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HIV/AIDS News Digest: June 21, 2011

June 21, 2011

Here is a quick look at a few HIV/AIDS stories recently reported in the media:

Have Scientists Found HIV's Achilles Heel? (From The Wall Street Journal)

According to a recent report in the Wall Street Journal, scientists from Massachusetts General Hospital, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University have identified a weak point in HIV, by examining elite controllers and using a mathematical tool that is normally used in the stock market.

"This is a wonderful piece of science, and it helps us understand why the elite controllers keep HIV under control," said Nobel laureate David Baltimore. Bette Korber, an expert on HIV mutation at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, said the study added "an elegant analytical strategy" to HIV vaccine research. (Korber was not involved with the study.)

Because the virus mutates so easily, it has created a lot of problems for many researchers. But the study's researchers have found groups of amino acids that rarely make multiple mutations. Many HIV/AIDS researchers believe that the virus needs to keep these sections of amino acids intact in order to thrive. But if zeroing in on them could somehow confine HIV, and if HIV were to begin to mutate, it would implode. If it didn't mutate, it would just lie defenseless against a drug or vaccine attack.

Researchers are hoping that this research could open up the door to an HIV vaccine.

The Denver Post Catches Up With Project Runway's Mondo Guerra (From the Denver Post)

It's been almost a year since Mondo Guerra disclosed his HIV status on Project Runway last fall. And despite popular belief, Guerra doesn't take residence in New York City or Los Angeles-he lives in Denver and spends his time designing and traveling across the country talking about HIV. Denver Post reporter, Lisa Kennedy interviewed Geurra and his loved ones to talk about what Guerro has been up to lately, keeping his HIV status a secret and how Project Runway has impacted his life.

Guerra on if he meant to publicly disclose:

"People ask me if I planned on talking about my HIV status. The thing is, I didn't. In retrospect, I can't believe that something I held for 10 years came out within a minute. And in that minute, I completely let go of everything. I don't know if you can see it in the episode, but physically I felt lifted. It was such a spiritual experience for me."

Guerra on not taking care of himself and developing Kaposi's sarcoma:

"You're in the hospital with a T-cell count of 14. You haven't taken ownership of this, and this is not who you are. You have beautiful things you want to show," he lectured himself. "Why am I allowing this disease to take over what I need to accomplish?" he asked. "Why am I allowing this disease to define who I am right now? I was being very disrespectful to myself. I was in a very dark place."

Guerra's mother on her son finally disclosing to her and her husband:

"He sat down with me and his dad. I don't know if his dad knew, but I knew there was something wrong because he'd been sick. But I didn't have the heart to ask him. It was his and his sister's secret. When he told us, it was like he was reborn. He was so happy. You can see it now."

New Map Shows HIV/AIDS Rates Increasing Along I-95 (From delawareonline)

According to a new map released by the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University in Atlanta, HIV/AIDS is spreading along I-95, a 1,925 mile-long corridor that goes from New Haven, Conn., to Miami.

While unprotected sex is the main cause for these infections, researchers do point out that IV drug use and sharing needles with people living with HIV also play a factor. It's believed that convenient access to drugs is one reason why high rates exist in neighborhoods along I-95.

"In Wilmington, you can get off the highway at that Fourth Street exit and be right back on I-95 in a matter of minutes," said Frank Hawkins, education and outreach director of AIDS Delaware, the state's first AIDS prevention organization. "If people are engaging in intravenous drug use, they typically are purchasing the drugs from Philadelphia or they're purchasing it from someone who has purchased the drugs from Philadelphia."

Other HIV/AIDS Articles in the Media

Star Trek's LeVar Burton on Helping the AIDS Research Foundation (From

D.C. Residents Believe HIV/AIDS Is City's Biggest Health Issue (From The Washington Post)

Supreme Court to Review Pilot's Privacy Suit (From the San Francisco Chronicle)

Kellee Terrell is the former news editor for and

Copyright © 2011 The HealthCentral Network, Inc. All rights reserved.

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