Daily Archives: June 11, 2008

US HIV rate 25% higher than previous estimates

Reuters  | Jun 11, 2008

RESEARCHERS have been undercounting new cases of HIV infection in the United States, meaning the rate is probably 25 per cent higher at 50,000 people per year, the nation’s top AIDS doctor said today.

Dr Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said the rate of infection was not increasing but that new methods of calculating the rate showed infections were more common than previous estimates.

Dr Fauci, attending the United Nations’ 2008 High Level Meeting on AIDS, said the previous methods had shown the rate of new infections in the United States had hit a plateau at around 40,000 per year for the past 14 years.

“They were counting the numbers in a way that was leaving out certain segments of the society. So that 40,000 was probably an undercounted number,” he said.

Instead of using an extrapolated mathematical model to come up with the rate of new infections, he said, the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) was now relying on better counting of more groups, households and regions.

“The number went up to about 50,000. That doesn’t mean that the actual rate of new infections increased. It means that we are now no longer missing counting the ones that we missed early,” Dr Fauci said. “It was always 50,000 a year.”

The new counting methods are not changing the overall picture of AIDS in America, Dr Fauci said.

In the United States, with a population of about 300 million, some 1.1 million people are infected with HIV, of which 25 per cent do not know it. That leaves 770,000 documented cases.

“I have seen some of the data and it is clear. The confusion is that it was increasing when in fact it is better accounting,” Dr Fauci said. “They are counting more accurately.”

AIDS activists have accused the CDC of holding back results from the new methods but Fauci believes the statistics will become official “reasonably soon, when the official publication comes out from the CDC.”

Globally, an estimated 33.2 million people are infected with the human immunodeficiency virus that causes AIDS and 25 million have died so far from the fatal and incurable disease.

Dr Fauci said the search for a vaccine was complicated because unlike other viruses that the human body can ultimately defend against, such as polio, measles, mumps or smallpox, “the body does not do a good job making an immune response to HIV”.

On a positive note, drug therapy for treating HIV is proving effective in slowing the disease.

“The good news is that the drugs we have now maintain people with undetectable viruses – present but undetectable for decades now,” Dr Fauci said.

Dr Fauci said that the virus disproportionately affects blacks. While blacks make up 12 per cent of the US population, 49 per cent of new HIV infections in men are among blacks and 65 per cent of new infections in women are among blacks.

Italy’s ‘clinic of horror’ under homicide investigation

Unnecessary procedures had “become a way to turn a profit”.

Agence France-Presse | Jun 11, 2008

TWO Italian surgeons accused, along with 12 others, of voluntary homicide and fraud for performing unnecessary invasive surgery for financial gain will face a hearing next week.

The other accused, who include the owner of the private 276-bed Santa Rita clinic in Milan, northern Italy, were under house arrest, police said.

One investigator referred to the clinic as a “butcher shop”, while Milan residents were in shock after learning that at least five mostly elderly patients died after operations that were too risky for their condition, press reports said.

Three surgeons arrested on Monday were accused of carrying out 91 unnecessary operations since 2005. They face life imprisonment if convicted, the leading daily Corriere della Sera reported.

The main suspect, the clinic’s top surgeon Pier Paolo Brega Massone, was put behind bars along with his colleague Pietro Fabio Presicci.

At his first hearing, Mr Massone said he “always thought of the well-being of the sick”.

He denied all the charges against him, the ANSA news agency reported.

The charges ranged from social security fraud, to voluntary homicide with the aggravating circumstances of cruelty, police said.

The fraud was estimated at €2.5 million ($4.08m) in 2005 and 2006.

The investigation began in January 2007 following an anonymous tip-off.

The 200-page charge sheet, from which large excerpts appeared in the press yesterday, is chilling.

Doctors operated on patients “with no consideration for their suffering, which they in no case relieved but instead aggravated”, the prosecution said.

Unnecessary procedures had “become a way to turn a profit”.

The charge sheet gave details of two mastectomies performed on women for minor breast ailments and a man with pneumonia who had part of a lung removed.

An 88-year old woman had three operations, each costing €12,000.

Another patient, aged 85, with a suspected lung tumour was not given a biopsy before a “highly risky” operation, which she did not survive.

Wiretaps caught doctors talking openly about greater income from more invasive surgery.

“It’s obvious that if your boss tells you ‘the more you operate the more I’ll pay you’, the surgeon starts having a more aggressive attitude,” one was quoted as saying.

Mr Massone is also accused of allowing a young tuberculosis patient to leave while still contagious.

He “infected his entire class”, according to a wiretapped conversation between a doctor and a friend.

The revelations come at a time when new Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has been moving to restrict wiretaps as an invasion of privacy.

All the doctors implicated in the case have been suspended.

The northern Italian region of Milan announced yesterday it was suspending “for an indefinite period” the contract that obliges it to give partial funding to the private clinic.

Punk and Hardcore rockers drawn into the Masonic fraternity

“It’s kind of like a history class that no one else can take…”

Boston Herald | Jun 10, 2008

Frat boys: Masons drum up members among Hub rockers

By Dave Wedge

Stodgy lodges, traditional initiations and secret handshakes would seem to be the antithesis of punk rock.

But a diverse group of Hub rockers are embracing centuries-old fraternal ideals to become the new face of the Freemasons in Boston.

Rockin’ lodge: Musician J.R. Roach of Sam Black Church, master of the Cambridge Amicable Lodge, is flanked by members and friends.

“It’s not a religion, and it’s definitely not a cult,” said J.R. Roach, drummer for Sam Black Church and bassist for The Men, who also is master of the Masons’ Cambridge Amicable Lodge. “Everything is supposed to be dignified. There’s no hazing. We’re all brothers. It’s a movement for guys trying to find a deeper meaning in their lives.”

A new breed of Freemasons has surfaced locally, filling seats occupied for decades by community leaders, politicians and executives. Some join because their fathers or grandfathers were Masons. Others come for the male camaraderie or the intellectual challenge. And some simply want to get out of the house and go somewhere other than a rock club.


“It’s kind of like a history class that no one else can take,” said Dave Norton, drummer for Victory at Sea and The Men. He believes his membership in the fraternal organization will be especially rewarding when he tours Europe later this year.

“I can go anywhere in the world and find a brother,” he said.

According to the organization’s Web site, “Freemasonry is the oldest and largest fraternity dedicated to the brotherhood of man under the fatherhood of a supreme being. Although of a religious nature, Freemasonry is not a religion. It urges members to be faithful and devoted to their own religious beliefs.” Its slogan is “making good men better.”

Masons have numbered artists as well as presidents, governors, judges and businessmen for centuries. Famous members include actors Clark Gable and Ernest Borgnine and musicians such as Mozart, Irving Berlin, Nat King Cole and Duke Ellington.

Masonry does have its critics who claim it is a secretive, chauvinistic and cult-like organization seeking no less than world domination. It’s been denounced by the Catholic Church and other religions and has faced political opposition for centuries.

“Some people just aren’t ready for it,” Norton said. “Any man can join. You just have to have the right reasons for it.”

Inside the Cambridge lodge, with its candelabras, velvet-covered pews, pipe organ and paintings of members past, members wear aprons indicating their level of enlightenment. Members meet monthly to discuss lodge business, which ranges from raising money for charities to electing leaders.

Gary Robley, drummer for Dashboard Jesus and J. Geils cover band Blow Your Face Out, said he joined because his father was a Mason, as are many of his friends.

“There were a bunch of musicians I knew in it,” Robley said. “It was kind of a brotherhood. Musicians have always been a part of Masonry since its inception.”

For Hank Peirce, a Unitarian minister and former roadie for hardcore band Slapshot, Masonry provided a safe haven when he went through a divorce.

“It’s important to have ‘men space,’ where we can talk about things going on in our lives,” he said. “The lodge is a sanctuary. When you’re here, you’re doing rituals that men have done for hundreds of years.”


Sam Black Church Myspace

Sam Black Church Myspace on Wikipedia

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