Science Policy For All

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Science Policy Around the Web – May 29, 2015

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By: Julia Shaw, Ph.D.

Pills prepared for H.I.V. patients in Thailand. Credit: Taylor Weidman/Getty Images

Global Health – Treatment for HIV

H.I.V. Treatment Should Start at Diagnosis, U.S. Health Officials Say

The Strategic Timing of Antiretroviral Treatment (Start) trial, the largest clinical trial evaluating the benefits of early antiretroviral treatment for HIV, was ended prematurely after interim analyses revealed a 53% reduction in AIDS-related death or illness in subjects who began taking antiretroviral drugs at diagnosis compared to those who started only after their CD4 T cell counts in blood dropped below 350 cells/ml or after succumbing to an AIDS-related event like infection with an opportunistic pathogen. Although the news is not a surprise to those working in the HIV field, according to the director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Disease, Dr. Anthony Fauci, for those who may have been exposed to the virus it is “another incentive to seek out testing and start therapy early, because you will benefit.” Additionally, those on a consistent regimen of anti-HIV drugs are over 90% less likely to infect others.

As of 2014, only 13 million out of an estimated 35 million infected with HIV were on antiretroviral treatment. Experts estimate identifying and treating all HIV positive individuals would cost at least three-times the amount currently donated through organizations like The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. Aside from the cost of drugs, in the United States — where only 30% of those infected take antiviral drugs consistently — many still fear drug side-effects yet most modern formulations do not have the harsh side-effects of the earlier generation of drugs. When the study began in 2009, guidelines set forth by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended starting therapy when a patient’s CD4 count fell below 500. The World Health Organization suggested waiting until the count fell below 350. This study provides strong evidence that in terms of lives saved, earlier treatment is clearly effective. (Donald G. McNeil Jr., The New York Times)

The Environment – Clean Water

President Obama asserts power over small waterways

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Army Corps of Engineers have finalized their proposal for the controversial “waters of the United States rule”, a rule designed to clarify which waterways are protected by the Clean Water Act. Past Supreme Court decisions have questioned whether small tributaries, streams, and wetlands were subject to the regulations of the Clean Water Act, prompting the construction of this new rule. Republicans and like-minded businesses fear excessive federal involvement and regulation of minor waterways, ditches and puddles. However Gina McCarthy, head of the EPA, maintains the rule will “protect the streams and wetlands that one in three Americans rely on for drinking water . . . This rule will make it easier to identify protected waters and will make those protections consistent with the law as well as the latest peer-reviewed science.” McCarthy further contends the federal government’s jurisdiction would increase less than 3% and that the rule does not hamper agriculture or remove existing exemptions for farmers, ranchers, or foresters, frequently the most vocal opponents to the rule. Despite efforts in both the House and Senate to overturn the rule, President Obama stands firmly in support of the new regulations stating, “Too many of our waters have been left vulnerable to pollution.” (Timothy Cama, The Hill)

International Funding for the Sciences

Russian foundation tarred with ‘foreign’ label

Russia’s foreign agent law was enacted in 2012, targeting nongovernmental organizations concerned with human rights and free elections. The law forces burdensome reporting requirements and necessitates that any materials produced by the organization indicate that a foreign agent produced them. On Monday, the Russian government identified the Dynasty Foundation, a nonprofit based in Moscow and one of the country’s leading science foundations supporting science education and early-career scientists, as a “foreign agent.” The ruling was made despite a petition organized by 28 members of the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS) arguing that the foundation’s work is fully transparent and “has nothing to do with advocacy of foreign states’ interests.” Funding for the foundation is heavily dependent on its founder, Dmitry Zimin, a Russian telecom tycoon who regularly transfers funds, some $10 million per year since its inception in 2002, from his offshore accounts to the foundation. President Putin’s spokesperson, Dmitry Peskov, stated that if Dynasty “gets money from abroad, then it is a foreign agent” which is subject to the foreign agent law. In response, Zimin has threatened to stop funding the institution. A meeting of Dynasty officials set for June 8th will decide the foundation’s future. (Vladmir Pokrovsky, Science Insider)

Have an interesting science policy link?  Share it in the comments!

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Written by sciencepolicyforall

May 29, 2015 at 9:00 am

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