Test, treat HIV regardless of the Pandemic. It is a wider threat.



Three women running women’s shelters tell FPMag that in the midst of pandemic lockdowns the world over, “vulnerable women and girls are enduring repeated rape and incest from multiple aggressors which is causing the spead of HIV, HBV, and Syphilis.”

A report in the Lancet medical journal cautioned against abandon of HIV care in mid-2020. The risk has been realized. 75.7 Million people have become infected with HIV/AIDS since the COVID-19 Pandemic began, according to UNAIDS.

Untreated HIV/AIDS has a 99% Case Fatality Rate (CFR).

“Timely linkage to HIV care could be hindered during the COVID-19 pandemic. People living with HIV who should have initiated antiretroviral therapy (ART) in hospital might be deterred or delayed because hospitals are busy treating patients with COVID-19. Furthermore, because many public health authorities globally are focused on COVID-19 control, allocation of resources for HIV care could be diminished, and circumstances surrounding the HIV care continuum could worsen,” writes Hongbo Jiang, Yi Zhou, and Weiming Tang, in The Lancet medical journal. The Lancet report is about “Maintaining HIV care during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

This article is about resuming HIV care.

 


by Micheal John with files from Katie Alsop


According to Michele Francis who runs three clinics and a small hospital in Venezuela,“The RINJ Foundation continues its free HIV test programme, providing free tests all over the world, despite the global pandemic. Where the RINJ organization has a clinic or shelter, it will conduct the test. Otherwise the women’s group will drop ship a self-test to the requestor and provide some follow-up,” she explained.

Test, treat HIV regardless of the pandemic

Test, trace and treat HIV
regardless
of the pandemic.
Maintaining care for HIV patients, including testing, is not as difficult as it apparently seems to public health officials. “Inequalities are pervasive in access to testing, treatment, prevention, and care for HIV patients,” say RINJ workers in the poorer countries. Photo Credit: Sharon Santiago.  Art/Cropping/Enhancement: Rosa Yamamoto FPMag

Chart: The 12 nations with over a million cases of HIV. (Tens of millions have died, far more than COVID-19 has killed according to UNAIDS.)

Nevertheless, AIDS-related mortality has declined by 39% since 2010, says UNAIDS officials. See also USA NIH: Global Mortality and Morbidity of HIV/AIDS

Country Estimated number of  HIV/AIDS Patients
South Africa 7,500,000
 Mozambique 2,200,000
 India 2,100,000
 Nigeria 1,800,000
 Tanzania 1,700,000
 Uganda 1,500,000
 Kenya 1,500,000
 Zimbabwe 1,400,000
 Zambia 1,200,000
Malawi 1,100,000
 United States 1,018,000
 Russian Federation 1,000,000

Canada has around 75,000 cases.

Source: The RINJ Foundation

Some current HIV/AIDS Statistics.

  • 6 million [25.1 million–26.2 million] people were accessing antiretroviral therapy as of the end of June 2020.
  • 38.0 million [31.6 million–44.5 million] people globally were living with HIV in 2019.
  • 1.7 million [1.2 million–2.2 million] people became newly infected with HIV in 2019.
  • 690 000 [500 000–970 000] people died from AIDS-related illnesses in 2019 alone.
  • 75.7 million [55.9 million–100 million] people have become infected with HIV since the start of the epidemic (end 2019).
  • 32.7 million [24.8 million–42.2 million] people have died from AIDS-related illnesses since the start of the epidemic (end 2019).

Source: UNAIDS

Medical Workers believe HIV is a greater threat than COVID

“I interviewed three RINJ field doctors in Syria, Ghana and Venezuela. The consensus of RINJ is that it collectively believes that HIV/AIDS is still the number one threat to public health and human development,” reported Katie Alsop.

Listing volunteers among Rohingya Women for Vaccine Testing

The following three items are what RINJ is focused on for a large scale trial with Rohingya women in Bangladesh and Myanmar.  “The RINJ medical people prefer the Kenyan vaccine project for the Rohingya project,” reports Alsop.

“There is a good possibility that if RINJ can get the funding to provide ART prophylaxis for Rohingya women, until that ART treatment suppresses the virus to a point of being undetectable, there could be some very good outcomes. This would be a good adjunct to something that is already being done. It’s an indication, not a certainty that if we can suppress the virus to an undetectable level, the vaccine can bolster cells to hunt down the remaining fragments and invalidate them,” the RINJ co-founder reports from her travels.

“‘That’s a cure,’ Dr. Anderson told me,” Alsop added to her report.

“The doctors say that the number of positive tests coming back from Cox’s Bazaar on Bengal Bay is plain scary,” Alsop reports.

“Some 150,000 women were raped by Myanmar soldiers and by providing free tests to the soldiers in Myanmar, we know a huge number are infected with HIV having raped among them the same women over and over. RINJ was forced recently to evacuate Myanmar as the soldiers had been instructed to hunt down the RINJ women and kill them,” recalls Francis.

1. “A clinical trial named the ‘IAVI W001 trial’ is now being conducted in Kenya. The vaccine candidate dubbed BG505 SOSIP is a molecule cloned to resemble HIV. It will be tested on Kenyan volunteers to check for safety and efficacy.” (Citing a RINJ HIV Document)

2. Another of numerous breakthroughs is reported by KIFF Global Health Policy The report explains that Professor Benson Edagwa and his colleagues at the University of Nebraska Medical Center modified an existing ARV drug – cabotegravir – to enable the body to absorb and release it slowly from tissues over 12 months.

“Clinic visits will be reduced, leaving health providers to provide other essential services like immunizations and also the patients would have more time for other economic activities. Supply chain would be easier and predictable and most likely cheaper,” said Peter Cherutich, Senior Deputy Director of Medical Services at the Kenya Ministry of Health.

3. “The Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CCDCP) of Beijing has been working on an HIV vaccine since first trials in 2007. The vaccine is called DNA-rTV and, in this second phase of human trials, researchers are testing the replication of the DNA of HIV in order to trigger the immunization.” (Citing a RINJ HIV Document)

4. “An American project called HVTN 706  has been developing for 15-years. HVTN 706 involves the US National Institutes of Health (NIH); the HIV Vaccine Trials Network headquartered at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center; the US Army Medical Research and Development Command; and the private sector firm, Janssen div. of Johnson & Johnson.” (Citing a RINJ HIV Document)

Key player in the Kenyan HIV Medical Science and Human Care Regime

Breakthrough

One of numerous breakthroughs. Professor Benson Edagwa and his colleagues at the University of Nebraska Medical Center modified an existing ARV drug – cabotegravir – to enable the body to absorb and release it slowly from tissues over 12 months.
“Clinic visits will be reduced, leaving health providers to provide other essential services like immunizations and also the patients would have more time for other economic activities. Supply chain would be easier and predictable and most likely cheaper,” said Peter Cherutich. Photo supplied by RINJ. Art/Cropping/Enhancement: Rosa Yamamoto FPMag


Another Key player in the surging Kenyan HIV Care Capability

One other of the driving forces in HIV research today, also springs from Kenya. Prof. Peter Cherutich is a leading researcher in HIV medicine.

Peter Cherutich

“My research interests revolve around optimizing HIV prevention options in Kenya and my portfolio include pioneering work among people who inject drugs (PWID). In the context of micro-elimination of Hepatitis C among PWID I have established research collaborations with University of Washington (UW), Yale University and Gilead Sciences. My PhD work published in the Lancet HIV catalyzed WHO recommendations in assisted HIV partner notification services and is the basis for scaling up of partner notification services in PEPFAR and Global Fund supported countries including Kenya.
I have also interests in young and adolescent women to improve their knowledge of HIV status and to establish mechanisms for resilience and reduce risk of HIV acquisition.
In partnership with Georgetown University we are on initial discussions on implementation science research work around HIV cure and some preparatory work that would need to be done before it becomes available.”