September 17, 2009
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 HIV Meds and Me: A Personal Journey
Many people never experience any side effects to their HIV meds. But for some, the side effects can virtually take over their lives. This was especially true in the late 1990s and early 2000s, when HIV meds were often good at keeping HIV from killing you, but sometimes came at the price of potentially debilitating gastrointestinal and body fat effects. In this personal story, one long-term HIV survivor walks us through his troubled history with HIV meds and their near-crippling effect on his quality of life -- as well as the recent med switch that has turned everything around. (Article from ACRIA and GMHC)

Nelson Vergel Exercise Is Best Therapy for Managing Side Effects of HIV and Meds, Say Fitness Experts
Sure, exercising regularly helps you look and feel better about yourself. But did you know that it can also lessen many of the side effects that come with having HIV or taking meds? Studies have shown that regular exercise can help build up bone density and and reduce belly fat in HIV-positive people, in addition to many other health benefits. HIV and fitness experts Nelson Vergel and Michael Mooney talk about some of these benefits and give common-sense tips and resources to help HIVers at any fitness level start a safe, effective exercise program -- and stick with it. (Article from Test Positive Aware Network)

If you have an exercise question that isn't answered in this article, you can ask Nelson Vergel yourself at's "Ask the Experts" forum on exercise and nutrition; or take a look at our collection of articles on exercise and HIV.

Kimberly Smith, M.D. Black Women Are Less Likely to Do Well on HIV Treatment. But Why?
African-American women are less likely than white women to reach an undetectable viral load on HIV treatment, research shows. The question is: Why? "There's nothing that suggests that it's a [HIV] drug-driven issue," says Kimberly Smith, M.D., M.P.H., one of the clinicians who has spearheaded this research. Instead, Smith points to two possible explanations from a recent study: Black women were more likely to drop out of the study entirely, and those who remained were less likely to take all their meds on time. "The priorities in your life are not just about getting your pills swallowed," Smith explains. "It's about making sure you have food on the table, making sure you've got a place to live, taking care of your kids." (Interview and podcast from The Body PRO)

 Study Suggests Some People With Kidney Trouble Can Start Viread Anyway
Viread (tenofovir) may not be quite so dangerous for people with existing kidney problems as had been feared, a new study suggests. Research has previously shown that Viread, one of the drugs in the combo meds Atripla (efavirenz/tenofovir/FTC) and Truvada (tenofovir/FTC), can sometimes reduce a person's kidney function. This led to warnings that the drug should be taken only with great caution if a person already has kidney problems, such as low creatinine clearance. However, a small U.S. study has found that Viread's impact on the kidneys is very gradual, if it occurs at all. The findings suggest that if Viread is one of a person's only treatment options, it may be OK to take it even if kidney problems are an issue. (Article from the International AIDS Society)

 Changing the State of HIV/Hepatitis C Care in New York Prisons
Being incarcerated is no picnic. But imagine doing it when you're HIV positive and on medications. There are 59,400 men and women in prison in New York state, 3,100 of whom have HIV. Often, their treatment and care has been inconsistent. But things may be about to get a whole lot better. N.Y. Gov. David Paterson is considering a bill that would require the New York State Health Department to monitor the care of state and local prisoners with HIV or hepatitis C. Under the measure, the department would be responsible for conducting annual treatment reviews, mandating necessary changes and releasing annual reports on its findings. (Article from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

Event of the Week: Global Warming Ball for LGBTQ Youth in NYC

Global Warming Ball

On Sept. 19, FIERCE is throwing a Global Warming Ball on Pier 46 in New York City's Hudson River Park. It's part of the New York-based youth leadership organization's effort to maintain safe spaces for LGBTQ youth of color in New York's West Village waterfront. The environmentally themed ball will feature creative costumes, voguing competitions and appearances from Vivika Westwood and members of the Vogue Evolution Dance Company. More than 1,000 people are expected to attend. Click here for details.

Bob Huff New "Report Card" Finds HIV Drug Industry Doesn't Make the Grade
Abbott Laboratories: F. Hoffman-La Roche Ltd.: D. Boehringer Ingelheim: D+. If the nine major HIV drug companies were in school, most would probably be in detention, according to a new "report card" issued by the AIDS Treatment Activists Coalition (ATAC). ATAC graded the drug companies in five different categories, including fair pricing and their relationship with the HIV community. Some did alright -- Merck & Co. and Tibotec Therapeutics both got B's -- but most didn't fare as well. In this one-on-one interview, we get the nitty-gritty on this telling report from longtime HIV/AIDS journalist and activist Bob Huff, a member of ATAC's board of directors. (Interview and podcast from

 Dear Elton John: You're Too Gay and Old to Adopt an HIV-Positive Boy. Signed, Ukraine
It's a sad day when an HIV-positive child is stuck in an orphanage, unlikely ever to be adopted. However, the Ukranian Family, Youth and Sports Minister Yuriy Pavlenko apparently felt confident in rejecting singer/songwriter Elton John's bid to adopt a 14-month old HIV-positive boy named Lev. After all, Elton John didn't meet the criteria: He was neither legally married (he's in a civil union) nor young enough, according to Ukraine's rules. Pavlenko seemed to care little that the adoption would transform Lev's life and perhaps spur other people to adopt HIV-positive children in resource-poor countries. (Article from


 Give Your Words Power: How to Participate in Community Discussions to Build a U.S. HIV/AIDS Strategy
How can you directly affect the creation of a U.S. national HIV/AIDS strategy? The White House has kicked off its nationwide series of HIV/AIDS community meetings. At each of these meetings, people living with and working in HIV in the region will be able to share their experiences and recommendations. However, those who testify will likely have no more than a minute to speak, so activists from several HIV organizations have created tools to help those who want to speak keep their comments brief and powerful. (Article from the Campaign to End AIDS)

The next meeting will take place in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 21. If you're in the Washington, D.C. area, you can register online to attend the meeting.

The details of each regional meeting will be released as the dates are confirmed. Stay tuned to for information on upcoming meetings through the end of 2009!

Also Worth Noting: Connect With Others
When Should I Worry?
(A recent post from the "I Just Tested Positive " board)

I am 25 years old, living in Los Angeles and was diagnosed May 20. I have since gotten two CD4 counts of 630. My question is, when should I be worried about a sniffle, a weight change -- or anything, really? It is hard not to freak out about anything that might seem health-related, even when my doctor tells me I should not. What are your experiences? Is it all just paranoia?

-- JAGuar

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

To do this, you'll need to register with'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!


 The Evolution of HIV Testing in the U.S.: Are We at the Cusp of a New Era?
More than a million people are estimated to be living with HIV in the United States, but around 200,000 of them have no idea they may be infected. They're not only missing out on lifesaving treatment; they may also unknowingly put their sexual partners at risk. New recommendations issued three years ago this month were meant to help solve this problem by making HIV testing more routine, but change has been slow in coming. Or has it? In this in-depth interview, the chief architect of U.S. plans to increase HIV testing, Bernard Branson, M.D., talks about where we are now and where new technologies may take HIV testing in the near future. (Interview and podcast from The Body PRO)

 Scientists Discover How HIV "Paralyzes" Immune Cells in Order to Infect Them
Much like a scorpion stings its prey to keep it from getting away, HIV is able to cripple immune cells, making it much harder for the body to mount a defense against the virus, German researchers have discovered. The key is a protein within HIV called Nef. The Researchers watched as Nef short-circuited an immune cell's ability to move, making it much more difficult for the cell to come into contact with other cells that may have been able to help it mount a defense against HIV. (Press release from Heidelberg University Hospital)

 Annual HIV Testing May Soon Be Covered by Medicare
Medicare still doesn't cover the costs of an HIV test, but that may soon change. The U.S. health department has formally proposed that Medicare coverage be expanded to include HIV testing for any Medicare beneficiaries who request it. Free annual HIV testing would also be provided to "high-risk" people, including men who have sex with men, men and women who have unprotected sex with more than one person, injection drug users and sex workers. (Press release from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services)

The health department is accepting comments about this proposed rule change until Oct. 9. To share your support, visit the official Web page of the proposal and click on the little "comment" icon inconveniently located after the headline "Proposed Decision Memo for Screening for the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) Infection (CAG-00409N)."

 Little-Known but Common STD Is Linked to More Severe Prostate Cancer in Men
It's clear that HIV isn't even remotely the only sexually transmitted disease (STD) that can cause serious long-term health problems if left untested and untreated. To that list, it appears we can add a parasite called Trichomonas vaginalis. It's an extremely common but fully treatable STD that both men and women can get. It's known to increase HIV risk -- and, it turns out, it may also increase a man's risk for developing advanced prostate cancer. (Article from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

Public Service Announcement

Activist Central

 Learn How to Participate in the White House's HIV/AIDS Community Discussions on the National HIV/AIDS Strategy

 Tell Sen. Majority Leader Reid to Take Action on Syringe Exchange

 Re-Authorize the Ryan White Act -- Care for People Living With HIV/AIDS

 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!