August 14, 2008
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More than Research: Welcome to AIDS 2008

Image from the AIDS 2008 Photojournal

Although the XVII International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2008) has ended, our wide-ranging coverage of this extraordinary conference is just getting started!

Check out our double-barreled coverage of AIDS 2008 -- study summaries and interviews with researchers are on The Body PRO; first-person stories and other noteworthy news are on -- and experience what it's like to be a part of the world's largest HIV conference. We'll be adding many more articles, podcasts and videos in the days to come, as well as our one-of-a-kind AIDS 2008 Photojournal!

Heidi Nass A Slice of Life at the World's Largest HIV Meeting
"All in all, we've got ourselves one fine -- and tragic -- mess," says HIV-positive advocate Heidi Nass. She's referring to the tangle of bittersweet news presented at the XVII International AIDS Conference earlier this month, as well as the ongoing injustices against HIVers that were highlighted daily at the world's largest HIV-related meeting. In this blog, one of a series of blogs she wrote from the conference, Nass shares insightful details of her experience as a first-time attendee and presenter. (Blog from

 In the United States -- Not Just Overseas -- HIV Is a Health Emergency, Experts Say
Name that country: Every 10 minutes, another person within its borders is infected with HIV. In its capital city, HIV is more common than it is in Ethiopia or Rwanda. The answer? The United States. In this op-ed, health policy experts Susan J. Blumenthal and Melissa Shive argue that despite the United States' progress in fighting HIV in developing countries, the country is failing to take care of HIV at home. (Article from The Washington Times)

The comments that people have left on this article, unfortunately, exhibit plenty of old-school homophobia and hostility towards HIVers. If you're in the mood to do some educating, consider leaving a comment of your own.

Sheryl Lee Ralph It's Time to Demand Respect for Black People With HIV, Actress Declares
"I am black. I am in the world. And I matter just like anybody else," says actress and longtime HIV activist Sheryl Lee Ralph. "It cannot be business as usual when it comes to black people and AIDS." In an impassioned speech at the XVII International AIDS Conference last week, Ralph poured out her anger and frustration over how little the United States seems to be doing to fight HIV among African Americans. "When will the national emergency take place? When will somebody get truly outraged?" she asked. "When is somebody going to value black people?" (Audio and article from

Shortly after her speech, spoke with Sheryl Lee Ralph one-on-one. In this emotional interview, she dares people to join her in a protest at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., this September.


Paul Sax, M.D. AIDS 2008 Research Highlights: An Interview With Paul Sax, M.D.
In a conference as massive as the XVII International AIDS Conference, how is anybody supposed to figure out what the most important clinical news is? The Body PRO,'s sister site for health care professionals, spoke with top HIV experts at the conference to get the lowdown. In this interview with Paul Sax, M.D., the hundreds of studies presented at AIDS 2008 are whittled down to the gems that are most likely to impact HIV treatment over the months to come. (Audio and article from The Body PRO)

For another look at conference highlights, read or listen to these day-by-day recaps from Science magazine correspondent Jon Cohen.

Stay tuned to's AIDS 2008 home page as we add many more end-of-conference recaps, as well as personal perspectives from HIV physicians, activists and other conference attendees!

 The Med That Lasts and Lasts: Early Test Shows Promise for Long-Lasting HIV Medication Doses
Could a single dose of an HIV medication last for months without losing its punch? Researchers think it's possible -- and an early test of a novel type of technology appears to back them up. The test involved using what's called a "nanosuspension" of an experimental HIV medication, TMC278. HIV-negative people injected with the nanosuspension appeared not to have any major side effects, and the drug stayed in their blood for 12 weeks. In this interview with The Body PRO, study researcher Peter Williams explains the findings. (Article from The Body PRO)

 Injection Drug Users Do Just as Well on HIV Meds, Study Says
HIV treatment is just as effective for injection drug users (IDUs) as it is for non-IDUs, according to a new, five-year study of more than 3,000 HIV-positive people. Previous reports had suggested that IDUs fared worse on HIV treatment than their non-IDU counterparts. The new study begs to differ: Researchers examined overall death rates in both groups, and found no differences. (Article from the Journal of the American Medical Association)

Click here to read the abstract, which was published in the Aug. 6 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

 Early Treatment Can Help HIVers Avoid Long-Term Complications, New Recommendations Say
Yet another major panel of HIV experts has recommended that people start HIV treatment when their CD4 count drops to 350, as opposed to the old recommendation of starting at 200. The International AIDS Society-USA has joined U.S. and European health authorities in urging earlier treatment, saying that the faster start will help HIVers avoid long-term complications like cancer and heart disease. (Article from

The International AIDS Society-USA panel issued the new recommendations in the Aug. 6 edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association, and presented the recommendations at the opening of the XVII International AIDS Conference earlier this month.

Also Worth Noting: Visual AIDS

Image from the August 2008 Visual AIDS Gallery
"Stretch," 1996; Barton Lidice Benes

Visit the August 2008 Visual AIDS Web Gallery to view our latest collection of art by HIV-positive artists! This month's gallery, entitled "Medicine Show," is curated by Billy Miller.

 Culture of Silence Blamed for High Rates of HIV Among Hispanic Americans
"We have been invisible," says Guillermo Chacon, the vice president of the Latino Commission on AIDS. "I keep reminding people this is a killer in our communities." The numbers don't lie: Hispanics are at higher risk for HIV than whites, and are less likely to be tested for HIV until they get sick -- in part because of language barriers, limited access to health care, legal problems and conservative social values. "You never think it will affect you ... By the time I learned to have safe sex, it was too late," explains Martin Robles, an HIV-positive gay man from Mexico who was diagnosed in Dallas, Texas. (Article from The Dallas Morning News)

 As Treatment of Gays in Latin America Improves, Winning Asylum in U.S. Gets Harder
Some Latin American countries are becoming more tolerant towards gays and lesbians: Laws against homosexuality are being cast aside and access to HIV treatment is improving. Sounds great, right? However, as discrimination and bigotry against gays and lesbians declines, it's getting harder for Latin American gays and lesbians to win political asylum in the United States, according to immigrant advocates. That's a problem for people who are still treated poorly in countries that haven't yet come far enough in their respect of gay rights. Take Alejandro Torres, for instance: He's a gay, HIV-positive Mexican who was denied asylum though he was arrested for being gay, harassed in his job with the navy and became desperately ill because he couldn't find competent HIV treatment in Mexico. (Article from


 "Lady With Dildos" Travels the World to Promote Women's Self-Empowerment
What does farming have to do with dildos? Dazon Dixon Diallo knows. Known as "the lady with the dildos" in parts of the United States, Diallo and her organization, SisterLove, Inc., are famous in the Atlanta, Ga., area for the explicit parties they host for women as a fun way to promote sexual health education. Meanwhile, in South Africa, Diallo spends several months each year on a collective farm she helped form for women affected by HIV. The connection? Helping women empower themselves. "When women are ... dependent on men" -- whether economically or emotionally -- "they are vulnerable to HIV," Diallo explains. (Article from Black AIDS Institute)

Also Worth Noting: Connect With Others
My Husband Is Pos -- and Gay!
(A recent post from the "My Loved One Has HIV/AIDS" board)

It has been two weeks since we sat in the nephrologist's office to get the results of my husband's kidney tests -- and were told that he is HIV positive! Silly me! I knew our marriage wasn't the greatest, but with 24 years of marriage and two kids, I figured that the grass was not always greener on the other side of the fence. Now, I find out he has been [having sex with men] for about 15 years. ... He has had many one-night stands, three longer relationships. ... They didn't know he was married with kids, or even where he works! He swears he loves me and wants to stay together. I am just so scared, numb, confused, hurt, alone! We are not telling anyone. We have lied to EVERYONE! It is so difficult to keep up the facade. I just need somewhere to vent, talk, listen, and learn!

-- Dragonfly

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


 Viread Officially Approved as a Treatment for Hepatitis B
Thousands of people in the United States are estimated to be living with both HIV and hepatitis B. As of this week, there's one more thing the two viruses have in common: Viread (tenofovir) has been approved to fight both of them. Although using Viread to fight both hepatitis B and HIV in coinfected people is already standard practice, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's official approval of Viread gives it more solid backing. The only other drug approved to treat both HIV and hepatitis B is Epivir (lamivudine, 3TC). (Article from

To learn more about hep B treatment and prevention, check out's collection of news, research and resources on hepatitis B.

 HIV/Hepatitis C Coinfection May Increase Heart Attack, Stroke Risk, Study Finds
People who are coinfected with HIV and hepatitis C appear slightly more likely to have a stroke or heart attack than people who are infected only with HIV, according to the results of a huge U.S. study. The findings were a bit of a surprise, since the researchers also noted that HIV/hep C-coinfected people tend to have lower levels of cholesterol and triglycerides. There is good news in the study, however: For one thing, the increased risk among coinfected people is not terribly high. For another, the study found that rates of heart attack and stroke in coinfected people have fallen as HIV drugs have improved, evidence that HIV treatment reduces people's risk of heart disease. (Article from

To learn more about this study, you can read the abstract or peruse the PowerPoint slide set the researchers presented at the XVII International AIDS Conference.


 Three HIV Drug Makers Promise More Help to ADAP and HIVers With Private Insurance
Promises from three of the most important HIV drug makers could help keep costs down for U.S. AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP) and HIVers in the United States who buy their meds using private insurance. In response to a request from the HIV advocacy group Fair Pricing Coalition, GlaxoSmithKline and Gilead Sciences Inc. have promised to pay rebates for co-pays that private health insurance companies charge for HIV meds. Merck & Co. refused to reimburse co-pays, but it and Gilead promised not to raise the prices it charges ADAP for its meds until 2010. (Press release from Fair Pricing Coalition)

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