November 19, 2008
What's New at
News & Views Library
Change/Update Subscription


Jack Mackenroth It's Jack From Project Runway! Reality TV Star Talks About Living With HIV and Fighting Stigma
"By the time I got on Project Runway ... I was so comfortable being HIV positive and being open about it ... that I didn't really even think twice," says Jack Mackenroth, a former cast member of the Bravo network's fashion-design reality show. The fact that Jack has been living with HIV since 1990 is old news to Project Runway fans -- Jack was 100 percent open about his HIV status, even while living in the fishbowl of reality television. Now Jack uses his high profile, and his design expertise, to fight HIV stigma. Jack sat down with to talk about living with HIV, both on and off TV. (Video interview and podcast from

Also Worth Noting: Do. See. Hear. Know.

Red Ribbons

Most of you who read this newsletter don't need World AIDS Day to remind you how important HIV awareness is. But it's the responsibility of each of us to be educators and activists. Use our newly launched 2008 World AIDS Day Center for inspiration as you decide how you can best observe this year's World AIDS Day on Monday, Dec. 1.


 Major News Providers Cover Story of Man Who's Been "Cured" of HIV
Nearly everyone in the HIV community has been talking about last week's big news: a man in Germany whose HIV viral load has remained undetectable for two years following a bone marrow transplant -- even though he hasn't taken a single HIV med since the procedure. Mainstream media has jumped all over the story, with several major news services interviewing the HIV-positive man's doctors and talking with experts about whether there's truly a chance that this development will finally lead us toward a cure for HIV. (Article from

What do you think about this remarkable story? Many people have already gone to and posted comments on this analysis by Jeffrey Laurence, M.D., of the American Foundation for AIDS Research, which we highlighted in last week's newsletter. Join the conversation!

 Starting HIV Meds With a Low CD4 Count? Adding IL-2 May Offer Short-Term Help, Study Finds
People who start HIV meds with a very low CD4 count can get a quick immune boost by taking interleukin-2 (IL-2), a new Italian study has found. Experts have long known that IL-2 (which is not an approved HIV therapy) acts as an immune booster, but side effects and other issues have prevented it from going into widespread use. This new study found that people who took three courses of IL-2 within the first three months of starting HIV meds had a faster, greater increase in CD4 count and developed fewer opportunistic illnesses than participants who took HIV meds alone. However, the study also notes that the benefit appears strictly short-term: A year and a half after the study started there was no difference in CD4 count between the people who took IL-2 and those who did not. (Study summary from

If you'd like to learn more about IL-2 (and other forms of interleukin), visit this page for's full listing of overviews and research summaries.

 How Does HIV Damage the Brain? Scientists Find Another Piece of the Puzzle
It's clear that HIV is not good for your brain: People with advanced HIV disease are at higher risk for dementia, and new evidence suggests that even people who have their HIV under control are more likely to have problems with thinking and memory. Most of the blame for these problems appears to lie with a chemical known as Tat, which is released by cells infected with HIV. New research is zeroing in on exactly how Tat harms brain cells, in hopes of helping scientists figure out how to short-circuit that process. (Article from ScienceDaily)

You can read the complete, highly technical journal article on this study in the free online journal PLoS One.

 Two-Year Study of Vicriviroc Finds a Low Rate of Complications
Over the course of almost two years, treatment-experienced HIVers taking vicriviroc (a new CCR5 inhibitor in development) kept their HIV under control, had few side effects and for the most part remained healthy, a recent study has found. Although there have been concerns that vicriviroc might increase the risk of cancer, this study is reassuring: Of the 196 people who participated in the study (many of whom started vicriviroc with a low CD4 count), few developed cancer, and those who did were thought to have developed it for reasons other than vicriviroc use. (Article from Project Inform)

 New Tropism Test Better at Predicting Who Will Respond to CCR5 Inhibitors, Studies Find
A new, "enhanced" tropism test does a better job than the old test at predicting who can use a CCR5 inhibitor, recent studies have found. Before a person can take a CCR5 inhibitor such as Selzentry (maraviroc, Celsentri) or the drug in development vicriviroc, they need to take a tropism test to see whether the drug is likely to work against their HIV. The new test, which came out this summer, appears to do a better job at discovering strains of HIV that are less likely to respond to CCR5 inhibitors. (Article from

Want to learn more about how CCR5 inhibitors and tropism tests work? Check out's interview with HIV physician David Hardy, M.D., for an expert overview of what makes CCR5 inhibitors tick.

Also Worth Noting: Connect With Others
Getting Married, Having Kids and Rediscovering Hope
(A recent post from the "My Loved One Has HIV/AIDS" board)

My boyfriend of two years has been HIV positive for over 10 years (and undetectable). I just wanted to share some good news: After a loooong time of freaking out and being hopeless, he went to the doctors today for his every-three-months checkup and his numbers are even better than usual! He also talked to them about getting married and how he wants to have kids, and they want us both to come in to talk about sperm washing -- apparently it's not as rare or expensive as I read about. They do it frequently there. I'm not in a major city or anything, so I was surprised.

I am excited and full of hope. Our lives are not over, they're only beginning, and who knows -- he may outlive me. How uneducated people are -- including myself, before all this happened. ... All I could think was, "Oh my god, you're going to die!" Stupid. I'm done thinking like this and I'm done letting these thoughts ruin my life. I am looking ahead.

-- HeadfirstHal0

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


 HIV Prevention Efforts May Change Dramatically Under New Administration
President-elect Barack Obama likely will undo the Bush administration's long-standing policy that linked funding of HIV prevention and family planning efforts to anti-abortion and abstinence-only policies, says Susan Wood, co-chair of Obama's advisory committee for women's health. In addition, the Obama administration is likely to take a much more scientifically sound tack on condom use than the Bush administration has, some say. (Article from

 Should People Be Thrown in Prison for Transmitting HIV?
Some lawmakers believe that criminalizing HIV transmission can help promote disclosure. However, most HIV advocates disagree. "If you put everyone in prison with HIV, then you think you've controlled it. But you haven't dealt with the issues around the intimate behaviors that spread HIV," warns Kevin Osborne, one of the authors of a new comprehensive report looking at this issue from the International Planned Parenthood Federation. Fifty-eight countries and 32 U.S. states make HIV transmission a crime, and thousands in the United States are believed to have been charged. (Article from

To download a PDF of the full report from the International Planned Parenthood Federation, click here.

 Condom Ring Tone Gets a Rise Out of India
What's the best way to get more people to use condoms? How about providing a free mobile phone ring tone that features voices singing "condom, condom"? That's what the BBC World Service Trust did in India, and it's apparently been a rousing success: The BBC says that the "Condom a Capella" ring tone has already been downloaded by 660,000 people. (Article from

Want to listen to the "Condom a Capella" ring tone yourself, or download it to your phone? Visit to learn all about it, as well as other aspects of the BBC World Service Trust's HIV prevention campaign in India.

 Newborns of HIV-Positive Women Can Take Shorter Course of HIV Meds, Study Suggests
Giving babies born to HIV-positive women four weeks of HIV meds is just as good as the standard six-week course of HIV treatment, a new Irish study suggests. HIV meds have dramatically slashed the risk of mother-to-child HIV transmission, but there's been little research to tell us how long a baby exposed to HIV should be treated as a precaution. So Irish researchers looked at 835 infants with HIV-positive mothers. After four weeks of treatment, 99 percent of the babies were HIV negative, suggesting that four weeks of treatment is as effective as the six-week course currently recommended by U.S. guidelines. (Article from Project Inform)

 High Rates of HIV Reported in Philadelphia
In Philadelphia, Pa., people are becoming HIV positive at a rate five times higher than the U.S. national average -- and more than 50 percent higher than in New York City, according to health officials. "It's a wake-up call that we've got to do better," said John Cella, the city's top AIDS official. As this article explains, the rise of HIV in Philadelphia reflects the frightening inroads that the virus has made among African Americans and Latinos. (Article from the Philadelphia Inquirer)

 HIV Rates on the Rise Among Hispanic Americans
HIV and AIDS rates continue to increase steadily among Hispanic Americans, research shows. In Los Angeles, Calif., for instance, one out of every two people diagnosed with AIDS in 2007 was Latino. "One of our biggest concerns is that Latinos aren't getting tested early enough," says Paulina Zamudio, the program supervisor for prevention services at Los Angeles County's Office of AIDS Programs and Policy. A major reason many Latinos avoid HIV testing is denial, says Rey Reyes, an HIV-positive educator. He says that people in his community seem to believe that, "if we don't talk about it, it's not happening to us," he says. (Article from

For the latest information about HIV in the Hispanic-American community, browse through our library of articles.

Also Worth Noting: Visual AIDS

Image from the November 2008 Visual AIDS Gallery
"Spring," 1996; Frank Moore

Why the curator chose this piece: "We love the whimsical nature of 'Spring.' It's so bright, colorful and hopeful, and a powerful reminder to us all to continue to embrace joy, love and happiness as we continue on in our personal battles against HIV." Visit the November 2008 Visual AIDS Web Gallery to learn more!

 Where Are the Leaders in the Global Fight Against HIV?
"The many examples of leadership in this epidemic, of bravely showing the way by going the way, remain outnumbered by those of disregard and complacency," warns HIV-positive advocate Heidi Nass. As yet another World AIDS Day approaches on Dec. 1, many in the HIV community can't help but ask, "Where are the true leaders in the fight against HIV?" And what does it even mean to be a leader? In this article, three outspoken HIV advocates offer their take on this difficult question. (Article from Positively Aware)

 After Receiving Award for His Work in Africa, Bush Reflects on His Legacy
Of all his experiences in the White House, witnessing how Africans have benefited from HIV treatment and other U.S. assistance has been "one of the most uplifting," said outgoing U.S. President George W. Bush. He was speaking at an event where he accepted an award for humanitarian work in Africa from the charity Africare. In his acceptance speech, Bush celebrated the success of the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), which has provided 6.6 million people worldwide with HIV treatment, according to the White House. "People across Africa now speak of a Lazarus effect," Bush said. "Communities once given up for dead are being brought back to life." (Article from

PEPFAR has arguably been one of the greatest successes of Bush's entire tenure as U.S. President. Visit this page to learn more about how the plan works and the inroads it has made against HIV in some of the world's hardest-hit countries.

 Global HIV Funding Latest Casualty of Financial Crisis, UNAIDS Leader Says
As the world reels from its expanding financial crisis, global HIV treatment and prevention efforts might suffer, warns outgoing UNAIDS executive director Peter Piot. In a recent speech, Piot explained how soaring food and energy costs could increase the spread of HIV, and how major donors like the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria may be forced to scale back their commitments to low-income nations -- many of which are completely dependent on donations to keep their supply of HIV medications flowing. (Article from

How much do you know about HIV? Take's HIV Knowledge Quiz for a chance to win $100!