July 15, 2009
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River Huston River Huston on Vacation: "Anything That Can Go Wrong ..."
"Since I found out I was HIV positive, my whole life went into high gear. I had things to do before the final goodbye," writes River Huston in her latest blog entry. But that final goodbye never came. Instead, pushing herself became a habit she couldn't shake. After working 10 hours a day, seven days a week, for 18 years, River finally decided to take a vacation -- and off to Panama she went. But the trip was a series of misadventures: a suddenly-suspended credit card, a non-working cellphone and a GPS that couldn't tell the rain forest from the golf course. It didn't help that she was in a country where she could barely speak the language. But hey, who said vacations had to be relaxing? (Blog entry from TheBody.com)

+CLICK Helping Teens Make Good Choices: A Computer Game Teaches Safer Sex Skills
Teaching teens about sex is never easy -- and it can be even harder when that teen is living with HIV. So how do you make sure important prevention information sinks in? A team of U.S. researchers thinks it has an answer: video games. The researchers developed a computer game called +CLICK, which teaches HIV-positive youths how to make wise decisions when it comes to sex. In a pilot test, the feedback on +CLICK was so encouraging (from both teens and their doctors) that the development team is already working on a second game -- this time, to help teens learn about HIV medication adherence. (Article from TheBody.com)

Also Worth Noting: Make a Difference: Speak Up for U.S. Health Care Reform
Over 500,000 Americans Living With HIV Have No Health Care
The struggle for health care reform is heating up in the U.S. Congress -- and there are two things you can do right now to be part of the historic debate:

#1: If you're HIV positive, you can share your own health care experiences. Your story will be kept confidential and it will become part of a collection of anecdotes to be shared with President Barack Obama and key policymakers to focus attention on the needs of HIVers.

#2: Write to your representatives in Congress and keep the pressure on them to make sure that health care reform meets the needs of people living with HIV/AIDS.

 Isentress Approved for First-Line HIV Treatment
The integrase inhibitor Isentress (raltegravir) has gotten a green light from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for use as a first-line HIV medication. Originally approved in 2007, Isentress until now has only been officially recommended for use by people who had already taken HIV meds, or were currently taking them. Studies since then have led the FDA to decide that Isentress is safe and effective enough to be used by people who've never before been on meds. (Announcement from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration)

Alexander Tsai, M.D., Ph.D. Antidepressants May Help Cut Viral Load by Improving Adherence, Study Finds
Can taking antidepressants make it easier for people's immune systems to fight off HIV? The answer appears to be yes, according to a study by Alexander Tsai, M.D., Ph.D. (photo at left), and colleagues. The study, which focused on 418 homeless or marginally housed volunteers in San Francisco, found that the reason antidepressants help is simple: They made people more likely to take their HIV meds on time. (Interview and podcast from The Body PRO)

 Inflammation Test May Predict Heart Attack Risk for People With HIV
"Inflammation" is one of the buzzwords of the year for people living with HIV. It's a condition that can signify, among other things, a potentially increased risk for heart disease. So how can you monitor inflammation in your body? One marker that has been used for 70 years to monitor inflammation is a naturally occurring chemical in your body called C-reactive protein (CRP). A recent study found that heart attack risk more than doubled in people who had elevated CRP levels, and that HIV-positive were more likely to have elevated CRP levels than HIV-negative people. (Study summary from aidsmap.com)

That said, it's important to note that CRP is just a marker for heart disease risk. Although for a while experts thought that CRP might actually be a cause of heart disease, recent research shows that's not the case -- instead, high CRP is a warning flag that something else is happening in your body to increase heart risk.

For more on the links between inflammation, heart disease and HIV, read this article from TheBody.com about another study that came out earlier this year, and be sure to browse our collection of overviews, news and research on the subject.


 Clinic Worker Gets One-Year Sentence for Posting Client's HIV Status on MySpace
What if someone you had a disagreement with got hold of your medical records -- and posted your HIV-positive status on the Internet? It's some HIVers' worst nightmare -- and it happened to a woman in Hawaii. Rhonda Wong-Fernandez, who worked at a clinic where an HIV-positive woman was a client, was recently sentenced to one year in prison for illegally accessing the woman's records and posting her HIV status on the social networking Web site MySpace alongside comments like "No wonder she's so pale"; "Poor thing, she has HIV. That's why she's hating"; and "I hope she dies." (Article summary from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

 Is the Future of U.S. HIV Care at Risk? Leading HIV Specialist Groups Issue Report
What will the future of HIV care in the U.S. look like if new specialists aren't joining the field? Studies have shown that when HIV-positive people are cared for by trained, knowledgeable HIV specialists, they do better. However, a recent report from two top HIV specialist organizations revealed that, in the U.S., most practitioners specializing in HIV today are veterans of the field and plan to retire soon, leaving few younger specialists to replace them. The report reviews the challenges of specializing in HIV and makes recommendations that hospitals, policymakers and health organizations can adopt to make sure the HIV care field stays alive and well -- so it can ensure that HIV-positive people stay alive and well, too. (Report from AAHIVM and HIVMA)

Also Worth Noting: Connect With Others
HIV+ and Terrified: How Can I Possibly Deal With This?
(A recent post from the "I Just Tested Positive" board)

July 10, 2009 was the day they told me, and I have been living in a fog ever since. I'm so scared. I have not had any other tests done as of yet, so I'm not sure where I stand. I don't think I can do this. Someone help me.

-- adamb

Click here to join this discussion, 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!


 U.S. Congress Works to Reverse Needle-Exchange Funding Ban
Could the U.S. Congress finally be ready to remove a ban on using federal funds for needle-exchange programs? The 21-year-old ban was removed from a House appropriations bill this month, and amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research, hailed the move as the first step toward eliminating the ban officially. amfAR notes that up to 16 percent of new HIV cases in the U.S. every year come from injection drug use, but that needle exchanges can reduce HIV transmission (without encouraging more drug use) and also get more drug users tested for HIV and into treatment. (Press release from amfAR)

The HIV advocacy organization Housing Works is calling on all people in the U.S. to contact their representatives in the upcoming days and urge them to keep the ban out of the appropriations bill. Do your part to make this important change become a reality!

 Needle Exchange Programs Find Success in New York City
New York City has more injection drug users (IDUs) than any other city in the country -- and a correspondingly high number of HIV cases. But thanks to aggressive harm reduction techniques such as needle exchange, the HIV rate has fallen, advocates say. In 1992, New York State legalized needle exchanges, and over the next decade the rate of IDUs with HIV dropped from more than 50 percent down to 15 percent. "People who are injecting drugs are still human beings, and they have the right to stay alive," says Daliah Heller, a city official. "People deserve an opportunity to have a life, and that's the basic message of harm reduction and syringe exchange." (Article from KPBS)

 Exploring the Role of HIV-Positive Women in the Global Microbicide Movement
What are microbicides, and how can they benefit HIV-positive women? There are many microbicides currently in development: They're gels, creams or films that are meant to help prevent HIV transmission (and, sometimes, pregnancy or other diseases as well). Although HIV-negative women are considered the main people who can benefit from microbicides, HIV-positive women (and men!) and their partners may benefit from this research as well. This insightful article provides an overview for those curious about what's new and noteworthy on the global microbicide front -- especially as it concerns HIV-positive women. (Article from San Francisco AIDS Foundation)

Did you know that the global microbicide advocacy movement has been alive and growing since as far back as 1992? TheBody.com has a great collection of articles on all aspects of microbicide development -- including a few accounts of advocates' adventures spreading the microbicide message all over the world.

Also Worth Noting: Breaking Research: Coverage of IAS 2009, Cape Town, South Africa


Visit TheBody.com's conference page starting next week to stay up on the latest news and breaking research from one of this year's biggest gatherings of HIV researchers and health care professionals: IAS 2009, also known as the 15th International AIDS Society Conference on HIV Pathogenesis, Treatment and Prevention! The conference begins Sunday, July 19, in Capetown, South Africa.

 Discrimination Against HIV-Positive Immigrants Still Common Around World, Report Says
Immigration isn't easy for people with HIV throughout much of the world, according to a new report from Human Rights Watch. The report details the many ways in which HIV-positive people have difficulty entering foreign countries, whether due to a ban on HIV-positive people entering at all, the exclusion of migrants with HIV from receiving free health care or the deportation of immigrants who test HIV positive after entering the country. The report warns that these deportations aren't just discriminatory; they also may be forcing people back to countries with little access to HIV treatment, and they often lead to treatment interruptions that cause HIV drug resistance, health problems and even death. (Article from Human Rights Watch)

 Tuberculosis Vaccine May Be Fatal for Babies With HIV, WHO Warns
In much of the world, babies are given BCG, an anti-tuberculosis vaccine, at birth. But for infants with HIV, BCG can be deadly, according to a new World Health Organization study. The study found that HIV makes babies more likely to develop a complication called "disseminated BCG disease," a bacterial infection that is often fatal. According to the WHO, infants with HIV are actually more likely to get BCG disease than they are to gain TB immunity, so they should not get the vaccine. Experts are concerned, however, that despite the risks, BCG vaccination will continue unabated in many developing countries. (Article from The New York Times)

 Why Are People With HIV More Likely to Get Tuberculosis?
Did you know that people with HIV are at least 20 times more likely to get tuberculosis (TB) than people without HIV? Experts have known for a while that HIV increases TB risk, but they're still trying to determine exactly why. A Harvard University study may have pinpointed one reason: It compared immune cells from the lungs of HIV-positive and HIV-negative people, and found that HIV appears to elevate levels of a gene-and-protein combination that makes it much harder for the lungs to fight off TB. Researchers hope that this discovery will eventually lead to better prevention and treatment of TB in people with HIV, which could save hundreds of thousands of lives. (Article from the International AIDS Society)

Activist Central

 End the Ban of Federal Syringe Exchange Funding Today

 Twelve Weeks and Counting: Extend Ryan White Now!

 Sound the Alarm: HIV Is Not In Recession

 Take a Survey Addressing the Vocational Needs of HIV-Positive People

 Write to District Court Judge Bradley J. Harris, Who Sentenced a Man to 25 Years for Not Disclosing to Another Man He Was HIV Positive

 Tell Congress to Make Health Care Reform Work for People With HIV/AIDS!

 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!