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From 2008 to 2010, there were about 32 new HIV cases and 19 new AIDS cases in Leon County. During this time period, Leon County reported 1,392 cases of gonorrhea, chlamydia and syphilis. Gonorrhea and syphilis rates are higher in this county than anywhere else in Florida, while Chlamydia has doubled between 2000 and 2010.

“15 percent of all people with HIV don’t know it,” said keynote speaker Dr. Temple Robinson, M.D. “That means, in this area, approximately 300 residents are infected and exposing others because they don’t know it.”

These shocking statistics on sexually transmitted infections and AIDS led Florida State University’s chapter of the Student National Medical Association to host a vigil on Friday, Dec. 1, World AIDS Day, in the College of Medicine Atrium.

World AIDS Day was founded in 1988 and is the first global health day. Since first being identified in 1984, more than 35 million people have died of HIV/AIDS.

The event hosted multiple tables from the community including the Leon County Health Department, MedLife, Allopathic Integrative Medicine and Black Women in Medicine.

“We really try to include every community organization that was willing to join us, on-campus undergraduate and graduate RSOs,” said Stephanie Williams, Student National Medical Association Community Service Chair. “We try to get that involvement from everybody.”

The Center for Health and Wellness (CHAW) also had a table, providing an informative game that shared striking statistics about STDs in the FSU and Tallahassee community. For example, in the 20 to 24-year-old age range, 2,964 cases of Chlamydia were reported for Leon County, making this the age range most likely to contract the disease.

“We do have rates of HIV as well as high rates of STIs,” explained Joslyn Armstrong, Sexual Health Counselor at CHAW. “HIV and STIs are a problem on this campus, which is why our office is working to reduce those rates.”

CHAW offers free HIV testing every day from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m, which gives results back in about 15 minutes. The center also provides free condoms, flavored condoms and lubricants, as well as sexual health education and consultations.

“We know that the numbers, unfortunately, still are growing, with people transmitting HIV, especially within the African-American community,” Williams said. “There is disparity there.”

42 percent of the population that was diagnosed with HIV in 2016 were African-American, while 24 percent were Caucasian and 32 percent were Hispanic, according to statistics on the Florida Department of Health website. Nationally, the numbers are very similar.

Although the number of HIV cases in Florida has decreased from 6,498 in 2007 to 4,972 in 2016, the numbers have risen since their lowest point of 4,370 in 2013.

“There is still a huge stigma today that is associated with having HIV,” Williams said. “If we can reduce that, we believe that more people would get tested and less people would deal with depression associated with that.”

MAYWOOD, IL - Loyola University Medical Center is the only Chicago center that participated in the pivotal clinical trial of a groundbreaking cancer treatment that genetically engineers a patient's immune system to attack cancer cells.

Patrick Stiff, MD, director of Loyola's Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center, is a co-author of the study, published December 10, 2017 in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The treatment used in the study, which involves a cell therapy called CAR-T, is offered by Kite Pharma. Two other companies, Novartis and Juno Therapeutics, also are developing CAR-T cancer treatments.

Dr. Stiff said Loyola is preparing to offer the treatment early next year to carefully selected lymphoma patients who have failed earlier treatments. He cautioned that while the therapy could potentially cure patients who have run out of other options, it also can cause severe side effects. The cost of the treatment is also considerable to patients. Dr. Stiff said Loyola would carefully inform patients of the pros and cons of this new therapy if it is presented as an option.

"We are taking a very measured approach to this new therapy, which is effective, but also potentially toxic," Dr. Stiff said. "The therapy should not be considered a cure-all, since some of the patients did relapse after the therapy."

Based on results of the study, the Food and Drug Administration approved a CAR-T treatment called Yescarta. The study included 111 patients from 22 centers, including Loyola. The patients had certain types of large B-cell lymphoma and had not responded to or had relapsed after undergoing at least two other treatments, including chemotherapy and stem cell transplants.

To fight the cancer, the treatment harnesses a patient's T cells (white blood cells that are part of the immune system). T cells are collected from the patient and sent to a lab. There, the cells are genetically modified to include a gene that instructs the cells to target and kill lymphoma cells. Millions of these genetically modified T cells then are infused back into the patient.

In the study, 42 percent of patients who underwent the CAR-T treatment were in complete remission after a median follow-up of 15.4 months. "This is impressive, since most patients had exhausted all other care options," Dr. Stiff said.

Details in the report included that 95 percent of patients experienced at least one side effect that was severe. Thirteen percent experienced life-threatening cytokine release syndrome (CRS), which can cause high fever and flu-like symptoms, and 28 percent of patients experienced neurologic problems including encephalopathy (diseased brain), 21 percent; confused state, 9 percent; aphasia (difficulty communicating), 7 percent; and somnolence (excessive sleepiness), 7 percent. Other side effects included coma, serious infections, low blood cell counts and weakened immune systems.