June 11, 2008
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LIVING WITH HIV

Tony Miles You're Never Alone: HIV Psychologist Explains Why First-Person Stories Are So Important
"Since the day I was diagnosed, I've been thinking that I'm the only one [with HIV]. [Now] I know that I'm not." This was what one of psychologist Tony Miles' clients said when he first watched a video from The Positive Project. The project, which Dr. Miles (photo on left) cofounded, is an online collection of more than 100 first-person video interviews with HIV-positive people from across the United States. In the latest episode of our ongoing podcast series HIV Frontlines -- U.S. Edition, Dr. Miles talks with TheBody.com about The Positive Project, which chronicles HIVers' experiences with issues such as stigma, testing positive, taking medications and dating. (Transcript and podcast from TheBody.com)

Click here to visit Video Central on TheBody.com, where you can watch a selection of videos from The Positive Project.

Interested in adding your story to The Positive Project? Visit the project's official Web site for more information.


 We Must Fight Homelessness and HIV Together, Advocates Say
If you are homeless and have HIV, getting access to HIV meds isn't enough. "If people don't have a place to take their medication, it's all for naught," argues Christine Campbell of Housing Works. But housing advocates fear that, in the big push to get life-saving pills into the hands of HIVers around the world, those HIVers' most urgent needs are being overlooked. To put housing issues at center stage, Housing Works and several other groups will hold a summit on homelessness at the International AIDS Conference in Mexico this August with advocates from Thailand, China, Kenya, South Africa and Canada. (Article from Housing Works)



Also Worth Noting: Visual AIDS

Image from the June 2008 Visual AIDS Gallery
"The Visit," 1992; David Abbott

Visit the June 2008 Visual AIDS Web Gallery to view our latest collection of art by HIV-positive artists! This month's gallery, entitled "Alien Architecture," is curated by Tairone Bastien.
HIV TREATMENT & COMPLICATIONS

 Dangerous Form of Syphilis More Common Among HIVers, Gay Men in Los Angeles
A new study provides yet another reminder of why, even if you have HIV, it's so important to practice safer sex and get tested frequently for sexually transmitted diseases. Researchers in Los Angeles have found that neurosyphilis -- a once-rare and potentially dangerous form of syphilis that infects a person's brain or spinal cord -- is more common among HIV-positive people than HIV-negative people, and gay men may be particularly at risk. Neurosyphilis is treatable with antibiotics, but many people develop it because they have had syphilis for a while without knowing it. (Study abstract from the journal Sexually Transmitted Diseases)


 A Guidebook for HIVers Considering a Treatment Holiday
Yearning for a break from HIV meds? Unfortunately, researchers have not found a strategy for stopping HIV meds that's guaranteed to be risk-free. But that doesn't mean you should give up on the idea, especially if you've never had a low CD4 count and your viral load is undetectable. This guide to HIV treatment interruption includes tips on what to keep in mind if you decide to talk to your doctor about taking an HIV treatment holiday. (Article from Project Inform)


 Despite All Our Advances, Even in Rich Countries, HIV Can Still Kill
If you're reading this newsletter, you probably already know about the incredible strides that medicine has made against HIV in just the past 15 years. But there's a hard truth under that hopeful veneer: HIV is now a manageable disease in wealthy countries, where death rates from HIV have plummeted, but we mustn't forget that people still die from HIV. In the 1980s and 1990s, HIV killed because we didn't have effective treatments. Now, in wealthy countries, it kills for multiple reasons: because people with HIV don't get tested; because HIVers appear to be at higher risk for cancer, heart problems and other illnesses; because people become resistant to too many HIV meds; or, sometimes, because someone living with HIV may simply lose hope. In this report, New York magazine takes a closer look at a difficult subject in the HIV community: The reality that HIV may be a chronic disease, but it also still has the ability to kill. (Article from New York magazine)


 Emtriva + Reyataz + Videx Not as Effective as Combivir + Sustiva in First-Line Therapy, Study Finds
An HIV treatment regimen consisting of Emtriva (emtricitabine, FTC), Reyataz (atazanavir) and Videx (didanosine, ddI) does a worse job keeping HIV at bay than a standard regimen of Combivir (AZT/3TC) and Sustiva (efavirenz, Stocrin) in people taking HIV treatment for the first time, according to early results from an ongoing international study. The findings are unlikely to affect many people in developed countries, where Videx is usually not prescribed for first-line therapy. However, the findings may have a larger impact in the developing world, where cutting-edge HIV meds like Atripla (efavirenz/tenofovir/FTC) are often not readily available. (Article from U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases)



Also Worth Noting: Connect With Others
What's the Point of Getting (or Selling) Life Insurance?
(A recent post from the "Gay Men With HIV" board)

Is the "heyday" of selling/buying life insurance policies over? They are offering so little money for policies now that people [with HIV] live longer, it just isn't worth it. I am real happy that I did not sell my life insurance policy (which my dad took out for me at age 18) after my diagnosis in 1989. We were routinely given two to five years to live at the time. Now, after maturing, that policy has been converted to an annuity. So it will pay out a monthly income to me when I retire. I would advise against selling your life insurance policy, unless of course you have to. But getting life insurance? That's another issue entirely. ... I have prepaid my cremation and have no family. So why do I need life insurance?

-- Bear60

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

Also Worth Noting: Make a Difference - Join the Call to Repeal the U.S. Ban on Needle Exchanges

Now that the U.S. government has finally lifted its ban on needle-exchange programs in Washington, D.C., advocates are pushing for the ban to be repealed throughout the country -- and they need your help! The Community HIV/AIDS Mobilization Project is calling on all U.S. citizens to call their representative in Congress and urge them to support a repeal of the needle-exchange ban. Many experts believe that legalizing needle-exchange could help reduce the spread of HIV and other diseases among injection drug users.

HIV IN THE NEWS

Dr. Damaris Olagundoye Fellowships Encourage Minority Doctors to Specialize in HIV Care
Most of the doctors who specialize in HIV care are white, but the majority of people who get HIV in the United States today are people of color. To address this ethnic disparity, the HIV Medicine Association has begun offering fellowships to give young doctors of color the opportunity to spend a year caring for HIV-positive minorities. One of this year's winners, Dr. Damaris Olagundoye (photo on left), chose to focus on HIV after learning that African-American women are the United States' fastest-growing population of new HIV cases. "Unfortunately, HIV is a disease that has a stigma attached to it," she says. "Because of that, I feel drawn to these patients." (News release from the HIV Medicine Association)


 Caribbean American HIV/AIDS Awareness Day Observed
HIV has ravaged the Caribbean region, which is second only to sub-Saharan Africa in percentage of people living with HIV. In an effort to turn this tide, Caribbean HIVers and their supporters in the United States observed the third annual Caribbean American HIV/AIDS Awareness Day on June 8. The day is meant to inspire people of Caribbean descent to not only remember members of their community who have been affected by the HIV pandemic, but to also help fight stigma and ignorance about HIV in the United States and in their homelands. (Press release from the National Minority AIDS Council)

Click here for a listing of Caribbean American HIV/AIDS Awareness Day events in the continental United States and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

A major barrier to effective HIV care and prevention in many Caribbean nations is stigma, which has been fueled by the criminalization of sex between men. Click here to read a detailed assessment of HIV stigma (among other issues) in the Caribbean by the international HIV organization AVERT, or read this grim report on HIV in Jamaica (entitled Hated to Death) from Human Rights Watch.

Want to learn more about HIV in the Caribbean? Click here to browse The Body's country-specific collections of articles.



Also Worth Noting: HIV Testing Day

National HIV Testing Day Poster

U.S. National HIV Testing Day is June 27! You can tell others about the importance of getting tested by ordering free posters online -- but hurry, you only have one week left to place your order. Posters can be shipped to the United States, Canada or Mexico.
HIV TRANSMISSION

 Natural Female Hormone May Help Protect Foreskin From HIV Infection, Study Suggests
You know about condoms. You've heard about circumcision. But when it comes to protecting a man's penis from HIV infection, how about ... estrogen? It may seem surprising, but a very small Australian study has found a possible use for estrogen, a female hormone, in preventing HIV in men. The study found that a cream containing estrogen, when it was applied to the inside of a man's foreskin, triggered the buildup of a type of shield that might protect the foreskin against HIV. The findings are very preliminary -- and, of course, nothing beats a condom for ensuring safer sex. However, since estrogen is a naturally occurring hormone, the researchers are hopeful it may provide some level of protection for HIV-negative men during unprotected sex -- even if they've already been circumcised, since circumcision doesn't entirely remove the foreskin. (Study summary from aidsmap.com)

You can read the full study online in the free, open-access journal PLoS One.


 Better HIV Treatment May Spur Increase in Risky Sex Among Gay Men, Dutch Study Finds
Many HIV experts worry that HIV is resurging among gay men. One question they ask is: Are gay men taking more sexual risks now that HIV treatment is so effective? A new study from the Netherlands suggests they may be. When HIV first swept through the gay community in the Netherlands, transmission rates dropped as gay men changed their sexual behavior and practiced safer sex. But since the modern era of HIV treatment began in 1996, risky sex among Dutch gay men has increased 66 percent, the study found. (Study abstract from the journal AIDS)


 In the HIV Testing Debate, GMHC Backs the Status Quo
A nationwide debate over how to get more people tested for HIV has flared up in New York state. The message from New York-based Gay Men's Health Crisis (GMHC), one of the largest HIV organizations in the country, is: Don't meddle with a good thing. In a new, in-depth policy analysis, GMHC concludes that the state's current rules, which require that a person give written consent before they get an HIV test, are better than federal guidelines, which call for opt-out testing of virtually all adults. That puts GMHC at odds with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's guidelines, as well as a bill currently making its way through the New York State legislature, which would remove the written consent requirement. (Press release from Gay Men's Health Crisis)

Click here to read GMHC's complete report on New York HIV testing law.


 The HIV Vaccine Pipeline (Yes, There Still Is One)
Although there have been some high-profile failures in the world of HIV vaccines, what you might not know is that there are nearly 30 vaccines in various stages of development. This comprehensive chart provides information and commentary on every one of these vaccines: what they're called, who's developing them, and what we know to date about how well they work (or don't work). (Chart from Treatment Action Group)

It's been a long year of soul-searching in the world of HIV vaccine development. Many experts and organizations have offered their views on what the future holds in store for the creation of an HIV vaccine. One such organization is Treatment Action Group, which recently offered this in-depth answer to the question: Where does HIV vaccine research go from here? Treatment Action Group also issued a statement expressing concern about one specific HIV vaccine study that's been proposed, suggesting that the study may be doomed before it even starts.



HIV BASICS

 Get a Crash Course in HIV From the Experts
Want to learn about HIV and HIV treatment from the most respected HIV specialists in the world? Some of the foremost experts on HIV met at a symposium this April, and anyone can listen to their presentations online. The lectures cover some of the most important topics in HIV medicine, including new HIV meds, drug resistance and hepatitis coinfection. Be warned: The lectures are pretty technical, but if you can make it through the jargon in these presentations you'll be rewarded with an extraordinary window into the minds of our top thinkers on HIV. (Presentations from Medscape)



U.S. HIV POLICY

 U.S. Advocates Call for Better Assistance for HIVers Seeking Disability Benefits
HIV advocates in the United States are trying to ensure that HIV-positive people who must go on disability get the benefits they need. "Despite advances in treatment, many people infected by HIV are unable to work," says Bebe Anderson, director of Lambda Legal's HIV Project. Equipped with firsthand evidence of past problems faced by HIVers seeking benefits through the U.S. Social Security Administration, the HIV Project and other HIV organizations have issued a formal letter calling on the Social Security Administration to update its rules so that they better match up with the realities of living with HIV today. Suggested changes include doing more to help people who are coinfected with HIV and other diseases, such as hepatitis. (Press release from Lambda Legal)



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