Health Highlights: Nov. 24, 2010

By on November 24, 2010

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:

DEA Targets ‘Fake Pot’

Emergency action is being taken to ban chemicals used to make so-called “fake pot,” the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration said Wednesday.

The synthetic marijuana is made of plant material coated with chemicals that mimic THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, the agency said. The products, which provide a marijuana-like high and are marketed as legal, have become increasingly popular among teen and young adults, CNN reported.

“Since 2009, DEA has received an increasing number of reports from poison centers, hospitals and law enforcement regarding these products,” said an agency news release.

The emergency ban, which won’t take effect for at least a month, will be in place for a year as federal officials determine whether there are ways to permanently control the fake pot products and chemicals used to make them, CNN reported.

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AIDS Advocates Praise Vatican for Decision on Condom Use

HIV/AIDS workers are elated with the Vatican’s declaration Tuesday that it is okay to use a condom in order to prevent transmission of HIV to a sexual partner.

“This is a great day in the fight against AIDS … a major milestone,” Mitchell Warren, head of the AIDS Vaccine Advocacy Coalition, told the Associated Press.

The reversal in the Vatican’s long-standing and heavily-criticized opposition to condom use may encourage many people to “adopt a simple lifestyle strategy to protect themselves,” said Linda-Gail Bekker, chief executive of the Desmond Tutu HIV Foundation in South Africa.

“This is a game-changer,” Rev. James Martin, a Jesuit editor and writer, told the AP. “By acknowledging that condoms help prevent spread of HIV between people in sexual relationships, the pope has completely changed the Catholic discussion on condoms.”

About 33 million people worldwide live with HIV.

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Spouses’ Happiness Linked: Study

A married person’s happiness is closely linked to that of their spouse, according to a new study.

Researchers analyzed data from 178 married U.S. couples who took part in a long term study. Some of the couples were together for as long as 35 years, MSNBC.com reported.

“What we saw over a long period of time is that if one spouse changed in terms of increasing happiness, the other spouse’s happiness would go up,” said lead author Christiane Hoppmann, a professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia. “And if there was a dip in happiness, this dip would also affect the respective spouse.”

The study, published in the journal Developmental Psychology, offers new insight but also raises some questions.

“Right now, we know that happiness is tied in marital relationships,” Hoppmann told MSNBC.com. “But we don’t know yet whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing. We can’t tell if one spouse lifts up the other when there’s trouble or whether one spouse drags the other down. It could be both.”

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Childen’s Benadryl, Motrin Recalled by Company

About four million packages of grape- and cherry-flavored Children’s Benadryl allergy Fastmelt tablets and about 800,000 bottles of junior-strength Motrin caplets, 24-count, have been recalled by Johnson & Johnson.

The recalls at the wholesale and retail level are due to “insufficiencies in the development of the manufacturing process,” company spokeswoman Bonnie Jacobs told Bloomberg news.

She said the recalls are not associated with adverse events or safety issues.

“Consumers can continue to use the product(s), they don’t have to take any action,” Jacobs told Bloomberg.

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HIV Infections, AIDS Deaths Declining: UNAIDS

The worldwide number of new HIV infections and AIDS-related deaths are falling, show new data released by UNAIDS.

The number of new HIV infections in 2009 was 2.6 million, a nearly 20 percent decrease from the peak of the AIDS epidemic in 1999. There were 1.8 million AIDS-related deaths in 2009, down from 2.1 million in 2004, BBC News reported.

Among the other findings:

  • The number of people using antiretroviral drugs increased from 700,000 in 2004 to more than five million in 2009.
  • While infection rates are falling in places such as Ethiopia, South Africa, Zambia, and Zimbabwe, there have been sharp rises in new infections and AIDS-related deaths in eastern Europe and central Asia.
  • Currently, an estimated 33 million people worldwide are living with HIV.

“We are breaking the trajectory of the AIDS epidemic with bold actions and smart choices,” said Michel Sidibe, UNAIDS executive director, BBC News reported. “Investments in the AIDS response are paying off, but gains are fragile — the challenge now is how we can all work to accelerate progress.”

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