October 23, 2012
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Living With HIV

 If Fitness Expert Nelson Vergel's Out of Options, Where's the Hope for Me?
I've always been inspired by Nelson Vergel's story of longtime HIV survival. However, today I watched a video on TheBody.com in which Nelson shared that he has to take 45 pills a day, his virus is highly drug resistant and he currently has no further treatment options should the need arise. How is this possible? If this is the case, is the hype about near-normal life spans and increased wellness for people living with HIV untrue?

Nelson Vergel responds in the "Nutrition and Exercise" forum

 What's My Prognosis if I Have HIV-2?
I live in a country where I have full access to medical care and medications. I understand the optimism regarding HIV-1, but what if I have HIV-2, the less common form of the virus? Can I expect to live as long as someone with HIV-1, or should I accept the fact that there are fewer treatment options and I will eventually progress to AIDS?

Benjamin Young, M.D., Ph.D., responds in the "Choosing Your Meds" forum

Mixed-Status Couples

 How Can I Get Over My Boyfriend's Past Disclosure Challenges?
I'm HIV negative and falling in love with someone who's HIV positive. I recently found out that my boyfriend has failed to disclose his HIV status to sexual partners in the past. In fact, he's had unprotected sex with a friend several times and never disclosed his status. I confronted him and he said it was true but that he has deep regrets regarding his past. Since then I've found myself having thoughts of anger and disrespect toward him. On the other hand, I try to give him the benefit of the doubt because I do think he is an amazing, beautiful person. I don't want this to affect our relationship. Do you have any advice to share?

David Fawcett, Ph.D., L.C.S.W., responds in the "Mental Health and HIV" forum

 How Have I Stayed HIV Negative if My Wife Is Positive?
My wife is HIV positive and I'm HIV negative. We have sex on a daily basis, yet still I remain HIV negative. How is this possible?

Shannon R. Southall responds in the "Safe Sex and HIV Prevention" forum

Insurance, Workplace & Legal Concerns

 Will I Have to Pay Back Medicaid After I Die?
I was diagnosed with AIDS in April 2011 with a viral load of 1.5 million and a CD4 count of 8. My viral load is now undetectable and I'm doing very well on HIV meds. The doctors brought me back from death's door, but I'm currently on disability and Medicaid. Recently I was told that all the money I received from Medicaid would have to be paid back to the state, and that they'll go after my estate after my death (which won't be anytime soon!). Is this true?

Jacques Chambers, C.L.U., responds in the "Workplace and Insurance Issues" forum

 Are People Living With HIV Eligible for Service Dogs?
I'm HIV positive and suffer from severe anxiety and secondary post-traumatic stress. My primary care provider and psychologist have been treating me for some time with medication and psychotherapy; they're both HIV specialists. They both feel that I would benefit from the use of a service dog to assist me in taking my HIV and other medications every day, and to help increase my mobility by reducing my anxiety in public places. Does a person living with HIV qualify as disabled under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA)? If so, would this make a person eligible to have a service dog?

Christa Douaihy, Esq., responds in the "Legal Issues and HIV" forum

Visual AIDS: Art from HIV-Positive Artists

Image from the October 2012 Visual AIDS gallery Detail from:
"Stramonium," 2005
Eric Rhein

Visit the October 2012 Visual AIDS Web Gallery to view our latest collection of art by HIV-positive artists! This month's gallery, "Notes on a Steady Decline," is curated by Steven Evans.

Body Shape Changes & HIV/AIDS

 Will My HIV Med Switch Help With Fat Loss?
I'm switching from Trizivir (AZT/3TC/abacavir) to Complera (rilpivirine/tenofovir/FTC) because of lipodystrophy. Is there a chance that I will recover some of the fat I've lost once I've switched meds?

Keith Henry, M.D., responds in the "Managing Side Effects of HIV Treatment" forum

HIV/AIDS Treatment

 Could My Recent Mood Changes Be Due to Longtime Atripla Use?
I was diagnosed with HIV eight years ago. I've been taking Atripla (efavirenz/tenofovir/FTC) the entire time (even before the meds in it were available as a combination pill) and doing extremely well on the regimen -- my viral load is undetectable and my CD4 count has never been below 800. However, in the past few months I've been having strange mental health symptoms. I've been increasingly pessimistic about most things, having self-esteem issues and anger control problems, and I sometimes feel as though I'm disconnected from reality. My partner of 13 years, friends and loved ones are starting to worry about me. Could these symptoms be a cumulative side effect of the years that I've been taking this regimen?

David Fawcett, Ph.D., L.C.S.W., responds in the "Mental Health and HIV" forum

 How Do These 2 Regimens Compare to One Another?
I was diagnosed with HIV on June 9 of this year. My viral load is only 8,088 and my CD4 count is 637 but I'm already talking with my doctor about treatment options. We'd agreed on Epzicom (abacavir/3TC, Kivexa) and Isentress (raltegravir). Today he mentioned another option: Complera (rilpivirine/tenofovir/FTC). What are the pros and cons of these two regimens?

Benjamin Young, M.D., Ph.D., responds in the "Choosing Your Meds" forum

 Can I Crush Up Complera in Applesauce?
I'm about to start taking Complera (rilpivirine/tenofovir/FTC), but I have a hard time swallowing pills, even small ones. Is it safe to crush Complera and mix it with applesauce? Will it still have the same effect if I do this? Also, if I get heartburn, is it safe to take Tums with Complera?

Keith Henry, M.D., responds in the "Managing Side Effects of HIV Treatment" forum

Connect With Others

To My New Online HIV Family: Thanks for Being There
(A recent post from the "Living With HIV" board)

I found out I was HIV positive just six months ago and since then a lot has changed in my life -- bad things; things that can shred your heart. I have been on a downward spiral since that time with bad news showing up like the daily paper. I would however like to say to you, each and every one of you (MY NEW FAMILY) ... You're not just my strength but my inspiration to fight on, and every day you're still here for me. Though I have not met all of you on here or had the chance to talk, I love you all so very much. -- familyfirst

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Other Health Issues & HIV/AIDS

 Can Shingles Recur in People Living With HIV?
I know that once a person gets chickenpox that it's unlikely for them to get it again, and that shingles is caused by the same virus as chickenpox. Once an HIV-positive guy has had shingles, can he get them again? Is there anything that can be done about this?

Nelson Vergel responds in the "Aging With HIV" forum

 Can You Explain the Basics of Hepatitis B?
What kinds of tests and treatments are available for hepatitis B? What should I be aware of as I consider treatment?

Lynn E. Taylor, M.D., F.A.C.P., responds in the "Hepatitis and HIV Coinfection" forum

Understanding HIV/AIDS Labs

 What's Going on With My White Blood Cell Counts?
I've been taking Atripla (efavirenz/tenofovir/FTC) for three years. My viral load was 6,700 when I started treatment, and it's now undetectable; my CD4 count went from 260 to 550. However, this whole time my lab results have shown my neutrophil and lymphocyte levels to both be on the wrong sides of normal. Should I be worried?

Mark Holodniy, M.D., F.A.C.P., C.I.C., responds in the "Understanding Your Labs" forum

HIV Transmission

 What About PrEP for Women Who Want to Get Pregnant?
I'm an aspiring mom planning to conceive a baby with a gay HIV-positive friend as a sperm donor. Considering what I've been reading about PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis), I asked my primary care provider (who's also an HIV specialist, though I'm HIV negative) if he'd consider prescribing it to me off label so we can do a home "turkey baster" insemination. He prescribed Truvada (tenofovir/FTC) once a day from day 7 of my cycle, through insemination and out to about three days after each insemination. That amounts to about 12 days to two weeks of Truvada per month until I'm pregnant. What do you think of this approach?

Benjamin Young, M.D., Ph.D., responds in the "Choosing Your Meds" forum

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