By Lauran Neergaard,
A baby born with the virus that causes AIDS appears to have been cured, scientists announced Sunday, describing the case of a child from Mississippi who is now 2 1/2 and has been off medication for about a year with no signs of infection.
There is no guarantee the child will remain healthy, although sophisticated testing uncovered slight traces of the virus’ genetic material still lingering. If so, it would mark only the world’s second reported cure.
Specialists say Sunday’s announcement, at a major AIDS meeting in Atlanta, offers promising clues for efforts to eliminate HIV infection in children, especially in AIDS-plagued African countries where too many babies are born with the virus.
“You could call this about as close to a cure, if not a cure, that we’ve seen,” Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institutes of Health, who is familiar with the findings.
A doctor gave this baby faster and stronger treatment than is usual, starting a three-drug infusion within 30 hours of birth. That was before tests confirmed the infant was infected and not just at risk from a mother whose HIV wasn’t diagnosed until she was in labor.
“I just felt like this baby was at higher-than-normal risk and deserved our best shot,” said Dr. Hannah Gay, a pediatric HIV specialist at the University of Mississippi.
That fast action apparently knocked out HIV in the baby’s blood before it could form hideouts in the body. Those so-called reservoirs of dormant cells usually rapidly reinfect anyone who stops medication, said Dr. Deborah Persaud of Johns Hopkins Children’s Center. She led the investigation that deemed the child “functionally cured,” meaning long-term remission even if all traces of the virus haven’t been completely eradicated.
Persaud’s team is planning a study to try to prove that, with more aggressive treatment of other high-risk babies. “Maybe we’ll be able to block this reservoir seeding,” Persaud said.
No one should stop anti-AIDS drugs as a result of this case, Fauci cautioned.
But “it opens up a lot of doors” to research if other children can be helped, he said. “It makes perfect sense what happened.”
Better than treatment is to prevent babies from being born with HIV in the first place.
About 300,000 children were born with HIV in 2011, mostly in poor countries where only about 60 percent of infected pregnant women get treatment that can keep them from passing the virus to their babies.
In the U.S., such births are very rare because HIV testing and treatment long have been part of prenatal care.
“We can’t promise to cure babies who are infected. We can promise to prevent the vast majority of transmissions if the moms are tested during every pregnancy,” Gay stressed.
The only other person considered cured of the AIDS virus underwent a very different and risky kind of treatment – a bone marrow transplant from a special donor, one of the rare people who is naturally resistant to HIV.
The Mississippi case shows “there may be different cures for different populations of HIV-infected people,” said Dr. Rowena Johnston of amFAR, the Foundation for AIDS Research.
In the Mississippi case, the mother had had no prenatal care when she came to a rural emergency room in advanced labor. A rapid test detected HIV.
In such cases, doctors typically give the newborn low-dose medication in hopes of preventing HIV from taking root. But the small hospital didn’t have the proper liquid kind, and sent the infant to Gay’s medical center. She gave the baby higher treatment-level doses.
Ten months after treatment stopped, a battery of super-sensitive tests at half a dozen laboratories found no sign of the virus’ return. There were only some remnants of genetic material that don’t appear able to replicate, Persaud said.
In Mississippi, Gay gives the child a check-up every few months: “I just check for the virus and keep praying that it stays gone.”
Kimberly Ellis Selected to Direct Department on the Status of Women
San Francisco Mayor London N. Breed announced that Kimberly Ellis will serve as the Director of the Department on the Status of Women.
Ellis formerly served as the executive director of Emerge California, the largest training program in the country for aspiring female political candidates. She is a progressive activist who has fought for the rights and representation of historically underrepresented groups on the local, state, and national level.
“I’m proud to announce that Kimberly Ellis will serve as the next Director of the Department on the Status of Women,” said Breed on November 24. “Kimberly is a tireless advocate for those who are too often overlooked in our society, and I know that in this role she will continue that work by improving the lives of women and girls in San Francisco. We know that the COVID-19 pandemic is disproportionately impacting women, exacerbating disparities that already existed beforehand. That’s why the work of the Dept. on the Status of Women remains more important than ever and why I’m proud that Kimberly will be leading it for years to come.”
The Dept. on the Status of Women was established in 1994 when voters approved Proposition E, which created a permanent department to carry out the mission and polices of the Commission on the Status of Women.
“Equity and its creation of economic independence are the silver bullets for so many troubles facing all those this department intends to serve, and I am equally humbled and determined to make lasting change in the lives of all San Franciscans,” said Ellis, a single mother of two teenagers who lives in the Bay Area.
“We know that when we raise up women, girls, trans, and gender non-conforming people, every aspect of our society improves. … A new era has begun in America and it’s time we empower all marginalized people in the dismantling of systemic racism and the white male patriarchy that has held too many back for far too long.”
After running national operations for Emerge America, Ellis was tapped to lead the flagship affiliate, Emerge California, as its executive director. For nearly a decade, Ellis successfully led the California affiliate, growing what had been a regional training program into a statewide electoral force for women candidates and elected officials.
Inspired by her grandmother’s lifetime of community service, Ellis launched Unbought – Unbossed (UnB2) in summer 2018. Unbought – Unbossed was designed to be a powerful vehicle to drive a collective narrative to elevate and support the voices and work of everyday activists who seek to create progressive change in their communities.
“Her appointment to lead the Department on the Status of Women will elevate it to a new level and her leadership will be a boon to other women’s groups and to the City and County of San Francisco as a whole,” said philanthropist Susie Tompkins Buell.
The office of San Francisco Mayor London Breed released this report.
State’s NAACP Pres. Alice Huffman Stepping Down, New Leader Announced
Effective December 1, Alice Huffman will no longer serve as president of the California-Hawaii State Conference of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) due to “health concerns,” she told California Black Media.
Rick Callender, former president of the San Jose-Silicon Valley NAACP and current CEO of the Santa Clara Water District, has been appointed to the position and will assume duties the day Huffman’s term expires.
In a written statement, Huffman first alerted the organization’s executive members of her intentions to vacate the office she has led for over two decades.
“Thank you for the opportunity to serve as your president since 1999. It has been a pleasure to serve with you, but all good things must come to an end. Due to health concerns, I tender my resignation as president effective Dec. 1, 2020,” Huffman stated in her letter to members of the executive committee.
Huffman, who isn’t shy about sharing trials she has overcome in her life — including that she is a high school dropout — leaves the position of president after most recently being an outspoken supporter of multiple California 2020 election ballot initiatives, among them: Prop. 15, Prop. 21, Prop. 22 and Prop. 25.
The initiatives, most of them avidly backed or hotly contested by voters and policymakers, focused on a range of issues. From amending the state’s property tax system (Prop. 15) and rent control (Prop. 21) to the reclassification, under the state’s labor law, of app-based drivers and an increase to the minimum wage (Prop. 22), the initiatives put Huffman in the crosshairs of groups that opposed her positions.
She sometimes found herself at odds with powerful African American political organizations, including the California Democratic Party Black Caucus on some of her positions.
In a written statement issued November 20, Callender said he looks forward to filling the position left by his mentor, Huffman.
“Huffman has been one of the strongest NAACP leaders in the country and has truly accomplished a lot for African Americans and people of color in California, Hawaii, and across the nation,” Callender said. “She leaves very big shoes to fill, and I look forward to leading the California-Hawaii State Conference of the NAACP starting December 1. It has been a true honor to serve as her vice president on her leadership team for 19 years.”
Founded in 1909, the NAACP is the largest and oldest civil rights organization in the country. There are more than 2,200 units and branches across the nation.
The NAACP states that its mission is to “secure the political, educational, social and economic equality of rights in an effort to eliminate race-based discrimination.” It also works to ensure the health and well-being of all persons of color, its website says.
Huffman was elected president of the California-Hawaii NAACP Conference in 1999 and has won eight-consecutive elections. She is also a member of the National Board of the NAACP as well.
In Sacramento, Huffman runs her own consulting firm she founded in 1988 called AC Public Affairs, Inc.
In a written statement, explained her decision in full detail to California Black Media on November 20. She revealed that stepping down is a decision that she has been grappling with for over a year now.
“With the victory at the top of the ticket to securing our African American leaders in the state of California, I can say ‘mission accomplished’ and now take a well-deserved rest,” she said.
Organizations Ask Oakland Rent Board to Strengthen Tenant Protection Regulations
A coalition of 10 different organizations have asked Oakland’s Rent Adjustment Program (RAP) to amend proposed regulations to the Tenant Protection Ordinance (TPO) in an effort to make replacing vacating roommates and filling extra space in rental units easier for tenants.
“In Oakland, tenants already have one-to-one replacement rights,” said Jackie Zaneri, a tenant attorney with ACCE Action, a grassroots organization that is leading the push to amend current proposed TPO regulations. “So if you have three roommates, and one of them moves out, you already have the right to bring in someone else. In practice, this right was difficult to enforce because there were not very good rules about when your landlord could just reject a new person.” But City Council has amended the TPO recently. On July 14, 2020, they approved additional language in the Just Cause for Eviction Ordinance that made it easier for tenants to accept new housemates or roommates.
The new language states that “a landlord shall not endeavor to recover possession of a rental unit if the landlord has unreasonably refused a written request by the tenant to add such occupant(s) to the unit.”
Other language the Council added specified that landlords cannot reject the written request to add occupants based on “the proposed additional occupant’s lack of creditworthiness, if that person will not be legally obligated to pay some or all of the rent to the landlord.”
The language helps most tenants in their ability to take in new roommates without those roommates having to prove creditworthiness to their landlord. It protects tenants
who want to pool money together and have one tenant pay rent as well as people who want to take in family members or friends who are unemployed.
There are some exceptions, such as units not covered under Just Cause and tenants who have already signed on to lease terms that prevent adding new roommates.
For many Oakland tenants, newly added language also allows them to add tenants beyond just replacing roommates, allowing for adding roommates to the total already living in a rental unit as long as that total does not exceed capacity limits set by the Council. These capacity limits are: “two persons in a studio unit, three persons in a one-bedroom unit, four persons in a two-bedroom unit, six persons in a three-bedroom unit, eight persons in a four-bedroom unit; or, the maximum number permitted under state law and/or local codes.” Oakland’s Rent Adjustment Program has created proposed regulations to determine how the newly added language will be enforced, but ACCE, along with tenant unions and organizations that advocate for tenant rights, are calling for the proposed regulations to be changed to protect tenants more.
“We believe that the current proposed criteria still leave ample legal room for landlords to retaliate against tenants by refusing to accept new roommates,” states a letter written by ACCE wrote, signed by Oakland Tenants Union, SMC Tenants Council, Bay Area Legal Aid and six other organizations and then sent to RAP on November 12. The letter also included proposed changes to RAP’s regulations.
The coalition’s proposed changes call for more specific reasons that a landlord would be barred from denying a tenant space, including inability to pay rent during the local emergency related to the pandemic, refusing to provide information that is outside the reasonable scope of an application process, participation in a lawsuit as plaintiff, past participation in tenant organizing, contesting rent increases or filing complaints against landlords.
In situations where a new tenant would be signing onto a lease and agreeing to pay the landlord directly in a rental unit already being rented by others, a credit check could be allowed. But the coalition has suggested a provision where a new tenant could not be subject to stricter credit requirements than other tenants living in the unit.
The coalition is also requesting that additional language be added to a section that gives landlords the right to deny a unit or evict a tenant if it can be proven they have misrepresented significant facts on a housing application.
Their new language would prevent landlords from denying space to tenants who have used other names in the past or had minor discrepancies on credit reports.
In addition to protecting tenants who unintentionally make mistakes when filling out forms, Zaneri said the additional language protects trans and Latinx tenants.
“Tenant screenings can come back with different last names, but there’s a number of reasons why different names could come up,” she said. “They could be transitioning or gender non-conforming. They could be from a [culture] that uses multiple last names, and maybe only one of them comes up.”
The coalition has also asked RAP to eliminate a petition process in new proposed regulations that they say eases landlords’ ability to raise rents if landlords can prove that an original occupant no longer resides in a rental unit.
“We don’t believe that the Rent Adjustment Program should add a new process to allow landlords to raise rent where not required by state law,” reads the letter the coalition sent to RAP on November 12. “We also object to a new petition process that encourages landlords to spy on tenants. We have seen tenants whose landlords catalogued everyone who went into and out of their units or used security cameras to track their movements.”
If a petition process exists that allows landlords to evict tenants if they can prove original tenants no longer reside in a rental unit, the coalition worries such behavior could become more prevalent among landlords who act in bad faith but claim “that they are only collecting evidence for their petition.”
RAP heard public comments from the coalition and their supporters about the proposed amendments to proposed TPO regulations during their last meeting and is also considering the issue during their next meeting on December 10, at 5:00 p.m., when public comments can again be heard.
No regulations to the TPO have yet been codified and the RAP is still considering proposed amendments. Tenants can contact RAP for free help navigating tenant protections that have already been approved. Please call, (510) 238-3721, or on the web at: www.oaklandca.gov/topics/rent-adjustment-program
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