Hope and Progress- World AIDS Day

Art from South Africa

Since the emergence of HIV as a pandemic in the late 1970’s, good news has been rare. With remorseless efficiency the retrovirus has eluded decades of medical interventions. But there is cause for hope, and one huge lucky break. Although the medications that are effectively allowing people with HIV to stay healthy do not eliminate the virus, and in spite of the fact that it rapidly mutates– treating HIV reduces the risk of infecting others. From BBC News…

The [antiretroviral] drugs reduce the amount of virus in the blood, and cut the risk of an infected person passing HIV on.

Last year, at the UN General Assembly, governments agreed to set the goal of getting 15 million HIV-infected people worldwide on the life-saving antiretroviral medicines by 2015.

The WHO says this target could be within reach – provided countries can sustain current rates.

And it says about eight million people in low and middle-income countries are getting the treatment they need, up from just 0.4 million in 2003.

Dr Gottfried Hirnschall, director of the WHO’s HIV department, said: “The challenge now is to ensure that global progress is mirrored at all levels and in all places so that people, whoever they are and wherever they live, can obtain antiretroviral therapy when they need it.”

It was not until the 1980’s that it was possible to test for HIV, and in the 90’s a test was developed that could measure the viral load.

It was not a sure thing that treating people with HIV would reduce the risk of spreading the virus. Early drugs, like AZT, caused the virus to mutate into resistant forms and did not do much more than buy time for AIDS patients. Still, lives were saved and in time better drugs were developed. With the PCR test that measures the amount of viral copies in the blood it is possible to know how effective a particular drug is for a patient. There are more drugs, and cheaper, and easier to take.

Too long, and too much grief, but it is possible to see the end of this epidemic.

Research for a vaccine continues.

And a pandemic, like other natural disasters, shows how interconnected we are. It is not possible to eliminate the threat of HIV without caring for people across social and national lines. We are one human race and we succeed or fail together.

MORE: Nicholas Kristof at the New York Times says South African coffin makers are seeing a decline in business.

Not Tonight Dear, I’m Tweeting

Tracey Clark-Flory at Salon runs a skeptical eye over studies that prove that Americans value just about everything more than sex.

Incidentally, she uses some smart reading that should be applied to health and science headlines when shocking study conclusions seem contrary to common sense…

Take a survey finding that 43 percent of Canadians would choose bacon over sex – it was conducted by Maple Leaf Foods Inc., a bacon producer. Then there’s the one sponsored by the Better Sleep Council, a creation of the mattress industry, which found that 61 percent of American adults would choose a good night’s sleep over sex. See also: asurvey by mobile app company Telenav which found that — surprise, surprise – one-third of Americans would rather go without sex than their cellphone.

We boomers are the free love generation, but free time is precious. Between work, family and a thousand distractions it can be hard to even hear yourself think, never mind appreciate the love in your life. As we celebrate Independence Day, let’s not forget interdependence and the pursuit of happiness, and thank the founding mothers and fathers who sacrificed for the eight hour work day.

Kiersten Marek:

Chief Justice Roberts RULES!!!

Originally posted on Closing Argument:

With a vote of 5-4, the Supreme Court of the United States has upheld the Health Care Reform legislation with the exception that the federal government’s power to terminate states’ Medicaid funds is narrowly read.  Read the opinion here.

While Justice Anthony Kennedy was thought to be the swing vote, he ultimately dissented and Chief Justice John Roberts’ vote ultimately saved the historic legislation.

Here is a summary:

  • Justices Kennedy, Scalia, Alito and Thomas voted that the entire Act was unconstitutional.
  • Justices Ginsburg, Kagan, Sotomayor and Breyer voted to uphold the Act as constitutional.
  • Chief Justice Roberts forged a middle ground stating that the Act was constitutional under Congress’ power to tax, but unconstitutional under the Commerce Clause.  However, the Act is ultimately constitutional because of the former.

Regarding the Medicaid issue, CJ Roberts notes that “[n]othing in our opinion precludes Congress from offering funds under the ACA to…

View original 219 more words

Be Fair to Those Who Care

Salon has a review of the third day of the Supreme Court hearings on the Affordable Care Act, titled ‘A Brutal Day for Health Care.’

What I hear on the radio and read in the news as I work in the industry has me heartsick. Science, common sense and common decency say we cannot be a healthy or just nation when some of our hardest workers are one health problem away from bankruptcy. I see the expensive and devastating consequences of having to postpone basic preventive care. With a demographic bulge of older Americans entering Medicare, it seems insane to set them up to enter with dire needs when basic primary care could keep most of us healthy.

On the front lines of health care are millions of low-wage workers, many of whom lack health insurance themselves. They will be some of the first people who will benefit from strong health care reform. If you don’t think of a family, a worker, or an elder when you hear the word, ‘Medicaid’, you should. These are the people I serve. Why should those whose labor makes a public good possible be denied the benefits?

The federal spending issue turns on the expansion of Medicaid. Under the ACA, millions of the working poor – people with incomes up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level – are eligible for Medicaid. From 2014 to 2016, the federal government will pay 100 percent of the costs. Then its share decreases, to 90 percent after 2020. Because the ACA also gives states assistance with their new administrative costs, overall state spending will actually be lowered.

Twenty-six states are claiming that this conditional spending unconstitutionally coerces them, because they cannot realistically forgo the money, and because if they refuse to expand their rolls, they might lose every cent of Medicaid money. But let’s be clear: This is not about the states wanting to conserve their own money. It is about the states refusing to spend federal money, to help people that they do not want to help. (Paul Clement, the attorney for the challenging states, declared that his argument would not change if the federal government permanently paid 100 percent of the costs.)

Last week at Brown I heard a legal expert, Sara Rosenbaum, say that this case is the most important since Brown v. Board of Education. Those times also were contentious and painful. This time I fear that we will land on the wrong side of history.