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News Briefs

New AIDS Drugs May Be Near


AIDS researchers might be on the verge of producing the most promising new crop of treatments in years.

Studies presented here Monday demonstrated progress in the development of drugs that might help solve many of the knotty problems in AIDS therapeutics -- bad side effects, drug resistance, and the scarcity of options for people who have run through the nearly two dozen antiviral drugs now on the market.

The new drug candidates, some tested on small numbers of people and others only in laboratory experiments, couldn’t come at a more opportune time. About 40 percent of people infected with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) ultimately fail on the various drug combinations available today.

The prospect that many new drugs may come to clinical use in a few years was greeted with both enthusiasm and caution by AIDS researchers at the 8th annual Retrovirus Conference, the annual midwinter AIDS conference in the United States.

“It’s really exciting,” Douglas D. Richman, a researcher at the University of California in San Diego and one of the conference organizers, said of the flock of new compounds. “But one should never underestimate the virus’s potential for malice and mischief.”

The road to today’s HIV therapeutics, however, is littered with the bones of once-promising drugs. The experts here expect the new wave of pharmaceuticals -- when and if they arrive -- will broaden treatment, not revolutionize it.

Polarization on Abortion Spurs Activism on Both Sides


As the abortion issue takes center stage in the new Bush administration, family planning clinics across the nation are spotting a curious dual trend -- more assertive anti-abortion protesters and more willing abortion-rights volunteers.

In official Washington, the climate on abortion unquestionably has chilled. Since taking office, President Bush has voiced opposition to research on aborted fetuses, banned funding for family planning groups overseas that promote or perform abortions and nominated abortion foe John Ashcroft as his new attorney general.

Away from the capital, however, family-planning workers are reporting contradictory trends. Workers in smaller, Bible Belt communities such as Bryan, Texas, say they’ve seen an increase in peaceful protesters -- and in some cases, emboldened vandals. But at larger, urban facilities -- such as Planned Parenthood centers in Houston and Nashville, Tenn. -- officials say contributions and volunteerism have jumped noticeably since the first of the year.

Chris Charbonneau, president of Planned Parenthood of Western Washington, is seeing both phenomena at once. Abortion opponents, she said, clearly have been more active since Bush’s inauguration. On the recent anniversary of the Roe vs. Wade decision, which legalized abortion 28 years ago, a protest was held in the state capital of Olympia -- with some legislators calling for abortion restrictions.

Then, on Thursday, for the first time, Charbonneau said: “We had an anti-choice group advertising in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer that they are planning a rally at one of our clinics.”

But Charbonneau said her chapter also has experienced an upswing in positive e-mail, volunteerism and donations. “People are outraged about the international planning order and the Ashcroft nomination,” Charbonneau said. “Anyone who believed that Bush would be a moderate president now knows they have been deceived.”

In Tulsa, Okla., vandals in December slashed the tires of cars belonging to two Planned Parenthood nurse practitioners. The facilities there also have been the target of threatening phone calls and minor forms of vandalism. It’s the first damage since the clinic was burned to the ground four years ago, Chief Executive Nancy Kachel said.