Hopeful News for Russia and Africa

Unless the more advanced world can devise solutions, the people of Africa, Russia, and other “falling behind” nations are doomed to suffer untold hardship and decline from infectious diseases such as HIV.

Africa was the source of HIV, but Russia is experiencing an ongoing surge of the deadly plague, at the same time as overall prospects grow more dismal for the crippled bear.

The upper graphic displays HIV prevalence, or existing cases. The lower graphic displays new cases (incidence), which add to the already high prevalence rate. Both incidence (new cases) and prevalence (existing cases) of HIV in Russia are riding on the back of Russian drug abuse, caused by dismal living conditions and a widespread despair in the Russian population.

But scientists in the more developed world may have something to offer the HIV sufferers of Africa and Russia — and other backward peoples living in both the third world and in the cities of the more advanced world. Researchers at Scripps are developing an “artificial antibody” that seems to be capable of hunting down HIV and inactivating the virus.

Scientists at Scripps Research Institute said they had developed an artificial antibody that, once in the blood, grabbed hold of the virus and inactivated it. The molecule can eliminate H.I.V. from infected monkeys and protect them from future infections.

But this treatment is not a vaccine, not in any ordinary sense. By delivering synthetic genes into the muscles of the monkeys, the scientists are essentially re-engineering the animals to resist disease. Researchers are testing this novel approach not just against H.I.V., but also Ebola, malaria, influenza and hepatitis. __ Hunter-Killer for HIV

More intriguing HIV research at Salk

Farzan’s team stitched the gene for eCD4-Ig into an adeno-associated virus (AAV) that is harmless to humans. Those viruses, injected into monkey muscles, continued to produce eCD4-Ig for the 40 weeks of the experiment. “Everyone expects with AAV that this can go on forever,” Farzan says. The animals had no detectable immune response against the eCD4-Ig, presumably because it is so similar to pieces of their own cells. __ Sciencemag

This approach — as well as other gene therapy approaches — offer hope for nations ridden by infectious disease, such as those in Africa and Russia. Such places have suffered a collapse of public health infrastructure and are unable to help themselves to defeat the many plagues that are attacking them.

Mortality and Infection Rates HIV

Mortality and Infection Rates HIV

Sometimes it is the small things — like termites — that lead to the collapse of an untended national infrastructure.

It is not only residents of backward countries at risk for HIV. Travelers to such countries as Russia can pick up HIV through unprotected sex:

Although sub-Saharan Africa remains the most affected part of the world (24.8 million cases or 68% of all people living with HIV infection), notable increases in HIV infection have occurred in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, where the number of people living with HIV infection from 2001 to 2010 rose 250% (Map 3-07). Most new infections come from low- and middle-income countries. Many countries lack comprehensive surveillance systems and, despite improvements, the true number of cases may be higher than officially reported, particularly in developing countries.

The risk of HIV infection for international travelers is generally low, although the risk is determined less by geographic destination and more by behaviors such as drug use and unprotected sex. __ CDC HIV

Among the top 20 global economies, only India, with a population almost nine times bigger than Russia’s 143 million, has more people living with HIV, according to the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, known as UNAIDS, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention…

At the root of Russia’s woes is an unchecked outbreak among addicts: 21 percent of the world’s HIV-positive injecting-drug users live in the country, compared with 15 percent in the U.S. and 10 percent in China, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime says.

Russia’s surging epidemic runs counter to the global trend. Worldwide, annual HIV infections dropped by almost a third to 2.3 million in 2012 from 2002. In South Africa, they tumbled by 38 percent to 370,000. South Africa still leads the world in total cases, with 6.1 million HIV-infected people. India has 2.1 million; the U.S., 1.1 million; and China, 780,000, according to UNAIDS and the CDC. __ HIV Surges in Russia

Russia has become a global centre of child prostitution, along with Manila and Bangkok. Child prostitution in Russia is largely administered by organised criminal clans and mobs — some of which have close ties to the Kremlin.

In the more advanced world, scientists have been taking multiple approaches in the attempt to reverse the epidemic among more backward nations — and among more backward populations living inside the inner cities and banlieus of North America, Europe, and Oceania.

Virologist David Baltimore, a Nobel laureate based at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, is working with a group developing its own AAV gene therapy that delivers an HIV bNAb. He describes the eCD4-Ig chimera and the paper as “impressive” and says he welcomes this new approach. But Baltimore, who like Johnson has already moved into early phase human trials with his gene therapy, notes that the new work offers only test-tube and animal data. “It’s perhaps a better construct than the antibodies we’ve been using, but it’s a matter of how it plays out in human trials,” Baltimore says. “I don’t think it’s easy to tell how that will happen.” __ Stopping HIV

US HIV Prevalence by Race

US HIV Prevalence by Race

In the US, HIV clusters within “third world” populations. The same process of “third-worldification” of cities is taking place in other parts of the Anglosphere, and in Europe. As third world peoples infiltrate the cities of the more advanced world, deadly diseases often hitch-hike along with them. For that reason, and many others, it is important for nations with a more advanced science and public health infrastructure to develop advanced cures for deadly third world diseases.

Global HIV Death Rates

Global HIV Death Rates

Incidence rates of HIV in Russia are high and growing. This adds to a spiraling prevalence rate, which then adds to the HIV mortality rate. Drug abuse by millions of Russians underlies this modern plague.

In more advanced nations of North America, Europe, and Oceania, expensive anti-retroviral treatments are available to treat persons with HIV infection. In more backward places with collapsed public health infrastructure — such as Russia and Africa — advanced treatments are available only to the wealthy, and to those able to travel to more advanced nations.

Frankly, Russia and Africa need all the help they can get. But in the case of Russia, the diseased bear is doing the type of thing that makes enemies rather than friends. Due to a very low average population IQ, Africa has long been considered a lost cause — except for its natural resources. Until recently, it was believed that Russia might discover a way to interact with the modern world on the bases of cooperation and trade — in non-destructive ways.

Putin’s war against Eastern Europe — and his threats of war against larger parts of Europe and the Anglosphere — are putting an end to Russo-optimism among more thoughtful people.

Meanwhile in the more advanced world, fascinating advanced biomedical research with ramifications for treating HIV is taking place at Salk, at Scripps, and at multiple private, university, and public labs.

These nascent advances comprise gene therapies, vaccines, more advanced anti-retrovirals, immune therapies, drug prophylaxis and more.

Since its origins in Africa, HIV has quickly spread to all human populations. It is estimated by official sources that roughly 80 million humans are HIV infected. Al Fin epidemiologists estimate that the true number is well above 100 million. Well above. Given the tenacious and sometimes secretive nature of the HIV virus inside the human body, newer and better — craftier — approaches to the virus are still needed.

Out of Africa come many things. Hope for the best, prepare for the worst.

Update: Brian Wang takes a look at Russia’s precarious economic situation and comes to many of the same conclusions that we at Al Fin have arrived at.

Russia’s “vast hard currency reserve” is evaporating far more rapidly than most observers believed possible. Russia’s ability to slow the ongoing collapse of its public health infrastructure continues to weaken. If Russia’s elites are unable to convince Putin to give up his war against Eastern Europe, and are unable to forcibly remove him from office, death rates in Russia from multiple causes are likely to skyrocket again, except significantly higher than before.

More on Russia’s mounting economic strictures

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5 Responses to Hopeful News for Russia and Africa

  1. Dan says:

    Africa and Russia, Russia and Africa… Can you be any more subtle?

    Russia was kind enough recently to extend use of the international space station, rather than take their ball and go home since the whole world is ganging up on them like chimpanzees ganging up on a loner.

    Which is kind of nice since those primitive stone age barbarians form the only country actually capable of supporting a space program right now since we retired the shuttle, and we ought to be thankful for their generosity. Of course we aren’t.

    Africa, Russia. Russia, Africa. Pretty much indistinguishable.

    Russia’s murder rate is dropping drastically in the rein of King Putin.

    Their abortion rate is plummeting.

    And here’s Edward Snowden gushing about how great life in Russia is. Burn!

    Lol. During the previous edition of the cold war, it was Soviet state secret that life in America was good, while Soviet dissidents fled to find refuge in America.

    Of course Snowden is probably just a Russian spy (albeit one whose family roots in suburban Maryland go back to the reign of King Charles II, long before the USA would form, and long, long before the NSA HQ would intrude upon on his family’s stomping ground).

    • alfin2101 says:

      Don’t take Snowden’s word for it. Go there yourself and live the good life. No doubt you will love it too. 😉

      More subtle people understand that when national statistics become a propaganda weapon, one must be far more discriminating in the data one is willing to trust. Adomanis and Karlin may not have learned that lesson yet. Yet.

      • Dan says:

        You may be right that the stats out of Russia may not be trustworthy. But what else is there to go on? That’s not rhetorical. I am ernestly asking. That’s why I linked to the satellite view of Eurasia at night. Nations like North Korea which are plainly faking it are revealed because they are dark at night. With Russia you see nothing of the sort.

        These horrible AIDS stats as you note are from the Russian Federal AIDS center. They aren’t sugarcoating anything. This is recent BAD news straight from them.

        I know one thing for certain about people like Putin and Medvedev and whoever else they have over there: They are intensely pro-Russia. They love Russia. The greatest pain in Putin’s life, the thing that probably animates him the most is the searing experience of Russia’s collapse in the 1990s. He has referred to it as the great catastrophe. I don’t see how it serves them to falsify data, because they are trying to improve things. They are in this for the long haul.

        To me, Russia accumulating gold is a sign that the leadership is more about building foundations than the opposite, kleptocracy. Kleptocracy was the story of the 1990s.

        I read Gulag Archipelago, and pondered that there may be something wrong or at least primitive with the brains of Russians that they could descend so low. But then the Chinese, the Germans, the Norks and others acted very primitively in the 20th century too.

        Some Republicans are comparing Putin to Stalin, which ought to disqualify them from the levers of power because that is delusional thinking. Where are the camps? Where are the closed borders? Pretty soon he’ll be storming through Berlin, right? Do these mental midgets have any idea how far east Ukraine is? To my lights, Putin has been almost heroically non-tempermental. If Russia fomented the overthrow of a democratically elected pro-America government at our doorstep in Canada after decades of humilations would we not have reacted? To even ask this is to show how out of touch we are.

        Being condemned to suffer from such mentally crippled leadership on both sides of the aisle, I find our leaders’ criticism of other leaders to be a kind of sick joke. People in glass houses and all that.

        • Dan says:

          My favorite bit of insanity was David Cameron’s suggestion *in Kazahkstan* that Kazahkstan should join the EU. Because I am concerned for the welfare of the mentally unwell, I believe that those with such a level of mental illness should be held in custody for their own safety and protection. I mean what are British nanny state laws for if they can’t be applied in even such extreme instances?

        • alfin2101 says:

          Russia can no longer afford to fund its statistical bureaus to provide reliable information to the public, just as it is unable to provide needed medical and public health services. It is much like an African country in that regard. In the case of countries too backward — or too secretive — to provide reliable public statistics, one must be resourceful.

          Interpreting Russia’s abortion statistics, for example, presents one with several problems. Does the apparent drop in numbers of abortions reflect an overall drop in abortion rates among the appropriate population? Lower funding for public health services — including abortions — are likely to change apparent rates, as women are forced to seek out unofficial and unmonitored abortion services. Lower funding for statistical bureaus likewise leads to less careful monitoring. Confusing raw counts with rates is another frequent mistake made by those who fail to take into account the changing denominator in the rate calculation. etc. etc. etc.

          In many ways, all numbers lie, so that statistics should never be taken at face value. You must always ask yourself why a statistical source would intentionally lie. Inadvertent and unintentional lies are often committed as well. Most people who propagate official statistics to the public do not understand how easily their numbers can lose validity — assuming they once had any validity in the first place.

          Very few people understand enough about the interacting sectors of everyday life to “read between the lines” in the face of unreliable statistics. Experience is important — which is why university students are so easily fooled. Broad interdisciplinary experience is necessary, which is why narrowly trained specialists are so often left with egg on their faces. And most importantly, an underlying desire to understand “the truth” — free of ideology and preconceived beliefs — is crucial. A certain minimal level of intellect and imagination helps tremendously.

          All numbers lie. Most people are unqualified to see through lying numbers, for a wide range of reasons. It is not an easy situation to solve in a world that consoles itself with egalitarian lies and with the delusion that “the truth” will out in the end.

          Most of the modern world is dedicated to making sure that “the truth” never outs on a large scale. Some parts of the world are more vulnerable to the exposure of valid information than others. Those are the entities with the largest propaganda budgets as a proportion of overall expenditures.

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