• ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- This week, the Trump administration dismissed the remaining members of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS amid plans to appoint new members in the coming year.Current members, appointed by the Obama administration, were sent letters on Wednesday informing them that their time on the council ended, and were told they are eligible to reapply for their spot on the council according to the Department of Health and Human Services. Some 25 members can be commissioned for the council, also known as "PACHA", but as November only 10 members were listed on the council’s website.The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) posted a notice for nominations to the council on the Federal Register at the beginning of December indicating the administration’s desire to continue the advisory board but with a fresh slate of experts.Made up of health policy leaders with expertise in HIV and AIDS and public health, the council's members provide recommendations on programs and policies related to HIV and AIDS to the White House and the Secretary of Health and Human Services. Over 1 million people in the United States are living with HIV, with the most vulnerable populations being gay and bisexual men, particularly African American gay and bisexual men, according to HHS.Kaye Hayes, the executive director of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS, confirmed the dismissals, but clarified that every administration goes through a process of appointing new members.“On December 27, 2017, the current members of Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS (PACHA) received a letter informing them that the Administration was terminating their appointments. They were also thanked for their leadership, dedication and commitment to the effort,” Hayes said in a statement to ABC News.“Changing the makeup of federal advisory committee members is a common occurrence during Administration changes. The Obama Administration dismissed the George W. Bush Administration appointees to PACHA in order to bring in new voices. All PACHA members are eligible to apply to serve on the new council that will be convened in 2018.”Prominent activists in the LGBTQ community have been critical of the Trump administration’s positions towards the issue of HIV and AIDS and say these terminations are an example of the Trump White House’s policies.Earlier this summer, six members of the council quit in protest to what they viewed was inaction by the Trump administration on policies towards HIV and AIDS.A White House spokesman did not immediately respond to ABC News' request for comment on the dismissals or the resignations earlier this year.The Trump administration has been publicly supportive of efforts to combat the HIV and AIDS epidemic, releasing public statements on National HIV Testing Day and on World AIDS Day.“While we have made considerable progress in recent decades, tens of thousands of Americans are infected with HIV every year. My Administration will continue to invest in testing initiatives to help people who are unaware they are living with HIV learn their status,” said President Trump in a World AIDS Day proclamation.But gay rights advocates say the Trump administration has been discriminatory in a subtle way, leaving out any reference to the LGBTQ community from their statements.“In his first year in office, Trump has made a continuous effort to erase LGBTQ people and people living with HIV from the fabric of our country - actions that fly in the face of American values and that all fair-minded Americans will continue to push back against in the new year,” tweeted Sarah Kate Ellis, the president and CEO of GLAAD, a gay rights advocacy group.Nominations for membership to the Presidential Advisory Council must be received by January 2, according to the Federal Register, but it is unclear when new appointments will be made.
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  • iStock/Thinkstock(ATLANTA) -- A new report released by the CDC is showing that flu season is getting worse and fast. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of states reporting high levels of doctor visits due to flu-like symptoms more than doubled in the last week, from 10 to 21.Those 21 states experiencing high activity: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and West Virginia.The South and West reported seeing the highest rates of patients with flu-related symptoms. In Montrose, California, physician assistant Jennifer DeMoss said the flu season has been "crazy so far."She said at Adventist Health Urgent Care, about 30 patients a day had the flu."This year, like I said, this one really hit me hard," schoolteacher Laura Londano told ABC station KABC-TV. "I had my two weeks off and this is how I'm spending my holidays ... in bed and now here in urgent care." This season's vaccine is only 10 percent effective against the H3N2 strain in Australia, the dominant strain of influenza.Influenza researchers have blamed this decreased effectiveness on the most common process of vaccine manufacturing, which uses chicken eggs. Viruses are unpredictable, and if they are raised in eggs for vaccine production, their structure may not perfectly match those found in our environment.Still, the CDC is cautioning that the flu will likely peak between now and the end of January. It also maintains that an annual flu vaccine is the the first and most important step in protecting against flu viruses."Everybody, who I've seen, who've had flu, most of them have not had the flu shot," DeMoss told ABC affiliate KABC-TV. "And the people who have had flu shots, their symptoms are much, much, much less."In addition to getting the flu vaccine, the CDC recommends avoiding close contact with sick people, limiting your contact with others when you feel sick and covering your nose and mouth with a tissue when coughing or sneezing, in order to prevent the spread of germs.Other actions the CDC recommends to stop the spread of the seasonal flu include washing your hands often with soap and water; avoiding touching your eyes, nose and mouth; and disinfecting surfaces that may have been contaminated with flu germs.
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  • iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) --  For those who enjoy ringing in the new year with a few drinks, here is a breakdown of some simple ways you can start off the first day of 2018 without a debilitating hangover.
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  • iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Santa Claus makes a list each Christmas. Experts say if you want to keep your New Year’s resolution after Jan. 2, you should follow Santa’s lead.With anything that we do in life, it’s a good idea to have things written down that we can track over time,” said Dr. Marcelo Campos, a primary care doctor at Harvard Vanguard and lecturer at Harvard Medical School. “It’s almost like a commitment that you have toward what you want to achieve.”Campos and other experts stress the importance of spending the remaining few days before the calendar turns to 2018 planning what you want to accomplish in the new year.Simply making a New Year’s resolution is a step toward success, according to research conducted by Dr. John Norcross, a psychology professor at the University of Scranton and the author of “Changeology: 5 Steps to Realizing Your Goals and Resolutions.”Norcross’ research found that people are 10 times more likely to make a change by declaring a New Year’s resolution compared to “non-resolvers.”He also found that, contrary to public opinion, not all New Year’s resolutions are destined for failure, with nearly 44 percent of people finding success six months into the new year.How do you make it into that 44 percent who find success? Campos said taking time to answer five questions before declaring your New Year’s resolution can help keep you on track through the next year.Read below for Campos’ five questions, along with New Year’s resolution advice from Campos and other experts.1. What is your 'why'?
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  • Cincinnati Childrens Hospital Medical Center(CINCINNATI) -- Valeka Riegel gave birth to her son, Zakary, in December of 2016. She would not see his face for the first time until April, after doctors completed a delicate and complex surgery to seal a hole in his skull that had caused a sac-like protrusion to obscure the front of his head. “I was first told that he may have a cyst on his cheek,” said Riegel. As it turned out, it was more than a cyst. Zakary had what is known as a congenital bony defect in his skull. Specifically, it was a hole that allowed the fluid surrounding the brain – and even some of the brain matter itself – to escape the skull, leading to a balloon-like pouch so large it covered his face. Technically referred to as an encephalocele, it restricted his breathing, thus requiring him to stay in the neonatal intensive care unit for four-and-a-half months until he grew big enough for the surgery to correct it. “The growth covered (his face) from his nose to his mouth and when you looked at him as a baby, all you saw was a little mouth,” Riegel said in a media interview for the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center (CCHMC). Riegel, herself a surgical nurse, lived by her baby son’s bedside for most of the time he was in the NICU, driving back home for her 12-hour work shifts on Fridays and weekends. “I knew how complicated this was emotionally, physically and medically,” she told ABC News. “As a mother I was blessed with a pregnancy and was placed in a difficult position.” Yet she held her cool until the big day. “Two hours before surgery was when severe panic set in,” she said. Dr. Charles Stevenson, the pediatric neurosurgeon who led the team involved in Zakary’s care, said the surgery involved much more than simply revealing Zakary’s face. Essentially, doctors were faced with the challenge of removing part of the baby’s brain, closing up the hole in the skull, and ensuring that everything happened in a way that the baby would not only survive, but also have a chance at a normal life. “There were several steps involved, including exposing the forehead, exposing the defect, amputating all that tissue, and then reconstructing a normal brain, and then reconstructing all of the normal layers or barriers which had formed a the time of development,” Stevenson said of the nine-hour procedure. One of the most delicate aspects of the operation was harvesting tissue from one section of the membrane covering the brain to close over the open hole. The other aspect of the surgery – how Zakary would look afterwards – presented another set of challenges. Stevenson had known from the time he saw the results of a fetal MRI that Zakary would need a complex reconstruction of his face. “I phoned a friend very quickly,” he said. Answering the call was plastic surgeon Dr. Brian Pan. “If you’re lucky you may see one or two of these patients over the course of your career,” Pan said. For him, it was his second time, and working alongside Stevenson, he was able to deal with the cosmetic consequences of the condition even as his fellow surgeons worked on the technical hurdles of restoring the integrity of the baby’s skull. For Riegel, it was a nerve-wracking wait. But she was pleasantly surprised when Stevenson walked out of the operating room sooner than anticipated. “He said to me, ‘He doesn’t look like Zakary, but he still has the same beautiful smile,'” Riegel said, recalling Stevenson’s advice to her before she saw her baby’s new face. “Just look at his smile and you will see Zakary, I promise you.” “The first thing he did after extubation was smile, and 23 hours later he was out of the pediatric ICU,” Riegel said. Zakary will be celebrating his first birthday in the company of his mother and his two olde
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  • Photodisc/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The number of women who use marijuana while pregnant is increasing, especially among teenage and young pregnant mothers, a new report in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) suggested."Marijuana is the most commonly used illicit drug during pregnancy," the research letter published in JAMA on Tuesday stated. "And its use is increasing."Researchers examined data from 279,457 pregnant women who were patients at the Kaiser Permanente Northern California health care system from 2009 to 2016, and participated in a self-administered questionnaire on marijuana use since pregnancy, as well as a cannabis toxicology test during their standard prenatal care visits.Among pregnant mothers who were younger than 18, researchers said the prevalence of prenatal marijuana use based on the self-report or toxicology test increased from 12.5 percent to 21.8 percent from 2009 to 2016.For pregnant mothers between the ages of 18 and 24, the prevalence of prenatal marijuana use increased from 9.8 percent to 19 percent from 2009 to 2016, researchers found.In addition, for women aged 25 to 34, the increase was from 3.4 percent to 5.1 percent, and for women older than 34, the increase was from 2.1 percent to 3.3 percent from 2009 to 2016.The JAMA research letter added that while medical marijuana was legalized in 1996 in California, "prenatal use may further escalate in 2018 when recreational marijuana is available legally."The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) stated on its website that some pregnant women may have "turned to using marijuana to ease nausea or other pregnancy symptoms," as an increasing number of states legalize its medical and recreational use."However, researchers don’t know a lot about what the effects might be, and while the research is in progress, most experts advise pregnant women not to use marijuana," the CDC said.Some research suggests that using marijuana while pregnant can be linked to low birth weight and may increase a baby's risk of development problems, according to the CDC."Any woman who is pregnant or could become pregnant should avoid consuming marijuana," the health organization said. "Mothers may put their babies at risk of health problems when they expose them to marijuana during pregnancy."
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