June 11, 2009
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Seth Kalichman, Ph.D. This Month in HIV: A Short Guide to HIV Denialism
Does HIV really exist? And if it does exist, can it cause harm? They're ridiculous questions, of course: If you're reading this, there's a 99.9 percent chance you agree that HIV does exist and it can cause harm. Yet there are a small group of people who remain willfully oblivious to the facts about HIV. They call themselves "AIDS dissidents." We in the HIV community call them "denialists." The question is: Why do these people continue to deny the truth about HIV and AIDS in the face of overwhelming evidence? In the first of a special two-part episode of our This Month in HIV podcast series, we ask these questions of clinical psychologist Seth Kalichman, Ph.D., who went underground to determine first-hand what makes AIDS denialists tick. (Article and podcast from TheBody.com)


Thembi Ngubane Thembi Ngubane, Courageous African HIV-Positive Activist, Dies at 24
South African HIV-positive activist Thembi Ngubane passed away on June 4 at the age of 24. Tragically, although she was one of the fortunate in South Africa to be taking HIV medications, she lost her life shortly after she was diagnosed with drug-resistant tuberculousis. Thembi had been diagnosed with HIV at 16. Three years later, National Public Radio (NPR) handed her a tape recorder, and she recorded a now-famous diary of what it was like to live with HIV in her home country. After her diary was broadcast on NPR in 2006, Thembi became one of the few South African women to speak openly (and globally) about living with HIV. In 2006, she traveled to the U.S. to speak to high-school students, and in 2008 she co-chaired a major session at the International AIDS Conference in Mexico City. Thembi leaves behind a legion of admirers, her partner Melikhaya and her 3-year-old daughter Onwabo, who is HIV negative. (Article summary from TheBody.com; if you were impacted by Thembi's life or work, we hope you'll share your thoughts in the "comments" section of the summary.)

We were honored to have the opportunity to sit down with Thembi in Mexico City last year for an emotional one-on-one interview. We spoke with her about her diagnosis, her daughter, her initial struggles with disclosure and how her life has changed since NPR aired her diaries.

Also Worth Noting: HIV Summer Camps: Send Your Child ... or Be a Volunteer!
There may still be spots available at U.S. and Canadian summer camps for kids who are HIV positive or whose lives have been impacted by HIV. In many cases, you'll have to pay little to nothing for attending and traveling to the camps! Check our thorough list to find a camp that's a good fit for your child.

Great, rewarding volunteer opportunities are also available at these camps, and many camps also have a supply wish list. If you can't contribute time, donating items is another way to do your part! Contact a camp of your choice to see if it needs any assistance.

 Will Your Next Viral Load Be as Undetectable as the Last? Study Says: Probably
You're taking every single dose of your HIV meds properly. Your last five viral load tests have shown you're undetectable. You and your HIV-negative partner (you're both monogamous) are considering ditching those condoms once in a while. But what are the odds that your viral load has suddenly stopped being undetectable since your last test? Between 4 and 5 percent, according to a new Swiss study. The findings could reignite the debate over how likely it is that an HIV-positive person will transmit the virus to an HIV-negative person during unprotected sex, even if all signs suggest that HIV meds are keeping a person's HIV under control. (Article from TheBody.com)

 Discovery May Open New Frontier in the Battle to Eradicate HIV
Researchers have discovered that a class of drugs known as HDAC inhibitors might play a potentially critical role in fighting HIV. An Italian laboratory study suggests that some HDAC inhibitors may be able to "awaken" pockets of HIV-infected cells that currently approved HIV meds have been unable to reach. Some researchers believe that these "latently infected" cells are the reason why current HIV treatment methods are unable to eradicate HIV from the body. By using a "shock and kill" approach -- i.e., waking up those latent cells and then destroying the HIV within them -- the researchers hope to eliminate one of HIV's hideouts. (Study summary from aidsmap.com)


 Can Medical Marijuana Really Treat Symptoms in Long-Term HIVers?
When's the last time you saw a scientific clinical trial on the use of medical marijuana by people with HIV? We're still waiting for a pivotal, well-constructed study that will prove the effectiveness of treating some of the side effects of HIV or HIV meds with marijuana. A new study, led by the University of California-San Francisco, doesn't provide those hard-and-fast answers, but it's a big deal considering how little research has been done on medical marijuana and HIV. The study of 775 HIVers asked whether self-medicating with marijuana works better or worse than taking prescription drugs or over-the-counter meds for the treatment of anxiety, depression, diarrhea, fatigue, nausea or neuropathy (pain/tingling/numbness in the extremities). The results were mixed, but definitely warranted further study, the researchers said. (Study from Clinical Nursing Research)

What have we learned about medical marijuana and HIV to date? Visit TheBody.com's collection of articles for overviews, policy news and additional research on the use of marijuana to treat the side effects of HIV and HIV meds.

 Throat Gonorrhea Fairly Common in Gay Men, Study Finds
Did you know that you could contract gonorrhea in your throat? Or that people with gonorrhea in their throat could transmit it while performing oral sex? U.S. studies have found that it's possible, and a recent, small Canadian study suggests that throat gonorrhea is fairly common among gay men. These findings stress the importance of getting tested for gonorrhea not only in your genital region, but in your throat as well. Another reason why testing is important: While gonorrhea infection is usually cured with a single course of antibiotics, about 9 percent of the men in the Canadian study who had throat gonorrhea needed repeated bouts of meds in order to be cured. (Study summary from Canadian AIDS Treatment Information Exchange)

Want to read more about gonorrhea and other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)? Whether you're HIV positive or HIV negative, it's important to be aware of other STDs, get screened for them if you think you might be at risk, and protect yourself as best you can from being infected. TheBody.com's collection of articles on STD transmission, prevention and treatment can help you get started.

Also Worth Noting: Connect With Others
What Does Living "Normally" Mean When You Have HIV?
(A recent post from the "Living With HIV" board)

I have a CD4 count of 139 and my viral load is 4,006. I contracted HIV through work [in health care]. ... I have had scares in the past, so I randomly give myself HIV tests. This time I came back positive. ...

The nurse said I can live "normally." My concern is, what is normal? I like to have a beer a couple of nights a week with my dinner, and of course Fridays and Saturdays I have a few. I eat pretty healthy (65% good/35% bad), exercise and play in softball leagues. I like grilling out all year round. Will all this have to change?

-- BeerMe30

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


HIV Infecting Human Immune Cell For First Time Ever, Video Shows HIV Spreading Between Immune Cells
Learning exactly how HIV works is critical to developing medications, finding a cure and creating a vaccine. Usually, that kind of research is intricate, painstaking work -- and for most of us, it's awfully boring to read about. But a new U.S. study may be one of the coolest yet to explain how HIV infects human immune cells, because it literally shows us: The researchers were actually able to record a video that allowed them to see an HIV-infected T cell attaching to an HIV-uninfected T cell. (Article from the Center for Biophotonics Science and Technology at the University of California-Davis)

 Californians Protest Drastic Cuts to State HIV Funding
On June 10, busloads of Californians converged on the state capital to protest more than $80 million in cuts to state funding of HIV prevention and treatment programs. The cuts would reportedly affect HIV testing and reduce the types of meds available through drug assistance programs. They would also virtually eliminate state funding for prevention programs in communities most at risk for HIV. "Slashing at both ends of the HIV care continuum -- prevention and care -- is an equation for failure, particularly as the AIDS epidemic rages throughout the state's most vulnerable communities," says Craig Thompson of AIDS Project Los Angeles. "It's beyond regressive. It's inhumane." (Press release from AIDS Project Los Angeles)

Also Worth Noting: U.S. HIV Testing Day: Plan an Event and Order Posters!

U.S. HIV National Testing Day

June 27 is National HIV Testing Day in the U.S., and lots of resources for planning or attending events can be found online. Many posters (such as the one above) are also available for free from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention! Order before the June 17 deadline and get the word out about HIV testing in your community.

 Using HIV Meds for HIV Prevention: How Would It Work?
Will there ever be a day when people regularly at high risk for HIV transmission take HIV meds to prevent themselves from getting HIV in the first place? Ongoing studies are attempting to figure out whether this prevention method, called pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), is safe and effective. But it's not too early to start thinking about how PrEP would actually work if it were to become widely available. Which HIV-negative people would take it? Would they be on PrEP their entire lives? Would people even want to take it? Who would cover the cost? In this insightful overview, the HIV organization Project Inform looks into its crystal ball and offers its take on the answers to these and other PrEP-related questions. (Article from Project Inform)

 HIV Numbers Have Gone Up in Washington, D.C., but Education Efforts Haven't, Newspaper Reports
The average person in Washington, D.C., probably sees little evidence that she or he is in a city that is home to a severe HIV epidemic, the Washington Post reports. Despite evidence that advertising increases HIV awareness -- and despite the recent revelation that D.C. is home to one of the highest rates of HIV in the U.S. -- the city reportedly devotes less marketing space to HIV testing and prevention advertising than it did a decade ago. However, city officials have promised that they'll roll out a new social marketing campaign responding to the HIV crisis in the city. (Article from the Washington Post)

Want to read more about HIV rates in Washington, D.C., as well as D.C. activists' impassioned responses to the crisis? Browse TheBody.com's collection of articles on HIV in the Mid-Atlantic region of the U.S.


 Starting HIV Meds Earlier Can Dramatically Cut Death Rate in Developing Countries, Study Says
In the U.S. and Europe, official HIV treatment guidelines instruct health care professionals to start HIV treatment before a person's CD4 count drops below 350. But in many developing countries, it's still standard practice to hold off on HIV meds until a person's CD4 count dips under the 200 mark. That practice may be quadrupling the number of HIVers who die in those countries, according to the results of a major new study. The study, which took place in Haiti but was funded by the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, also found that people who started treatment later were twice as likely to develop tuberculosis. The findings are the latest stark evidence that earlier treatment can save a tremendous number of lives. (Press release from the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases)

Activist Central

 Tell Abbott That We Will Not Accept a High Price for Their New Norvir!

 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

 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

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