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July 16, 2007
In This Hot Topics:
  • Living With HIV
  • Understanding Your Labs
  • HIV Treatment & Complications
  • HIV Transmission & Testing
  • Strange but True
  •  LIVING WITH HIV

    Is HIV Inevitably Fatal?
    Do all HIVers eventually die from HIV, even if they are on treatment?


    I Was Just Diagnosed With HIV; How Can I Avoid Panic?
    I get tested for HIV annually, and this year the test came back positive. My first lab test showed my CD4 count is 298, which sounds awfully low considering I was recently infected. Now I'm in a complete panic. How do I keep it together?
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     UNDERSTANDING YOUR LABS

    Why is My CD4 Count Constantly Fluctuating?
    Since I was diagnosed with HIV in November 2006, my CD4 count has been constantly fluctuating: In January it was 348, then went up to 735 in March and down to 512 in May. I thought CD4 counts were supposed to stabilize, or at least show a discernable pattern. Should I be worried that my CD4 count has been so unpredictable?


    What's the Typical CD4 Count for a Person With a Viral Load of 50,000?
    I'm HIV positive and plan to begin HIV treatment soon. My CD4 count is 156 and my viral load is 50,000. I don't understand the relationship between these two numbers. Is it common for a person with a CD4 count near 150 to have a viral load close to mine?
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     HIV TREATMENT & COMPLICATIONS

    Are Sleeping Problems a Good Enough Reason to Switch HIV Meds?
    I've been taking Sustiva (efavirenz, Stocrin) and Truvada (tenofovir/FTC) for more than two years -- separately at first, but now in the combo pill Atripla (efavirenz/tenofovir/FTC). My viral load is undetectable and my CD4 count has risen to 570. However, I'm still not sleeping well on these meds. I'm a light sleeper to begin with, and it seems like the meds are just making it worse. Is this a good reason to consider switching meds? If so, what do I switch to?


    Should I Start HIV Meds Even Though My CD4 Count Is 750?
    I'm 54 years old, and I was diagnosed with HIV about 18 months ago. My CD4 count is 750 and my viral load is 20,000. My hospital says I don't have to start HIV meds until my CD4 count is 250, but I know that number isn't set in stone, and I've also read that viral load should be taken into consideration as well. What do you think?


    Should I Switch From Norvir to MK-0518 to Reduce High Lipids?
    I'm a 56-year-old man who's been living with HIV for 26 years. To lower my high cholesterol and triglyceride levels, my doctor wants me to switch from Norvir (ritonavir) to the experimental drug MK-0518 (raltegravir). I'm currently taking five HIV medications, plus various drugs to lower my cholesterol and blood pressure. Is switching to MK-0518 a good idea?


    Which Protease Inhibitors Can I Take if I'm Allergic to Sulfa Meds?
    I'm allergic to sulfa medications. For instance, I have had really bad reactions to drugs like Sustiva (efavirenz, Stocrin) and Bactrim (TMP/SMX, Septra). Which protease inhibitors are safe for me to take?
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     HIV TRANSMISSION & TESTING

    I Don't Believe That I'm HIV Negative
    Even though I've tested negative six times over the past two years, I still believe I have HIV. Maybe it's a rare strain? I have symptoms and I just know that I'm HIV positive. What should I do?


    Are Private HIV Testing Centers Reliable?
    I performed oral sex on a female sex worker, and now I am worried that I might have gotten HIV or another sexually transmitted disease. Instead of worrying myself to death over it, I've decided to get tested. Are the private medical testing centers that we have in the United States reliable? If I send a sample of my blood to a center that's located in another state, will I still get accurate results?


    Can Vaseline Ruin Latex Condoms?
    Here in Germany many sex workers use Vaseline (or petroleum jelly) as a lubricant. A friend of mine says that HIV can pass through latex condoms if you use Vaseline, even if the latex doesn't actually tear. Is that true?


    Mutual Masturbation in a Magnetic Couple
    I recently learned that a guy I'm dating is HIV positive. I'm terrified of catching HIV, but I'm trying to overcome my fears. All we've done so far is kiss and masturbate together. Is there any risk of transmitting HIV that way?
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     STRANGE BUT TRUE

    Why Do You Answer Such Silly Questions?
    Dr. Bob: Many of the questions you answer are absurd, like a recent question about catching HIV by trying on a swimsuit. Why do you answer questions that anyone with a modicum of sense knows the answer to, while hundreds of people with real questions are waiting for a reply?


    Could My Cat Give Me HIV?
    I like to let my cat eat out of the crack of my butt. However, I'm worried that my cat might have caught HIV from our gay neighbor. Are rapid HIV tests available for cats?


    Can I Get HIV by Accidentally Fondling Someone in a Cab?
    During a taxi ride, my hand casually touched the hand and breasts of a woman I was sitting beside. Both of us were fully clothed, but I fear that HIV could swim through our shirts. Do I have any reason to be concerned?

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    Visual AIDS
    Art From HIV-Positive Artists

    Image from the July 2007 Visual AIDS Web Gallery
    Untitled, 1987;
    Robert Blanchon
    Visit the July 2007 Visual AIDS Web Gallery to view our latest collection of art by HIV-positive artists! This month's gallery, entitled "I'm Not Mad at You, I'm Mad at the Dirt," is curated by Scott Hug, an artist whose work focuses on current social and political events, investigating politics, pop culture and media obsession.