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March 26, 2008

In This Update
  • Vaccines & Cures
  • HIV Treatment
  • Making a Difference
  • HIV Transmission
  • HIV Policy in the U.S.
  • Sexually Transmitted Diseases (Non-HIV)
  • HIV Throughout the World
  •   VACCINES AND CURES

    A Cure for HIV: Restoring Hope to a Long-Lost Cause
    "We cannot coddle the virus with a lifetime of drugs," writes HIV activist Martin Delaney. "The only way to effectively conquer the epidemic is to cure the disease." It's been many years since the HIV community has talked seriously about the need for a cure, and with the recent stream of more-effective, less-toxic HIV meds, Delaney worries that too many people have become complacent about the current state of HIV treatment. In this in-depth analysis, Delaney explains why it's still so important to push for a cure to HIV -- and what it will take to finally find one.


    Now That Another HIV Vaccine Has Bitten the Dust, Where Do We Go From Here?
    The long, painful road toward developing an HIV vaccine got even longer and more painful over the past few months. The most important study to date on an experimental HIV vaccine found that the shot had absolutely no effect -- and even may have increased HIV risk for some people. The question is: What's next? The latest failure is just one in a string of defeats on the HIV vaccine front over the past few years. Is there still hope for the future of vaccine development? In this overview, two HIV vaccine advocates discuss the outlook.


    AIDS Healthcare Foundation Calls for End to U.S. Funding of HIV Vaccine Research
    Not everyone feels it's still worthwhile to continue researching an HIV vaccine. "It is time to stop the waste," write Homayoon Khanlou and Michael Weinstein, top officials of the massive, nonprofit AIDS Healthcare Foundation. In a recent opinion piece, they urge the U.S. government to cut off its funding of efforts to develop an HIV vaccine. "To control AIDS, funding must be invested in strategies that work: effective prevention efforts, routine testing and universal access to treatment," they write, "and not spent on expensive vaccine research that over 20 years has yielded little of promise other than discovering how not to make an AIDS vaccine."


    Time to Take a Step Back, Say Experts at HIV Vaccine Summit
    Despite the efforts of some to effectively put an end to HIV vaccine development, some experts in the field have another idea: Let's get back to basics. "We need to turn the knob toward [basic scientific] discovery," said Anthony Fauci, head of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. At an HIV vaccine summit held this week by the U.S. National Institutes of Health, Fauci and other experts urged researchers to take a step back and concentrate on developing a better understanding of how HIV works.

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      HIV TREATMENT

    Interleukin-2 No Help in Maintaining CD4 Count During HIV Treatment Break
    Despite a series of poor study results, researchers continue to investigate two HIV treatment strategy options: treatment interruptions and interleukin. Treatment interruptions are meant to give HIV-positive people temporary relief from the need to take -- and pay for -- daily HIV medications, while interleukin has been investigated for years as a potential immune-boosting drug. A recent study brought these two strategies together, to see if a drug called interleukin-2 can help HIVers maintain their CD4 counts while they're taking a break from therapy. Unfortunately, as study leader Brian Porter, M.D., explains in this interview, the results weren't very promising.

    This interview with Dr. Porter is one of dozens of study summaries that are now available from The Body PRO's coverage of the 15th Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections, which took place in February. Click here for more summaries, expert interviews and overviews of conference highlights at The Body PRO, TheBody.com's sister site for health care professionals!


    Caution Urged When Dosing Reyataz for Young People
    New dosing recommendations for children and adolescents under the age of 18 have been added to the labeling for Reyataz (atazanavir). The recommendations urge doctors to adjust the dose of the drug based on a child's body weight, and do not recommend using Reyataz in children under the age of 6. They also remind doctors that Reyataz must be taken with food.

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      MAKING A DIFFERENCE

    Register for AIDSWatch 2008
    AIDSWatchWant to give U.S. political leaders a piece of your mind on HIV-related issues? Come to Washington, D.C., for the 16th annual AIDSWatch, which takes place from April 28 through April 30. Hundreds of HIV advocates from around the United States will travel to the nation's capital to speak to their elected officials, demanding a stronger federal commitment to HIV programs. AIDSWatch is the largest annual grassroots HIV advocacy event in the country; participants include people living with HIV, their loved ones, caregivers and advocates.

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      HIV TRANSMISSION

    Some People Transmit Weaker HIV
    We already know that some HIV-positive people have genes that weaken the effect of HIV on their immune system, allowing them to maintain a low viral load and high CD4 count without taking meds. New research adds a fascinating twist to this story: It appears that these genetically advantaged HIVers can transmit their weakened HIV even if the person they infect doesn't have the same genetic advantage, according to South African researchers. Studying this slow-replicating virus and its transmission may help researchers to better understand the way HIV works, and perhaps guide the way to new forms of HIV treatment.

    You can read the complete article describing this study in the free online journal Public Library of Science Pathogens.


    Advocates Explore How Having a Roof Over Your Head Can Prevent HIV
    Homelessness and HIV often go together: According to a recent study, more than 60 percent of HIVers in the United States have at one time been either homeless or in an unstable housing situation. But exactly how does homelessness put people at risk for HIV, and what can we do to reduce those risks? Activists and researchers recently explored these questions at a forum in New York City. You can read summaries of key forum presentations or download the full reports.

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      HIV POLICY IN THE U.S.

    Under New York Senate Budget, HIVers Could Lose Job Training, Housing Assistance
    Fortunes turn quickly in New York. Just last month, HIV advocates were hoping that Gov. Eliot Spitzer and Democratic legislators would spearhead Medicaid reform and increase benefits to people with disabilities. Now Gov. Spitzer is gone thanks to a sex scandal, and programs for people with HIV are on the chopping block. The state Senate's new budget proposal would eliminate $1.4 million in funding for job training programs for people with HIV. It also continues to penalize people who get Social Security disability money for their kids at the same time they're receiving rent assistance from the state's HIV/AIDS Services Administration.


    Another Hoped-For Reform in Jeopardy in N.Y.: More Cash for HIV Case Management
    Just a few weeks ago, the chair of the New York Assembly's health committee promised HIV advocates that case management programs for HIVers would get a 15 percent budget increase. That extra money would be sweet relief for organizations struggling to operate under a budget that hasn't been increased in a decade. But now advocates are being told that a 3 percent raise is the most the programs can expect. Housing Works, a New York City group that benefits from the case management funding, is pushing for a more substantial funding increase -- and is asking for your help to make it happen.

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      SEXUALLY TRANSMITTED DISEASES (NON-HIV)

    Gonorrhea Often Goes Undiagnosed in Throats, Rectums of Gay Men, U.S. Study Finds
    Like many sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), you can have gonorrhea without knowing it -- and you can get it in more than just your genital area, particularly if you have oral or anal sex. A large, four-year study in eight major U.S. cities found that STD clinics often fail to test gay men for gonorrhea in their throat or their rectum, and many men go undiagnosed as a result. The fault may not lie with STD clinics, however: Testing for non-genital gonorrhea can be more complicated, and sometimes the tests may not even be available.


    One in Four Adolescent Girls Has an STD in United States
    There are unsettling results from the most comprehensive U.S. study ever on sexually transmitted disease (STD) rates in girls ages 14 to 19. More than a quarter of the girls studied were found to have at least one STD, according to the government-run study -- and the STD rate was dramatically higher (a stunning 48 percent) among African-American girls. The most common STD was human papillomavirus (HPV), which is a primary cause of genital warts and cervical cancer -- and which can now be prevented using a recently approved vaccine.

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      HIV THROUGHOUT THE WORLD

    HIV-Positive Religious Leaders Break Silence in Uganda
    Coming out as HIV positive is never easy. But David Balubenze, a Christian pastor in Uganda, had an especially difficult question to struggle with: How do I explain this to my congregation? It took Balubenze several years to disclose his HIV status to the Christian church near Kampala, Uganda, where he is pastor. He is now one member of a growing network of African religious leaders who are openly HIV positive and leading their communities to a more open dialogue about HIV. "When we train religious leaders [on HIV], we train a nation," Balubenze said. "Their words are final, and whatever religious leaders tell their congregations is taken as truth." (Web highlight from PlusNews)

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    Also Worth Noting

    Got Questions?
    Ask TheBody.com About CCR5 Inhibitors

    Within the next few weeks, TheBody.com will interview experts for a special report on CCR5 inhibitors, one of the newest classes of HIV medications. Do you have any questions or comments about CCR5 inhibitors that you'd like to share? Just send an e-mail to content@thebody.com. (If you'd like, please also tell us your first name and where you live, so we can give credit where it's due if we use your question or comment. We won't give out your e-mail address or any other personal information without your permission.)

    Connect With Others
    A
    t The Body's Bulletin Boards

    I'm Pissed, and I Don't Know Why
    (A recent post from the
    "Living With HIV" board)

    "I'm pissed. Not the British way, but down-home, American-style pissed. ... My family is being great about my telling them I have HIV. ... My friends are being super supportive and aren't acting like I'm the guy they can't come into contact with. ... My co-workers ask if they can do anything to help and regularly offer to come with me to doctor visits when I'm not going with my dad.

    And I feel pissed. And I have no idea why. I have no reason to be. ... Everyone is saying it's going to be OK. And I just want to smack them all and say, "Look, I don't feel OK about this!" But that would be wrong, because they are supporting me. I shouldn't let all this get to me, but it is. When my family says this isn't just happening to me, but to them as well, I want to ask them if they know what their T-cell count is.

    I don't want everyone telling me it's OK, because it's not. But ... they are trying to help. So that means I shouldn't be whining, right? I've got more than most people, so I should stop feeling like my world just came crashing down two months ago, right? I just want someone to tell me that I should be thanking my lucky stars that I have people and get on with my life. 'Cause that's what I should be doing. I know that. But for some reason, I'm still pissed about it."

    -- Funnyguy8

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

    Visual AIDS
    Art From HIV-Positive Artists

    Image from the March 2008 Visual AIDS Web Gallery
    "Untitled," 1991; Felix Gonzalez-Torres
    Visit the March 2008 Visual AIDS Web Gallery to view our latest collection of art by HIV-positive artists! This month's gallery, entitled "The Sublime Order," is curated by Letha Wilson.

    Make a Difference
    Deadline March 27: Tell the U.S. Government Not to Implement a New HIV Housing Law

    A new U.S. law set to go into effect on March 27 would put a 24-month lifetime limit on the amount of time a person can receive emergency and transitional housing benefits through the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program. Advocacy groups, including the Community HIV/AIDS Mobilization Project (CHAMP), have decried this policy change, saying it would force HIV-positive people out onto the street when their benefits suddenly expire.

    Want to take a stand against this law? CHAMP is urging all concerned people to take the following steps to demand the withdrawal of this new rule before it takes effect on March 27:
    1. Call the U.S. Capitol switchboard at (202) 225-3121 to reach your representative and senators.
    2. When you reach your representative's office, ask to speak with the staff person who handles HIV/AIDS or housing issues.
    3. Tell the staff person you would like him/her to contact Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt and urge that the Housing Policy Notice 99-02 Amendment 1 be withdrawn immediately.
    4. E-mail CHAMP to let them know you made a call.
    You can read more about the amendment, including the government's response to negative public comments about it, by reading this Web page in the online Federal Register.