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April 2001

The Newsline section recalls the pioneering HIV/AIDS publication of the same name produced by the People with AIDS Coalition of New York (PWAC-NY).

Insulin May Help AIDS Patient Gain Weight

A 47-year-old AIDS patient gained 15 pounds after six months of being treated with insulin injections, according to a new report. Researchers from the University of Arizona College of Medicine and the VA Medical Center in Phoenix found that the man, who had lost 20 pounds and was increasingly fatigued despite the fact that he was receiving antiviral drugs and receiving B12 and testosterone injections, weighed 140 pounds after three months of daily insulin shots and 147 pounds after six months. In addition, the patient's CD4 cell count rose while he received the insulin; his CD4 cell count dropped after the shots stopped. The researchers report in AIDS Patient Care and STDs (2000;14:575-579) that the patient reported no adverse effects from the insulin and he asked to resume treatment with the drug because he felt much better. (Reuters Health Information Services (, 12/12/00)

Quest, Stanford Find Antiviral Resistant HIV

Researchers at Quest Diagnostics and the Stanford University School of Medicine have identified an HIV-1 strain that has reduced susceptibility to reverse transcriptase inhibitors. Quest noted that the discovery of this new mutation will provide doctors with information to better select HIV-1 treatments for their patients. The company is using the findings, which are published in the November issue of the Journal of Virology (2000;74:10707-10713), to report lab results for its HIV-1 genotyping test. (Reuters (, 12/12/00)

Merck Confidence in AIDS Vaccine Encourages Advocacy Groups

The research head for Merck, the nation's second-leading drug maker, said Tuesday that he was encouraged by ongoing early-stage human HIV vaccine studies at the company. Dr. Edward Scolnick told Wall Street analysts that Merck's vaccine candidates use specific HIV genes that are common to the virus' many strains, stimulating antibodies to work against the virus and prompting cellular immune-system cells to attack. The International AIDS Vaccine Initiative's Wayne Koff noted that animal studies reported by Merck in October -- in which monkeys were given a gene-based vaccine containing SIV and HIV DNA -- were also promising, showing that the vaccine stopped the animals from developing symptoms of HIV infection, although it did not keep them from contracting the disease. Meanwhile, Greg Gonsalves of the Treatment Action Group praised Merck's researchers and history of designing AIDS treatments; however, he said he would like to see more details for the vaccine. (Reuters ( (12/12/00); Michaud, Chris; Pierson, Ransdell)


Gathering Focuses on AIDS Awareness; Black Churches' Support Key, Attendees Say

Participants at an AIDS conference in Houston said that prevention awareness is slowly taking hold among African Americans in the city and more religious leaders have joined in the fight against AIDS. Roy Delesbore, a health program specialist with the Texas Department of Health, noted that while some religious leaders have been hesitant to discuss the disease, that is starting to change, although he said more religious leaders could help. Approximately 300 people attended the conference, which was sponsored by Houston's Health and Human Services Department and City Councilman Jew Don Boney Jr. Boney reported that in the year since Houston Mayor Lee Brown declared an AIDS state of emergency, more than 2,500 new HIV cases have been reported in the city. Sixty-one percent of those cases were among African Americans, he said, and 78 percent of the cases among 13- to 19-year-olds were in African-American females. (Houston Chronicle ( (12/10/00) P. A40; Asher, Ed)

Assertive Girls More Likely to Insist on Condoms

Researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Emory University in Atlanta recently reported that consistent condom use may rely on how assertive a girl is and how well she can negotiate. To determine the factors associated with consistent condom use, the authors studied more than 500 sexually active African-American females between the ages of 14 and 18. The researchers reported at the National STD Prevention Conference in Milwaukee that girls who had little or no fear of negative reactions from their partners were more than two times as likely to use the prophylactics consistently. In addition, compared to girls with older partners, those with partners of similar age were also more likely to use condoms regularly. (Reuters Health Information Services (, 12/08/00)

Health Community Moves to Protect Fiscal 2001 Funding

The Coalition for Health Funding -- which represents organizations including the American Lung Association, the American Public Health Association, and the American Academy of Pediatrics -- is lobbying Congress and the White House to not give up on a controversial funding bill for the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education. While some House Republicans have suggested that Congress should just continue funding at last year's levels, the coalition's Marcia Mabee notes that doing so would mean that many key programs would lose. Mabee said the greatest single loss would be the elimination of a $2.7 billion boost for the National Institutes of Health, while the Centers for Disease Control would not get an $886 million increase that includes funds dedicated to HIV prevention efforts, immunization programs, and infectious diseases. (Reuters Health Information Services (, 12/08/00)

Teens Don't Talk Sex with Doctors; Physicians Urged to Initiate Discussions

A new survey of more than 15,000 high school students from around the United States indicates that only 43 percent of teenage girls and 26 percent of teenage boys discuss pregnancy prevention or sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) with their doctors during routine exams. "Health care providers are missing very important opportunities," notes the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Dr. Judith Wasserheit. The CDC's survey also found that older teens and those who are sexually experienced are more likely to have discussed STDs and/or pregnancy with their physicians, compared to younger teens or those who have not yet had sex. The study was discussed Wednesday at the CDC and American Social Health Association's National STD Prevention Conference in Milwaukee. Dr. Sheldon Wasserman, a gynecologist in Milwaukee and a speaker at the conference, says he makes it a point to discuss sex with each of his teen patients, and he had found that most are relieved to have the subject brought up. "They want you to" begin the discussion, he notes. "They're there for a reason." (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel ( (12/07/00) P. 3B; Marchione, Marilynn)

18 Percent of Women in U.S. Carry Cervical Cancer Virus

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported this week that almost 18 percent of women in the United States and 8 percent of American men carry the human papillomavirus (HPV). More than 95 percent of cervical cancer cases are caused by the virus, and the HPV-16 strain causes half of those cases. According to the research, the highest rates of HPV-16 infection were among African-American women between the ages of 20 and 29. In all, about 12.5 percent of whites and 19.1 percent of African Americans carry HPV-16. Dr. Judith Wasserheit, director of the STD Prevention Program at the CDC, said that HPV is the most common sexually transmitted disease among young people who are sexually active. (Deseret News ( (12/07/00) P. A9)

AIDS Drugs for Africa

The AIDS epidemic in Africa faces many obstacles, but the chief one is finding affordable antiretroviral drugs to prevent HIV transmission to newborns and to treat those already infected. Most developed nations now routinely offer antiviral therapies to HIV-infected mothers; however, there are few clinics in Africa that can offer the drugs to these women. Cost is a determining factor, as the drugs often cost more than many Africans' salaries. Five companies have agreed to cut their drug prices to Africa by 80 percent, but that alone will not be a solution. According to David Bloom, a professor at Harvard University School of Public Health, AIDS is tied into poverty and a lack of health infrastructure. Lower drug costs must be accompanied by testing to measure the drugs' success in each patient. Rampant poverty in South Africa makes the drug AZT unattainable. With the help of a discounted price, AZT costs 40 cents for each 100-milligram pill. Nevirapine is another drug that offers hope to prevent HIV transmission to infants. It requires only three doses and has been shown to reduce transmission to 14 percent for a trial of 652 pregnant women. AZT, by contrast, requires months of treatment. South Africa has not accepted an offer of nevirapine from Boehringer Ingelheim, as Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang said they do not believe the only answer to AIDS is antiretroviral therapy. The government's plan to prevent HIV is to treat AIDS-related infections, and form home-based care, she said. Tshabalala-Msimang noted that even an 80 percent reduction in price would still not be affordable for the 4.2 million HIV-infected individuals in South Africa. If the issue of price is ever overcome, patients would then face the need for resistance testing. (Scientific American ( (11/00) Vol. 283, No. 5, P. 98; Ezzell, Carol)

Travel Risk of HBV

Hepatitis B virus (HBV) is a particular threat to unaware international travelers. A new study done by researchers at the University of Zurich Institute of Social and Preventive Medicine found that almost 75 percent of the 9,000 survey participants exhibited risk factors for contracting HBV. However, only about half knew the virus' routes of transmission, and only 17 percent had been vaccinated against HBV. Travelers should be more aware of the potential risks of infection through deliberate careless behavior and also involuntarily, through exposure to contaminated medical equipment or blood because of automobile accidents or unintentional injuries. (Journal of the American Medical Association ( (12/13/00) Vol. 284, No. 22, P. 2863)

Survey Shows Sex Practices of Boys

An article published in the current issue of Family Planning Perspectives discusses facts found regarding the promiscuity of adolescent males and the risk factors for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). The national survey reveals the statistics related to the types of sexual activities being pursued by teenaged boys, including oral and anal sex. Among other things, the report brought to light the confusing perceptions of what activities teenagers consider is not sex or is abstinence. "While 55 percent of teenage males say they've had vaginal sex, two-thirds have had experiences with noncoital behaviors like oral sex, anal sex, or masturbation by a female," says Freya L. Sonenstein, director of the Population Studies Center at the Urban Institute and one of the study's authors. "These behaviors put kids at risk of getting sexually transmitted diseases, which compromise their health." Linda Alexander, the president of the American Social Health Association, notes there is growing concern about STDs, as evidenced by the 400,000 hits her group's Web site for teenagers,, receives each month. The results, Alexander and others say, indicate that parents and clinicians should take a broad view of sexual activity when discussing sex with young people. Indeed, Ward Cates, the head of the Family Health Institute and former director of the Division of STDs at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, notes that "the most important message of these findings is to encourage communication about the whole range of sexual behavior, and to get away from the dichotomy we've set up between sex and abstinence, the view that sex is vaginal intercourse and abstinence is nothing more than holding hands." (New York Times ( (12/19/00) P. A18; Lewin, Tamar)

Embattled Law Puts Syringes on Shelves

Starting January 1, injection drug users in New York will be allowed to purchase syringes without a prescription. Previously, new syringes were only available with a prescription, which made them expensive on the black market and resulted in needle sharing among addicts. The new law is a public health effort intended to reduce needle sharing and to stem the spread of blood-borne diseases, including HIV and hepatitis C. New York State Assemblyman Richard Gottfried (D-Manhattan), who has pushed for the law for over a decade, estimated that the HIV epidemic would be only half what it is were it not for the practice of needle sharing. "We are talking about tens of thousands of lives," he said. According to supporters of the new measure, the success of similar programs in other states was critical to the passage of the New York bill. After a needle law was adopted in Connecticut, needle sharing dropped by 50 percent and HIV infections fell by 33 percent in 1992 and 1993. Under the new measure, individuals will be able to buy up to 10 needles at a time from state-registered pharmacies, healthcare facilities, and professionals. The needles will be packaged with information about the risks of injection drug use, the correct ways to dispose of needles, and the possibilities of treating drug abuse and HIV infection. (Albany Times-Union Online ( (12/19/00); Swearingen, Jacquelyn)

Speaking Out to Make AIDS an Issue of Color

In an interview with the New York Times, Phill Wilson, the executive director of the African American AIDS Policy and Training Institute at the University of Southern California, discusses AIDS in the African-American community. Wilson notes, "Let's be clear, when you hear about women and AIDS or babies with AIDS or now even men who sleep with men who have AIDS, whether it's stated or not, those are overwhelmingly black women, black babies, and black men." Statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicate that AIDS is the number one cause of death among African-American men between the ages of 18 and 44 and the number two cause of death for African-American women in that age group. In addition, more than 50 percent of the new HIV infections reported in the United States in 1999-2000 were among African Americans. Wilson explains that, in recent years, there have been renewed efforts to fight AIDS in the African-American community, led by the Congressional Black Caucus, the NAACP, Jesse Jackson and the Rainbow Coalition, and others. He also notes, in response to a question about the value of widespread HIV screening, that testing "is a portal to care and treatment" and that "too many African Americans don't know their [HIV] status." (New York Times ( (12/19/00) P. D7; Villarosa, Linda)

Back to the April 2001 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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