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HIV/AIDS Experts: Prevention Pill Could Encourage Risky Behavior

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US experts urge approval of first AIDS prevention pill 

By Chris Levister

A panel of health experts on Thursday urged the Food and Drug Administration regulators to approve Truvada, made by Gilead Sciences, as the first preventive pill against HIV/AIDS.

Truvada first made headlines in 2010, when government researchers showed it could prevent people from contracting HIV. A three-year study found that daily doses cut the risk of infection in healthy gay and bisexual men by 42 percent, when accompanied by condoms and counseling. Last year another study found that Truvada reduced infection by 75 percent in heterosexual couples in which one partner was infected with HIV and the other was not.

Mitchell Warren, executive director of HIV prevention group AVAC, said after the vote that pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), or the method of taking a drug ahead of potential exposure to HIV, "while not a panacea, will be an essential additional part to the world's success in ending AIDS." “For the millions of men and women who remain at risk for HIV worldwide, each new HIV prevention option offers additional hope,” he added. “I think this is a huge milestone,” said Dr. Robert Grant, associate director of the Center for AIDS Research at the University of California, San Francisco, who led the

panel's research. “We are in an era for the first time when we can see the end of the AIDS epidemic.” But Truvada's groundbreaking preventive ability has exposed stark disagreements on prevention among those in the HIV community. While Truvada's supporters say the drug is an important new option, critics worry it might give users a false sense of security and lead to reduced use of condoms, the most reliable defense against HIV. “Unfortunately this kind of viral marketing leaves the perception that one can just take a pill and go out and have unprotected sexual intercourse,” said Dr. V. Diana Woods, President Inland Empire African American Health Institute (AAHI).

“The idea of taking a pill to prevent HIV or STD infections makes perfect sense but to market this drug as prevention without considering the impact of science versus perception, or the psychological, emotional and physical responsibility that comes with having sexual intercourse, is highly disappointing and dangerous,” said Woods. The trouble is adherence. How do you ensure that patients take the pill every day? Who takes responsibility for patients who didn't take their medication diligently and are not protected? “Plain and simple, in the heat of the moment people take risks.” Experts also question the drug's effectiveness in women, who have shown much lower rates of protection in studies.

“The jury is still out,” says Stephanie T. Edwards, President, Board of Directors, California Statewide African American HIV/AIDS Coalition, Inc. (CAAHAC) The Truvada research was conducted on gay males and does not address HIV/AIDS in women who account for about 1 in 4 new HIV/AIDS cases in the U.S.

Studies show of those newly infected women 2 out of 3 are African American, according to Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data. Studies show most of these women got HIV from having unprotected sex with a man. To date more than 230,000 African Americans have died of AIDS - nearly 40 percent of total deaths - and of the more than 1 million people living with HIV in the U.S. today, almost half are black. “We can ill afford to take our eyes off tackling the root causes of this epidemic which include poverty, incarceration, stigma, fear, discrimination, homophobia, negative perceptions about HIV testing, and lack of awareness of HIV status,” said Edwards Edwards added, in an era when antiretroviral therapy can help HIV-infected individuals lead healthier lives, African Americans with HIV/AIDS are more likely than other racial groups to postpone medical care and become hospitalized, with the result that they are more likely to die from HIV-related causes.

“HIV’s racial divide is not new,” said Woods. “Each year when national surveillance data are released, we see the ever-increasing toll the AIDS epidemic is taking on the African-American community. Each year, we ask the same question: Why is AIDS hitting black Americans hardest? There are no simple answers.”

Woods and others also worry that wide scale use of Truvada will divert limited funding from more cost-effective options and squeeze already-constrained health care resources that can be better spent on cheaper and more effective prevention therapies. Truvada sells for about $900 a month, or just under $11,000 per year. The AIDS Healthcare Foundation, which opposes approval of Truvada, estimates that 20 HIV-positive patients could be treated for the cost of treating one patient with preventive Truvada.

Edwards said, given the social and economic characteristics of poor African-American communities, a more systemic approach must be taken to help build stable communities. She said national policies must effectively deal not only with unstable housing and incarceration, but also with the poverty and social disadvantages of poor African-American neighborhoods.

“These policies must address the role that homophobia plays in driving new HIV infections among black MSM (men who have sex with men), so that programs mitigating that impact can be implemented.”

“These medical breakthroughs are indeed watershed moments,” said Woods. “However, we must keep moving the agenda forward with a multi-prong approach that includes providing equal access to affordable HIV/AIDS treatment, encouraging abstinence, condom use, HIV testing and awareness of one’s HIV status.”

Remembering Fanny Brown

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Fanny Marion Brown was known by her family and friends as Marion. She was a native of California born to Mary & Frank Adams on May 12, 1923, in the city of Monrovia. Marion was the fourth child of eleven chil- dren and had 4 sisters and 6 brothers. She was called home on April 26, 2012.

She attended school in Monrovia and graduated in 1943 from Monrovia Arcadia-Duarte (MAD) High School. She enjoyed visiting with her fami- ly, dancing, country western music, gardening, crocheting, playing bingo & keno, and cooking. She also enjoyed working at the family business, Adams part owner, she was able to show her warmth and love of people.

Marion moved to Riverside with her family in 1944. On November 19, 1949, she married, CMSgt Ellis G. Brown, Sr. (who preceded her in death). Out of this union, they were blessed with 5 children, Deborah Patrice Brown, Ellis G. Brown, Jr. (Doris), Tina Alise (Brown) Robinson (Eddie), Mary Ellen (Brown)–Smith (Mark), and Ronald Kirby Brown (deceased).

Marion is survived by her 3 sisters; Thelma Adams-King, Helen (Adams) Armstrong, & Eunice (Sharon) Adams-Lisberg, her 2 brothers Jerry Adams (Carolyn) & Tim Adams (Mary) and her brother–in-law Rogers Brown. She leaves to cherish her memory, her grandchildren; Ama, Trey, EJ (Eddie IV), Robert and Candies, as well as a host of nieces, nephews relatives and friends.

LONG-TERM UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS TO END – SATURDAY

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BVN Staff Report 

The most generous federal extension program for unemployment benefits, known as FED-ED in California, won’t be available after May 12. About 93,000 people will be immediately affected, according to California’s Employment Development Department (EDD).

“The week ending May 12, 2012, will be the last week EDD can pay FED-ED benefits to eligible unemployed workers, even if someone has a remaining balance on their FED-ED extension,” according to an EDD news release. The federal government took extraordinary steps in 2009 to prop up workers who lost their jobs during the recession. The normal 26 weeks of state benefits were supplemented by three types of federal extensions that added up to 73 more weeks for a total of 99 weeks of benefits, the longest on record.

Since March 2009 when the program began, more than 912,000 unemployed Californians have received $5 billion in payments.

The EDD currently pays about $310 million a week to Californians in regular and federal extension benefits, assisting unemployed workers and their families and helping local businesses where much of these benefits are spent. California’s unemployment hit 11 percent in March — that's three percent higher than the national average.

But while it remains high, the three-month average is not 10 percent higher than it was at this time last year, making California ineligible to continue to provide extended benefits, according to U.S. Department of Labor standards.

More information about the new potential maximum weeks of federal benefit extensions can be found on the EDD website, along with more information on assistance for unemployed workers.

Rwandan Prime Minister Challenges Cal. Baptist Graduates

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University graduated a record number of students

By Chris Levister

The Right Honorable Pierre Damien Habumuremyi, Prime Minister of the Republic of Rwanda, shook hands, kissed babies and reaffirmed his commitment to human rights and the need for widespread political reform throughout Africa during a combined visit to California and to deliver a commencement address at California Baptist University in Riverside.

From the colorful kente cloth sashes worn by several Rwandan graduates to the warm breeze that wafted over the sea of faculty and guests, Habumuremyi’s visit was a festive stop on an international campaign to strengthen ties between Rwanda and the U.S. Habumuremyi, who served as that African nation’s minister of education from May 2011 to October 2011, addressed the graduates of the private school in Riverside on Saturday. He said his presence there underscored the strong bond between his nation and the United States “and the leadership of this great university.”

In December 2011 the U.S. and Rwanda ratified the U.S.-Rwanda bilateral investment treaty (BIT) aimed at promoting open trade and investment.

The Rwandan official expressed pride in the first cohort of Rwandan students to receive their baccalaureate degrees under a presidential education agreement California Baptist University established with the East African nation in 2007.

“Rwanda’s sons and daughters, attending CBU under the Presidential Scholarship program have over the last four years carried out the unique responsibility of being Rwanda’s first ambassadors to CBU, and I am confident that they will go on to serve with distinction as CBU’s ambassadors to Rwanda when they return home,” Habumuremyi said.

Until 1994, educational opportunities for Rwandans were extremely limited. After the genocide, most primary schools and more than half of prewar secondary schools reopened, though no more than 5% of the adult population received secondary education through 1996. Although educational quality remains an issue, access to education expanded dramatically in recent years and the Government of Rwanda’s Nine-Year Basic Education policy, implemented in 2010, contributed to an increase of the primary school completion rate from 52.4% in 2008 to 79% in 2011. Free basic education was extended from 9 years to 12 years in 2012.

He congratulated all of the graduates on behalf of Rwanda’s president, His Excellency Paul Kagame, and the Rwandan people.

“As your friends and family, we share in your joy and are very proud of what you have accomplished in the course of your undergraduate education, both in and outside the classroom,” Habumuremyi said. “It is now incumbent upon you all to put to good use the knowledge and skills you have acquired from CBU and your passion to learn.” California Baptist University (CBU) graduated a record number of students during spring commencement ceremonies surpassing the 1,000-graduate mark for the fourth consecutive year. The Class of 2012 numbered 1,330 graduates, the largest in the 62-year history of CBU.

Dr. Ronald L. Ellis, CBU President, conferred degrees on a total of 281 graduate students and 786 undergraduates in separate ceremonies on Friday evening and Saturday morning. Another 263 students were eligible to graduate at the December 2011 commencement ceremony.

Dr. Richard L. “Rick” Miller, Superintendent of Riverside Unified School District spoke at graduate ceremonies held Friday evening. Miller told students receiving master’s degrees that they were “joining the top 10 percent nationally in educational attainment” and said that privilege comes with a responsibility. “As a member of the top 10 percent you will be responsible for leadership in our society,” Miller told the graduates. “You have been equipped by your professors and staff here at CBU, so there is little question that you know what to do. Now the question becomes, what will you do and will you make a difference?”

State Controller John Chiang To Speak At EITC Awareness Day

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California State Controller John Chiang will be the featured speaker at EITC Awareness Day sponsored by Community Action Partnership of Riverside County (CAP Riverside) on Friday, January 29 at 10:00 a.m. at California Baptist University. National EITC Awareness Day is organized by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and its stakeholders to educate the public about the Earned Income Tax Credit and requirements to claim the credit. The reception will take place in the Copenbarger Room at the Yeager Center, California Baptist University, 8432 Magnolia Avenue in Riverside. Controller John Chiang, Supervisor Marion Ashley, Mayor Ron Loveridge, representatives of the IRS, CBU and CAP Riverside will have remarks for the press and community.

At the conclusion of the remarks, the new CAP Mobile will be available for inspection. Volunteers will be preparing taxes on site in the mobile unit, which will be used to bring tax preparation services during special events throughout Riverside County.

Tax preparation will take place until 1:00 p.m. EITC is a refundable federal tax credit for working families who earn less than $50,000 a year. This credit helps reduce the tax burden on low and moderate-income families. Based on earnings and family situation, taxpayers can receive up to $5,657 in Earned Income Tax Credit refunds. Families may also qualify for other tax credits, including the Child Tax Credit, which can reduce a family’s tax liability by up to $1,000 per child. Also, refunds may be split and direct deposited into up to three different bank accounts.

Community Action Partnership of Riverside County is operating eight Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) sites throughout Riverside County, providing weekend and evening hours and bilingual volunteers to assist taxpayers.

Please contact Community Action Partnership of Riverside County at (951) 955-4900 or (800) 511-1110 or visit www.capriverside.org for addresses and times of operation.

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BVN National News Wire