The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that a University of Pennsylvania (Penn) Perelman School of Medicine collaboration with the University of Botswana and the Botswana government benefitted all partners. Penn medical students learned to make diagnoses based on their physical-exam skills, since diagnostic tests were not available, and Perelman School of Medicine staff have helped train local providers for Botswana’s national HIV prevention and treatment program and assisted in founding Botswana’s first medical school. The US Public Health Service, the National Institutes of Health, a Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Grand Challenges Explorations grant, and the Penn Center for AIDS Research have funded the partnership.
The partnership began in 2001 with the goal of building systems to address Botswana’s HIV/AIDS epidemic. Festus Mogae, president of Botswana from 1998 to 2008, was proactive in fighting HIV/AIDS. Botswana adopted routine HIV testing, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Harvard AIDS Initiative, and drug firms Merck and Bristol-Myers Squibb have assisted in antiretroviral drug distribution. The UN reported in 2012 that 95 percent of HIV-infected Botswanans received antiretroviral drugs, and life expectancy had risen from 49 to 53 years. The infection rate for infants born to HIV-infected mothers has dropped to fewer than 4 percent. Approximately 25 percent of Botswanans were HIV-infected.
Approximately 110 Perelman School of Medicine staff live and work in Botswana, and hundreds of students, researchers, and faculty have visited the Princess Marina Hospital in Gaborone, Botswana, as well as other clinics in the country. Penn students screen for cervical cancer and provide TB and HIV treatment. Ongoing challenges included finding resources for women’s health, since most people were not aware that HIV-infected women were more vulnerable to cervical cancer. The success of Botswana’s diamond mining industry has resulted in increased HIV incidence, since miners tended to have multiple sexual partners.
An article in Medical Xpress stated that herpes viruses are associated with cognitive impairment. Researchers from the University of Michigan (U-M) School of Public Health used data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey to investigate the association between two herpes viruses—herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1), which causes cold sores, and cytomegalovirus (CMV)—and cognitive impairment in individuals ages 6–16, 20–59, and 60 and older.
Findings showed that HSV-1 infection resulted in lower spatial reasoning and reading scores among 12–16-year-olds; impaired coding speed in 20–59-year-olds; and immediate memory impairment in older participants. Researchers also associated CMV with coding speed impairment and learning and recall in middle-aged participants.
Amanda Simanek, assistant professor of epidemiology at the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee and former assistant research scientist at U-M Department of Epidemiology, commented that if HSV-1 impacted cognitive function in the early years, then childhood infection may affect educational achievement and social mobility for life. Simanek explained that the viruses remain in the body in a latent state and can reactivate and attack the central nervous system, causing brain damage.
The researchers acknowledged the need for further studies to determine the biological pathways involved in the herpes viruses’ ability to affect cognitive impairment.
The full report, “Persistent Viral Pathogens and Cognitive Impairment Across the Lifecourse in the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey,” was published online in the Journal of Infectious Diseases (2013; doi: 10.1093/infdis/jit616).
The Middletown Press recently reported that the Connecticut State Department of Education chose Middletown High School to participate in a five-year HIV/STD/pregnancy prevention health education program. The school’s health center will run the program, which is part of the Partnering to Create Healthy School Communities for Successful Students Initiative.
The program aims to improve school attendance and educational success by addressing health issues that interfere with students’ accomplishments. “We want our students to be successful in school and in life,” said Pat Charles, superintendent of schools. “We also want them to understand the choices that they have and how to participate in healthy relationships and know there are ways that they can avoid pregnancy.”
Staff will participate in training that will include various ways to reach out to all groups of students to get them information they need and will retain.
The News Observer reported that David Blodgett, director of the Southwest Utah Public Department of Health, decided “years ago” not to offer the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine in his jurisdiction’s clinics because of the cost and limited research on the vaccine’s effectiveness. The Southwest Utah Public Department of Health included Beaver, Iron, Garfield, Kane, and Washington counties. The Utah Department of Health does not require the HPV vaccine but has recommended it since the US Food and Drug Administration approved Gardasil for preteen girls in 2006 and for boys since 2011.
Blodgett stated that the five southwest Utah counties under his jurisdiction offered Gardasil for approximately six months in 2006, but demand was low. In addition, community members feared that HPV vaccination could encourage promiscuity among teens who no longer feared infection. Three doses of HPV vaccine cost $360. While federal funding offset the cost for low-income families, Blodgett argued that his clinics could not afford the cost of providing and delivering the vaccine.
Dr. William Cosgrove, a member of Utah’s Scientific Immunization Advisory Committee, noted that research has proved that HPV vaccination prevents the sexually transmitted viruses that cause 70 percent of cervical cancers and 90 percent of genital warts. CDC reported that Utah ranked last among US states in completion of the three-dose vaccine. According to this 2011 report, only 42 percent of Utah teens who started the vaccine series had all three shots, compared with a national completion rate of 71 percent. Additionally, approximately 53 percent of Utah girls ages 13–17 had at least one dose of the vaccine. Private clinics in Utah also offer the HPV vaccine.
NorthJersey.com recently ran an article about a conference hosted by the Hackensack University Medical Center (HackensackUMC) on December 2, to correspond with World AIDS Day. With the theme “Getting to Zero,” the 15th annual AIDS conference educated high school students from Bergen, Hudson, and Passaic counties on HIV and prevention. A panel of experts discussed measures needed to achieve zero transmission and zero deaths in the future. The panel provided statistics such as: approximately 1.1 million Americans have HIV; New Jersey ranks fifth for state diagnoses rates; 60 percent of people with HIV do not know they have it; and someone is infected with HIV every 9.5 minutes. Gary Munk, PhD, director of clinical virology at HackensackUMC, added zero tolerance for stigma as another goal and noted that ignorance and lack of understanding of HIV prevention help continue the disease’s spread.
The Enfield Independent reported that Edmonton, United Kingdom, has a TB rate almost three times that of the national average. The estimate for Edmonton is that TB infects 41 individuals per 100,000. In some areas on the east side of Edmonton, the rate is higher than 150 per 100,000. In the west and in Enfield, the local health authority reports a rate of 27 people per 100,000, which is still higher than the national average of 14 infected individuals per 100,000. Andy Love, the member of Parliament for Edmonton, is concerned about the high TB rates and has written to Public Health Minister Jane Ellison and Enfield’s Clinical Commissioning Group, requesting action to reduce the high rates.
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