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May 9, 2007

In This Update
  • New Podcast Series: This Positive Life
  • Living With HIV
  • HIV Treatment & Complications
  • HIV in the News
  • HIV Outside the U.S.

    A Miraculous Life: HIV "Elite Controller" Shares Her Story
    Imagine living with HIV for 15 years and maintaining an undetectable viral load and a CD4 count around 2,000 -- without ever taking a single HIV med. Few people are part of this very small (and very fortunate) group of HIVers -- but Loreen Willenberg is one of them. What makes her so special? Doctors aren't quite sure, but if they can figure it out, it could forever change the way we fight HIV. Loreen participates in several studies in which researchers are trying to understand what makes these so-called "elite controllers" tick. "I don't have to participate, but you know what? It's necessary," she says. "It's a personal purpose. If there's any way I can help, I'm all about that." In this intimate interview with The Body (both a podcast and a full transcript are available), Loreen tells the story of her life as a "partially positive" HIV advocate.

    The Body is honored to present this one-on-one interview with Loreen. It's a part of our HIV/AIDS Resource Center for Women, and it's also the first in a new podcast series called This Positive Life, in which people with HIV from across the globe share their personal stories. Be sure to visit The Body regularly for new installments of This Positive Life.



    A Black, Gay, Magnetic Couple Talks About Love and Acceptance
    "The way I see it, we're all positive," says Tadhi Coulter, who is black, gay and HIV negative. "I happen to love Tim. He's my partner, and the fact that he's HIV positive, that's something that we work through." In this online broadcast of the public radio program News & Notes, Coulter and his partner Tim Daniels discuss how they draw strength from each other and demand acceptance and respect from the outside world.

    "Reach Out and Teach Others": An African-American Woman With HIV Speaks Out
    Konya Baylis was 23 years old and two months pregnant with her second child when she tested positive for HIV. "My family treated me differently when I told them. I broke down ... I was isolating myself and I was very depressed," she says. Then a local HIV peer advocate visited her home, and started Konya on the road to self-acceptance and advocacy. Konya still struggles with HIV stigma and ignorance, but she battles it by speaking to church groups and schools about safer sex and HIV. Her message for young, HIV-positive women? "Stay strong, try to cope, reach out and teach others. You are not alone."

    Giving HIV-Positive Youths a Safe Place for Support and Services
    "An HIV diagnosis is not a death sentence, and youth do not need to fear that they have lost their dreams," writes nurse practitioner Michael D'Arata. Half of all new HIV infections in the United States are among people ages 15 to 24, but HIV services often aren't geared toward young people. But there are simple steps that HIV service providers can take to provide better support for young HIVers. For example, D'Arata's youth clinic in downtown Oakland, Calif., offers a "flop room" instead of a waiting room, where DVDs, computer access and free pizza create a relaxed, nurturing environment.



    Women Respond Better Than Men to HIV Meds, Study Finds
    Women do better on HIV therapy than men, according to the results of a large Spanish study. Researchers found that women on treatment had higher CD4 counts and lower viral loads throughout the yearlong trial. The study authors say the differences between genders could not be explained by different adherence to medications; the women's immune systems simply appeared to respond better to the drugs. Women were also at less risk for AIDS-related illness and death during the study, but were more likely to have side effects from the HIV meds. (Web highlight from

    Click here to read the abstract of this study, which was published in the April 23 edition of the medical journal AIDS.

    HIV Meds May Be Less Effective in African Americans, Study Suggests
    Research has repeatedly shown that African Americans with HIV don't do as well on treatment as whites, but it's still not clear why that is. A new study suggests that biological differences, not just social inequalities, may be at least partly to blame. Researchers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center compared white and African-American HIVers who began treatment; they found that African Americans were much less likely than whites to reach a viral load below 400, even though everybody received the same level of care. However, several possible non-biological factors weren't studied, like HIV medication adherence and the quality of the patient-doctor relationship, which may help explain the difference. (Web highlight from Reuters Health)

    Click here to view the abstract of this study, which was published in the April 1 issue of the Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes.

    No Imminent Epidemic of Heart Disease Among HIVers on Meds, Expert Says
    If you're HIV positive and on meds, you're not automatically in imminent danger of dropping dead from a heart attack, according to an expert on cardiovascular problems and HIV. In an editorial written in a prominent medical journal, Dr. James Stein acknowledges that new study findings link the use of protease inhibitors to a greater risk of heart attack. But Dr. Stein points out that even with the increased risk, the odds that a person taking protease inhibitors will have a heart attack is very low -- and other factors, like smoking or simply being a man, appear to play a much bigger role than protease inhibitors do. (Web highlight from

    Dr. Stein's editorial appears in the April 26 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine. You can't read it without paying for it, but you can read an abstract of the study he wrote his editorial about. The study, part of an ongoing clinical trial known as D:A:D, found a small increase in heart attack risk among people taking protease inhibitors, but found no increased risk among people taking NNRTIs.

    Experimental CCR5 Inhibitor, PRO 140, Passes First Clinical Trial
    The United States is likely to soon approve maraviroc (brand name: Celsentri), the first drug in a new class of HIV meds known as CCR5 inhibitors. But maraviroc isn't the only CCR5 inhibitor in the development pipeline: Early research shows good prospects for a drug called PRO 140, which works similarly to maraviroc but must be injected rather than taken in pill form.

    For more details on the first clinical trial of PRO 140, read this press release.



    Former Head of Global AIDS Program Resigns in Sex Scandal
    After his name surfaced in an investigation into an alleged Washington, D.C., area prostitution ring, Randall Tobias, the former U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator appointed by President George W. Bush, resigned in late April from his new post in the U.S. Department of State. Tobias, a married father of four, was a staunch proponent of abstinence-only education and was responsible for enforcing a Bush administration policy to withhold funding from countries unless they signed a pledge against prostitution. In an interview, Tobias acknowledged using the D.C.-area escort service, but insisted he only did so "to have gals come over to the condo to give me a massage." (Web highlight from Reuters)

    Needless to say, the story of Tobias' resignation -- and the alleged prostitution ring he's linked to -- has been the fodder for plenty of jokes over the past couple of weeks. On May 2, fake-news anchorman Jon Stewart and his Daily Show correspondents got in on the action in a series of three segments, all of which are available online: first, Stewart breaks the story; second, Jason Jones offers his analysis; and third, Stewart reports on the defenders of escort services.

    U.S. Not Doing Enough to Fight HIV Within Its Borders, Report Says
    Is the United States doing enough to stem the spread of HIV within its own borders? According to a report released by the Open Society Institute, the answer is a resounding no. The United States spends more than $16 billion a year in the fight against HIV, yet each year for a decade has brought 40,000 new HIV infections in the United States, and half of all HIV-positive Americans who need treatment aren't receiving it, the report says. "It is time the United States develops what it asks of other nations ... combating AIDS: a national plan that provides a roadmap for concrete and equitable results," the report states.

    HIV Stigma Still at Large in New York City -- Even in Health Care System
    HIV stigma and discrimination are unfortunately still a part of everyday life, even in the U.S. cities that have been hardest hit by the HIV epidemic. A recent study in New York City found that 40 percent of HIVers who live in transitional housing say they've experienced discrimination when dealing with the health care system. The majority attributed the discrimination to their HIV-positive status; however, others cited reasons such as drug use, homelessness, race and ethnicity.

    HIV-Positive Man Gets Life Sentence for Seeking Sex With Minor
    A Dallas court has sentenced an HIV-positive man to life in prison for "attempting to entice" a 15-year-old boy to have sex with him. The man, Willie Atkins, wasn't imprisoned because he has HIV, but prosecutors did call attention to his status during the trial: Prosecuters alleged that Atkins had sex with dozens of young men without using condoms, and suggested that he never disclosed with his partners that he had HIV. Atkins got a life sentence because he had two previous felony convictions for unrelated crimes. (Web highlight from Associated Press)



    Clinton Foundation Secures Big Price Cuts for Second-Line Generics
    In a move that could have a huge impact on HIV treatment access in developing countries, the William J. Clinton Foundation has announced a deal with two Indian drug companies to sharply cut the price of key second-line HIV medications. Many of the meds on the list -- including generic versions of Kaletra (lopinavir/ritonavir) and combo pills containing Viread (tenofovir) -- are used as first-line drugs in wealthy countries, but until now haven't been readily available or affordable in poorer countries. (Web highlight from

    Brazilian President Breaks Patent on Sustiva
    After rejecting Merck's offer to sell Sustiva (efavirenz, Stocrin) at a discounted price in his country, Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has announced Brazil will break the drug's patent and produce a lower-cost, generic version. Silva's decision is being hotly contested by drug companies and the business world, but it also has many backers. AIDS Healthcare Foundation president Michael Weinstein hailed Silva's move as a "victory for AIDS [advocates] and patients everywhere and proof that drug companies will go down in defeat every time they place themselves in the way of justice for AIDS patients." Brazil has one of the largest HIV treatment programs in the world, providing free HIV meds to 180,000 people (75,000 of whom are using Sustiva).

    For more background on this story, click here.

    One in a Million: Portraits of the African HIV Epidemic
    Africans living with HIV refuse to play the stereotypical role of the helpless victim -- and journalist Stephanie Nolan is out to prove it. Her new book, 28: Stories of AIDS in Africa, goes beyond the mind-numbing statistics to tell the stories of 28 of the estimated 28 million Africans who are living with the virus. In an interview on the public radio show All Things Considered, Nolan describes how Africans, despite getting too little help from the rest of the world, are confronting the epidemic themselves. Click here to listen to the interview or read an excerpt from the book. (Web highlight from National Public Radio)

    Drug-Resistant HIV Transmission Is Falling Steadily in United Kingdom
    For years now, the rise of drug-resistant HIV has felt like an unstoppable tide. But the reality may be very different: New data from the United Kingdom show that, for the first time, the number of newly diagnosed HIVers with drug resistance is dropping rapidly and steadily, even while the number of newly infected people in the country is growing. (Web highlight from

    AIDS Activists Protest Thailand's Addition to U.S. Copyright Violator List
    Activists are ardently defending Thailand's right to produce generic versions of HIV medications, following the country's recent addition to the United States' list of copyright violators. Bearing signs declaring, "Evil USA, stop threatening access to treatment in Thailand," a group of about 30 protestors gathered outside the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok to show support for Thailand's decision to break the patents and produce generic versions of Kaletra (lopinavir/ritonavir) and Sustiva (efavirenz, Stocrin). Despite U.S. pressure, Thailand's government isn't backing down: The country's decision is "meant to allow those in need who can't afford the expensive drugs to have access to them," the health minister said, adding, "I insist that Thailand will continue with it for the benefits of the public."

    For more background on this story, click here.

    Also Worth Noting

    Visual AIDS
    Art From HIV-Positive Artists

    Image from the May 2007 Visual AIDS Web Gallery
    Untitled (North), 1993;
    Felix Gonzalez-Torres
    Visit the newly launched May 2007 Visual AIDS Web Gallery to view our latest collection of art by HIV-positive artists! This month's gallery, entitled "Eclipse," is curated by Laura Gilbert, an internationally exhibited artist in residence at El Taller Latino Americano arts complex in Manhattan.

    Get Involved
    AIDS Walk Season Has Arrived!

    Opportunities to step out and fight HIV are cropping up across the United States as spring settles in. Walks to raise funds for HIV research, treatment and prevention happen year-round, but many groups schedule these events when the weather is perfect to take a stroll (or a run) for a good cause. Check out this list of AIDS walks happening in more than 75 cities in the United States and Canada to find one near you. If nothing is planned in your own town, maybe reading about walks in other cities will inspire you to hold your own!

    Connect With Others
    t The Body's Bulletin Boards

    No Intimacy in Our Magnetic Relationship
    (A recent post from the
    "Living With HIV" board)

    "Since my diagnosis (nearly four years ago), I have had problems with physical intimacy. My partner of 15 years is still negative and we would like to keep it that way. Whenever it comes to being intimate (not even sex, really) I tense up. My partner doesn't have the same reservations, and things between us are becoming uncomfortable. At this point, we are only having sex about once a month (and I feel really uncomfortable the whole time). I don't think it is simply fear of passing on the virus, as I get tense even when he just wants to cuddle. ... Has anyone else gone through this and come out the other side relatively like they were pre-diagnosis? I'm afraid that this is going to result in the end of my relationship."

    -- pozMalcontent

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

    Any Other Pos Women Over 50 Out There?
    (A recent post from the
    "Women With HIV" board)

    "I would like to meet or talk to (and make friends with) any HIV-positive woman over 50. ... I know there are probably a lot of us, but they are all in hiding. Would be nice to become pals with someone in the same boat!"

    -- TRex

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