December 18, 2012
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Living With HIV

 Is It OK to Have a Couple of Drinks While on Treatment?
I started Complera (rilpivirine/tenofovir/FTC) five weeks ago. My kidney, liver and other functions are good, but a couple of nights ago I had three beers. This was the only time I drank alcohol since starting treatment. Was it a bad decision? Is it OK to have a couple drinks once in a while?

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

 Dear Nelson Vergel: How Did You Stay Healthy and Fit After HIV Infection?
I am 38 years old and I want to live at least 30 more years being healthy and strong. Nelson, being a long term survivor yourself, you have experience. Did you build your body after HIV infection? How long did it take? Can you share tips on living longer?

Nelson Vergel responds in the "Nutrition and Exercise" forum

Mixed-Status Couples

 Gay and Positive, But Trapped in a Marriage: Should I Stay or Go?
In 2003, I came out to my wife and two daughters. In 2010, I was diagnosed with HIV. Nearly 10 years after coming out, I am still married and very unhappy. I have been told countless times that my desire to live as a gay man is selfish since it will affect my wife and children. I feel trapped. On top of that, my wife was diagnosed with kidney cancer last year. I'm being supportive, but I just don't know what to do anymore. Should I walk out and live my life authentically? Or should I stay in this marriage and just try to get by?

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

Insurance, Workplace & Legal Concerns

 How Do I Keep My HIV Status Private When Filling Out Insurance Forms?
I am HIV positive and currently receiving health insurance from work. However, because of increasing premiums my employer decided to switch insurance companies. Do I have to disclose what medications I take to the new insurance company or to my employer? We were given new forms to fill out where they ask all these health questions and I have to give them back to my office manager. I do not want to disclose my status nor the medications I take to my employer, but I am afraid that the new insurance company will think I'm lying and deny me coverage. What should I do?

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

 Can ADAP Be Transferred From State to State?
I'm thinking of moving back to Pennsylvania from California. California has ADAP (AIDS Drug Assistance Program), but Pennsylvania calls it something else. Can I transfer my ADAP from one state to another and still keep my coverage?

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

Visual AIDS: Art from HIV-Positive Artists

Image from the December 2012 Visual AIDS gallery Detail from:
"One Day", 1997
Joe De Hoyos

Visit the December 2012 Visual AIDS Web Gallery to view the latest collection of art by HIV-positive artists! This month's gallery, "No Wasted Words, No Illusions," is curated by Ann Northrop.

HIV/AIDS Treatment

 Can I Take Glucosamine For My Joint Pain, While on HIV Treatment?
What are the effects of glucosamine on my HIV meds, which are Truvada (tenofovir/FTC), Reyataz (atazanavir) and Norvir (ritonavir). I am 58 years old and am experiencing lots of joint pain in my hands and wrists. This pain is not going away and has been getting worse, going on two months.

Nelson Vergel responds in the "Aging With HIV" forum

 Will Switching to Stribild Bring Depression and Vivid Dream Side Effects?
I have a new HIV doctor who recommended that I switch from my current regimen of Epzicom (abacavir/3TC, Kivexa), Prezista (darunavir) and Norvir (ritonavir) to Stribild (elvitegravir/cobicistat/FTC/tenofovir). His recommendation was based on me having a consistently upset stomach since starting the regimen three years ago. Although I'm interested in switching, I'm scared about the side effects of Stribild. I don't know if it will solve my gastrointestinal issues, and I've read that it can cause depression and vivid dreams, which I definitely want no part of. What are your thoughts on this switch?

Joseph P. McGowan, M.D., F.A.C.P., responds in the "Choosing Your Meds" forum

Other Health Issues & HIV/AIDS

 What Can I Do About Swollen Lymph Nodes in My Groin Area?
I was recently diagnosed positive. The last two days, I've been seeing very tender and swollen glands on both sides of my groin area. My friend tells me that HIV is entering my glands and lymph nodes, and that it will last two or three months. He also tells me that anti-inflammatory drugs won't help. Is this true and is there anything I can do?

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

 Is the Shingles Vaccine Safe for People Living With HIV?
I just turned 60. My CD4 count is 1150 and I have an undetectable viral load. Should I get the vaccine for shingles (herpes zoster)? Or is it not safe because I'm HIV positive?

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

Connect With Others

Should I Start Treatment Before or After My Extended Vacation?
(A recent post from the "Living With HIV" board)

I am planning on taking a three-month vacation next year. I'm hoping to travel across developing, developed and tropical countries. Right now, I have the luxury of choosing whether I want to travel with meds or not. I haven't started treatment yet, but based on my most recent set of numbers, I'm quite convinced I'll have to start soon. So would you rather travel with or without your meds? Is it unsafe to travel when starting meds? And is it dangerous to go to developing/tropical countries when my CD4 counts are borderline and I'm not yet on meds? -- YellowFever

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Understanding HIV/AIDS Labs

 Declining CD4 Count, Despite Undetectable Viral Load: What's Going On?
Is it normal for my CD4 count to consistently go down over the past five years, even though my viral load is undetectable? I started meds about seven years ago. I feel very good and never got sick. I take Sustiva (efavirenz, Stocrin) and Combivir (AZT/3TC). Are my meds affecting my CD4 count?

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

 Why Do CD4 Counts Go Up and How Can I Increase Mine?
I started Atripla (efavirenz/tenofovir/FTC) a year ago with a CD4 count of 413 and viral load of about 70,000. After less than three months, my viral load went down to undetectable. However, my CD4 count has trended downward. My doctor asked me a lot of questions, ranging from adherence to treatment to health habits, but nothing seems to explain this trend, other than stress from school and work. What can I do to boost my CD4 count? Should I consider a change of treatment?

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

HIV Testing & Transmission

 What About People Who "Don't Know" How They Got HIV?
Every now and then I come across stories about people who claim they don't know how they got infected. They say they're not drug users, promiscuous or at high risk. But this has me worried. What if I end up getting HIV through some bizarre way I can't explain? This whole HIV thing is scaring me into near-celibacy. Are these people simply lying or mistaken?

David Wohl, M.D., responds in the "Safe Sex and HIV Prevention" forum

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