November 13, 2008
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VIEWPOINTS

Mark King See Mark Go to the Doctor, Talk About His Gay Brother ... and Get Voice Mail From Oprah!
"I'm gonna keep on living," concludes Mark King in the latest installment of his often touching, always clever video blog. How many T cells does Mark have, and how does he keep them that way? Why was Oprah calling Mark, and what does that have to do with Mark's gay brother, Dick? Watch Mark's latest video blog and find out! (Blog from TheBody.com)


HIV IN THE AGE OF OBAMA

 Celebrate Presidential Win, but Keep Fighting, HIV Advocacy Group Says
"Too many people in the AIDS community ... think we won last night," cautions Charles King, the president of the U.S. HIV organization Housing Works, in a post-Election Day opinion piece. According to King, just because U.S. President-elect Barack Obama agrees with many HIV advocates on the best ways to fight the pandemic does not mean that advocates can relax. "The folks taking office ... aren't our friends," says King. "They are politicians who ... live in a world of compromise and competing interests." He implores the HIV community to "hold Obama and the Democrats true to every progressive promise they have made." (Article from Housing Works)


 What Obama Might Do About HIV -- and What May Stand in the Way
While HIV advocates are excited about the positive impact the Obama administration could have on their work, many are aware that the global economic crisis may trump HIV on the priority list. "Our biggest fear is that people will wrongly conclude that because money is tight we can no longer tackle AIDS," says David Bryden of Global AIDS Alliance. However, some advocates say there are five key areas, such as Ryan White reauthorization and science-based HIV prevention, that are likely to change for the better under soon-to-be President Obama. (Article from Housing Works)


Also Worth Noting: Visual AIDS

Image from the November 2008 Visual AIDS Gallery
"Untitled," 1998; Steed Taylor; from the November 2008 Visual AIDS Web Gallery

From the artist: "The couple in this piece were going through major AIDS-related health issues that had begun to break them apart. ... I pieced together some of the pictures to reflect this and to make it the focus of the final work." Visit the Web Gallery to learn more!
HIV TREATMENT

 Hopes for a Cure Renewed by Bone Marrow Transplant
The search for an HIV cure has been filled with false starts and disappointments, so we have to take with a grain of salt any news about a possible new way to eradicate the virus. But it's hard not to get just a little excited about the case of a 42-year-old man in Berlin who, up until he had a bone marrow transplant to treat his leukemia, was HIV positive. Doctors found a bone marrow donor who had a rare, natural immunity to most strains of HIV. Now, more than 600 days after the transplant, the Berlin man still has an undetectable viral load -- even though he hasn't taken a single HIV medication since the surgery. (Article from The Wall Street Journal)

So, what do we make of a report like this? Could this really be a concrete step toward finding a cure, or will it prove to be yet another dead end? Are the risks of the procedure (and the price -- it can cost as much as $250,000) worth the reward? In this article, HIV scientist Jeffrey Laurence, M.D., summarizes the story and discusses how the American Foundation for AIDS Research is seeking to help confirm the findings.

This isn't the first time we heard about an HIV-positive person with leukemia whose HIV appeared to be "cured" after a bone marrow transplant. In 2007, we learned about an HIV-positive French man with an undetectable viral load who received a bone marrow transplant to treat leukemia. He appeared to do well at first, but his HIV rebounded when he briefly stopped taking HIV meds after the transplant. Sadly, the young man later died after his body rejected the transplanted bone marrow -- one of several serious risks associated with the procedure.


 Genetic Engineering: A New Way to Fight HIV?
Can genetically engineering an HIV-positive person's immune cells be a more effective way to fight HIV? That's what a team of U.S. and British researchers think. In theory, scientists would start by taking an HIV-positive person's blood and then enhancing the T cells within the blood sample. These souped-up T cells would then be reinjected into the person in hopes they'll have the ability to fight HIV even when the virus tries to disguise itself. Although this form of therapy was successful in laboratory trials, it still has a long way to go before it is used in humans. (Press release from the University of Pennsylvania Health System)


 Study Explains Why Isentress Works Well and Resists Resistance
At the latest HIV conference, many researchers were going gaga for Isentress (raltegravir, MK-0518). Part of the reason that the new integrase inhibitor has HIV experts pumped is that it works fast and is less likely to cause resistance than some of its competitors. A new study helps explain these advantages: It found that Isentress keeps working even when it is no longer found in the bloodstream. In addition, when resistance mutations do emerge, the first ones tend to be relatively harmless. (Article from Project Inform)


Also Worth Noting: Connect With Others
What Do I Do Now That I'm Retired on Disability?
(A recent post from the "Living With HIV" board)

Good news: I believe my disability retirements are all done. ... Bad news is that I am disabled because I have HIV-associated dementia, a subset as I have learned of Frontotemporal Dementia or Pick's Disease. The main symptom of the disease is inappropriate social behavior. ... I have been acting inappropriately in social settings for many years, but it was only in June of this year that I learned the cause of my behavior was damage to the temporal lobes of my brain caused by HIV.

I see a psychiatrist regularly who has prescribed a drug regimen to control my behavior. I also attend a group session to check my behavior against accepted "norms." The big question is: What do I do now that I am officially retired? I have been working so hard on the disability retirements that I haven't had time to just sit and think about "being" retired.

-- ScotCharles

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

COMPLICATIONS OF HIV & HIV MEDS

 How HIV and HIV Meds Affect the Heart -- and What to Do About It
How serious is the risk of heart disease for an average person with HIV, and what should HIVers and their doctors do to protect themselves? The American Heart Association and the American Academy of HIV Medicine met to discuss the topic. This report on their meeting, written by Chicago AIDS advocate Enid Vazquez, explains what research has taught us about heart disease risk in HIVers and how it can be reduced. (Article from Positively Aware)


Michael Landrum, M.D. Hep B Vaccine Works Better Among HIVers on Treatment, Study Finds
Hepatitis B vaccination is about twice as likely to work properly in HIV-positive people if they're taking HIV meds at the time of their vaccination, according to a new study by researchers with the U.S. military. As study investigator Michael Landrum, M.D., explains in this interview, the hep B vaccine works about 90 percent of the time in HIV-negative people, but it usually fails to make HIV-positive people immune. However, if a person is on HIV treatment when they receive the vaccine, it has about a 44 percent chance of kicking in, the study found -- still not great, but far better than if they're not on meds at all.

This interview is just one of many that make up our in-depth coverage of ICAAC/IDSA 2008, a large medical conference that took place in late October. Several important HIV-related studies were presented at this conference; for a full rundown of highlights, expert interviews and study summaries, visit the ICAAC/IDSA 2008 home page on The Body PRO, TheBody.com's sister site for health care professionals.


HIV THROUGHOUT THE WORLD

 Meet the People at the Heart of Lesotho's HIV Epidemic
In some parts of Africa, so many people have HIV that the average person is not expected to live past 35. Lesotho is one such country. In Lesotho, more than one in five adults are HIV positive. What is it like to be dealing with such a difficult situation? The BBC is following the stories of seven people affected or infected by HIV. Each shares thoughts, online and in video, about struggling to live with and work through the country's AIDS crisis. (Feature from BBC News)



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