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HIV/AIDS News Digest: March 28, 2011

March 28, 2011

Here is a quick look at a few HIV/AIDS stories recently reported in the media:

"Test and Treat" Not Enough to Fight the AIDS Epidemic in the U.S. (From aidsmap)

Lately there has been a lot of conversation about how "treatment as prevention" and "test and treat" are the best strategies to significantly reduce new infections in the U.S. This belief, which is held by many AIDS advocates, is based on the notion that if more people are tested, linked to care and given antiretrovirals, it will reduce their viral loads to an undetectable level, which decreases the likelihood of the virus being transmitted to other people.

But a new review written by Joseph Lange and a team of researchers from the University of Amsterdam, states that placing so much hope on these strategies aren't realistic, especially given that only 19 percent of Americans living with HIV/AIDS are undetectable. They cite other factors that serve as barriers to this approach as well: Late diagnoses in which HIV has already progressed to AIDS, low levels of linkage and retention to HIV care, poor adherence to HIV meds and the fact that there are still over 30 percent of people living with HIV who are unaware of their status.

Lange believes that prevention needs to be a combination of things that include "a mix of available prevention tools, including 'test and treat' strategies, in a context-specific manner based on knowledge about local, national, and regional epidemics, is the way forward."

Photo Project of Women Living HIV Aims to Educate and Destigmatize (From Voice of America)

When HIV/AIDS prevention researcher Michelle Teti saw began noticing a huge disconnect between existing HIV programs and the actual needs of women living with HIV, she knew that something needed to be done. Teti told Voice of America, "Sometimes HIV wasn't even the biggest priority. They might not have had housing. They might have been in violent relationships."

To better understand these women's lives, Teti recruited women from both Philadelphia and St. Louis to be part of a photo project. Voice of America reported:

Some women took pictures of themselves. Others photographed people in their support networks, or specific challenges they were facing, like substandard housing. And many, Teti says, used the photographs to show how they had worked to change their lives after being diagnosed with HIV.

"A lot of women -- when they found out they were living with this virus -- felt kind of desperate or hopeless, and a lot of women described a transition, or transformation, to a place where they were more hopeful and healthy."

Personalizing HIV/AIDS is one of the best ways to de-stigmatize the disease, educate and help create better HIV/AIDS policies. A similar project is the Southern AIDS Living Quilt, which The Body promotes on our HIV/AIDS Resource Center for Women. The Southern AIDS Living Quilt uses video testimonials to tell the stories of women living with HIV, their families and health care providers throughout the South.

14,000 Low Income Texans Living With HIV May Lose Access to Meds (From the Dallas Morning News)

The Texas HIV Medication Program, which supplies life-sustaining anti-retroviral drugs to 14,000 low-income Texans living with HIV/AIDS, is in serious harm of running out of money in the next two years. If this happens, the program could be forced to cut off enrollment all together, tighten eligibility or stop covering some drugs if the state cannot come up with $19.2 million needed to sustain it.

What gets funded and what doesn't when final cuts are made is based on a priority level and the state's subcommittee on Medicaid gave the Department of State Health Services' request for the AIDS drugs funds a "priority two" ranking. This has enraged some state officials who believe that by denying people access to medications, will not only jeopardize people's lives, but continue to fuel the epidemic.

The Dallas Morning News reported:

Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, said she doubts "priority one" items will be funded, much less ones given a lower ranking. "We are basically making a decision on who lives and who dies," she said of the AIDS drugs.

Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, said failing to fully fund the drug program could speed the spread of AIDS, as people don't get their illness stabilized.

It's not sure as to when the final budget will be handed down, but The Body will continue to monitor this story and will provide updates.

Kellee Terrell is the former news editor for and

Copyright © 2011 The HealthCentral Network, Inc. All rights reserved.

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