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    HIV origin 'found in wild chimps'

    The origin of HIV has been found in wild chimpanzees living in southern Cameroon, researchers report.

    A virus called SIVcpz (Simian Immunodeficiency Virus from chimps) was thought to be the source, but had only been found in a few captive animals.

    Now, an international team of scientists has identified a natural reservoir of SIVcpz in animals living in the wild.

    The findings are to be published in Science magazine.

    It is thought that people hunting chimpanzees first contracted the virus - and that cases were first seen in Kinshasa, in the Democratic Republic of Congo - the nearest urban area - in 1930.

    Scientists believe the rareness of cases - and the fact that symptoms of Aids differ significantly between individuals - explains why it was another 50 years before the virus was named.

    This team of researchers, including experts from the universities of Nottingham, Montpellier and Alabama, have been working for a decade to identify the source of HIV.

    While SIVcpz was only identified in captive animals, the possibility remained that yet another species could be the natural reservoir of both HIV and SIVcpz.

    It had only been possible to detect SIVcpz using blood test - which meant that only captive animals could be studied.

    This study, carried out alongside experts from the Project Prevention du Sida au Cameroun (PRESICA) in Cameroon, involved analysing chimpanzee faeces, collected from the forest floor in remote jungle areas.

    This was useful because University of Alabama researchers had been able to determine the genetic sequences of the chimpanzee viruses - which could then be searched for in the faecal samples.

    Lab tests detected SIVcpz specific antibodies and genetic information linked to the virus in up to 35% of chimpanzees in some groups.

    All of the data was then sent to the University of Nottingham for analysis, which revealed the extremely close genetic relationship between some of the samples and strains of HIV.

    Chimpanzees in south-east Cameroon were found to have the viruses most similar to the form of HIV that has spread throughout the world.

    The researchers say that, as well as solving the mystery about the origin of the virus, the findings open up avenues for future research.

    But SIVcpz has not been found to cause any Aids-like illnesses in chimpanzees, so researchers are investigating why the animals do not suffer any symptoms, when humans - who are so genetically similar - do.

    Paul Sharp, professor of genetics at the University of Nottingham said: "It is likely that the jump between chimps and humans occurred in south-east Cameroon - and that virus then spread across the world.

    "When you consider that HIV probably originated more than 75 years ago, it is most unlikely that there are any viruses out there that will prove to be more closely related to the human virus."

    He said the team were currently working to understand the genetic differences between SIVcpz and HIV evolved as a response to the species jump.

    Keith Alcorn of Aidsmap said: "The researchers have pinned down a very specific location where they believe the precursor of HIV came from.

    "But there are vast areas of west Africa where other forms of SIVcpz lineages exist, and the possibility remains for human infection.

    Yusef Azad, policy director of the National Aids Trust said: "This research is interesting as all discoveries which relate to the history and origins of HIV could be of value to the vital work being carried out by scientists in developing a HIV vaccine."

    >>>Source<<<

    HIV-like virus found in wild chimps: Discovery supports theory that human HIV pandemic came from African apes

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    Report: More than 2 million kids have HIV

    "Children are the missing face of the AIDS pandemic."

    UNITED NATIONS (AP) — More than 2 million children under the age of 15 are living with HIV, almost all in sub-Saharan Africa where there is no access to treatment and death almost certain, seven leading child advocacy organizations said.

    "We are failing children," said Dean Hirsch, chairman of the Global Movement for Children, which issued an urgent appeal to governments, donors and the pharmaceutical industry to recognize a child's right to treatment as fundamental.

    The movement, made up of seven organizations, released a report Friday that painted a grim picture of the impact of the disease on children: 700,000 children were infected with the HIV virus in 2005, bringing the total to 2.3 million, and 570,000 died of AIDS — one every minute.

    Less than 5% of HIV-positive children have access to the pediatric AIDS treatment they desperately need, the report said.

    "The deaths of these children are not inevitable," said Hirsch, president of World Vision International, a Christian relief organization. "An HIV positive child can respond to anti-retroviral treatment. So let's deliver on the promise — the promise of treatment for all by 2010."

    Last year, world leaders at the U.N. summit and leaders of the seven richest industrialized nations and Russia pledged to come as close as possible to universal treatment by the end of the decade.

    For this to happen, the report said special efforts must be made for children. The first step is providing drugs to pregnant women with HIV to prevent mother-to-child transmission — the way 90% of children with HIV became infected. Youngsters with the virus must also be given antibiotics and anti-retroviral drugs, it said.

    "Without treatment, most children with HIV will die before their fifth birthday," the report said.

    "Children are the missing face of the AIDS pandemic," said Ann Veneman, executive director of U.N. children's agency, lamenting that in the 25 years since AIDS started spreading around the globe, the world has looked at it primarily as a disease of adults.

    The UNICEF executive director urged world leaders to keep their commitment to a massive scaling up of HIV prevention, treatment and care.

    Millions of children "have watched their worlds shatter around them because of this disease, losing parents, teachers, a sense of security and hope for the future," Veneman said.

    She called for simple diagnostic tests for young children, more and cheaper anti-retroviral drugs designed specifically for children to use, and improved health care systems in developing countries.

    Charles MacCormack, president and CEO of Save the Children USA, said the percentage of girls and young women of childbearing age with HIV is increasing, and therefore the risk of mother-to-child transmission is increasing even though effective and affordable treatments have been available for the past 15 years.

    African governments pledged to spend 15% of their national budgets on public health systems but "less than one-third of those countries have achieved that goal," MacCormack said. The Group of Eight also pledged significant increases in their funding for public health "and to date those pledges haven't been entirely kept either," he said.

    "So we suffer this tragedy of hundreds of thousands of unnecessary child deaths each year because we have not found a way to make the investments and deliver the health facilities to those in greatest need," MacCormack said.

    Veneman said a new AIDS report to be released Tuesday — the eve of the U.N. General Assembly Special Session on AIDS — will show that investing in AIDS treatment and testing is paying off in some areas with lower prevalence rates.

    >>>Source<<<

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    India 'has most people with HIV'

    India now has more people living with HIV than any other country, a UNAIDS report has revealed.
    The report shows that India now accounts for two-thirds of HIV cases in the whole of Asia.

    An estimated 5.7 million Indians were infected by the end of 2005, overtaking the 5.5 million cases estimated in South Africa.

    However, While 18.8% of South African adults were living with HIV, the figure in India was 0.9%.....

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    U.S. 'sees rise in unsafe gay sex'

    There is evidence of an increase in unsafe sexual practices by men who have sex with other men in the US, according to the annual UN Aids report.
    The report's section on the US also focuses on the growing number of black women becoming infected with HIV.

    The number of people living with HIV in the US has reached its highest level ever, put at 1.2 million in 2005.

    The report says widespread access to the latest drugs has kept the number of Aids-related deaths relatively low.

    About 16,000 people died last year, but preventing new infections remains a challenge.

    Half of all HIV infections diagnosed in 2004 were men who have sex with men - and the report says there is evidence of resurgent risky behaviour in this group.....

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    HIV infections 'may have peaked'



    The rate at which people are infected with HIV may have peaked in the late 1990s, according to a UNAIDS report.
    It found the incidence of new HIV infections appears to have stabilised for the first time in 25 years.

    UNAIDS said improved funding and access to drugs appears to be producing results - but said HIV remains "an exceptional threat".

    It warned the infection rate is still rising in some countries, and record numbers now live with the virus.....

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    "...In the Middle East, about 64,000 people were newly infected in 2005, bringing the number of those living with AIDS to about 440,000. The national adult prevalence is very low in this region, less than 0.1 percent of the population, except in Sudan. But the epidemic is growing in several countries including Algeria, Iran, Libya and Morocco...."

    Once mystery illness, AIDS now a top global threat

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