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December 26, 2007
In This Hot Topics:
  • 2007's Strangest but Truest
  • Living With HIV
  • HIV Treatment
  • You and Your Labs
  • Complications of HIV & HIV Meds
  • HIV & Medical Procedures
  •  2007's STRANGEST BUT TRUEST: YOU MAKE THE CALL

    We're nearly 30 years into the HIV pandemic, yet a shocking number of people in the United States and around the world don't know the first thing about HIV. You've seen some of that ignorance firsthand in our "Ask the Experts" forums, where we're sometimes amazed at just how little some people have learned about the virus.

    We've scoured our "Ask the Experts" forums and nominated 10 posts we feel are the "best of the worst" of 2007 (or the worst of the worst, depending on how you look at it). They're some of the oddest, most nonsensical questions we've seen people ask about HIV this year. Some are shocking, some are sad, many are hilarious -- and we share them with you as reminders of how far we still have to go to educate the world about HIV.

    So, it's up to you: Which of our 10 finalists represents the most bizarre post from our "Ask the Experts" forums during the past year? Rate each of the nominees using our online survey. We'll announce the winner early in 2008!
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     LIVING WITH HIV

    Helping a Good Friend Who Just Tested Positive
    I just found out that one of my best friends is HIV positive (and he just found out a few days ago). What can someone do for a friend who has just tested positive? I'm worried that by talking to him about it, it'll make him feel worse.


    How Can I Improve My Chances of Winning Disability After Being Laid Off?
    I've continued to work since I was diagnosed with HIV in 1987. But this September I was downsized, and I believe my declining health was part of the reason my job was eliminated. I'm now planning to apply for Social Security disability benefits. How can I improve my chances of being approved?


    Taking Ecstasy When You're on HIV Meds
    I'm HIV positive and on treatment. Can I still take ecstasy for fun?


    Can I Cash Out on My Life Insurance Policy?
    According to my life insurance policy, I can receive a "viatical settlement," in which I can cash out on part of the policy if I have 12 to 24 months to live. How do life insurance companies determine how long I have left?
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     HIV TREATMENT

    My CD4 Count Is High but My Viral Load Is Rising; Should I Start HIV Meds?
    I'm 47, and I've had HIV since 1991. Though I never started HIV treatment, I've remained extremely healthy -- usually I don't get so much as a cold. My most recent CD4 count was 660 and my viral load was 50,000, which is up from 1,100 five years ago. My doctor is urging me to start Norvir (ritonavir), Reyataz (atazanavir) and Truvada (tenofovir/FTC) in order to get my viral load undetectable. Is now a good time for me to start treatment? Is the regimen my doctor suggested the right option for me?


    Anti-Inflammatory Meds and Atripla: A Happy Couple?
    I'm 41 years old and started taking Atripla (efavirenz/tenofovir/FTC) in August. I also take ketoprofen, an anti-inflammatory medication, for arthritis -- but my infectious disease specialist says I shouldn't take it. He also said I should stay away from certain pain relievers. What impact do anti-inflammatory meds have on HIV and HIV meds? If I stop taking my arthritis medication, would it be OK to at least take aspirin while I'm on Atripla?


    Yet Another Claim of a Cure for HIV
    I read a claim by a Ghanaian doctor that he can cure HIV with an herbal preparation. How can I know if it's true?
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     YOU AND YOUR LABS

    Has My CD4 Count Increased Enough Since I Started Meds?
    I started meds two years ago with a CD4 count of 240 and a viral load of 16,000. My viral load became undetectable within weeks, but my CD4 count has never gone above 400. Is this normal? Should my CD4 count be higher? Am I more likely to develop cancer and other diseases?


    Waiting for Lab Test Results Is Torture; How Do I Deal With My Fears?
    I was diagnosed just two months ago with a CD4 count of 339, and dealing with HIV is really testing my patience. I had blood drawn for drug resistance tests more than three weeks ago. Does this delay mean the test results are bad? I'm a bundle of anxiety. How can I learn to handle all this fear and uncertainty?


    Can People With a Viral Load Under 1,000 Get Drug-Resistance Tests?
    Because my viral load has been climbing, I suspect I have developed resistance to some of my HIV meds. I'd like to figure out which drugs aren't working. However, my viral load remains under 1,000, and I've heard that drug-resistance testing isn't effective when your viral load is below that level. Are there any drug-resistance tests that can detect mutations in people with low viral loads?


    How Is My CD4 Count Related to My Viral Load?
    I just tested HIV positive, and have found a good HIV specialist. My viral load is 198 and my CD4 count is 453. Will my CD4 count remain stable if my viral load stays low, or should I expect to lose 50 to 75 CD4 cells per year while I'm not on treatment, no matter what my viral load is?
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     COMPLICATIONS OF HIV & HIV MEDS

    I've Lost Sensation in My Penis; Is It Time to Give Up on Sex?
    After 21 years living with HIV, this year I finally achieved an undetectable viral load. My health is generally good, but I seem to have lost 95 percent of the sensation in my penis. I can still get an erection, but it's really difficult for me to have an orgasm. Is it time for me to just give up on sex?


    Can Body Shape Changes Affect a Recently Diagnosed HIVer Not on Meds?
    I've had HIV for less than a year and have never taken any HIV medications, but I think I'm developing body shape changes! My veins are showing in my arms and legs, and I'm losing fat in my shoulders, knees, legs and butt. I thought this would take 10 years to develop, and that it only happened to people on meds. What's going on, and what can I do about it?
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     HIV & MEDICAL PROCEDURES

    With My CD4 Count, Are Amalgam Fillings Safe?
    My CD4 count is just above 100, and I need nine fillings in my teeth. My dentist suggested going with affordable amalgam fillings, which use silver and mercury, because I have no insurance and the Ryan White CARE Act is paying for my treatment. Is there reason to worry about long-term negative effects from the mercury in the amalgam?


    Should Health Care Providers Perform Vision Surgery on HIVers?
    I'm a registered nurse working with an eye doctor. We are preparing to perform corrective laser vision surgery on an HIV-positive woman. Is our staff in any danger of getting HIV from her? What precautions should we take? Will she respond to the surgery differently than the average person?
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    Visual AIDS
    Art From HIV-Positive Artists

    Stop in and browse the full collection!
    "The Place To Be," 2002; Jolanta Rakowska
    This is just one of hundreds of thought-provoking artworks created by HIV-positive artists and highlighted in Visual AIDS' monthly Web gallery at TheBody.com.