August 28, 2008
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VIDEO FROM THE XVII INTERNATIONAL AIDS CONFERENCE

Keith Green TheBody.com Presents Video Highlights of Events and Viewpoints From Mexico City
What's it like to experience the world's largest HIV conference? For the first time, TheBody.com broke out its video cameras to bring you the sights and sounds of a major HIV conference. At our Video Central page for the XVII International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2008), you can check out a range of fascinating events and viewpoints, including:

  • Gay Men and HIV: How AIDS 2008 May Change Everything
    Keith Green (photo above right) details what makes AIDS 2008 worthwhile -- and how the conference may have made him a stronger, louder, angrier activist for HIV-positive gay men.
  • Meet the Muppets of HIV Prevention
    In an impromptu theatre event, Mexican HIV prevention workers demonstrate how they use puppets to (rather graphically) educate Mexican teens about safer sex.
  • Where Religion and HIV Meet: An HIV-Positive Pastor in South Africa
    HIV-positive Reverend Christo Greyling, one of the founding members of a new international network of positive people of faith, discusses his life and his take on AIDS 2008.
Check out Video Central at AIDS 2008 to watch all of these videos and more! We'll be adding new videos over the days and weeks to come, so check back often for the latest.



VIEWPOINTS

 Have HIV Activists Stopped Fighting for a Cure?
The focus of HIV activism is no longer about the search for a cure, writes Laurie Garrett, one of the world's foremost HIV journalists. Instead, she says, HIV activism has become little more than a celebration "of a vast, multibillion dollar AIDS treatment industry, employing hundreds of thousands of individuals worldwide that serve as a vested lobby on behalf of a prolonged medical approach to a virus that ought to be eliminated entirely." Does she have a point, or is she totally off the mark? Read her latest column and judge for yourself. (Article from the International Herald Tribune)


 Veteran Science Reporter Reflects on World's Largest HIV Conference
The XVII International AIDS Conference was so massive that it's impossible for any one reporter to adequately cover it -- even an elite reporter with The New York Times. But since the early years of the pandemic, Times science reporter Larry Altman has chronicled the evolution of our attempts to prevent and treat HIV for a mainstream audience. In this report, he reveals what he feels has changed about the International AIDS Conference over the years, and what was interesting and noteworthy about this year's meeting. (Article from The New York Times)


 Why HIV Can't Be Fought With Meds Alone
"You can't fight AIDS without medicine, but you also can't fight AIDS with medicine alone," writes Helen Epstein. The XVII International AIDS Conference inspired many people to talk about where the HIV community should be focusing its efforts in the future. In this article, Epstein explains why we can't truly beat HIV without improving our efforts to prevent people from becoming infected in the first place. (Article from the Los Angeles Times)


 How Do Religion and HIV Prevention Mix?
When it comes to HIV prevention, the world's religions have often been more of an obstacle than a help. This may be partly because the leaders of many major religions explicitly disapprove of homosexuality. In a fascinating session at the XVII International AIDS Conference, three experts -- a former Hindu monk who's now a gay rights activist in India, a U.S. physician and an Australian researcher -- try to answer the question: Is religion a barrier to HIV prevention? (Article from kaisernetwork.org)



Also Worth Noting: Visual AIDS

Image from the August 2008 Visual AIDS Gallery
"Untitled (Chair)," 1998; Robert Blanchon

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.
HIV TRANSMISSION

 New York City's HIV Rate Is Three Times Higher Than Rest of U.S.
Most of us probably already knew that New York City has been hit harder by HIV than most other U.S. cities. But did you know the epidemic is expanding in the city at a rate three times faster than in the rest of the country? A new report from the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene paints what may be the most accurate picture to date about the state of HIV in Manhattan and its surrounding boroughs. The report says that 4,762 New Yorkers became HIV positive in 2006; about three quarters were men, about half were black, and half of all new infections were among men who have sex with men. (Article from kaisernetwork.org)

For more information on the new HIV infection numbers in New York City, read this official release from the city health department. Also be sure to check out this reaction article from Housing Works, which rails against the city and New York State for recent decisions to dramatically slash funding for a range of HIV-related services.


 Can You Safely Have Sex Without a Condom? A Calm, Careful Look at the Evidence
When Swiss doctors issued a report early this year arguing that, in very specific circumstances, people with HIV can consider ditching condoms with their HIV-negative partners, many erupted in outrage. Not so fast, says this analysis from Project Inform: The San Francisco-based HIV organization argues that dismissing the so-called "Swiss statement" would be "both scientifically and ethically unsound." (Article from Project Inform)

Project Inform's article was written in response to a session on the Swiss statement at the International AIDS Conference. You can read or listen to a summary of the panel's remarks or the Q & A session that followed it.


 Desperate Situations Put Children in Togo at Risk for HIV
"Children are disappearing out of school [in Togo]," says Alice Behrendt. "All of a sudden, out of a class of 30 children, there are 15 missing." So goes the disturbing story of children in Togo who are "trafficked" -- brought by agents to surrounding countries to be exploited for their work. In this interview with TheBody.com, Behrendt, who works with trafficked girls through the international development organization Plan West Africa, talks about her work in Togo -- a country where rape is far too common, sex work is often the only option for survival, and there is little in the way of treatment available for those who test positive for HIV. (Article and audio from TheBody.com)



MAKING A DIFFERENCE

 Meet Quintara Lane: HIV-Positive Activist and Leader of the Upcoming "Stand Against AIDS"
"I'm able to fight for what I need and what I want. But it shouldn't be a fight," says Quintara Lane. She's the leader of one of eight activist caravans traveling to the first U.S. presidential debate next month in Mississippi as part of a protest called "Stand Against AIDS." Lane, a 21-year-old HIVer from the Miami, Fla., area, has been involved in HIV activism for four years, but her recent struggles to secure medical care have solidified her belief in the need for both universal health care and a national plan to fight HIV in the United States. In September, she will take her demands straight to the first debate between Barack Obama and John McCain. (Article from Housing Works)

The HIV advocacy organization Housing Works has been chronicling the progress of Stand Against AIDS toward the big debate on Sept. 26. Click here to read more from Housing Works about this ambitious campaign.


 Wary of Olympic Crackdown, a Chinese HIV Activist Comes to the U.S.
In 1998, a Chinese astrophysics student named Li Dan watched Tom Hanks play an HIV-positive lawyer in the movie Philadelphia and became inspired to fight HIV in his own country. He went on to create a documentary about a Chinese village ravaged by HIV, start a school for children orphaned by the virus and establish a renowned Chinese HIV organization. Today, Li is an outspoken HIV activist -- so outspoken, in fact, that he feared speaking his mind in his home country during the Beijing Olympics would land him in jail. Read this article to learn more about Li Dan's amazing story, his fellowship in New York this summer and China's suppression of HIV activists. (Article from Housing Works)



Also Worth Noting: Connect With Others
Why Am I Less Happy Than Other People With HIV?
(A recent post from the "Living With HIV" board)

I read about all of these people with HIV who are feeling great, happy to be alive and moving on with their lives. Me, on the other hand: I am still self-medicating with alcohol, crying nightly and struggling to survive [all of my] medication bills and co-pays. I can barely look my friends in the face because they do not know about my positive status due to my fear of rejection. I continue to feel like I am below others, and it has been a year and a half since I [was diagnosed]. Things are not getting better, time is not healing. ... It would be nice to know that I am not alone.

-- daisy07

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

HIV & THE 2008 U.S. ELECTION

 A Missed Chance to Grill U.S. Presidential Candidates on HIV Policy
Imagine this: You're an influential religious leader and an HIV activist, and the two men who will be vying for the White House this November have agreed to speak with you. What kind of questions would you ask? Disappointingly, when Rev. Rick Warren, a pastor who has been a passionate proponent of fighting HIV in the developing world, had that chance earlier this month, not a single question about HIV-related policy made his list. "I fear we have lost our best opportunity to get McCain, in particular, to discuss AIDS, especially domestic AIDS, before the election," lamented Housing Works President Charles King. (Article from Housing Works)


 U.S. Democratic Party Must Be Held Accountable for Fighting Black HIV Epidemic, Black AIDS Institute Says
For many in the United States, this year's Democratic National Convention -- at which Barack Obama officially became the first-ever African-American to receive a major political party's nomination for U.S. president -- represents a historic step toward building a nation in which all people are valued equally. However, as this recent Black AIDS Institute statement points out, the African-American HIV epidemic remains a brutal example of how deeply many inequities still run in the United States. The institute urges voters who care about HIV to make sure that Obama, as well as others in the Democratic leadership, practice what they preach about ending the HIV epidemic at home and abroad. (Article from Black AIDS Institute)

When it comes to the African-American HIV epidemic, the picture is not a pretty one. If Black America were a nation on its own, its number of HIV-positive citizens would exceed that of seven of the 15 developing countries targeted by the U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. This and other shocking statistics, as well as HIV-fighting plans from prominent African-American leaders, are outlined in the Black AIDS Institute's recently released report, "Left Behind," which places the African-American HIV epidemic in a global context.



HIV TREATMENT & HEALTH ISSUES

 Milk Thistle Extract May Improve Liver Health in HIVers With Hep C, Study Suggests
People seeking a natural way to keep their livers healthy sometimes try taking a milk thistle supplement, but does it really help? Evidence so far is thin, but a small study of an extract from milk thistle seed (called silymarin) found that, when taken by people who are coinfected with HIV and hepatitis C, it may reduce their levels of a chemical that's released when the liver is damaged. Also a plus: The extract doesn't appear to cause any significant side effects. Though this is good news, it's not time to dash to the pharmacy for a bottle of milk thistle just yet: These are only preliminary results, and what's available at stores may not be as pure or as potent as the extract used in this study. (Article from Project Inform)

The abstract of this study was presented at the XVII International AIDS Conference earlier this month. If you'd like to learn more about milk thistle's potential benefits in people with HIV, read this fact sheet from AIDS InfoNet.


 Immune Booster May Allow People to Delay Start of HIV Treatment, Study Suggests
All HIV medications on the market right now fight HIV head on, but researchers and activists have long been intrigued by a second line of attack: Instead of creating drugs to go after HIV itself, some scientists are trying to develop drugs that keep HIV down by boosting a person's immune system. A drug known as interleukin-2 (IL-2) has gotten a lot of attention over the years as a potential immune booster in HIVers, but study results have been inconsistent. However, a new study presented at the XVII International AIDS Conference found that people who took IL-2 maintained their CD4 counts better than people who didn't take it -- so much better, in fact, that they were able to delay starting HIV meds for an average of 92 weeks. (Article from Project Inform)

The abstract of this study was presented at the XVII International AIDS Conference earlier this month. You can also find a wealth of additional information about IL-2 in TheBody.com's library of IL-2 articles.


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