testing is an urgent need in our effort to create an AIDS-free generation.

    In the late 1980s, many of my friends had died of AIDS or were very sick. The decision to get an HIV test was not an easy one. But in 1986, I went for an HIV test at Whitman-Walker Clinic in Washington, DC, because it was important for me to know my HIV status. This was at a time when there were few treatment options, and the testing process involved a long and scary wait for your results. In 1995, I worked with my colleagues at the National Association of People with AIDS (NAPWA) and we created National HIV Testing Day. This effort was designed to help reduce the stigma of HIV testing and to normalize it as a component of regular health screening. At that time, there was a lot of fear about testing. Because there were few treatments, many thought it unnecessary. People who were known to be HIV positive were subjected to being fired from their jobs or becoming victims of violence. At NAPWA, we believed it was important to confront this situation by encouraging people to “Take the Test, Take Control.” We also believed that the more of us who stood up, the less the world would be able to ignore the epidemic.

    Last week, members of parliament in Zimbabwe provided the type of leadership needed in the United States and worldwide to end the stigma of HIV testing. Over 47 legislators, and 60 of their staff, underwent voluntary counseling and public testing for HIV in an effort to encourage other citizens to follow suit. As a result, Blessing Chebundo, chairman of the Zimbabwe Parliamentarians Against AIDS, told SW Radio Africa that, “181 people went through the doors for testing, and 23 men underwent circumcision (proven to reduce the risk of HIV infection).”

    Today, there are dozens of treatments available to keep people with HIV healthy. There is excitement also about the progress we are making in biomedical prevention interventions such as circumcision, PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) and treatment as prevention. HIV testing itself is easier and quicker with results available in 20 minutes. The promise of these new opportunities begins with everyone knowing their HIV status without fear of discrimination, stigma or violence.

    To learn more about National HIV Testing Day, visit the website here.

  • FANTA – A Technical Assistance Program that Improves Nutrition for People Living with HIV

    Arénia Massingue is a master trainer from the National Nurses Association in Mozambique (Associação Nacional de Enfermeiros em Moçambique [ANEMO]). Massingue, who was trained by the Food and Nutrition Technical Assistance (FANTA) project on home-based nutrition care for people living with HIV (PLHIV), explains how what she learned helped her work: “We can now see a change in behavior among our beneficiaries. Before health activists started educating them about nutrition, there was a common belief that eating well was eating purchased goods. For example, many believed that the best fruit juice was the one they bought from the store, even though they had oranges in their garden. Now they know that the oranges in their garden can produce a juice that is not only cheaper, but also more nutritious.”

    Since being trained by FANTA, ANEMO master trainers trained 55 community-based organization (CBO) trainers. To date, the CBO trainers have trained 440 heath activists, home-based health care workers who provide counseling to PLHIV. PLHIV are counseled on the importance of using locally available foods in a balanced diet, management of HIV-related symptoms through diet, and potential drug-food interactions. Health activists also provide cooking demonstrations using recipes they learned during the training to help PLHIV meet their increased energy needs and eat a balanced, healthy diet. ANEMO, the Ministry of Women and Social Welfare and Ministry for Health are also working in collaboration with FANTA to integrate nutrition into the government’s official training curriculum for home-based care workers.

    FANTA is a project that works globally to improve the health and well-being of vulnerable groups through technical support to the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and its governmental and nongovernmental partners. The project improves nutritional outcomes by strengthening policies, programs and systems for maternal and child health and nutrition, nutrition and HIV and other infectious diseases, food security and livelihood strengthening, agriculture and nutrition linkages, and emergency assistance during nutrition crises.

    For more information about FANTA, email the project at fantamail[at]fhi360.org.

  • Getting Closer to an AIDS-Free Generation

    May 18th is HIV Vaccine Awareness Day (HVAD), an annual observance that recognizes the contributions of thousands of volunteers, community members, health professionals, scientists, and experts in the HIV/AIDS field who are committed to working together to find an HIV vaccine. This year, we acknowledge the participation of thousands of trial volunteers who have made the research possible, and we highlight recent progress that gives us hope that controlling this epidemic is within our reach.

    Great strides have been made in the three decades since the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported the first cases of what we know today as HIV/AIDS. What was considered a death sentence in the early 80s is now a manageable chronic condition for those living with HIV who have access to medications. However, about 30 million people globally have died as a result of HIV/AIDS, and 50,000 Americans still become infected every year. Despite the profound impact this disease continues to have in our communities, new developments in HIV prevention efforts inspire us with the hopeful expectation of an AIDS-free generation.

    Recent advances in biomedical HIV prevention research have included microbicides and pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). Microbicides are gels or creams that both women and men can use topically to prevent the sexual transmission of HIV. Other products, such as films, suppositories, vaginal rings or sponges, are also being developed to release the active ingredients in the body over time. The microbicides that have proven to be partially effective to date contain an anti-HIV drug known as Tenofovir. PrEP is an approach that involves the use of oral anti-HIV drugs taken by uninfected individuals to prevent HIV infection if exposed to the virus. One drug, known as Truvada, has been shown to be effective in some populations. Consequently, on May 10, an advisory committee recommended that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approve the use of Truvada as part of PrEP to prevent sexually transmitted HIV-1 infection. While both of these prevention strategies have varying degrees of protection against HIV, adding a safe, effective and durable vaccine to the combination of available prevention tools remains our best hope to ending the pandemic.

    Scientists believe that it will take more than one approach to control the spread of HIV in the world. PrEP, microbicides and HIV vaccines, along with other proven prevention methods such as the regular use of condoms, are essential components of a comprehensive approach to global HIV prevention efforts. But, the success of the research in all these areas greatly depends on community participation and involvement as well as establishing trusting relationships within the communities most affected by HIV.

    Collaboration among scientists, community leaders, and advocacy groups is essential for the fight against HIV/AIDS. In January 2012, the Be The Generation Bridge (BTG Bridge) program was funded by the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases to help increase awareness and understanding of biomedical HIV prevention research, including HIV vaccines. To learn more about this research and how you can get involved, visit www.bethegeneration.nih.gov. To view community profile videos, visit www.youtube.com/bethegeneration.

  • A great international exchange program goes beyond sharing knowledge and ideas. It empowers participants to become agents of change in their own communities. Through Felix Masi’s participation in the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP), he received leadership and media training from US Government officials and prominent youth and non-profit leaders. This training motivated him to document the story of a community’s personal response to the global AIDS epidemic.

    Felix, a Kenyan-born American, used the ideas he gained through IVLP, funded by the U.S. Department of State, to share the story of a challenge he witnessed growing up in Kenya. In rural Western Kenya, many children lose their parents to AIDS, and grandmothers often assume the burden and care for the orphaned children. His documentary, “A Grandmother’s Tribe,” tells the story of resilience and sacrifice in the face of a lost generation.

    Further leveraging the skills honed during his exchange program, Felix founded Voiceless Children to help teach Kenyan caregivers life skills that promote self-sufficiency. To date, Voiceless Children has helped provide education and shelter for over 40 families in Western Kenya and Kibera, Kenya’s poorest slum. We are proud of program alumni like Felix, leaders who use these exchange programs to develop entrepreneurial and leadership skills that benefit not only themselves but also their communities.

    Please join us on Thursday, May 10th at 5:30pm in FHI 360’s Globe Theater for a screening of “A Grandmother’s Tribe,” followed by a panel discussion featuring Felix and other distinguished speakers. A special viewing of a follow-on video that tracks the progress of the grandmothers will also be shown. Please RSVP here.

    Homepage banner image from Borderless Productions.

  • The Stories Behind the Statistics

    “The Stories Behind the Statistics” is a series put together for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation‘s blog “Impatient Optimists” by the Interagency Youth Working Group (IYWG). The IYWG, housed here at FHI 360, provides technical leadership to improve the reproductive and sexual health of young people. The following posts were originally posted on “Impatient Optimists” and are reposted here with permission. All photos courtesy of the Gates Foundation.


    • Young People and HIV

      Last August, during World Youth Day in Madrid, I was conducting outreach to encourage Catholic youth to use condoms. It was there that I heard one of the most frightening things ever: One young man told me that an HIV-positive person had no right to have sex...

      Read More
    • Family Planning for Young Women

      I lead a support group for mothers ages 12-19, in Kenya. Most of the mothers I work with are out-of-school youth; many live on the streets, work in the informal economy, or are orphaned. As a part of our support program, we provide weekly peer-to-peer sessions focusing on uptake of antenatal care...

      Read More
    • Youth Reproductive and Sexual Health

      By the end of today, 2,500 young people will become infected with HIV and 1,400 girls and women will die in childbirth...

      Read More
  • Innovation is key to expanding contraceptive choice

    Contraceptive technology has come a long way, but there is still much more work that needs to be done to increase women’s access to safe and effective contraceptive choices.

    Since Margaret Sanger overturned anti-contraceptive legislation in 1936, making it legal for doctors to provide diaphragms and spermicides to women, researchers have been working to develop improved contraceptive methods. Oral contraceptives were introduced to the public in the 1960s and paved the way for future innovation. Today, contraceptive hormones are delivered in a variety of ways, including through implants, long-acting injections, patches and vaginal rings.

    Yet there is still a gap in contraceptive technology that FHI 360 is working to fill – an effective, safe, easy-to-use, and low-cost vaginal contraceptive.

    FHI 360 has developed a new vaginal insert, made of soft, non-woven textile materials that can contain different types of vaginal gels. What makes this insert innovative is that it virtually eliminates leakage of the vaginal gel, a critical issue for both effectiveness and acceptability. The insert is packaged as a single-use, ready-to-use product, pre-moistened with medicated gel. Depending upon the type of gel, the device could be used to prevent pregnancy or HIV or to treat vaginal infections.

    Currently, the only over-the-counter vaginal contraceptives that are available are detergent-based spermicides containing nonoxynol-9 or similar agents. Detergent-based spermicides are irritating to vaginal tissues and with frequent use can cause ulcerations that could increase the risk of HIV infection.

    The insert could be used with new non-irritating spermicides such as BufferGel® (developed by researchers at Johns Hopkins University) or with a ferrous gluconate formulation (developed by researchers at Cornell University). So far, the Hopkins and Cornell researchers have used other delivery methods, including diaphragms and vaginal rings, for their formulations. The FHI 360 insert could also be used to deliver microbicide gels, considered to be one of the most promising interventions to emerge over the past decade to prevent HIV infection in women.

    Results of a pivotal study, presented on September 17 at the Reproductive Health 2011 conference, showed that the combination of BufferGel and the new SILCS® diaphragm—a one-size-fits-all device—was as effective as a diaphragm with nonoxynol-9 gel. This is a double dose of innovation—a new, non-irritating spermicidal gel and a new one-size-fits-all diaphragm—and it’s great news for women.

    In 2009, we conducted a Phase I study to assess the acceptability of the FHI 360 insert among women and their male partners in Durban, South Africa, using the device saturated with 10 mL of an FDA-approved vaginal lubricant. We recruited 40 women, who first inserted and removed the device at the clinic and then at home. For home use, we asked women to discuss the product with their male partner and—if their partner agreed—to wear it during intercourse.

    Participants found the insert easy to place in the vagina and easy to remove with minimal to non-existent leakage. Most men (34) agreed to have intercourse with the device in place. Participants reported that the insert was comfortable during intercourse. Most women said they would be willing to use the insert for contraception or preventing sexually transmitted infections, including HIV, and most men said they would approve of their female partners using it if it became commercially available.

    Once again, we have the potential to advance women’s health in the U.S. and around the world. This is what innovation is all about – improving lives.

  • In Kenya, where more than half of young people are unemployed, 22-year-old Boniface Kirang’a has watched many friends in Flax, his hometown near the Rift Valley town of Eldoret, get involved in petty crime, partying and drinking alcohol.

    But Kirang’a escaped the traps of crime and substance abuse. He went through a two-year automotive mechanic training through APHIAplus (AIDS, Population, and Health Integrated Assistance), a USAID-funded FHI 360 program to improve health in 16 Rift counties. Today, Kirang’a is a self-employed car repairman.

    As part of its comprehensive commitment to health, APHIAplus prevents and treats communicable illnesses such as HIV, AIDS or tuberculosis; assists families affected by HIV; runs programs to reduce hunger; and develops economic opportunities for the region’s residents.

    Like many Kenyan youth, Kirang’a had struggled to stay in school. His father was diagnosed with HIV, and when his condition worsened, the family lost vital income.

    “My father started being sickly in 1999,” when Kirang’a was 10 years old. “He had two butcheries, but he shut them down because of his illness. He died in 2003. After my father died, we returned to our original home in Nyahururu [in central Kenya]. We lived in my grandmother’s home. Life was hard because we were many in the family,” he said in Kiswahili.

    When the family returned to Eldoret, Kirang’a stayed with a relative until he finished primary school in 2004. The uncle “could not educate me after that. He had seven children of his own. I started keeping chickens, which I sold to buy food and clothes. I also worked as shamba boy,” tending crops in cleared forestland.

    But Kirang’a’s uncle got him a scholarship from the Mission Sisters of Mary Immaculate, a community-based organization that partners with APHIAplus. With the bursary, he was able to go to the polytechnical institute, said Kirang’a.

    Since graduating from the institute, Kirang’a joined a group of mechanics in the fast-growing town of Eldoret. He’s doing his share to make sure that young people have chances to learn and develop skills. With his knowhow and earnings, he is saving to build his mother a house and pay for his younger brother’s school fees. In the future, he plans to hire three apprentices from the mechanics institute.

  • Small beginnings, big impact

    I have always believed in the power of microcredit to change lives. A visit to rabbit farmer George Kihanya’s home in the Kenya Rift Valley District convinced me beyond all doubt. Kihanya’s success shows that if well implemented, community-based credit and savings schemes can turn around the lives of many rural families.

    In 2002, Kihanya was caring for his ailing mother. Newly married, he eked out a living growing maize, beans and potatoes.

    Kihanya’s fortunes changed after he started keeping rabbits. Now, he earns on average Sh60,000 (US$650) a month.

    Kihanya was introduced to rabbit farming during a course organized by the Catholic Relief Services, one of the partners in the APHIAPlus program led by FHI.
    Kihanya was chosen by his local church to be trained as a community health worker. He, along with other volunteers, was trained on how to prevent diseases, including HIV, and to link vulnerable children and families to HIV treatment, care and support. Volunteers also learned about farming and other activities, including rabbit farming, to improve food security for their families and communities.

    Inspired by Kihanya’s success, scores of families in the community are now earning money by raising rabbits.