Friday, November 30, 2007
HIV/AIDS has not gone away
I have been working at CNN for six years, and I am delighted that this international network has let me report on HIV/AIDS every single year. From our documentary "RU+," to the special "House Call" airing this weekend, I have tried my level best to ensure the news about this infectious disease stays on the radar screen of Americans and everyone around the world.

It has not always been easy. I was told that because of the denial surrounding HIV, people were more likely to turn the channel. Even more reason, I said, to do these important stories. And, so I have been able to travel to Bangkok and Barcelona to cover international AIDS conferences. I traveled around the United States marveling at the development of new drug cocktails but also reporting on how expensive and inaccessible they sometimes were. I was in Kenya to bring the story of a prostitute who was mysteriously immune to HIV. Scientist probed and prodded looking for the cure deep in her body. In that case, they walked away empty-handed.

Another more nuanced point is that, in some ways, we have become the victims of our own success. Therapies have improved to the point where a person infected with the virus can live a normal life span. That good news led to a resurgence of high-risk behavior a few years ago, especially among young people so confident they could rely on pills if they ever became infected. There is even a test now that can pretty reliably tell you if you are infected within 60 seconds.

Again, these have been some very positive developments, but I wonder if as a result, people don't care about HIV/AIDS as much as they used to. I used to hear about charity runs and fund raisers along with a smattering of public service announcements, but they seem to have all but vanished. The thing I found most interesting was a recent accounting of the number of AIDS cases worldwide. If you glossed over the headlines recently, you may have heard that the number of HIV/AIDS cases dropped by more than 6 million during the past year alone. If you look a little more closely, you will find most of that drop was on paper alone. It was simply due to revised numbers showing that while the worldwide cases reached 39.5 million last year, there are 33.2 million this year. Keep in mind that although that decline is due mainly to number re-jiggering, it is safe to say the AIDS pandemic is starting to lose steam. Finally.

I have had a few long talks with Bono about this very issue. He always reminds me to "also tell people the good stories about HIV," and to show people how they are making a difference. So, on World AIDS Day, we should feel better about where we are with respect to this fight. But, still, we have a lot of work to do.

Simply keeping people interested and compassionate about this issue is a good start and I am eager to hear if you have any thoughts on how to do that.

Programming note: World AIDS Day is Saturday. Watch for special coverage this weekend on "House Call" with Dr. Sanjay Gupta at 8:30 a.m. ET
I grew up when we AIDS was still new and a deadly disease. i remember before there was a HIV status I believe I was about 11 or 12 when I first heard about it. At that time we were bombarded with information about HIV & AIDS. And now as the health nurse in my community. I'm floored when the teenagers in my healthy sexuality workshop don't even know what AIDS stands for let alone what it mean. It just goes to show how little information is being put out there that our younger generations don't even know what AIDS stands for. So Thanks Dr. Gupta and also to the many others working to keep important issues at the forefront.
As someone who's been HIV+ for nearly 6 years, I feel like a survivor. I was only on a cocktail during the first year and since then, my doctor regularly monitors my viral load and CD4 count. I don't do any drugs or smoke, and I exercise regularly. It's easy to become complacent when you're not taking drugs for HIV and have determined that the only way to keep this on the forefront is through intensive education. Fortunately, I lead a very normal life without adverse effects of HIV. Life feels pretty good despite it all. However if I could turn back the clock, I can't say that I would. At nearly 38 years of age, I have made too much progress professionally in my life to just walk away from. My goals are sustained and persist to this day despite HIV. I don't let HIV dictate my goals and aspirations. It is this hope that we must strive for, for everyone - that their goals are attainable despite this disease.
Dear Dr. Sanjay Gupta,

Doing HIV outreach, I learned that people are still stigmatized and confused about the notion of sexual orientation and HIV/AIDS and what the difference is with being HIV-postive and actual the outbreak of AIDS. In minority groups, such as Hispanics and Afrcian American, there is a stigma against the health care system.

I watched a couple of videos how people (right here in NYC) dealt with the knowledge of being HIV positive during the 1980's and how they have survived suicidal ideation and attempts. Now after 2005, these people are still alive and well, and they occupy specific jobs to counsel other people who've been recently diagnosed with HIV - a job that no HIV negative person is qualified to do.

The story was best told through their experience.
Thank you for speaking out about HIV/AIDS. Many people have the opinion that HIV/AIDS is no longer an issue worth reporting in our country. Just because there are drugs to help prolong life for people with this fatal disease, it does not mean that everyone reacts well and/or has success with the treatments available in the United States. Don't forget the many children infected also. Other countries are not winning the fight against AIDS. It does and will affect the US.
Dear Dr. Sanjay

Thank you for this story about HIV/AIDS. It is needless to say, AIDS is a scourge that is devastating all over the world.

The reasons of AIDS patients' death are not just by HIV virus but by diseases caused by the reduction of normal immune functions.

At present there is no way to cure HIV. And we could not developed any vaccine for AIDS yet.

However, medicine for AIDS cure are developing so if AIDS patients continue to take the medicines they can survive well.
One of AIDS patients who is my favorite NBA star " Earvin Johnson Jr." is continuing his healthy life.
Also we have to get rid of our prejudices and differences against AIDS patients. For example we don't need to worry about handshakes, small hugs, common use of tablewares, mosquito bites and common use of bathtub.

Most sad story is that for every 14
seconds one AIDS orphanage is occured. Why children should be suffering from wrong doings by grown-up generations?? It makes us sad... In today's world, children grow up with so many problems. Famine, war, child abuse,AIDS...

In my opinion, for the sake of AIDS prevention we should maintain the abstinence and ban activities of sexual disorder. Also educators, health care workers, and community leaders need to inform and warn people about HIV- the dangers of injecting drugs and using infected needles, and the importance of getting tested. This is the right time for a all over the world awakening!!

Thanks again for sharing a matter of grave concern with us.
It's regret for me that I could not to watch your program "House Call" in Korea..... Take care and
*I hope you have a great week*
Encouraging and empowering parents to raise smarter children and rewarding them for it will create more compassion and interest in many diseases including aids.

-Encarta
I believe that a lot of people are not taking this HIV/AIDS crisis seriously. I am a junior in college and I grew up in an widely urban community. Through-out my high school days, different orqanizations would come and speak about the people who are dying everyday from this disease and the urgency of getting tested. I used to be so embarassed to get an AIDS test because of the results that would have came back. Now I know there is nothing to be ashamed about. It is very important for everyone to be aware of their status. Not knowing is what can kill you.
Dr. Gupta,
As a 15 year veteran of the HIV infected community, I appreciate your efforts to sustain the visibility of the issue in the media, despite an appalling complacency amongst society in general.
Although many strides have been made in the treatment 'regimens', I wanted to bring a rather distressing truth to your attention: In a report issued by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) "roughly half of the 463,070 individuals aware of their HIV status in the U.S. who need Highly Active Anti-Retroviral Therapy (HAART) have ongoing access to it. This leaves more than 233,000 people living with HIV in the U.S. who need HAART but do not have sustainable access to treatment." (Full report available at http://www.iom.edu by clicking on "Health Care and Quality and scrolling down to the "Public Financing and Delivery of HIV/AIDS Care: Securing the Legacy of the Ryan White CARE Act" or by calling 1-800-624-6242.)
I would like to mention that despite the UN 'lowering' the number of infections globally, the CDC just increased the number of new infections in the U.S. by 50%, from 40,000 per year to 60,000 per year. No proof that this epidemic is 'winding down, finally', as you say. Far from it.
A true glimmer of HOPE does exist, however, in the therapeutic vaccine arena. Several research institutions are focused on a rare but small group of individuals (300 known, globally) called 'Elite Controllers' of HIV; these are folks who suppress the virus naturally, without benefit or need of medications, and who have never suffered ill-health, some for up to 26 years. Dr. Bruce Walker of Partners AIDS Research Group (PARC) from Boston, Massachusetts has spear-headed a consortia of agencies around the world whose focus is called the 'Elite Controller Study' (go ahead, Google that) to discover the mechanisms at work within the immune systems or genes of this rare sub-set of infected people. Remarkably, if the dedicated scientists can reveal these mechanisms, it is possible that this information can then contribute (if extrapolation is possible)to a vaccine with therapeutic value. Now, that would be progress, yes??
I speak from personal experience and involvement, as I am one of the 300 being studied. Perhaps one day you will compose a story about this relatively unknown group who travel to donate blood, cells and tissues with the sincere hope that we can help in some way.
Thank you for your time, and your continued interest.
Hello,
HIV is clearly one of the most devastating diseases that a person can be afflicted with and I am extremely glad we have made the progress in treating this disease. 20 years ago it was a death sentence, and now it has become a chronic but manageable disease.

My question is when can we start to move past HIV to try to cure other diseases which while not as high profile as HIV/AIDS are even worse from a socioeconomic perspective. One of the true scourges of mankind and the developing world is not only HIV/AIDS but malaria.

The problem with malaria is that it doesn't effect people in the US or Europe. It doesn't effect the rich people whereas everyone here is concerned about HIV because anyone could get it.

Cure malaria and we'd be saving a lot more than 33 million people and simultaneously allowing the poorer countries to avoid having large portions of their labor force out sick and unable to work. Also, the current treatments are becoming obsolete as the bug becomes resistant to the drugs. What happens when no new treatments are coming out?

Dr. Gupta, the next time you're in Africa to do a story on HIV/AIDS also spend some time educating your viewers about diseases such as malaria which have such terrible consequences for these countries.
Dr. Gupta,

I come from rural parts of Kenya. In my place stigma and fear has contributed to the rapid spread HIV/AIDS. I have seen my friend, relatives and neighbours die but no one mentions it was AIDS instead the say he/she died of 'sugar disease' or malaria. To make it worse the youth do not even fear AIDS. Rarely do they protect themselves. Around the whole village, youth say AIDS is just the normal malaria. They not perceived it as an epidemic that is wiping the whole population. Others go to the extend of spreading the disease further and making sure they do not die alone. Worse, they publish the names of those who they know they may have contracted the disease from them. People think poverty might be a contributing factor but I have seen high death rates among the rich than the poor. Such kind of beliefs are still there and AIDS is still spreading at very high rates especially at sub-saharan Africa. I am a public health graduate student and I am confused on how to start education campaigns/programs especially to people with strong cultural beliefs.

Research scholars findings indicate that male curcumcision have helped reduce the spread of AIDS in kenya. To me this is still contoversial. Consider a situation where curcimcision is done culturally, AIDS is even spread mostly. No sterilized equipments used, sharing razors, untrained elders being the experts no way. If curcumcision is done in proper way then it is a solution. This is not the case in communities who take curcumcision as cultural/community thing. Thanks Dr. Gupta and people who are posting such great comments.
I have been diagnosed as HIV+ for 4 years. While the drug therapies are a miracle compared to the alternative of a few years ago, no one should view them as a "cure" or an excuse to go back to the unsafe practices we once took for granted. Not only are the drugs expensive, the side effects themselves can be horrible, debilitating and depressing. And there is still the stigma. I would give anything to be able to go back and keep from having to live this nightmare.
the story on (underinsured) "Top Tips" airing on Sunday Dec. 16th was extreemly helpful. I didn't have a pen to write down the many websites that were listed. I urgently need the list of websites for underinsured. Would it be possible to list then somewhere on cnn.com under "health"? or would you be willing to email the sites to my email address? Me and my family are extreemly greatful for you taking the time to send this highly important information to us. if I it was possible to reach into my computer and give you a big warm hug...I would. me and my family thank you again for your time, your viewer---jett snyder
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