May 20, 2009
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Also Worth Noting: HIV Vaccines: Get Involved in the Hunt for a Working Vaccine

Vaccine Awareness Day

Monday, May 18 was the 12th annual HIV Vaccine Awareness Day. Although a cure to HIV remains elusive, scientists are still striving to find a vaccine that works. But to succeed, they'll need HIV-negative people from all walks of life to support and volunteer for HIV vaccine studies.

How can you help spread the word, or volunteer for a study if you're HIV negative? Check out the U.S. health department's "Be the Generation" Web site for loads of info, fact sheets, posters and a list of current vaccine trials.

 Why Do HIVers Break So Many Bones?
In the last few years, studies have shown that HIVers appear more likely to develop bone-related problems such as osteoporosis. But what causes these problems? Researchers are trying to pin down the answer, and it's starting to look like a combination of factors. One is HIV itself. Some HIV medications may play a role as well. This overview looks at recent studies on bone problems and HIV, lists some of the risk factors HIVers should be aware of and discusses recommended treatment options. (Article from Positively Aware)

 Smoking May Be More Dangerous for HIVers, Study Finds
If you're HIV positive and still smoking cigarettes, here's yet another reason to quit: HIV-positive smokers appear to experience a more rapid decline in lung function than HIV-negative smokers, according to the results of a relatively small U.S. study. "This is the type of decline you might expect to see in elderly individuals who have a long history of smoking," said Syed Kadri, who presented the findings. Most of the 63 people in the study were men in their 40s, and half of them smoked cigarettes -- that's more than twice the percentage of people who smoke nationwide. Next up, the researchers plan to find out how much the smokers' lungs improved after they quit. (Article from the American Thoracic Society)

These study findings highlight a morbid trend in HIV: As people live longer thanks to increasingly effective HIV meds, the possible long-term effects of HIV (or its treatment) begin to come to light. These findings on smoking seem to sync up with recent research suggesting that many forms of cancer, including lung cancer, may be more common among people with HIV. HIV researcher Eric A. Engels, M.D., M.P.H., recapped much of this research earlier this month in an editorial in the medical journal AIDS.

 It's Best to Start HIV Treatment Right Away for People Who Have OIs, Study Says
If you're diagnosed with advanced HIV at the same time you're diagnosed with a potentially serious opportunistic infection (OI), such as pneumonia, what's the best route to take? Should you treat the OI before starting HIV meds, or should you start HIV meds right away? Doctors have long debated this issue, but a recently published study by U.S. researchers may help settle it: The study found that people who started HIV meds quickly after an OI diagnosis were half as likely to die as people who delayed HIV therapy until the OI was treated. (Article from

For an in-depth analysis of what these study findings mean for people with HIV (and HIV doctors), take a look at this summary by David Wohl, M.D., at The Body PRO. He selected it as one of the most important studies of 2008. (It was presented at a conference last year before being published in a medical journal this year.)

 Beware of Contact With Kids When Using Testosterone Gels, New Warning Says
People who use testosterone gels, such as Androgel and Testim, should be very cautious about coming into contact with children, according to a new warning added to the drugs' labeling. The warning is based on reports that kids whose skin came into contact with testosterone gel-treated skin developed a range of side effects, including enlarged genitals, aggressive behavior and even aging bones. The drug label recommends that anybody who uses a testosterone gel wash their hands after applying it, cover up the areas where it was applied and thoroughly wash any areas that may come into direct contact with a child's skin. (Press release from U.S. Food and Drug Administration)

Magnus Gisslén, M.D., Ph.D. Treatment for Rare Nervous System Disorder Appears to Attack HIV Reservoirs, Study Finds
Today's HIV meds can all but wipe out HIV in a person's blood. But the reason they can't cure HIV is that the virus lives on in "reservoirs" within the body, and HIV meds appear unable to reach them. So, how can we attack those reservoirs? That's the question researchers throughout the world are trying to answer. One possible clue comes in a tiny study recently presented by Magnus Gisslén, M.D., Ph.D., who discovered by chance that a treatment for the rare disease Guillain-Barré syndrome appeared to somehow reach those HIV reservoirs. (Article and audio from The Body PRO)


 Iowa Man Sentenced to 25 Years for Not Disclosing His HIV Status
A 34-year-old HIV-positive man from Iowa has been sentenced to 25 years in prison for not disclosing his status before having sex with another man. In addition to his lengthy sentence, Nick Clayton Rhoades must register as a sex offender, will face lifetime parole and must pay court costs and restitution. As the judge pronounced his sentence, the maximum possible for this class of crime, he said to Rhoades, "You don't look like most of our criminals that sit here, but the risk is still there, just like if you would have shot a gun." In a statement to the court, Rhoades' accuser (who tested negative for HIV) said, "I should have had the right to choose whether to be intimate with someone who was HIV positive." Instead, he said that Rhoades deliberately lied online (where they met) and in person about having no sexually transmitted infections. (Article from

Rodger McFarlane HIV Activist, Leader Rodger McFarlane Remembered
"While many people go their entire lives wanting to be good at just one thing, Rodger [McFarlane] excelled at virtually everything he did," say friends and family of the pioneering HIV activist. McFarlane, who died on May 15, had been an HIV fighter longer than the virus has had a name, setting up the first-ever HIV/AIDS hotline at his own phone number. He was the first paid director of Gay Men's Health Crisis, and he went on to successfully lead several HIV service and fundraising organizations. He was also a decorated military veteran, an accomplished author, a notorious "hard-ass" -- and a compassionate caregiver and friend. McFarlane took his own life rather than allow heart complications and back problems to leave him completely debilitated, according to the letter he left behind. Says McFarlane's longtime friend, the author and activist Larry Kramer, "In true Rodger fashion he did what he wanted to do, which is how he lived his whole life -- true to what he felt he had to do." (Article from Gay Men's Health Crisis)

 HIVers Sue Top Hospital Over Records Left on a Boston Train
Their personal medical info was carelessly left sitting on a train seat -- and now two HIVers are suing. The story is going down in Boston, where a billing manager at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), one of the top HIV medical centers in the country, accidentally left a bundle of billing tickets from 66 hospital clinic clients on a train seat in the Boston public transit system. The info on at least nine of the tickets included people's HIV-positive status. MGH's response was less than adequate, according to HIV legal advocates involved in the case: People simply received a form letter notifying them that their records had been lost. Now, two of the HIV-positive people involved are suing the hospital for breach of privacy. (Article from Bay Windows)

Do you have questions about HIVers' legal rights? Take a look at The Body's extensive index of articles on HIV and the law.

Also Worth Noting: Connect With Others
Need Advice as I Start My New Life
(A recent post from the "I Just Tested Positive" board)

I tested positive on April 20 and have taken all of the preliminary tests. I go in to see my doctor for results Monday. If I'm directed to start drug therapy, do I listen? Do I pause and do further research? ... I'm afraid. One test was done to determine if I was infected by someone who didn't follow their drug therapy properly and passed a resistant strain. So many variables, I'm lost. Will I be able to work immediately after starting medication? What can I expect in the next month of my new life?

-- dean661

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


 U.S. HIV Community Begins to Grumble as It Examines Obama's Budget Proposals
For some HIV advocates in the U.S., the sheen is starting to slip off of Barack Obama's presidency. They feel the president hasn't moved swiftly or strongly enough to revamp efforts to fight HIV within the U.S. -- and the latest budget proposal only appears to deepen those concerns. Although Obama has proposed the first budget increase in three years for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, some advocates say the increase isn't nearly enough to do what needs to be done -- not only against HIV, but hepatitis C as well. (Article from Housing Works)

Meanwhile, the annual dishing out of Ryan White funds has begun to help pay for much-needed HIV services throughout the United States. This year, $1.79 billion is being awarded to programs and clinics that provide treatment and care to HIV-positive people in the U.S. who don't have the health care coverage or resources to afford care on their own.

 Obama Names New York City Health Commissioner Frieden as Next CDC Director
New York City Health Commissioner Thomas Frieden is U.S. President Barack Obama's pick to become the new head of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Frieden's selection comes as no surprise, and has generally gotten a positive reaction from the HIV community. Frieden is known to be a big proponent of making HIV testing a part of routine medical exams, and he was a driving force behind New York City's push to launch, and then greatly expand, a campaign to distribute free condoms. (Article from

Also Worth Noting: Visual AIDS

Image from the May 2009 Visual AIDS Web Gallery
"Crown of Thorns," 1999; Barton Lidice Benes

Visit the May 2009 Visual AIDS Web Gallery to view our latest collection of art by HIV-positive artists! This month's gallery, entitled "Warrior," is curated by Ruben Natal-San Miguel.

 Green Tea Cream Could Hold a Key to Blocking HIV Infection, Study Suggests
Could green tea become the latest weapon in the fight against new HIV infections? A group of German researchers thinks so. They found that a compound in green tea neutralized a protein in semen that enhances its ability to transmit viruses, including HIV. The researchers say that this green tea extract, if used in a topical cream, could prove to be a simple, affordable HIV prevention tool in resource-limited and developing nations, where 96 percent of the world's new infections occur. (Article from Agence-France Presse)

You can read a PDF of the full study in the online edition of the medical journal PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America).

Did you know that studies of HIV-blocking topical creams and gels have been in the works for years? They often fall into the category of "microbicides" -- and has a great collection of articles, stories and studies of microbicides for both vaginal and anal use.

 U.S. HIV Awareness Is Disturbingly Low, Survey Suggests
Back in 1997, nearly one out of every three young adults in the U.S. felt very concerned about their HIV risk. Today, just 17 percent do. And even as HIV continues to hit African Americans and Latinos far harder than whites, people in those communities are losing their sense of urgency about HIV. Meanwhile, 17 percent of Americans are either unsure about or incorrectly believe that you can get HIV by touching a toilet seat. All of this info comes out of the latest nationwide survey by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, which reveals disturbing trends about how much complacency the U.S. has about its HIV epidemic, and how far we still have to go in fighting misconceptions and stigma. (Article from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation)

Activist Central

 Tell CVS: Don't Restrict Access to Condoms!

 Endorse the International Declaration on Poverty, Homelessness and HIV/AIDS

 Speak Out Against the Syringe Funding Ban!

 Write a Letter to President Obama to Support the Action Plan for Rapid Scale-Up of Routine, Voluntary Testing

 Sign Up Now for AIDS Housing Summit June 3-5 in D.C.!

 Give Our Youth the Facts! Tell your senator to co-sponsor the REAL Act.

 ART Initiation at <350 -- Call on WHO and UNAIDS to Save Lives!

 Volunteer at a Camp for HIV-Affected Kids

 Tell President Obama: No More Money for Ineffective Abstinence-Only-Until-Marriage Programs

 Congratulate Obama ... And remind him of his commitment to a National AIDS Strategy!