Fall in condom use behind HIV rise

HIV increase in gay men because of fall in condom use

A modest increase in unprotected sex is sufficient to erode some great benefits of other interventions, researchers said

A fall within the proportion of gay and bisexual men using condoms is behind the upward push in HIV infections in those groups within the UK, say researchers.

Wider use of anti-retroviral drugs has helped to forestall a sharper rise, a study by the Health Protection Agency (HPA) and numerous universities found.

They found a 26% rise, from 1990-2010, within the proportion of fellows who’ve sex with men who didn’t use condoms.

The report said the figures showed it was vital to advertise safe sex.

Rates of HIV were rising lately with latest figures showing cases among men who’ve sex with men (MSM) within the UK reaching an all-time high.

A recent report from the HPA found that just about half the 6,280 people diagnosed inside the UK in 2011 were MSM.

Overall, one in 20 MSM are infected with HIV.

For this study, researchers analysed data from 1990 to 2010. They concluded that, without the introduction of anti-retroviral drugs to regard people with HIV, infections will be 68% higher in MSM.

Therapy with anti-retrovirals lowers the danger of individuals with HIV infecting others.

The report suggested the incidence of HIV might be 32% lower if all anti-retroviral treatment were prescribed from the instant of diagnosis as opposed to when health declined.

Informed choices

Further analysis showed that, if all MSM had stopped using condoms from 2000, rates of HIV on this group would now be 400% higher, the journal PLoS One reported.

The data also showed that the incidence of HIV may have dropped by 1 / 4 if more HIV testing have been done.

But the researchers said the outcomes showed that even a modest increase in unprotected sex was enough to erode some great benefits of other interventions.

Study leader Professor Andrew Phillips, from University College London, said: “By better understanding the driving forces behind the trends we have seen prior to now, it’s going to let us make informed choices to minimize new HIV infections someday.”

Co-author Dr Valerie Delpech, who’s head of HIV surveillance on the HPA, said: “Everyone should use a condom when having sex with new or casual partners, until all partners have had a sexual health screen.

“We also encourage men who’ve sex with men to get an HIV and STI screen in any case annually, and each three months if having condomless sex with new or casual partners – and clinicians to take every opportunity to recommend HIV testing to this group.”

Sir Nick Partridge, chief executive of the Terrence Higgins Trust, said condom use by gay men had played a key part in containing the spread of HIV within the UK.

“Without it, there would had been 80,000 more gay men with HIV between 2000 and 2010.”

He added that the study showed the impact of the combined HIV means of promoting condoms, increasing regular HIV testing and inspiring the sooner use of anti-HIV drug therapy.

He added: “At a time when funding for local HIV prevention programmes is under threat, this only reinforces the real role which local authorities can and must play in funding local HIV prevention.”

Gene therapy trial ‘cures children’

Gene therapy trial ‘cures children’

Errors within the genetic code could have deadly consequences

A disease which robs children of the flexibility to stroll and talk have been cured by pioneering gene therapy to correct errors of their DNA, say doctors.

The study, inside the journal Science, showed the 3 patients were now going to varsity.

A second study published whilst has shown an analogous therapy reversing a severe genetic disease affecting the immune system.

Gene therapy researchers said it was a “really exciting” development.

Both diseases are resulting from errors inside the patient’s genetic code – the manual for building and running their bodies.

Decline

Babies born with metachromatic leukodystrophy appear healthy, but their development starts to reverse between the ages of 1 and two as component to their brain is destroyed.

Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome results in a defective immune system. It makes patients more vulnerable to infections, cancers and the immune system could also attack other parts of the body.

The technique, developed by a team of researchers on the San Raffaele Scientific Institute in Milan, Italy, used a genetically modified virus to correct the dangerous mutations in a patient’s genes.

Bone marrow stem cells are taken from the patient then the virus is used to ‘infect’ the cells with tiny snippets of DNA which contain the proper instructions. These are then put back into the patient.

Three children were picked for treatment from families with a history of metachromatic leukodystrophy, but before their brain function began to decline.

Dr Alessandra Biffi told the BBC: “The end result was very positive, they’re all in wonderful condition, with an average life and going to kindergarten at an age when their siblings were unable to chat.

“It’s something that is very pleasing to us.”

‘New era’

She said that each one treatments had unintended effects and these patients had to be followed for longer, however the evidence to date suggested the treatment was safe.

Gene therapy is a field that has promised excess of it has delivered and have been hampered by serious concerns about safety.

Dr Biffi said lessons have been learnt from previous failings: “Experience showed that gene therapy may be improved and lets be on the place to begin for a brand new era to succeed in greater than we did up to now.”

In any other study, published simultaneously within the journal Science, symptoms equivalent to repeat infections and eczema had lessened within the three patients treated.

Prof Bobby Gaspar, from Great Ormond Street Hospital in London is operating on a Medical Research Council trial using gene therapy as a treatment for adenosine deaminase deficiency – which also results in immune problems.

He told the BBC News website: “Here’s really exciting. Metachromatic leukodystrophy is a extremely significant neural degeneration which can’t be cured in another way and now the study shows they are able to live relatively normal lives.

“It raises the possibility that other diseases may be treated inside the same way.”

Prof Luigi Naldini, who leads the San Raffaele Telethon Institute for Gene Therapy, said: “Three years after the beginning of the clinical trial the consequences obtained from the 1st six patients are very encouraging.

“The therapy isn’t just safe, but additionally effective and ready to change the clinical history of those severe diseases.

“After 15 years of effort and our successes within the laboratory, but frustration to boot, it’s really exciting so as to give a concrete option to the 1st patients.”