August 24, 2009
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Also Worth Noting: Living With HIV -- and Wanting Children

Gracia Violeta Ross Quiroga

"It is time for me to have a job that responds to future challenges in my life as a human being and a woman, not only as an HIV-positive activist," says Bolivian HIVer Gracia Violeta Ross Quiroga. In her interview with back in 2007, Gracia shared her journey from surviving rape to testing positive to becoming a global HIV activist. We recently caught up with Gracia and asked what she's been up to since her interview. In her eloquent update, Gracia talks about her biggest challenge yet: starting a family of her own.

 HIV Positive and Fasting During Ramadan
Would fasting have any negative effect on someone with HIV? Ramadan has just begun in the Muslim world and I need to fast (i.e., go without food and water) from sunrise until sunset every day for the entire month. I will take my meds after I break my fast at sunset and just before I begin my next fast at sunrise. My CD4 count is 205 and I've been on HIV meds for eight months now.

 Cancellation of Long-Term Disability Benefits for HIV/AIDS
My long-term disability insurer, CIGNA, recently cancelled my benefits. They claim that I am now no longer totally disabled -- in spite of reports by my doctor and therapists. They have cherry-picked items from my health reports and are using videos as proof. What steps do I take to appeal the cancellation? Am I entitled to copies of the videos?


 Do I Need to Start HAART?
I was infected in May 2008. Since then my CD4 counts have ranged from 390 to 368 and my viral load has gone from 65,000 to its current level of 14,000. I have no symptoms except for swollen lymph nodes, and the fact that I seem to catch colds more often now than before getting diagnosed. Do I need to start HAART (highly active antiretroviral therapy) now? My doctor says I don't need to start yet. Do you agree? Does the fact that I am Chinese affect the decision on when to start HIV meds?

 Is It a Good Idea to Commence HIV Treatment During Acute Infection?
I tested positive in March 2009. My last test was five years ago and it was negative. My June 2009 lab results showed a CD4 count of 238, a CD4 percentage of 18 percent; and a viral load of 66,733. My doctor has advised me to start HIV treatment. Should I wait to see if my CD4 count is low because I may still be in the acute infection period, or should I just initiate treatment? I really don't know when I was infected.

 Changing HIV Meds to Decrease My Risk of Another Heart Attack
I have been on Trizivir (AZT/3TC/abacavir) since 1998. My viral load is undetectable and my T-cell (CD4) count is around 800. I recently had a myocardial infarction (heart attack) and angioplasty. My HIV doc wants to change my meds to Truvada (tenofovir/FTC) and Prezista (darunavir) boosted with Norvir (ritonavir) due to the possible heart disease risk with Ziagen (abacavir). My worry is that to start taking the two protease inhibitors (Prezista and Norvir) for the first time will also increase my risk of heart disease. Do you have an opinion on this and perhaps an idea of a different combination? I favor Atripla (efavirenz/tenofovir/FTC).

Also Worth Noting: Connect With Others
Diagnosed With HIV and AIDS at the Same Time
(A recent post from the "Living With HIV" board)

I was diagnosed last April with a viral load over 500,000 and a CD4 count of 191. I've been sad, lonely, on meds, always tired, lost weight and appetite, no one knows, live away from my family, no partner, with an infection on my skin since April that impairs my mobility (groin and genital area) ... Unbelievable, but I deserve it ... Crystal meth addict in recovery ... Eww ... That's me. What will tomorrow bring?

-- icantbelieve

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 Good Viral Load and CD4 Counts but Too Many Herpes Outbreaks
I was diagnosed with HIV in December 2005. I am not yet on HIV meds, and have had viral load and T-cell (CD4) count tests every three months since diagnosis. The highest viral load I have had was 2,000, the lowest CD4 count was about 600, with the relation between CD4 and CD8 counts not less than 40 percent. I am a "viremic controller" according to Harvard researchers. All is pretty well on the HIV front. However, I have been having frequent genital herpes outbreaks. I have also been experiencing the zoster type of herpes (also known as shingles) around twice a year. All of these outbreaks are mild to moderate and my body is able to fight them properly and promptly recover. What could explain this from an immune system standpoint? According to my labs, my immune system seems to be functioning well, but these recurrent herpes outbreaks point to a different scenario.

 What Is the Life Expectancy for Someone With Cirrhosis?
Once someone has been diagnosed with cirrhosis, how long can one live?

 How Can I Keep My Liver Healthy After HCV Treatment?
I have HIV, hepatitis B (HBV) and hepatitis C (HCV). My HIV, HCV and HBV viral loads are undetectable. I just completed therapy with peginterferon (Pegasys or PEG-Intron) and ribavirin (Rebetol, Copegus). I have some questions about what I can eat. Can I drink around 16 ounces of milk a day? Is it OK for me to have beef or chicken liver a few times a month? My doctor just told me to eat balanced meals and never to drink alcohol or take St. John's Wort, but he says if I'd like, I can take other supplements such as milk thistle, astragalus and licorice.


 How Often Can I "Top" Before I'm at Risk for HIV?
Is there a minimum number of exposures through bareback "topping" (acting as the insertive partner during anal sex) at which the HIV risk becomes substantial?

 Transmission Risk During Successful HIV Treatment?
Does the HIV transmission risk fall (for example, if a condom breaks) in the case of an HIV-positive person who has been on medication for several years and is continually monitored, and whose viral load is undetectable with a CD4 count in the 800-to-900 range?

 Crisco and HIV
Can HIV survive in Crisco?

Also Worth Noting: Connect With Others
Recently Diagnosed: Can Everyone Tell "Something's Not Right"?
(A recent post from the "Living With HIV" board)

I have recently been diagnosed with HIV (June 2009). I would like to make some friends. I feel lonely and I think everyone knows about me or notices something is not right. I have friends, gay and straight, and I am afraid to tell them. I live in Las Vegas.

-- skislope

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 Is It Dangerous to Ejaculate Too Much in One Day?
Can you die from shooting too much semen in a day? I don't wanna die anytime soon!

Activist Central

 Call Assembly Speaker Silver: Stop The HASA Rent Crisis -- New Yorkers With HIV/AIDS Need Affordable Housing!

 Tell Senators Health Care Reform Must Include Medicaid Parity for U.S. Territories!

 Petition for a Robust National Public Health Care Option and Expansion and Enhancement of Medicaid Coverage

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

 Ensure Congress Has a National AIDS Strategy

 Urge Your Senators to Co-Sponsor the Early Treatment for HIV Act


 Help Get Health Care Reform Back on Track

 Twelve Weeks and Counting: Extend Ryan White Now!