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AHF Praises President Biden’s Pick for New PEPFAR Chief

LOS ANGELES–(BUSINESS WIRE)–AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), the world’s largest HIV/AIDS care provider operating in 45 countries, praised today President Biden’s decision to nominate John Nkengasong to lead the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).

Nkengasong currently serves as the Director of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (ACDC). Before joining ACDC as its inaugural director, he served as an acting deputy director at the US CDC Center for Global Health. Nkengasong is a virologist by training and holds a dual US and Cameroonian citizenship.

“We believe Dr. Nkengasong is well suited to lead PEPFAR because his tireless efforts in fighting COVID-19 as the head of ACDC are widely praised across Africa. As a virologist, he understands both the HIV and the COVID-19 pandemics, and has the requisite managerial and scientific credentials to successfully lead PEPFAR,” said AHF Africa Bureau Chief Dr. Penninah Iutung. “We hope the US Senate will fully support Dr. Nkengasong’s nomination and move quickly to confirm his appointment. To-date PEPFAR has saved millions of lives, most of them across Africa, and during the ongoing pandemic it is also providing indispensable COVID-19 relief. With Dr. Nkengasong at the helm, PEPFAR will continue its legacy of lifesaving humanitarian work funded by the generosity of the American people.”

Congress will soon consider whether to reauthorize PEPFAR for another five years. AHF has always been a strong supporter of PEPFAR and has repeatedly advocated for its reauthorization in previous rounds.

AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), the largest global AIDS organization, currently provides medical care and/or services to over 1.6 million clients in 45 countries worldwide in the US, Africa, Latin America/Caribbean, the Asia/Pacific Region and Europe. To learn more about AHF, please visit our website: www.aidshealth.org, find us on Facebook: www.facebook.com/aidshealth and follow us on Twitter: @aidshealthcare and Instagram: @aidshealthcare

Contacts

US MEDIA CONTACT:

Ged Kenslea, Senior Director, Communications, AHF

+1.323.308.1833 work +1.323.791.5526 mobile

gedk@aidshealth.org

Denys Nazarov, Director of Global Policy &

Communications, AHF

+1 323.308.1829

denys.nazarov@ahf.org

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City of Hope and Griffith University Researchers Use Novel Method to Block HIV in Mice

Scientists developed an anti-HIV protein called ZPAMt that can be delivered to affected areas using exosomes, nanosized parts of cells able to reach difficult-to-access areas of the body, such as the brain.

DUARTE, Calif.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Researchers at City of Hope, a world-renowned research and treatment organization for cancer and diabetes, and Menzies Health Institute Queensland at Griffith University have developed a novel anti-HIV protein that suppressed HIV levels in the bone marrow, spleen, and brain of mice and prevented the virus from replicating in those regions, according to a new study published in Nature Communications today.


Their research demonstrates that scientists could engineer nanosized parts of cells called exosomes to carry therapeutic cargo to hard-to-reach places, including the nearly impenetrable blood-brain barrier. This innovative delivery system paves the way for a future where it’s conceivable that engineered exosomes could carry cargo that either suppress infectious diseases or restructure genetic material so that pathogens are rendered harmless.

“This innovative technology could become a viable way to deliver therapies not only for HIV but also for other diseases, including ones that affect the brain, such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s,” said Professor Kevin Morris, Ph.D. from City of Hope’s Center for Gene Therapy and Griffith University’s School of Pharmacy and Medical Sciences. Morris is senior author of the new study.

Human immunodeficiency virus attacks cells that help the body fight infection, making an individual more vulnerable to other infections and diseases. Many researchers believe one way to cure HIV is to “block and lock” the disease in a process that obstructs the ability of the virus to replicate and locks it in a dormant state.

“The ZPAMt HIV protein repressor we developed is packaged into exosome nanoparticles and can enter cells where it epigenetically silences HIV,” Morris said. “We show that these nanoparticles can systemically ‘block and lock’ HIV expression. This is the first time that block and lock has been successfully delivered to treat HIV in vivo in the brain.”

HIV can enter the human body in a dormant-like state; it is able to hide from the body’s immune system and evade treatments. Then, it can reactivate later. HIV hiding in the brain is especially difficult to treat because of the blood-brain barrier, which prevents both toxins and therapies from entering the brain.

Currently, there is no cure for HIV, so once someone contracts it, he or she will have it for life. An estimated 1.19 million people in the United States had HIV at the end of 2019, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The research was supported by the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Mental Health (R01 113407-01).

About City of Hope

City of Hope is an independent biomedical research and treatment center for cancer, diabetes and other life-threatening diseases. Founded in 1913, City of Hope is a leader in bone marrow transplantation and immunotherapy such as CAR T cell therapy. City of Hope’s translational research and personalized treatment protocols advance care throughout the world. Human synthetic insulin, monoclonal antibodies and numerous breakthrough cancer drugs are based on technology developed at the institution. A National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center and a founding member of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network, City of Hope is ranked among the nation’s “Best Hospitals” in cancer by U.S. News & World Report. Its main campus is located near Los Angeles, with additional locations throughout Southern California and in Arizona. Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) became a part of City of Hope in 2016. AccessHopeTM, a subsidiary launched in 2019, serves employers and their health care partners by providing access to NCI-designated cancer center expertise. For more information about City of Hope, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube or Instagram.

About Griffith University

Griffith University is a comprehensive research-intensive university ranked in the top 2% of universities globally with 50,000 students spanning six campuses in South East Queensland, Australia. Its research excellence, innovative teaching and learning practices, and strong industry ties makes it one of the leading providers of higher education in the Asia–Pacific.

Contacts

Zen Vuong

626-409-9367

zvuong@coh.org

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AHF Dumbfounded by Gilead’s Claim of No AIDS Stigma Today

In recent legal filing in lawsuits over one of its HIV/AIDS medications that causes permanent and potentially deadly damage to the kidneys and bones, Gilead’s white shoe law firm, Sidley Austin, stumbles as it claims “…there is no shame or stigma …” associated with the disease today

At the same time its lawyers deny AIDS stigma, NBC News reported that Gilead itself funded a newly released study that found half of Americans “… said they’d feel uncomfortable with a HIV-positive medical professional, 42 percent were uncomfortable with a hair stylist or a barber living with the virus, and a third (34 percent) said they were uncomfortable with an HIV-positive teacher.”

LOS ANGELES–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Today, AIDS Healthcare Foundation announced that in a recent legal filing in personal injury lawsuits against Gilead Sciences Inc. seeking to hold the Bay Area drug maker accountable over one of its HIV/AIDS medications that allegedly causes permanent damage to the kidneys and bones, lawyers for Gilead claimed that “no shame or stigma” remains associated with HIV/AIDS today as they sought to reverse a judicial order denying Gilead access to AHF’s patient and client mailing lists.

In an August 9, 2021 filing in the Superior Court of California County of San Francisco (Case No. CJC-19-005043) seeking reconsideration of the Court’s Recommended Order No. 19 (Motions to Quash, and to Modify, Deposition Subpoena For Production of Business Records to AIDS Healthcare Foundation), lawyers for Sidley Austin, Gilead’s law firm, twice asserted there is no longer stigma associated with HIV or AIDS today, writing:

  • “Support for the HIV/AIDS community is not even stigmatized in today’s society,” (pleading, P #5, lines 19 & 20), and
  • “Further, there is no shame or stigma associated with supporting those affected by HIV/AIDS…” (pleading, P #9, lines 17 & 18).

At nearly the same time Gilead’s lawyers dubiously claimed that no HIV/AIDS stigma remains today, a new study undertaken by the LGBTQ advocacy group GLAAD and the Southern AIDS Coalition found that half of Americans “… said they’d feel uncomfortable with a HIV-positive medical professional, 42 percent were uncomfortable with a hair stylist or a barber living with the virus, and a third (34 percent) said they were uncomfortable with an HIV-positive teacher.” According to NBC News, the study, “The State of HIV Stigma 2021”, was published and widely reported on August 26, 2021.

NBC News also reported that Gilead funded the study.

Gilead’s assertions denying the existence of stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS today came about in its response to multiple personal injury lawsuits by patients taking Gilead medications. The lawsuits focus on Gilead’s failure to rectify a known defect in its tenofovir disoproxil fumarate (TDF) drug formulation, knowing that a safer alternate, tenofovir alafenamide (TAF) existed—in Gilead’s own laboratories—and for its failure to warn patients of the damaging side effects of TDF as well as Gilead’s active misrepresentation of TDF’s efficacy and risks. AHF supported many of the plaintiffs’ lawsuits, which likely led to Gilead’s discovery requests for its mailing lists.

Gilead’s zeal to maintain and maximize its corporate profits came at the expense of the health and wellbeing of its customers who were prescribed and taking TDF. According to earlier pleadings in the cases, the company knew as far back as 2001 from its own studies and other research that TDF was, ‘…highly toxic in the doses prescribed and risked permanent and possibly fatal damage to the kidneys and bones.’

“It’s official, according to Gilead: there is no longer any stigma around AIDS today,” said Michael Weinstein, president of AHF. “I suppose that means Gilead wasted a lot of money on its recent—and disheartening—GLAAD/Southern AIDS Coalition study documenting the ongoing and severe stigma around HIV and AIDS. Perhaps Gilead should instead spend its energy developing a drug to treat the willful blindness associated with its overwhelming greed. They make billions of dollars harming HIV/AIDS patients when they knew they had a better, less toxic drug sitting on the shelf. Now, they declare AIDS stigma no longer exists. Gilead, what astounding arrogance—and greed!”

About AHF

AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), the largest global AIDS organization, currently provides medical care and/or services to over 1.6 million individuals in 45 countries worldwide in the US, Africa, Latin America/Caribbean, the Asia/Pacific Region and Eastern Europe. To learn more about AHF, please visit our website: www.aidshealth.org, find us on Facebook: www.facebook.com/aidshealth and follow us on Twitter: @aidshealthcare

Contacts

Ged Kenslea, Senior Director, Communications, AHF

+1.323.791.5526 mobile

gedk@aidshealth.org

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AHF: ‘Providence Journal’ Rejects Ad Skewering CVS’s PBM Abuse

AIDS organization’s ‘Corporate Vampires Suck’ advocacy ad had already run in nearly half-a-dozen print and online new outlets nationwide, but was rejected last week by CVS’s home state newspaper, the ‘Providence Journal’

AHF ad targets CVS, the sixth largest corporation in the world, for its anti-competitive behavior, notably, buying up health plans like Aetna, and then forcing patients—including HIV patients, who often rely on specialty services from their pharmacists—to obtain their lifesaving medications by mail order or drop shipment

LOS ANGELES–(BUSINESS WIRE)–#StopCVSNow–After AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) launched a new national advocacy and ad campaign to take on health and pharmacy giant CVS over its anti-competitive business model and practices, it learned late last week that the ‘Providence Journal’—CVS’s home state daily newspaper—was rejecting AHF’s ad. CVS, the sixth largest corporation in the world, is headquartered in nearby Woonsocket, RI. A version of the ad ran in today’s Boston Sunday Globe on page A3.


The advocacy campaign and ad, ‘CVS: Corporate Vampires Suck’ (https://ahf.org/stop-cvs), targets CVS over its fierce anti-competitive behavior, specifically regarding its refusal to allow patients any choice in their pharmacy services. CVS’s currently forces most of its health plan patients from providers like Aetna—which CVS purchased for $69 billion in cash and stock in 2018—to obtain their lifesaving medications by mail order or drop shipment.

AHF’s ‘CVS: Corporate Vampires Suck’ campaign kicked off last month, with a full-page, full-color ad that ran in daily and weekly newspapers across the country with most ads landing Sunday, July 11. The ad also ran in the weekly ‘Houston Defender’ (Thursday, July 8). The Sunday papers include the Ft. Lauderdale ‘Sun Sentinel,’ ‘Houston Chronicle,’ and the ‘Chicago Defender’ (online). The ads are being complemented by a radio campaign, social media and a legislative call-to-action urging viewers and readers to contact their legislators asking them to help fight back against CVS’s monopolistic and anti-competitive behavior.

AHF intended to run the ad this week in the ‘Providence Journal’ and had been communicating back and forth with the paper’s advertising department regarding suggested possible changes or edits to the ad. Some changes were incorporated by AHF: a change to the parody CVS logo and some softening of the ad copy. However, after making some initial changes suggested by the ‘Providence Journal,’ the paper’s ad reps then advised AHF the ad could not run. They also refused to inform AHF what else might need to be changed or altered to clear the ad for publication. The ‘Providence Journal’ is the oldest continuously published daily newspaper in the United States.

“While we are disappointed that the ‘Providence Journal’ will not run our ‘Corporate Vampires Suck’ advocacy ad, we are not entirely surprised. It’s the hometown paper of CVS, which also runs multipage ad circulars dozens of Sundays every year in the paper and in most major newspapers across the country,” said Michael Weinstein president of AHF. “But make no bones about it. CVS remains a major threat to public health. It has been buying up health plans for billions and forcing clients—including HIV/AIDS patients—to use CVS’s mail order services, harming patients and fragmenting their care in the process. Patients are suffering and small pharmacies are being squeezed, with many, being put out of business. That’s why we put some real fangs into this advocacy campaign—we need the public’s help to fight back against CVS’s ‘corporate vampires.’”

AHF’s ‘CVS: Corporate Vampires Suck’ campaign will run until September. For more information about this campaign to fight back against CVS and pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) who are putting their profit ahead of patient health, please visit: https://ahf.org/stop-cvs

AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), the largest global AIDS organization, currently provides medical care and/or services to over 1.5 million individuals in 45 countries worldwide in the US, Africa, Latin America/Caribbean, the Asia/Pacific Region and Eastern Europe. To learn more about AHF, please visit our website: www.aidshealth.org, find us on Facebook: www.facebook.com/aidshealth and follow us @aidshealthcare.

Contacts

Ged Kenslea, Senior Director, Communications, AHF +1.323.791.5526 [cell] gedk@aidshealth.org
John Hassell, National Director of Advocacy, AHF +1.202.774.4854 [cell] John.hassell@aidshealth.org

AHF Commends the Resumption of HIV Treatment in Kenya – But More Is Needed

NAIROBI, Kenya–(BUSINESS WIRE)–AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) welcomes the decision reached by the US Embassy in Kenya and the National AIDS Control Council (NACC) to end the stalemate between the Kenya Ministry of Health and the US Agency for International Development (USAID). As a result, distribution of lifesaving HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment medications has resumed as of July 14, according to the US Embassy.

Civil society organisations, communities of people living with HIV and other stakeholders have been advocating for an end to the deadlock to ensure a continued flow of antiretroviral medicines and other essential HIV supplies.

“The uncertainty that was experienced by nearly a million adults and thousands of children who missed their most essential treatment for months was preventable and should never have been allowed to happen in the first place,” said Dr. Samuel Kinyanjui, Country Program Director for AHF Kenya. “The damage done to people’s lives and wellbeing—particularly children’s lives—is irreversible and must never be repeated.”

Despite encouraging negotiations between the Ministry of Health and USAID, the resolution of the impasse only directly addresses the consignment of medicines currently at the port of entry in Kenya. The newly reached agreement merely provides a temporary solution and does not substantively address any future stalemates or the broader issue of taxes being levied on medical products and technologies donated to Kenya for free distribution.

While AHF recognizes that the resumption of treatment will help alleviate the immediate danger to people living with HIV in Kenya, the government should promptly take the following actions to maintain progress toward fulfilling its commitments on ending AIDS and curbing new HIV infections:

  1. Ensure that normal operations are re-established at all HIV clinics across the country and that the Differentiated Service Delivery (DSD) model is restarted. DSD is well embraced by all stakeholders and has been proven to work very well.
  2. Find a permanent solution to address the taxation of donated medical products. This can be achieved by waiving taxes or implementing an exemption on all medical products received as donations.
  3. Improve communications among all relevant stakeholders by implementing consultation and feedback mechanisms. Insufficient communication with communities leads to mistrust and undermines the achievement of positive results.
  4. Strengthen the Health Commodities Security Technical Working Group by including representatives from communities of people living with HIV and civil society organizations.
  5. Ensure that HIV management is implemented holistically by taking into consideration prevention and diagnosis, care and treatment, and related essential commodities, including medications. This is urgently needed to address current shortages of paediatric HIV treatment, viral load testing reagents, and HIV test kits.

The COVID-19 pandemic has deeply affected all aspects of Kenya’s healthcare system with a particularly strong negative impact on communities of people living with HIV and those at risk of contracting HIV. Despite the challenging situation, by adopting the above-mentioned actions, the Kenyan government can preserve progress achieved through national AIDS control efforts to date, and it can ensure predictable access to HIV treatment and services for its citizens even in these difficult times.

AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), the largest global AIDS organization, currently provides medical care and/or services to over 1.5 million clients in 45 countries worldwide in the US, Africa, Latin America/Caribbean, the Asia/Pacific Region and Europe. To learn more about AHF, please visit our website: www.aidshealth.org, find us on Facebook: www.facebook.com/aidshealth and follow us on Twitter: @aidshealthcare and Instagram: @aidshealthcare

Contacts

KENYA MEDIA CONTACT:

Dr. Samuel Kinyanjui
Country Program Director
AHF Kenya

3rd Parklands Avenue, AHF Plaza

P.O. Box 103363-00101 Nairobi

Office Main: (254) 722 293 960

Samuel.Kinyanjui@ahf.org

Faith Ndungu Mwenda
Program Development and Advocacy Manager
AHF Kenya

3rd Parklands Avenue, AHF Plaza

P.O. Box 103363-00101 Nairobi

Office Main : (254) 722 293 960

Wamae.Maranga@ahf.org

US MEDIA CONTACT:

Ged Kenslea,
Senior Director,

Communications, AHF

+1.323.791.5526 cell

ged.kenslea@ahf.org

Denys Nazarov
Director of Global Policy &

Communications, AHF

+1.323.308.1829

denys.nazarov@ahf.org