Nearly four in 10 US HIV infections from people unaware of infection

This electron microscope image made available by the U.S. National Institutes of Health shows a human T cell, in blue, under attack by HIV, in yellow, the virus that causes AIDS. (AP)
Updated 19 March 2019

Nearly four in 10 US HIV infections from people unaware of infection

  • The Trump administration has said it will invest $291 million in the next financial year to fight HIV/AIDS, which has plateaued since 2013 to around 39,000 annual transmissions

WASHINGTON: Almost 40 percent of new HIV cases in the US occur because people do not know they are infected, while a similar proportion know but are not in treatment, according to a study released Monday.
The report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is based on 2016 data and aims to bolster a strategy outlined by President Donald Trump to end the epidemic within 10 years.
The strategy has two main strands: far more widespread screening, and enabling the infected better access to treatment from the moment they test positive.
The study found that 38 percent of infections came from HIV-positive people who were unaware of their status, and 43 percent from people who knew they were infected but took no anti-retroviral drugs.
The remaining infections came from people who were receiving HIV treatment but were not yet “virally suppressed.”
The CDC blamed financial, social and other reasons for people not using medication, which these days typically comes in the form of a daily pill with minimal side effects.
The study said that the infection rate from the half million people in the United States who take medication and are virally suppressed — meaning they cannot pass on the disease to others — was zero.

The most at-risk group remains homosexual men, with almost three-quarters of new infections coming from men having sex with men, the report said.
Five percent of infections came from intravenous drug abuse among homosexual men, while 10 percent came from injecting drugs among the rest of the population.
Twelve percent of infections were among heterosexuals. Overall, the highest rate of transmission was among 13 to 24-year-olds.
The Trump administration has said it will invest $291 million in the next financial year to fight HIV/AIDS, which has plateaued since 2013 to around 39,000 annual transmissions.
The goal is to reduce that number by 75 percent within five years and by 90 percent in 10 years.
Questioned about the relatively small amount of money earmarked for the multi-billion dollar task of treating HIV carriers, CDC head Robert Redfield said he was “confident that the resources that are required to accomplish this mission are in the long term plan.”
The CDC, based in Atlanta, Georgia, wants doctors to make HIV screening a routine procedure.
“Everyone between the ages of 13 and 64 should get tested for HIV at least once in their lifetime,” said Eugene McCray, the head of the CDC’s Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention.
“Those at higher risk should get tested at least annually,” he said.
“The key to controlling is helping those with HIV to control the virus,” said the CDC’s Jonathan Mermin, who focuses on preventing the spread of the HIV as well as other sexually transmitted diseases, tuberculosis and hepatitis.
“Time spent working closely with patients who are having trouble paying for, picking up or taking their daily medications is time well spent“

Khalilzad announces ‘pause’ in Taliban talks after deadly attack on US-run airfield

Updated 6 min 7 sec ago

Khalilzad announces ‘pause’ in Taliban talks after deadly attack on US-run airfield

  • Peace talks had got underway again following Trump’s surprise visit to the Bagram base two weeks ago

KABUL: The US special envoy to Afghanistan on Friday announced a “pause” in peace talks with the Taliban after the militant group launched an intense hours-long attack on a key US military airfield north of Kabul.

Zalmay Khalilzad said he was “outraged” about the raid on the Bagram base which came just a week after he had resumed negotiations with Taliban representatives in Qatar.

In a tweet Khalilzad added: “(The Taliban) must show they are willing and able to respond to Afghan desire for peace. We are taking a brief pause for them to consult their leadership on this essential topic.”

Suhail Shaheen, a Taliban spokesman who is based at the group’s political headquarters in Qatar, tweeted that both sides had decided to have a few days’ break “for consultation.”

Peace talks had got underway again following American President Donald Trump’s surprise visit to the Bagram base two weeks ago, during which he announced the restart of dialogue aimed at ending the long-running Afghan conflict.

Trump had called off negotiations in September after a Taliban attack in Kabul killed an American serviceman.

In line with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, the American leader had said a cease-fire was a must for relaunching peace discussions, while some US diplomats, including Khalilzad, viewed a reduction of violence as essential for the process to continue.

Following the latest pause in talks, Ghani’s chief spokesman, Sediq Sediqqi, told Arab News: “Our position has been very clear. The Taliban must cease violence.”

However, there had been no pledge from the Taliban side or Afghan and US-led troops to halt attacks, neither when the talks were held in the past, nor during the latest discussions.

Wednesday’s pre-dawn attack on Bagram lasted more than 10 hours and forced the US military to use a fighter jet and helicopter gunships against the Taliban insurgents.

At least two Afghan civilians were killed, and more than 80 others injured, including five Georgian soldiers, during the fighting.

Khalilzad and US diplomats had held at least 10 rounds of secret talks with the Taliban prior to Trump’s September intervention to halt them. In his tweet, Shaheen said the latest meeting had been “very good and friendly.”

Analyst Akbar Polad said the pause following the Bagram assault was a blow to the peace process and “means a continuation of fighting and more pressure on the Taliban in the future. Either the Taliban do not know or are given false advice for launching attacks like (the one on) Bagram and claiming responsibility,” he told Arab News.

“The Taliban are given the illusion that they are the victors of the war, (that) they will replace the current government. When they conduct attacks, they will further face isolation in society as Afghans suffer the most, and because the Taliban refuse to talk with the government,” Polad added.

The resumption of talks last week, in the middle of a deepening political crisis over September’s presidential vote in Afghanistan, raised hopes of a possible breakthrough in the latest chapter of the war, which began with the Taliban’s ouster in a US-led campaign in late 2001.

A few weeks earlier, the Taliban and the US exchanged prisoners – an American and Australian – both professors at the American University of Afghanistan – for three militants jailed by the Afghan government.

The government has not taken part in the talks because of objections by the Taliban.

Ghani has been pushing for a truce before any discussions – either between the Taliban and the Americans, or between the Taliban and the government – take place.

The Taliban insisted they would only announce a truce after the US had agreed on a timetable for the withdrawal of its troops from Afghanistan.

According to the Afghan government, however, the militant group’s political leaders based in Qatar do not have much clout over Taliban military commanders in the field.