US FDA approves first over-the-counter HIV test

The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the first over-the-counter HIV test that can be taken at home. The test, announced Wednesday, would allow people to check themselves for the virus that causes AIDS in saliva collected using a mouth swab.

Ervin “Magic” Johnson, the former NBA Most Valuable Player and HIV/AIDS advocate, called OraQuick a huge milestone in the fight against HIV.

“In the HIV and AIDS fight we needed an in-home kit. Because the stigma behind going to the doctor or to a HIV and AIDS clinic to get a shot, for some people – probably millions of people, they just didn’t want to do it,” said Johnson.

Johnson, a paid spokesperson for the company, said that in the 21 years since he first announced that he was HIV positive, one of the biggest hurdles in the fight against HIV/AIDS has been getting people tested…

The test is designed to return a result within 20 to 40 minutes.

Government officials estimate one-fifth, or about 240,000 people, of the 1.2 million HIV carriers in the US, are not aware that they are infected.

Testing is one of the key means of slowing new infections, which have held steady at about 50,000 per year for two decades.

The US capital, however, still has one of the highest HIV infection rates in the world – 3.2 per cent – higher than Rwanda, Kenya or Ethiopia…

The FDA stressed in its approval announcement that the test is not 100 per cent accurate.

A trial showed the home test correctly detected HIV in those carrying the virus only 92 per cent of the time.

That means the test could miss one person for every 12 HIV-infected people who use the kit.

Overdue. Essential.

Elizabeth Warren on anti-woman issues raised by Republicans

If I still lived in Massachusetts, I would be voting for Elizabeth Warren. I wouldn’t have voted for Scott Brown in the first place, because I’m not foolish enough to believe any of the campaign promises made by Republicans. Even so-called moderates.

I raise my questions about Democrats to Democrats; but, this is a question simply that addresses all women, all Americans. The Party-formerly-known-as-Republican has chosen to bring back questions resolved in the 20th Century to satisfy the 19th Century ideology they now serve. I cannot support politics whose only direction is backwards.

Hypocrite conservatives have another number to whine about

The number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits fell sharply last week to the lowest level in more than four and a half years, according to government data on Thursday that suggested improvement in the labor market…

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits fell 30,000 to a seasonally adjusted 339,000, the Labor Department said.

It was the lowest number of new claims since February 2008, about a year before Obama took office in the midst of the global financial crisis…

A Labor Department analyst noted that seasonal factors had predicted a very large increase in claims last week, which he said would be typical for the first week of the calendar quarter. Unadjusted claims did rise, but far less than expected, resulting in the sharp drop in the seasonally adjusted figure…

Economists said the labor market was showing signs of getting stronger

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast claims edging up to 370,0000 last week. The four-week moving average for new claims, a better measure of labor market trends, fell 11,500 to 364,000…

Recent data on the U.S. labor market has been encouraging.

Employers added a modest 114,000 jobs to their payrolls in September, but the unemployment rate dropped sharply to 7.8 percent, also the lowest level since Obama took office…

One under-reported aspect of times changing oh-so-slowly for the better is the strength of Keynesian measures. Even in the face of a dogpile of cowards and craven Congressional conservatives dragging their feet – that portion of stimulus measures that was able to be implemented is having an effect.

It hasn’t happened in a vacuum. Quantitative easing from the Fed has added another small measure of positive economic force into the whole process. The proof of this particular pudding starts with the ideological whine from the Right. The companion piece on the Left – ranging from anarchists to tea party liberals can pretty much be laid at the feet of ignorance; but, the conservative flavor of criticism falls directly to ideologues who still cringe over the failure of Hayek and Hooverville Republicans.

As someone who spent way too many years criticizing Keynesian theory until day-by-day economic processes proved me wrong – I welcome any correction to the dismal science which ends up providing jobs for the workers of America, the class I’m pleased to be a part of. This doesn’t mean we can walk away from the reforms still needed in education, financial oversight, tax code revision, a foreign policy which stinks on ice. But, it’s a start.

Can’t modify a schoolchild’s environment – modify the child!


Peanut butter on the top shelf, drugs down below

When Dr. Michael Anderson hears about his low-income patients struggling in elementary school, he usually gives them a taste of some powerful medicine: Adderall.

The pills boost focus and impulse control in children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Although A.D.H.D is the diagnosis Dr. Anderson makes, he calls the disorder “made up” and “an excuse” to prescribe the pills to treat what he considers the children’s true ill — poor academic performance in inadequate schools.

“I don’t have a whole lot of choice,” said Dr. Anderson, a pediatrician for many poor families in Cherokee County, north of Atlanta. “We’ve decided as a society that it’s too expensive to modify the kid’s environment. So we have to modify the kid.”

Dr. Anderson is one of the more outspoken proponents of an idea that is gaining interest among some physicians. They are prescribing stimulants to struggling students in schools starved of extra money — not to treat A.D.H.D., necessarily, but to boost their academic performance.

It is not yet clear whether Dr. Anderson is representative of a widening trend. But some experts note that as wealthy students abuse stimulants to raise already-good grades in colleges and high schools, the medications are being used on low-income elementary school children with faltering grades and parents eager to see them succeed…

All the easier to come to this conclusion when decisions are based pretty much only on test scores.

Jacqueline Williams said she can’t thank Dr. Anderson enough for diagnosing A.D.H.D. in her children — Eric, 15; Chekiara, 14; and Shamya, 11 — and prescribing Concerta, a long-acting stimulant, for them all. She said each was having trouble listening to instructions and concentrating on schoolwork.

“My kids don’t want to take it, but I told them, ‘These are your grades when you’re taking it, this is when you don’t,’ and they understood,” Ms. Williams said, noting that Medicaid covers almost every penny of her doctor and prescription costs.

Some experts see little harm in a responsible physician using A.D.H.D. medications to help a struggling student. Others…fear that doctors are exposing children to unwarranted physical and psychological risks. Reported side effects of the drugs have included growth suppression, increased blood pressure and, in rare cases, psychotic episodes.

The reported prevalence of the disorder has risen steadily for more than a decade, with some doctors gratified by its widening recognition but others fearful that the diagnosis, and the drugs to treat it, are handed out too loosely and at the exclusion of nonpharmaceutical therapies.

RTFA for delightful tales of side effects, hospitalization. Diagnosis rates have gone up as Congressional beancounters and state ward-heelers have cut funding for education. Somehow, keeping the machinery of death and destruction well-oiled while our childrens’ education continues in a death spiral fits the job description for elected officials in every one of these United States.

So, the punks in Congress, drug-dealers in the medical profession, say they’re doing their best to keep life going in difficult times. No thought for planning ahead. No conscience. No reformation of an education system turned over to pharmaceutical companies and budget clerks.

Hobbit coins will be released as legal tender in New Zealand


Bilbo Baggins will be worth $10NZ

New Zealand to release commemorative ‘The Hobbit’ coins worth thousands of dollars ahead of next month’s premier of director Peter Jackson’s latest Tolkien epic.

Hobbit coins, featuring characters such as Bilbo Baggins and Gandalf the wizard, will be legal tender in the country, New Zealand Post said – although their face value will be only a fraction of the cost collectors will be expected to pay.

The most expensive, made from one ounce of pure gold, costs more than 350 times its face value. It will set Tolkien enthusiasts back NZ$3,695 but has a face value of just NZ$10.

The cheapest is available for almost 30 times its face value – a NZ$1 coin retailing for NZ$29.90…

Jackson, who was responsible for the Oscar-winning adaptation of Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy, announced earlier this year that he would make three films from “The Hobbit” book, rather than two as originally planned…

New Zealand enjoyed a huge tourism boom after the original trilogy and is hoping to repeat the success with the Hobbit movies, launching a campaign branding the country “100% Middle Earth” to coincide with the premiere.

According to my friends, the smartest brown trout in the world live there. A long, long time.