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News and Notes

October 2000

Tests Fail to Show Link Between HIV, Polio Vaccine

New evidence presented in London shows that it is unlikely that the AIDS epidemic began from a mistake among polio researchers in the 1950s. Claudio Basilico of the New York University School of Medicine stated at London's Royal Society on September 11, 2000 that there is no evidence of HIV in seven samples of the oral polio vaccine from 1950. The theory that the oral polio vaccine carried the chimpanzee virus that became AIDS is still controversial, as the vaccine scientists stated they never used chimpanzees as hosts. Hilary Koprowski of Thomas Jefferson University fears his life work on the oral polio vaccines will be forgotten amidst the polio-to-AIDS theories. Edward Hooper, author of The River, a book published last year that espouses the theory that contaminated polio vaccine transferred HIV from chimpanzees, continues to believe his theory. Even after tests of the seven samples revealed no evidence of HIV or SIV, Hooper says that other batches of polio vaccine could have been used and destroyed. Hooper explains that he is sticking to his hypothesis because he does not believe the more widely accepted "direct-transfer" or "cut-hunter" theory, in which an African hunter, who may have had an open wound, was infected with a monkey's blood and then transmitted the virus to other humans via sexual contact. (Washington Post (, 09/12/00; p.A23; Reid, T.R.)

Drug Use and Unsafe Sex High Among Gay Men at Circuit Parties

A study from Dr. Grant Colfax, director in clinical studies HIV research in the San Francisco Department of Public Health, shows that American gay men who attend dance events known as circuit parties frequently engage in drug use and unsafe sex there, leading to a high risk of contracting HIV. Colfax and colleagues studied 300 gay and bisexual men, comparing their drug habits and sexual practices at a recent circuit party to a weekend without a circuit party. Of the party-goers, nearly 30 percent of those with HIV and 10 percent of those who were HIV-negative had unsafe anal sex and did not know their partners' HIV status. Colfax, who reported his findings at the 13th International AIDS Conference in July, stressed that not all men at circuit parties participate in unsafe behavior. (Reuters Health Information Services (, 09/08/00; Mozes, Alan)

Estrogen Creams Could Help Protect Some Women Against HIV

Dr. Stephen Smith of the Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center in New York reported at the meeting of the Infectious Diseases Society of America that topical estrogen creams could prevent heterosexual HIV transmission in women taking progestin-only contraceptive pills. Smith explained that women using Depo-Provera or other progestin-only contraceptives are estrogen-deficient and studies have shown they are two to three times more likely to contract HIV than women not using the contraceptives. He noted that estrogen has a lower pH, which viruses do not like. Smith and colleagues studied macaque monkeys with their ovaries removed, treating half with estrogen and half with progesterone, and the early results indicate that the estrogen-treated monkeys were protected against HIV infection. (Reuters Health Information Services (, 09/11/00)


Rare Bone Disorder Found in HIV Patients

Researchers from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) have found that a bone disorder called osteo necrosis is disproportionately affecting people with HIV. They are unsure what is causing the bone destruction and why it is only being seen now. The disorder, which leads to bone death from lack of blood supply, is affecting the hip bones among people with HIV. Dr. Joseph Kovacs believes the prevalence of the disorder will grow. The researchers -- who presented their findings at a meeting of the Infectious Diseases Society of America in New Orleans -- said that although the condition was initially thought to be related to HIV drugs, this association has not yet been proven. Kovacs first detected osteo necrosis among HIV patients in May of 1999, after performing magnetic resonance imaging tests to identify the bone problem. A study of 339 HIV-infected individuals at NIH showed that 4.4 percent had avascular necrosis in at least one hip. None of the 118 HIV-negative volunteers had the bone disorder. (New York Times (, 09/09/00; p.A10; Altman, Lawrence K.)

AIDS Overwhelms Caribbean Isles

In Trinidad, and most of the Caribbean, AIDS carries a stigma so great few people openly admit they are infected with HIV. Jemma Taylor felt the stigma, but decided that she needed to end the silence in Trinidad, where a lack of funding and fear of losing tourists keeps the disease quiet. An international AIDS conference being held in Barbados next month aims to shed light on the spread of HIV in the Caribbean. According to Peggy McEvoy, the Caribbean leader for the UNAIDS organization co-sponsoring the conference, official statistics show that 360,000 people in the region have HIV; however, experts believe the number is much higher, around 500,000. Poverty, social norms, early sexual experiences, multiple partners, gay discrimination, and religion are all factors surrounding the epidemic in this area. Most of the region's governments have little money to work with. Indeed, the annual budget for Trinidad's National AIDS program is only $100,000, most of which is used for pamphlets to educate parents about their children's sexuality. (Detroit News Online (, 08/27/00; Perry, Dan)

Highly Active Antiretroviral Treatment May Cause Curly Hair

Researchers from Belgium, led by Dr. Robert Colebunders of the Institute of Tropical Medicine in Antwerp, have found that long-term use of highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) can result in curly hair. The researchers write in the Archives of Dermatology (2000;136:1064-1065) that a 48-year-old truck driver diagnosed with HIV in 1991 had hair that went from straight to curly after two years of HAART. The patient had undetectable viral load during the hair changes. The scientists, who note that other hair changes during HIV-1 infection have previously been reported, suggest that the curly hair could be the result of protease inhibition of CRABP-1. (Reuters Health Information Services (, 08/29/00)

Glaxo Plays Down Fears Over Ziagen

Amid its planning for the 2000 European launch of Trizivir, a new AIDS drug that contains Ziagen, Glaxo Wellcome acknowledged on Sunday that Ziagen has caused adverse reactions -- including fever and vomiting -- in roughly 4 percent of patients. The firm said it believes, though, that physicians in the AIDS field have been aware of the potential adverse events. Generating 159 million pounds since it was launched in the United States and Europe in 1999, Ziagen has also caused hypersensitive reactions in some AIDS patients that have resulted in death; however, the exact number of fatalities from the treatment was not disclosed. Glaxo estimates that approximately two people out of every 10,000 have experienced problems with the drug. The company said it is sending out new warnings to physicians, although it rejected allegations that the new concerns about the treatment prompted its recent letter. "We regularly write to both doctors and those in the HIV care area to tell them about the incidence rate for when they are prescribing Ziagen," the company explained. Despite the fears, Glaxo plans to roll out its new drug -- which combines Ziagen, Epivir, and Retrovir -- in Europe and the United States by the year's end. (Financial Times (, 08/21/00; p. 18; Kibazo, Joel)

HIV-Suppressing Drugs May Cause Impotence

A new study from Dr. R. Colebunders of the Institute of Tropical Medicine in Antwerp, Belgium, shows that protease inhibitors could lead to sexual dysfunction in some HIV-infected individuals. The survey of over 1,000 European adults with HIV found that 48 percent of the men and women taking protease inhibitors reported a drop in sexual interest, versus 32 percent of patients taking other medications. In addition, 44 percent of the male protease inhibitor users reported a reduction in sexual potency, compared to 27 percent of males taking other drugs. Colebunders noted that further research is needed to determine if use of protease inhibitors is a cause of these individuals' sexual dysfunction. The research was reported at the 13th International AIDS Conference, held earlier this summer in Durban, South Africa. (Reuters Health Information Services ( 09/04/00; Mundell, E.J.)

Saliva Useful for Monitoring Indinavir Levels in HIV-Infected Patients

German researchers led by Dr. Uwe Wintergerst of University Children's Hospital in Munich have found that HIV-infected patients treated with indinavir have drug concentrations in saliva similar to plasma levels. Therefore, saliva could be used to monitor the drug and study its antiviral efficacy. Samples of blood and saliva were taken every hour for four hours from 10 HIV-infected patients treated with antiretrovirals including indinavir. The researchers report in the September issue of Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy (2000;44:2572-2574) that this technique could be modified to measure nevirapine as well. (Reuters Health Information Services (, 08/31/00; Gale, Karla)

Processing Method to Remove HIV-1 May Make Semen Safe for Artificial Insemination

Japanese researchers, led by Dr. Hideji Hanabusa of Ogikubo Hospital in Tokyo, have found a way to separate HIV-1 from the semen of men infected with the virus, so it could be used for artificial insemination in uninfected women. The study involved semen samples from 12 HIV-1-infected men with hemophilia. To separate tthe virus from semen, the researchers tested continuous or discontinuous Percoll gradient centrifugation followed by the "swim-up" method and found that it reduced HIV RNA to undetectable levels. The findings are published in a recent issue of the journal AIDS (2000;14:1611-1616). (Reuters Health Information Services (, 09/07/00)

Ricky Ray Fund Begins Payments to AIDS Patients and Families

Sarasota Herald-Tribune: The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced Monday that it has started notifying approximately 670 AIDS patients or their families that they will receive $100,000 checks under the Ricky Ray Hemophilia Relief Fund. The act was passed in 1998 to compensate patients with blood-clotting disorders who contracted HIV from tainted blood products used between 1982 and 1987. Last year, President Clinton convinced Congress to give $75 million to the fund, and the administration is seeking the remainder of the $750 million program. The relief fund was named after a Sarasota, Florida, teenager who died from AIDS in 1992. (Newscoast (, 08/29/00) P. A4; Zaloudek, Mark)

Highly Active Antiretroviral Therapy Adherence Better in Women Than in Men

A prospective study from Dr. Bernardino Roca of Hospital General in Castellon, Spain, shows that women are more likely than men to adhere to highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART). A study of 65 HIV-positive subjects who stopped previous antiretroviral treatment due to suboptimal efficacy or side effects showed that 67 percent of the women adhered to the therapy, but only 38 percent of the men did, after follow-ups every three months for a year. A total of 11 percent of the participants stopped the therapy because of side effects. The research is published in a recent issue of the Journal of Infection (2000;41:50-54). (Reuters Health Information Services (, 09/11/00)

All articles abstracted by the National Prevention Information Network (NPIN), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Back to the October 2000 Issue of Body Positive Magazine.

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This article was provided by Body Positive. It is a part of the publication Body Positive.
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