October 2, 2008
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LIVING WITH HIV

 An HIV-Positive Woman Over 80 Shares Her Story
"Life has not changed with HIV. I am the same person with the same essence," says Alba, the self-proclaimed "oldest woman in the world with HIV." In this first-person story, Alba writes about her many years of experience with HIV, which include medication side effects, stigma and her recent decision to focus on her own well-being after many years of caring for others. As a woman who says she's only begun to feel her age now that she's in her 80s, Alba shares her thoughts on getting used to the body changes that age brings -- and celebrating simple pleasures like walking, going outdoors and being surrounded by supportive loved ones. (Article from WORLD)

Alba may be older than your average HIVer, but she's certainly not alone. TheBody.com has a wide array of first-person stories and articles from people over 50 who are living with HIV. Click here to browse the collection.

Did you know that 18 percent of female AIDS cases in the United States are among women over 50, according to official numbers? Click here to read more facts about older women and HIV/AIDS.


Ginger Valdez Meet Ginger Valdez: Showing a Judgmental World "Something Different"
"They think [transgender women are] all prostitutes with our cleavage showing. I'm going to show something different," says transgender advocate, drag performer and long-term HIV survivor Ginger Valdez. Ginger's elegant manners and conservative daytime wardrobe are not the only characteristics that challenge transgender stereotypes. When she was 14, Ginger's mother kicked her out of their home in Puerto Rico for wearing dresses and makeup; it turned out that her father was the more supportive parent. And when she tested HIV positive 22 years ago, Ginger's life took a turn -- "not for worst," she says, "but for better." (Article from Positively Aware)


 Dealing With the Trauma of HIV
As anybody who's been diagnosed with HIV knows, life with the virus has its ups and downs. But often it's how we deal with the downs that really matters. For instance, people who have never truly been able to cope with the trauma of their HIV diagnosis may start to miss their doctor's appointments or skip their HIV meds. Research has also shown conflicting evidence about the possible impact of trauma on a person's immune system and CD4 count. Although the exact link between HIV and trauma is not fully understood, there are a range of different psychotherapies and medical interventions that can help. This rather technical article offers a rundown of the coping methods that can help HIVers who may be having trouble moving on after their diagnosis. (Article from the San Francisco AIDS Foundation)



VIEWPOINTS

Keith Green Fighting Back Against Intolerance, HIV Advocate Discusses His "Glamorous" Life
Can anyone in their right mind call life with HIV "glamorous"? You'd be hard-pressed to find anyone who believes this, but one conservative blogger hit a nerve recently by calling HIV-positive advocate Keith Green a "nauseating abomination" for supposedly making light of his status. In this column, Green fights back: Although he firmly believes that HIV has ultimately changed his life for the better, he fully admits that his 14-year history with HIV has been far from glamorous. (Article from Positively Aware)

The post that started this, part of an "ex-gay" conservative blog called Gay Christian Movement Watch, did have at least one hopeful result: A reader of the blog who was grappling with his sexuality and recent HIV diagnosis got in touch with Green, who connected him with support. Click here to read the original discussion thread -- and its happy ending.

We've also got plenty more on Keith Green available on our site: You can read Green's profile in our African-American Resource Center, where you can find the misinterpreted comments on which the blog post was based. You can also watch a recent interview with Green, which was part of TheBody.com's video coverage of the XVII International AIDS Conference this summer.


 To Stop HIV, Society Itself Must Change, Health Writer Says
"Not just health care but social change is needed if the epidemic is genuinely to go into reverse," says Sarah Boseley, health editor of the British newspaper The Guardian. Better HIV medications, wider access to treatment and more successful prevention efforts appear to have brought us to the end of the first, "acute" stage of the global HIV pandemic, Boseley asserts. However, as the epidemic settles into a long-term, "chronic" stage, she says there is much work left to do. According to Boseley, the social circumstances (such as poverty and repression of women) that hinder HIV treatment and prevention efforts remain formidable enemies in the global struggle against HIV. (Article from The Guardian)



Also Worth Noting: Attend A "Town Hall" Meeting

IAPAC Town Hall Meetings

Looking to get the latest info about new and developing HIV meds straight from the experts? Seven U.S. cities will feature "town hall" meetings during the month of October, thanks to local HIV organizations and the International Association for Physicians in AIDS Care. These two-and-a-half-hour gatherings are a great opportunity to hear about new developments in HIV treatment. If you live near Baltimore, Md.; Birmingham, Ala.; Boston, Mass.; Chicago, Ill.; Memphis, Tenn.; New York City; or Philadelphia, Pa.; click here for more info.
HIV TREATMENT & HEALTH ISSUES

 Does Your HIV Doctor Know Everything About the Latest HIV Meds?
It's been thrilling to witness the approval of so many unique, powerful new HIV meds during the past few years. However, HIV specialist Daniel Berger, M.D., has seen a dark side to these advances: Some doctors don't fully understand the new meds, and as a result the HIV-positive people they treat don't get the best regimens available. In this article, Dr. Berger touches on the ways in which our newest HIV meds are used -- and potentially misused -- by some HIV doctors. (Article from Test Positive Aware Network)

Recent HIV drug approvals have given a new lease on life to many treatment veterans who are resistant to multiple HIV meds. Check out TheBody.com's extensive, revamped Resource Center for Treatment Veterans for basic information about these meds, as well as the latest research and interviews with expert docs.


 Getting the Most Out of Today's HIV Meds
As more HIV meds become available, the task of choosing a first (or second) HIV regimen becomes more dizzying. Fortunately, as our arsenal of HIV meds has grown, so has our knowledge of the best ways to use them. This article examines what recent research has taught us about the ideal selection of an HIV treatment regimen. It highlights studies that may help answer some of the hottest questions about HIV treatment, such as what meds are best to start treatment with, how to pick a regimen that will last and what to do if your first treatment regimen is no longer working. (Article from San Francisco AIDS Foundation)


 Antiobesity Drugs May Be Effective Against Flu, Hepatitis and HIV, Study Suggests
Can fat-busting drugs also bust HIV? It's possible, U.S. researchers suggest. The secret appears to lie in fatty acids, one of the building blocks of human cells: Viruses like HIV are known to boost the body's production of fatty acids, which are key to viral replication. Antiobesity drugs, as it happens, reduce the body's production of fatty acids, which in theory means they could have some virus-fighting ability. As this rather technical press release explains, a new U.S. study shows tantalizing evidence to support this theory -- but keep in mind that it currently remains just a theory, since the study didn't actually test whether antiobesity drugs were able to reduce a person's HIV viral load. (Press release from the University of Rochester Medical Center)


 HIVers With Tuberculosis Should Take HIV and TB Treatment Together, Study Finds
When a person is diagnosed with HIV and tuberculosis (TB) at the same time, doctors sometimes ask: Which should be treated first, HIV or TB? The answer, according to a new study from South Africa, should be both. The topic is controversial because many HIV medications interact with TB treatment. However, this new study has found that people had a 55 percent lower risk of death if they started HIV treatment shortly after starting TB treatment than if they wait until their TB has been completely treated. (Study summary from Journal Watch)



HIV TRANSMISSION & TESTING

 New Evidence Suggests HIV Transmission Can Occur Even When You're Undetectable
This year in HIV has been highlighted by an intense debate over one question: Is it ever "safe" for an HIV-positive person to have unprotected sex with an HIV-negative person? The latest round in that debate appears to go to the "no" camp: German doctors have reported what they think may be the first recorded case of a gay, HIV-positive man with an undetectable viral load transmitting HIV to his male partner. Meanwhile, a recent French study has also found that there's a small but real chance that even if a man has an undetectable viral load in his blood, he may still have a detectable viral load in his semen. (Article from aidsmap.com)


 North Carolina Will Start Routine HIV Testing for All Inmates
North Carolina prisons will soon begin regularly testing all inmates for HIV. The reason is simple, public health officials say: People in prison tend to have HIV rates many times that of the general public. Dr. Peter Leone, the medical director of the HIV/STD Prevention and Care Branch of the N.C. Division of Public Health, put the issue a little more bluntly: Calling routine HIV testing in prisons a "moral imperative," he added, "Taxpayers have a reason to be concerned about [prisoners] infecting others out in the community once they're released." HIV tests will become part of annual physicals for all prisoners, but they won't be mandatory; inmates can decline the test if they choose to. (Article from kaisernetwork.org)


 "Cluster" of Recent Multidrug-Resistant HIV Infections Discovered in Seattle
Although you may not hear about it much today, transmission of multidrug-resistant HIV still occurs throughout the United States. For example, a new report reveals that from 2005 through 2007 in Seattle, Wa., seven men who had never taken HIV medications were found to have multidrug-resistant HIV. Researchers found that all of the men had similar strains of the virus, and may have been infected by either of two HIV-positive men who had been on treatment for many years. Fortunately, when one of the seven men needed to start HIV meds, doctors were able to construct a regimen that got his viral load down to undetectable. (Article from aidsmap.com)



Also Worth Noting: Connect With Others
Does HIV Make You Feel Like a Less Attractive Woman?
(A recent post from the "Women" board)

I have a general question to the other women here: Does HIV disease make you feel unattractive? When I was younger, I was pretty decent looking -- I think for my age bracket (late 30s) I am still OK. But with medication side effects and just a general feeling that I am somehow defective, I rarely feel physically good about myself. I don't know how to feel feminine, desirable, etc. Does anyone else think the disease makes them feel this way, or is it normal aging stuff?

-- goodmom

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

MAKING A DIFFERENCE

Sheryl Lee Ralph Sheryl Lee Ralph: One Woman, One Voice, Many Stories
The 1980s were a bittersweet time for actress and singer Sheryl Lee Ralph. She had major success in the Broadway show "Dreamgirls," but all around her HIV claimed more and more lives of the people she held dear. Ralph's current one-woman show, "Sometimes I Cry," recounts her conflicted story, and also relates the personal stories of women with HIV through the years. Ralph performs the show throughout the United States to raise awareness of the HIV epidemic and drive home the idea that, whether you're HIV positive or not, everyone in the country should be in this fight together. "If one of us suffers, we all suffer," Ralph says. (Profile from the Washington Post)


 New Think Tank Asks: How Can We End HIV by 2031?
The HIV pandemic is stunningly massive. In order to beat it, there are some huge issues we have to grapple with, such as: "Who gets to decide where and how HIV funds are spent?" "How has the world's response to HIV gone wrong?" "What are the best ways to fight HIV?" A nonprofit organization called aids2031 is recruiting some of the best minds in HIV to answer these questions, in hopes of figuring out how to make significant, worldwide progress against HIV over the next 25 years. (Official aids2031 Web site)

What questions about HIV would you like the brains at aids2031 to answer? The organization is inviting everyone to share their thoughts in this online questionnaire.

aids2031 hosted an intriguing session at the XVII International AIDS Conference this past August. During the talk, some of the world's foremost experts on HIV offered their predictions on the future of the pandemic.



Also Worth Noting: Visual AIDS

Image from the October 2008 Visual AIDS Gallery
"Danny Sucks," 1999; Michael Berube

Visit the October 2008 Visual AIDS Web Gallery to view our latest collection of art by HIV-positive artists! This month's gallery, entitled "I Heart Douchebags," is curated by Mike Albo.
IN THE NEWS

 Where McCain, Obama and Their Vice Presidential Picks Stand on HIV
When it comes to HIV, the differences between the two U.S. presidential candidates may already be obvious to many. But their vice-presidential picks make those differences all the more stark. While Barack Obama's running mate, Sen. Joe Biden, supports civil unions, opposes abstinence-only sex ed and co-sponsored the Ryan White CARE Act, which funds HIV services nationwide, McCain's choice, Gov. Sarah Palin, has supported denying benefits to gay couples and says schools shouldn't teach kids about safer sex. Check out this article for the complete scoop on where the Democratic and Republican tickets stand on HIV-related issues. (Article [in PDF format] from Gay Men's Health Crisis)


 HIV Researcher Wins MacArthur "Genius" Award
Each year, about two dozen people are selected to win one of the most prestigious awards there is: a MacArthur Fellowship, also known as the MacArthur "genius grant." This year, a prominent HIV researcher is one of the lucky few to win the award, which comes with a no-strings-attached grant of $500,000. Wafaa El-Sadr, M.D., M.P.H., has earned widespread respect for her innovative research into tuberculosis treatment programs, mother-to-child HIV prevention and HIV treatment access. (Press release from Columbia University)

TheBody.com has covered a great deal of Dr. El-Sadr's of her work over the years. Most recently, we caught her delivering the final results of the SMART study, a landmark study on HIV treatment holidays. Back in 2006, she also talked about the first 25 years of the HIV pandemic on the National Public Radio show Talk of the Nation.


 South Africa Loses Its Health Minister, and HIV Activists Rejoice
For years, South African HIV activists have not been a fan of Manto Tshabalala-Msimang. It could be because, as South Africa's Minister of Health, she helped delay the rollout of HIV treatment thanks to her deep distrust of HIV medications. Or because she told HIV-positive people they'd be better off eating garlic, lemon, olive oil and a vegetable known as "African potato" instead of taking HIV treatment. Regardless, as a new South African president entered office last month, Tshabalala-Msimang found herself facing a demotion -- and HIV activists gained confidence that South Africa will usher in a new, more hopeful era in its fight against the virus. (Article from The Associated Press)



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