The Thin Blue Line HIV testing has come a long way since the mid-1990s, when patients had to wait as long as two weeks to learn whether they were HIV-positive and were given the news--which could be a death sentence--by a doctor, a nurse or a trained counselor. Now AIDS can be effectively treated with antiretroviral drugs, and FDA approval seems imminent for the first over-the-counter HIV test for use in the home: the OraQuick Advance. With a swab of saliva taken from the gums, the kit (currently sold to doctors and clinics for about $15) delivers a result--positive or negative--in 20 minutes. The FDA approved an at-home HIV test in 1996, but users had to mail a blood sample to a lab, and although they could get the results by telephone hotline, many never bothered to call back. With the new test, there will be no excuse.
BIG BUCKETS, BIGGER BELLIES A Cornell University study shows that big portion sizes make even unappetizing food disappear. Moviegoers served large tubs of two-week-old popcorn ate 34% more than did people served the same stale popcorn in medium-size containers. The moviegoers seemed unaware that the tubs made a difference: 77% said they would have eaten as much no matter how big the container.
GENDER BIAS IN THE ER Women undergo fewer diagnostic tests and are one-third less likely than men to receive invasive treatments, such as angioplasty, for acute coronary syndromes, according to a study of more than 12,000 patients in 28 countries.
WAKE UP! SNORING AND STROKES Obstructive sleep apnea, a narrowing of the airways, causes raucous snoring and shortness of breath in millions of Americans (and keeps millions of spouses awake at night). Apnea has been linked to heart disease, but a new study in the New England Journal of Medicine found that it also significantly raises the risk of strokes.
RHEUMATOID RELIEF: CAN IT BE CANNABIS? Sativex, a drug that contains marijuana--or cannabis--extracts, not only lessens the pain of rheumatoid arthritis but also seems to suppress the disease, according to a five-week study of 56 patients in Rheumatology. It was the first controlled trial of the ancient analgesic on that condition.
622,000 Lives expected to be lost to diabetes in the U.S. each year by 2025--nearly triple the number in 2000--according to the Yale Schools of Public Health and Medicine
SPERM SHORTFALL IN BRITAIN British students who donate sperm for beer money suddenly got shy when they learned that laws protecting their anonymity were about to change. The number of applicants at Newcastle Fertility Center--a leading collection point--fell from 175 in 1994 to 25 in 2003.
FROM THE MEDICAL DESK The U.S. Centers for Disease Control tracked 19 million new cases of sexually transmitted diseases in 2004, including 2.8 million cases of chlamydia • Americans spend more than $206 million on home pregnancy tests each year • Greenpeace is gathering 10,000 hair samples and testing them for mercury in a project to raise awareness about the risk to fetal development of high mercury levels in women