September 17, 2008
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Jim Pickett Face the Facts: HIV Is Still a Gay Disease, Activist Says
Don't just blame the U.S. government for failing to stop the spread of HIV among gay men, writes outspoken HIV activist Jim Pickett. The blame slices both ways, he says -- and HIV educators themselves should feel the cut. "If you are continuing to spread the notion that HIV is everybody's problem, you are rapping up the wrong tree," he says. It's high time that the U.S. HIV community stop insisting that HIV hurts everybody equally, he says, and admit that we need to pay much more attention -- and money -- on the epidemic among gay men. (Article from Positively Aware)

 Using the Power of the Family to Fight Homophobia, One Community at a Time
"I had no idea that a really happy, functional family living in the suburbs of Chicago could possibly have a gay kid," recalls Char Cepek. She and her husband John Sr. lived in quiet denial of their son's homosexuality for years. But when John Jr. finally outed himself to them while he was in college, they completely supported him. In fact, they quickly decided to take their support outside of the family and combat homophobia in the wider community. John Cepek Sr. is now the national president of the advocacy group PFLAG (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays). In this interview, he tells the story of his family, and explains what PFLAG is all about. (Article and podcast from


Joy Morris-Hightower Meet Joy Morris-Hightower: Transgender HIVer Who Finds Support in "Higher Power"
"When I realized I wasn't going to die and that God had a plan for my life, I changed," says Joy Morris-Hightower, a 45-year-old transgender woman and 27-year HIV survivor. Beaten as a child for wanting to be female, Joy first sought refuge on the streets. After years of sex work, drug addiction and dealing with life-threatening complications of HIV, Joy is now sober and has an undetectable viral load. She says that a key to her recovery is her belief that in Biblical days, transgender people were revered, not reviled: "They had the favor of God on them," Joy says, "and I know God favors me." (Article from Positively Aware)

Also Worth Noting: Visual AIDS

Image from the September 2008 Visual AIDS Gallery
"Remembrance," 1999; Gregg Cassin

Visit the September 2008 Visual AIDS Web Gallery to view our latest collection of art by HIV-positive artists! This month's gallery, entitled "Sex, Drugs and Religion," is curated by Frank Spinelli, M.D.

 In HIVers With an Undetectable Viral Load, HIV Is Stopped Cold, Researcher Argues
Today's HIV meds are powerful. But are they so powerful that they can completely stop HIV from reproducing? Robert Siliciano, M.D., Ph.D., thinks so. The noted HIV researcher says he's found evidence that our most potent HIV treatment regimens are capable of totally stopping the creation of new copies of HIV. Although some HIV may still survive in "viral reservoirs" within the body, Dr. Siliciano argues that modern HIV treatment may have robbed HIV of its "main weapon against us ... its ability to evolve." (Article from

For more on this story, read or listen to our one-on-one interview with Dr. Siliciano from the XVII International AIDS Conference.

 First-Line HIV Treatment Regimens Last Longer Than Ever, Study Shows
Since the era of once-a-day HIV meds began in 2004, HIVers have been able to stay on their original treatment regimens for longer than ever before, a new study has found. Better convenience and fewer side effects from the newer HIV meds have meant longer-lasting regimens, the study suggests. In fact, people who started treatment with once-a-day regimens stayed on those regimens more than a year and a half longer than people who started treatment with twice-a-day regimens, the study found. It's worth noting, however, that other studies have shown that people taking potent twice-a-day regimens still do very well. This study also did not look at whether the dosing frequency of a regimen had any impact on a person's viral load or CD4 count. The research was partly funded by one of the drug companies behind the once-a-day combo med Atripla (efavirenz/tenofovir/FTC). (Article from

 Taking HIV Meds Throughout Pregnancy Does More Good Than Harm, Study Suggests
Just how safe is it for a woman to take a full HIV treatment regimen while she's pregnant? Quite safe, according to a new study out of Africa. Compared to women who only received a brief course of HIV meds at the end of their pregnancy (and another course for the baby after birth), women who took a full treatment regimen throughout their pregnancy were less likely to pass HIV to their babies, the study found. Babies of women on consistent HIV treatment were more likely to have low birth weight, but they were just as likely to survive as regular-weight babies, the study showed. (Article from

Although taking HIV treatment might be pretty safe in general for HIV-positive pregnant women, some specific HIV meds are dangerous to take during pregnancy. Read this article from the U.S. health department resource AIDSInfo to learn more, or browse's complete listing of articles and resources on HIV and pregnancy.


 New Official Numbers Reveal Depth of Epidemic Among U.S. Blacks, Gay Men
Gay men and African Americans bear by far the largest brunt of the U.S. HIV epidemic, according to new numbers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC estimates that in 2006, 45 percent of all new HIV infections occurred among blacks and 53 percent occurred among gay men. Although only one out of four people who became HIV positive in 2006 were women, black women were 14.7 times more likely than white women to be infected, the numbers show. The ages of people most at risk also vary by race, the CDC says: Among black gay men, the "prime" age for infection was 13 to 29. Among white gay men, it was 30 to 39. (Report from Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report)

When you break down the U.S. HIV estimates by state, racial and gender gaps are still stark. In South Carolina, for instance, 990 people became HIV positive in 2006, according to the state's health department -- and infections were six times more common among black people than all other races combined. Men and young people were also much more likely to have HIV, the state reported.

 Snorting Drugs and Sharing Straws May Carry Hep C Risk, Study Suggests
It may be possible to spread hepatitis C through shared drug-sniffing equipment, such as straws or even rolled-up bills, according to researchers. People can be exposed to hep C when their open wounds or mucus membranes come into contact with an infected person's blood or mucus. The study findings suggest that, at least when it comes to sharing drug-snorting equipment, there may not need to be blood involved for hep C transmission to happen. (Article from

 HIV and Gay Men: Experts Say It's Time to Expose the Invisible HIV Pandemic
We're more than two decades into the global HIV pandemic, and gay men are still among those hardest hit by the pandemic -- in some areas, they make up more than half of all new infections. Yet despite these high infection rates, gay men are completely ignored by many countries' HIV prevention efforts. It's time to make a change, experts say. For instance, David Winters, a manager with the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, suggests that proposing HIV prevention plans for gay men should be a default guideline for countries applying for Global Fund assistance. (Article from Windy City Times)

 Seattle Finds Higher-Than-Expected Rate of False Negatives With Rapid HIV Test
The OraQuick rapid HIV test -- which can test a person's saliva or blood -- is generally reliable. Just how reliable, however, may be up for debate. A new report from the Seattle health department says that false-negative results from the oral fluid test may happen at least 8 percent of the time -- that's way more than the 0.7 percent rate written on the test's labeling. The company that produces OraQuick says it's looking into the report. The news out of Seattle comes several months after New York City's health department announced it would temporarily stop testing oral fluid with OraQuick in its public clinics due to an unusually high rate of false-positive test results. (Article from

You can read more about New York City's recent problems with the OraQuick oral HIV test in this article from

Also Worth Noting: Connect With Others
I've Had HIV for a Year -- and My Partner of 11 Years Doesn't Know
(A recent post from the "Gay Men" board)

I tested positive exactly a year ago. I am not on meds yet, as my immune system is reasonably good. Although I've accepted my status, my fear is other people knowing about it and perhaps judging me because of it. Therefore, I have only told my sister. I am still with my long-term partner of 11 years and love him dearly, but I just can't bring myself to tell him that I am positive. Our relationship has been eventful over the years ... we stopped having sex almost six years ago, but we still love each other even without it. ... [I] feel very isolated and lonely because I don't have anyone to talk to other than my sister. I often look at my partner and wish I could just talk to him about everything that's been happening to me, but I wonder if I will ever tell him about my status.

-- stevie

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


 Obama Declares His Commitment -- and Connection -- to Gay and Lesbian Issues
Want to know where Barack Obama stands on how to fight HIV within the United States, as well as on some of the issues that matter to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community? The Democratic candidate for U.S. President recently responded to a range of questions from the Washington Blade about LGBT concerns. Though Obama skirts a question about teaching gay youths about safer sex, he does make promising claims regarding how he'd approach the fight against HIV in the United States, and vows to "confront the stigma -- too often tied to homophobia -- that continues to surround HIV/AIDS." (Article from the Washington Blade)

The Blade either didn't ask John McCain to answer a similar series of questions or didn't receive his answers, so there's no counterpoint to Obama's interview. However, you can find out more about where both candidates stand on HIV in The Body's collection of articles on the 2008 U.S. elections.

 Sarah Palin's Pregnant Daughter and the Future of Sex Ed in the United States
Just days after John McCain chose Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate, the country learned that Palin's 17-year-old, unmarried daughter was five months pregnant. For many people, especially those who are critical of abstinence-only education, the questions were irresistible: Was Bristol Palin taught how to have safer sex, so she could avoid pregnancy and protect herself from sexually transmitted diseases? How does this all reflect on Gov. Palin, a fiercely pro-life, conservative Christian who says she opposes "explicit sex education"? In this article, the Black AIDS Institute argues that, if Gov. Palin and Sen. McCain win the White House, they'll base their sex ed policy on "dangerous, discredited ideas," rather than proven techniques and good sense. (Article from the Black AIDS Institute)

You can learn more about Sarah Palin's positions on sex education in this report from National Public Radio.


 British Man Goes to Prison a Second Time for Failing to Disclose HIV Status
For the second time in his life, an HIV-positive British man has been sentenced to several years in prison for having sex without disclosing his HIV status. Edward Kelly was given a three-year prison sentence in 2003 for not disclosing. Now he's pleaded guilty to a new charge of aggravated sexual assault for having sex (sometimes with a condom, sometimes not) with a woman he met on an Internet chat site in 2005. In addition to his new prison sentence, Kelly's name will be permanently added to the country's list of sex offenders. (Article from The London Free Press)

 U.S. Government Sues School on Behalf of Teacher Allegedly Fired for Having HIV
A private elementary school in Maryland is being sued by the federal government for firing a teacher because he's HIV positive. The lawsuit, which was filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission last week, claims that Chauncey Stevenson, a second-grade teacher, lost his job in 2006 because school administrators learned he has HIV -- a clear violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The school's administrators claim they had "legitimate reasons for [their] personnel actions," but a lawyer representing Stevenson says he was "a good teacher and well-liked." (Article from The Baltimore Sun)

You can learn more about your rights in the workplace, and how the Americans with Disabilities Act protects people with HIV in the United States, by browsing's collection of articles on HIV and legal issues in the workplace.

 Brazil Rejects Patent for Viread
Brazil has long been a maverick when it comes to fighting HIV, and has been held up as a shining example of a country doing all it can to get HIV treatment to its citizens. This month, it took another step: The country rejected a patent application for Viread (tenofovir), which may strengthen Brazil's hand as it tries to negotiate a lower price for the drug. Brazil has already replaced another HIV med, Sustiva (efavirenz, Stocrin), with a cheaper generic version after the company that makes the brand-name version refused to bend to Brazil's demand to cut the price of Sustiva by 60 percent. (Article from

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