September 3, 2009
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Justin Smith This Positive Life: Justin B. Smith, Openly Positive and Living Without Stigma
Justin B. Smith may be one of the most public African Americans living with HIV: He has his own blog and Web site, and he's even on YouTube. And who can blame him? Only 29, he already has an incredible story to tell. Justin admits he used to live "a very dangerous life," but since his diagnosis three years ago, the former heavy drinker and drug user has turned his life around. In this moving, one-on-one interview, Justin walks us through some of the key moments in his life, including the day in 2006 when he was diagnosed with HIV, his experiences dealing with stigma and ignorance, and his stint in the military as an openly gay man. (Interview from


Also Worth Noting: How I Dated an AIDS Denialist

Thomas DeLorenzo

For too long, Thomas DeLorenzo denied the seriousness of his illness. He took so much time acclimating himself to being HIV positive and getting treatment that he nearly put his life at risk. But he had little idea that, even in 2009, there were other HIVers whose denial ran so deep that they felt they never needed to see a doctor or get medications. But Thomas recently dated one of these people. "It will never, ever cease to amaze me how much ignorance runs rampant in this country," Thomas writes.
 Intelence Users Warned of Possible Risk of Dangerous Skin, Hypersensitivity Reactions
Since Intelence (etravirine, TMC125) was approved in the U.S. in 2008, there have been reports in which people taking the drug developed potentially life-threatening skin reactions. As a result, the drug's labeling has been updated to advise clinicians to immediately discontinue Intelence in people who develop a severe rash or a hypersensitivity reaction. So if you are taking Intelence and you develop a skin rash, notify your doctor immediately -- it may be a sign of a possibly severe allergic reaction. (Drug warning from Tibotec Therapeutics)

 New Evidence Supports Link Between Untreated HIV and Heart Disease Risk
We know all too well that HIV causes bad things to happen in your body, but lately we've seen increasing evidence that it particularly affects your heart. The latest proof comes from a study by researchers in Minnesota, who used a unique (and noninvasive) tool to compare the artery health of 32 HIV-positive people not on treatment to 30 HIV-negative people. They found that the HIVers who were off HIV meds tended to have harder arteries than the non-HIVers. (Article from

 D.C.-Area HIV Clinic Gears Up for Fall -- and the Flu
The H1N1 (swine flu) vaccine is still weeks away from being available in the U.S. But in the nation's capital city -- where the HIV rate is at least 3 percent -- HIV care providers are planning ahead for a tough flu season. According to news reports, Washington, D.C.'s Whitman-Walker Clinic, where half of the clientele is HIV positive, already has a stockpile of H1N1 testing kits and medications -- and when the vaccine becomes available, clinicians will offer that as well. One of Whitman-Walker's HIV-positive clients died of H1N1 this summer, so even though no link has been found between HIV and risk of death from H1N1, the clinic has decided not to take any chances. (Article from

Remember: HIVers are among those who are on the priority list to receive the H1N1 vaccine when it's made available in the U.S. Read more about H1N1, and what HIVers can expect this flu season, in's H1N1 update with HIV expert Joel Gallant, M.D., M.P.H.

 U. Illinois-Chicago to Educate People With Advanced HIV About Food Safety
People with a CD4 count under 200 have an increased risk for getting illnesses from improperly cooked meat and fish, or from drinking bacteria-laden water. To help educate HIV-positive people with low CD4 counts about food safety, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has given the University of Illinois-Chicago School of Public Health a three-year, $600,000 grant. People with AIDS may have low stomach acid, which is the first barrier against germs, according to Mark Dworkin, an associate professor of epidemiology at the university. He added that such people may be at risk for infection with salmonella bacteria from eating fresh fruits and vegetables that are not washed properly. (Press release from University of Illinois-Chicago)

To learn more about food safety recommendations for people with low CD4 counts, browse through our collection of articles.

 U.S. Updates Guidelines on Preventing, Treating HIV-Related Illnesses in Kids
Children's immune systems aren't as well-developed as those of adults. This means that if a child has HIV or lives with HIVers who develop HIV-related illnesses (such as cytomegalovirus or hepatitis), he or she can potentially be at an increased risk for those illnesses. The U.S. has just issued newly revised guidelines on how to prevent and treat opportunistic infections -- the first time the guidelines have been updated in about five years. Though written for health care professionals, the guidelines can be helpful for any adult looking to keep an HIV-positive or HIV-affected child healthy. (Press release from the U.S. National Institutes of Health)

Also Worth Noting: Online Survey: How Do You Rate Your Medical Care?
Take this new survey by HIV-positive scientist and clinician Dr. Rupert Whitaker and detail how you would rate your medical care. The survey is available in English, Spanish, French and German.

 Mourning the Loss of Senator Edward Kennedy
The outpouring of tributes continues from people in the HIV community who knew U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy, who passed away late last month. "What was clear to me ... was how much he genuinely cared about fighting -- and winning -- our battle against the AIDS epidemic," recalls Kevin Robert Frost, the chief executive of amfAR, the Foundation for AIDS Research, in this touching eulogy. "When Senator Kennedy took over the leadership of the Senate Committee on Health in 1987 and made AIDS the committee's top priority at a time when there was still so much stigma surrounding the disease, he took a political risk that few politicians would have been willing to take." (Article from amfAR, the Foundation for AIDS Research)

Browse through the many other tributes that have been written honoring the contributions that Edward Kennedy made to the fight against HIV/AIDS.

 Removal of U.S. HIV Entry Ban Is Not Yet a Done Deal, Activists Say
Isn't the discriminatory ban on HIV-positive people entering the U.S. gone yet? Back in July, the U.S. government issued new proposed rules that would lift the ban on HIV-positive visitors and immigrants -- but only after a public comment period took place. That period ended this week -- and the comments have overwhelmingly been for lifting the ban. However, a few state and local governments still support mandatory HIV testing for immigrants, leading some advocates to warn that the battle to remove the ban may not yet be over. (Article from Housing Works)

It's been a long journey toward finally ending this long-standing ban. Read about this struggle, and much more, in's collection of articles on immigration and travel considerations for HIVers.


 Former Dealers, Now Healers: Ex Drug Sellers Push HIV Prevention
Late at night, a man in front of a 24-hour convenience store calls out, "Hey, I got something for you." But it's not what it seems: The man is not looking to sell you drugs. He's a former drug dealer, and he's now handing out condoms to help prevent HIV. It's part of a program called Community Education Group (CEG), which operates in areas of Washington, D.C., that have some of the highest HIV rates in the country. The program recruits former dealers to do safer-sex street outreach, and thus far it appears to be a success: CEG workers have given out more than 100,000 condoms and gotten more than 2,000 people tested for HIV. (Article from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

 Selzentry Levels in Female Genital Tract May Support Its Use in HIV Prevention
With a name like "entry inhibitor," Selzentry (maraviroc, Celsentri) almost seems destined for use not only as an HIV treatment, but possibly to prevent HIV infection as well. Although a great deal of research lies ahead before Selzentry can be approved for HIV prevention use (a.k.a. prophylaxis), a new study offers some support to the idea. It found that Selzentry appears to be particularly good at quickly reaching HIV-fighting levels within a woman's genital tract. (Study abstract from the medical journal JAIDS)

Public Service Announcement

Activist Central

 Action Alert: Easy Steps to Impact U.S. HIV/AIDS Policy!

 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

 Ensure Congress Has a National AIDS Strategy

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