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When stereotypes get in the way of addressing HIV

More than 30 years after the first HIV case was reported in the United States, two recent incidents remind us that around the world, there is still misinformation around the disease.
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(Emily Judem/GlobalPost)

No one thought she could have HIV. She was a middle class mayoral aide, a heterosexual woman, and she had me, a perfectly healthy toddler. She was not an injection drug user. That wasn’t the kind of person who got HIV—the gay man’s disease.

These stereotypes kept my mom from being correctly diagnosed with the virus in the early 1990s. The thought that it might be cancer, the copious amounts of medication, the endless questions and confusion—it all amounted to wasted time that ultimately cost my mom her life. All because no one thought to test her for HIV, because she did not fit the stereotype.

More than 30 years since the first case of HIV was reported in the United States, the same misinformation that prevented my mom from receiving an accurate diagnosis still runs rampant throughout the world. 

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Global health aid to fight HIV/AIDS boosts US’s image abroad, says new study

PEPFAR has improved public opinion across the developing world, according to a recently published paper.
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U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry speaks during the 10th Anniversary Celebration of the Presidents Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), at the State Department, June 17, 2013 in Washington, DC. The Presidents Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief is a U.S. Government initiative created to help save the lives of those suffering from HIV/AIDS around the world. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

As Congress debates the global health budget in coming months, some will argue that the funding improves security. Many will call it a moral imperative. And others will say that it boosts the nation’s image abroad.

Until now, there hasn’t been much solid data to back up the last claim. But a new study provides strong evidence that at least some forms of global health aid improve public opinion about the United States in the countries that receive it.

The study, published earlier this month in the Quarterly Journal of Political Science, found that the government’s main program for addressing HIV and AIDS has significantly improved public perceptions of the US across many developing countries.

The program, known as the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), was launched under the Bush Administration in 2003. Since then, it has channeled more than $52 billion to more than 80 countries to address the HIV/AIDS epidemic. It’s the single largest expenditure in the US government’s global health budget.

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The case for taking one pill a day to prevent HIV

Opinion: Concerns about the newly approved drug Truvada for HIV prevention are unfounded. It’s worth prescribing, say health researchers at UCLA.
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A picture taken on May 11, 2012 shows a box of antiretroviral drug Truvada -- two months before the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Gilead Sciences' Truvada as a preventative treatment for people who are at high risk of contracting HIV through sexual intercourse. (JOEL SAGET/AFP/Getty Images)

New global data overwhelmingly suggest that a pill to prevent HIV, approved by the United States’ Food and Drug Administration in July 2012, is safer and more effective than the medical community originally thought. Importantly, new models predict that when taken daily, the drug, called Truvada, can lower the risk of HIV transmission by 99 percent. Recent studies also show that a large-scale rollout of Truvada is unlikely to lead to increased antiviral drug resistance or risk-taking behavior, as some had feared.

But old concerns, even as they have been called into question, persist, and are hindering Truvada from being widely used for HIV prevention. This needs to change. 

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New study finds anti-HIV treatment may protect children’s hearts

Due to the use of new combination anti-HIV treatment therapy, children living with HIV today face fewer heart problems than in the past, a new NIH study finds.
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Children who now receive antiretroviral therapy have been shown to have about 40 percent less heart damage than children who received single drug or no treatment in the 1990s. (Paula Bronstein/Staff/AFP/Getty Images)

The combination drug therapy now used to treat children born with HIV-1 appears to protect against previously common heart damage, according to a new study published earlier this week.

The study, funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), found that fewer HIV-positive children on today’s combination drug treatment had heart damage than those who participated in a study in the 1990s. 

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Five interesting ways people are fighting HIV around the world

HIV/AIDS awareness campaigns are using new techniques to reach wider audiences.
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An activist waves a rainbow flag in support of HIV/AIDS awareness on the 2012 World Aids Day in Manila. (Ted Aljibe/AFP/Getty Images)

In an attempt to reach a wider audience, many HIV/AIDS awareness campaigns are using creative techniques to send a positive message about HIV prevention and treatment. Here are five interesting ways people are fighting the disease around the world:

1) In the village of Corozal in Honduras, members of the local Garifuna tribe use musical performance and theater to promote HIV awareness. According to NPR, the Garifuna have an HIV rate that is five times higher than the national rate. In order to combat the rampant spread of the disease, members of the community have formed a theater troupe that puts HIV on mock trial in community shows. Health ministry officials in the capital of Tegulcigalpa are conducting research with the CDC to determine the program's effectiveness.

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Twitter's reactions to toddler's #HIV cure

Here's how Twitter reacted to Sunday's news that a toddler in Mississippi, who was born with HIV, has been effectively cured.

PEPFAR report recommends countries control own HIV/AIDS programs

An independent evaluation of PEPFAR praised the program's achievements but said its work is unfinished. Among its recommendations is a shift to an advisory role.
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HIV/AIDS activists, some of them living with the virus, yell during a demonstration April 25, 2012 in Nairobi on the sidelines of a joint conference sponsored by the US embassy here and Kenya's vision 2030 about health and reducing mortality in the East African nation. The activists demanded that the US' - HIV programme, PEPFAR and the Kenya government work together to utilise some 500 million of unspent PEPFAR funds to get desperately needed HIV treatment to more Kenyans. (Tony Karumba/AFP/Getty Images)

An independent evaluation of the President’s Emergency Program for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), released last week by the Institute of Medicine (IOM), lauded the program’s achievements as proof that HIV services can be delivered successfully on a large scale. The report also recommended several changes to the program, to ensure that the HIV/AIDS response is sustainable.

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On National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, a crisis continues

A look at some of the programs trying to stem the AIDS epidemic among African-Americans.
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The details of a panel of the AIDS Memorial Quilt which is on display at the National Cathedral July 17, 2012 in Washington, DC. (Alex Wong/AFP/Getty Images)

On this 13th annual National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, GlobalPost looked at some of the leading initiatives for combating HIV/AIDS in the black community. The staggering number of black Americans living with HIV has spurred many efforts to combat transmission of the disease, and recently, the focus has shifted from understanding the risk factors to addressing them head-on.

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Living with HIV: the new normal (VIDEO)

In today's world, testing positive for HIV no longer equates to a death sentence. But after the diagnoses, how does one go on living?

In Middle East, HIV infection rates are rising

CAIRO — The Middle East and North Africa region has long had one of the world’s lowest HIV prevalence rates. But that could be changing. According to the UNAIDS 2012 Global Report, the region is one of just two areas where HIV infection rates continue to grow — and where antiretroviral treatment is the least accessible due to traditional societal stigma and intransigent authorities. 
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