LIVING WITH HIV
Jimmy Mack: A Long Night's Journey Into Day
When Jimmy Mack discovered he was HIV positive, it was 1987, and an HIV diagnosis was essentially a death sentence. So instead of going to a doctor for treatment, he dived into a different kind of medicine: cocaine and alcohol. His journey out of addiction was difficult, but Jimmy has now been clean and sober for more than 15 years -- and he's got an undetectable viral load to boot. As Jimmy explains in our latest episode of This Positive Life, he is now happily partnered with an HIV-negative man, and he's OK with everyone knowing he's HIV positive. "I think that someone needs to be out there saying, 'Look, I'm HIV positive. I have a full-time job. I volunteer as an emergency medical technician. I have a healthy, normal sex life with an HIV-negative partner,'" Jimmy says. "Today you can live a long, healthy, normal life with this disease. There's so much hope." (Interview and podcast from TheBody.com)
HIV TREATMENT & HEALTH ISSUES
HIV Itself Linked to Possible Heart Risk, Even Among Nonprogressors, Study Finds
There's something about having HIV in your body that may raise your risk for heart disease, according to a large study by U.S. researchers. The study adds to a growing body of evidence that HIV itself may cause inflammation by forcing the body's immune system to constantly work in overdrive to fight off the virus. This inflammation, in turn, could increase a person's heart disease risk. The study found that this risk even appears to apply to long-term HIV nonprogressors -- people who have an undetectable viral load despite never having taken HIV meds. The upshot: If you have HIV, making heart-healthy life choices can be critically important, even if you feel fine. (Article from TheBody.com)
A Hint at Why Some People on HAART Experience a Falling CD4 Count
There remain many mysteries in HIV medicine. A particularly frustrating one is why some HIV-positive people experience a falling CD4 count even though their viral load remains under control with HIV medications. In a small study, U.S. National Institutes of Health researchers looked at four such people. The researchers found that all had a condition called lymph node fibrosis, an abnormal growth of tissue in the lymph nodes. This seemed to be an important reason that these people failed to see an increase in their CD4 counts. Unfortunately, the researchers could suggest no interventions that would help these people. But continued research will hopefully solve this puzzle. (Article from Journal Watch)
Lymphoma Risk Increases Among HIVers With Higher "Cumulative" Viral Load
If your CD4 count is high, is it really that important to keep your viral load undetectable on HIV meds? The answer is yes, according to a new study on cancers in people with HIV. The study looked at more than 6,000 HIVers in Germany, all of whom were on HIV meds. It found that the longer a person's viral load was detectable while on treatment, or the higher their viral load was while on treatment, the greater their risk of developing lymphoma. (Study from the Journal of Infectious Diseases, courtesy NATAP)
Having Trouble Handling My Uncle's AIDS Diagnosis|
(A recent post from the "My Loved One Has HIV/AIDS" board)
My uncle has been sick for quite some time. He got pnuemonia and went into the hospital. There they told him that he has not only pnuemonia, but his liver has completely failed and he has full-blown AIDS. ... He is currently in the hospital, but they will be discharging him within the next couple of weeks, and he will be on disability for the rest of his life.
I have always been very close to him and this is very hard for me to deal with. He is only 42 and most likely got HIV from a past partner. He lives about a four-hour drive away, but within a week of finding out I went to visit him. I try to call him as much as possible. He seems to be in good spirits. ... I work in a small office and I simply told them he was very ill. I am not ashamed of him or the fact he has AIDS, but I don't know if it something I need to share with everyone. ...
My uncle is not really telling us if he is expected to survive very long -- and if so, how long. He cannot take most of the meds he needs due to his liver failure. What can I expect for him? What can I do?
Click here to join this discussion thread, or to start your own!
HIV IN THE NEWS
HIVer Gets 45 Years for Using Body Fluids as a "Deadly Weapon"
Everyone knows that HIV is dangerous, but does that make transmitting it a form of assault? A Texas jury has ruled yes, in finding Philippe Padieu guilty of six counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon: his body fluids. He was sentenced to 45 years in prison, but despite the lengthy jail term, this case differs from a recent ruling in Iowa where an HIV-positive man was given 25 years in prison for not disclosing his status to one sex partner. In that case, the accuser tested negative and the HIVer pleaded guilty, so many view the sentence as unfair. Padieu, on the other hand, withheld his status from multiple women, infected six of them and placed the blame entirely on their shoulders while maintaining his own innocence. DNA evidence was used to prove otherwise. (Article summary from TheBody.com; we hope you'll add your own comment on this story!)
The TV news show 20/20 plans to do a "full report" on this story in an upcoming program. Given the dearth of in-depth discussions regarding HIV on television, it's hard to imagine how 20/20 will manage to avoid sensationalism and provide a balanced, reasoned look at the issue of HIV discrimination laws in the United States. At least the comments on the article provide some wise perspective on the story. (Sadly, several comments also provide the opposite.)
U.S. Activists Outraged as HIV-Positive Canadians Are Denied Entry Into U.S.
Nearly a year after the entry ban on HIV-positive visitors to the U.S. was supposedly repealed, 60 HIV-positive Canadians are getting a rude reminder that travel restrictions for HIVers are still alive and kicking. According to HIV organization Housing Works, the group planned to travel from Canada to an HIV conference in Washington, D.C., on a "designated event waiver," which should have allowed them to enter the U.S. without being asked their HIV status. However, Canadian organizers were told mere days before the event that the group would have to comply with an intrusive new visa process that would be impossible to complete on such short notice. (Article from Housing Works)
Sadly, the discriminatory ban against HIVers entering the U.S. has existed for decades. Read up on the history of the ban, as well as activists' struggles against it, in TheBody.com's collection of articles.
Obama, Clinton Proclaim Commitment to LGBT Rights in U.S. and Throughout World
On Monday, June 1, U.S. President Barack Obama officially proclaimed the month of June to be National Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Pride Month. Though many in the LGBT community are growing impatient with Obama's inertia on issues relating to LGBT rights, the fact remains that this is the first time in nine years that the White House has made such a proclamation. In his official statement, Obama listed his commitments related to LGBT rights, which include strengthening the struggle against HIV and working with the United Nations to decriminalize homosexuality around the world. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made a Pride Month statement that reaffirmed similar commitments, calling the persecution of LGBT people "a violation of human rights and an affront to human decency." (Article from the Washington Blade)
The historic White House statement is available online. In addition, The New York Times printed an interesting op-ed piece addressing Obama's lack of movement on LGBT issues at the same time he proclaims to be a champion of LGBT concerns.
Florida's Black Churches Answer Call to Focus Sunday Sermons on HIV
"[HIV is] a health issue. It's not a sin issue," says Rev. Curtiss Long, an African-American church pastor in St. Petersburg, Fla. Although many HIV advocates working in African-American communities hope to hear those same words from other church leaders, African-American churches have historically been resistant to talk about HIV from their pulpits. But Rev. Long is one of a number of African-American pastors in Florida's Tampa Bay area who are answering the call to make HIV awareness a vital part of their ministry. On a recent Sunday, pastors in a number of area churches preached sermons focusing on HIV awareness and prevention, as well as the importance of service to people living with HIV. "That disease is certainly one that needs to be reckoned with," said another pastor in his Sunday sermon. "It's getting worse in our community." (Article from St. Petersburg Times)
On a related note, African-American clergy members across the U.S. are uniting to push forward the National Black Clergy for the Elimination of HIV/AIDS Act. The bill would create more than $600 million in federal funding for comprehensive HIV services specifically within African-American communities -- and a significant portion of that would be allotted for faith-based programs. We summarized an article about the bill in our April 15 newsletter; you can also view the bill in its entirety online.
MAKING A DIFFERENCE
Riding to End HIV
Alberto Ortiz raises his bicycle in celebration during the closing ceremony of the AIDS/LifeCycle Bike Ride on June 7, 2008 in Los Angeles. The 7-day, 545-mile bike ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles raised $11.6 million for the fight against HIV/AIDS. (Photo: AIDS/LifeCycle)
As you read this newsletter, more than 2,000 bicyclists, many of them HIV positive, are pedaling 545 miles from San Francisco to Los Angeles to raise money for two essential HIV organizations: San Francisco AIDS Foundation and the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center. Although HIV activism is struggling and the recession has hit hard, many bike rides still take place across the U.S. to support the HIV organizations that provide such critical help to so many people. And many bike riders, such as Timothy Brodt (a 37-year-old who relies on HIV organizations to pay for his HIV treatment), are still deeply motivated to make a difference. In this article, Brodt explains why he rides for the cause. (Article from the Los Angeles Times)
To learn more about the California bike ride, AIDS/LifeCycle 8, visit the ride's official site.
Want to help fundraise for HIV organizations and simultaneously get yourself in optimal shape? Join Positive Pedalers, a group of HIV-positive bicyclists in the U.S. who are committed to building a supportive community in bicycle-related activities. Upcoming rides include a two-day, 180-mile trip through Chicago from June 6-7. This summer, many more rides are planned, including the Minnesota Red Ribbon Ride, a four-day, nearly 300-mile trek beginning July 16, and the 11th Annual Friends for Life Bike Rally, a weeklong journey from Toronto to Montreal that begins on July 26.
HIV THROUGHOUT THE WORLD
Researchers Develop Rapid CD4 Test for Use in Resource-Limited Settings
For people with HIV, CD4 testing is an extremely important part of monitoring health. But did you know CD4 tests are virtually unavailable in much of the developing world, where traditional CD4 tests are often too expensive and complicated? It's a critical problem, but there may be a solution on the horizon, thanks to researchers at a major Australian health institute. They've developed a rapid, finger-prick CD4 test designed for use in remote settings. If it holds up to scrutiny, it could be a critical tool in developing countries, where HIVers often don't start HIV meds until after they've developed potentially life-threatening symptoms. (Article from the Burnet Institute)