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February 7, 2008

In This Update
  • HIV Treatment & Complications: New Research
  • HIV Treatment & Complications: Other News
  • HIV Prevention
  • HIV Outside the United States
  •   HIV TREATMENT & COMPLICATIONS: NEW RESEARCH Brings You Breaking Research From CROI 2008
    The premiere HIV medical conference of the year took place this week in Boston, Mass., where thousands of HIV physicians and researchers from around the world gathered for the 15th Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI 2008). More than a thousand studies were presented at CROI 2008 -- and we were on hand to cover the major developments! Visit our CROI 2008 home page for the latest research on everything from heart disease to hepatitis to HIV meds in development.

    Ziagen, Videx Tied to Heart Attack Risk in Large Study
    When it comes to heart disease, all HIV meds may not be created equal. New findings from a huge, long-term study known as D:A:D suggest that taking Ziagen (abacavir) -- one of the meds in Epzicom (abacavir/3TC, Kivexa) and Trizivir (AZT/3TC/abacavir) -- may increase a person's heart attack risk. This increased danger is negligible for people who were at low risk for a heart attack to begin with, but it could be a much bigger deal for people already at risk for a heart attack (because they smoke cigarettes or have high cholesterol, for instance). Videx (didanosine, ddI) was also found to increase heart attack risk, though to a lesser extent than Ziagen. We spoke one-on-one with Dr. Jens Lundgren, the D:A:D study coordinator, to get a detailed explanation of this new research and its significance.

    For more info on these surprising study findings, read this article by Simon Collins of HIV i-Base.

    If you'd like to calculate your own risk of having a heart attack within the next 10 years, use this tool provided by the U.S. National Heart Lung and Blood Institute.

    "When to Start Treatment" Debate Drifts Ever Earlier
    It's been only two months since U.S. treatment guidelines recommended starting HIV meds at a CD4 count of 350 instead of 200. Yet there's already talk about raising that minimum CD4 count even higher, to further lower the chances that an HIV-positive person will get sick over time. In a presentation at CROI 2008, British HIV researcher Andrew Phillips, Ph.D., reviewed research that suggests it may be a good idea to start treatment when a person's CD4 count is still over 500. (Web highlight from

    CCR5 Antagonists in Development: New Data on SCH532706 and Vicriviroc
    Selzentry (maraviroc, Celsentri) may be the only CCR5 antagonist currently on the market, but more may be just around the corner. Two researchers talk about promising new findings on a pair of CCR5 antagonists in development: vicriviroc, which is in an advanced stage of study, and SCH532706, which is in early research.

    Liver Damage Occurs More Quickly in HIV-Positive Men Newly Coinfected With Hep C
    HIV-positive men who become coinfected with hepatitis C after they get HIV may be at an especially high risk for rapidly progressing liver disease, according to the findings of a small study in New York City. In this interview, Dr. Daniel Fierer explains the results of his study, and notes another finding that his research helps bring to light: Sexual transmission of hep C among men who have sex with men may not be quite as uncommon as some experts have long thought.

    Body Fat Changes Becoming Less Common as HIVers Use Fat-Friendlier Meds
    Fewer HIVers on treatment today are seeing body fat changes, or gaining weight, compared to just five or six years ago, according to new research. The reason? Some of the HIV meds that have been traditionally tied to fat problems, like Videx (didanosine, ddI) and Zerit (stavudine, d4T), are being used a lot less frequently today. However, some of today's commonly used meds may still be connected to weight gain, the study found: People taking Kaletra (lopinavir/ritonavir) or Reyataz (atazanavir) appeared to have a greater risk of gaining 11 pounds or more. (Web highlight from HIV Medicine; this is an abstract of a published study)



    Gauging the Risk of Heart Disease in People With HIV
    In the United States, heart disease is the leading cause of death. But how likely are you to develop heart disease? A whole host of factors can have an impact on the likelihood you will develop heart disease, including your HIV status, age, gender, blood pressure, the meds you're taking and whether you smoke cigarettes. Read this article for a detailed look at research on how much of a role each of these factors play in determining your risk for heart disease.

    Gilead Sciences May Lose Patent for Viread
    In January, U.S. officials rejected four of Gilead Sciences' patents for tenofovir, the chemical that makes up Viread and is part of the drugs Atripla (efavirenz/tenofovir/FTC) and Truvada (tenofovir/FTC). However, the decision by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office is not final, so it can still be overturned if Gilead makes a convincing appeal.



    From Circumcision to Mother-to-Child Transmission, Experts Discuss the Evolution of HIV Prevention
    Can male circumcision protect women from HIV as effectively as it protects men? If you treat an HIV-negative person's herpes infection, will that help reduce their risk of getting HIV during unprotected sex? Are there risks that come with the obvious benefits of using HIV meds to prevent mother-to-child HIV transmission in the developing world? A panel of researchers examined the latest answers to all of these questions in a wide-ranging discussion at CROI 2008.

    Educators Discuss Ways to Use Technology to Reach Teens About Sex
    "There's still nothing better than high-quality, comprehensive sex education in school, but with abstinence-only programs, the ball is getting dropped and the Internet is able to pick it up," says William Neville, manager of marketing and new media at Advocates for Youth in Washington, D.C. More than 300 educators and advocates like Neville gathered last week in San Francisco for the first-ever SexTech conference. The meeting examined how technology popular with teenagers -- such as social networking Web sites, video games and text messaging -- can be used to educate them about sexual health.



    Number of HIV-Positive Blood Donors in Japan Reaches Record High in 2007
    Could people in Japan be donating blood only so they can get tested for HIV in the process? That's how one health official explained the record-high number of blood donors who tested positive for HIV in the country in 2007, despite a decrease in blood donors overall. Unfortunately, none of these people will actually be able to find out whether they're HIV positive by donating blood: The tests for donated blood are designed to stop HIV from getting into the country's blood supply, not to inform specific people about their HIV status.

    Few HIV-Positive Inmates in Russia Are Getting Treatment, Experts Say
    HIV-positive people incarcerated in Russian prisons and jails are treated wretchedly and often aren't given HIV medications, testimony from advocates and officials suggests. In one region, just 100 of 3,500 HIV-positive inmates are getting treatment, according to the head of a St. Petersburg-based organization for HIV-positive prisoners. Inmates with severe fevers sometimes don't see a doctor or nurse for days, she says. Even the head of Russia's Federal AIDS Center admits that HIV treatment for the estimated 42,000 HIV-positive inmates in Russia was "pretty poor last year," though he promises it's "getting better."

    Also Worth Noting

    Strange but True
    The Most Bizarre
    Posts of 2007 in our
    "Ask the Experts" Forums

    Our readers have spoken, and we have a winner! (Or loser, depending on how you look at it.) Hundreds of people voted in's first annual "Strangest but Truest" survey, in which we nominated 10 of the most bizarre posts to grace our "Ask the Experts" Forums in 2007.

    It was a very close contest. To find out which post won the most votes, and to see a full breakdown of votes in the survey, click here.

    Visual AIDS
    Art From HIV-Positive Artists

    Image from the February 2008 Visual AIDS Web Gallery
    "Dust," 1988; Paul Thek
    Visit the February 2008 Visual AIDS Web Gallery to view our latest collection of art by HIV-positive artists! This month's gallery, entitled "Looking Up Lyrics," is curated by Becca Albee.