Health and well being
Australian's ignorant to Hep C risk | Print |  E-mail
News - Health and well being
Thursday, 04 July 2013 05:09


SYDNEY: Two-thirds of Australians in the age group most likely to be living with hepatitis C do not consider themselves at ‘any risk’ of contracting the deadly infection, while a similar number are unaware of the link between hepatitis C and potentially fatal liver problems.

This is according to a nationwide survey of Australians aged 18-39 years – the age group that represents two-thirds of the 226,700 cases of hepatitis C in Australia.

Transmitted through blood-to-blood contact,3 the hepatitis C infection most frequently occurs through unsafe injecting drug use,4 however the disease can also be contracted through unsterile tattooing and body piercing. This year alone, based on previous trends, it is estimated that 11,000 new case of hepatitis C will be diagnosed.

Conducted by Galaxy Research, the survey found that many young Australians are unaware of the long-term health complications associated with hepatitis C, with the majority not understanding that the disease can lead to cirrhosis of the liver, liver failure or liver cancer.

“This survey underscores that many Australians do not understand hepatitis C risk factors. We need to change the mindset that sharing of equipment to inject drugs is the only way to get a hepatitis C infection,” said Hepatitis Australia CEO Helen Tyrrell. She added: “While most new infections do occur this way there is also a growing concern that the rise in unsterile backyard tattooing and body piercing are putting many young people at increased risk of a hepatitis C infection.”

The key findings of the survey, which was conducted online by 512 adults aged between 18-39 years, include:

  • There is considerable complacency among young Australians with most (68%) considering themselves at low risk of contracting hepatitis C. A further 25% are unsure of their risk level. Only 7% consider themselves at high risk of contracting the virus.
  • The majority of young Australians are unaware of the long term health complications associated with hepatitis C. While 24% understand that hepatitis C can lead to liver problems, the overwhelming majority (63%) are unaware of the link.
  • The majority (77%) of Australians aged 18-39 years have never been tested for the hepatitis C virus.

Few young Australians (14%) understand that hepatitis C can be cured. The majority (56%) are of the opinion that while it cannot be cured it can be controlled through medication.
The survey also revealed a lack of understanding of treatment options among young Australians, with only fourteen percent of those surveyed aware that the disease can be cured1. Alarmingly, only two per cent of Australians currently diagnosed with hepatitis C receive treatment each year.

These findings come as Australian rock legend Russell Morris urged Australians to go online and participate in a community awareness campaign called See The Real Thing aimed at stemming the tide of liver disease caused by hepatitis C. The musician has thrown his support behind the campaign after seeing first-hand the impact of hepatitis C.

The campaign, supported by Hepatitis Australia and Janssen Australia, invited members of the public to produce a community service announcement, using aspects of Morris’ 1969 international number one hit, ‘The Real Thing’. The campaign sponsor is offering a $10,000 cash prize for a community service announcement that best promotes positive action in the fight against hepatitis C.

Fox Sports News presenter and liver health ambassador Tom Chadwick, Helen Tyrrell, Russell Morris and Jen Anderson (musician and Hepatitis Australia Board Member) form the judging panel that has selected a shortlist of competition finalists who feature on the See The Real Thing website, with the public now invited to go online and vote for their favourite video.

“The real thing and the right thing to do is to go online and vote for the video that will help de-stigmatise hepatitis C and encourage people who are concerned about the infection to see a doctor and ask for a referral to a specialist,” said Russell Morris.

For further information about the See The Real Thing hepatitis C awareness campaign visit

For further information about hepatitis C contact Hepatitis Australia or the Hepatitis Australia National Infoline, 1300 437 222.

Hope for HIV cure | Print |  E-mail
News - Health and well being
Written by Sydney Morning Herald   
Wednesday, 03 July 2013 23:52

Two American men appear to have overcome HIV, boosting hopes they will join a handful of people believed to have been cured of the virus and that a wider cure can be found.

Doctors from the Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston announced on Wednesday night that two previously HIV-positive patients no longer had detectable virus levels in their blood or tissue after having bone marrow stem-cell transplants to treat cancer between two and four years ago.

Remarkably, the two men – a young man and another in middle age – have also remained clear of the virus after stopping anti-retroviral therapy eight and 15 weeks ago. When most HIV-positive people stop taking treatment, the virus becomes active again within four to eight weeks The Boston pair look set to join a Mississippi toddler believed to have been cured of HIV by intense treatment 30 hours after birth and Timothy Ray Brown, the "Berlin patient" famously cured of HIV six years ago after having a similar bone marrow transplant to treat cancer in Germany

However, there is a key difference between the Berlin and Boston patients that could advance research towards a cure for HIV. Mr Brown received a transplant from a donor with an unusual gene mutation that resists HIV whereas the Boston patients received transplants from donors with no known resistance to the disease.

Timothy Henrich and Daniel Kuritzkes, the doctors managing the Boston patients, told an HIV conference in Malaysia that this suggested the process of stem-cell transplantation was responsible for their suspected remission.

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Gay Blood Ban Opposed by AMA | Print |  E-mail
News - Health and well being
Written by American Medical Association   
Tuesday, 25 June 2013 04:50

 lgb blood donor

FDA Ban on Gay Men as Blood Donors Opposed by American Medical Association

The American Medical Association voted Tuesday to oppose a decades long ban by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which prohibits gay men from donating blood.

The FDA ban originated in 1983 in response to the AIDS outbreak, when little was known about the virus and gay men were more likely to have contracted the virus.

However, now that the ban is almost 30 years old, some experts say the policy is outdated. HIV and AIDS testing has become standard practice in blood donations to minimize risk to recipients. According to the FDA's website, approximately 1 in 2 million blood transfusions results in an HIV infection.

"The lifetime ban on blood donation for men who have sex with men is discriminatory and not based on sound science," AMA board member Dr. William Kobler said in a statement. "This new policy urges a federal policy change to ensure blood donation bans or deferrals are applied to donors according to their individual level of risk and are not based on sexual orientation alone."

The AMA recommends that the FDA change its policy so that gay men are evaluated on an individual level rather than being lumped together in a high-risk category, in addition to crafting a policy that more accurately represents scientific research.

Robert Valadez, policy analyst for the HIV/AIDS advocacy group Gay Men's Health Crisis, said the ban was outdated in light of medical advances that can detect HIV in donated blood in nearly all blood donations.

"The policy was formed at a time in our history when we didn't have a name for AIDS or HIV," said Valadez. "Our technology has advanced to the point where … it is antiquated to keep this policy in place and to keep those units of blood from entering the blood supply."

Louis Katz, the vice president for America's Blood Centers, which provides nearly half of America's blood supply, said one option for the FDA is to adopt policies similar to those used abroad. In countries such as Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia, gay men are allowed to donate blood if they have abstained from sex with a man for a certain period of time.

"A year [of abstinence] has been adopted in the United Kingdom and Australia," said Katz, who stressed this would just be a first step."We understand that it is problematic, but it would be movement from where we've been since the early 80s."

According to the FDA website, gay men represent 61 percent of all new HIV infections in the U.S.

In 2010 the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) created an advisory committee to discuss the policy. The Red Cross, America's Blood Centers and AABB, a non-profit representing individuals and institutions involved in the field of transfusion medicine, released a joint statement advocating tp change the policy to allow men, who have had sex with men, to donate blood as long as a certain amount of time has passed since their last sexual encounter.

In 2012 HHS submitted a request for information from additional studies on the potential outcomes of changing the blood donation criteria. They are still evaluating the comments they received.

Homophobia in our healthcare system | Print |  E-mail
News - Health and well being
Written by Daily Life   
Sunday, 23 June 2013 05:59

girls-lesbian-coupleIt is well known that women who are lesbian can face isolation, exclusion and marginalisation from all areas of society.

But you would hope, in terms of places where they can go to feel safe, supported and listened to, the doctor’s office would rate highly up there.

This is particularly important since lesbian women have a higher morbidity rate for breast, uterine, colon and ovarian cancers, heart disease, mental health problems, obesity and various substance abuse disorders.

Obviously, being a lesbian is not the cause of any of these conditions. But as with things like stress and socio-economic status, it can be a social determinant of health.

But lesbian women in Australia face homophobia in numerous ways when accessing healthcare services and interacting with their doctors, research from the University of Western Sydney has found.

“Fundamentally, the distinctive healthcare needs of lesbian women go unnoticed, are deemed unimportant or are simply ignored,’’ the researchers wrote in the health journal, Contemporary Nurse.

The research, led by Brenda Hayman, who is an associate lecturer within the School of Nursing and Midwifery, found there were four types of homophobia experienced by the women she interviewed; exclusion from services and healthcare; heterosexual assumption; inappropriate questioning and outright refusal of services.

While it is outrageous to think that anyone should be excluded or refused treatment on the basis of their sexuality, it is an all-too-common experience for lesbian women.

Also disturbing was that it wasn’t just the personal choice of doctors that interfered with their ability to access healthcare. In some cases – it was enforced by legislation.

One woman, Phoebe, described to researchers how she and her partner were refused IVF treatment by several hospitals. ‘‘…we were rejected by the first two [hospitals] because they said it was unethical to assist a single woman because they don’t recognise same-sex couples as being a valid couple,’’ she said. The couple were forced to travel interstate to access fertility services not available to them where they lived.

The researchers concluded; “This highlights the need to recognise that homophobia represents a major hazard to lesbian health. Measures need to be taken in order to assist lesbian women to equitably access healthcare.’’

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How AIDS changed global health forever | Print |  E-mail
News - Health and well being
Written by Sydney Morning Herald   
Tuesday, 21 May 2013 23:48

AIDS-HIV-ribbon-2013The success of worldwide action has transformed our thinking on disease and development.

We live in a world of extraordinary inequities. Poverty and inequity are the world's greatest killers. In the 20 years after the Cold War, 360 million people have died from hunger and treatable diseases - much more than from all 20th-century conflicts.
Inequities in health are among the most visible of all in a world in which the gap between the mean GDP of rich and poor countries more than doubled in the 25 years to 2005. The developing world bears an extraordinarily inequitable burden of infectious disease, 90 per cent of it, and yet these countries represent just 12 per cent of all health spending.

AIDS is a classic example. Of the 30 million AIDS deaths since the virus that causes the disease was identified 30 years ago this week, 90 per cent have occurred in Africa. Yet, against such odds, the face of AIDS has changed from one of desolation to one of hope.

When AIDS was first identified in fewer than 20 patients in the US who presented with unusual symptoms in the early 1980s, millions of Africans were already infected, but there was no system in place to detect this. The sub-Saharan epidemic spread unchecked for another 20 years: while science rapidly responded in the global north, barely a single patient in the developing world had access to treatment from an international program until 2001.

What AIDS has since shown us is what can be achieved when the world resolves to fight a pandemic, when the right to health is aggressively asserted, when we see and act on medicine and health care as a ''global public good''.

The global effort to defeat AIDS over the past three decades has demonstrated a long-suspected truth: health should no more be seen as a consequence of economic growth. In 2000, the world set itself the ambitious Millennium Development Goals, endorsing that change in paradigm about how health relates to development. Experience has validated the concept. In its last report, the United Nations Development Program showed that the countries that invested the most in health and education in 2000 are also those in which the Human Development Index has progressed the most in the past 10 years.

AIDS is perhaps the pre-eminent example of successful investment in health. Eight million people have gained access to antiretroviral treatment, compared to just a few tens of thousands 10 years ago. As a result of investments in HIV prevention and treatment, mortality from AIDS and the number of new infections have decreased worldwide by 25 per cent in just the past five years.
Several factors have been key to this remarkable progress.

Full story at:

New medical resource for women | Print |  E-mail
News - Health and well being
Written by Alexander Thatcher | FUSE Editor   
Tuesday, 30 April 2013 03:22

DOCLISTDocLIST is a new online medical resource for lesbians and bisexual women. It currently includes, general practitioners, specialists, mental health professionals and dentists.

DocLIST is currently calling for recommendations for doctors and mental health professionals so that a large number of women can benefit. Once a recommendation is received, the health professional is contacted to let them know about the project and asked whether they agree to be added to the list. The health professional is not told who recommended them.

DocLIST is run by the Australian Lesbian Medical Association (ALMA) and was set up in response to a clear need from the community. ALMA is frequently asked by women for recommendations of lesbian or bi-friendly doctors in their area. The project aims to make lesbians and bisexual sensitive health care available to as many Australians as possible.

Check out today.

Breakthrough for HIV cure 'within months' | Print |  E-mail
News - Health and well being
Written by Telegraph, London   
Tuesday, 30 April 2013 00:00


Scientists on brink of HIV cure

Researchers believe that there will be a breakthrough in finding a cure for HIV “within months”.

Danish scientists are expecting results showing that it will be possible to find a cure that is both affordable and can be provided to a large number of people.

They are running clinical trials to test a ''novel strategy'' in which the HIV virus, which causes AIDS, is stripped from human DNA and destroyed by the immune system.

It has already been found to work in laboratory tests and the scientists are now running human trials.

The technique involves releasing the HIV virus from ''reservoirs'' it forms in DNA cells, bringing it to the surface of the cells. Once it comes to the surface, the body's immune system can kill the virus through being boosted by a ''vaccine''.

In vitro studies - those that use human cells in a laboratory - of the new technique proved so successful that in January the Danish Research Council awarded the team 12 million kroner ($2 million) to pursue clinical trials with human subjects.

Ole Sogaard, a senior researcher at the Aarhus University Hospital in Denmark who is leading the study, said: ''I am almost certain we will be successful in releasing the reservoirs of HIV.

''The challenge will be getting the immune system to recognise the virus and destroy it. This depends on the strength and sensitivity of individual immune systems.''

Fifteen patients are taking part in the trials, and if they are found to have been cured of HIV, the process will be tested on a wider scale.

The technique uses drugs called HDAC inhibitors, more commonly employed in treating cancer.

It is also being researched in Britain, but studies have not yet moved on to the clinical trial stage.

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