Pill may cost-effectively reduce spread of HIV

Robert Starr

New Method of HIV Prevention May Be Cost-Effective
A new study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine suggests that a pill given to the right population could reduce the spread of HIV in a cost-effective manner. The inspiration for this study was the drug tenofovir-emtricitabine, which has been shown to reduce the risk of HIV infection by 44 percent when taken daily. Unfortunately, the drug itself is quite costly and even giving it to just 20 percent of the members of the group with the highest risk (men who have homosexual encounters) would cost $98 billion over the next 20 years, though it would prevent an estimated 63,000 infections. However, if the drug is selectively given out to the 20 percent of those in that group who are at the highest risk of contracting HIV — those with at least five partners a year — 41,000 infections would be prevented over the next 20 years at a cost of only around $16.6 billion, which represents a good value and may even be a cost effective strategy.

Throw Out the Insoles and Buy a Gun
According to recent research, holding a gun can give you a perceived height boost. The UCLA study asked subjects to estimate how tall they thought a given person was based on a photograph of their hand when holding a handgun, small saw, drill or caulking gun. In order to rule out biases, the researchers ensured that the photographs all showed hands of the same size. Despite this, subjects’ predictions of the height of the men holding the handguns averaged out at 69.5 inches, nearly a whole inch taller than the second place winner, the saw, at 68.75 inches. Researchers found that the subjects perceived the men with guns as stronger as well.

Reading One Word at a Time
A simple technique seems to make a big difference in the building of childhood reading abilities, according to a study published in Child Development. Preschool students whose teachers pointed at words while reading to them four times a week had improved abilities in reading, spelling and even comprehension two years later than those in a group whose teachers read the same books, but didn’t point at the words. This technique, which is easy enough to implement, seems to ensure that the students pay attention to the individual letters as well as the words that they form rather than just become passive listeners.

Giving Back After Rejection
The Journal of Consumer Research reports a study in which participants are made to either feel ignored or rejected had somewhat surprising results. Though both scenarios seem to elicit similar emotions with similar effects, participants who felt ignored were more likely to want to buy brand name clothing than the rejected group, whose participants were more likely to want to donate money or volunteer. The conclusion? If there’s somebody you don’t like, you’re better off rejecting them outright — they’ll be more likely to benefit society that way.

Baboon Book Club
Monkeys may not be able to read yet, but a new experiment shows that they’re able to distinguish words from non-words. An experiment trained several baboons over the course of several weeks to distinguish between real words, like “DONE” or “LAND” from nonsense words like “DRAN” or “LONS.” Though it’s very unlikely the monkeys knew what the words meant, they figured out that certain letter combinations don’t occur particularly often in English (“TH” occurs much more often than “HT” for instance) and, by the end of the trials, the monkeys could distinguish real words from nonsense ones with about 75 percent accuracy. This strongly suggests that the monkeys could break words into their components (letters) rather than memorizing them all individually.