16 – 22 July 2016

From the International Aids Conference 2016 in Durban, South Africa (18-22 July):

The Daily Mail report on Prince Harry’s speech in which he acknowledges the work of leaders in the fight against HIV, including Peter Piot: “But thanks to the work of leaders in the fight against HIV – people like Nelson Mandela, Sir Elton John, the brave activists of TAG and ACT UP, people like Dr Peter Piot, and like my mother, Princess Diana – we have made huge progress.” His speech is also covered by outlets including The Daily Mirror, The Huffington Post, ABC News and Hello! Magazine.

CNN report on a key study by the Global Burden of Disease collaboration presented at a conference session. It shows that new HIV infections are stagnating at around 2.5 million a year worldwide and that rates have actually increased in 74 countries. During the session, Peter Piot said: “In some low-income countries in Africa, the needs for HIV prevention could be as high as half of all public expenditure on health. There’s no way these countries can fund by their own means the fight against AIDS.” Prof Piot’s comments from the session were covered by over 300 outlets worldwide, including El País, Die Welt, Le MondeL’Express, Shanghai Daily, The Hindustan Times and South Africa’s The Times.

Peter Piot writes in STAT News on the global HIV targets and how prevention must become a primary aim in order to achieve these goals. He said: “It is undeniably good that more people will be treated for HIV, live longer and better lives, and fewer will die of AIDS. But as long as we regard essential components of HIV prevention as secondary, millions of people will continue to be infected with HIV.”

Humanosphere cover a pre-conference plenary, on achieving the global AIDS targets, in which Prof Piot sat on the panel. During the session, he remarked on the HIV campaign becoming a victim of its own success and said: “We are very concerned about complacency. Civil society support has really collapsed, [and] if there is activism, it’s what I call hashtag activism – people think we’ve done it when we send some tweets.” BioWorld also write on the session.

On the same topic, The Financial Times quotes Peter Piot: “Even in London, where there is good access to drugs, a national health service and one of the best climates in terms of acceptance of homosexuality, there are five new infections in gay men every single day.”  

Tanya Abramsky writes a blog for The Conversation on how breaking the negative attitudes to women is key to tackling HIV: “These gender norms that promote men’s dominance over women are now a growing focus of HIV prevention efforts. So, can we change these norms?” The School’s Lori Heise is also quoted in the piece.  

Corinne Merle is quoted in a MedPage Today article which covers a session on how patients with both tuberculosis (TB) and HIV can most effectively fight off TB. She says: “More aggressive tuberculosis treatment using high-dose rifampicin in addition to antiretroviral therapy could reduce tuberculosis/HIV mortality among co-infected patients with severe immunocompromised states.”

Elsewhere:

New Scientist interviews Peter Piot on Ebola, the early research conducted by the teams in the 1970s, as well as his experiences of working in Zaire. Peter recalls: “I wanted to go to Zaire to have a look. Within a week I got a call asking me to fly to Kinshasa to investigate the epidemic. Now, I definitely wasn’t qualified. I had never been to Africa, I had never investigated an epidemic, and I was still very young. I immediately said yes.”

Time Magazine write up on why mosquitoes bite some people but not others, reporting on School research led by James Logan from last year. The research on identical twins suggests there may be a genetic trait controlling a natural mosquito repellent.

The Guardian writes on the halving of rates of teenage pregnancy in the UK. The article quotes Kaye Wellings: “Social norms have also changed. In early 2000s, a lot of young female role models were getting pregnant. Among some young women it was a mark of status to get pregnant. Now it’s considered totally uncool.”

SciDev.net showcase a photo gallery featuring the work of a School’s research team on Leishmaniasis. The neglected tropical disease, transmitted by sand fly bites, affects more than one million people in 98 countries and often those living in the most basic conditions. SciDev.net also publish the article on their Spanish language website.

The London Evening Standard write about the Shakespeare Hut installation, displayed in the School until mid-September. The Hut provided a safe haven for thousands of ANZAC troops returning from the front lines in the First World War. Centenary News also write about the installation.

The BMJ write on the Home Affairs Committee report recommending changes to the law over prostitution. Public health experts Lucy Platt and Pippa Grenfell commented on the report. Dr Platt said: “Research across diverse settings consistently shows how criminalisation of sex work increases the risk of violence, HIV, and sexually transmitted infections, and reduces access to health and social care services.”

Val Curtis and Sandy Cairncross speak to The Huffington Post UK on research suggesting that by placing toilet paper on a public toilet seat, there is greater exposure to bacteria. However, Prof Curtis says: “Bacteria is still not going to live very long on toilet paper and the number of bacteria that are there is insignificant to public health.”

OntheWight.com write on Elizabeth Smout’s work on Ebola on location in Sierra Leone. Dr Smout’s local Brownies group on the Isle of Wight heard about the plight of the extremely poor conditions the local children live in. They collected books and stationary to donate to the children: “She explained to the Brownies how children in Sierra Leone are delighted with just one pencil so the gifts will please so many.”

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