Crisis-affected populations and humanitarian aid providers are both becoming increasingly reliant on information and communications technology (ICTs) for finding and provisioning aid. This is exposing critical, unaddressed gaps in the legal and ethical frameworks that traditionally defined and governed the professional conduct of humanitarian action. The most acute of these gaps is a lack of clarity about what human rights people have regarding information in disaster, and the corresponding obligations incumbent upon governments and aid providers. This need is lent urgency by emerging evidence demonstrating that the use of these technologies in crisis response may be, in some cases, causing harm to the very populations they intend to serve. Preventing and mitigating these harms, while also working to responsibly ensure access to the benefits of information during crises, requires a rights-based framework to guide humanitarian operations. In this brief report, we provide a commentary that accompanies our report, the Signal Code: A Human Rights Approach to Information During Crisis, where we have identified five rights pertaining to the use of information and data during crisis which are grounded in current international human rights and customary law. It is our belief that the continued relevance of the humanitarian project, as it grows increasingly dependent on the use of data and ICTs, urgently requires a discussion of these rights and corresponding obligations.
BACKGROUND: HIV case-finding and linkage to care are critical for control of HIV transmission. In Kenya, >50% of seropositive individuals are unaware of their status. Assisted partner notification is a public health strategy that provides HIV testing to individuals with sexual exposure to HIV and are at risk of infection and disease. This parallel, cluster-randomized controlled trial will evaluate the effectiveness, cost-effectiveness, and feasibility of implementing HIV assisted partner notification services at HIV testing sites (clusters) in Kenya.
METHODS/DESIGN: Eighteen sites were selected among health facilities in Kenya with well-established, high-volume HIV testing programs, to reflect diverse communities and health-care settings. Restricted randomization was used to balance site characteristics between study arms (n = 9 per arm). Sixty individuals testing HIV positive ('index partners') will be enrolled per site (inclusion criteria: ≥18 years, positive HIV test at a study site, willing to disclose sexual partners, and never enrolled for HIV care; exclusion criteria: pregnancy or high risk of intimate partner violence). Index partners provide names and contact information for all sexual partners in the past 3 years. At intervention sites, study staff immediately contact sexual partners to notify them of exposure, offer HIV testing, and link to care if HIV seropositive. At control sites, passive partner referral is performed according to national guidelines, and assisted partner notification is delayed by 6 weeks. Primary outcomes, assessed 6 weeks after index partner enrollment and analyzed at the cluster level, are the number of partners accepting HIV testing and number of HIV infections diagnosed and linked to care per index partner. Secondary outcomes are the incremental cost-effectiveness of partner notification and the costs of identifying >1 partner per index case. Participants are closely monitored for adverse outcomes, particularly intimate partner violence. The study is unblinded due to practical limitations.
DISCUSSION: This rigorously designed trial will inform policy decisions regarding implementation of HIV partner notification services in Kenya, with possible application to other parts of sub-Saharan Africa. Examination of effectiveness and cost-effectiveness in diverse settings will enable targeted application and define best practices.
TRIAL REGISTRATION: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT01616420 .
The rates of sexually transmitted infections (STI) including chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis, are increasing across the United States, including in Rhode Island (RI). These STIs affect many otherwise healthy adolescents and young adults, and represent a significant source of morbidity. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention encourages states to develop strategies for addressing increasing STI rates in the setting of diminishing public health resources. The RI Department of Health (DOH) works with providers and funded community- based organizations to promote STI screening, expedited partner therapy, and partner services to reduce STI rates. The Miriam Hospital Immunology Center opened a public HIV/STI Clinic, which offers free and confidential testing for HIV, viral hepatitis, chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis, as well as post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) and pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) services to prevent HIV. In collaboration with the RI DOH, the Clinic serves as a referral source across the state for complicated STI cases.
Despite a high prevalence of oncogenic human papilloma virus (HPV) infection and cervical cancer mortality, HPV vaccination is not currently available in Mali. Knowledge of HPV and cervical cancer in Mali, and thereby vaccine readiness, may be limited. Research staff visited homes in a radial pattern from a central location to recruit adolescent females and males aged 12-17 years and men and women aged ≥ 18 years (N = 51) in a peri-urban village of Bamako, Mali. Participants took part in structured interviews assessing knowledge, attitudes, and practices related to HPV, cervical cancer, and HPV vaccination. We found low levels of HPV and cervical cancer knowledge. While only 2.0% of respondents knew that HPV is a sexually transmitted infection (STI), 100% said they would be willing to receive HPV vaccination and would like the HPV vaccine to be available in Mali. Moreover, 74.5% said they would vaccinate their child(ren) against HPV. Men were found to have significantly greater autonomy in the decision to vaccinate themselves than women and adolescents (p = 0.005), a potential barrier to be addressed by immunization campaigns. HPV vaccination would be highly acceptable if the vaccine became widely available in Bamako, Mali. This study demonstrates the need for a significant investment in health education if truly informed consent is to be obtained for HPV vaccination. Potential HPV vaccination campaigns should provide more information about HPV and the vaccine. Barriers to vaccination, including the significantly lower ability of the majority of the target population to autonomously decide to get vaccinated, must also be addressed in future HPV vaccine campaigns.
Despite having the highest prevalence of any sexually transmitted infection (STI) globally, there is a dearth of data describing Trichomonas vaginalis (TV) incidence and prevalence in the general population. The lack of basic epidemiological data is an obstacle to addressing the epidemic. Once considered a nuisance infection, the morbidities associated with TV have been increasingly recognised over the past decade, highlighting the importance of this pathogen as a public health problem. Recent developments in TV diagnostics and molecular biology have improved our understanding of TV epidemiology. Improved characterisation of the natural history of TV infection has allowed us to hypothesise possible explanations for observed variations in TV prevalence with age. Direct and indirect hormonal effects on the female genital tract provide a likely explanation for the greater burden of persistent TV infection among women compared with men. Further characterisation of the global epidemiology of TV could enhance our ability to respond to the TV epidemic.
Factors predicting suboptimal CD4 cell recovery have been studied in HIV clade-B infected US and European populations. It is, however, uncertain to what extent these results are applicable to HIV clade-C infected African populations. Multivariate analysis using logistic regression and longitudinal analyses using mixed models were employed to assess the impact of age, gender, baseline CD4 cell count, hemoglobin, body mass index (BMI), tuberculosis and other opportunistic co-infections, and frequencies of regimen change on CD4 cell recovery at 12 and 30 months and on overtime change in CD4 cells among 442 virologically suppressed South Africans. Despite adequate virological response 37% (95% CI:32%-42%) and 83% (95% CI:79%-86%) of patients on antiretroviral therapy failed to restore CD4 cell counts ≥ 200 cells/mm(3) after 12 and ≥ 500 cells/mm(3) after 30 months, respectively, in this South African cohort. Critical risk factors for inadequate recovery were older age (p = 0.001) and nadir CD4 cell count at ART initiation (p<0.0001), while concurrent TB co-infection, BMI, baseline hemoglobin, gender and antiretroviral regimen were not significant risk factors. These data suggest that greater efforts are needed to identify and treat HAART-eligible patients prior to severe CD4 cell decline or achievement of advanced age.
The Centre for the AIDS Program of Research in South Africa 004 trial demonstrated reduction of sexual HIV-1 acquisition in women using a vaginal microbicide containing tenofovir. A better understanding of the consequences of antiretroviral-containing microbicides for immune responses in individuals with intercurrent HIV-1 infection is needed for future trials combining the use of microbicides with HIV-1 vaccines. Investigation of immune responses in women who acquired HIV-1 although using tenofovir gel showed significantly higher (P = 0.01) Gag-specific IFNγ+ CD4+ T-cell responses. The use of tenofovir-containing gel around the time of infection can modulate HIV-1 immunity, and these immunological changes need to be considered in future trials combining vaccines and microbicides.
Several studies have highlighted the importance of murine natural killer (NK) cells in the control of influenza virus infection, notably through the natural cytotoxicity receptor NKp46. However, little is known about the involvement of NK cells in human influenza infection. Here, we show that upon in vitro exposure to influenza, NKp46 expression on NK cells decreases, whereas expression of 2B4, an activating receptor that can enhance natural cytotoxicity in synergy with NKp46, is up-regulated. Consistent with these observations, NKp46(dull) and 2B4(bright) NK cells had a higher functional activity in response to influenza than NK cells expressing high levels of NKp46 or low levels of 2B4, respectively. Importantly, we assessed whether the expression of these receptors was also modified in vivo in response to influenza antigens and showed that an increase in 2B4-expressing NK cells and a decrease in NKp46(+) NK cells occurred following intramuscular influenza vaccination. Altogether, our results further suggest that NKp46 may play an important role in the innate immune response to human influenza and reveal that exposure to influenza antigens is associated with a previously unrecognized increase in 2B4 expression that can impact NK cell activity against the virus.
Recent studies suggest that natural killer T (NKT) cells play a role in early antiviral pathogenesis and are rapidly depleted in chronic human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) clade B infection. We aimed to characterize the phenotypic and functional characteristics of NKT cells in HIV-1 clade C-infected Africans at different stages of HIV-1 disease. NKT cell frequencies, subsets, and ex vivo effector functions were assessed using multiparametric flow cytometry in a cross-sectional analysis of cryopreserved peripheral blood mononuclear cells from a cohort of 53 HIV-1 clade C chronically infected South African adults with CD4 T cell counts ranging from 94 to 839 cells/μl. We observed a significant decline of NKT cell numbers in advanced HIV-1 disease as well as activation and functional impairment of NKT cells in individuals with low CD4 T cell counts. The loss of NKT cells was largely driven by a reduction in the CD4(+) and CD4(-)CD8(-) NKT cell subsets in advanced disease. These findings demonstrate significant impairment of the NKT cell compartment in progressive HIV-1 clade C disease that might play an important role in the modulation of immune function in HIV-1 infection.