December 17, 2008
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Loreen Willenberg Blog: The Lives of Long-Term HIV Nonprogressors
What does it feel like to be told that your body may hold the key to a cure for HIV? There's a small group of HIV-positive people who know exactly how it feels: "Long-term nonprogressors" are people whose immune systems are able to keep their HIV under control without the help of HIV meds. Some (but not enough!) of these people are volunteering for studies that try to determine why their HIV disease doesn't progress the way it does in most people. Loreen Willenberg is one of those volunteers. In her latest blog post on, she shares her thoughts and those of other long-term nonprogressors about what it's like to be in this unusual situation. (Blog from


 Life Span of Monkeys Lengthened With Experimental Treatment
There may be a new light on the HIV treatment horizon: "blocking antibodies." In a study conducted on nine monkeys with simian immunodeficiency virus (the primate equivalent of HIV), a single injection of this experimental treatment allowed the monkeys to survive nearly twice as long as monkeys who did not receive the drug, even though the monkeys all had developed AIDS. The treatment potentially could be modified for use in HIV-positive humans, although this is unlikely to happen for many years. (Article from

 Darker Skin May Be Risk Factor for Vitamin D Deficiency in HIVers, Study Finds
Recent research has shown that HIV-positive people may be at high risk for low vitamin D levels. A new study from the Netherlands suggests that this problem may be more common among HIVers with darker skin: The study of 252 people with HIV found vitamin D deficiency in 63 percent of black people, 44 percent of Asians and 33 percent of people of Mediterranean origin, but just 19 percent of white people. (Study summary from

Vitamin D deficiency is common among all people, HIV positive and HIV negative alike. Are you worried you may have a deficiency? Finding out your vitamin D levels is important, since the nutrient plays a key role in bone health and immune system maintenance. If you want to find out whether you have low vitamin D levels, just ask your doctor the next time you get your blood work. It shouldn't cost more to check, and if you do have low levels, a daily vitamin D supplement is a simple and inexpensive way to fix the problem.


 Active in the Online HIV Community? Join Our Focus Group ($25 for You, $25 for Charity)

What: Share your opinions on HIV information and treatments during our HIV Insight Sessions.

Who: Hosted by WEGO Health, a new online health community empowering health activists to help others.

When: Noon, 4 p.m., 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. (all times EST) on Monday, Dec. 22 and Monday, Dec. 29.

Where: Sessions are held online and over the phone -- join us from wherever you are.

Why: We'll give you a $25 gift certificate for an hour of your time and we'll make a matching $25 donation to the HIV/AIDS charity selected by all the participants.

Want more details? Visit our blog or e-mail

Also Worth Noting: Visual AIDS

Image from the November/December 2008 Visual AIDS Gallery
"The Bimbo Is Smoking," 1992; Robert Blanchon

Why the curator chose this piece: "Looking at the various articles inside the suitcase in the piece ... [reminds] us of how each of our lives is composed of myriad pieces, only one of which is a positive serostatus." Visit the November/December 2008 Visual AIDS Web Gallery to learn more!

 In Michigan (and Elsewhere), Legalized Marijuana Has a Catch
Although Michigan is one of at least 10 U.S. states that have legalized medical use of marijuana, there's a small catch: It's still a violation of federal law. "There's no legal place to obtain seeds for growing plants and no legal way to obtain the 2.5 ounces the patient can legally possess," explains Michigan State Medical Society spokesman David Fox. "The state will give you an ID card, but you can't take the card down to Walgreens and get your marijuana." Some groups are trying to help people work around this problem; for instance, a number of states have clinics that teach people how to grow marijuana and provide recipes for how to prepare it. (Article from The Flint Journal)

 Renowned San Francisco Hospital Marks 25 Years of Fighting HIV
For 25 years, San Francisco General Hospital and the surrounding community have served people with HIV. In fact, when the hospital opened Ward 86 in 1983, it was the first AIDS assistance program in the country. On World AIDS Day, hospital and community members looked back at 25 years in which they've played a pivotal role in HIV research and activism. Through the years, the staff not only assisted with studies on HIV and HIV treatment, but also provided top-notch care to thousands of HIVers from all walks of life. The hospital's HIV clinic now serves more than 3,000 people living with HIV in the San Francisco area. (Article from the Bay Area Reporter)

 L.A. Man Ordered to Pay $12.5 Million to Wife He Allegedly Infected With HIV
A man who allegedly gave his (now former) wife HIV has been ordered by a Los Angeles judge to pay her $12.5 million. Although both of them had originally tested negative for HIV, two months after their honeymoon, the wife tested positive. She later discovered that her husband had unprotected sex with men before their marriage. As a result of the former couple's six-year legal battle, California now has a statewide rule that people can be sued if they fail to tell a new sexual partner that they've previously taken part in risky sexual behavior. (Article from Los Angeles Times)

Also Worth Noting: Connect With Others
Grad Student Who Just Tested Positive
(A recent post from the "I Just Tested Positive" board)

I'm 24 years old and I just tested positive last week. ... At first I couldn't believe the diagnosis because I feel completely healthy. After the initial shock, I cried and hid from the world in my apartment for two days. On day three, I told my boyfriend and he told me that everything will be OK. ... [But] I am terrified that he won't be able to deal with my condition and might leave me. ... If it turns out in the future that I have infected him, it would just destroy me emotionally.

Ten days ago my time was preoccupied with studying and planning my career. And out of nowhere my life has turned upside down. I don't know much at all about the disease because I naively used to think that things like this don't happen to people like me. ... Can I actually live a somewhat normal life? ...

The only people who know about my condition are my doctor and my boyfriend and yet I feel so utterly alone. If anyone out there around my age has been diagnosed, please let me know.

-- yandus8

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


poster Sexually Adventurous Gay Men Redefine HIV Prevention in Their Own Terms
There's a special term used by a certain worldwide group of "sexually adventurous" gay and bisexual men. (Spam filters won't let us use the phrase in this e-mail, but it involves a barnyard animal with a squiggly tail.) It's a buzzword for guys who are into sexual activites that involve fisting, group sex, drug use and the like. The question is: How do you create an effective HIV prevention message for people who identify themselves as part of this group? The organization Positive Life New South Wales (NSW) in Sydney, Australia, thinks it has the answer: It's created an HIV awareness campaign that has been shaped by men who are part of this sexually adventurous culture. Kathy Triffitt of Positive Life NSW recently talked with about how the unique, striking campaign was developed. (Podcast and article from

Browse's collections of articles on prevention for gay men and for HIV-positive folks -- which include guides for the sexually adventurous.

 HIV Heavily Impacting Latinos in Deep South, Report Warns (PDF)
In the U.S. Deep South, HIV rates are rising "at an alarming rate" among Latinos, a new report shows. The comprehensive review by the Latino Commission on AIDS provides detailed info about the rapid spread of HIV among Hispanic people living in Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee, and makes recommendations on how to solve some of the huge problems that need to be overcome before effective HIV prevention and treatment can reach the region's growing Latino population. (Report from the Latino Comission on AIDS)

Also Worth Noting: Medicine Recycling

Aid for AIDS

Your extra medications are needed by many people with HIV. Organizations such as Aid for AIDS and the Starfish Project will pay for you to send them your extra meds for HIV and related illnesses, and then ship them to people in South America and Africa who would die without them.

If you have extra meds you don't need, please take a moment to learn more about Aid for AIDS and the Starfish Project, or click here for additional news and information about medication recycling programs.

 Study Suggests HPV Vaccine Should Be Approved in U.S. for Boys and Men
In the U.S., the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine Gardasil is only approved for use in girls and young women. But a newly released study by the company selling the vaccine suggests it'll work well in boys and men, too. The massive study found that boys and men receiving the vaccine were far less likely than those who didn't get the vaccine to have "persistent infections" of the HPV strains that are most strongly associated with genital warts and anal cancer. (Article from UCSF Today)

 Pre-Cancerous Anal Lesions More Common in Women Who Have HIV
HIV-positive women are more at risk than HIV-negative women for developing anal lesions that can potentially become cancerous if untreated, according to the results of a large U.S. study. What makes the results especially interesting is that HIV-positive women in the study were no more likely to have had anal sex than HIV-negative women. (Incidentally, anal sex was extremely common: Nearly half of the 655 women in the study had engaged in it at least once.) The results drive home the advice of many experts: HIV-positive women should get regular anal pap smears so they can be carefully monitored and treated for abnormal anal growths before they become a real problem. (Study summary from


 What Lies Ahead for the Global HIV Fight in 2009? (PDF)
More than 25 years after the HIV pandemic began, the leaders in the global battle against HIV are still trying to figure out the best way to fight it. A new report from UNAIDS offers the group's take on some of the most pressing HIV-related issues that it says will confront policymakers and leaders as they respond to shifting challenges in 2009. (Report from UNAIDS)

 HIV Soars in Caribbean as Experts Debate Next Steps
Although many of the people who spend their holidays on the sunny beaches of the Caribbean may never realize it, the region is facing an increasingly dire HIV epidemic. The Caribbean has the world's second-highest rate of people with living with HIV, with only sub-Saharan Africa facing a higher rate, according to UNAIDS. Although HIV treatment was provided to 10,000 Caribbean people last year, 20,000 new HIV cases were reported, and 230,000 people are estimated to be living with the virus. Stigma and discrimination against HIV-positive people are widespread in the Caribbean and still pose a huge barrier to prevention, testing and treatment efforts, UNAIDS warns. (Article from