Our weekly roundup of the latest news in the world of health.
HIV researchers and health officials talked this week at a conference about the challenges of fighting the virus. But they also said there's new hope for preventing its spread. New research found that an advanced CT scan may shorten emergency room visits for chest pain. But the test also had drawbacks. The U.S. legal system is struggling against a growing variety of synthetic drugs sometimes called "bath salts." And a study released this week concluded that expanding Medicaid to cover more people may save lives.
This Issue: AIDS Conference Hears about Hopes and Challenges CT Shows Mixed Results for Chest Pain Legal System Fights Surge in 'Bath Salts' Study: Medicaid Expansion May Cut Death Rates
In the News:
AIDS Conference Hears about Hopes and Challenges
World health systems still face challenges to control the spread of HIV. But speakers at a conference this week expressed hope that the next generation could be AIDS-free. "There is no excuse scientifically to say we cannot do it," said Anthony Fauci, M.D., of the National Institutes of Health. The United States pledged an extra $150 million to for prevention and treatment in poor countries. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said one step that can occur by 2015 is to treat pregnant women to make sure no babies are born infected. Dr. Fauci said research shows that treatment can reduce the chance of spreading the infection by 96%. That requires starting treatment as soon as someone is diagnosed. For men, circumcision is "stunningly successful" in reducing the risk of infection by a female sex partner, Dr. Fauci said. Challenges include the high rate of infection among gay black men in the United States. Among those age 30 and under, nearly 6% are infected each year. Women in Africa need better ways to protect themselves when partners won't use condoms. A new study will test a drug-coated ring worn inside the vagina. The Associated Press and USA Today wrote about the conference.
CT Shows Mixed Results for Chest Pain
If you have chest pain, but aren't having a heart attack, an advanced CT scan can help get you out of the emergency room sooner, a study published this week finds. But it might not be worth the extra radiation and later tests. The study included 1,000 people with chest pain. All had electrocardiograms and blood tests that suggested a heart attack was unlikely. Then they were randomly divided into 2 groups. People in one group got standard tests, such as a stress test. The others got a type of CT scan that gives a detailed view of arteries around the heart. People spent an average of 23 hours in the hospital with the CT scans and 30 hours with standard tests. About 47% were sent home after the CT scans, compared with 12% who had standard tests. The others were admitted. But those in the CT group received 3 times as much radiation as the standard-care group. They also were more likely to have expensive tests later, so their total testing costs were a bit higher. The Journal of the American Medical Association published the study. The Associated Press wrote about it.
Legal System Fights Surge in 'Bath Salts'
Lawmakers and police across the United States are struggling to keep up with a wave of constantly changing new synthetic drugs. The Associated Press wrote about the problem this week. The drugs are known as "bath salts" because they often are packaged as common household items. The drugs typically are made in labs by amateur chemists. President Obama signed a bill earlier this month to ban more than two dozen of the most common ones. But a U.S. official said the illegal drug industry keeps inventing new ones. The drugs mimic the effects of drugs such as cocaine and other stimulants. They can cause hallucinations and paranoia. People using the drugs may turn violent. U.S. law prohibits selling drugs that mimic illegal drugs. But officials said it can be hard to prosecute sellers of bath salts. One reason is that they often are marked "not for human consumption."
Study: Medicaid Expansion May Cut Death Rates
Expanding Medicaid under the new health care reform law may save thousands of lives, a study released this week concludes. The study looked at what happened in 3 states that recently have expanded Medicaid in ways similar to what the law requires. The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the law in June. But it said that states can refuse to expand Medicaid, a joint state-federal program. The expansion would cover mostly uninsured adults without children. It would include those with annual incomes up to about $15,400. Since 2000, Maine, Arizona and New Hampshire have all expanded Medicaid to include low-income adults without children. The study compared them with neighboring states that did not expand the program. It found a 6% drop in death rates in the 3 states after they expanded Medicaid. The other states did not have a similar drop. The New England Journal of Medicine published the study. The Associated Press wrote about it.
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