Stories We're Following This Week

News + Insights from around the Web + The Patient's Playbook Bottom Line. 


Only 37% of Americans who have HIV are in Treatment

"He’s an example of how, if you have HIV and you take medication so that you are suppressed, you can have a normal life."

—Actor Charlie Sheen announced Tuesday that the levels of HIV in his blood are undetectable, 
thanks to antiretroviral drugs.  (USA Today

Bottom Line: When a patient's levels of HIV are too low to be detected, like Sheen's, it's almost impossible for them to spread the infection to others. Unfortunately, only 37% of the 1.3 million Americans who are HIV-positive are in treatment. While poverty and lack of access is a major factor, in many cases the stigma surrounding an HIV diagnosis prevents patients from seeking treatment or disclosing their condition. But the medications available to control HIV and prevent AIDS are so good now, that no one should ever have to die of shame.


Antibiotics and colds don't belong together

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Thinkstock

"For the love of God, people, stop taking antibiotics for flus and colds. It isn't helpful in any way. And the abuse of these drugs contributes to a huge public health problem. So just stop."

—A recent survey by the World Health Organization reveals widespread misunderstanding about antibiotic use. (Vox)

Bottom Line: Antibiotics-resistant "superbugs" kill an estimated 50,000 people a year in the U.S. and Europe. According to a major study last year from the UK, if left unchecked, the death toll due to drug-resistant infections will rise to 10 million a year by 2050. As patients, we can help curb the crisis: Don't take antibiotics for colds or flus, even if your doctor offers them. When you do take antibiotics appropriately, don't stop taking them just because you feel better—always take the full course you are prescribed. Plus: Feeling confident in your knowledge on antibiotics? Take the WHO quiz.


For Sickest Babies, who should decide About Treatment?

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Thinkstock

"A can of Coke is 12 ounces. So imagine a baby who could almost curl up in a fetal position and fit inside a Coke can."

—The American Academy of Pediatrics recently advised that parents be given wide latitude in deciding how aggressive doctors should be when treating a child at high risk of death or serious disability. (NPR)

Bottom Line: It used to be that doctors were the deciders when it came to treating severely premature babies, but that's changing. Today, parents who are willing to raise a child with severe disabilities might elect to pursue more aggressive care than parents who do not want to take on that risk. But, as this compelling NPR story points out, it's crucial for parents to have medical experts to rely on for advisement, to be sure they are making informed and intentional decisions about care.


Are Asthma and Anxiety Linked?

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Thinkstock

"Anxiety sensitivity not only helps explain why we see higher rates of anxiety disorders, but also why anxiety is associated with poorer asthma outcomes."

—A new study finds that people with asthma and anxiety experience greater
asthma symptoms and decreased lung function. (Lung Disease News

Bottom Line: When individuals with anxiety sensitivity (i.e. a fear of fear) also have asthma, their suffering can be far more incapacitating and threatening, according to a new study of 101 college undergrads. Asthma, which can be unpredictable and dangerous, requires the continued care of a committed specialist. As the authors of the study noted, individuals who also suffer from anxiety should seek out therapeutic interventions, such as exposure therapy, which help patients to better reduce their anxiety. For more tips, see "Asthma, Stress, and Anxiety: A Risky Cycle."