December 21, 2010
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STRANGEST BUT TRUEST OF 2010: YOU MAKE THE CALL


 You've still got a few more days left to cast your vote for the most bizarre HIV-related question asked in our "Ask the Experts" forums this year! From twisted sisters to semen-laced breakfast treats, you'll be amazed at just how far-out some folks can get in their paranoia over a possible HIV exposure. Results will be announced next week, so don't wait to make your picks!


LIVING WITH HIV/AIDS


 What Can I Do to Keep My Immune System Healthy While Partying?
I'm a 36-year-old gay man and I've been HIV positive for a year and a half. My CD4 count is 603 and my viral load is 20,925. I work out and swim regularly, and I also take supplements and a multivitamin. I go to circuit parties once in a while (and take recreational drugs, though not very often) and I've noticed slight flu-like symptoms afterward which take about two weeks to go away. What can I do to manage my risk of illness while partying?


 Can Someone Really Be Infected With HIV Twice?
Can a person with HIV disease be reinfected with a differently mutated virus via unprotected sex with an HIV-positive partner, as can occur with serosorting? There seems to be a lot of disagreement about this among experts.




More Questions About Living With HIV/AIDS:


HIV/AIDS RESEARCH & TREATMENT


 What's Your Take on the "Berlin Patient"?
Dear Dr. Bob: Can you explain the case of the "Berlin patient" -- the man in Germany who appears to have been cured of HIV and leukemia through an experimental procedure? Does the story hold up scientifically?


 Doing Well on HIV Meds: Can I Take a Drug Holiday?
I've been taking Combivir (AZT/3TC) and Sustiva (efavirenz, Stocrin) for years and recently switched the Sustiva in my regimen for Kaletra (lopinavir/ritonavir). My viral load has been undetectable for eight years and my CD4 count is over 400. What do you think might happen to me if I stopped taking my HIV meds for nine weeks?


 Is It Too Soon for Me to Switch HIV Meds?
I was diagnosed with HIV in August. I started treatment very soon afterward because I had pneumonia, my CD4 count was 74 (6 percent) and my viral load was 204,000. I started taking Epzicom (abacavir/3TC, Kivexa) and Sustiva (efavirenz, Stocrin). I was given this combination because my creatinine level was a bit above normal when I was diagnosed. Now my CD4 count is 279 (21 percent), my viral load is 66 and my kidneys are back to normal. My new doctor is thinking of switching me to Atripla (efavirenz/tenofovir/FTC). Is it reasonable for me to change meds so soon?


More Questions About HIV/AIDS Research & Treatment:


OTHER HEALTH ISSUES & HIV/AIDS


 Where Is This Sudden High Blood Pressure Coming From?
I'm a 44-year-old single dad and I've been on Truvada (tenofovir/FTC) and Viramune (nevirapine) for about five years. My viral load is undetectable and everything has been in the normal range, but in the last six months I've developed high blood pressure. I don't sit around a lot: I walk five miles a day, quit smoking four months ago, am a working hairstylist and a vegetarian transitioning to vegan; plus, I'm busy raising kids. I don't have a history of hypertension in my family. Why is this happening to me, and what can I do about it?


 What Could Be Causing My Severe Joint Pain?
I currently take Epivir (lamivudine, 3TC), Viramune (nevirapine) and Viread (tenofovir), and I've been having severe pain in my left hip, with the pain radiating to my back and left scrotum. I feel the movement of my left hip bone when I walk, unlike the right one. I've been taking pain meds for the last three months which bring temporary relief, but the pain returns once the meds wear off. What could be wrong?


More Questions About Other Health Issues & HIV/AIDS:


Connect With Others

Is My HIV-Positive Boyfriend Hiding Behind HIV?
(A recent post from the "My Loved One Has HIV/AIDS" board)

I'm HIV negative, but I just recently discovered the term "magnetic" even though my last six relationships have been with HIV-positive men. Not a conscious choice, it simply became part of my dating routine, waiting for and then receiving the disclosure. I have become expert at making it as comfortable as possible for them. But perhaps not for me.

I need insight into our emotional responses to each other. All, except two, have resorted to admissions of intense shame and thoughts of suicide in the past. They have (my current boyfriend especially) brought these feelings into the present when the going gets a little tough. A pattern has emerged of intense self-pity, which allows them to retreat into their own world, in which "no one understands them." I used to have sympathy for this, even empathy. I am now simply frustrated. In my opinion, my current boyfriend (likely to become an ex) is more likely to die from shame-based behavior (cocaine, alcohol and skipping meds) than his usually highly manageable virus! He has recently taken to blocking out all support, all rest and, indeed, all love. When I am able to put down my ego and my anger, I love him ... But right now, I must preserve myself and my sanity. But I need perspective from others.

What is this syndrome I have described? Has anyone been through it and come out the other side? If so, how? Is there something I am not understanding? Why do these same men boast about how well they are doing, when inside, they admit to be dying (not of HIV, but shame)?  -- Magnet

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UNDERSTANDING HIV/AIDS LABS


 Low CD4 Count, Opportunistic Infections and Mouth Cancer: Is There Any Hope?
My 36-year-old brother was just given an AIDS diagnosis -- he didn't even know he was HIV positive, and his CD4 count had already dropped to 10. He also has pneumocystis pneumonia, cytomegalovirus (CMV) and avian tuberculosis. Today they found a mouth cancer on his palate which will require chemotherapy after he has surgery to repair tears in his lungs. He's also taking HIV meds, and his viral load dropped to undetectable within six weeks. Is there any chance he will live a normal lifespan?


HIV TRANSMISSION


 Could I Still Be HIV Negative, Even if My Partner Is Positive?
My partner is a bottom only. We've never talked about HIV or any other diseases. I was surprised when he wanted me to enter him without a condom. We continue to have unprotected anal sex. I've wanted to ask him if he knows his HIV status, but I'm afraid he'll think I don't trust him. We recently applied for life insurance and he was denied coverage. Could it be that he has HIV? If he has HIV, could I still be negative?


 Can a Person Get HIV From Kissing With Bad Gums?
I've started experimenting sexually with men in the past few years, but I've never had anal sex and the last time I performed oral sex on a man was a year ago. Since that time I've developed gingivitis. Am I at risk for HIV from making out heavily with a guy for several hours if my gums started bleeding in the process?




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