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April 23, 2008

In This Update
  • Living With HIV
  • HIV Treatment
  • Complications of HIV & HIV Meds
  • HIV in the News

    Tony MillsDr. Leather Is In: A Pos HIV Specialist Gets Down to Business
    When Tony Mills, M.D., won the International Mr. Leather title in 1998, he had recently started combination HIV treatment. "I [was] feeling better, and gaining weight, and exercising more," he says, "and I wanted to carry that message to other people -- that there was hope." Dr. Mills now carries that message to all the positive folks he treats in his Los Angeles practice, many of whom are gay men happy to have a doctor who knows firsthand what they're going through. In this article from Positively Aware, Dr. Mills discusses the importance of listening to his patients, his hope for new medications, and his take on how to stop the U.S. epidemic.

    "Melting Pot" of HIV-Positive Men Finds Refuge in Unique Chicago Boarding House
    "[HIV] is a pot. It doesn't matter how you got in. ... All that matters is we are all in the same pot," says Ida Byther-Smith. She's an HIV-positive woman living in Chicago and the founder of Jo-Ray House, a home for HIV-positive men from all walks of life. Jo-Ray House is a response to the critical issue of housing for HIVers, many of whom have trouble securing a reliable place to live. For its six residents, some of whom have lost their homes and families because of the stigma of HIV, Jo-Ray House is far more than just an affordable housing facility; it's an antidote to social isolation. "The real killer [from HIV] is not the possibility of a physical death," says one of Jo-Ray's residents. "It's the social death." (Article from the Chicago Tribune)

    Speaking to Inmates, a Young HIVer Finds Support -- and Good Advice
    In an unusual twist, when a 19-year-old man born with HIV came to lecture a group of 100 inmates on HIV education, the inmates ended up educating him. Leon received applause after he described how HIV medications had improved his health in the last few years, but after Leon's admission that he had bad eating habits and sometimes skipped his meds, inmates warned him about the danger of developing HIV drug resistance and urged him to take better care of himself. "You mean a lot to everyone, even to us," one inmate said. (Article from The Palm Beach Post)

    The program the inmates are enrolled in, Charles’ Crew, has been called a national model. Read this article to learn more about the program and the woman who founded it.



    A Straightforward Guide to HIV Treatment
    It seems like every time you turn around, there's a new development that changes the rules of HIV treatment. Couple that with the ever-growing number of HIV medications, and making decisions about your own treatment can get downright dizzying. That's why Project Inform has put together this step-by-step guide called "Strategies for HIV Therapy." Without getting bogged down in details, this guide will walk you through some of the key issues to think about when you're considering whether to start or switch your HIV meds.

    In addition to Project Inform's guide, be sure to check out The Body's own down-to-earth guide to starting HIV treatment, "HIV Medications: When to Start and What to Take." You can also browse our extensive collection of articles and resources on the first steps to HIV treatment.

    HIV Meds May Help Prevent Illness and Death at CD4 Counts Above 350, Study Finds
    Even if a person's CD4 count is above 350, taking HIV meds to keep viral load down might be a good idea, according to a new analysis of the landmark SMART study. Most HIV treatment guidelines now recommend that a person start HIV meds before their CD4 count drops below 350, regardless of their viral load. But these new findings suggest that viral load does matter: Among people in the study with a CD4 count above 350, those who were on HIV meds were less likely to become sick or die than people who were off HIV meds -- a difference that could be explained by higher HIV viral loads among the people who weren't on meds, the researchers say. (Study summary from

    Could There Be a Downside to Being an HIV "Elite Controller"?
    Most HIVers would love to trade places with an "elite controller." These are the people who, due to an unknown quirk, are able to keep their viral load undetectable for years and years, even though they've never taken HIV meds. These people are indeed fortunate, but recent research suggests that there may be a catch, at least for some elite controllers: There's a possibility that the same quirk that keeps an elite controller's viral load down also, in some cases, hurts their CD4 count at the same time. In this interview, Peter Hunt, M.D., explains the findings of this recent research.

    Want to meet some of these elite HIV controllers? Read or listen to our one-on-one interview with Loreen Willenberg, who was diagnosed with HIV in 1992 but has never had a detectable viral load. You can also get to know Paul, an HIVer living in Australia who was diagnosed with HIV in 1985 but now has a CD4 count over 1,000 and an undetectable viral load -- without ever having taken a single HIV medication.

    Helping Your Immune System in the Fight Against HIV: A Talk With Steven Deeks, M.D.
    It's a rare opportunity to look inside the mind of one of the world's top HIV researchers: Richard Jefferys of Treatment Action Group recently sat down with Steven Deeks, M.D., a highly respected HIV physician and researcher, to get his take on some of the most important issues in HIV research today. In this interview, Dr. Deeks talks about his most recent efforts, which focus on possible ways to develop immune-based therapies for HIV -- forms of treatment that boost the body's natural ability to fight off the virus.

    Drug Company Halts Development of New CCR5 Inhibitor
    With all the important new HIV medications that have become available over the last couple of years, it's easy to forget that many drugs never make it to market. One drug at risk is INCB9471, an experimental medication in the new CCR5 inhibitor class whose development was halted this week. In spite of promising early studies, the drugmaker decided to stop researching INCB9471 -- a decision that, according to this report from Project Inform, may have been motivated in part by slow sales of Selzentry (maraviroc, Celsentri), the first and only CCR5 inhibitor approved in the United States.



    A User-Friendly Guide to Body Shape Changes
    Lipoatrophy, buffalo humps, high triglycerides, insulin resistance ... all of the terminology used when talking about HIV-related body shape and metabolic changes can get confusing. Looking for an easy-to-read guide to help make sense of it all? This overview from AIDS InfoNet discusses the different types of body shape and metabolic changes that may be caused by HIV and HIV medications. Body shape changes aren't usually dangerous, but they can have a serious effect on quality of life. This article discusses some ways to avoid these complications, as well as steps you can take to alleviate problems you may already be experiencing.

    To learn more, read The Body's own online guide to metabolic complications, or browse though our collection of articles on body shape and metabolic changes.

    Got a question about body shape changes? Stop in at our new "Ask the Experts" forum on facial wasting and other body shape issues! Gerald Pierone, M.D., is waiting to answer your queries.

    A Guide to Immune Reconstitution Inflammatory Syndrome
    Immune reconstitution inflammatory syndrome (IRIS) is more than just a tongue-twister. IRIS is a relatively rare but potentially serious condition that sometimes affects people who have a very low viral load when they start taking HIV medications. Ironically, IRIS is caused by the recovery of a severely damaged immune system, and can lead to an array of different symptoms and illnesses, including pain and swelling. This guide from Project Inform explains the latest knowledge to date about what IRIS does to your body and what you can do to treat it.

    Want to learn more about IRIS in HIV-positive people? Browse's collection of articles.



    Six Ways the Next U.S. President Could Fight HIV at Home
    "We have lost our focus about AIDS in this country and operate under an 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it' mentality," writes Brent Minor, who was a member of the U.S. Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS from 2000 to 2005. "While President Bush deserves credit for his approach to the global epidemic, his response to AIDS here in the U.S. has been somewhat disappointing." What does Minor feel the next president of the United States should do to better fight the nation's own HIV epidemic? In this article, Minor lays out six key recommendations. (Op-ed article from the Washington Blade)

    For more coverage of HIV-related issues in the 2008 U.S. Presidential election race, click here.

    Black Churches in Florida Encourage HIV Testing, Battle Stigma
    Black church leaders are teaming up with health officials to create HIV testing sites in at least one church in every county in Florida. Black church leaders involved in the project say they feel they have a duty to raise awareness of HIV, which is the leading cause of death for African Americans between the ages of 25 and 44 in Florida. "In the past it's been standoffish as far as the churches are concerned," explained James O. Williams Sr., a regional leader of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. "But these are our family members, and the church should be part of the healing process."

    Also Worth Noting

    Visual AIDS
    Art From HIV-Positive Artists

    Image from the April 2008 Visual AIDS Web Gallery
    "Vieques," 2000; David Reyes
    Visit the April 2008 Visual AIDS Web Gallery to view our latest collection of art by HIV-positive artists! This month's gallery, entitled "Red, White & Blue," is curated by Max-Carlos Martinez and Edward Winkleman of the Winkleman Gallery in New York City.

    Take a Cruise
    Enjoy Sun and Sea With Other HIVers

    Cruise Image
    Want to enjoy the sun-soaked company of other HIV-positive folks in a supportive, educational and fun environment? Every fall, scores of HIVers turn out for the Poz Cruise Retreat, a weeklong cruise that features excursions at Caribbean ports, cocktail parties and expert speakers on HIV. The cruise is divided into two groups -- one for gay men and another for straight people -- although there are some joint activities as well. This year's cruise begins on Oct. 26 in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. Prices begin at $734 per person for the full weeklong cruise; a portion of each year's proceeds are donated to HIV organizations. Last year's cruise sold out in June, so if you're interested, you may want to book early.

    You can read more information on the Poz Cruise Retreat by visiting the official Web site of the cruise for gay men or the cruise for straight folks.

    Connect With Others
    t The Body's Bulletin Boards

    Riding an HIV Roller Coaster
    (A recent post from the
    "I Just Tested Positive" board)

    About seven weeks ago ... I went into a walk-in clinic and asked for the full gamut of STD tests, including hepatitis and HIV. I didn't think it was a high probability since I have been very good about being protected when having intercourse, even though I have had multiple partners of both sexes. ... My results, which they gave me by phone: HIV+, everything else neg. ... They counseled and gave me a CD4 count test which came out at 22. ...

    I am still riding this intense emotional roller coaster of ups and downs. Sometimes I can see all the positives, like it is so easy to look at my life and know what is important and what isn't, personal relationships are deeper, and my wife is the best supportive partner one could have. But other times it hits me like a ton of bricks that I have advanced AIDS and my life will never be the same. I can't imagine feeling comfortable having (even protected) sex with anyone, because I got it from protected sex or unprotected oral or a condom failure that I was unaware of. ... I don't know if counseling one-on-one or social activities with people that have more experience being HIV+ would be more helpful. It's hard because sometimes I feel so strong and other times I just cry, feel sorry for myself and feel like it's just not fair. Damn it!

    -- pozpete

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