HIV pills show more promise to prevent infection

Updated 23 July 2014
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HIV pills show more promise to prevent infection

MELBOURNE: There is more good news about HIV treatment pills used to prevent infection in people at high risk of getting the AIDS virus: Follow-up from a landmark study that proved the drug works now shows that it does not encourage risky sex and is effective even if people skip some doses.
The research was discussed Tuesday at the International AIDS Conference in Melbourne, Australia, and was published by the British journal Lancet Infectious Diseases.
It involves 1,600 gay men and transgender women who took part in the original study showing that daily use of the drug Truvada lowered the risk of getting HIV.
After the study ended, they were offered the chance to keep getting the pills for free, and three-quarters of them agreed. All were studied for another 17 months.
None who took the pills at least four days a week became infected. Even use two or three days a week lowered the risk of infection compared to taking the pills less often or not at all. Researchers could tell how often the drug was taken because they measured it in blood samples.
“We’re encouraged,” said study leader Dr. Robert Grant, an AIDS expert at the Gladstone Institutes, a foundation affiliated with the University of California, San Francisco. “There’s a demand, there’s some forgiveness for missed doses. And it’s safe.” Mitchell Warren, who heads a nonprofit group that works on HIV prevention research, said in an e-mail from Melbourne that “the story is now clear” that this approach “is real, it works, and it should be made available to people at risk now as part of high-impact combination prevention.” Condoms remain the best way to prevent HIV infection but not everyone uses them all the time, so health officials recommend other options for certain groups, such as gay men.
Some health officials had worried that taking Truvada might give a false sense of security and make men less likely to use condoms or to limit their partners. However, study participants reported no increase in these behaviors, and there was no rise in syphilis or herpes, other sexually spread diseases that might suggest risk-taking.
The study was done in the United States, South America, Africa and Thailand, and paid for by the US National Institutes of Health.
Truvada already is sold for treating HIV. It’s a combination of two drugs, tenofovir and emtricitabine, or FTC, made by California-based Gilead Sciences Inc. Its wholesale price is $800 a month in the US but generic versions are available in other countries and they cost as little as 31 cents a day in Africa, Grant said.
“The main challenge is to find a way to make it more available,” he said.


Afghanistan’s vice president Abdul Rashid Dostum to return home from exile

Updated 22 July 2018
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Afghanistan’s vice president Abdul Rashid Dostum to return home from exile

  • Dostum’s return follows nearly three weeks of mass protests in northern Afghanistan
  • The protests were a major headache for the government amid increased attacks by the Taliban and Daesh

KABUL: Afghan Vice President Abdul Rashid Dostum, who was exiled by President Ashraf Ghani’s government over allegations of sexual abuse, returned home on Sunday to rapturous reception from supporters and is set to resume his duties as normal.
Dostum’s return follows nearly three weeks of mass protests in northern Afghanistan by his ethnic Uzbek supporters, who blocked several border crossings and government institutions, and threatened to boycott the long-delayed October elections.
The protests were a major headache for the government amid increased attacks by the Taliban and Daesh in the north recently.
Dostum’s supporters accuse Ghani of having sidelined him. The protests were triggered by the arrest of Nizamuddin Qaisari, a senior commander and Dostum loyalist accused of severe human rights abuses and threatening to kill provincial officials.
In a video, government troops were seen beating Qaisari’s handcuffed guards during his arrest, stoking further anger.
Haroon Chakansuri, a spokesman for Ghani, said Dostum had gone to Turkey for nearly 14 months for unspecified medical treatment, and would return home on a chartered aircraft on Sunday and be given an official reception.
Accusations that Dostum had ordered his guards to sexually abuse and torture political rival Ahmad Eschi will be handled independently by the courts, Chakansuri said. Dostum supporters say the allegations about Eschi are a conspiracy.
Ghani picked Dostum, the self-proclaimed leader of ethnic Uzbeks, as his running mate in the 2014 elections.
Ghani last year blocked Dostum’s return from exile when he tried to fly home to form an opposition alliance including senior government members.
The ethnic Uzbek vote is essential for any candidate in the presidential elections slated for next year. Ghani has said he will stand for office again.