July 30, 2008
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AIDS 2008 Much More Than Research: TheBody.com Covers the XVII International AIDS Conference
More than 25,000 HIV-positive people, activists and health care professionals are converging on Mexico City for the HIV event to top all HIV events: the XVII International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2008). It's a weeklong spectacle of pomp, protests, research, knowledge, community, arts and entertainment -- and TheBody.com's team of reporters will be there to bring it to you! In photos, video, audio and written transcripts, we'll help you experience what it's like to attend the world's largest HIV conference. Tune in beginning Aug. 3 for the very latest.

To learn more about the conference itself, visit the official Web site of AIDS 2008.



HIV VIEWPOINTS

Terri Wilder How One Woman Sticks to Her Guns When It Comes to Using Condoms
"I can't tell you how many times people have tried to talk me out of using latex condoms," writes TheBody.com's exasperated Terri Wilder, a social worker with nearly two decades of HIV prevention work under her belt (so to speak). "Do they think this prevention song and dance is only for the office?" In the latest installment of her blog, Terri shares tales from the latex trenches: her first-hand stories about how she has dealt with guys who just don't want to slip on the love glove. (Blog from TheBody.com)



LIVING WITH HIV

 Major Study Provides Latest Proof That HIVers' Lives Are Getting Longer
If you're diagnosed with HIV in your 20s, live in a developed country and are taking effective HIV meds, experts predict you'll live at least well into your 60s, according to a huge study of HIV-positive people in Europe and North America. The study is the latest evidence to show that, although HIV-positive people in the developed world still don't have quite the same life expectancy as HIV-negative people, the gap continues to narrow thanks to the use of more effective HIV treatment -- as well as the move to start treatment at higher CD4 counts. (Article from aidsmap.com)

You can read the abstract of this study in the July 26 issue of The Lancet.


 "Mindful Meditation" May Help Keep CD4 Count Stable
You've probably heard a million times that stress can hurt your immune system. But does that mean that reducing stress can boost your immune system? The answer may be yes, according to a small U.S. study. The study took 67 stressed-out HIVers and put about two-thirds of them on a two-month program of "mindfulness meditation," which tries to help people avoid dwelling too much on the past or the future. People who took part in the meditation generally didn't lose any CD4 cells, while those who didn't meditate generally saw their CD4 count drop. "The mindfulness program is a group-based and low-cost treatment," notes lead researcher David Creswell. "If this initial finding is replicated in larger samples, it's possible that such training can be used as a powerful complementary treatment for HIV disease, alongside medications." (Press release from the University of California-Los Angeles)



Also Worth Noting: Visual AIDS

Image from the July 2008 Visual AIDS Gallery
"Untitled," 1996; Alberto Velasco

Visit the July 2008 Visual AIDS Web Gallery to view our latest collection of art by HIV-positive artists! This month's gallery, entitled "Militancy and Mourning," is curated by Paul Sendziuk.
HIV IN THE NEWS

 HIV-Positive U.S. Woman Gets Three Years in Prison for Spitting
Incredibly, for the second time this year, an HIV-positive person in the United States has gotten prison time for spitting on someone, even though there's never been a documented case of HIV transmission through saliva. Audrey D. Lewis, 43, of Columbus, Ga., was sentenced to three years in prison for spitting in a woman's face. (Police reported that Lewis also said, "I hope you get AIDS, bitch.") Lewis pleaded guilty to aggravated assault; although her attorney was hoping for a 90-day sentence, Lewis got three years because this was her fourth felony offense. (Article from the Ledger-Enquirer)

In May, this newsletter reported on another U.S. prison sentence involving an HIV-positive person's saliva: A 42-year-old homeless man with a history of previous arrests was sentenced to 35 years in prison for, among other things, assault with a deadly weapon -- that weapon being, of course, his spit.


 Final Approval Imminent for Bill to Boost PEPFAR, Ease U.S. Travel Restrictions
Both houses of the U.S. Congress have now approved a bill that would massively boost funding for the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), and would also likely ease travel restrictions for HIV-positive people coming to the United States. Just one step remains: President Bush must sign the bill, which he has indicated he's eager to do.


 ADAP Waiting Lists Return, and Harder Times May Lie Ahead
Once again, people with HIV in the United States who need help paying for their medications are being forced to wait. After the U.S. government increased funding for AIDS Drug Assistance Programs (ADAPs) in 2007, wait lists for the program evaporated. But now they're back: As of July 3, 35 HIV-positive people in Montana and Indiana were reportedly on waiting lists for HIV medications, and Montana and Utah reduced the number of drugs their ADAPs will cover. At the same time, a number of states have reportedly been forced to curtail their Medicare Part B benefits. The San Francisco-based HIV organization Project Inform warns that, at current funding levels, even more cutbacks will likely be necessary in the months to come. (Article from Project Inform)

For a complete breakdown of the cutbacks in ADAP services and an analysis of how funding shortfalls may affect people with HIV in the United States over the next year, take a look at this report from the National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors.



Also Worth Noting: Connect With Others
If There's Love, Why Should HIV Make a Difference?
(A recent post from the "My Loved One Has HIV/AIDS" board)

I am SO tired of people sending in posts asking what they should do about the person they are in love with due to the fact that they are HIV+. I want to say that anyone who has tested positive for HIV/AIDS is a person, no different than those of us who are fortunate enough to not have contracted HIV/AIDS. ...

I know friends and family may not agree with your wanting to love and care for someone that they see as less than perfect. ... Maybe I'm crazy, but when I found out about my boyfriend, I didn't think of myself much at all. Instead, I educated myself. It hurt my heart that he had done the same things as so many others [who are still negative] and had been infected. I saw and heard all the things he said and did and realized that all he wanted was to be loved and accepted, just like everyone else does. Why does he not deserve that? Because he is HIV+? That's crap!

-- mandaree23

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

HIV TRANSMISSION

 Experts Warn That Unprotected Sex Is Risky Even for HIVers on Effective Meds
Is it ever safe for a person with HIV to have unprotected sex with an HIV-negative partner? Earlier this year, a Swiss HIV physicians' group suggested that people with HIV could safely ditch their condoms provided they were taking HIV meds consistently, had an undetectable viral load for at least six months, had no other sexually transmitted diseases and were in a committed, monogamous, heterosexual relationship. However, a group of Australian researchers begs to differ: In a new study, they predict that if all HIVers who met the Swiss criteria had unprotected sex, their partners would get HIV at a rate four times higher over the next decade than if they kept practicing safer sex. (Article from aidsmap.com)

You can read the abstract of this study in the July 26 issue of The Lancet.


 CDC Promises "Clearest Picture to Date" of U.S. HIV Epidemic
How many people in the United States get HIV each year? It's impossible to know for sure, but the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention hasn't helped: The agency hasn't changed its estimate of 40,000 infections per year in more than a decade. However, the U.S. HIV community has been buzzing for months over rumors that a new estimate is about to be released. Next week, the waiting and uncertainty will end: The CDC says its most accurate estimate to date of the annual number of HIV infections in the United States will be published in the Aug. 3 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association. (Article from kaisernetwork.org)

In an attempt to explain why it's taken so long for the new U.S. HIV estimates to come out, and to help the public understand how these new estimates will differ from older ones, the CDC has published this brief guide. If you're eager to know more about how U.S. health officials track the U.S. HIV epidemic, this article may help.


 New Guidelines for HIV-Positive Pregnant Women Available; Viracept Gets the OK (PDF)
The U.S. health department recently revised its guidelines on how to ensure that HIV-positive pregnant women don't pass the virus to their babies. One of the most notable changes from previous versions of the guidelines is that Viracept (nelfinavir), an HIV medication that is no longer commonly used in the developed world, has been given a green light as safe to use by pregnant women. (PDF from AIDSinfo)



HIV THROUGHOUT THE WORLD

 How Wisely Is the World Spending Its HIV Money?
In the past 10 years, funding for HIV in the developing world has skyrocketed from just $485 million a year to $10 billion a year. While it's encouraging to see serious money pouring into the fight against the HIV pandemic, some have begun to wonder, "Is all that cash being spent wisely?" In its latest issue, the journal Science explored this question. In a series of enlightening articles and video reports, the journal examines where HIV funding goes and who it benefits -- for better and for worse. (Articles from Science; free registration required)


 Give Us Our Daily Meds: Demanding HIV Treatment in Peru
When Jorge Salinas was diagnosed with HIV in 1996, he was reassured that HIV meds would soon be available in Peru. Eight years later, in 2004, Salinas was so sick he couldn't walk, and his country still could not provide him with HIV meds. Now it's been 12 years, and "soon" still hasn't quite arrived. Though Peru has been guaranteeing its citizens universal access to HIV treatment since 2006, Salinas says HIV meds are still scarce. The problem, he says, is that too many people have kept silent while simply waiting for the government to act. "My own silence was killing me," he says. "While I still have a voice, I won't be silent." (Article from Thrive)


 Israeli Circumcision Expertise Helps Africa Fight HIV
In a fascinating mix of cultures, Israeli doctors are visiting African nations to teach health care workers there how to perform male circumcisions. It's all part of an effort to help curb the spread of HIV in Africa: In 2006, studies showed that male circumcision can reduce by half the risk that a man will get HIV from a woman during unprotected sex. Since then, the procedure's popularity has surged among African men. In Israel most men are circumcised, since circumcision is mandated by Jewish law. This puts Israeli surgeons in a position to "respond to a very important humanitarian challenge," according to Inon Schenker, director of one of the programs sending Israeli doctors to Africa. (Article from the Chicago Tribune)



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