February 4, 2009
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Also Worth Noting: Breaking Research: In-Depth Coverage of CROI 2009
The most important HIV-related medical conference of the year is about to begin! From Feb. 8 through Feb. 11, thousands of top HIV researchers will converge on Montreal for the 16th Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI 2009), where they'll share the latest information on HIV.

Visit TheBody.com beginning next week (and check next week's newsletter) for detailed written, audio and video coverage of breaking research from this pivotal conference!

100 Days to End AIDS rally (Photo by Kaytee Riek) Push Accelerates for National Strategy to Fight HIV in U.S.
On World AIDS Day 2008, then-U.S. President-elect Obama made a commitment to create a national strategy to fight HIV within the U.S. Congress has set aside $1.4 million to make that happen in 2009. Now HIV activists across the country are getting involved in the push to make a comprehensive, effective U.S. HIV strategy a reality:

  • CHAMP held a rally last November to kick off its 100 Days to Fight AIDS. Since then, it has worked with Obama's transition team and put together a list of recommended actions for the new presidential administration.
  • More than 100 clients of the HIV organization Housing Works attended Obama's inauguration to offer their support and remind the new president of his commitment to people with HIV. Housing Works has a list of ways that people can contact Obama and demand that he follow through on his commitments.
  • Activists say that an effective national HIV strategy must begin by realistically assessing the problems facing the HIV-positive community and then setting achievable goals to deal with them. This editorial from CHAMP brainstorms suggestions for how to ensure that a national HIV strategy meets its responsibilities to people living with HIV.
  • A growing number of organizations and individuals are getting involved in this effort -- and you can help! To sign on and lend a hand, visit the National AIDS Strategy Call to Action.


Mark King Mark King Bares It All: "The Sex Pig Is Dead"
Longtime HIVer Mark King has come a long way since the 1980s and early 1990s. As a gay man living in a wild time, he didn't hold back when it came to sex: "I didn't care what their status was," he recalls. "I didn't care about anything other than my own pleasure." In his latest video blog, Mark bares it all -- literally (well, almost) and figuratively. But this time, he's got HIV prevention in mind when he talks about barebacking, glory holes and his outlook on sex. "It means something more to me than it did before," Mark explains. "It's about respecting the other person, and it's about respecting me." (Blog from TheBody.com)

Martell Randolph Diagnosed With Rare HIV Strain, U.S. Woman Takes Health Into Her Own Hands
Martell Randolph got a double shock nine years ago: She not only found out that she was HIV positive, but that she had HIV-2 -- a rare strain of the virus found mainly in the developing world. There are so few cases of HIV-2 in the U.S. that many HIV doctors have no idea that some HIV meds are ineffective against it. Martell knew that if she was going to survive, she would have to get educated about her strain of the virus -- and that's exactly what she did. "[Living with this virus] has given me the assertiveness to ask questions, to get involved," she says. (Article from Positively Aware)


 MSNBC Anchor Rachel Maddow Remembers Martin Delaney
"The AIDS activist movement ... is essentially a hidden, huge success story about 'people power' changing the world," said MSNBC anchor Rachel Maddow. Maddow, the first out lesbian (and the first HIV activist) to helm a prime-time news show, recently spent a segment of her show (which you can watch online) praising Martin Delaney, a prominent HIV activist who passed away on Jan. 23. Delaney is a shining example of "how un-famous people, who aren't elected officials, who aren't celebrities, can change the course of history," Maddow says. (Video from MSNBC; the Delaney segment begins at about 1:55)

Also Worth Noting: Connect With Others
How Much Does Your HIV Treatment Cost?
(A recent post from the "Living With HIV" board)

What is the cost of HIV in terms of medical treatment? I am not currently on medications and am curious what the disease costs some of you guys on an annual basis.

-- hopefulone

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


 HIV-Negative Gay Men in Magnetic, Long-Term Relationships May Build Some HIV Resistance in Their Saliva
A small new study appears to back the theory that HIV-negative people in long-term relationships with HIV-positive people may be able to build up some natural immunity to their partner's HIV. This time, the research focused on oral sex: When tests were done on saliva samples from 25 HIV-negative men in long-term relationships with an HIV-positive man, 52 percent of those saliva samples were able to neutralize HIV. That's about double the rate of HIV resistance found in saliva samples of HIV-negative men who were not in a magnetic relationship. (Study summary from aidsmap.com)

Of course, these findings aren't meant to imply that HIV-negative people can toss out their condoms when they give oral sex (meaning they're the ones providing the mouth) to an HIV-positive partner. Check out these tips from the Terrence Higgins Trust on how to ensure you stay safe when giving oral sex to someone who has HIV.

 Routine HIV Screening Needs to Happen in U.S., JAMA Editor Says
It's time for the U.S. medical system to get its act together and become more serious about HIV testing. That's the new missive from Rebecca Voelker, the associate managing editor for the highly respected Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). It's been more than two years now since the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that routine HIV testing be made a part of regular medical care for everybody in the U.S. between the ages of 13 and 64. But as Voelker points out, the system is doing a poor job meeting this urgent challenge. (Summary from kaisernetwork.org)


Ludacris Video Central: Celebrities Add Their Voices to Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day
In the latest additions to Video Central at TheBody.com, hip-hop artist Ludacris, media mogul Master P and film director Patrik Ian Polk speak out against the African-American HIV epidemic. As spokespeople for National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (which takes place on Saturday, Feb. 7), these men -- and dozens of other prominent African Americans -- have lent their voices and faces to a new series of public service announcements that spread the word about the HIV crisis in African-American communities. (Videos from National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day 2009)

Additional public service announcements from politicians and celebrities are available for download at the official NBHAAD Web site.

If Black America were a nation, it would have more HIV-positive citizens than nearly half of the developing countries that receive help through the U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. This and other shocking statistics, as well as HIV-fighting plans from prominent African-American leaders, are outlined in the Black AIDS Institute's report, "Left Behind," which places the African-American HIV epidemic in a global context.


 Human Trials Set to Begin on New Form of HIV Treatment
A new type of HIV treatment is about to hit the development pipeline. The treatment involves taking a sample of an HIV-person's CD4 cells and disrupting the CCR5 gene, which is the molecule HIV usually attaches to before infecting the cell. The idea is that, when those modified CD4 cells are put back into an HIVer's body, they'll multiply into an HIV-resistant army of immune cells. "This is the first time that we have had the ability to make a patient's [CD4] cells permanently resistant to infection by CCR5-specific strains of HIV," says one of the researchers involved in an upcoming first-phase study of the drug, which will see whether it's safe to use in humans. (Article from kaisernetwork.org)

 Cancers Continue to Rise Among People With HIV
Signs are growing stronger that cancer may be a health concern for people with HIV. A large new study has found that cancer was the reason behind one out of every three deaths in HIV-positive people in France during 2005. That makes a 5 percent increase in cancer-related deaths among French HIVers since 2000. However, many of the HIV-positive people who died from cancer in 2005 had a low CD4 count (below 100). This points to the importance not just of frequent cancer screening for all HIVers, but also of starting HIV treatment when the CD4 count is still relatively high, since a weakened immune system makes people more susceptible to death from cancer. (Study summary from aidsmap.com)

The full study is available (for free) in the March 1 issue of the medical journal Clinical Infectious Diseases.

Of course, cancer isn't only on the rise among HIV-positive people: It's happening to everyone, especially in the developing world. Health experts say that 12 million people were diagnosed with cancer worldwide in 2008, and cancer claimed the lives of 7.6 million people. Developing countries are particularly hard-hit, since many poorer nations can't provide people with the cancer screening and treatment they need -- and because the immune-damaging impact of untreated HIV and other diseases leaves many people even more vulnerable to certain cancers.

Activist Central

 Do You Think Facial Fat Loss Treatments Should Be Covered by Medicare?

The U.S. health department is looking for comments on a proposal to cover the cost of "reconstructive treatments," such as Sculptra and Radiesse, for people with HIV who are on Medicare. Add your comment before the Feb. 16 deadline!

 Support the Call for a National U.S. Strategy to Fight HIV

Now that U.S. President Barack Obama has begun his term, one of the major priorities for many HIV activists is urging him to create a nationwide strategy to fight HIV within the U.S. Join the call by signing amfAR's online petition and letting your Congressional representatives know how you feel!

 Push for the Freedom of Two Newly Imprisoned Iranian HIV Specialists

After months in detention, the Alaei brothers -- Iranian HIV specialists -- have been sentenced to prison in Iran for allegedly plotting to overthrow the country's government. Join the more than 3,000 people who have signed a petition calling for the Alaeis' freedom, write a letter to the Iranian embassy in the United States or put pressure on your Congressional representatives.

 Speak Out Against the Jailing of HIV Activists in Senegal

The eight-year prison terms recently handed down to nine gay men in Senegal have many people throughout the world fuming. To speak out against this injustice, you can contact Senegal's embassy in the U.S. by calling 202.234.0540 or getting in touch with your Congressional representatives.