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Issue No. 6 | February 9, 2007

News and Features

President's 2008 Budget Requests Funding to Fight the HIV/AIDS Epidemic

President Bush released his 2008 budget on Monday, February 5, 2007, which includes funding to fight the HIV/AIDS epidemic both at home and abroad.

The budget includes a request for $93 million to fund HIV testing of low-income Americans in 2008, the same amount requested in the previous year's budget. The goal of HIV testing in low-income communities is to help prevent the large number of new infections that are caused by people who are not aware that they themselves are infected with HIV. Additionally, the Ryan White CARE Act will continue to help provide life-saving and life-extending services to over half a million low-income and uninsured people affected by HIV/AIDS.

The President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) is requesting $5.4 billion to continue its global mission. This is an increase from the President's 2007 budget request of $4 billion and from the $3.3 billion that was appropriated for 2006.

The stated goals of PEPFAR are to provide treatment to two million HIV-infected individuals; to provide care for 10 million people affected by the disease, including AIDS orphans; and to prevent seven million new infections in 15 countries that are home to approximately half of the world's HIV-infected population.

Daily Doses of Selenium May Slow Progression of HIV

The mineral selenium may slow the progression of HIV, according to a study recently published in the Archives of Internal Medicine. Selenium is an essential trace mineral that is known to increase immune function. Selenium levels, however, have been observed to be low in HIV-infected individuals. The study followed both HIV-infected individuals who had already begun highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) and those who had not yet begun therapy. Study participants were randomly assigned to receive either 200 micrograms of selenium daily or a placebo for 18 months. This article reports the 9-month interim results. In both groups, those with high adherence to the selenium supplement regimen had reduced viral loads and increased CD4 counts, leading the study investigators to conclude that selenium may be a simple, inexpensive, and safe potential addition to HIV treatment regimens. 

Critics of the study were quick to caution that while selenium may slow the progression of HIV in the short term, it should not replace HAART as a treatment. In addition, study participants whose CD4 counts had not dropped or had already been stabilized by HAART made the data unclear if the small increases in CD4 counts were actually clinically significant. Still, study researchers found the results promising and feel they warrant further studies.

Too much selenium is harmful and very large doses are fatal. The upper level of selenium that can be tolerated by adults is 400 mg a day. American adults typically obtain 100 mg from their diet daily. Additional information on nutrition for HIV-infected individuals can be found on AIDSinfo's Health Topics page.