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May 7, 2008

In This Update
  • New HIV Treatments
  • Living With HIV
  • Side Effects & Health Issues
  • Making a Difference
  • HIV in the News
  • HIV Transmission
  • HIV Throughout the World
  •   NEW HIV TREATMENTS

    David Hardy, M.D.Meet the Meds: TheBody.com Gets the Lowdown on CCR5 Inhibitors
    The past year has seen so many new drug approvals that even some HIV experts are scratching their heads, trying to figure out how all of these meds work and how they can best be used in HIV treatment. In this in-depth report from TheBody.com, we talk to an expert about CCR5 inhibitors -- a different type of HIV med that attacks HIV in a unique way. Listen in or read a transcript, and get the lowdown on CCR5 inhibitors from David Hardy, M.D., a researcher and clinician who is one of the leading investigators of Selzentry (maraviroc, Celsentri), the first CCR5 inhibitor approved in the United States.


    Researchers Discover Potential New Way to Hit HIV From Many Directions at Once
    It's an exciting time in HIV treatment research: Scientists have been discovering possible new ways to fight HIV at a feverish pace. The latest insight comes from a team of U.S. researchers who have found that by suppressing a specific protein called ITK in CD4 cells, they can hurt HIV's ability to infect those cells and turn them into HIV factories. What makes ITK suppression particularly interesting is that, in theory, it may be able to impair HIV at several different stages in its life cycle. (Each currently available HIV med targets the virus at only one specific stage.) However, an ITK-suppressing drug is still years away from the point where it can even be tested in a human clinical trial.


    Early Findings Show Tantalizing Promise for Therapeutic HIV Vaccine
    In addition to developing new drugs to fight HIV, researchers are also hard at work trying to develop treatments that can help train a person's immune system to more effectively fight HIV on its own. An experimental treatment called OPAL recently made headlines for its ability to significantly lower viral load in monkeys who were infected with SIV, the simian equivalent of HIV. The kicker is that OPAL is not a pill, it's a vaccine -- and its SIV-fighting effects appeared to last for more than one year after it was administered. However, there may be a catch: The vaccine appeared to work best when it was given within weeks of the day the monkeys became infected with SIV.

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      LIVING WITH HIV

    Greg BraxtonThis Positive Life: A Former Drug User Turns His Life Around
    After nearly 30 years of drinking, crack cocaine use and sex with hundreds of women, Greg Braxton's diagnosis with advanced HIV in 1994 came as no surprise. He had to start treatment, but his addictions caused him to neglect his meds and resulted in multidrug-resistant HIV. "I was extremely sick, and a few times they didn't know if I would live or die," Greg says. But Greg spent nine months at an addiction treatment facility, and since then he's completely turned his life around. He has found a regimen that has finally gotten his viral load to undetectable. He even graduated college, got a full-time job and got married. You can read or listen to Greg's story in his one-on-one interview with TheBody.com, part of our ongoing "This Positive Life" podcast series.


    A View of the United States Prison Industry, Through the Lens of HIV
    Did you know that the number of HIV-positive people in U.S. prisons is five to 10 times higher than in the general population? Though prisoners in the United States are supposedly guaranteed care for their serious medical needs, prison life presents tremendous challenges for an HIV-positive inmate looking for effective treatment. Meanwhile, shared needles, unprotected sex and other high-risk behaviors are common in prisons, while HIV prevention efforts (such as access to condoms or clean needles) are often all but nonexistent. In this thorough overview of HIV in the U.S. correctional system, Mary Sylla of the Center for Health Justice details the problem and explains why a solution is so critical -- not just for prisoner health, but for the entire country's health as well.


    summer campHIV Summer Camp Deadlines Approaching!
    Do you know a child who might enjoy a stay at summer camp with other children who are HIV positive or whose lives have been impacted by HIV? Spots may still be open at some U.S. and Canadian camps, so apply now! In many cases, there is little to no cost for attending and traveling to the camps. Visit this page to see a lengthy list of summer getaways for children, as well as a few retreats for entire families.

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      SIDE EFFECTS & HEALTH ISSUES

    How to Stop Smoking (and Why) When You're HIV Positive
    If you are an HIV-positive smoker, then you're not alone -- in fact, studies show that HIVers are more likely to smoke cigarettes than their negative counterparts. But now that HIV treatment is so effective and the likelihood of living a long, healthy life is greater than ever, it's even more important to take steps to lower your risk of developing heart problems or other chronic illnesses. Quitting smoking is one of the most important things you can do to reduce this risk. Before you ignore this article thinking it's the same old advice, take a look at the wide range of effective methods that medical writer Liz Highleyman describes; you may be surprised by what you find. In this down-to-earth, nonjudgmental overview, Highleyman breaks down how people become addicted to nicotine, the different ways that are available to help you beat that addiction, and the irresistible benefits of "put[ting] cigarettes in the past."


    Some HIV Med Effects May Vary by Race, Gender, Study Says
    Race and gender may play a role in determining the sorts of side effects HIV-positive people experience when they take HIV meds, according to a new U.S. study. Although overall rates of side effects were similar between all ethnicities and genders, black people in the study were found to be more than twice as likely to develop severe heart problems and nearly four times as likely to develop kidney problems, while women were more than twice as likely to develop severe anemia. However, there's an important "but" on the study results: Many of the people in the study used HIV treatment regimens that are considered outdated today, and that have worse side-effect profiles than more recently developed meds.

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      MAKING A DIFFERENCE

    Puerto Rican HIV Activists Who Staged "Die-In" on Manhattan Streets Vow to Fight On
    Charges have been dropped against 12 activists who blocked Manhattan traffic last November to protest mismanagement of HIV programs in Puerto Rico. The activists themselves are still fighting, however: They say they're prepared to be arrested again if it helps ensure better oversight of Ryan White programs in Puerto Rico. Many say that HIV treatment in Puerto Rico is in disarray because the island's HIV programs are poorly run. However, the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration, which distributes money for HIV care and support through the Ryan White program, says it doesn't have the authority to take over administration of Puerto Rico's funds.


    Hundreds Rally in D.C. to Demand National HIV/AIDS Plan in U.S.
    When it comes to HIV, why can't the United States follow the same rules it sets for other countries? That's what activists want to know: Countries that get money from the U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief are required to create a national strategy for fighting HIV, but the United States doesn't have a national strategy of its own. At a rally last week in Washington, D.C., 450 activists from almost every U.S. state gathered to demand that the U.S. federal government take its own advice and create a comprehensive plan for dealing with HIV. They also urged politicians to end the HIV travel ban, increase funding for microbicides and eliminate funding for abstinence-only sex education.

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      HIV IN THE NEWS

    Long Island May Win Back Funds for HIV Services, Thanks to Federal Court Ruling
    A U.S. appeals court decision may give Long Island back more than $1 million in Ryan White CARE Act funds that had been stripped due to changes in funding rules made in 2006. The U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the cuts, which were made based on new requirements regarding the number of people with HIV or AIDS in a given area, were "drastic and unauthorized." However, it has yet to be determined how much of Long Island's lost funding will be restored; in the meantime, HIV service cuts caused by the lost funding will continue. Ryan White funding pays for HIV care and support for HIV-positive people, and particularly helps HIVers with low incomes or no insurance.

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      HIV TRANSMISSION

    Women-Controlled HIV Prevention: A Conversation With Dr. Nancy Padian
    Countless women around the world don't have the power to protect themselves from HIV, either because they lack access to condoms or their male partners refuse to use them. Nancy Padian, Ph.D., is one of the leading researchers working to put the power of prevention into the hands of women. She's investigating new tools like microbicides and old tools like diaphragms -- which can be used without a partner's knowledge -- as well as strategies that can help women boost their control over their sex lives. In this interview with the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, Dr. Padian discusses her research and the challenges of studying new HIV prevention technologies.

    Dr. Padian gave a presentation on women-controlled HIV prevention methods at the 4th International AIDS Society Conference on HIV Pathogenesis, Treatment and Prevention in Australia last summer. You can listen to the presentation or view the study slides online.


    People Over 50 Too Often Ignore Risks of HIV
    You're an HIV-negative person over 50. You've lost your partner or are recently divorced, and it's been years -- maybe even decades -- since you've hit the dating scene. The same safer-sex messages that are geared toward people half your age surely don't apply to you ... right? Older people and their health care providers often don't even think about the potential risks of HIV, but those risks are all too real, advocates say. The need for HIV prevention among people over 50 is all the more urgent in light of a new report from the AIDS Community Research Initiative of America, which found that older HIVers face a great deal of stigma and isolation when they do test positive -- something that's happening with greater frequency as the pandemic nears its 30th year. (Article from Miller-McCune.com)

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      HIV THROUGHOUT THE WORLD

    A Multimedia Chronicle of Living With HIV in an Impoverished Paradise
    "HIV/AIDS has had this weird kind of place in the imagination -- both one of horror ... and yet one of hope," poet and writer Kwame Dawes says of HIV in Jamaica. Dawes set out to document the complexity, and the contradictions, of the HIV epidemic in his native country -- not the Jamaica of tourist brochures, but the "other" Jamaica, shaped by poverty, struggle and a 1.5 percent HIV rate. The result of his journey is "Hope: Living and Loving With HIV in Jamaica," an interactive Web site featuring powerful video footage, images, poems and music. Through this site, Dawes shares the stories of everyday people who live and work with HIV on an island that many in the United States have visited, but few have truly seen.

    In addition to the Web site, you can also read "Learning to Speak: The New Age of HIV/AIDS in the Other Jamaica," Dawes' chronicle of his experiences exploring HIV in Jamaica, which appears in the Spring 2008 issue of Virginia Quarterly Review.

    Want to learn more about HIV in Jamaica and other Caribbean nations? Browse TheBody.com's collection of articles.


    Activists Protest in Washington, D.C., Against Thai Drug Crackdown
    Thailand's "100 percent condom program" for sex workers has been called an international model, but the country's treatment of intravenous drug users, about half of whom have HIV, has been deplorable, activists say. Since 2003, thousands of Thai drug users have been killed without trial, and the new Thai government has promised to continue its brutal anti-drug strategy. "If that will lead to 3,000 to 4,000 deaths of those who break the law, then so be it," the new interior minister commented. In response, activists planned to hold a symbolic die-in in front of the Thai Embassy in Washington, D.C. on May 6 with leaders of the Thai AIDS Treatment Action Group.

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    Also Worth Noting

    Visual AIDS
    Art From HIV-Positive Artists

    Image from the May 2008 Visual AIDS Web Gallery
    "Times," 2003; Carlos Gonzalez
    Visit the May 2008 Visual AIDS Web Gallery to view our latest collection of art by HIV-positive artists! This month's gallery, entitled "Linear Progression / Progressive Deterioration," is curated by Steven Gordon and RJ Supa.

    Connect With Others
    A
    t The Body's Bulletin Boards

    HIV Support Groups and Nutritionists in New York City?
    (A recent post from the
    "I Just Tested Positive" board)

    "I'm on Day 3 now after finding out that I am positive. Trying to keep it together, which is taking all the strength I have. I know it's not a death sentence anymore, but finding this out at 26 years old isn't the easiest. I was wondering if anyone knew of any support groups in NYC that they would recommend, or if anyone has any advice. Also, does anyone know of a good nutritionist that I can go to?"

    -- ithappenedtome

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

    Which Is Better: Private Therapy or Group Support?
    (A recent post from the
    "I Just Tested Positive" board)

    "I just want to know if people have had better results from talking to a therapist one-on-one or from social/group situations with other HIV-positive folks. I feel like if I could let go of some of the emotional turmoil (anger, fear, sadness, frustration) I would be [more quickly] getting better physically. My viral load continues to drop but my CD4 is not coming up and I feel more sick. What has helped people the most with their emotional distress?"

    -- pozpete

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

    Take a Cruise
    Enjoy Sun and Sea With Other HIVers

    Poz Cruise Retreat
    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.