Richard Knox

Since he joined NPR in 2000, Knox has covered a broad range of issues and events in public health, medicine, and science. His reports can be heard on NPR's Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Weekend Edition, Talk of the Nation, and newscasts.

Among other things, Knox's NPR reports have examined the impact of HIV/AIDS in Africa, North America, and the Caribbean; anthrax terrorism; smallpox and other bioterrorism preparedness issues; the rising cost of medical care; early detection of lung cancer; community caregiving; music and the brain; and the SARS epidemic.

Before joining NPR, Knox covered medicine and health for The Boston Globe. His award-winning 1995 articles on medical errors are considered landmarks in the national movement to prevent medical mistakes. Knox is a graduate of the University of Illinois and Columbia University. He has held yearlong fellowships at Stanford and Harvard Universities, and is the author of a 1993 book on Germany's health care system.

He and his wife Jean, an editor, live in Boston. They have two daughters.

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2:49pm

Fri July 27, 2012
Shots - Health Blog

The Value Of HIV Treatment In Couples

Dr. Lisa Sterman holds Truvada pills at her office in San Francisco. The drug was recently approved by the Food and Drug Administration to prevent infection in people at high risk of infection with HIV. The pill, already used to treat people with HIV, also helps reduce the odds they will spread the virus.
Jeff Chiu AP

Dr. Rochelle Walensky thinks the 19th International AIDS Conference will be remembered as the moment when the world began to mobilize to end the pandemic.

The Harvard researcher probably speaks for many of the 23,000 scientists, activists and policy mavens who came to the Washington conference. But they're going home with a big question on their minds: Can the world afford it?

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7:50pm

Thu July 26, 2012
Shots - Health Blog

Two More Nearing AIDS 'Cure' After Bone Marrow Transplants, Doctors Say

Originally published on Fri July 27, 2012 1:28 pm

Timothy Ray Brown, shown in May 2011 with his dog Jack in San Francisco, is the only man ever known to have been fully cured from AIDS. Brown is known as the "Berlin patient" because he had a bone marrow transplant in a German hospital five years ago.
Eric Risberg AP

The so-called Berlin patient is famously the only person in the world who has been cured of HIV. But he may soon have company.

Two people in Boston also seem to be free of HIV after undergoing bone marrow transplants for cancer, just as the Berlin patient did five years ago. The crucial difference is that the Boston patients have not yet stopped taking anti-HIV drugs — although that may happen in the coming months.

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4:16am

Thu July 26, 2012
Shots - Health Blog

Treating Everybody With HIV Is The Goal, But Who Will Pay?

Originally published on Thu July 26, 2012 10:35 am

The big question hanging over the International AIDS Conference this week is whether all 34 million people in the world with HIV can possibly get antiviral drug treatment.

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6:19pm

Tue July 24, 2012
Shots - Health Blog

Black Teens Are Getting The Message On HIV, But Risks Are Still There

Originally published on Tue July 24, 2012 7:01 pm

Condom use has dropped among black youth, even as teens engage in less risky sexual behavior overall.
Mike Segar Reuters/Landov

The HIV epidemic among African-Americans is getting deserved new attention at the 19th International AIDS Conference in Washington, D.C. And the news isn't all bad.

New data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that black high school students are engaging in risky sexual behavior far less often than they were 20 years ago.

Since black teens are the future of the epidemic for the hardest-hit ethnic group, this is encouraging.

Here are the main results:

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11:51am

Tue July 24, 2012
Shots - Health Blog

Needle Exchanges Often Overlooked In AIDS Fight

Originally published on Tue July 24, 2012 4:13 pm

A heroin user keeps a syringe tucked behind his ear at a park in the city of Medan on Indonesia's Sumatra island. Cordita-Caritas Medan, a nongovernmental organization active there, works to reduce HIV infections through rehab of drug users and a needle exchange program.
Sutanta Aditya AFP/Getty Images

There's a lot of buzz at the 19th International AIDS Conference about powerful new strategies to prevent HIV infection.

But a potent old strategy isn't used enough around the world, many researchers say, and is even neglected entirely in places where it's most urgently needed.

It's called needle exchange.

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3:52pm

Mon July 23, 2012
Shots - Health Blog

San Francisco Thwarts HIV With Wide Testing, Universal Treatment

Originally published on Mon July 23, 2012 5:19 pm

HIV patient Darnell Hollie, 47, talks to her doctor Monica Gandhi (right) at San Francisco General Hospital. Her path from drug addict to model patient was "a lot of work, but if you want it, it's there for you," Hollie says.
Richard Knox/NPR

If you show up at the emergency department at San Francisco General Hospital — for any reason — there's a good chance they'll offer you an HIV test.

It's part of a big push, in a city closely associated with the AIDS pandemic, to find nearly all people infected with the virus and get them in treatment right away.

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5:02pm

Wed July 18, 2012
Shots - Health Blog

HIV Cure Is Closer As Patient's Full Recovery Inspires New Research

Originally published on Wed July 18, 2012 7:30 pm

Nurse Priscila-Grace Gonzaga with Gregg Cassin, a San Francisco gay man who has been infected with HIV since the early 1980s. He's a volunteer in a cutting-edge gene therapy experiment to see whether HIV-infected people can be given an immune system that is invulnerable to HIV infection.
Richard Knox NPR

Ask AIDS researchers why they think a cure to the disease is possible and the first response is "the Berlin patient."

That patient is a wiry, 46-year-old American from Seattle named Timothy Ray Brown. He got a bone marrow transplant five years ago when he was living in Berlin.

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2:17pm

Tue July 17, 2012
Shots - Health Blog

Cholera Vaccination Test Reached Targets In Haiti

A lone pig roots through trash dumped over the side of a sewage canal that runs from the center of Port au Prince through Cite de Dieu. During the rainy season, the canal overflows its banks and fills nearby houses with sewage, which can carry cholera.
John W. Poole NPR

The results are in on this spring's high-visibility pilot project to vaccinate 100,000 Haitians against cholera.

Almost 90 percent of the target population – half in Port-au-Prince and the other half in a remote rural area – got fully protected against cholera, meaning they got 2 doses of the oral vaccine.

The results defy the forecasts of skeptics who said in advance of the campaign that it would be lucky to protect 60 percent of the target populations.

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3:05am

Tue July 17, 2012
Shots - Health Blog

Deciding On Truvada: Who Should Take New HIV Prevention Pill?

Originally published on Sat July 28, 2012 11:05 am

Kevin Kirk (left) and James Callahan have been together for more than five years. Recently they sat down and talked about whether Kevin, who is HIV-negative, might want to start taking Truvada.
Richard Knox NPR

There's something new to prevent HIV infections.

The Food and Drug Administration on Monday approved a once-a-day pill that can drastically lower a person's risk of getting the virus that causes AIDS.

It's called Truvada — the first HIV prevention pill.

It's not cheap — around $13,000 a year — and it's not clear what insurers will pay for it. And there's worry that people taking the pill might relax safe-sex precautions.

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3:06am

Thu July 12, 2012
AIDS: A Turning Point

'Treatment As Prevention' Rises As Cry In HIV Fight

Originally published on Thu July 12, 2012 12:21 pm

While Kenya Jackson (right) is on his thrice-weekly dialysis treatment, community health worker Greg Jules talks to him about taking his medication.
Richard Knox NPR

AIDS researchers, policymakers and advocates are increasingly convinced that treating HIV is one of the best ways of preventing its spread.

The rallying cry is "treatment as prevention," and it's the overarching theme of this month's International AIDS Conference in Washington, D.C.

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6:04pm

Tue July 3, 2012
Shots - Health Blog

New Home Test For HIV May Cut Down New Infections

Originally published on Thu July 5, 2012 10:38 am

The Food and Drug Administration just approved the OraQuick test, which detects the presence of HIV in saliva collected using a mouth swab.
Chuck Zovko AP

No infectious disease has ever been detectable by a test that consumers can buy over the counter and get quick results at home. But HIV isn't just any infection. It's a stubborn pandemic virus that's still making people sick and killing them 31 years after it first appeared – even though infection is easily prevented and effectively treated.

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4:04pm

Tue July 3, 2012
Health

Treating HIV: From Impossible To Halfway There

Originally published on Fri July 6, 2012 2:20 pm

Francois St. Ker, 55, was on the brink of dying from AIDS in the spring of 2001. Today, he's a successful farmer and is in good health, thanks to treatment for his HIV.
John Poole NPR

This story begins 11 years ago. It was a time when many, if not most, experts said it was unthinkable to treat people with AIDS in developing countries using the triple-drug regimens that were routinely saving the lives of patients in wealthier countries.

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4:37pm

Fri June 22, 2012
Shots - Health Blog

Drug-Resistant Germ In Rhode Island Hospital Raises Worries

Originally published on Fri June 22, 2012 4:39 pm

Pretty to look at, almost, but Klebsiella pneumoniae bacteria these are a common cause of infections in hospitals.
CDC

A highly resistant form of a common bacterium recently popped up in two Rhode Island patients, only the 12th and 13th times it has been spotted in this country.

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5:29pm

Mon June 18, 2012
Shots - Health Blog

Scientists Find New Wrinkle In How Cholera Got To Haiti

A Haitian protester in Port-au-Prince last year spray-paints a wall, equating the UN mission in Haiti (abbreviated here as MINISTA) with cholera.
Thony Belizaire/AFP/Getty Images

Most researchers currently believe that United Nations peacekeeping soldiers introduced cholera to Haiti in October of 2010.

After all, Haiti hadn't recorded cholera for as long as a century, Nepal had experienced a cholera epidemic in the months preceding the soldiers' arrival, and the Haitian and Nepalese cholera strains were found to be nearly identical.

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4:41am

Wed June 13, 2012
Shots - Health Blog

Traces Of Virus In Man Cured Of HIV Trigger Scientific Debate

Originally published on Thu March 27, 2014 9:35 am

Timothy Ray Brown, widely known in research circles as the Berlin patient, was cured of his HIV infection by bone marrow transplants. Now scientists are trying to make sense of the traces of HIV they've found in some cells of his body.
Richard Knox NPR

Top AIDS scientists are scratching their heads about new data from the most famous HIV patient in the world — at least to people in the AIDS community.

Timothy Ray Brown, known as the Berlin patient, is thought to be the first patient ever to be cured of HIV infection.

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5:04pm

Wed June 6, 2012
Shots - Health Blog

Drug-Resistant Tuberculosis A 'Serious Epidemic' In China

Gao Weiwei, a doctor of the Beijing Chest Hospital which specializes in the treatment of tuberculosis, talks to a patient suspected to have tuberculosis at the hospital in Tongzhou, near Beijing, March 27, 2009.
Ng Han Guan AP

China's first national survey of tuberculosis has produced some of the worst TB news in years.

Out of the million Chinese who develop TB every year, researchers say at least 110,000 get a form that's resistant to the mainstay drugs isoniazid and rifampin. Patients with such multidrug-resistant or MDR tuberculosis have to be treated for up to two years with expensive second-line drugs that are toxic and less effective.

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11:57am

Thu May 31, 2012
Shots - Health Blog

Sick in America: Hispanics Grapple With Cost And Quality Of Care

Originally published on Thu May 31, 2012 2:27 pm

iStockphoto.com

In our recent poll on what it means to be sick in America, one ethnic group stands out as having special problems – Hispanic Americans.

The national survey, conducted by NPR with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health, sheds new light on Hispanics' health issues. It runs counter to the widespread impression that African-Americans are worst-off when it comes to the cost and quality of health care.

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7:29pm

Tue May 29, 2012
Shots - Health Blog

Counterfeiters Exploit Shortage To Market Fake Adderall Pills

Originally published on Wed May 30, 2012 8:48 am

If the label of ingredients on the Adderall pack says "singel entity," that's a tip-off for trouble.
FDA/Flickr

A shortage of Adderall began last year, sending millions of people with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder and narcolepsy on perpetual wild goose chases to find drugstores with the pills they need to stay alert and focused.

So it's not surprising that Adderall counterfeiters have seized a big marketing opportunity. What is surprising is their clumsiness.

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3:22pm

Mon May 28, 2012
Shots - Health Blog

With PSA Testing, The Power Of Anecdote Often Trumps Statistics

Originally published on Tue May 29, 2012 9:46 am

Millions of men and their doctors are trying to understand a federal task force's recommendation against routine use of a prostate cancer test called the PSA.

The guidance, which came out last week, raises basic questions about how to interpret medical evidence. And what role expert panels should play in how doctors practice.

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6:01pm

Tue May 22, 2012
Shots - Health Blog

Easier Colon Cancer Test Works Well, But Colonoscopy's Still King

A big study of a colon cancer test called flexible sigmoidoscopy may provide a good example of how a cheaper, easier-on-the-patient and possibly better technology isn't always the one American doctors choose to use.

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8:31pm

Mon May 21, 2012
Shots - Health Blog

All Routine PSA Tests For Prostate Cancer Should End, Task Force Says

Originally published on Wed May 23, 2012 2:33 pm

Terry Dyroff, at home in Silver Spring, Md., got a PSA blood test that led to a prostate biopsy. The biopsy found no cancer, but it gave him a life-threatening infection.
Jose Luis Magana AP

There they go again — those 17 federally appointed experts at the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force are telling American doctors and patients to stop routinely doing lifesaving tests.

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6:21pm

Mon May 21, 2012
Medical Treatments

Task Force: Men Don't Need Regular Prostate Tests

Originally published on Mon May 21, 2012 7:00 pm

A federal task force has concluded that men over 50 don't need a regular blood test for prostate cancer. Millions of men get the test every year. The task force says too many unnecessary treatments are being performed because of the test.

12:33am

Mon May 21, 2012
Shots - Health Blog

Poll: What It's Like To Be Sick In America

Originally published on Mon May 21, 2012 8:21 pm

In the lull between the Supreme Court arguments over the federal health overhaul law and the decision expected in June, we thought we'd ask Americans who actually use the health system quite a bit how they view the quality of care and its cost.

Most surveys don't break it down this way.

When the results came back, we found that people who have a serious medical condition or who've been in the hospital in the past year tended to have more concerns about costs and quality than people who aren't sick. No big surprise there.

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6:10pm

Tue May 15, 2012
Shots - Health Blog

U.S. Funding Of HIV/AIDS Fight Overseas Carries Other Benefits

A mother and child wait to receive treatment at the HIV clinic in Nyagasambu, Rwanda, in Feb. 2008. The clinic was built by the Washington-based Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation with a grant from the PEPFAR program.
Shashank Bengali MCT/Landov

U.S. government spending to fight HIV/AIDS in developing countries is also preventing death from other diseases, a new study finds.

Some experts worry the billions of dollars the United States spends to treat people with HIV in poor countries may crowd out prevention and treatment of other illnesses.

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3:14pm

Wed May 2, 2012
Shots - Health Blog

A Step Forward For Gene Therapy To Treat HIV

HIV particles assemble at the surface of a white blood cell called a macrophage.
PLoS Biology

Millions of people around the world are living with HIV, thanks to drug regimens that suppress the virus. Now there's a new push to eliminate HIV from patients' bodies altogether. That would be a true cure.

We're not there yet. But a report in Science Translational Medicine is an encouraging signpost that scientists may be headed in the right direction.

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8:38am

Tue May 1, 2012
Shots - Health Blog

Lighter Weights Can Still Make A Big Fitness Difference

Originally published on Tue May 1, 2012 1:30 pm

Try taking some weight off in your workout.
iStockphoto.com

Here's good news for geezers — or for merely middle-aged folks — who'd like to stay fit and independent far into their later years.

You don't have to lift heavy weights to build muscle strength. Lifting lighter weights can be just as effective if you do it right, and you're much less likely to hurt yourself, researchers say.

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4:33pm

Fri April 20, 2012
Shots - Health Blog

Couples Should Get Tested For HIV Together, WHO Says

Originally published on Mon April 23, 2012 10:05 am

What do you say we go get HIV tested together?
iStockphoto.com

The World Health Organization is telling couples around the world to get tested together to see if either is infected with HIV.

If one of them is, that partner should start treatment with anti-HIV drugs – even if it's not yet medically necessary.

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5:05pm

Thu April 19, 2012
Shots - Health Blog

Doctors Group Tells Patients To Go For Cheaper, High-Value Treatments

Originally published on Fri April 20, 2012 10:30 am

Got a backache? You can probably skip that pricey scan.
iStockphoto.com

The American College of Physicians is urging patients with newly diagnosed diabetes and back pain not to opt for the latest-and-supposedly-greatest.

It's part of a new campaign to steer patients (and their doctors) to what the College of Physicians calls "high value care," and away from expensive tests and treatments that aren't any better — and often are worse.

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11:28am

Tue April 17, 2012
Shots - Health Blog

Sebelius To Lend Support To Vaccination Projects In Haiti

Originally published on Tue April 17, 2012 12:34 pm

Rice farmer Alexi Rochnel shows his blank cholera vaccination card. April is the beginning of Haiti's rainy season, which will likely intensify Haiti's cholera outbreak.
John W. Poole NPR

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is in Haiti today to support two big vaccination initiatives.

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11:19am

Fri April 13, 2012
Shots - Health Blog

Port-Au-Prince: A City Of Millions, With No Sewer System

Originally published on Tue January 29, 2013 5:55 pm

A makeshift latrine hangs over the water at the edge of Cite de Dieu, a slum in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
John W. Poole / NPR

Port-au-Prince is about the size of Chicago. But it doesn't have a sewer system. It's one of the largest cities in the world without one.

That's a big problem, but never more so than during a time of cholera.

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