Positively Aware Online News Brief. Current HIV News and events
POSITIVELY AWARE 4/09/2012
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced on April 3 that extremely low-income people living with HIV/AIDS will continue to receive permanent housing as a result of nearly $33 million in HUD grants. Annually, these grants will provide permanent supportive housing for over 1,200 households so they can manage their health and access needed support services such as case management and employment training.
The funding is offered through HUD’s Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS Program (HOPWA) and will renew HUD’s support of 18 local programs in 17 states.
“These grants offer housing, vital healthcare, and hope to hundreds of households that combine to literally save lives,” said HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan. “Having stable housing can make all the difference to the health of someone living with HIV/AIDS who might otherwise be struggling to live on our streets.”
Many of the projects receiving renewed funding provide for specialized models in outreach and service delivery, including efforts that target help to those who have been homeless or are at extreme risk of becoming homeless. These grants offer innovations in HIV care to increase job readiness and employment opportunities for HIV-positive people as well. The grants also support Opening Doors, the Obama Administration’s strategic plan to prevent and end homelessness.
Ninety percent of HOPWA funds are distributed by formula to cities and states based on the number of AIDS cases reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). HUD’s formula grants are managed by 135 local and state jurisdictions, which coordinate AIDS housing efforts with other HUD and community resources. Earlier this year, HUD awarded these jurisdictions nearly $300 million in formula grants. This year, HUD had made available a total of $332 million in HOPWA funds to help communities provide housing for this special needs population. Overall, these resources assist over 60,000 households annually to provide stable housing and reduced risks of homelessness for those living with HIV and other challenges.
A five-year study of 12 women from Mombasa, Kenya who have been infected by two different strains of HIV from two different sexual partners—a condition known as HIV superinfection—has shown that the superinfected women have more potent antibody responses that block the replication of the virus compared to women who've only been infected once.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute supported the research, which involved collaborators at the University of Washington and the University of Nairobi in Kenya. The findings were published online March 29 in PLoS Pathogens by researchers at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle.
"We found that women who had been infected twice not only had more potent antibody responses, but some of these women had 'elite' antibody activity, meaning that they had a broad and potent ability to neutralize a wide variety of strains of HIV over a sustained period of time," said senior author Julie Overbaugh, PhD, a member of the Hutchinson Center's Human Biology Division. It is estimated that only about 1% of people with HIV are so-called "elite controllers" who are able to potently neutralize the virus without medications.
"Individuals who become superinfected with a second virus from a different partner represent a unique opportunity for studying the antibody response and may provide insights into the process of developing broad neutralizing antibodies that could inform HIV-vaccine design," Overbaugh said.
The study suggests that harboring a mixture of different viral strains may be one way to promote a robust antibody response. The findings also suggest that being infected with two different HIV strains not only leads to a strong response, but also a more rapid response that is capable of recognizing many other HIV strains.
The researchers tracked the immune activity of the 12 women and compared each to a control group of three singly-infected women. Overbaugh and lead author Valerie Cortez, a doctoral student in her lab, assessed the ability of antibodies present in superinfected and singly-infected women to neutralize a spectrum of circulating HIV-1 variants. In doing so, they were able to determine whether the presence of two viruses compared to one made a difference in immune response. The researchers controlled for variables such as antibody response prior to superinfection and biomarkers of immunity such as CD4+ T-cell count and viral load.
The study found that superinfected women had, on average, 1.68 times more neutralizing antibodies than singly infected women, and they scored much higher in their ability to neutralize the virus—superinfected women had 1.46 times greater potency than the singly infected women.
"The holy grail of an HIV vaccine is to elicit antibodies to the virus because antibodies have been shown to block virus infection. But there has been little progress in determining how to elicit such antibodies with a vaccine,” Overbaugh said. “The study of [HIV-positive] individuals who have developed strong antibody responses to the virus may shed light on the best approach to design a vaccine that will induce an effective immune response.”
The Syringe Access Fund (SAF), a collaborative funding initiative of the Elton John AIDS Foundation, Levi Strauss Foundation, Open Society Foundations, Irene Diamond Fund, and AIDS United, announced the award of 55 grants totaling $1.98 million for SAF's Round Seven Grant Cycle, which runs through 2013.
The country's largest private supporter of syringe exchange programs (SEPs), the Syringe Access Fund was created in 2004 to support syringe exchange and public policy activities to reduce the risk of HIV infection, hepatitis C, and other blood-borne pathogens among injection drug users and their sexual partners through expanded access to sterile syringes. To date, the SAF has awarded more than $10.4 million.
The newly-funded programs reflect a diversity of locations, populations, and approaches, prioritizing underserved communities and areas of the United States with a high prevalence of HIV/AIDS and injection drug use.
Twenty-nine community-based organizations in the southern United States will have increased capacity to advocate for sound public HIV/AIDS policy thanks to recent grants from AIDS United. With support from the Ford Foundation, AIDS United recently granted $1.4 million to organizations in the states of Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee.
The grants, which are part of AIDS United's Southern REACH (Regional Expansion of Access and Capacity to address HIV/AIDS) initiative, will support the development and expansion of programs that seek to achieve social change, shape responsible HIV/AIDS public policy, and/or respond to the underlying legal, political, and systemic barriers contributing to disproportionate rates of HIV/AIDS in the southern United States.
“The HIV/AIDS epidemic in the U.S. South continues to be fueled by ignorance, stigma, and poor public policy that allow the epidemic to rage on unabated,” said AIDS United Interim President and CEO Victor Barnes. “Communities in these disproportionately impacted areas must be more diligent than ever in educating their key decision makers to ensure people living with or affected by HIV/AIDS have access to crucial HIV prevention, care and treatment services. We are so grateful for the Ford Foundation's ongoing support so we can continue to affect social change to improve—and save—lives.”
The CDC has estimated that 46% of all new AIDS diagnoses in the United States are in the South, and the South leads the nation in persons living with, and dying from, AIDS.
“The challenge we face is clear and urgent: If we're going to tackle the continuing HIV/AIDS crisis in the United States, the communities at the center of the epidemic need a much stronger role in shaping policies meant to fight the disease,” said Terry M. McGovern, Senior Program Officer of The Ford Foundation. “Today's epidemic demands that policymakers hear much more from communities in the South, which is an epicenter of new infections. Southern REACH is making that possible, and we are extremely proud to partner with AIDS United to continue this important work.”
The second edition of 100 Questions & Answers about HIV and AIDS, by Dr. Joel Gallant, is now available. Dr. Gallant, of Johns Hopkins University Medical School and Associate Director of the Johns Hopkins AIDS service, is a frequent contributor to PA and has been the doctor for the Positively Aware HIV Drug Guide for the last two years. This handy book provides the answers to the most common questions asked by individuals with HIV and AIDS, their partners, and their families. Visit jblearning.com, search by title or author, and order your copy today. It’s also available on Amazon.com (be sure to order the second edition!).
Here in Chicago, activists and community members are fighting hard to keep 12 community mental health clinics open as Mayor Emmanuel includes them in his budget-cutting plans at the same time that Medicaid is being gutted by the state. So where will all the people go who need help? No one here seems to have an answer for that.
But in Washington, Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow of Wisconsin introduced S. 2257, the Excellence in Mental Health Act, a bill to increase access to community behavioral health services for all Americans and to improve Medicaid reimbursement for these services. Fellow Democrat Jack Reed of Rhode Island is the only co-sponsor so far. It was assigned to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP).
The Supreme Court has withdrawn to deliberate the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, from which they’ll render their ruling in June. The blogosphere is crackling with the words “single-payer healthcare,” and even President Obama has said them out loud. As we wait for the Supremes to tell us if indeed there “ain’t no mountain high enough” to keep healthcare from us, I hope someone out there in the HIV community besides the DUH-sters is working on a strategy for single-payer activism for when that ruling comes down. If you can’t find anyone, join us! www.duh4all.org.