June 17, 2009
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River Huston An Unexpected Life: New Blog by Long-Term HIV Survivor River Huston
How many folks do you know who do stand-up comedy about living with HIV? River Huston is one of those rare people who dares to push the boundaries of life. And why not? When she was diagnosed with HIV 18 years ago, during her last year of college, she thought her life was over. So she put together a list of all the things she wanted to accomplish before she died, which included becoming a stand-up comic. Only River didn't die -- she's still alive and well, and her to-do list keeps on growing. In her new blog on TheBody.com, entitled Cry Me a River, the award-winning poet, journalist, performer and activist will take you along as she navigates the ups and downs of being a long-term HIV survivor. (Blog from TheBody.com)

Matt Sharp The Social Side of Aging With HIV
Matt Sharp turned 50 two years ago. Although he feels terrific physically after 20 years living with HIV, he's been surprised by the ageism he's experiencing within the HIV community: "Blatant ageism based on wrinkles, grey hair and a belly is just plain idiotic," he writes. In this column, Sharp describes the isolation and depression that can be common among middle-aged and older people with HIV. But he also describes ways to cope with age-based discrimination -- and offers suggestions on how the community as a whole should come together to help. (Article from Test Positive Aware Network)

Also Worth Noting: Visual AIDS

Image from the June 2009 Visual AIDS Web Gallery
"Childhood Memories," 1999; Donna Haggerty

Visit the June 2009 Visual AIDS Web Gallery to view our latest collection of art by HIV-positive artists! This month's gallery, entitled "Living Better," is curated by Craig Willse.

 Scientists Pinpoint How HIV Is Able to Hijack Immune Cells
You know that scene in some horror movies where an unsuspecting driver picks up a hitchhiker, only to find that the hitchhiker is a chainsaw/gun/knife/machete-wielding maniac? Turns out HIV is that maniac. A team of Canadian researchers says it has figured out exactly how HIV "hijacks" a cell's machinery and forces the cell to do its bidding. "There is a highway inside the human cell," says Andrew Mouland, Ph.D., one of the researchers, and HIV is "essentially jumping on board for the ride and directing [the cell's machinery] to where it needs to go." The researchers hope that this discovery will lead to the development of new ways to block HIV's ability to take over cells. (Press release from McGill University)

 Lost Funding Forces Arizona ADAP to Dramatically Reduce the Drugs It Covers
When the month of June started, the list of medications covered by Arizona's AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP) took up seven printed pages. When it ends, only three pages will be left. A combination of funding cuts, higher costs and more people applying for aid has left the Arizona ADAP in an almost impossible position: either cut the number of people it helps or cut the amount of help it can give. It went with option No. 2. Arizona's ADAP says it will continue to cover all HIV meds and drugs to prevent or treat opportunistic infections, but many other drugs, including those used to treat anemia, anxiety, diabetes and pain, will be dropped from its formulary beginning July 1. (Article excerpted from the Arizona Daily Star)

Also Worth Noting: Connect With Others
HIV Positive and Trapped in the Closet
(A recent post from the "Gay Men With HIV" board)

I have been HIV positive for two years now and have not disclosed or talked to anybody about HIV. My problem is that I feel very guilty about getting HIV because of the way I got it. I am a closet gay, meaning I am frightened about being found out that I like to have sex with men. I used to be a compulsive cruiser -- although, since I found out I have HIV, I have not had sex with anybody. ... Hopefully I can find someone to talk about this to by e-mail and maybe give me an outlet for my strange thoughts. I have become very much a recluse since HIV and fear any contact that will expose me.

-- Closetjason

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

To do this, you'll need to register with TheBody.com's bulletin boards if you're a new user. Registration is quick and anonymous (all you need is an e-mail address) -- click here to get started!


 New HIV Revelation Has Hetero Porn Industry Under Fire in U.S.
"I'm thinking, I'm invincible ... That's just the way our mentality was," says Darren James, a once-successful L.A. porn star turned condom advocate. "It was, you get the test, you're clean, not realizing that in between the tests ... other people, you don't know what they're doing." James tested HIV positive in 2004 -- and became the center of an HIV scare that left three of his female costars infected and shut down film production in San Fernando Valley's lucrative porn industry for a month. Now, last week's news of an L.A. porn actress testing HIV positive has spurred James to tell his story -- and to urge the porn industry to require condom use on shoots. "You wouldn't send someone to work on a high-rise building without a hard hat, so why are we allowing these performers to perform without condoms?" says Dr. Jonathan Fielding, health officer for Los Angeles County. (Article from TheBody.com)

 No "Softer Stance" on Pot in New Jersey's Proposed Medical Marijuana Law
How does a U.S. state go about legalizing marijuana for some residents and not for others? Just ask New Jersey lawmakers. Their proposed new medical marijuana bill, if passed, would draw a hard line between those who can and cannot access the controversial herb. According to this report, the rule of thumb in creating the law appears to have been, "Don't be like California," which has a quagmire of quasi-legal dispensaries that have been regularly raided by federal authorities. However, medical marijuana advocates warn that New Jersey's proposed law would become the most restrictive of its kind in the nation. (Article from The Star-Ledger)

Does the medical marijuana debate really light you up? Browse TheBody.com's collection of articles for opinions and research -- as well as legal concerns -- relating to medical marijuana.

 2012 International AIDS Conference Will Be in Washington, D.C. -- If the U.S. Drops Its HIV Visitor Ban
Wondering why there has been no International AIDS Conference in the U.S. for almost 20 years? Just ask Julio Montaner, M.D., the president of the International AIDS Society (IAS): "A fundamental principle of the IAS is that people living with HIV should be able to participate ... without restrictions at HIV conferences," explains Montaner. "The conference has not been held in the U.S. since 1990 because of the ban on entry of people living with HIV." However, if the U.S. finally drops the last vestiges of its 22-year-old ban on the entry of HIV-positive foreigners, the IAS says it will hold its 2012 conference in Washington, D.C. (Press release from the International AIDS Society)

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.

For more ideas on how you can take a stand on critical HIV-related issues, take a look at the "Activist Central" box on the right side of this e-mail newsletter or visit TheBody.com's "What You Can Do" page.

 HIV Advocates Monitor U.S. Health Care Debate to Ensure HIV-Friendly Reforms
The Obama administration is moving ahead with plans for historic U.S. health care reforms, and HIV advocates are working to ensure that the interests of people living with (and at risk for) HIV are addressed. Those advocates want to make sure that upcoming reforms will ensure at least the level of access to HIV care, testing and prevention that's now available through Medicaid, Medicare and the Ryan White program. That's why the HIV organization Project Inform and other advocates have developed a policy platform of HIV-related issues for the U.S. Congress to consider as it hashes out reforms. That platform includes calls for government-provided health insurance and expanded Medicaid eligibility. (Article from Project Inform)

To make sure that voices from the U.S. HIV community are heard in the health care reform debate, Project Inform and their partners host regular conference calls for all members of the HIV community. During each call, community members can share information, ask questions and hear updates on Congressional activities related to the reforms. These one-hour calls take place on the first and third Thursdays of each month at 2 p.m. Eastern Time, which means the next call will be on Thursday, June 18! To join a call, dial 218-339-2699. The access code is 968918.

 Billboards Portray AIDS as a Gangster, Bringing Awareness -- and Criticism -- in Louisiana
On Interstate 10 in Louisiana, a billboard portraying AIDS as a gangster is turning heads -- and garnering criticism. The implication that AIDS is a ruthless killer is meant to make the public realize how important HIV prevention is, according to the faith-based HIV awareness group that put up the billboard. However, some Louisiana residents have apparently found the "HIV prevention mobsters" on the billboard offensive because they have names like "Da Crabs Assassin" and "Chlamydia Crusher." (Article from WDSU.com)

Looking for ideas for your own local HIV prevention campaign? Louisiana's eye-catching billboards are just one of many creative ways in which HIV prevention organizations try to get the word out about HIV. Take a look at TheBody.com's collection of resources on HIV prevention programs for inspiration!


 Virgin HIV/AIDS Cure Myth Still Common in Zimbabwe, but Some Are Fighting Back
It's astonishing to imagine, but there are still many people in Africa who believe that if a man with HIV rapes a virgin, he will be cured. Traditional healers, who are thought to be important spreaders of this myth, hold an important place in countries where medical professionals are scarce. But some are fighting against this ignorance: Take Betty Makoni of Zimbabwe, for instance. She was raped by a shopkeeper when she was just 6 years old, and watched her father murder her mother three years later. But she turned those horrible traumas into a force for good: Now 37, she is the founder of the Girl Child Network, which helps Zimbabwe's young sexual abuse victims. "If we keep quiet, at least 3,600 girls per year may just be contracting HIV," she warns. (Article from CNN)

 Lebanon's HIVers Take a Stand by Forming Country's First HIV Association
When you think of some of the countries that have been hit hard by HIV, you probably don't think of Lebanon. About .1 percent of the country -- roughly 3,000 people -- is (officially) HIV positive. But those people face tough conditions brought on by fear, stigma and lack of HIV education. "Most institutions do not accept people living with HIV as employees, and we do not qualify for health insurance," says Hassan Cherry. But Cherry has decided to fight these conditions: He and a handful of other HIVers have gotten together to form Think Positive, Lebanon's first association for people with HIV. They hope to raise awareness by reaching out to the media, religious leaders and other public figures. (Article from IRIN News)

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!