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February 28, 2002

Next-Day Coverage of Retrovirus 2002

All this week, The Body provides extensive next-day coverage of the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections, currently taking place in Seattle. We're proud to have ten of the top HIV specialists covering this important conference. Selected highlights are below.

Two new types of anti-HIV drugs under development are showing some promise: "entry inhibitors" (which prevent HIV from invading CD4+ cells) and "integrase inhibitors" (which prevent HIV from using a specific enzyme it needs to take over cells). Drs. Paul E. Sax and Edwin DeJesus report on the latest information available for these developing drugs.

Still wondering when to start treatment? There's much less controversy than you might think. The straight-shooting Dr. Pablo Tebas takes the mystery out of what has become a cut-and-dry issue.

A massive nationwide study of 18,000 HIV patients broke down the effect that specific types of anti-HIV drug regimens tend to have on patients' cholesterol levels. It's not the most reliable study in the universe, notes Dr. Pablo Tebas, but it shows that a huge number of patients on HAART have a much higher risk of developing cardiovascular problems than those who are not.

Early clinical trials of tipranavir have shown it to be extremely successful in patients who have failed with multiple protease inhibitors. Though the findings are very preliminary, they're good news for people who are resistant to current protease inhibitors, Dr. Andrew T. Pavia reports.

The Latest Numbers: More HIV+ Americans

The number of people in the U.S. with HIV rose by 50,000 over the last 12 months, according to estimates from the Centers for Disease Control.

NIH Takes Over U.S. Vaccine Research

The U.S. Department of Defense announced it will shift oversight of its HIV research program to the National Institutes of Health, effectively combining the two departments' efforts to develop HIV vaccines and other forms of treatment. The move comes one month after a prominent HIV researcher tore into the government, accusing it of wasting money, time and energy by essentially running two competing efforts to develop the same HIV vaccine.

50% of HIV-Positive Don't Know or Aren't Treated

As if you needed another sign that HIV education still has a very, very long way to go in this country: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced this week that half of those living with HIV in the U.S. either have no idea they are infected or aren't taking anti-HIV medications that could keep them healthy indefinitely.

Primary HIV Infection: The Best Time to Strike?

Researchers and treatment advocates are still investigating the possibility of hitting HIV before it even takes over the body's immune system. Primary HIV infection -- those first few weeks when HIV has entered someone's system, but the body hasn't yet begun to develop antibodies against it -- may turn out to be the best time to eradicate the virus from the body with antiretroviral therapy. For more on this fascinating new development in the fight against HIV, read this editorial from Research Initiative/Treatment Action!

For a wide range of information on primary HIV infection, including a fact sheet on diagnosis and testing, browse through the Winter 2002 edition of Research Initiative/Treatment Action!

Experts Say: Microbicides Save Lives

Microbicides can save the lives of 2.5 million people -- most of them women -- over the next three years, according to a prominent team of organizations. The organizations sponsored a set of expert think tanks; each was asked to determine how much of an impact microbicides could have on the spread of HIV, and on the abilities of women to protect themselves from the virus. Their verdict: A huge one.

Condoms and Prisons DO Mix

Despite widespread controversy about distributing condoms in prisons, it's caused very few problems at several prisons and jail systems throughout the country. Prison officials and many lawmakers have steadfastly maintained that inmates would use the condoms as weapons -- or worse, that handing out condoms would make it seem like prisons were condoning sex (which is technically illegal). The fact is, though, that we're way behind the curve: Canada and Europe have been successfully distributing condoms to inmates for years.

Jesse Helms' HIV Mea Culpa

Too little, too late? Retiring senator Jesse Helms, long one of the government's most bitter enemies of anything having to do with HIV prevention or gay men, has recently stated that he is "ashamed that I've done so little" to fight HIV/AIDS. Not that the 80-year-old senator plans to do anything about it now, but hey, at least he said he's sorry!

Vulvar Cancer Risk Greater for HIV+ Women

HIV-positive women are six times more likely to develop vulvar cancer than HIV-negative women, a recent study has found. More on these results, from HEPP News.

Outstanding Women, Outstanding Artists

Joyce McDonald, a 51-year-old survivor of AIDS and hepatitis C, turned a 25-year struggle with drugs, abuse and prostitution into an inspiring story of redemption and activism. Joyce's recovery testifies to the power of art in healing, yet she is just one of the many amazing women whose artworks are supported and archived by Visual AIDS. In our online gallery, "The Women of Visual AIDS," we proudly pay tribute to these extraordinary women and this tremendous organization.

New Dosing Regimen for APV/RTV

The FDA has approved a new dosing regimen for the combination therapy of amprenavir and ritonavir. STEP Ezine provides more details.

CORRECTION: Cocaine and HIV Progression

In last week's update, we mentioned a study on mice that revealed a possible link between cocaine use and HIV progression. The Web address we provided to that article was incorrect; the proper address is here.

Web Highlights
A Selection of the Top HIV/AIDS Stories From Across the Internet

Can AIDS Be Stopped?
A broad look at the worldwide AIDS crisis and the high costs of treatment
From The New York Review of Books (March 14, 2002)

New Types of AIDS Drugs Show Promise in Tests
A closer look at "entry inhibitors" and "integrase inhibitors"
From Seattle Times (February 26, 2002)

Mandela Presents His Concerns About AIDS Policy to ANC Committee
The war of words between Nelson Mandela and South Africa's Thabo Mbeki heats up
From British Medical Journal (February 23, 2002)

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