Ending the HIV epidemic?


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President Donald Trump talks to Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts while leaving the House chamber after giving his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress, Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2019 at the Capitol in Washington. (Doug Mills/The New York Times via AP, Pool)

President Donald Trump talks to Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts while leaving the House chamber after giving his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress, Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2019 at the Capitol in Washington. (Doug Mills/The New York Times via AP, Pool)


Trump launching campaign to end HIV epidemic in US by 2030

By RICARDO ALONSO-ZALDIVAR

Associated Press

Wednesday, February 6

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump is launching a campaign to end the HIV epidemic in the United States by 2030, targeting areas where new infections happen and getting highly effective drugs to people at risk.

His move is being greeted with a mix of skepticism and cautious optimism by anti-AIDS activists. State and local health officials are warning the administration not to take money from other programs to finance the initiative, whose budget has not been revealed.

Briefing reporters ahead of Trump’s State of the Union speech , Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and senior public health officials said the campaign relies on fresh insights into where about half of new HIV cases occur — 48 out of some 3,000 U.S. counties, and Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico and seven states with at-risk rural residents.

“We’ve never had that kind of ‘This is the target,’” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government’s pre-eminent AIDS warrior and head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. The government has “been trying to address HIV, but never in such a focused way,” he said.

HIV is the virus that causes AIDS.

“Together, we will defeat AIDS in America and beyond,” Trump said in his speech. While he pledged funding in his upcoming budget, he did not say how much.

That raised a flag for state officials.

“This effort cannot move existing resources from one public health program and repurpose them to end HIV without serious consequences to our public health system,” Michael Fraser, CEO of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, said in a statement.

Anti-AIDS activists said they’re ready to work with the White House, but wary because of Trump’s previous efforts to slash Medicaid health care for low-income people, and his administration’s ongoing drive to roll back newly won acceptance for LGBTQ people.

“To date, this administration’s actions speak louder than words and have moved us in the wrong direction,” said AIDS United, which funds and advocates policies to combat AIDS.

The ONE Campaign, the global anti-poverty group co-founded by rock singer Bono, called Trump’s pledge a “welcome sign,” but pointed out that the administration has also proposed deep cuts in U.S. funding for efforts to battle HIV in Africa.

“While we might have policy differences with the president and his administration, this initiative, if properly implemented and resourced, can go down in history as one of the most significant achievements of his presidency,” Michael Ruppal, executive director of the AIDS Institute, said in a statement.

While Azar said significant new funding would be included in the president’s budget, he also emphasized that the campaign is about making more efficient use of existing programs like the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program, which provides medical care and support services.

“The tools are there,” Azar said. “This is about execution.”

Today’s HIV treatments work so well they not only can give people with the AIDS virus a near-normal life expectancy, they offer a double whammy — making those patients less likely to infect other people.

At the same time, a longtime HIV medication named Truvada can prevent infection if taken daily by healthy people who are at risk from their infected sexual partners, a strategy known as “pre-exposure prophylaxis” or PreP.

The people most at risk include men who have sex with men, minorities, particularly African-Americans, and American Indians/Alaska Natives. Azar said the administration’s campaign would rely on public health workers to identify people at risk for HIV/AIDS, get them tested, and on medication.

The 48 counties HHS is focusing on are mainly metro areas. The states are Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma and South Carolina.

Researchers noted that will require working with groups that often shun health services, including injectable drug users.

“Trust is a crucial weapon in our fight to eradicate HIV and it’s necessary to encourage people from marginalized groups to get tested,” said Dr. Albert Wu, an HIV researcher at Johns Hopkins University.

The initial goal is to reduce new HIV infections by 75 percent in five years.

There are about 40,000 new cases of HIV infections a year in the U.S. That’s a dramatic reduction from the crisis years of the AIDS epidemic, but progress has stalled. More than 1 million Americans live with the disease.

William McColl of AIDS United said the Trump administration’s goal is “very doable,” based on currently available technology and trends.

“I think the HIV community would work with the administration on this issue if they’re serious, but it’s also going to take real action, including possibly regulatory and legislative changes to achieve the goal,” said McColl.

Azar said the idea for the new push came from within the ranks of HHS, building on progress made over the last 30 years under administrations of both parties.

“There was a recognition that we were facing a unique and historic moment where all the strands were coming together,” said Azar. They took the idea to Trump, who “is personally invested in this,” said Azar.

In recent years a number of health organizations, including the United Nations, have called for coordinated steps to end the HIV epidemic by 2030.

Trump’s CDC director, Dr. Robert Redfield, told agency employees last March that it would possible to end the AIDS epidemic in less than seven years.

Associated Press writers Matthew Perrone and Lauran Neergaard contributed to this report.

Balderson Statement on State of the Union Address

February 5, 2019

WASHINGTON – Congressman Troy Balderson (R-OH) released the following statement regarding President Trump’s State of the Union Address:

“Tonight’s State of the Union address offered a unifying vision of a prosperous America. I’m encouraged by the strides our country is making to remedy its missteps of the past, by the strength of our stance in the world today—both economically and diplomatically, and by our country’s unending dedication to continued progress. We can always be better.

“As a member of both the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee as well as the Small Business Committee, I’m glad that much of tonight’s address focused on infrastructure and innovative business priorities. I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to advance these initiatives for the betterment of our nation.”

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EarthTalk Q&A

Children And The Environment: Why It’s Important To Teach Them Young

Avery Phillips

January 31, 2019

Creating worldwide change isn’t done with just one person; it has to involve everyone. In order to involve more people in the efforts to help the environment, it’s important to get younger generations involved in the effort. By fostering a concern for the environment and sustainable habits early, parents can raise children who will be more aware of environmental issues. Though schools will teach a bit about sustainability, the real work starts much earlier at home.

By establishing good habits like recycling at a young age, those habits are more likely to stick with kids as they get older. Younger generations are already becoming more conscious consumers, and instilling environmental values at a young age will help. Encouraging an interest in the outdoors will allow them to appreciate what they love about the environment. Children are our future, so it’s important to teach them about environmental issues so they can continue to help create change together.

Establishing Good Habits

It’s a lot easier to establish a habit in children than to teach them a new habit as they get older. Though some green living habits won’t come into play until a child gets older, there are plenty of habits for them to learn and witness in their parents. Teach them about recycling and which items go into which bin. Teach them about littering, keeping lights off, and turning off the water when they brush their teeth. If you use reusable bags to grocery shop, they will interpret that as the normal way of shopping and are more likely to do the same as an adult.

In your child’s early years, try to focus on social-emotional learning in order to help them adopt a conscientious mindset. In the words of childcare experts at Kindercare, “The vast majority of brain development happens between the ages of zero to three — the perfect time for children to build the positive social-emotional skills they’ll need.” During these formative years, focus on teaching them foundational skills required for critical thinking, social interactions, and creativity. Later in life, these skills will enable them to analyze environmental issues, communicate those ideas to peers, and ultimately find solutions.

There are also plenty of online tools that can help to explain some of the more complex ideas behind environmental issues as your child gets older. As they age and ask more questions about the habits you teach them, these tools can help answer some of their questions in a way that your children can understand.

Raising Environmentally Conscious Consumers

Becoming environmentally conscious from a consumer standpoint was something learned for many adults. For older generations, paying attention to your own role as a consumer and how that affects the environment wasn’t something many people thought about. However, parents today can change that for their children. This means focusing on recycled items, buying sustainably sourced food, finding energy-efficient appliances, and using biodegradable cleaning products. Even a few sustainable choices make a huge impact, and children tend to emulate these purchasing decisions as adults.

Being an environmentally conscious consumer is more than what you purchase; it’s who you purchase from. The evolution of sustainability from government initiatives to social change and corporate leaders making sustainable products has been happening for decades. However, many companies still operate without the environment in mind. Teaching your children about researching their purchases and giving their money to companies that value environmental issues will help them to continue that practice as they get older.

Encouraging an Interest in the Outdoors

It’s easier for people to care about an issue if it hits close to home for them. An emotional investment in an issue is hard to break, which is why encouraging an interest in the outdoors can be helpful for your child’s future interest in environmental issues. Lead by example and provide them with activities. Take them on walks, hikes, and outings to the lake or ocean. Allow them to climb trees, look at bugs, and admire wildlife. Encourage their interest and questions and foster their appreciation. By providing them with more outdoor experiences, they will begin to associate their environment with interest and happiness.

Not only will a love for the outdoors help them to have an emotional connection to environmental issues, it’ll also help them to be even more sustainable. They may be more interested in walking or biking instead of driving as they get older. They may adopt more outdoor hobbies like gardening. Not only that, but the outdoors encourage us to move more and stay healthier overall.

Children Are the Future

Each generation needs to be better than the last. Children need to learn how to protect their environment, be kind to each other, and make decisions that benefit the world as a whole. Environmental education and conservancy has been a public virtue since the 19th century, but in recent decades it’s been a hotly debated topic tied to political interest and financial gain instead of science. Because of this, it’s even more important to teach children about the environment and sustainability at home. Without action, the environment will suffer — and each generation along with it.

No one needs to be perfect in order to teach children about the environment. Each small, sustainable change makes an impact. It’s one fewer piece of plastic in a landfill, one fewer marine animal in peril, or one fewer dollar spent on oil. Teaching children that they can make a difference will help to raise a generation of adults who are more aware and environmentally conscious than the generation before them.

It’s important to teach your children about the environment at an early age because these teachings will become their normal. The environmental habits they learn, the environmentally conscious consumer choices they see, and the time they spend learning to love and appreciate the outdoors will shape them into the future of environmental sustainability.

Rattlesnake venom: mild, medium and wicked hot

Ohio State News

Feb. 6, 2019

Lizard-killing ability varies from snake to snake, study finds

COLUMBUS, Ohio – In a surprising evolutionary twist, a new study suggests that while one rattlesnake may routinely feast on lizard meat, its seemingly identical neighbor snake might strike and strike and never kill its would-be reptilian prey.

The first-of-its-kind research reveals significant venom variation within populations of Florida pygmy rattlesnakes, showing that effectiveness against one type of prey differs widely among individuals and opening up questions about why this variation exists. The study, led by evolutionary biologists at The Ohio State University, appears online today (Feb. 6, 2019) in the journal Biology Letters.

Scientists have long understood that these types of differences existed between different populations of snakes of the same species – and that made good intuitive sense, because they were living in different environments, with different dietary options at the ready.

But to find widespread variability between individual members of a group of snakes born and bred in the same area is perplexing – and also exciting – from a scientific perspective, said H. Lisle Gibbs, the study’s senior author and an Ohio State professor of evolution, ecology and organismal biology.

“We found differences within the same population that were almost four times greater than differences in toxicity between snakes from different regions. To my knowledge, nobody has ever documented anything like this before – we’ve all been focused on the snakes from different populations living in different habitats,” Gibbs said.

To study potential venom toxicity differences, the researchers first sampled venom from 32 pygmy rattlesnakes (Sistrurus miliarius), most of which were found within about 60 miles of one another in Florida. Then, they compared the effects of each snake’s venom on lizards collected in the same area.

Lizards represent about a quarter of the diet of these snakes in Florida. They also favor frogs and some small mammals. The researchers intentionally chose brown anole lizards (Anolis sagrei) as their model prey because they are an invasive species in Florida, meaning they are not native to the area. They are, however, comparable to one of the snakes’ common native prey species, the green anole (Anolis carolinensis).

In some cases, an individual rattler’s venom would prove deadly to most lizards. But venom from other snakes from the same area was lethal to only a few – or not lethal at all.

One big question the researchers are left with is how the toxicity of the snakes’ venom would vary on another prey species.

“It could be that the snakes that aren’t good at killing these lizards are great at killing other prey, such as frogs. We just don’t know,” Gibbs said.

“Another big question from an evolutionary perspective is ‘Why aren’t they good at killing everything all the time?’”

Gibbs said that producing the proteins found within venom takes a lot of energy, and it could be that different snakes’ energy has been devoted to toxicity against different types of prey.

“This is a whole new way of looking at how evolution operates on venom that we haven’t considered. There’s a new act in this evolutionary play that we didn’t know about until now.”

Aside from broadening scientific understanding of evolution, this work could one day help inform efforts to develop drugs based on venom – an area of pharmaceutical research that has already shown benefit in cardiovascular disease and could prove important in the treatment of pain and neurological disorders, as well as other human diseases, Gibbs said.

Other researchers who worked on the study were Ohio State graduate student Sarah Smiley-Walters and Terence Farrell of Stetson University in Florida.

URL : http://news.osu.edu/rattlesnake-venom-mild-medium-and-wicked-hot/

Written by Misti Crane

The Conversation

Why do so many Americans now support legalizing marijuana?

February 5, 2019

Authors: Amy Adamczyk, Professor of Sociology and Criminal Justice, City University of New York. Christopher Thomas, Ph.D Candidate in Criminal Justice, John Jay College of Criminal Justice. Jacob Felson, Associate Professor of Sociology, William Paterson University.

Disclosure statement: The authors do not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and have disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

American views on marijuana have shifted incredibly rapidly. Thirty years ago, marijuana legalization seemed like a lost cause. In 1988, only 24 percent of Americans supported legalization.

But steadily, the nation began to liberalize. By 2018, 66 percent of U.S. residents offered their approval, transforming marijuana legalization from a libertarian fantasy into a mainstream cause. Many state laws have changed as well. Over the last quarter-century, 10 states have legalized recreational marijuana, while 22 states have legalized medical marijuana.

So why has public opinion changed dramatically in favor of legalization? In a study published this February, we examined a range of possible reasons, finding that the media likely had the greatest influence.

It’s not about use, geography or demographics

Our study ruled out a few obvious possibilities.

For one, it’s not about marijuana use. Yes, marijuana use has increased. Data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health show that, in 2002, about 10 percent of adults reported using marijuana the previous year. By 2015, 13.5 percent reported using. But that increase is too small to have had much of an impact on attitudes.

And it’s not about older, more conservative Americans being replaced by younger generations who are more familiar with marijuana. Both younger and older people developed more liberal views about the legalization of marijuana at a similar pace over the last 30 years. In this way, changes in attitudes about marijuana legalization mirror recent increases in support for LGBTQ individuals.

We looked to see if people who lived in states where it was illegal, but resided next to ones where it became legal, were more likely to have changed their views. But the rate of change has been no different in states that legalized marijuana than in others.

Likewise, the pace of change has been similar across political parties, religions, educational levels, racial and ethnic groups and gender. As politically polarized as the country may seem, when it comes to marijuana, Americans have been changing their attitudes together, as a nation.

We did find that a small part of the increase in support was related to more people disaffiliating with religion. The proportion of people who do not identify with a religion has increased some, by about 7 percent between 2007 and 2014. People who do not have a religion tend to be more liberal than others. However, this factor accounts for only a small proportion of the change.

Media medical framing

So what’s going on? What has likely made the biggest difference is how the media has portrayed marijuana. Support for legalization began to increase shortly after the news media began to frame marijuana as a medical issue.

We took The New York Times as a case study, looking at the number of published articles from 1983 to 2015 about marijuana. Just before the number of Americans supporting legalization began to increase, we found a sharp increase in the proportion of articles about marijuana that discussed its medical uses.

In the 1980s, the vast majority of New York Times stories about marijuana were about drug trafficking and abuse or other Schedule I drugs. At that time, The New York Times was more likely to lump marijuana together in a kind of unholy trinity with cocaine and heroin in discussions about drug smuggling, drug dealers and the like.

During the 1990s, stories discussing marijuana in criminal terms became less prevalent. Meanwhile, the number of articles discussing the medical uses of marijuana slowly increased. By the late 1990s, marijuana was rarely discussed in the context of drug trafficking and drug abuse. And marijuana had lost its association with other Schedule I drugs like cocaine and heroin in the New York Times. Gradually, the stereotypical persona of the marijuana user shifted from the stoned slacker wanting to get high to the aging boomer seeking pain relief.

Of course, many Americans do not read The New York Times. But analysis of newspapers of record, like this one, provide insight into how the news media has changed its framing of marijuana, especially during an era when newspapers were still a primary news source.

Harsh criminal justice system

As Americans became more supportive of marijuana legalization, they also increasingly told survey researchers that the criminal justice system was too harsh.

In the late 1980s, the “war on drugs” and sentencing reform laws put a large number of young men, often black and Latino, behind bars for lengthy periods of time. As Americans started to feel the full social and economic effects of tough-on-crime initiatives, they reconsidered the problems with criminalizing marijuana.

Because support for the legalization of marijuana and concerns about the harshness of the criminal justice system changed at about the same time, it’s difficult to know what came first. Did concern about the harshness of the criminal justice system affect support for legalization – or vice versa?

By contrast, the cause and effect is clearer with respect to the media framing of marijuana. The news media’s portrayal of marijuana began to change shortly before the public did, suggesting that the media influenced support for the legalization of marijuana.

Once attitudes begin to change, it is difficult to know what keeps the momentum moving. Whatever the initial impetus, attitudes today are drastically more supportive, and legalization is increasing fast.

President Donald Trump talks to Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts while leaving the House chamber after giving his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress, Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2019 at the Capitol in Washington. (Doug Mills/The New York Times via AP, Pool)
https://www.sunburynews.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/48/2019/02/web1_122270645-ec5289e557ac4dfb9ff8178371612bf5.jpgPresident Donald Trump talks to Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts while leaving the House chamber after giving his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress, Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2019 at the Capitol in Washington. (Doug Mills/The New York Times via AP, Pool)
News & Views

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