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August 18, 2004

In This Update:
  • HIV Treatment
  • Life With HIV
  • HIV/HAART-Related Health Problems
  • AIDS 2004: Selected Abstracts
  • HIV Transmission
  • HIV Drug Pricing in the U.S.
  • HIV/AIDS Outside the U.S.

    The U.S. AIDS community lost one of its leaders this past weekend, as Charles Clifton, the executive director of the Chicago AIDS organization Test Positive Aware Network and the editor of Positively Aware, passed away suddenly at the age of 45. We've compiled a small memorial page to Charles on our site, which includes statements from some of the organizations and people who Charles touched during his unexpectedly short life.

    If you knew Charles and would like to add your own thoughts to those collected on the memorial page, we've set up a thread on our bulletin board for you to share whatever you'd like to say. And if you live in the Chicago area, consider attending an informal gathering in Charles' honor on Thursday, Aug. 18 at Berlin Nightclub; more information is available in this brief announcement from Test Positive Aware Network.

    - Bonnie Goldman, Editorial Director, The Body


    Early HIV Treatment May Briefly Cause False-Negative Test Results
    Can an HIV-positive person ever test HIV negative? According to one California study, the answer is yes, if they started taking HAART less than six months after they were infected. But this is just a quirk of some currently available HIV tests: The virus is there, but the tests are simply not sensitive enough to spot it. Read this fascinating report from David Wohl, M.D.

    Building a Better Immune System: Gene Therapy for HIV
    It's like something out of a sci-fi movie: Researchers huddled in a lab, trying to figure out how to change our genetic structure so our bodies are able to naturally fight off life-threatening diseases like HIV. For the moment, at least, so-called "gene therapy" is science fiction, but studies on the technique have already begun. Project Inform explains the hopes and challenges facing this exciting new area of HIV research.



    U.S. Company Sued for Discrimination Against HIV-Positive Employee
    Last year, Cirque Du Soleil's decision to fire one of its acrobats because he had HIV spurred worldwide protest, a lawsuit from Lambda Legal and -- eventually -- a change in the company's policy and $600,000 in compensation for the fired gymnast. A year later, the battle against HIV discrimination continues: This summer, Lambda has taken up arms against Nodak Enterprises in Atlanta, which readily admits it fired a veteran auto glass installer because he had HIV.

    Barreling Past 50, With No Looking Back
    Marilyn McBride, a 50-year-old recovering substance abuser who's had HIV since she was 40, never imagined she'd make it this far. "At first, I thought that my life was over and I wouldn't be around to see my grandchildren grow up. I really wasn't expecting to live to see 50, so I thank God for my health and recovery from substance abuse." Read her personal story of survival and redemption here.



    Cholesterol-Lowering Drugs May Fight HIV, Too
    The use of statins appears to decrease viral load and increase CD4 count in people with HIV, according to a small study conducted by Spanish researchers. Statins, which are widely used to lower blood cholesterol levels, are also given to HIV-positive people to treat some of the metabolic complications associated with HIV and HAART.

    Rosiglitazone Linked to Benign Tumors in Man With Lipodystrophy
    Rosiglitazone, a drug being investigated as a possible treatment for lipodystrophy-related fat loss in people with HIV, may increase a person's risk of developing small, benign tumors called lipomas, according to a report by U.S. doctors. So far, studies have shown mixed results on the effectiveness of rosiglitazone in treating fat loss, and much remains unknown about its potential side effects. This report is based on observations of a single HIV-positive person who had been using rosiglitazone for the past two years. (Web highlight from

    The Basics on Hepatitis A
    Most people assume that hepatitis A is a largely harmless virus. It's generally less dangerous than hepatitis B or C and isn't transmitted through blood-blood contact or most types of sexual activity. But hepatitis A, which is most often transmitted through contaminated food or through rimming (oral-anal sex), can make you extremely sick for weeks, and has been known to cause liver failure on rare occasions. This fact sheet from ACRIA has more information.



    With more than 8,000 posters and oral presentations at the XV International AIDS Conference in Bangkok, Thailand, it's impossible for us to cover everything. The conference was jam-packed with unique projects and fascinating research from around the world. This week, we highlight another two interesting studies that were presented at the conference.

    Relatively Little HIV Transmission Between Mixed-Status Couples in India
    During the course of a 12-month study of 242 mixed-status couples in Pune, India, only one person became infected with HIV, even though 85% of the men and 35% of the women reported having more than one sexual partner, according to Indian and U.S. researchers. The researchers gave several possible reasons why the HIV-negative partner almost never became infected, including frequent use of condoms (the vast majority of both men and women said they used condoms regularly), effective safe-sex counseling and a low number of other sexually transmitted diseases among the couples.

    In Haiti, a Unified Approach to HIV Prevention Yields Success
    Despite the unstable political climate in Haiti over the past two decades, the country has managed to achieve an incredible turnaround in its HIV/AIDS epidemic, according to a study by researchers from Haiti and the United States. As of last year, 2.9% of the Haitian population had HIV, down from 6.2% a decade earlier. The reason for the success? Everybody in the country got involved, the researchers say -- from top-level government officials to local researchers to non-governmental organizations -- and, just as importantly, they all worked together to fight the epidemic.

    For The Body's comprehensive coverage of this conference, which includes research highlights, transcripts and video of major speeches, Webcasts of important sessions and our one-of-a-kind Photo Journal, be sure to visit The Body's AIDS 2004 home page.



    Prostate Massage Increases Amount of HIV in Semen
    Prostate massage, which is sometimes used for sexual stimulation, appears to increase HIV levels in a man's semen -- even if that man is on HAART and normally has an undetectable viral load, researchers say. In a small study, a team of California researchers found that the prostate tends to act as a haven for HIV, and that by stimulating it, more of the virus might be released into a man's semen. (Web highlight from

    Gay Men, Sex, and Internet Chat Rooms: Epicenter of an Epidemic?
    A lot of attention has been paid recently to the growing trend of gay men using online chat rooms to find new sex partners -- and the role these chat rooms might play in the spread of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. Are chatroom hookups really the danger some make them out to be, or is the risk being blown out of proportion? Earlier this summer, an expert panel convened in San Francisco to talk about it. (Web highlight from HIV InSite)

    Senior U.S. Researcher Provides HIV Vaccine Research Overview
    What's the current state of HIV vaccine research in the United States? Earlier this year, the Wyoming AIDS organization Positives for Positives sought to find out. The group interviewed Dr. Peggy Johnston, the Director of AIDS Vaccine Research and Prevention at the National Institute of Allergy and Infections Diseases. Click above for a full transcript of the interview.

    Ethnicity-Specific Sex Education for Latinas Is a Must, Study Finds
    Nearly half of Mexican-American women and a third of Puerto Rican women have partners who never use condoms, and about 60% never received sex education from their parents, according to an analysis of the 1995 National Survey of Family Growth. The findings point to how important it is that safe-sex programs be custom-designed to reach specific ethnic groups.

    Reducing HIV Risk By Making Injection Drug Use Safer
    By taking a comprehensive approach to the prevention of HIV and other diseases among injection drug users, healthcare workers can not only help keep drug users healthy, but also help their sexual partners and children stay healthy as well. A 76-page brochure directed at health workers, published by the Academy for Education Development in December 2000, aims to help achieve those goals.

    To download the full brochure (this is a 2.5MB PDF file), click here.



    The Economic Benefits of Free HIV Medications
    The number of treatment options for HIV-positive people has ballooned in the past decade, dramatically reducing the number of deaths from AIDS and improving quality of life for hundreds of thousands of HIVers throughout the United States. The revolution has also saved the country a whole lot of money, says Patrick G. Clay, Assistant Professor of Medicine in the Division of Pharmacy Practice at the University of Missouri in Kansas City. He explains how aggressive primary care and free access to HIV meds can actually save money in the long term -- depending, of course, on just how expensive those HIV meds get.

    A Look at How Americans With HIV Get Access to HIV Meds
    What factors determine whether an HIV-positive person in the United States is going to be able to receive a particular medication? Three primary issues come into play: the drug's availability, the type of insurance plan that person has, and that person's personal income level, explains Joshua P. Cohen, Senior Research Fellow at Tufts Center for the Study of Drug Development. He explains these issues further in this recent lecture he gave to healthcare professionals.



    HIV and Tuberculosis: Two Fronts of the Same War
    "AIDS activism cannot occur without TB [tuberculosis] activism," said one World Health Organization official at a recent meeting. Easily overlooked in the United States is the fact that HIV and tuberculosis are an incredibly deadly team throughout much of the world. Earlier this year, though, advocates from 31 countries gathered for a major workshop to discuss HIV/TB coinfection research and to work together in hopes of organizing a coordinated attack against the two diseases.

    Interview With Legendary South African Treatment Activist
    Zackie Achmat is a living legend in South Africa, where for years he refused to take HIV medications until his government promised to provide free treatment to all of its HIV-positive citizens -- something it finally began doing this year. In this one-on-one interview prior to last month's International AIDS Conference, Achmat talks about the HIV prevention and treatment access situation in his country.

    Leave Politics Behind, UNAIDS Director Pleads World Leaders
    As the XV International AIDS Conference drew to a close in Bangkok, Peter Piot, the Executive Director of UNAIDS, implored the world's leaders to leave behind their political agendas and unite to fight this devastating illness. "Some of the greatest challenges we face today are of our own making," he said. "The injustice of stigma, the rivalry, the lack of coherence, and the failure of political leadership. There is no time to be divided by institutional agendas."

    To read through or listen to many other interviews from the XV International AIDS Conference in Bangkok, visit The Body's AIDS 2004 "Speeches and Interviews" page.

    United Kingdom Ignores HIV at Home, Activists Say
    Just as in the United States, AIDS advocates in the United Kingdom are upset that their government continues to focus so heavily on the global AIDS pandemic -- despite the fact that HIV rates are once again rising on the island nation. (Web highlight from BBC News)

    Spirit House Offering
    Image from the AIDS 2004 Photo Journal
    The image above is one of many that comprise The Body's AIDS 2004 Photo Journal. For a full range of XV Interantional AIDS Conference coverage, visit The Body's AIDS 2004 home page.
    Image from the August 2004 Visual AIDS Web Gallery
    "Arrest (video artifact)," 1989;
    John Lesnick
    Visit the August 2004 Visual AIDS Web Gallery to view this month's new collection of art by HIV-positive artists.