Health Highlights: Dec. 1, 2011
Gene Injection Shields Mice From HIV Immediate Drug Therapy Urged for New HIV Patients: NYC Officials Obama to Announce New Measures to Fight HIV/AIDS U.S. Should Ease Restrictions on Medical Marijuana: Governors
Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:
Gene Injection Shields Mice From HIV
Experts are hailing the results of a study in which mice injected with a gene to protect them against HIV appeared to be fully shielded against the virus that causes AIDS.
The antibody gene was carried in a harmless virus and injected into a leg muscle. The mice made high levels of the antibody for more than a year, which suggests lifetime protection for the mice, the AP reported.
However, the California Institute of Technology researchers don't know what would happen in people. They're preparing an application to test the approach in humans.
"This is a very important paper (about) a very creative idea," Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told the AP.
If this method works in humans, it could be a significance advance in the fight against HIV/AIDS, said Dr. Harris Goldstein, director of the Einstein-Montefiore Center for AIDS Research in New York.
Along with possibly preventing HIV infection, it may also offer a treatment for infected people, he told the AP.
Immediate Drug Therapy for New HIV Patients: NYC Officials
Any person infected with HIV should be offered drug treatment as soon as they are diagnosed with the virus that causes AIDS, New York City health officials said Thursday.
This aggressive treatment has been shown to extend the life of HIV/AIDS patients and reduce the spread of the disease, the Associated Press reported.
Standard practice has been to wait until a patient's immune system weakens until beginning the pill regimen, which can cost up to $15,000 a year in the United States.
New York City has more than 110,000 HIV-infected people, more than any other city in the nation. The new recommendation could help about 3,000 people start taking medications, according to city health officials.
"I'm more optimistic now than I've ever been about this epidemic that we can drive our new rates down to zero or close to it -- eventually. I don't know how soon. But I'm very optimistic of the direction that it's going to take the epidemic to," Health Commissioner Thomas Farley told the AP.
Obama to Announce New Measures to Fight HIV/AIDS
President Barack Obama will announce new initiatives to combat HIV/AIDS at home and around the world when he appears Thursday at a World AIDS Day event in Washington, D.C.
Obama will set a target of providing antiretroviral drugs to 2 million more people worldwide by the end of 2013, as well as getting the drugs to 1.5 million HIV-positive pregnant women to protect their children from the virus, the Associated Press reported.
The new goals extend the work of the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, which lends assistance to 15 countries hard-hit by the AIDS epidemic.
Obama will also announce $50 million in increased funding for HIV and AIDS treatment in the United States, where there are 1.2 million people living with HIV and 50,000 new HIV infections each year, the AP reported.
U.S. Should Ease Restrictions on Medical Marijuana: Governors
The U.S. government should reclassify marijuana as a drug with accepted medical uses, say the governors of Washington and Rhode Island.
The change would enable their states and the other 14 states that allow the use of marijuana for medical purposes to regulate the safe distribution of the drug without risking federal prosecution, the governors wrote to the Drug Enforcement Administration, The New York Times reported.
"The divergence in state and federal law creates a situation where there is no regulated and safe system to supply legitimate patients who may need medical cannabis," Governor Christine Gregoire of Washington and Governor Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island noted.
They want medical marijuana reclassified as a Schedule II controlled substance, which would allow it to be dispensed by pharmacies and marijuana dispensaries that currently operate in an unclear legal situation in many states, The Times reported.