God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

pensée of a Catholic priest

Signs of hope – remission without long-term treatment

At the recent conference of the International Aids Society in Paris it was a topic hotly discussed by academics, researchers and representatives of NGO’s:

A 9-year-old South African child diagnosed with HIV when he was 1 month old has been in HIV remission for 8½ years — without regular treatment. This is the first reported case of a child controlling their HIV infection without drugs in Africa and the third known case globally. The related research was conducted among others by Prof Dr Mark Cotton, board member of our HOPE Cape Town Association.

Soon after diagnosis, the child was placed on antiretroviral treatment, or ART, for 40 weeks, at which point treatment was stopped and the child’s health was monitored. Blood tests in late 2015 revealed the child is in HIV remission, meaning levels of the virus in the blood are undetectable using standard tests. Subsequent testing of samples dating back to the child’s infancy confirm remission was achieved soon after treatment was stopped. Treatment was paused as part of a larger research trial investigating the potential for early ART to decrease infant mortality and cut the need for lifelong treatment among newborns infected with HIV. “This is really very rare,” said Dr. Avy Violari, head of pediatric clinical trials at the Perinatal HIV Research Unit at the University of Witwatersrand in South Africa. Violari is the child’s doctor and presented the findings at the 9th International AIDS Society Conference on HIV Science in Paris

The child, not identified, was part of a study known as the Children with HIV Early Anti-retroviral Therapy, or CHER, trial, conducted in the years 2005 to 2011. More than 370 infants infected with HIV were randomly assigned to immediately receive ART for either 40 weeks or 96 weeks. A third group received no immediate treatment, but instead was looked after according to standard guidelines at the time. The CHER trial set out to investigate whether mortality rates could be reduced, but also whether earlier treatment could keep children healthy enough to enable them to come off treatment for certain periods. “We were hoping to make it a slower-progressing disease,” said Violari.

The study found mortality decreased by 76% and HIV disease progression reduced by 75% among the infants who received treatment immediately, for 40 or 96 weeks. The group receiving standard treatment saw an increase in mortality based on interim results, so that arm of the trial was stopped early. But virus levels in the 9-year-old case remained and remain undetectable. “The child is the only child showing remission,” said Violari. “We cannot see virus in the blood … we can see fragments of the virus in the cells,” she said, adding that these fragments appear not to be able to replicate, for now.

The South African child is the third reported case of long-term HIV remission in a child after early, limited treatment with antiretroviral drugs.

The first case was a Mississippi baby, a girl born in 2010, who received ART just 30 hours after birth until she was 18 months old, at which point HIV remission was achieved. The baby sustained remission for 27 months, until 2015, when she rebounded and the virus was found in her blood, crushing hopes that this approach could be the route to a “functional cure” for HIV. Next came the 2015 case of a French teenager, now 20, whose mother was HIV positive. The French child was given antiretroviral treatment soon after birth, stopped treatment at age 6 and has maintained undetectable levels of the virus in her blood since.

“We are delighted and excited by what happened with this child … we need to extrapolate from this to the benefit of other children on antiretroviral drugs,” said Prof Mark Cotton, Professor of Pediatrics at Stellenbosch University in South Africa, who co-led the study. “Africa is still the epicenter of the epidemic and more babies are acquiring HIV than anywhere else.”

Cotton hopes his team presenting these results will boost morale, both among cure researchers and those managing treatment programs for children across the continent.

More links:

Hope for future HIV cure revived
It is really very rare
Without drugs

Filed under: Africa, HIV and AIDS, HIV Treatment, HOPE Cape Town Association, HOPE Cape Town Association & Trust, Medical and Research, South Africa, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

IAS conference 2017

Fragments of thoughts and impressions

It is my first IAS conference I have attended and compared with the World Aids conference it is a smaller crowd: round about 6000 people from all over the world coming in Paris together to discuss developments in the fields of HIV and Aids.

The first impression is that the conference is much more academic and discerning – it feels that most talks and presentations are indeed on a much higher academic level then at local Aids Conferences or the big world conference.

I am staying at a hotel outside Paris in Nanterre a commune in the Hauts-de-Seine department, the western suburbs of Paris. It is located some 11 km north-west of the centre of Paris. It feels strange – and from the beginning I can feel people have to live in a way which does not support human interaction – it feels cold, just doing the job of housing people without consideration on the human desire to live in a nice and friendly environment. It’s a sort of shock for somebody living in South Africa – it is strange but it feels like as soul-less place. The hotel is situated on top of a commuter train tunnel and station – every now and then one can feel the coming and going of a train while laying in bed.
So I guess all is there to sustain living and working, there are high rising buildings and all kind of services, but the thought I take with is that I can understand such suburbs create problems and even violence.

The mix of people here is amazing – mostly and certainly from the African region of Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco – it feels non-European in a European way – figure it out what it means.

And travelling to the conference centre – using the train and the metro – being part of a huge crowd in the morning and evening entering and exiting the dark alleys of the underground world – being part of the endless movements of people pushing their way through the crowd to reach their daily destiny – it is breath-taking – but not in the usual sense of the word. I definitely recall all my blessings living with some space and lots of day light in South Africa.

The conference itself is for a non scientific person sometimes difficult to follow – but I guess it is not about the exact details of every molecule one has to understand, the sheer feeling of understanding the principle – the idea behind all the details – the sometimes keen thoughts and trials and errors are a fascinating mental adventure – it stimulates my brain and forces me to read and study and “google”  – I have to admit that is a great experience to be beamed for a while into an environment really challenging you on knowledge and understanding.
But I believe that people running organisations must have at least a grasp about the background work done and the driving forces behind new developments before they reach the grass-root scene to be put into practice. Fruitful communication, bridging the gap between science and grass-root as HOPE Cape Town is trying to achieve on a daily base means for those in charge constant learning and communication with all spheres of their work environment.

Last but not least it was great meeting people from other countries and engaging in discussions – learning from each other and about each other and feeling the compassion of trying to rid the world of a viral onslaught. And yes, there is of course also lots of business – lots of calculation, but even there, you very often sense that those being employed in the big pharmaceutical companies understand that there is humanity needed in business. The connectivity of the global village, the threat that a virus can easily come and bite those far away helped indeed to change some of the attitudes which governed such entities a decade ago. Surely there is still lots to optimize and clarify – a balance must be put into place between commerce and humanity but I guess the battles of treatment have brought some clarity and movement into the field. Well, a watchful eye seems to be always necessary when it comes to that topic.

I will leave Paris tomorrow with lots of new understanding about the work done in the laboratories of this world. I leave proud knowing that our very board member of HOPE Cape Town, Prof Mark Cotton co-chaired the CHER study which produced one of the most published results of the conference: the child for 9 years in remission after being treated as a baby. I leave motivated knowing how many people dedicated their lives and career to fight back a pandemic which brought so much death and sorrow onto human mankind. It simply feels great to be part of a movement which has the goal to end a pandemic and give people a chance to live life and sexuality without fear. To live and to love to the utmost in their lifetime.

The only question I was wondering – how many other priests or clergy have been to this conference – not that it really matters but it would be nice to know that more of my fellow brothers are engaged on this level in a matter of live and death for millions in this world.

 

Filed under: General, HIV and AIDS, HIV Prevention, HIV Treatment, HOPE Cape Town Association & Trust, HOPE Cape Town Trust, Networking, Reflection, Society and living environment, South Africa, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , , ,

Sick and tired of violence

Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Central African Republic, Ukraine, Yemen, Palestine and Israel – the news of violence, war and terror is a permanent feature on all news channels and I realize fatigue is setting in watching and zipping to all those channels with news seemingly to be for years the same.
Paris, Bamako – lock down in Brussels – and waiting for the next hit – around the world travel warning from the US and the discussions about sacrificing our freedoms fought for over long periods seems to head into a new direction of Orwell’s 1984 and even moreSouth Africa – #feesmustfall of the students means meanwhile arson, violence, destruction – almost hundred attempted murders per day in South Africa, from which are half successful. The taxi mafia continues to rule the streets and create havoc – service delivery protests can’t be without violence and damage anymore and whoever wants to take a drive on the national road N2 between Cape Town and Somerset West must be on the watch out – even police officers are not exempt falling victim of violence.
Coming back to the big world again – happy bombing from France – revenge for Paris, together with Russia and David Cameron can’t wait to extend his military reach in the Middle East – together with the continues and relentless extra-legal killings via drones – another permanent of this year’s news – especially when collateral damage means that unfortunately innocent people are killed too.
And as this would not be enough blood shed the state sponsored killings in the USA and Saudi-Arabia, but also not to forget in Indonesia and in other places seems to pick up again – another example that the capacity of governments and people to exercise respect for the sanctity of life degrades in the moment.

I must admit that I am in the moment sick and tired of all the violence on so many levels. Trying to get into the spirit of Advent as a Christian even worsens the situation as it becomes painfully clear how much we are away from the hope of Advent as the preparation of welcoming somebody in the world we see as the Prince of Peace and the messenger of unconditional love to all creation.
It seems that the new lonely caller in the wilderness we hear from in the bible changed his name from John the Baptist to Pope Francis amongst some other religious leaders . His travel this week to the war-thorn region of the Central African Republic with all the unknown and the danger would be a sign, that there might be other ways to answer violence and brutality than with weapons and violence.

But would that also be possible with ISIS or Daesh? Is there another way than throwing bombs?

I am convinced that bombings are not the answer, but that there are other strategies more promising to end this evil:
For example to acknowledge that there is a steady stream of unhappy Europeans following the call of ISIS and if we really want to root out such extremism we have to start in the suburbs of Paris, of Brussels, of Hamburg, of all the major cities in the USA. We have indeed to battle for the minds and the hearts of those feeling that they are not part of our society. Secondly let’s stop fulling the war in this region with selling weapons to “rebels” and other those, in the moment seemingly on the right side of history – in Afghanistan and Iraq history has thought us that the right side of history can quickly turn into the wrong one – ask the CIA which actually made Bin-Laden the person he became later on. Or Saddam Hussein, who was bolstered first to fight the revolution in Iran before falling out with the USA. Do we never learn out of mistakes?
Bombing, killing, extra-juridical killing by drones – it all creates an environment where people from ISIS will indeed flock together and new terrorists and suicide bombers are created on a daily base. The sad story of Israel and Palestine shows how the devils circle of violence never stops until somebody breaks it. And I am convinced to stop ISIS to gain more territory and cutting them off from the oil trade or trade of antiques will dry them out – cut them of the honor to connect them with  religion or Islam by getting the Umma to simply distance themselves – I am quite sure it will help to make this self-proclaimed caliphate a footnote of history in short time.

And let’s recognize and acknowledge that the wealth of Europe has its base in the exploitation of the African continent and the European colonies worldwide – and that they owe the people in Africa, in South America and where ever all the empires stretched for longer or shorter periods of time. Lots of country borders have been drawn on paper and without looking at situation. Lots of governments and dictators came into power because – at that time –   they either belonged to the anti-communist quarters or the other way around. We still haven’t worked it through – and we still are tempted to continue to make the same mistakes again and again. European governments judge not fairly but whatever suits best the Western World – they don’t have the focus on uplifting the people worldwide but what gives them more profit and fosters the lifestyle, Europe and North America wants to keep as long as possible. Let’s be honest: the conviction that we have to develop a new world order, a new way of dealing with each other is still in the infancy of the conscience of human civilization. We have conquered the technology but the rest lacks behind.

Advent – new beginning – may the feeling of being sick and tired of violence turn into a new approach of making the world a more peaceful place on all levels of life – a life to be called to live to the fullest.

Filed under: Africa, General, Politics and Society, Reflection, Religion and Ethics, Society and living environment, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Charlie Hebdo attack and some thoughts…

Sometimes it is important to comment a bit outside the usual topics, because the heart feels the pain and the necessity to give some thoughts to a problem long lingering and touching on all spheres of life including health care. Yesterday employees of Charlie Hebdo were killed in an attack as well as two police officers in Paris. And it is amazing how quick politics reacts and troublesome words are used to describe and decry the deed of presumably men of Moslem faith.

Let’s get our vocabulary right: This has nothing to do with religion, nothing to do with Islam – we also should be careful with the word “terrorism” as the West has unfortunately linked it to Islam without differentiation – what we see is crime on the highest scale, disrespect for human life in the highest form and the try to cover this up with bloodstain the word “Allah”.
We have to invite Islam to completely distance their faith with such acts, but for this to happen we must give them a chance to abolish the “Bush invented” interlinks between “war on terrorism = war on Islam”. Mindsets must change on all sides to come together in this. And for this text: there is no radical Islam as there is no fundamentalist Christianity.. as soon as a religion is fundamentalist or radical, it loses every connection to its core…

This “war on terror” as well as all the implications, assassinations, torture,extra-legal killings, land occupations, streams of refugees, mass manipulations, violence, abuse of religion has disturbed the lives of millions of people in multiple ways – and health is only one of them. How many people are not able to get proper treatment, die before their time just because some crazy politicians and fundamentalists have decided to play “the war on terror” on all levels of society? Time to take a step back, identify the looming and not spelled out fears and the hidden agendas and start a healing process before it destroys more lives and hopes. And to bring those to justice who have triggered all these events starting on the highest levels. There is a chain of causualities and to rectify the situation one has to identify this chain.

Filed under: Uncategorized, , , , , , ,

02.01.2010 Afterthoughts..

The first decade of the new century or better millenium is gone – and when people had dreams about things going better in this world after the cold war ended – we all have been dead wrong. Civil wars continue – the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians reached a new sort of brutality and we saw war crimes on both sides of the fence. 9/11 marked an area of confusion about we really can declare a “war of terror” – President Bush and his alike introduced torture again as a means of interrogation in a democracy – an unlawful war in Iraq produced chaos and a killing spree and the war in Afghanistan is also not what we have been promised.

Bankers have nothing learned out of the credit crunch and the financial turmoil and politics tried to gain upper hand – without a lot of success – we are drifting into the next turmoil for sure. Sarkozy in Paris, Berlusconi in Italy – the sort of politicians we get are at least questionable in my view. Copenhagen was a disaster – and the EU is growing in a way which might not be practical on a long-term run. Meanwhile we have to fight for our civil rights in Europe which seems to be taken away step by step. We urgently need a discussion on what is the purpose of a state.

Our church also did not show itself from the best side – children abuse was and is a big topic and Pope Benedict XVI also did not miss out some deeds of irritation be it his lecture in Regensburg, his like for the old traditions in liturgy and other matters as well his approach towards the Pius-Brotherhood.

My personal way was in the last year also in turmoil. Ignorance, jealousy, breach of promise and the likes should not be part of the principles for action within the church.  But staffing policy is not easy and not every department head and desk officer has the skills for human resource management or interpersonal skills. The virtue of dealing with criticism is also not that often found in the culture of the church. But I can say that I am not bitter and I am happy that I have overcome this testing of my vocation – it was at breaking point.

All this does not sound very exciting – but as so often: there are thousands of events, encounters, moments of joy, happiness, fulfillment – and all those moments give a good balance and a solid base to go into the new decade, even in my personal life with the resolution to remain a human and to “fight” for a human world – into a God made himself a human being, as we Christians believe.

My belief that at the end, it will all come together despite all human attempts to derail the lives of human fellows – and I am sure there will be a justice in a way at the end of our life, which is perfect but so different from what we call justice with our little human mind. I am looking forward to whatever is left from my personal life and to try to live it to the fullest.

Everybody who was with me, supported me, showed me his/her love, affection, trusted that I can assist him/her, prayed for me, just was part of my life: Thanks you and thank God for you!!

Happy New Year 🙂

Filed under: General, Reflection, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

12th HOPE Gala Dresden

HOPE Gala Dresden - the event to be in DresdenOctober 28th, 2017
8 days to go.

Ball of HOPE 2018

Join us @ The Westin in Cape TownMay 12th, 2018
6 months to go.

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© Rev Fr Stefan Hippler and HIV, AIDS and HOPE.
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