Health Highlights: March 12, 2012

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

CDC Promotes HIV Testing, Awareness Among Black Women

A new campaign to increase HIV testing and awareness among black women was launched Thursday by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

HIV/AIDS is a major health issue among black women. The CDC's "Take Charge. Take the Test" campaign -- which features community outreach, a website and advertising -- was launched in conjunction with National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day.

The campaign was launched in 10 cities where black women are especially hard-hit by HIV/AIDS: Atlanta; Chicago; Detroit; Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; Houston; Memphis, Tenn.; Newark, N.J.; New Orleans; Hyattsville, Md.; and St. Louis.

"At current rates, nearly 1 in 30 African-American women will be diagnosed with HIV in their lifetimes," Dr. Kevin Fenton, director of CDC's National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD and TB Prevention, said in a CDC news release.

"To help reduce this toll we are working to remind black women that they have the power to learn their HIV status, protect themselves from this disease, and take charge of their health," he added.


FDA Weighs Making Key Prescription Drugs Available OTC

A number of widely used prescription drugs could be sold over-the-counter under a new proposal being considered by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The agency is thinking about eliminating prescription requirements for certain drugs used to treat such conditions as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, asthma and migraine, the Associated Press reported.

FDA officials said making it easier for patients to obtain these medications could help tackle undertreated health epidemics such as diabetes, which is a leading cause of heart disease and stroke.

More than 25 million Americans have diabetes, but about 7 million have not been diagnosed and therefore do not receive treatment.

The move to make certain prescription medications available over-the-counter is being driven by computer technology, such as touch-screen kiosks in pharmacies, which helps patients self-diagnose common diseases, according to the AP.

It's one of several FDA proposals meant to improve patient access to established drugs or to accelerate approval of experimental medications.

"These are discussions that need to start happening as we think about people's health needs and how to improve access," said FDA Commissioner Dr. Margaret Hamburg, the AP reported.

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