Archive For The “News” Category

Not Time To 'See The Winter Wonderland': N.C. Governor Says To Stay Off Roads

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Not Time To 'See The Winter Wonderland': N.C. Governor Says To Stay Off Roads

A snow plow moves on a snowy Durham, N.C., street on Sunday. Weather Prediction Center forecaster David Roth told NPR this could be a “historic storm” for southwest Virginia and western North Carolina.

Jonathan Drew/AP


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Jonathan Drew/AP

Up to a foot of snow — and possibly more — is expected to fall on Sunday night across the southern Appalachians and nearby foothills in western North Carolina and southwestern Virginia.

“Some places might get what the equivalent of a year of snowfall is for that area,” David Roth, a forecaster Weather Prediction Center, told NPR. “I would think this will end up being a historic storm for southwest Virginia and western North Carolina.”

The National Weather Service has issued winter storm warnings for areas from northeast Georgia to southern Virginia. A mix of wet snow, sleet and rain are predicted to hit southern Virginia and the coastal plain of the Carolinas, which is still recovering from Hurricane Florence.

Churches across the region have canceled Sunday services, and many schools are planning to shutter their doors on Monday.

The heaviest snow is expected to fall in western North Carolina and southwestern Virginia.



National Weather Service


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National Weather Service

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper declared a state of emergency on Friday.

On Saturday, the governor urged people not to risk travel during the snowstorm, which he reminded residents isn’t the same thing as “snow fall.”

“This weekend isn’t the time to head out to see the winter wonderland. Stay safe where you are,” Cooper said.

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam followed suit, declaring a state of emergency on Saturday.

“Virginians should take all necessary precautions to ensure they are prepared for winter weather storm impacts,” said Northam.

Being prepared means having up to three days worth of food on-hand and an emergency kit in your car, said North Carolina’s emergency management officials on Saturday.

If anyone was wondering what it looks like before a snowstorm in N.C., it wasn’t this busy before Florence. #Snowmageddon2018 pic.twitter.com/vVy5GMBhvn

— Hammurabi (@PJohnWinslow) December 7, 2018

It won’t be easy for people to travel during the storm — by road, train or air.

Cooper warned that North Carolinians who brave the roads could make it harder for first responders and road crews to do their jobs, which includes keeping roads ice-free.

“Each night, any snow that melts during the day…it could refreeze,” forecaster David Roth told NPR. “You’re going to end up with black ice on the roads.”

As of Saturday morning, the governor’s office said that road crews had spread more than 1 million gallons of brine solution on the state’s roads to keep them from getting icy.

Flights to and from cities in North Carolina and Virginia have been impacted, too, according to travel advisories from multiple major airlines, including Delta, Southwest, United and American. Flights in Tennessee and South Carolina have also been affected.

Deicing a @Delta aircraft. 🎥 @charturn88 pic.twitter.com/ZYVBAREHcA

— CLT Airport (@CLTAirport) December 9, 2018

FlightAware, a website that tracks flights, reported more than 6,500 delays and 1,500 cancellations on Sunday morning.

And, on Saturday, Amtrak announced it would be canceling trains and changing services through Tuesday.

As heavy snow and ice weigh down branches and cause trees to fall, power lines could fall, too, causing power outages.

One of the country’s largest electric companies, Duke Energy, announced on Saturday that the storm could bring more than 500,000 power outages in the Carolinas.

According to a website that tracks live power outages, almost 150,000 people in North Carolina were without power as of Sunday morning. More than 80,000 were without power in South Carolina.

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Remembering Lyudmila Alexeyeva, Russian Human Rights Activist

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Remembering Lyudmila Alexeyeva, Russian Human Rights Activist

Lyudmila Alexeyeva, one of Russia’s oldest, most decorated human rights activists, has died at 91.

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China Launches Probe Bound For A Historic Exploration Of The Far Side Of The Moon

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China Launches Probe Bound For A Historic Exploration Of The Far Side Of The Moon

A Long March 3B rocket lifts off from China’s Sichuan province early on Dec. 8, carrying a rover destined to land on the far side of the moon.

STR/AFP/Getty Images


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STR/AFP/Getty Images

A Chinese spacecraft is headed toward the moon on a historic mission.

The rocket, launched Saturday, is carrying a probe set to make the first-ever soft landing on the far side of the moon, reports China’s state-run Xinhua News Agency.

While other spacecraft have previously explored the far side of the moon from afar, the soft-landing will allow for more detailed study of the lunar surface. The probe is expected to touch down in early January.

A nice 100-second video of Chang’e-4 lunar mission preparations, ignition, launch, and staging. Source: https://t.co/nvvUL1ypdj pic.twitter.com/FS4FDYOLyJ

— Andrew Jones (@AJ_FI) December 8, 2018

If you’re tempted to make a Pink Floyd joke, remember this: “The side of the Moon we do not see from Earth gets just as much sunlight on it as the side we do see. In truth, the only dark side of the Moon is the side that is pointed away from the Sun at any given time,” says NASA.

Dark or not, exploring the far side of the moon comes with its own challenges. For one, the moon will block direct communication between the probe and researchers on Earth. To get around that, China launched a relay satellite in May that will allow the probe to stay in contact with the scientists. Quoting the China National Space Administration, Xinhua explained the goals of this current mission:

The scientific tasks of the Chang’e-4 mission include low-frequency radio astronomical observation, surveying the terrain and landforms, detecting the mineral composition and shallow lunar surface structure, and measuring the neutron radiation and neutral atoms to study the environment on the far side of the moon.

Those measurements will be easier to make from the moon because it will act as a giant shield against electromagnetic interference coming from Earth. Smithsonian Magazine reports there will also be a biological aspect to the research — silk worms, eggs and potato seeds are on board for studies about respiration and photosynthesis.

If the mission succeeds, China has plans to launch a fifth Chang’e mission next year that would collect samples of the moon’s surface and bring them back to Earth.

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China Launches Probe Bound For A Historic Exploration Of The Far Side Of The Moon

By |

China Launches Probe Bound For A Historic Exploration Of The Far Side Of The Moon

A Long March 3B rocket lifts off from China’s Sichuan province early on Dec. 8, carrying a rover destined to land on the far side of the moon.

STR/AFP/Getty Images


hide caption

toggle caption

STR/AFP/Getty Images

A Chinese spacecraft is headed toward the moon on a historic mission.

The rocket, launched Saturday, is carrying a probe set to make the first-ever soft landing on the far side of the moon, reports China’s state-run Xinhua News Agency.

While other spacecraft have previously explored the far side of the moon from afar, the soft-landing will allow for more detailed study of the lunar surface. The probe is expected to touch down in early January.

A nice 100-second video of Chang’e-4 lunar mission preparations, ignition, launch, and staging. Source: https://t.co/nvvUL1ypdj pic.twitter.com/FS4FDYOLyJ

— Andrew Jones (@AJ_FI) December 8, 2018

If you’re tempted to make a Pink Floyd joke, remember this: “The side of the Moon we do not see from Earth gets just as much sunlight on it as the side we do see. In truth, the only dark side of the Moon is the side that is pointed away from the Sun at any given time,” says NASA.

Dark or not, exploring the far side of the moon comes with its own challenges. For one, the moon will block direct communication between the probe and researchers on Earth. To get around that, China launched a relay satellite in May that will allow the probe to stay in contact with the scientists. Quoting the China National Space Administration, Xinhua explained the goals of this current mission:

The scientific tasks of the Chang’e-4 mission include low-frequency radio astronomical observation, surveying the terrain and landforms, detecting the mineral composition and shallow lunar surface structure, and measuring the neutron radiation and neutral atoms to study the environment on the far side of the moon.

Those measurements will be easier to make from the moon because it will act as a giant shield against electromagnetic interference coming from Earth. Smithsonian Magazine reports there will also be a biological aspect to the research — silk worms, eggs and potato seeds are on board for studies about respiration and photosynthesis.

If the mission succeeds, China has plans to launch a fifth Chang’e mission next year that would collect samples of the moon’s surface and bring them back to Earth.

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Trump Appoints Gen. Mark Milley Chairman Of The Joint Chiefs Of Staff

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Trump Appoints Gen. Mark Milley Chairman Of The Joint Chiefs Of Staff

President Trump has appointed Gen. Mark Milley to succeed Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford.

Andrew Harnik/AP


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Andrew Harnik/AP

Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Mark Milley will become the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

President Trump made the announcement via Twitter on Saturday.

“I am pleased to announce my nomination of four-star Gen. Mark Milley, Chief of Staff of the United States Army — as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, replacing General Joe Dunford, who will be retiring,” Trump wrote. “I am thankful to both of these incredible men for their service to our Country! Date of transition to be determined.”

I am pleased to announce my nomination of four-star General Mark Milley, Chief of Staff of the United States Army – as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, replacing General Joe Dunford, who will be retiring….

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 8, 2018

….I am thankful to both of these incredible men for their service to our Country! Date of transition to be determined.

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 8, 2018

Trump will attend the Army-Navy football game on Saturday afternoon. On Friday, Trump said he is nominating William Barr for attorney general, and Heather Nauert for U.N. ambassador.

He hinted then that he would have an announcement related to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, saying, “I have another one for tomorrow that I’m going to be announcing at the Army-Navy game,” Trump said. “I can give you a little hint: It will have to do with the Joint Chiefs of Staff and succession.”

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Organizer Of The Yellow Vest Protests In France Discusses Reasons For Protesting

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Organizer Of The Yellow Vest Protests In France Discusses Reasons For Protesting

Massive anti-government protests are taking place today in France. NPR’s Scott Simon speaks with Christophe Chalençon, one of the organizers of the Yellow Vest protests.

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China Scholars Demand Protection For Threatened New Zealand Academic

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China Scholars Demand Protection For Threatened New Zealand Academic

Anne-Marie Brady says she is the victim of a year-long campaign of intimidation in her home country after publishing research critical of China.

Anne-Marie Brady


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Anne-Marie Brady

Scholar Anne-Marie Brady says she has experienced harassment and interference often while conducting research in China, but over the past year, Brady says, for the first time, she has been the victim of intimidation in her home country of New Zealand.

Brady, a professor at New Zealand’s University of Canterbury, says her home and office have been broken into; she has received a letter warning her of an attack against her; and her car has been tampered with. This week more than 220 scholars and journalists have signed a letter in support for Brady, urging the New Zealand government to offer her protection.

Martin Hala runs the Sinopsis website and project which published the letter, and is an academic in Prague. He told NPR the criminal harassment of Brady may be unprecedented. “This is probably the first time, when this kind of action would be taken against a professor in her own country. We have seen a trend lately of the Communist Party of China trying to limit the freedom of expression, even beyond the borders of the People’s Republic of China,” Hala said.

A year ago Brady published a paper called Magic Weapons on China’s attempt to influence Western countries, and a book, China as a Polar Great Power. Brady said break-ins to her office and home followed the publication of her research, and electronic devices tied to that research were stolen. In February, Brady said she received an anonymous letter that “warned me I was next for attack.”

Last month, after taking her car in for a check-up, Brady said mechanics told her, “I don’t want to alarm you, but your car has been sabotaged. Somebody has tampered with the tires, and he said that two valves had been damaged, and the tire pressure in the two front tires had been taken down, and the back tires were completely normal. At that level of pressure, you can still drive with them, but what would happen is if you break suddenly, or went at high speed, is the tires would disintegrate, and the front wheel drive would lose control.”

In a letter published on Sinopsis, scholars, researchers, reporters and human rights activists said that the harassment of Brady is a sign of political interference by China.

Miguel Martin, who writes under the pseudonym Jichang Lulu, wrote in a preface to the letter that “under Xi Jinping’s rule, the PRC Party-state has intensified domestic repression to levels not seen in decades. … The wave of domestic repression has been accompanied by increasing efforts to limit freedom of expression even beyond the PRC’s borders.”

Martin told NPR, “Punishing [Brady] could have a chilling effect leading other scholars to stay away from research on [Chinese Communist Party] influence activities. This is especially relevant to students choosing a specialization.”

Peter Mattis, a former counterintelligence analyst at the CIA, was a signatory to the letter in support of Brady.

Mattis told NPR that New Zealand is a small country, but located in an area strategically important to China. “It has an important voice on Antarctic affairs. It has territory in the Pacific that is quite vast, over the ocean. It is a technology leader in some fields,” Mattis said.

Mattis said the letter supporting Brady had come at a key inflection point in ties between China and other parts of the world. “Many countries, Australia, New Zealand, the United States, and some European countries, are in the middle of redefining their relationship with China, and much of the conversation about the Party’s political interference in Democratic societies is really about managing the risks of engagement,” Mattis said. “China under Xi Jinping is acting very differently than it has in the past.”

Special Series: China Unbound

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China Scholars Demand Protection For Threatened New Zealand Academic

By |

China Scholars Demand Protection For Threatened New Zealand Academic

Anne-Marie Brady says she is the victim of a year-long campaign of intimidation in her home country after publishing research critical of China.

Anne-Marie Brady


hide caption

toggle caption

Anne-Marie Brady

Scholar Anne-Marie Brady says she has experienced harassment and interference often while conducting research in China, but over the past year, Brady says, for the first time, she has been the victim of intimidation in her home country of New Zealand.

Brady, a professor at New Zealand’s University of Canterbury, says her home and office have been broken into; she has received a letter warning her of an attack against her; and her car has been tampered with. This week more than 220 scholars and journalists have signed a letter in support for Brady, urging the New Zealand government to offer her protection.

Martin Hala runs the Sinopsis website and project which published the letter, and is an academic in Prague. He told NPR the criminal harassment of Brady may be unprecedented. “This is probably the first time, when this kind of action would be taken against a professor in her own country. We have seen a trend lately of the Communist Party of China trying to limit the freedom of expression, even beyond the borders of the People’s Republic of China,” Hala said.

A year ago Brady published a paper called Magic Weapons on China’s attempt to influence Western countries, and a book, China as a Polar Great Power. Brady said break-ins to her office and home followed the publication of her research, and electronic devices tied to that research were stolen. In February, Brady said she received an anonymous letter that “warned me I was next for attack.”

Last month, after taking her car in for a check-up, Brady said mechanics told her, “I don’t want to alarm you, but your car has been sabotaged. Somebody has tampered with the tires, and he said that two valves had been damaged, and the tire pressure in the two front tires had been taken down, and the back tires were completely normal. At that level of pressure, you can still drive with them, but what would happen is if you break suddenly, or went at high speed, is the tires would disintegrate, and the front wheel drive would lose control.”

In a letter published on Sinopsis, scholars, researchers, reporters and human rights activists said that the harassment of Brady is a sign of political interference by China.

Miguel Martin, who writes under the pseudonym Jichang Lulu, wrote in a preface to the letter that “under Xi Jinping’s rule, the PRC Party-state has intensified domestic repression to levels not seen in decades. … The wave of domestic repression has been accompanied by increasing efforts to limit freedom of expression even beyond the PRC’s borders.”

Martin told NPR, “Punishing [Brady] could have a chilling effect leading other scholars to stay away from research on [Chinese Communist Party] influence activities. This is especially relevant to students choosing a specialization.”

Peter Mattis, a former counterintelligence analyst at the CIA, was a signatory to the letter in support of Brady.

Mattis told NPR that New Zealand is a small country, but located in an area strategically important to China. “It has an important voice on Antarctic affairs. It has territory in the Pacific that is quite vast, over the ocean. It is a technology leader in some fields,” Mattis said.

Mattis said the letter supporting Brady had come at a key inflection point in ties between China and other parts of the world. “Many countries, Australia, New Zealand, the United States, and some European countries, are in the middle of redefining their relationship with China, and much of the conversation about the Party’s political interference in Democratic societies is really about managing the risks of engagement,” Mattis said. “China under Xi Jinping is acting very differently than it has in the past.”

Special Series: China Unbound

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UNAIDS Report: 9 Million Are Likely HIV Positive And Don't Know It

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UNAIDS Report: 9 Million Are Likely HIV Positive And Don't Know It

A woman in Johannesburg, South Africa, uses an HIV kit that tests for antibodies in oral fluids.

Mujahid Safodien/AFP/Getty Images


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Mujahid Safodien/AFP/Getty Images

About 9.4 million people are likely HIV-positive and don’t know it. That’s a key finding from a new report from UNAIDS — and it’s why the theme of this month’s World AIDS Day is “Know your HIV status.”

That’s an important message, HIV/AIDS specialists say, at a time when the disease no longer makes headlines.

“Some people are under the erroneous impression that the epidemic is done,” says Wafaa El-Sadr, global director of the public-health organization ICAP and a professor at Columbia University. But HIV/AIDS remains an enormous problem around the world, she says: “Two million new infections in the past year; still about a million deaths every year.”

Knowing your status, she says, is “the foundation” for preventing new infections.

But simply knowing your status is not enough to stop the HIV/AIDS epidemic, El-Sadr and other global-health specialists say.

“My big issue with just knowing your status as a theme is that it puts all the burden on the individual,” says Chris Beyrer, the Desmond M. Tutu Professor of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University, a past president of the International AIDS Society and a doctor whose research has focused on epidemiology and human rights. While individual responsibility is important, it won’t stop the epidemic on its own, he says.

And the systems are not universally in place to stop new transmissions and improve the health of those who are HIV-positive, Beyrer says.

Coming Up With The 9 Million Estimate

About 37 million people around the world live with HIV, UNAIDS estimates in its new report. About one-quarter of those people, though, don’t know it.

You may wonder how it’s possible to calculate a number of people who have HIV but have not been tested to confirm their status.

UNAIDS estimates this number by collecting data on the rate of infection in a country and then applying it to a country’s total population. The theory is that people in remote areas might not have access to testing and that others avoid testing because of the stigma.

Researchers then make an educated guess for populations that haven’t been tested in each country.

“Estimation methods have been refined over time” by different researchers, Beyrer says, and such estimates are now “well-accepted.”

The State Of Testing

People aren’t being tested for the reasons you’d expect: fear of facing stigma and discrimination if a person learns they are HIV-positive. Then there are more practical concerns: from living far from where testing is offered to long wait times to be tested at health facilities.

Not to mention that some people are nervous about blood draws, part of the standard HIV testing procedure. But there is an alternative to the blood test that’s becoming more common: a test using oral fluids (including saliva).

Studies do confirm that the oral fluid test for HIV antibodies is highly accurate,” says Peter Godfrey-Faussett, science adviser at UNAIDS. “Ninety percent is a good summary figure.”

(He does note that if the test is self-administered the results are slightly less accurate than tests in a lab with “more sophisticated machinery” — and that the oral fluid tests raise some concerns because “there are not as many antibodies in oral fluid as there are in blood.” For example, someone taking preventive PrEP medication is not a good candidate for an oral fluid test to monitor HIV status.)

When a test does come back positive, the subject may have many fears that are rooted in misinformation, says El-Sadr. People worry, she says, that they’ll never be able to have sex again or have children or find a spouse.

Yet as Beyrer puts it: “We’re in a new era, really, where the antiviral therapy, the AIDS treatments, are so good and so powerful that people living with the virus can live essentially normal lives and also not be infectious for partners” or to their children.

The upside of being tested, of course, is that someone who is HIV-positive can take medications to keep AIDS at bay. But that doesn’t always happen.

The Next Step After A Test

“Knowing your status if you don’t have access to drugs is not terribly helpful,” says Beyrer.

“We have a significant problem,” he says — both in the United States and around the world. “We have huge gaps — huge rips in the social safety net for the unstably housed, for the mentally ill, for people with substance use.”

“Knowing your status in that kind of setting?” he asks. “Necessary but insufficient.”

Whether they know their status or not, about half of people living with HIV — more than 19 million people — still do not have the virus under control, the UNAIDS study found. They estimated that number by looking at health data as well as how many HIV drugs are distributed.

Treatment and prevention through medicine are two of the major ways to halt the epidemic, Beyrer explains. Those who test negative for HIV but are at risk of contracting the virus because, for instance, of their sexual activity or drug use, can take PrEP, a pill that lowers the chances of infection.

Many of the same challenges to getting tested exist around prevention and treatment. There may not be a nearby clinic with an ample supply of affordable medication in many places, and stigma and discrimination are still widespread.

Take, for example, the story of Bisi Alimi. The first person in Nigeria to come out as gay on national television, he tested positive for HIV in 2004. But it would be another five years before he had access to life-saving antiviral treatments. It was much easier for heterosexual couples to access HIV care in Nigeria, he says — in large part because of laws against being gay and other forms of discrimination.

After his positive diagnosis, he met with a sexual health counselor. But otherwise, gay men in Nigeria had little support or resources to stay healthy, he says — including access to medical care for HIV.

“I lived five years waiting to die,” he says. By the time he was tested again in 2009 to see how much the virus had progressed, he met the technical definition for advanced AIDS.

But this time, he was living in the U.K. and was immediately linked to health care services and support networks.

“Treatment was the key,” says Alimi, who is now the executive director of the Bisi Alimi Foundation and an Aspen Institute fellow. He began taking antiviral medication and also found support within the HIV-positive community.

“And that was what changed everything for me,” he says. “It wasn’t just the test. It was what happened after the test.”

Melody Schreiber (@m_scribe on Twitter) is a freelance journalist in Washington, D.C.

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UNAIDS Report: 9 Million Are Likely HIV Positive And Don't Know It

By |

UNAIDS Report: 9 Million Are Likely HIV Positive And Don't Know It

A woman in Johannesburg, South Africa, uses an HIV kit that tests for antibodies in oral fluids.

Mujahid Safodien/AFP/Getty Images


hide caption

toggle caption

Mujahid Safodien/AFP/Getty Images

About 9.4 million people are likely HIV-positive and don’t know it. That’s a key finding from a new report from UNAIDS — and it’s why the theme of this month’s World AIDS Day is “Know your HIV status.”

That’s an important message, HIV/AIDS specialists say, at a time when the disease no longer makes headlines.

“Some people are under the erroneous impression that the epidemic is done,” says Wafaa El-Sadr, global director of the public-health organization ICAP and a professor at Columbia University. But HIV/AIDS remains an enormous problem around the world, she says: “Two million new infections in the past year; still about a million deaths every year.”

Knowing your status, she says, is “the foundation” for preventing new infections.

But simply knowing your status is not enough to stop the HIV/AIDS epidemic, El-Sadr and other global-health specialists say.

“My big issue with just knowing your status as a theme is that it puts all the burden on the individual,” says Chris Beyrer, the Desmond M. Tutu Professor of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University, a past president of the International AIDS Society and a doctor whose research has focused on epidemiology and human rights. While individual responsibility is important, it won’t stop the epidemic on its own, he says.

And the systems are not universally in place to stop new transmissions and improve the health of those who are HIV-positive, Beyrer says.

Coming Up With The 9 Million Estimate

About 37 million people around the world live with HIV, UNAIDS estimates in its new report. About one-quarter of those people, though, don’t know it.

You may wonder how it’s possible to calculate a number of people who have HIV but have not been tested to confirm their status.

UNAIDS estimates this number by collecting data on the rate of infection in a country and then applying it to a country’s total population. The theory is that people in remote areas might not have access to testing and that others avoid testing because of the stigma.

Researchers then make an educated guess for populations that haven’t been tested in each country.

“Estimation methods have been refined over time” by different researchers, Beyrer says, and such estimates are now “well-accepted.”

The State Of Testing

People aren’t being tested for the reasons you’d expect: fear of facing stigma and discrimination if a person learns they are HIV-positive. Then there are more practical concerns: from living far from where testing is offered to long wait times to be tested at health facilities.

Not to mention that some people are nervous about blood draws, part of the standard HIV testing procedure. But there is an alternative to the blood test that’s becoming more common: a test using oral fluids (including saliva).

Studies do confirm that the oral fluid test for HIV antibodies is highly accurate,” says Peter Godfrey-Faussett, science adviser at UNAIDS. “Ninety percent is a good summary figure.”

(He does note that if the test is self-administered the results are slightly less accurate than tests in a lab with “more sophisticated machinery” — and that the oral fluid tests raise some concerns because “there are not as many antibodies in oral fluid as there are in blood.” For example, someone taking preventive PrEP medication is not a good candidate for an oral fluid test to monitor HIV status.)

When a test does come back positive, the subject may have many fears that are rooted in misinformation, says El-Sadr. People worry, she says, that they’ll never be able to have sex again or have children or find a spouse.

Yet as Beyrer puts it: “We’re in a new era, really, where the antiviral therapy, the AIDS treatments, are so good and so powerful that people living with the virus can live essentially normal lives and also not be infectious for partners” or to their children.

The upside of being tested, of course, is that someone who is HIV-positive can take medications to keep AIDS at bay. But that doesn’t always happen.

The Next Step After A Test

“Knowing your status if you don’t have access to drugs is not terribly helpful,” says Beyrer.

“We have a significant problem,” he says — both in the United States and around the world. “We have huge gaps — huge rips in the social safety net for the unstably housed, for the mentally ill, for people with substance use.”

“Knowing your status in that kind of setting?” he asks. “Necessary but insufficient.”

Whether they know their status or not, about half of people living with HIV — more than 19 million people — still do not have the virus under control, the UNAIDS study found. They estimated that number by looking at health data as well as how many HIV drugs are distributed.

Treatment and prevention through medicine are two of the major ways to halt the epidemic, Beyrer explains. Those who test negative for HIV but are at risk of contracting the virus because, for instance, of their sexual activity or drug use, can take PrEP, a pill that lowers the chances of infection.

Many of the same challenges to getting tested exist around prevention and treatment. There may not be a nearby clinic with an ample supply of affordable medication in many places, and stigma and discrimination are still widespread.

Take, for example, the story of Bisi Alimi. The first person in Nigeria to come out as gay on national television, he tested positive for HIV in 2004. But it would be another five years before he had access to life-saving antiviral treatments. It was much easier for heterosexual couples to access HIV care in Nigeria, he says — in large part because of laws against being gay and other forms of discrimination.

After his positive diagnosis, he met with a sexual health counselor. But otherwise, gay men in Nigeria had little support or resources to stay healthy, he says — including access to medical care for HIV.

“I lived five years waiting to die,” he says. By the time he was tested again in 2009 to see how much the virus had progressed, he met the technical definition for advanced AIDS.

But this time, he was living in the U.K. and was immediately linked to health care services and support networks.

“Treatment was the key,” says Alimi, who is now the executive director of the Bisi Alimi Foundation and an Aspen Institute fellow. He began taking antiviral medication and also found support within the HIV-positive community.

“And that was what changed everything for me,” he says. “It wasn’t just the test. It was what happened after the test.”

Melody Schreiber (@m_scribe on Twitter) is a freelance journalist in Washington, D.C.

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