HIV May Increase Sexual
Desire, Study Finds
DURBAN, South Africa (Reuters) - Infection with the AIDS virus could make men more amorous, which could make them more likely to pass on the virus, U.S. researchers said on Wednesday.
A team at the University of California, Berkeley, said they were checking out one of the basic premises behind natural selection -- that organisms that happen to create conditions favorable to themselves will out-compete other organisms and thus become more numerous.
``From an evolutionary perspective, HIV would benefit by influencing its human host to increase sexual activity,'' they said in a presentation to the 13th International AIDS Conference in Durban.
Philip Starks and colleagues checked studies that measured testosterone levels in male and female HIV patients. The hormone affects sex drive in both men and women.
``Although testosterone levels generally decrease during later stages of the disease, testosterone levels appear to be elevated in early stages of infection for HIV positive males,'' they said.
They did not find the same effect in women, but men needed to be told about the risk.
``Males at risk, or in early stages of infection, should be counseled that HIV infection may increase sexual desire.''
Every Minute Six People Under Age 24 Are Infected With HIV
By Emelia Sithole 7-12-00
DURBAN, South Africa (Reuters) - Every minute six people under the age of 24 are infected with the AIDS virus and many young people in the worst-hit countries do not know they are at risk, the UNICEF children's agency said Wednesday.
In its annual Progress of Nations report, UNICEF said girls and young women worldwide were 50 percent more likely to contract HIV than young men.
And in sub-Saharan Africa, almost half of girls aged 15 to 19 do not know that a person who looks healthy can be carrying HIV and pass it to them through sex.
Meanwhile a number of scientists who are so-called ``AIDS dissidents'' hailed South African President Thabo Mbeki for promoting debate about whether AIDS is caused by HIV at all.
The UNICEF report, presented to the 13th International AIDS Conference in the South African port city of Durban, paints a grim picture for youth in Africa, where the majority of the world's 34.5 million people infected with HIV live.
In Botswana, one in three women and one in seven men aged 15 to 24 are infected with HIV. In Lesotho, South Africa and Zimbabwe, the ratio is one in four women and one in 10 men.
``The HIV infection rates among young people are a searing indictment, documenting failures of vision, commitment and action of almost unimaginable proportions,'' the report said.
``They tell the story of leadership unworthy of the name and the virtual abandonment of sub-Saharan Africa, at a time of dire need, to a disaster that may soon engulf other regions as well.''
``War Of Liberation''
UNICEF executive director Carol Bellamy urged heads of state to lead a ``war of liberation'' against the spread of AIDS.
``It means mobilizing every available resource. It means accepting the vital role to be played by young people. It means sparing no effort and brooking no diversions until all of society is liberated,'' she told Reuters.
Bellamy said UNICEF intended to raise the issue at the U.N. Security Council where earlier this year the United States said AIDS was a threat to national security and stability in Africa.
``We believe what's required is the largest mobilization of resources in history,'' she said.
The education system, which is crucial in promoting awareness programs, is also buckling under the epidemic, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa where an estimated 860,000 children lost their teachers to AIDS in 1999.
UNICEF said some parents were keeping their daughters out of school for fear that they might become infected.
``Particularly disturbing is the evidence that large numbers of young people in HIV-prevalent countries are not clear on how to protect themselves,'' Bellamy added. ``Many don't know they are at risk at all -- especially girls -- and that's a disaster.''
A disturbing legacy of disease is the rising number of AIDS orphans. Around 13.2 million children worldwide have lost their parents to AIDS, and Bellamy said the number of orphans was expected to rise to 20 million in the next decade.
Mbeki Controversial Figure
Mbeki has courted controversy by appointing ``dissidents,'' some of whom deny that HIV leads to AIDS, to his own advisory panel and refusing to join the overwhelming mass of scientific opinion in attributing AIDS directly to the virus.
``Mbeki should be considered a hero for bringing these issues to the forefront,'' said Lynn Gannett, a former data manager for trials of the AZT AIDS drug.
And Charles Geshekter, a scientist on Mbeki's panel, told reporters estimates of nearly 34 million people living with HIV-AIDS were hugely exaggerated:
``AIDS in Africa has become a catch-all word, a name for a series of clinical symptoms for malaria, tuberculosis, dysentery.''
Traditional healers protested at the conference Wednesday to demand training for traditional healers in AIDS education, and the preservation and cultivation of medicinal plants.
Traditional healers have enormous influence over the lives of many Africans who have limited access to modern medicines.
A foundation set up by Microsoft chairman Bill Gates said Wednesday it would donate $90 million for AIDS research, education and treatment, including programs to help women protect themselves and their children from infection.
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