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April 30, 2008

In This Update
  • HIV Treatment & Complications
  • Living With HIV
  • HIV in the U.S. News
  • HIV Transmission
  • HIV Throughout the World

    Heart Attack Rates Not Rising Among HIV-Positive People, Study Finds
    Heart attack rates have remained stable over the past seven years among HIV-positive people, and may have even decreased, according to newly published results from the huge, international study known as D:A:D. Although previous D:A:D results have shown that certain HIV meds appear to increase a person's risk of having a heart attack, the new results suggest that risk has not translated into a growing epidemic of heart attacks among HIVers. The reason? Awareness may be the key: Because HIV-positive people and their doctors are aware of the heart risks among people with HIV, they may be taking more aggressive steps to curb that risk, such as using medications to help lower cholesterol levels. (Article from Reuters Health; free registration at required)

    You can read the abstract of this study in the April 1 issue of the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases.

    Gay or Straight, HIV-Positive Men Are at Risk for Anal HPV
    HIV-positive men are at risk for developing anal lesions due to human papillomavirus (HPV) regardless of their sexual orientation and should get screened regularly, according to Brazilian researchers. Their study of 60 HIV-positive men revealed high rates of anal lesions among not only gay and bisexual men, but among heterosexual men as well. In fact, about 15 percent of anal lesion cases in the study were among heterosexual men. For this reason, the researchers recommended that all HIV-positive men get checked for anal lesions, which can be caused by HPV and may lead to cancer if left untreated. (Study summary from

    You can read the abstract of this study in the March 2008 issue of the International Journal of STD & AIDS.

    Tropism Testing: A Possible Tool for Newly Diagnosed HIVers?
    Should all HIV-positive people get a tropism test after they've been diagnosed? New study results could change the way we look at tropism testing: The study found that HIVers who do not have the most common type of HIV, known as "CCR5-tropic" virus, may lose CD4 cells more quickly than people with CCR5-tropic HIV. That could make it more important for these people to start treatment early, before HIV has a chance to severely damage their immune system. Right now, tropism tests are only taken by HIVers with drug resistance who are considering taking Selzentry (maraviroc, Celsentri), since the drug only works against people with CCR5-tropic virus. (Study summary from

    Have You Taken Your Meds? The Breathalyzer Knows
    If you have a hard time remembering to take your meds, or just want to prove to your doctor that you're taking your meds consistently, check this out: Researchers in Florida have developed a device that not only reminds you to take your meds, but also gives you a breath test to see whether you missed your last dose. The inventors hope that, by developing a reliable way to tell if people have been taking their meds, their Breathalyzer-type device will help HIVers avoid HIV drug resistance and make it easier for researchers to study HIV drug adherence. For now, however, the device is still in the prototype stage.



    Terri WilderThe Women's Epidemic: 27 Years of History
    Today, nearly three decades into the global HIV pandemic, women still have to fight just to be noticed, writes HIV activist and social worker Terri Wilder. In this 27-year timeline, Terri chronicles the crucial roles that women have played in what she says is all-too-often still considered a gay man's epidemic. She reviews a legacy filled with the courageous public acts of such figures as Princess Diana, Mother Theresa, Congresswoman Maxine Waters, Dr. Helene Gayle and Rebecca Denison. Women involved in the fight against HIV "must gather our strength and remember those who have gone before us," Terri urges.

    Want to read more thoughts from Terri Wilder? Read her most recent blog entry on Also be sure to visit's HIV/AIDS Resource Center for Women for first-person stories, overviews and more on women and HIV.

    Nutrition and Diet: A Handbook for People With HIV
    What you eat can have a tremendous impact on your health, so it's worth doing right. This in-depth, online booklet written by the Canadian AIDS Treatment Information Exchange walks you through every step along the way to a balanced nutritional life: It includes the basics, such as putting together a healthy diet and shopping for the right foods, but it also delves into much more detailed issues, such as what to do if you develop intestinal problems or how to pick the right diet if you're coinfected with HIV and hepatitis C.

    For more overviews and the latest research on nutrition and HIV, browse's collection of articles, or visit our newly launched "Ask the Experts" forum on nutrition and exercise.



    Obama's Former Pastor Reaffirms Stance That U.S. Invented HIV to Kill Minorities
    Rev. Jeremiah Wright, whose outspoken antigovernment sermons landed Sen. Barack Obama in hot water several weeks ago, is back in the news. At a press conference on April 28, Obama's former pastor implied that he still believes in a statement he made in a sermon years ago, in which he accused the U.S. government of inventing HIV as a weapon of genocide against minorities. (Article from Cybercast News Service)

    Rev. Wright's take on HIV shows just how much mistrust and misunderstanding there still is in the United States when it comes to the origins of HIV. Read this report from Slate for more on Rev. Wright's comments and their broader context.

    Experts Warn Against the Dangers of an Online Health Record Revolution
    Could your health records be headed to the Internet? Two of the most powerful companies of the digital age, Google and Microsoft, are betting that online health records will be the next big thing. They're moving to give people the ability to keep a single, complete health record available online. However, such a "seismic change" in how patient information is handled could have its downsides, write two researchers in the New England Journal of Medicine. For instance, the researchers warn that laws that currently protect the privacy of traditional patient records wouldn't apply to online records. (Article from The New York Times)

    Google's health record feature, appropriately named Google Health, is still in development, but a preliminary version of the Microsoft HealthVault is now online if you'd like to try it out.

    U.S. Peace Corps Volunteer Discharged After Testing Positive
    Was Jeremiah Johnson released from the Peace Corps simply because he had HIV? Johnson believes so -- and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is backing him up. When Johnson tested positive for HIV earlier this year during an assignment in Ukraine, the Peace Corps sent him back to the United States, saying that Ukrainian law barred HIV-positive volunteers. Upon returning home, however, Johnson was discharged -- rather than being reassigned to another country -- on the grounds that HIV would prevent him from doing his job. The ACLU has sought clarification from the Peace Corps on its policy toward HIV-positive volunteers, and demanded that the organization comply with federal law, which bars discrimination against people with HIV.



    Video DoctorVirtual Doctor Can Help HIVers Reduce Risky Behavior, Study Finds
    Could a fake doctor on a computer screen help HIV-positive people reduce the odds that they'll pass HIV on to someone else? A large study of five San Francisco-area clinics found that unprotected sex and illegal drug use was dramatically reduced among HIVers who participated in an interactive computer program in which they were shown video clips of a doctor (who was actually an actor) who spoke about their particular risk behaviors. The video doctor program was designed to be non-judgmental and supportive, while giving HIVers information meant to help them have a broader conversation with their flesh-and-blood doctor.

    To learn more about the program and see video clips, visit this program overview on the University of California-San Francisco Web site. You can also read the full results of the study in the April 23 issue of the public-access journal PLoS ONE.

    Congressional Ban Lifted, Washington, D.C., Gets Serious About Needle Exchange
    Congress recently ended a decade-old rule that prevented Washington, D.C., from funding its own needle-exchange programs. Now the city is rushing to make up for lost time. This summer, four D.C. organizations will receive close to half a million dollars from the city to provide clean needles to injection drug users -- and those grants are expected to double next year. Reducing needle sharing is a priority because Washington's HIV rates are among the highest in the country; D.C. health officials have found that injection drug use accounts for 13 percent of HIV cases in the city.

    For Post-Exposure HIV Prevention, Viread May Be Gentler Option Than Retrovir
    Viread (tenofovir)-based post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) may cause fewer severe side effects than Retrovir (zidovudine, AZT)-based PEP, according to researchers in Boston. For people who have had a high-risk exposure to HIV (such as having unprotected, receptive sex with someone they know is HIV positive), a month-long course of Retrovir and Epivir (lamivudine, 3TC), also available as the combination pill Combivir, is often the prescription. However, the researchers pointed out that less than half of the people who started a Retrovir-based regimen were able to finish it, often because of severe gut side effects such as nausea and vomiting. In contrast, the study found that between 70 and 90 percent of people who took Viread along with either Epivir or Emtriva (emtricitabine, FTC) were able to complete the full course of treatment, apparently thanks to gentler side effects. (Study summary from Reuters Health)

    You can read the abstract of this study in the April 1 issue of the Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes.



    Symptoms Nearly as Effective as Labs in Determining Whether to Switch HIV Meds
    In the developed world, we rely heavily on CD4 and viral load tests to help us determine whether a person's HIV medications are working properly. But in poor regions of the world, where lab tests are often much harder to come by, doctors can effectively use the old-fashioned way -- checking for key symptoms of advancing HIV disease -- to determine whether it's time to switch HIV meds, a new study suggests. The findings imply that countries don't have to wait for lab testing to become widely available before they expand access to HIV medications. (Study summary from

    British Insurance Companies Discriminate Against Gay Men, Survey Finds
    Gay British men are more likely to be forced to take unnecessary HIV tests when they apply for life insurance, a recent survey found. In 2005, British insurance companies promised not to ask applicants about their sexual orientation or treat gay men differently, but the new survey found that those rules are sometimes ignored and men in civil partnerships are not treated the same as married men. "This shouldn't happen," said Jonathan French of the Association of British Insurers. "There may be isolated occasions when employees get it wrong, but HIV testing is nothing to do with being gay or straight."

    Egyptian Film Stars Denounce Jailing of People With HIV
    Most Egyptians remained silent when a court in Cairo sentenced five gay men, four of them HIV positive, to three years in prison on charges of "debauchery" for having consensual sex with other men. But two of Egypt's most famous actors are speaking out. "It's insane that this happens in our country!" said well-known actor Amr Waked. Unfortunately, while Waked and fellow actor Khaled Abul Naga are publicly denouncing HIV stigma in this conservative nation, Egyptian religious authorities continue to encourage prejudice against people with HIV. "[HIV] is a disease sent by God to punish sexual deviants," said Sheikh Mohammed Saleh from Al-Azhar, Sunni Islam's highest seat of learning.

    Also Worth Noting

    Visual AIDS
    Art From HIV-Positive Artists

    Image from the April 2008 Visual AIDS Web Gallery
    "Red, White and Blue," 1993; Joe DeHoyos
    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.

    Connect With Others
    t The Body's Bulletin Boards

    Traveling From U.S. to Germany: Will My HIV Meds Cause a Commotion?
    (A recent post from the
    "Living With HIV " board)

    "I have known that I am HIV positive for about two years and am finally feeling healthy again (CD4 count is almost to 400). I'm regularly taking Atripla. Here's my concern: I would like to take my 84-year-old mother (who is very active) back to Germany and hopefully to her birthplace in Poland. ... If I have my Atripla in scrip bottles with my name, am I going to be hassled at all at customs? I don't want to attempt this and end up revealing my status to my mom at customs. (Thank you to all those that feel I should tell mom, but it ain't gonna happen. She's getting up there and knowing would put more than a few nails in her coffin, so to speak). Any thoughts, experiences, suggestions out there?"

    -- deutschman

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

    Any Other Neg Partners in a Magnetic Couple?
    (A recent post from the
    "My Loved One Has HIV/AIDS" board)

    "I was wondering if there were other magnetic couples I can relate with, I am in a fairly new relationship with an HIV-positive man; I am negative. I am looking for people to talk with, maybe even some in the Wisconsin area."

    -- happylight20

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

    Make a Difference
    Your Opinion Wanted! Make Free HIV Care in the U.S. Better

    Do you use HIV services such as free clinics, transportation and case management? If so, you have a chance to share your input and help reform the Ryan White CARE Act, which funds HIV medical care and support for uninsured and underinsured people in the United States. Ryan White is scheduled for reapproval in 2009, and many people think it needs a serious overhaul. That's why HIV advocacy organizations have posted an online survey to gather information from HIV-positive people on this critical legislation. Click here to take the survey and make your voice heard.