March 22, 2010
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LIVING WITH HIV/AIDS


 If I Use My Work Insurance, Will My Employer Know I Have HIV?
I have a company medical insurance policy. If I get my HIV treatment through this policy, will my boss know what I'm being treated for? Do insurance companies share these details with employers?


 Do I Have Any Chance of Getting Life Insurance if I Reveal My HIV Status?
I have been positive since 1997, my viral load is undetectable and my T-cell count has been about 450 for a while. I'm currently enrolling in benefits through my job and was given an evidence of insurability form for the life insurance benefit. One of the questions on the form asks if I have ever tested positive for HIV. By answering "yes" to this question, would I be ineligible for life insurance? Should I answer truthfully and explain that I've had no AIDS-defining illnesses or other opportunistic infections?


MIXED-STATUS COUPLES


 What Are the Risks of Barebacking My HIV-Positive, Undetectable Partner?
I'm a 25-year-old HIV-negative man with a 24-year-old HIV-positive life-partner. His CD4 count is very high and his viral load is undetectable and has been for several months. We have had protected sex for a year and are looking into the risks of unprotected anal sex with me as a top (insertive partner) and him as a bottom (receiver). Clearly the risk of infection would be greater if the roles were reversed. What do you think? Is there anyone else out there in this situation?


Also Worth Noting: Visual AIDS

Image from the March 2010 Visual AIDS Web Gallery
"Rivers" 1997; Jason Deneault

Visit the March 2010 Visual AIDS Web Gallery to view our latest collection of art by HIV-positive artists! This month's gallery, entitled "The Pure Cut," is curated by Joseph Akel.
HIV/AIDS TREATMENT


 Can I Stop Taking HIV Meds Until COBRA Kicks In?
I found out I was HIV positive in November 2008. I started HIV meds in February 2009 as part of a clinical study of Isentress (raltegravir) and Reyataz (atazanavir). In less than two months my viral load became undetectable and my CD4 count rose to 194. The study was discontinued after a year. I lost my job around the same time. It takes about 30 days for COBRA to kick in. My doctor has written me prescriptions for Isentress and Truvada (tenofovir/FTC). Until COBRA starts, I would have to pay $2,300 out of pocket for my new meds and I simply don't have the money. Considering my history, current viral load (undetectable) and CD4 count (167), how terrible would it be for me to stop taking meds for the 30 days until my insurance is reinstated?


 Lexiva or Prezista: Which PI Should I Choose?
My viral load is currently 490 and my CD4 count is 700. A few months ago I started taking Isentress (raltegravir) and Truvada (tenofovir/FTC) but have stopped the Isentress because of side effects. My doc suggested replacing Isentress with either Lexiva (fosamprenavir, Telzir) or Prezista (darunavir), both boosted with Norvir (ritonavir). My doctor says I can take whichever of these regimens I feel would be best. Which med do you think would be the best fit for me?


 Is Isentress and Reyataz Alone an Appropriate Regimen?
My doctor wants to put me on a combination of Isentress (raltegravir) and Reyataz (atazanavir). I had assumed that most HIV med regimens involve three drugs, though this one only has two. I don't doubt my doctor -- she's a very experienced physician and researcher -- though this combo has raised my curiosity. Is this a common combination?


BEYOND HIV/AIDS MEDICATIONS


 What, When and How Should I Eat to Get Rid of My Gut?
I am currently on Atripla (efavirenz/tenofovir/FTC) and have been for a few years. After a year on this med I'd put on 14 pounds. My weight has stabilized now, but I've developed a gut that resembles a beer gut, although I don't drink alcohol and I look thin everywhere else on my body. It's really starting to depress me. How do I make sure I'm eating properly but not continuing to gain weight? Is there anything I can do to lose a bit of weight from my stomach?


 What's Your Experience Been With Testosterone Pellets?
Dear Nelson Vergel: I just started taking Testopel (testosterone pellets). Can you elaborate on your own experience taking it? How frequently do you suggest having testosterone levels tested? When should I have more pellets inserted?


More Beyond HIV/AIDS Medications Questions:


COINFECTIONS & COMPLICATIONS OF
HIV/HIV MEDICATIONS


 Is Vitamin D Deficiency Common in HIVers on Meds?
I'm a woman, my CD4 count and percentage are 1,317 and 40 and my viral load is undetectable. I was just informed that my vitamin D levels are quite low. I've been put on 50,000 IU (international units) of vitamin D once a week for eight weeks, but this has happened before. I always take 400 IU of vitamin D daily. Is there any correlation between low vitamin D levels and HIV meds?


 Why Are My Husband's Ankles Swollen?
My husband, age 48, has been HIV positive since 1991. Recently he's had swelling and pain in his ankles. He also has chronic hepatitis B and histories of neuropathy and high blood pressure, and in 1997 he had arthritis in both ankles. He currently takes Intelence (etravirine), Isentress (raltegravir) and Truvada (tenofovir/FTC), and his HIV and hep B viral loads are both undetectable. What could be causing the swelling?


 What Can I Do About My Neuropathy?
I take Keppra (levetiracetam), Norvir (ritonavir), Prezista (darunavir), Selzentry (maraviroc) and Viread (tenofovir). I also used to take Bactrim (co-trimoxazole), Zithromax (azithromycin) and Dilantin (phenytoin), but over the last several months my doctor took me off those meds. My viral load dropped from 350,000 to undetectable over that time frame, but my neuropathy has gotten worse. The pain started in my toes and now I feel it up to my hamstrings. Would switching meds help?


More Questions About Coinfections & Complications:


Also Worth Noting: Connect With Others
Looking for an LGBTQ Person to Connect With
(A recent post from the "Living With HIV" board)

I want someone to talk to about living with HIV and about being LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer) and/or being a person of color. Finally, we can inspire each other to keep moving forward. I'm a young black woman who identifies as queer and I am HIV positive. -- Keya
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 -- click here to get started!


UNDERSTANDING HIV/AIDS LABS


 Could My High Viral Load Be Due to Syphilis?
I have been HIV positive for about four years and I'm not on HIV meds yet. Between April 2009 and this past February my viral load went from 29,000 to 320,000, though my CD4 count stayed in the high 300s. I was also treated for syphilis in November 2009, and again in January with higher doses of anti-syphilis drugs. Does this rise in viral load suggest that I should start taking HIV meds, or is my CD4 count (which is above 350) what really matters?


STRANGE BUT TRUE


 Employees Must Wash Hands ... or They'll Transmit HIV?
Yesterday in my office building I used the urinal. I then went to the stall (without washing my hands). When I wiped, my rectum was a bit raw and the toilet paper had a little blood on it. Later I connected the dots in my mind: What if someone used the urinal, passed HIV or another sexually transmitted disease from his penis to his hand to the handle, and I then flushed? Could I have passed it to the toilet paper and onto my raw, bleeding rectum?






Activist Central

 Women Living With HIV: Take a Survey on Sexual and Reproductive Health Services


 Tell HHS That Black Women Openly Living With HIV/AIDS Should Be Represented on PACHA


 Action Alert: Tell Congress You Support a Permanent Fix to Ryan White Housing Policy!


 Volunteer Doctors and Nurses Needed in Haiti Through April 30, 2010