September 1, 2017
This week, a study finds that abstinence-only programs continue to be ineffective at keeping young people from having sex, and censor valuable information on HIV prevention. Another study finds that stigma toward older people living with HIV can still occur in the LGBT community. And researchers have developed a new imaging technique that can observe a single HIV viral particle during the very early stages of infection. To beat HIV, you have to follow the science!
Abstinence-only-until-marriage (AOUM) programs are not effective in keeping young people from having sex or engaging in risky sexual behaviors, a review of available evidence concluded.
"Despite the fact that health care was founded on ethical notions of informed consent and free choice, federal AOUM programs are inherently coercive, withholding information needed to make informed choices and promoting questionable, inaccurate, and stigmatizing opinions," study authors said.
The study was accompanied by a position paper from the Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine, which asserts that adolescents have the right to accurate and complete information. The paper lists nine recommendations, including providing comprehensive information about sexual health to young people and abandoning the AOUM approach to teen health policy altogether.
Currently, the U.S. funds such programs domestically at $85 million per year, a related press release noted. AOUM restrictions were also placed on funding for HIV prevention abroad, although these limitations were lifted in 2008.Related: This Week in HIV Research: Average Time Between Diagnosis and Linkage to Care
Older adults living with HIV are often stigmatized even within the LGBT community, Mark Brennan-Ing, Ph.D., said in a presentation at the 125th Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association.
Ageism -- discrimination based on age -- perpetuates the invisibility of people over age 50, he noted. HIV is often thought to affect only young people, and few services and prevention messages are directed at older ages. As a result, older people are more likely than younger ones to be diagnosed with HIV once it has already progressed to AIDS, according to an associated press release.
Because the virus can accelerate some symptoms of aging, people living with HIV may appear oldermore aged than they are. The stigma attached to old age, combined with discrimination due to sexual orientation and other factors, may lead to social isolation and a reluctance to disclose one's serostatus, Brennan-Ing said. To address this problem, he called for treatment guidelines specifically for older people living with HIV, among other things.
Researchers developed a novel imaging technique to observe the movements of a single virion -- a viral particle -- during the very early stages of HIV infection, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America reported.
They found that HIV's capsid, which encloses the viral RNA, dissolves within 30 minutes of fusion with the target cell, facilitating the next stage of the infection process. This dissolution is called uncoating, and previous research had been divided on when exactly it takes place. Theis study showed that this early uncoating is necessary for HIV to successfully infiltrate a cell.
The insight may help to identify the most relevant potential targets for drug development, explained study author João I. Mamede in an associated press release. The live-cell fluorescent imaging technique used here may also enable other discoveries regarding HIV, and could be applied to the study of other viruses, he added.
Warren Tong is the senior science editor for TheBody.com and TheBodyPRO.com. Follow Warren on Twitter: @WarrenAtTheBody.
Barbara Jungwirth is a freelance writer and translator based in New York.
Follow Barbara on Twitter: @reliabletran.
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