November 5, 2008
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HIV & THE U.S. ELECTIONS

Barack Obama "Congratulations, President Obama!" Says an Optimistic GMHC
After eight years in which the United States' presidential administration has resisted sound, science-based HIV policies, the election of President-elect Barack Obama is a light at the end of the tunnel for many people living with and working in HIV. In this press release, Gay Men's Health Crisis (GMHC), one of the country's largest HIV organizations, congratulates President-elect Obama on his victory and outlines some of the ways in which the HIV community feels it may at last gain a strong ally in the White House. (Press release from GMHC)


 Obama's History of Support for HIV Activism in Illinois
Few groups in the HIV community know the next U.S. president as well as the AIDS Foundation of Chicago. It has seen first-hand the support that Barack Obama, whose political career started in Chicago, has long provided on HIV-related issues. In this look back, the foundation recaps the steps Obama has taken throughout his rise to the U.S. presidency to bolster efforts to fight HIV in the United States. (Article from the AIDS Foundation of Chicago)

Now that the United States has a new President-elect, where does HIV prevention go from here? The Community HIV/AIDS Mobilization Project is inviting people to participate in an international teleconference on Wednesday, Nov. 12. The meeting will feature a discussion about what the election results mean for the future of HIV prevention efforts not only in the United States, but around the world.


 Taking "Radical" Steps to End the HIV Epidemic
Now that change is in the air with the election of Senator Barack Obama as the next U.S. president, hopes are high for people affected by HIV. But where should our next president begin? Earlier this year, HIV-positive activist Mark Harrington offered a list of key steps that could end the HIV pandemic. They include a still-controversial idea to end the war against sex workers by legalizing sex work; decriminalizing drug possession; and the development and implementation of a nationwide strategy to combat HIV in the United States. (Article from Treatment Action Group)


 Gay Marriage Bans Win in Three U.S. States
Despite the near-giddiness that many in the HIV community feel after Tuesday's U.S. election results, there's a cloud inside that silver lining: Gay rights took a step back in several U.S. states. The heaviest blow was dealt in California, where voters narrowly agreed to amend the state's constitution to explicitly forbid gay marriage, just months after the state's Supreme Court ruled that a gay marriage ban was unconstitutional. Arizona and Florida also enshrined gay-marriage bans in their state constitutions yesterday, and Arkansas outlawed adoptions for gay couples and other "unmarried sexual partners." (Article from The New York Times)


 Medical Marijuana Gets Thumbs Up in Michigan
Rounding out the up-and-down results from election day in the United States is a referendum in Michigan, where voters overwhelmingly approved the legalization of medical marijuana. The new law allows people to use or grow small amounts of marijuana for medicinal use provided they've been officially registered as having a "debilitating medical condition," which includes HIV, hepatitis C, cancer and several other conditions. Michigan becomes the 13th U.S. state to give an official OK to the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes, although it's still technically banned by the federal government. (Article from The Associated Press)


Also Worth Noting: Breaking Research: Interviews and Summaries from ICAAC/IDSA 2008

Coverage from ICAAC/IDSA 2008

The HIV medical world's latest meeting, ICAAC/IDSA 2008, took place in Washington, D.C., at the end of October -- and we were on hand to cover the major developments! Visit our conference home page for our full coverage of this meeting, which includes recaps of a number of HIV-related studies that may change the future of HIV treatment.
HIV TREATMENT & COMPLICATIONS

 Revised First-Line Treatment Guidelines: Epzicom Is Out, Prezista Is In
First-line HIV drug recommendations have changed for the second time this year in the latest update to the "bible" of HIV treatment: the U.S. health department's official HIV treatment guidelines. The revised guidelines, which were released on Nov. 3, promoted Prezista (darunavir) boosted with Norvir (ritonavir) to the list of "preferred" first-line HIV meds; once-daily Kaletra (lopinavir/ritonavir) also got a bump to "preferred." Meanwhile, Epzicom (abacavir/3TC), which was just promoted to "preferred" status in January, has been demoted back to "alternative" because of concerns about heart side effects in some people, as well as worries about its effectiveness in people who start treatment with a high viral load. (Article from AIDSInfo)


 Flu Vaccines: It's That Time Again
Undecided about getting a flu vaccine? Studies show that HIVers are at a higher risk than HIV-negative people for heart- and lung-related problems during flu season. That's why, even if you're on HIV meds and have an undetectable viral load and a respectable CD4 count, most doctors recommend you get a flu shot as the winter approaches. (The flu vaccine takes at least two weeks to kick in, so make sure you plan your visit early.) However, people with HIV should also be careful to avoid any vaccine that contains a weakened form of the live influenza virus. (Fact sheet from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

Be sure to check out TheBody.com's excellent collection of articles and FAQs for more info about HIV, influenza and the flu shot.


 HIV Treatment Tied to Decreased Bone Mineral Density, Study Finds
For a while now, researchers have spotted signs that people with HIV seem to face a higher risk for developing bone problems than HIV-negative people. The question is: What's causing the problem? New findings from a major study suggest that HIV meds may be at least partly to blame. In this interview, researcher Birgit Grund, Ph.D., explains the new findings. (Interview from The Body PRO)


 New Study May Help Explain How Untreated HIV Harms the Body
HIV itself, when left untreated, increases the risk for blood clots and inflammation that can cause these complications, according to a new analysis of a landmark HIV treatment study. People in the study who took HIV meds without interruption were less likely to have high levels of a chemical marker associated with blood clot formation and inflammation risk, researchers found. (Study from PLoS Medicine)


 First-Ever Organ Transplant Between HIV-Positive People
Surgeons in South Africa have successfully transplanted a kidney from an HIV-positive donor to an HIV-positive recipient, the first time such a procedure has been done. The move was somewhat controversial, due to fears that the recipient would be put at risk for superinfection with the donor's strain of HIV. However, the operation was a step forward not only for HIV medicine, but also for organ transplants among HIVers in South Africa, where there had been a long-standing ban on organ donations by HIV-positive people. (Nearly a third of organs available for transplant in South Africa are rejected because the donor has HIV.) (Article from The Guardian)


Also Worth Noting: Visual AIDS

Image from the November 2008 Visual AIDS Gallery
"Water," 1998; Jerry H. Hooten

Visit the November 2008 Visual AIDS Web Gallery to view our latest collection of art by HIV-positive artists! This month's gallery, entitled "Salute," is curated by HIV Plus.
HIV POLICY & FUNDING

 How Much Does the United States Spend on HIV at Home? New Resource Reveals the Numbers
There are scads of government programs devoted to fighting HIV in the United States, but it's hard to get a sense of how much funding they get. A newly updated resource from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation offers a handy summary: For instance, in 2007, the federal government spent just shy of $3 billion on HIV prevention, services and health care through five different programs. New York State took in the biggest haul (about $493 million), while sparsely populated North Dakota got the least among U.S. states (just $1 million). (Resource from statehealthfacts.org)


HIV THROUGHOUT THE WORLD

 HIV-Related Deaths Will Peak in Next Five Years, WHO Says
The World Health Organization (WHO) is painting a more hopeful picture of the future for people around the world living with HIV. Though hundreds of thousands of people still lose their lives to HIV every year, the organization's newest Global Burden of Disease report predicts that, if access to HIV meds continues to improve, HIV-related deaths will finally top out at 2.4 million in 2012 and then fall to 1.2 million in 2030. This is a far cry from the WHO's last estimate, which predicted 6.5 million HIV-related deaths in 2030. (Article from kaisernetwork.org)


 Few of South Africa's 1.5 Million AIDS Orphans Are Being Adopted
A South African official is begging his countrymen to adopt children who have been orphaned by HIV. About 1.5 million South African children have lost their parents to the virus, Social Development Minister Zola Skweyiya says, but in 2007 the number of AIDS orphans adopted in South Africa fell by 13 percent to 1,900. "South Africa is facing a challenge of increasing numbers of orphaned children, abandoned babies, worrying levels of abuse, neglect and exploitation of children," Skweyiya said. "We encourage South African families to adopt children and provide them with permanent families and love." (Article from Agence France-Presse)



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