28 February – 6 March 2019

New LSHTM-led research finds that new HIV infections in southern Africa could be reduced substantially by offering entire communities voluntary HIV testing, and immediately referring those who test positive for HIV treatment in line with local guidelines. Richard Hayes said: “Although during the trial we found a 30 per cent reduction we think that effect will build up over time and in the next decade it would be a much larger effect. Showing that the intervention works is a very important step forward for policy makers but they will also want to know about its cost effectiveness.”

The findings were covered in The Telegraph, Healio, Scienmag and Science Daily.

Rashida Ferrand speaks to CNN News about a London patient with HIV who was given stem cell therapy. The patients HIV then became undetectable. The findings were published in Nature. Rashida said: “These findings do indicate that a cure for HIV might be possible. It demonstrates that if a patient with HIV is given this transplant then they can then become resistant to HIV.” (live link not available)

Liam Smeeth provides expert comment to the Daily Mail about statins for an article exploring how propaganda and distrust around the benefits of statins is leading to patients refusing to take them. Liam said: “What matters is your heart attack risk when treatment starts. If you have a 30 per cent risk then statins could reduce that risk by at least a quarter.”

Heidi Larson speaks to CNN about why people’s wider distrust in society is working against vaccines and helping anti-vaccination messaging gain traction, particularly on social media and the internet. Heidi said: “Anti-government control sentiment continues to be a thread in the anti-vaccine movement, particularly in this era of mistrust in government.”

Heidi also comments in the Guardian about the anti-vaccination movement, for an article about an 18 year old whose parents had never let him receive vaccinations as they felt they were unsafe and ‘government schemes’. Heidi said: “Sceptical or fearful parents who have questions about vaccines shouldn’t be shut down or ridiculed for expressing their thoughts. Many people who develop anti-vaccine views did not start that way but become more rigid in reaction to what they see as the orthodoxy and rigidity of science and medicine.”

The Times (£) publish a letter from Heidi on the need to challenge dangerous propaganda and inaccurate information about vaccines. You can see the letter below.

Martin McKee talks to The Telegraph about e-cigarettes and the potential health risks after one of Britain’s biggest quit smoking clinics announced that children as young as 14 are seeking treatment for addiction to e-cigarettes. Martin said: “It is simply not credible to maintain that e-cigarettes are 95 per cent safer than cigarettes. We are having more and more evidence of damage they cause to the lungs, the heart and cardiovascular system. It is reckless for the UK’s public health authorities not to look with great concern at the trend for youth uptake of e-cigarettes in America.”

Martin is also mentioned in a separate Telegraph article about academics being subjected to death threats on social media after raising concerns about vaping. Martin said: “We are having more and more evidence of damage they cause to the lungs, the heart and cardiovascular system.”

Finally, Martin also contributes to a BMJ piece, Sixty seconds on….vaping.

Val Curtis is quoted in Business Insider about how the emotions of squeamishness and disgust evolved in humans to protect us from things that could make us ill. Val said: “Our ancestors who went around eating rotten food or putting their fingers into other peoples diseased lesions are not our ancestors because they’re extinct.”

On social media

This week’s social media highlight comes from the LSHTM twitter account sharing a message from our Director Peter Piot with students graduating on 5 March.

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