FDA approves first pill to help prevent HIV
WASHINGTON – The Food and Drug Administration on Monday approved the first drug shown to reduce the risk of HIV infection, the latest milestone in the 30-year battle against the virus that causes AIDS.
The agency approved Gilead Sciences’ pill Truvada as a preventive measure for healthy people who are at high risk of acquiring HIV through sexual activity, such as those who have HIV-infected partners. The decision comes less than two weeks after the agency approved another landmark product: the first over-the-counter HIV test that can be developed at home.
The two developments are seen as the biggest steps in years toward curbing the spread of HIV in the U.S., which has held steady at about 50,000 new infections per year for the last 15 years. An estimated 1.2 million Americans have HIV, which develops into AIDS unless treated with antiviral drugs. And an estimated 240,000 HIV carriers are unaware that they are infected.
U.S. economy appears weaker as retail sales slump
WASHINGTON – The outlook for the U.S. economy appeared dimmer Monday after a report that Americans spent less at retail businesses for a third consecutive month in June.
The report led some economists to downgrade their estimates for economic growth in the April-June quarter. Many now think the economy grew even less than in the first quarter of the year, when it expanded at a sluggish 1.9 percent annual rate.
Spending in June fell in nearly every major category – from autos, furniture and appliances to building, garden supplies and department stores. Overall, retail sales slid 0.5 percent from May to June, the Commerce Department said.
Syrian rebels push war into capital Damascus
BEIRUT – Syrian rebels fired grenades at tanks and troops while regime armor shelled Damascus neighborhoods Monday, sending terrified families fleeing the most sustained and widespread fighting in the capital since the start of the uprising 16 months ago.
A ring of fierce clashes nearly encircled the heavily guarded capital as rebels seeking to overthrow President Bashar Assad pushed the civil war that has been building in Syria’s impoverished provinces closer to the seat of power.
While the clashes were focused in a string of neighborhoods in the city’s southwest, for many of its 4 million people the violence brought scarily close to home the strife that has deeply scarred other Syrian cities.