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FDA to Review Bisphenol-A

Advisers to the Food and Drug Administration are planning to review evidence on the safety of bisphenol-A (BPA) in plastic and release their findings this fall. The FDA's chief scientist, Dr. Frank M. Torti, recently requested that the agency's Science Board establish a subcommittee tasked with assessing BPA. FDA officials have been monitoring literature on the safety of BPA, which is found in some baby bottles and food containers, for many years and began a formal review in 2007. Earlier this year, FDA officials formed a task force to review all current research on BPA. “The FDA Task Force is assembling an inventory of FDA-regulated products that contain BPA and we are exploring what is known about the safety of this substance in those products,” Dr. Torti said in a statement. In the meantime, the National Toxicology Program, part of the National Institutes of Health, issued a draft report in April stating that the results of animal studies on BPA raise “some concern” about developmental effects in humans.

NYC Reports High Herpes Rate

About 26% of adults aged 20–49 years living in New York City are infected with herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2), compared with 19% nationally, according to data released by the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. In New York, HSV-2 was more likely among women, blacks, and men who have sex with men. For example, 36% of women had HSV-2, compared with 19% of men, and 49% of blacks had the infection, compared with 14% of whites. The data come from the New York City Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, which includes information from in-depth interviews, physical exams, and laboratory testing. The data were collected in 2004 from adults aged 20 and older. Of the 1,999 individuals who enrolled in the survey, researchers obtained HSV-2 test results from 1,780 individuals.

Mass. Uninsured Rate Cut

In the first year after Massachusetts implemented its health insurance coverage expansion and reforms, the uninsured rate among adults in the state dropped by almost half, from 13% to just over 7%, according to an Urban Institute study published online in Health Affairs. The study also showed that access to care for low-income Massachusetts adults has increased, and the share of adults with high out-of-pocket health care costs and problems paying medical bills has dropped. In addition, the study's author found no evidence that the expansion of publicly subsidized coverage has “crowded out” employer-sponsored coverage. The reforms, enacted in April 2006, included an expansion of Medicaid, state subsidies for low-income residents to purchase health insurance, and a new purchasing arrangement for private health insurance. Under the reforms, most uninsured individuals must purchase insurance or pay a penalty to the state.

Ryan White AIDS Audit

In light of news reports about embezzlement and financial mismanagement, two Republican members of Congress are calling on the Health and Human Services department's Office of Inspector General to conduct an audit of grantees of the Ryan White Comprehensive AIDS Resources Emergency Act. The investigation was requested by Rep. Joe Barton (R-Tex.), ranking member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.), ranking member of the Energy and Commerce subcommittee on oversight and investigations. Specifically, the representatives raised concerns that there was a lack of monitoring of subgrantees under Title I and Title II of the act. The program was audited by the OIG in 2004, and investigators concluded that monitoring of subgrantees needed to be improved. Citing news reports in 2006 and 2007 of continued problems with the program, the representatives requested an updated audit.

Pregnant Women Gain More HIV Tx

More HIV-positive pregnant women in developing nations are being treated with antiretroviral therapy to prevent mother-to-child transmission, according to a joint report from the World Health Organization, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), and UNICEF. In 2007, about one-third of pregnant women with HIV received antiretrovirals, up from 10% in 2004. The greatest increases in antiretroviral treatment were seen in sub-Saharan Africa. The report, which examines HIV/AIDS interventions around the world, also noted increases in HIV testing of pregnant women in developing nations. For example, in 2007 about 18% of pregnant women received an HIV test, compared with 10% in 2004. “We are seeing encouraging progress in the prevention of HIV transmission from mother to newborn,” UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman said in a statement.

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