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Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by editors of The HealthDay Service:
Complacency, Drug Resistance Among AIDS Concerns
The opening of the 14th Annual International AIDS Conference in Barcelona sparked a flurry of reports about disturbing AIDS trends in the United States.
Dr. Ron Valdiserri, deputy director of HIV, STD, and TB at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, warned that just as the decline in numbers of Americans with AIDS appears to be leveling off, apathy about the disease in this country appears to be growing.
Other findings that are particularly troubling, he said, are figures showing that blacks account for a hugely disproportionate number of new infections, with no less than three-quarters of new heterosexual HIV infections between 1994 and 2000 being among blacks, reports MSNBC.
And in other findings, a study coming out this week in the Journal of the American Medical Association indicates that one in four new cases of HIV infection in San Francisco are resistant to some classes of anti-retroviral drugs, reports the BBC.
The study's authors, with the Gladstone Institute of Virology and Immunology, say the findings underscore the need for the development of new classes of AIDS drugs.
Census: 2.4 Million Grandparents Are Primary Caregivers
About 2.4 million grandparents are the primary caregivers to their grandchildren, according to the first tracking of this trend by the U.S. Census.
While previous censuses have looked at the percentages of children under 18 living in a grandparent-headed home, the 2000 census was the first to ask how many grandparents were the main caregivers to grandchildren in those homes, reports the Associated Press.
In asking if a grandparent was responsible for "most of the basic needs" of a grandchild, 42 percent of the nearly 5.8 million grandparents living with a grandchild responded yes.
The highest percentages of grandparents who served in parental roles of one form or another for a grandchild were seen in Wyoming and Oklahoma, with 59 percent. The rates were lowest in Massachusetts, at 28 percent.
AIDS Conference Kicks Off in Barcelona
The global AIDS epidemic comes under the spotlight this week as more than 15,000 people from around the world gather in Barcelona for the 14th International AIDS Conference.
The meeting opened today with Dr. Peter Piot, executive director of the U.N. AIDS program, declaring that, despite the emergence of better drugs, the AIDS epidemic continues to spread uncontrollably, reports the Associated Press.
"From a historical perspective, we are still in the early days of the epidemic," said Piot. "There are no indications that the AIDS epidemic is leveling off, not even in the most affected countries."
Piot said the virus is spreading rapidly in China, the former Soviet Union, and other parts of Asia. In Russia, reported cases have increased by a factor of 15 over the past three years.
There are now more than 40 million people in the world infected with the AIDS virus, and more than half of those cases are in Africa, say experts.
Family Feuds Over Freezing Ted Williams's Corpse
As the sports world mourned the passing of baseball legend Ted Williams this week, behind-the-scenes family conflicts over his remains veered into the realm of the bizarre.
Reports have surfaced that the slugger's corpse has already been placed in a deep freeze for future revival or cloning.
According to Williams's granddaughter, the baseball star's frozen remains have been flown to a warehouse in Arizona that specializes in cryonics, reports the Boston Globe. The move was reportedly ordered by Williams's only son, John Henry Williams, who is not on speaking terms with his siblings and half-siblings. The son neither confirmed nor denied the report. He has managed Ted Williams's financial affairs in the father's later years, and has been accused by other family members of exploiting his fame for money, including several business failures.
Williams died Friday at age 83 after suffering several strokes and cardiovascular problems.
Under the standard cryonic process, Williams's blood and brain fluids would have first been replaced with a special preservation solution.
Upon arrival at the Scottsdale cryogenics facility he was reportedly transported to, the Alcor Life Extension Foundation, Williams' body would have been placed in an aluminum pod, filled with nitrogen vapor that would chill it to 320 degrees below zero.
The corpse is then reportedly stored in a thermos-like container until the heirs decide to unfreeze it. Some believe that when technology emerges, such corpses could possibly be revived or at least cloned from cells.
According to the Globe, Williams's eldest daughter, Barbara Joyce "Bobby-Jo" Williams Ferrell, says her lawyer is preparing to seek restraining order to halt the plans.
Smallpox Plan May Involve More Vaccines Than Thought
A plan to vaccinate teams of medical and emergency workers who are designated to be the first to respond in a smallpox biological attack may involve many more vaccinations than has been estimated, a federal health adviser said yesterday.
Experts have anticipated that the plan, recommended by the panel that sets the nation's vaccine policy, would involve vaccinating about 10,000 to 20,000 first responders in an attack.
Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson is now considered the plan. But Dr. Donald A. Henderson, a scientific adviser to Thompson, told the Associated Press that if there were, for instance, 2,000 hospitals with response teams set up, that would mean about 500,000 health care workers requiring vaccinations.
The panel had considered reintroducing the smallpox vaccination to the general public, but decided against that due to concerns about side effects that can claim the lives of about one in every million who are vaccinated.
A decision on whether to adopt the recommendations should be made by Aug. 1, said Henderson.
Caribbean Nations to Get Discounted AIDS Drugs
Fifteen Caribbean nations will have access to substantially discounted AIDS drugs under a new plan announced yesterday by officials with the Caribbean Community.
Under the deal, six major pharmaceutical companies will provide drugs discounted by as much as 90 percent to help control AIDS in the region, reports the Associated Press.
Companies participating in the deal include the U.S.-based Bristol-Myers Squibb Co., Merck & Co., and Abbott Laboratories.
The Caribbean region has the second highest HIV infection rate in the world, trailing only sub-Saharan Africa. About 2 percent of the population, or 500,000 people, are HIV-positive.
Meanwhile, more than 60 percent of HIV-infected people in the nations cannot afford drugs to control the condition.
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