How AIDS research is helping speed up COVID research

It’s World AIDS Day, and here we are: AIDS is no longer an automatic death sentence for everyone who tests positive for HIV. So, why should we reflect back on the last most terrifying deadly pandemic of recent times?

Well, partly because AIDS is still with us, and still carries a death sentence for many, depending on where they live in the world, what cultural mores and baggage they happen to bear, and whether they can afford the not-exactly-cheap cost of the drugs needed to keep HIV at bay. That’s one thing.

Another thing — and this is important, and underreported — is the fact that AIDS research dating back to the 1980s and -90s is the backbone on which the COVID research of today is built.

Yes, that’s right: SARS-CoV2 research today hinges on the HIV research of yesteryear. How?

Well, for starters: Viral genome sequencing, which used to take weeks or even months back in the 1980s, now takes far less time. But it’s the same basic procedure, and it’s helping unravel viruses of all kinds faster, so scientists can develop vaccines against them.

And, moreover: The effort to find a vaccine against HIV has actually driven the mRNA vaccine research that has given us the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines against COVID.

The Covid vaccines were sequenced, developed and approved in the U.S. in record time, but that would not have been possible without decades of work by HIV researchers.

“Almost everybody working on Covid vaccines comes from the HIV world,” said Mitchell Warren, executive director of AVAC, a global advocacy group for HIV prevention. “Moderna had been working on mRNA-based HIV vaccine before SARS-CoV-2 was even known to exist.”

An HIV vaccine has eluded scientists for decades. The traditional thinking around vaccines is to mimic the body’s natural immune response to a virus. The problem with HIV is the body’s natural immune response isn’t strong enough to fight the virus. This means a vaccine has to come at the problem in a different way. Scientists are hopeful that mRNA technology — the same technology used in the Covid vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech — could be a turning point.

This comes as no surprise to those of us who’ve been following AIDS research since the human immunodeficiency virus first hit the media in the early 1980s. The same Dr. Anthony Fauci that the far-right loves to demonize today was, in fact, an AIDS researcher back in the day — it was where his career really took off.

And while it’s been four decades since AIDS research got off the ground, and no vaccine is yet available for HIV, we’re now closer to actually seeing one — in turn, thanks to COVID:

For four decades, the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) has managed to elude the immune system’s attempts to eliminate it. This is due to several factors, including the virus’s ability to rapidly evolve to produce new mutations that help it evade antibodies. The virus has also found a way to camouflage its outer layer (the HIV envelope glycoprotein, or HIV env) with the same sugar chains found on human proteins, so that it remains hidden from attack. Like the coronavirus, HIV env uses protein spikes to attach to and enter host cells and infect them.

IAVI and Scripps Research may have discovered an important key to crack the virus’s impenetrable armor. They’ve come up with a way to engineer an immunogen (a type of antigen that elicits an immune response) that both looks like the HIV env structure and can induce specific immature B cells to develop broadly neutralizing antibodies before a person is exposed. Importantly, only 10%-20% of people infected with HIV develop broadly neutralizing antibodies on their own, most commonly after several years.

The hypothesis that the mRNA-1644 vaccine candidate can activate certain types of immature B cells to produce targeted broadly neutralizing antibodies was first explored in laboratory and animal studies, and then in human subjects.

In the human study, 48 healthy, HIV-negative adults received two doses of a scientifically engineered, protein-based immunogen or placebo 2 months apart. The findings, which were presented earlier this year at the HIV Research for Prevention annual meeting, provided the “proof of concept” — no safety issues emerged, and 97% of people who got the vaccine candidate produced the desired response: the production of specific immature B cells.

And that’s not all. The antiviral drugs that can hold HIV at bay and prevent full-blown AIDS have even given rise to a new cocktail of drugs to fight COVID:

Pfizer’s pill, scientifically known as PF-07321332, is part of a class of medicines called protease inhibitors and works by inhibiting an enzyme the virus needs to replicate in human cells. Protease inhibitors are used to treat other viral pathogens such as HIV and hepatitis C.

The HIV drug helps slow the metabolism, or breakdown, of Pfizer’s pill in order for it to remain active in the body for longer periods of time at higher concentrations, the company said.

The company said its data on the drug is based on a mid-to-late stage study of 1,219 adults who had at least one underlying medical condition and a laboratory-confirmed infection within a five-day period. Participants were also given a low dose of ritonavir, a medication commonly used in combination treatments for HIV.

Pfizer said there were six hospitalizations and zero deaths out of the 607 trial participants who received the pill in combination with the HIV drug within five days of symptom onset. That compares with 41 hospitalizations and 10 deaths out of the 612 people who received a placebo.

“These data suggest that our oral antiviral candidate, if approved by regulatory authorities, has the potential to save patients’ lives, reduce the severity of COVID-19 infections, and eliminate up to nine out of ten hospitalizations,” Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said in a statement.

Unlike Gilead Sciences’ intravenous drug remdesivir, Pfizer’s and Merck’s drugs can be taken by mouth. While vaccinations remain the best form of protection against the virus, health experts hope pills like these will keep the disease from progressing in those who do get infected and prevent trips to the hospital.

So, in short, there’s a lot of hope in the battle against two seemingly very different viral diseases. And the day we see a vaccine against HIV could be closer than anyone currently thinks, even if it has been decades in the making.

In the meantime, take care and stay safe. And oh yeah: LISTEN TO DOCTORS.

Posted in Epidumbics, If You REALLY Care, Isn't It Ironic?, She Blinded Me With Science | Comments Off on How AIDS research is helping speed up COVID research

Quotable: Stieg Larsson on neo-Nazism

“To claim that neo-Nazism is just a transitory fashion is a myth that has been allowed to take root for too many years. The effect is that the authorities — for lack of any better alternative — call in social workers in the mistaken belief that neo-Nazis are youths with alcohol problems or dysfunctional backgrounds. Nazism is a political movement. Nazis become Nazis for exactly the same reasons that others become Liberals or Social Democrats — from belief and conviction. A political movement has to be fought by political opposition.”

–Stieg Larsson, Expo, 1999.

Posted in Fascism WITH Swastikas, Fascism Without Swastikas, If You REALLY Care, Quotable Notables, Scandinavian Smorgasbord | Comments Off on Quotable: Stieg Larsson on neo-Nazism

Music for a Sunday: Sometimes I cry my heart to sleep

Once more, I see myself — an actual Thursday’s Child (with far to go!) — in David Bowie.

Posted in Music for a Sunday | Comments Off on Music for a Sunday: Sometimes I cry my heart to sleep

Governor of Texas has a political death wish

Hey! Remember how I said, the other day, that Texas doesn’t actually care about protecting life, because it treats even biological accidents such as miscarriage like a crime? Well, get a load of the governor’s latest anti-life gambit:

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order on Monday to prohibit any entity — including private businesses — from enforcing a COVID-19 vaccine mandate on workers, and he called on state lawmakers to pass a similar ban into law.

The move comes as the Biden administration is set to issue rules requiring employers with more than 100 workers ensure their employees are either vaccinated or tested weekly for the coronavirus. Several major companies, including Texas-based American Airlines and Southwest Airlines, have said they would abide by the federal mandate.

“No entity in Texas can compel receipt of a COVID-19 vaccine by any individual, including an employee or a consumer, who objects to such vaccination for any reason of personal conscience, based on a religious belief, or for medical reasons, including prior recovery from COVID-19,” Abbott wrote in his order.

Abbott, who was previously vaccinated and also later tested positive for COVID-19, noted in his order that “vaccines are strongly encouraged for those eligible to receive one, but must always be voluntary for Texans.”

Funny how “voluntary” must always apply to vaccines, and never to pregnancy.

So, how is all that “voluntary” vaccinatin’ workin’ out for ya, Texas? Ope:

And oof:


Today, in Texas, the total COVID case count is 4.14 million, and the death count is 68,057 people. For comparison, the total COVID case count of Canada is 1.67 million, and the death count is 28,254.

That’s right, Texas has had more than three times as many COVID cases — and deaths — as all of Canada.

Meanwhile, here are the vaccination rates for Texas:

So far, little more than half of the vaccine-eligible population of the state is fully vaccinated. And the disease and death toll is still climbing, and the curve is far from flat.

Not exactly a ringing endorsement for “voluntary” vaccination, is it?

So. How is all this redounding for Governor Voluntary Vax? Well…

A recent poll shows half of Texans disapprove of how Gov. Greg Abbott is performing in his job right now, with a majority believing the state is “going in the wrong direction.”

The August 2021 poll, conducted by the Texas Politics Project, shows 50% of surveyed voters disapprove of Abbott’s actions and 41% approve. That’s the lowest job approval rating during his time in office, the Texas Politics Project reports.

Additionally, the Texas Politics Project says its poll showed 52% of Texans believe the state is going in the wrong direction, which is the highest percentage recorded in that category since the polling project began in 2008.

The polling project also surveyed voters on how the state government is faring with the COVID-19 pandemic. Results found 49% of surveyed voters disapprove of Texas’ response to the pandemic, 39% approved and the rest were either neutral or didn’t know or have an opinion. The poll showed 53% specifically disapprove of how Abbott is handling the pandemic.

Mask mandates in particular are a point of contention in the pandemic currently, with Abbott’s executive order barring local officials and public schools from requiring face masks on campuses. Several school districts in Texas, including in Travis County, have decided to ignore the governor’s order, making masks mandatory for students and staff. These actions have placed some public schools in legal battles against the state.

The polling project says its recent poll shows 56% of surveyed Texans support requiring public school students and staff to wear masks on campus.

No word in there on vaccines, but I’d imagine similar trends at work. Most people who mask up, also get the shot…and they’re peeved at others who don’t take that belt-and-suspenders approach. OR require it of everyone.

But don’t take MY (fully vaccinated, pro-mask, never-infected) word for it. Here, have some more crunchy numbers:

More Texas voters believe Gov. Greg Abbott (R) does not deserve to be reelected, according to a poll released on Tuesday.

The survey conducted by Quinnipiac University found that 51 percent of registered voters in Texas believe Abbott does not deserve to be reelected, compared with 42 percent who said the governor deserves a third term.

The opposition to Abbott’s reelection was up from June, when a separate Quinnipiac poll found that 46 percent of Texas voters supported Abbott’s 2022 reelection bid, compared with 48 percent who did not.

The most recent poll also found that only 44 percent of Texans approve of the way Abbott is handling his job as governor, compared with 47 percent who disapprove of the work he has done.

Those numbers, according to Quinnipiac, mark the first time since the firm started polling on the Lone Star State that Abbott’s approval rating has sunk below his disapproval rating, referred to as being “underwater.”

Interestingly, those disapproval ratings coincide rather nicely with the pro-vax and pro-mask numbers. Could be a coincidence, but it’s just a little too coincidental. Especially considering those high COVID numbers.

Moral of the story? Don’t pander to COVIDiots. Even if you yourself don’t die in the process, others will…and your political career is going to nosedive into that dry Texas dust, as well.

PS: My best friend adds the following: “Another important detail you might want to add in the section that compares total cases and total deaths in Canada and Texas — Canada’s population is about 38 million. Texas’ population is about 29 million. So we have millions more people in Canada, yet we have far fewer cases and deaths than Texas.”

Posted in Epidumbics, Fetus Fetishists, Human Rights FAIL, If You REALLY Care, Isn't It Ironic?, Isn't That Impeachable?, Men Who Just Don't Get It, She Blinded Me With Science, The "Well, DUH!" Files, The Hardcore Stupid, The United States of Amnesia | Comments Off on Governor of Texas has a political death wish

What it’s like to have a miscarriage in Texas

Marlena Stell, founder and CEO of Makeup Geek Cosmetics, tells a harrowing story of what it’s like to have a wanted pregnancy go terribly wrong. In her case, it was the second time a pregnancy ended in miscarriage and required medical intervention. (Without it, there was a strong possibility that she’d suffer an infection that could have rendered her infertile at an age when many are already struggling to get pregnant by choice.)

It’s bad enough to have a miscarriage in the best of circumstances, but Texas and its six-week “heartbeat” law are NOT the best of circumstances. They’re pretty damn near the worst. Just Marlena’s struggle to find an obstetrician who would see her bears that out: She had to call a dozen doctors before finding even one who would take her on as a patient. (Or, as they call it, a “client”!)

So why would that be? Why, in a state that claims to be all about “protecting life” as soon as there’s a “heartbeat”, would they be so callous to a woman who is already alive, and who already has a heartbeat, but whose heart is aching because her fetus has gone MIA due to what’s poetically called a blighted ovum?

Well, maybe it’s because they don’t care about human life at all. Not even at the earliest stages of its development. Because if they did care, they wouldn’t make it so hard for a person whose wanted pregnancy isn’t going right to get treatment — in this case, a D and C, which is also a procedure that happens to be used for some first-trimester abortions. (Yeah, surprise, God doesn’t make every pregnancy — much less every baby — perfect. Why do you think we have ob-gyns?)

And since they don’t really care about life at all, they don’t even care if there is no baby in there. Nope, it’s all about punishing women for having sex — or getting raped. And that means logic goes right out the window, and unconstitutional, inhumane bullshit gets written into law. It doesn’t even matter if the pregnancy was wanted and worked for, and worked for HARD. All that matters is punishing imaginary sluts for imaginary sins, while very real pregnant people — most of them cis-women — suffer very real pain and complications. Complications that could, if left untreated, lead to infertility or even death.

But shit, what’s one more dead woman as long as “life”, as right-wing men and their useful idiots define it, is “protected”?

Posted in Bullies, Fascism Without Swastikas, Fetus Fetishists, If You REALLY Care, Isn't That Illegal?, Men Who Just Don't Get It, Not So Compassionate Conservatism, Pissing Jesus Off, She Blinded Me With Science, Sick Frickin' Bastards, The Hardcore Stupid, The United States of Amnesia, Uppity Wimmin | Comments Off on What it’s like to have a miscarriage in Texas

Juvenile terrorist has a ridiculous new legal defence

Jayzus. I’m sensing a theme here with these racist guys:

Yup, he was hunting humans, too. Pretty sure they’re not granting hunting licences for that. Even if the cops made approving noises at him initially, the fact is, this shit’s not legal. Nor is his carrying an assault rifle anywhere, let alone on the streets of Kenosha, Wisconsin.

If I had one piece of legal advice to give the little shit, it’s this: Be vewy, vewy quiet.

Posted in Dweebs, Fascism Without Swastikas, Fine Young Cannibals, Guns, Guns, Guns, Isn't It Ironic?, Isn't That Illegal?, Isn't That Racist?, Isn't That Terrorism?, The Hardcore Stupid, The United States of Amnesia | Comments Off on Juvenile terrorist has a ridiculous new legal defence

Cops Behaving Badly: The Human-Hunters of Minneapolis

Ben Carollo breaks down what transpired during the protests against George Floyd’s murder-by-cops. And guess who was on the lawbreaking side of it all? Yup…the COPS. And the white supremacists they backed up.

Posted in Cops Behaving Badly, Fascism Without Swastikas, Human Rights FAIL, Isn't It Ironic?, Isn't That Illegal?, Isn't That Racist?, Sick Frickin' Bastards, The United States of Amnesia | Comments Off on Cops Behaving Badly: The Human-Hunters of Minneapolis

Confederate human-hunter doesn’t want you to see how racist he is

Oh he doesn’t, does he? Well, too bad, because I’m gonna show you anyway:

Yeah, I should think that belongs in there. After all, he’s accused of lynching a black man. Hunting him down like he was jacklighting a deer in the Georgia woods, for fuck’s sake.

Don’t anyone tell me that the Confederate battle flag doesn’t have a history of racism behind it, either, because hooboy, are YOU ever wrong. Here are the articles of secession for the state of Georgia prior to the Civil War. A lot of high-flown rhetoric, to be sure. But, if you read all 3000-odd words of those articles, slavery is mentioned throughout. And there is only one kind of slavery in it, at that: the chattel ownership of African blacks.

Ahmaud Arbery was hunted down like a deer, and hit with a truck bearing that Confederate battle flag, and blasted out of his life with a shotgun, because of that proud ol’ Southern tradition of lynching. Which of course is what happened after the South lost the Civil War, and slavery was abolished. And which is still going on, in an ever-varying series of forms, today.

Posted in Isn't That Illegal?, Isn't That Racist?, The United States of Amnesia | Comments Off on Confederate human-hunter doesn’t want you to see how racist he is

WTF happened to Alex Jones?

HooWEE! The Rational National has found an old clip of him in action, and it’s absolutely stunning:

Amazing, innit? Once, he was a trim, fairly lucid, good-looking guy with a full head of hair, and he even did something oddly resembling actual journalism. Now he’s unrecognizable: bloated, balding, paranoid, and ranting about gay frogs and eating his neighbors — when he’s not stripping down to his skivvies while trying to prove he’s still a fit parent to his kids.

I don’t know what’s in the water down there in Austin, but maybe the health department will finally get off its ass and investigate.

Posted in Bullies, Crapagandarati, Drrrrruuuugs, Fascism Without Swastikas, Freeze Peach!, Grifters, Isn't It Ironic?, Men Who Just Don't Get It, Professional Phobes, Sick Frickin' Bastards, The Hardcore Stupid, The United States of Amnesia | Comments Off on WTF happened to Alex Jones?

9-11: The Afghan connection

A French documentary on the unheeded warnings of Ahmed Shah Massoud, the Northern Alliance leader assassinated by the Taliban two days before 9-11.

You cannot understand the current situation of Afghanistan, much less its connection to the events of 20+ years ago, unless you know who Ahmed Shah Massoud was, and what he represented to the diverse peoples of Afghanistan. For he was, until his death, their best hope to defeat the Taliban, the hypocritical, fanatical, fundamentalist army of ignorami allied through marriage with Osama bin Laden. You cannot understand the abrupt fall of the so-called Afghan government this past month unless you know of him and his role in the background events of 2001, which in fact were not hidden at all, but merely obscured by the horrors of 9-11.

Above all, you cannot understand what has happened unless you examine the role of the various western military-industrial complexes and their dealings with another regional ‘stan, namely neighboring Pakistan. For it was there that the Taliban’s main backers in the region lived, and it would be there that Osama bin Laden was eventually killed by Seal Team 6 in Abbottabad. If Ahmed Shah Massoud held one end of the thread that could unravel the Taliban, the other end lies with the Pakistani government, its military…and their western suppliers who preferred to supply democracy’s enemies with weaponry, while denying it to Afghanistan’s best hope. It is them, and their crooked capitalism, that really signed Massoud’s death warrant twenty years ago.

Never forget!

Posted in Angry Pacifist Speaks Her Mind, Arabian Nights, Banksters, Bullies, BushCo Death Watch, Do As I Say..., Filthy Stinking Rich, Human Rights FAIL, If You REALLY Care, Isn't It Ironic?, Isn't That Illegal?, Isn't That Terrorism?, Morticia! You Spoke French!, Obamarama!, Sick Frickin' Bastards, The 'Stans, The United States of Amnesia, The War on Terra | Comments Off on 9-11: The Afghan connection