Health Highlights: Dec. 1, 2009

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  • International AIDS Conference Returns to U.S.
  • South Africa Will Do More to Fight HIV/AIDS: President
  • WHO Issues New HIV Treatment Recommendations

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by editors of HealthDay:

International AIDS Conference Returns to U.S.

The 19th International AIDS Conference will be held in Washington, D.C. in July 2012, the International AIDS Society announced Monday.

The decision to hold AIDS 2012 in the U.S. capital was made after President Barack Obama's October announcement that the nation would lift entry restrictions on people with HIV, effective Jan. 4, 2010.

The biennial conference was last held in the United States in 1990 in San Francisco.

"The return of the conference to the United States is the result of years of dedicated advocacy to end a misguided policy based on fear, rather than science, and represents a significant victory for public health and human rights," IAS President-Elect Dr. Elly Katabira, professor of medicine at Makerere University in Uganda, said in an IAS news release.

"AIDS 2012 will be a tremendous opportunity for researchers from around the world to share the latest scientific advances in the field, learn from one anothers expertise, and develop strategies for advancing all facets of our collective efforts to treat and prevent HIV," said Katabira, who will serve as the international chair of AIDS 2012.

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South Africa Will Do More to Fight HIV/AIDS: President

All HIV-positive babies in South Africa will receive treatment, and testing for HIV will be expanded, President Jacob Zuma said Tuesday in a speech that marks a major shift in a nation where the previous government distrusted HIV/AIDS drugs.

Of the 50 million people in South Africa, about 5.7 million are infected with HIV, more than any other country, the Associated Press reported.

The new policy changes that will take effect in April 2010 will help HIV patients "live longer and more fulfilling lives," Zuma said in the speech on World AIDS Day.

He compared South Africa's fight against HIV/AIDS to the decades-long struggle against apartheid, the AP reported.

"At another moment in our history, in another context, the liberation movement observed that the time comes in the life of any nation when there remain only two choices: submit or fight," Zuma said. "That time has now come in our struggle to overcome AIDS. Let us declare now, as we declared then, that we shall not submit."

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WHO Issues New HIV Treatment Recommendations

Drug treatment for people with HIV should begin a year or two sooner than currently recommended, says a new guidance issued Monday by the World Health Organization. HIV is the virus that causes AIDS.

Doctors should start HIV patients on AIDS drugs when their level of CD4 cells is about 350, instead of waiting until the level is around 200, the WHO now advises, the Associated Press reported.

The new recommendation could add 3 million to 5 million people to the 5 million patients worldwide already waiting to receive AIDS drugs.

WHO also recommended that pregnant women with HIV should take AIDS drugs earlier and while breast-feeding, and that countries should phase out the widely used AIDS drug stavudine because of its toxic side effects, the AP reported.

In countries with large HIV/AIDS outbreaks, adoption of the new guidance could help patients live longer, healthier lives, WHO official Hiroki Nakatani said in a news release.

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