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April 18, 2007

In This Update:
  • Living With HIV
  • HIV in the News
  • Pregnancy & HIV
  • HIV Transmission & Other STDs
  • HIV Outside the U.S.

    Camps Offer Children Affected by HIV a Summertime Retreat, Often for Free
    Do you know a child whose life has been touched by HIV? Enrollment is now open at summer camps for children and teen-agers who are HIV positive, have lost family members to HIV or have HIV-positive relatives. Check out this list of camps for HIV-affected children in the United States and Canada; many are free, and some even invite adult relatives of the children.

    U.S. Waiting Lists for HIV Meds Continue to Grow (PDF)
    Nearly 600 people with HIV in Alaska, Montana, Puerto Rico and South Carolina are waiting to receive HIV medication through the AIDS Drug Assistance Program, the National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors (NASTAD) reports. According to the report, the number of people on waiting lists is likely to keep growing. (It's already up by 269 people since last September.) The current level of federal funding, NASTAD says, falls $232 million short of what is needed to provide treatment to poor, uninsured and underinsured HIVers in the United States.



    Abstinence-Only Education Doesn't Seem to Make a Difference, U.S. Government-Backed Study Finds
    Abstinence-only education appears to have absolutely no impact on a teen-ager's sex life, according to a study authorized by the U.S. Congress back in 1997, when Republicans were still in control of the legislature. The study followed 2,000 students as they progressed from elementary or middle school to high school; half of the students received abstinence-only education. At the end of the study, an equal percentage of kids in both groups (49%) were still abstinent. Among kids who were sexually active, condom usage rates were the same whether they received abstinence education or not. The same went for unprotected sex: Half of the sexually active kids said they'd had sex without a condom at least once, regardless of the type of sex education they received.

    Bad Vibrations? Greenpeace Finds "Hazardous" Chemicals in Sex Toys
    Is nothing sacred? We know sex can be a risky business, but now an environmental activist group claims that even sex toys could be a health risk. A Greenpeace Netherlands study of several different dildos, vibrators and other sex toys revealed "very high concentrations" of phthalates, chemicals used to make plastic flexible. In the European Union, several phthalates have been banned from use in children's toys, but U.S. federal agencies say they're safe in small quantities. No matter who's right about phthalates, the Greenpeace report highlights a need for better monitoring of the multimillion-dollar sex toy industry. (Web highlight from Greenpeace UK)

    The Greenpeace Netherlands sex toy investigation was undertaken after the Durex 2005 Global Sex Survey revealed that three million Dutch people said they owned a sex toy. The survey also found that 45 percent of Americans -- and 23 percent of people worldwide -- have used a vibrator. The survey is packed with interesting findings.



    Studies Raise Possible Long-Term Concern for Infants Exposed to Retrovir in Womb
    New study results have researchers scratching their heads over the possible long-term effects of Retrovir (zidovudine, AZT) use during pregnancy. The researchers aren't telling HIV-positive pregnant women to stop taking meds. However, based on results from a set of new studies, they are suggesting that an eye be kept on children who were exposed to Retrovir (zidovudine, AZT) in the womb.
    (Web highlight from

    The April/May 2007 edition of the medical journal Environmental and Molecular Mutagenesis is devoted to the use of nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NRTIs), such as Retrovir, during pregnancy. To read the special issue, which contains the studies mentioned above, click here.



    Survey Shows Vulnerability to HIV for Black Women in Rural South
    Powerlessness and ignorance conspire to put many black women in the southern United States at risk for HIV, according to a survey. The survey on attitudes about HIV among African-American women in the Mississippi Delta found that more than 70 percent of respondents reported having causal sex without using condoms. Surprisingly, those with greater awareness of HIV were about as likely to have unprotected sex as women who were less knowledgeable, suggesting that even women who understand how HIV is transmitted haven't been able to protect themselves. "They worry about abuse if they ask the man to use a condom," explains Betty Jordan, an HIV-positive AIDS educator in the Delta. "Or they're afraid he'll leave."

    Drug Resistance: It's Not Just for HIV
    At least a quarter of all gonorrhea infections in San Francisco, Philadelphia and Honolulu are resistant to standard treatment, according to a survey from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). As a result, the CDC is now recommending that doctors begin treating gonorrhea with a different class of drugs that must be injected. The switch highlights a dangerous situation for gonorrhea treatment: Despite growing resistance, there are no new gonorrhea meds in development, a CDC spokesperson noted.



    Despite Progress, Millions in Developing Countries Still Don't Get HIV Meds, Report Finds
    Although two million HIV-positive people in developing countries are now receiving the medications they need, another five million people who need HIV meds still have no access to treatment, according to a new report by UNAIDS, UNICEF and the World Health Organization. The report also warned that mother-to-child HIV transmission rates remain high in many developing countries, and that only 15 percent of children in need of HIV medications can get them, leading to hundreds of thousands of preventable deaths.

    Click here to read a PDF of the full report, which outlines the progress that has been made and the challenges that lie ahead as the United Nations and other groups strive to provide universal access to HIV prevention and care by 2010.

    Many Africans Don't Realize Risks of Having Simultaneous Long-Term Relationships, Writer Says
    When Helen Epstein spent a week following an HIV outreach team in South Africa, she realized that no one -- not even people who were dying from HIV -- said the word "AIDS." Due to the incredible stigma attached to HIV, many southern Africans assume that people get HIV only if they're highly promiscuous. However, as Epstein points out, it's a cultural norm in that part of the world to have long-term sexual relationships with more than one person at a time. Because they don't realize the risks of this lifestyle, "This pattern ... serves as a kind of 'superhighway' for the spread of HIV," Epstein says.

    Also Worth Noting

    Profiles in Courage
    Inspiring Stories From HIV-Positive Women

    Gracia Violeta Ross Quiroga
    Gracia Violeta Ross Quiroga is a 30-year-old woman from La Paz, Bolivia. A rape survivor who was diagnosed with HIV in 2000, she quickly became an HIV activist and co-founded Bolivia's first organization for people with HIV. It was a long road from testing positive to becoming a global HIV activist, but now she has found peace with her HIV status and works tirelessly to raise awareness of the epidemic in South America.

    The Body recently interviewed Gracia for its new HIV/AIDS Resource Center for Women. Click here to download an MP3 podcast of her story, or click here to read the full transcript.

    Connect With Others
    t The Body's Bulletin Boards

    Are Support Groups Really That Helpful?
    (A recent post from the
    "Living With HIV" board)

    "I've always kept a positive outlook, and dealt with my treatment myself. I don't tell anyone who doesn't need to know that I am HIV positive. Besides, I've never wanted to be identified as 'that POZ guy.' I wanted people to know me by my character, humor and frequent spontaneity. ... Year 10 [of living with HIV] looms above me. ... I have isolated myself in such a way that there is no one to turn to for support. ... Silence may not equal physical death in my case, but it certainly feels like emotional death. I was thinking about going to a local HIV support group. I live in a large city (Dallas, Texas) and I know there are groups out there, but I've been leary of them, and I'm not sure why. If anyone could offer their opinion or talk about their experiences with an HIV support group, that would be great."

    -- dreamdzign

    Click here to join this discussion thread, or to start your own!