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November 14, 2007

In This Update
  • Complications of HIV & HIV Meds
  • HIV in the News
  • HIV Treatment
  • HIV Transmission
  • Making a Difference
  • HIV Outside the United States

    Hang Onto Your Hats, Flu Season Is Blowing In!
    Everyone dreads the fever and pains of the flu, but HIVers (especially those with low CD4 counts) need to be especially careful because influenza can be easier to catch and harder to fight off when your immune system isn't in top shape. As chilly weather brings flu season to the Northern Hemisphere, consult this guide to learn the difference between the flu and a cold, why you should get the flu vaccine, and how you can best handle the flu if you do get sick.

    Doctors recommend that everyone with HIV get a flu shot during flu season. The Body's "Ask the Experts" Forums have answered many questions about how the vaccines affect people with HIV. Click here to browse through our collection of frequently asked questions about the flu.

    Herbal Sex Pills for Men: Many Are Not a Safe Bang for Your Buck
    Ever consider taking an herbal sex pill to put some more bounce in your mattress? If you have, you should know that many of the pills marketed as safer alternatives to prescription sex drugs such as Viagra aren't always so safe -- nor are they always herbal. An Associated Press investigation found that many of these pills work because they contain unregulated versions of the drugs they are supposedly replacing. This poses a danger for the millions of men who also take other medications, especially meds to lower blood pressure and regulate heart disease, because interactions between these drugs and herbal sex pills could lead to heart attack or stroke. (Web highlight from the Associated Press)



    Reporters Forget That AIDS, When Treated, Is Not "Always Fatal"
    Thanks to powerful medications, HIV has become a manageable disease in developed countries, not a death sentence. So why do we still read news reports in the United States that assume AIDS is "always fatal"? You may have heard about a recent survey of 4,510 people in nine countries that discovered 40 percent of respondents "did not understand that AIDS is always a fatal disease." The survey was meant to highlight people's ignorance, but it may have highlighted the survey's ignorance instead -- and the ignorance of the media who reported on it. Other findings from the survey, however, did point out legitimate concerns about HIV stigma and a shocking lack of HIV knowledge throughout the world. (Web highlight from the MAC AIDS Fund)

    One Drug Company Sues Another Over Price of Norvir
    The ruckus over the price of Norvir (ritonavir) continues to grow. The maker of Lexiva (fosamprenavir, Telzir) is now suing the maker of Norvir, Abbott Laboratories. The charge: scheming to make Lexiva, as well as many other meds that need to be strengthened with Norvir, less attractive than Abbott's own drug, Kaletra (lopinavir/ritonavir). In 2003, Abbott more than quadrupled the price of Norvir, although the price of Kaletra was left unchanged.



    A New Test for a New HIV Med: The Lowdown on Tropism
    If you're looking to add the new HIV med Selzentry (maraviroc, Celsentri) to your drug regimen, you first need to take a "tropism test." But what does a tropism test actually do? How reliable are the results? How much does the test cost? This fact sheet from AIDS InfoNet answers those questions and more.

    FDA Approves Kaletra Tablets for Children
    A lower-dose version of Kaletra (lopinavir/ritonavir) for children has received approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The drug, which has been available in liquid form for children since 2000, will be available as a tablet in the United States beginning later this month. In addition to being easier to store, the new tablet form may also help reduce the risk of accidental overdoses. In August, health care providers were warned to be cautious in prescribing liquid Kaletra to children after the death of an infant who accidentally received far too high a dose.

    U.S. Updates HIV Treatment Guidelines for Pregnant Women
    On a related note, the U.S. health department has released updated recommendations for the treatment of HIV-positive pregnant women. The new recommendations include a number of revisions (including the removal of Viracept (nelfinavir) from the list of safe meds for pregnant women), and are meant to help HIV health care providers make the best decisions possible when it comes to prescribing meds to pregnant women with HIV, as well as reducing the risk of an HIV-positive woman passing HIV to her baby. (Web highlight from AIDSinfo)

    Isentress Introduces a Whole New World of HIV Meds
    Isentress (raltegravir, MK-0518) was just approved in the United States last month, and many people -- health professionals included -- are still only beginning to learn the basics about it. Who can take Isentress? How does it react with other drugs? What about side effects and drug resistance? This fact sheet from AIDS InfoNet provides an easy-to-read overview of the first integrase inhibitor.

    To learn even more about Isentress, read or listen to's interviews with Dr. David Wohl, an experienced HIV researcher and physician. talked with Dr. Wohl last month about the most important bits of information on Isentress, and also asked Dr. Wohl to explain in detail how Isentress works.



    Standard HIV Testing May Miss Women Infected During Pregnancy, Study Warns
    What's the best way to test pregnant women for HIV? Researchers from North Carolina warn that, even though HIV testing is routine for all pregnant women in the United States, it might still miss HIV infections, since some women may get HIV while they're pregnant. The researchers said that some women might have been so recently infected that, when they get a standard HIV test, they're still within the "window period" before the test can spot HIV infection. The researchers recommend using a form of testing that looks for HIV itself; the process is more complicated and more expensive, but is also more likely to detect recently transmitted HIV. (Web highlight from

    Click here to read an abstract of this study, which was published in the November 2007 issue of the journal AIDS.

    Participants From Failed HIV Vaccine Trial Voice Hopes, Concerns
    Merck cancelled its three-year HIV vaccine study back in September, but there's still plenty of buzz about it. The trial was halted after the vaccine failed to prevent HIV infection -- and may have even increased some participants' susceptibility to HIV. Trial participants have mixed feelings about the cancellation. "If I had known this vaccine could diminish my overall immunity [to HIV], I definitely would not have signed up," one participant said. However, another volunteer said that he "wanted to help find a way to combat" HIV and is "still committed to this study."

    Meanwhile, Merck has begun the process of informing everyone who participated in the vaccine study whether they received the vaccine or a placebo shot. The unusual step of "unblinding" the study is meant to help make people aware of whether or not they may have been at an increased risk for HIV while they participated in the study, and to provide them with counseling and testing.

    Four Chicago Transplant Recipients Contract HIV, Hepatitis C
    The organ donor system in the United States is normally extremely safe. But for the first time in more than 20 years, people have become HIV positive as a result of an organ transplant. Four separate people in Chicago received organs from a single person who had both HIV and hepatitis C, but who had been infected so recently that the organs tested negative for both viruses on standard antibody tests. As a result of the infections, pressure may increase to use more sensitive (and more expensive) screening tests for donated organs in the future.



    New Yorkers: HIV-Positive Tropical Storm Survivors in Haiti, Dominican Republic Need Your Help
    If you live in the New York City area, now is the time to donate supplies for survivors of Tropical Storm Noel. The storm hit hard in the Dominican Republic and Haiti early this month, leaving at least 146 dead and thousands homeless. From now through World AIDS Day on Dec. 1, Housing Works and AID for AIDS will collect toiletries, clothing, food and other supplies for the many Haitian and Dominican storm survivors living with HIV. This article provides a list of donation drop-off locations in the five boroughs of New York City.



    Adding Viread + Emtriva to Single-Dose Viramune Cuts Resistance Risk for Pregnant Women
    Because HIV meds are often so hard to come by in developing countries, an HIV-positive pregnant woman is often not put on an HIV treatment regimen, but is instead given just a single dose of Viramune (nevirapine) during labor to prevent HIV from being transmitted to her baby. However, many experts have raised concerns that single-dose therapy could breed drug resistance, reducing the mom's future HIV treatment options. A new study recommends adding single doses of Viread (tenofovir) and Emtriva (emtricitabine, FTC) to the Viramune; the combination appears to greatly reduce the risk of drug resistance. (Web highlight from

    Also Worth Noting

    In Memoriam
    R. Scott Hitt, 49

    R. Scott Hitt, M.D.

    Dr. R. Scott Hitt, an HIV physician who founded the American Academy of HIV Medicine, passed away on Nov. 8 due to colon cancer. He was 49. Dr. Hitt served as chair of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS during President Bill Clinton's second term, and was credited with helping propel forward the federal government's response to the pandemic.

    Unfortunately, scandal tainted Dr. Hitt's career: In 2000, one year after he was diagnosed with colon cancer, he was accused of molesting two of his male patients. That same year, however, also brought one of Dr. Hitt's greatest accomplishments: He founded the American Academy of HIV Medicine, which provides education and support to HIV physicians and is the primary organization responsible for certifying the credentials of HIV specialists in the United States.

    For a in-depth obituary of Dr. Hitt, you can read this article from the Los Angeles Times.

    Visual AIDS
    Art From HIV-Positive Artists

    Image from the November 2007 Visual AIDS Web Gallery
    "Sambo and Dinah," 2001; Memphis
    Visit the November 2007 Visual AIDS Web Gallery to view our latest collection of art by HIV-positive artists! This month's gallery, entitled "Mnemonic Provocations," is curated by Mario H. Ramirez.

    Connect With Others
    t The Body's Bulletin Boards

    My Sister Won't Let Me Touch Her Baby!
    (A recent post from the
    "Living With HIV" board)

    My sister just had a new baby. Unfortunately, I am not allowed to hold him because she is afraid that he will get HIV from me. I have told her time and time again that that is not the way it works -- that you can't get this simply from touching or kissing someone. But she is still afraid. I can't find any information specifically mentioning babies. Could someone please help me with this?


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