Positively Aware Online News Brief. Current HIV News and events
POSITIVELY AWARE 6/04/2012
“HIV is Not a Crime,” a documentary film by Sean Strub for the SERO Project, is among the recipients of grants awarded by the Elton John AIDS Foundation.
In advance of the July 2012 International AIDS Conference, the Elton John AIDS Foundation (EJAF) announced on May 30 its first round of grants for calendar year 2012 totaling $850,000. EJAF is one of the world's leading nonprofit organizations supporting HIV prevention, stigma reduction, treatment, care, and service programs. During 2011, the Foundation awarded over $8 million in grants to more than 100 HIV-focused programs in the U.S., the Caribbean, and Latin America.
Three 2012 grants have been awarded to AIDS United, The NAMES Project's “Quilt-In-the-Capital 2012” program, and the SERO Project's “HIV Is Not a Crime” program.
“We are tremendously excited about the important work of these three grantees,” said EJAF Chairman David Furnish. “We look forward to collaborating with them over the next year and furthering our shared goals of fighting stigma and supporting underserved populations in communities heavily impacted by HIV/AIDS.”
The largest grant went to AIDS United in the amount of $700,000. AIDS United will apply the award to several initiatives, including the Access to Care (A2C) Initiative and Community Partnership challenge grants. The Access to Care (A2C) Initiative supports innovative HIV programming in 10 U.S. locations, ranging from rural Alabama to the neighborhoods of Harlem. A2C programs seek to ensure that these underserved communities are able to access and benefit from HIV treatment and care. The AIDS United Community Partnerships support local HIV grants, fundraising, technical support and advocacy in 29 states across the country.
The NAMES Project, Quilt-In-the-Capital 2012, received $100,000 to help them display The AIDS Memorial Quilt, the largest memorial to individuals lost to HIV/AIDS in the world, at over 50 venues in Washington, D.C., during the 19th International AIDS Conference, July 20-24, 2012, thereby helping to focus additional public attention on worldwide efforts to end the AIDS epidemic.
Throughout its history, The AIDS Memorial Quilt has been used to fight prejudice, raise awareness and funding, as a means to link hands with the global community, and as an effective tool in HIV/AIDS education and prevention. It is difficult to walk away from The Quilt unchanged.
EJAF's Executive Director Scott Campbell said, “By revealing the humanity behind the statistics, The Quilt helps teach compassion; triumphs over stigma, phobia and taboo; and inspires individuals to take direct responsibility for their own well being and that of their family, friends, and community.”
The SERO Project’s “HIV Is Not a Crime” program was awarded $50,000 “to directly address the urgent issue of HIV criminalization by documenting the ways that HIV-positive people are impacted by criminal laws, engaging and empowering those who have been prosecuted, educating and mobilizing communities, and raising broad public awareness by sharing compelling personal stories of those who have been prosecuted,” stated Campbell.
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“In the wee hours of the morning on May 25, Deon Haywood received a horrible phone call from her building's landlord. The office of the organization that she runs, Women With A Vision (WWAV), had been burned down,” Kellee Terrell wrote in a blog at The Body.
Although small fires apparently had been set in at least four different places in the group's office space, the damage was concentrated in one room, heavily damaging or destroying nearly all the contents of WWAV’s outreach office, the room that contained “the heart of everything we use to educate the community,” Haywood said.
Investigators told Haywood that there had been a break-in through the back door and that multiple fires had been intentionally set. They also said a neighbor reported seeing a white male running from the scene around the time of the fire, she said. Police are still looking for the suspect.
WWAV was co-founded by Deon's mother and several other black women in 1991 as a social service organization “to promote wellness and disease prevention for women and their families living at or below the poverty line.”
“Over the years, WWAV has helped hundreds of women, by doing outreach, distributing condoms, and referring women to other services they may need, such as legal assistance and housing. WWAV also provides clothing for women to wear to interviews; hygiene supplies for women, men, and children; HIV/AIDS testing; and food,” Terrell writes.
In a letter posted on WWAV, Haywood lists the things the organization needs to replace what was damaged or destroyed and continue their work:
- Immediate meeting spaces for WWAV events that will accommodate 10 – 25 people.
- Donations to replace Health Education materials, including harm reduction supplies, condoms/dental dams/lube, reproductive health models, educational brochures, hygiene kits, and OraSure HIV tests. Replacing these will cost thousands of dollars.
- Suits/Dresses/Shoes to restock the Clothing Bank. Professional clothing appropriate for job interviews would be greatly appreciated. Please contact WWAV if you have suits, skirts, dress pants, dresses, and shoes to donate. Women's clothing 8 to plus-size and shoe sizes 7 to 12 are most needed.
- Donations to replace office furniture and supplies. Gift cards to office supply stores like OfficeMax, Office Depot, and Staples are welcome. In-kind contributions of women-centered art, social justice posters, and holiday decorations will all be deeply appreciated.
- Donations to replace computers and printer(s). One desktop computer, one laptop, and one printer were completely destroyed in the fire.
All donations are tax-deductible and can be made through the website.
“I never would have imagined that in 2012 someone could have so much hate and disregard that he or she could do something this heinous to an organization that does so much to help others,” Terrell wrote. “I take this attack personally not only because Deon is a colleague, but because she is also my friend. Deon, you are in my thoughts and prayers.”@kelleent.
Scientists have identified a new HIV-suppressing protein in the blood of people infected with the virus. In laboratory studies, the protein, called CXCL4 or PF-4, binds to HIV such that it cannot attach to or enter a human cell. The research was led by Paolo Lusso, MD, PhD, chief of the Section of Viral Pathogenesis in the Laboratory of Immunoregulation at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
CXCL4 belongs to a family of molecules called chemokines that help regulate the movement of immune cells around the body. In the mid-1990s, four chemokines—three discovered by Dr. Lusso, Robert Gallo, MD, and their colleagues—were found in laboratory experiments to function as HIV inhibitors. These chemokines, as well as CXCL4, may regulate the level of virus replication in HIV-positive individuals and thus the pace at which HIV disease progresses.
According to Dr. Lusso, the site where CXCL4 binds to the outer coat of HIV seems to be different from other known vulnerable sites targeted by HIV-blocking antibodies and drugs. His team is working with scientists at the NIAID Vaccine Research Center to define the atomic-level crystal structure of this binding site, which potentially may play a role in the future development of HIV treatments or vaccines.
CXCL4 differs from the other four major HIV-suppressive chemokines in several respects. The other four chemokines inhibit HIV infection by binding to either one of two cell receptors—CCR5 and CXCR4—used by the virus to attach to and enter immune cells, whereas CXCL4 binds directly to the outer surface of the virus. While the other chemokines bind to forms of HIV that use either the CCR5 or the CXCR4 receptor, CXCL4 can bind to and block infection by a wide variety of HIV strains, no matter what their receptor specificity. Finally, while the other chemokines are made primarily by immune cells, CXCL4 is made by platelets, the blood cells involved in clotting.
Dr. Lusso and his colleagues are pursuing further research to better understand CXCL4's role in HIV disease and to determine whether the chemokine has a protective effect not only in laboratory studies, but also in people.
A team of researchers led by the University of North Carolina School of Medicine has demonstrated that latency develops soon after infection and slows when antiretroviral therapy is given, according to a study published May 30 online in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
While current therapies are effective at controlling HIV, some virus remains hidden in certain CD4+ T-cells, specialized immune system cells that the virus uses to replicate. This latent infection remains a significant challenge to curing HIV.
The team studied 27 patients with acute HIV infection (AHI). AHI occurs soon after exposure, when virus is found in blood plasma but antibodies are not yet detectible. All but one of the patients studied had been infected in the last 45 days. The study team developed a mathematical model to predict how often latent cells were infected based on when ART was started. They found that early treatment reduced the production of latently infected cells.
In addition, the researchers found that there are two types of latently infected cells, one short-lived, but another extremely durable, what the authors refer to as a “deep” latent infection.
“We found that latent infection decayed in some patients, but that all had a few deeply latent infected cells,” said David Margolis, MD, professor of medicine, microbiology and immunology, and epidemiology at UNC and senior author on the study. “These are the cells that we must eliminate to cure infection.”
The team made other hopeful observations. “The immune response of some patients appears to play a role in limiting the size of the latent reservoir,” said Nancie Archin, PhD, the study’s lead author and a research scientist at the medical school. “Efforts to improve the immune response to prevent HIV infection may also teach us to eradicate it.”
Ingrid Clark Durfy
On May 31, Ingrid Clark Durfy, Vice President, Community Affairs and Advocacy, Janssen Therapeutics passed away. “Her death was sudden and a shock for all of us,” said Paulette Heath, Janssen Therapeutics Senior Director, Community Affairs & Advocacy.
Clark Durfy joined Johnson & Johnson in 1988. During her more than 20 years with the company, she worked in a variety of roles with increasing responsibility. She was a champion of diversity and inclusion efforts and most recently served as the African American Leadership Council (AALC) Chapter Chair for the U.S. Janssen Pharmaceuticals companies. May 16th marked her one year anniversary as Vice President, Community Affairs and Advocacy with Janssen Therapeutics.
“She was a gifted leader with tremendous energy and enthusiasm and she was deeply committed to the needs of people living with HIV/AIDS and those who care for them,” said Heath. “Ingrid was particularly passionate about partnering across the public and private sector to support the implementation of the National HIV/AIDS Strategy.”
The Brits have gotten it right again. Lesley Pilkington, a psychotherapist who was found guilty of professional malpractice for using the techniques of “conversion therapy” (a bogus form of treatment which is supposed to make gay people become straight) has lost her appeal against the British Association for Counseling and Psychotherapy (BACP). The BACP described her practice as “negligent, dogmatic, and unprofessional.” The British Humanist Association (BHA) applauded the BACP’s unanimous decision and the suspension of Pilkington’s accreditation.
The complaint which started this case was made by the award-winning journalist Patrick Strudwick, who was investigating therapists who claim to be able to “treat” homosexuality. Mr Strudwick, who is gay, received two counseling sessions from Mrs. Pilkington in 2009, in which she used the techniques of conversion therapy (also known as “reparative therapy”), as well as praying to God in an attempt to make him become heterosexual. Not surprisingly, the treatment failed.
“I am delighted that the BACP has upheld their original decision,” Strudwick said. “Mrs. Pilkington’s therapeutic practices have been held up to scrutiny and found to be fundamentally flawed. This case sets a vital precedent. I urge anyone involved in this harmful practice to take note of this case and desist. Love needs no cure.”
Think the Defense Appropriations bill is of no interest to you? Guess again. Among the plethora of battles being fought between both parties in both chambers are two provisions addressing “social issues.” The House bill banned same-sex marriage ceremonies on military bases and included conscience provisions for military chaplains, giving them the right to refuse to perform the ceremony if it went against their religious principles. The Senate bill, on the other hand, allows the Pentagon to fund abortions in the case of rape or incest. Currently only cases where a woman’s life is in danger are allowed. One wonders if the number of gay and lesbian couples wanting to get married in their dress uniforms on base, as well as the number of rapes of armed services personnel, have increased to the point where demand cannot be ignored.
One co-sponsor was added to H.R. 3053, the REPEAL Act, ending discrimination against HIV-positive people in the law—Democrat Rush Holt of New Jersey.