‘People are scared’: the fight against a deadly virus no one has heard of

Guardian Australia, Tue 24 Apr 2018 

An Aboriginal woman – we’ll call her B – is sitting in a dry creek bed outside her community and telling the world “this is a very bad disease. But we have to talk in a way not to shame people. Not telling them straight out. Telling them gently and quietly.”

B is talking about a sickness that has killed her family member and is a potential tragedy facing Aboriginal communities in central Australia, who have the world’s highest rates of a fatal, human immune virus for which there is no current cure, no treatment and no coordinated public health response.

Human T-lymphotropic virus type 1 (HTLV-1) is transmitted through sexual contact, blood transfusion and from mother to child by breastfeeding. It can cause a rapidly fatal form of leukaemia. Some people die within weeks of diagnosis. HTLV-1 also causes inflammation of the spinal cord leading to paralysis, severe lung disease known as bronchiectasis and other inflammatory disease.

In five communities around Alice Springs, more than 45% of adults tested have the virus, a rate thousands of times higher than for non-Indigenous Australians.

Smoking causes one in five cancers in people with HIV in North America

aidsmap/nam, 22 January 2018

A fifth of all cancers in people receiving HIV care in North America between 2000 and 2015 was due to smoking, according to US research published this month in advance online by the journal AIDS.

“In the United States, the prevalence of smoking among HIV-infected people is substantially higher than in the general population, and most HIV-infected individuals either currently smoke or have previously smoked,” comment the authors. “Our findings indicated that a substantial fraction of cancer diagnoses among HIV-infected individuals potentially would not have occurred if they had never smoked.”

Thanks to improvements in HIV treatment and care, most people with HIV now have a normal or near-normal life expectancy. As these people age, non-AIDS-related cancers are an important cause of death.