Health Buzz: World AIDS Day and Other Health News

Questioning the benefits of robotic surgery; considering mammograms when breast cancer can vanish.

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Marking World AIDS Day

Today is the 20th annual World AIDS Day, the date dedicated to promoting awareness of HIV/AIDS. This year's slogan is, "Stop AIDS. Keep the promise," and the theme is leadership, intended to bring attention to the need for political leadership to fulfill commitments to battling the HIV/AIDS epidemic through prevention, treatment, care, and support. Officials in most countries worldwide acknowledge that HIV/AIDS is a threat and have committed to efforts to combat the disease, according to the website for World AIDS Day. Nearly all countries have adopted national HIV policies, but most of these programs have not been fully implemented and many lack necessary funding.

Today, the American College of Physicians issued a new guideline recommending that all patients ages 13 and older be routinely screened for HIV. Earlier this year, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommended HIV testing for most adult women.

Last month, Lindsay Lyon discussed how people can use an E-card to inform sexual partners of STD exposure. U.S. News recently described the epidemic of HIV among black women and told how one young woman battles the virus. In June, U.S. News provided a caution about rapid HIV tests. Also, HealthDay reports that there is still hope for an HIV vaccine, despite setbacks.

Is Robotic Surgery Better? Or Just Marketing?

Paul Levy, president of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, recently stated on his blog that the hospital is buying a da Vinci surgical robot for marketing reasons. It costs well over $1 million, not counting its expensive annual care and feeding with new tools and software, Avery Comarow reports. All of the hospital's Boston competitors have the robot, and they are drawing referrals away from Beth Israel, which doesn't. The da Vinci robot—which allows a surgeon sitting at a control station to manipulate tiny surgical tools—has not been shown to be clinically superior to conventional surgery, with the possible exception of a few specific procedures.

Last year, U.S. News explained how robotic surgery and other newer technologies are tackling early-stage prostate cancer. This September, Nancy Shute described how robots are aiding stroke rehabilitation.

Do You Still Need a Mammogram?

The mammogram has suffered a lot of setbacks in recent years, Deborah Kotz reports. Breast cancer researchers have questioned the value of the screening test in women younger than 50 and berated the X-ray for its high rate of false positives, those suspicious-looking abnormalities that turn out to be benign. Last week, the test itself took another hit, though women may actually benefit from the news in the end. Some tumors that mammography accurately diagnoses, it seems, may not require treatment. U.S. News's Deborah Kotz explains what women should do in light of the news that some breast cancers may disappear on their own.

Earlier this month, Kotz listed seven things to consider if breast cancer runs in your family, and Katherine Hobson provided a primer on preventing breast cancer.

—January W. Payne

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