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September 22, 2004

In This Update:
  • Life With HIV
  • HIV Treatment News
  • HIV/HAART-Related Health Problems
  • U.S. AIDS Policy & Activism
  • HIV/AIDS Outside the U.S.

    Saying He Was Pos Ended His Romance -- And Started a New Friendship
    Several dates into his new relationship, Steve McMahon told his boyfriend he was HIV positive. That night, their romantic relationship pretty much ended -- but, incredibly, it also marked the beginning of their friendship. "Just because someone turns out not to be what you wanted them to be, it doesn't necessarily have to be a bad thing. My new friend and I talk regularly and have plans to get together this week for coffee. As friends. And true friends are hard to come by."

    Disclosure in the Workplace: What Are Your Rights?
    When it comes to disclosing your HIV status in the workplace, there's not much room for debate about what you should and shouldn't say, says Nancy Breuer of WorkPositive, Inc. "There are clear guidelines and boundaries that a careful employer will not cross, and a careful employee will guard," she explains.

    Want to ask Nancy your own question about disclosure issues in the workplace? Talk to her and the rest of our outstanding team in The Body's "Ask the Experts" forum on workplace and insurance issues.

    Georgia Program for Pos Women Shines
    When it was started eight years ago, the Women's Empowerment Forum in Georgia drew only three people. Today, the daylong retreat attracts more than 50 HIV-positive women and features a range of speakers and workshops that focus on helping women with HIV live healthy, independent lives. In this article, Sheryl Johnson of AIDS Survival Project looks back on the program's humble beginnings.

    HIV, Disclosure and Lost Love: A Poem
    A person with HIV reflects back on an ill-fated relationship with an HIV-negative partner in this poem by Gene Valentine, entitled "I Still."



    Many Women Who Need HAART Don't Receive It, Study Finds
    One in four HIV-positive U.S. women who need HAART aren't receiving it -- and a lack of treatment access is not the primary reason, according to new results from the massive U.S. Women's Interagency HIV Study. The likelihood of using HAART was lower for women who were currently using recreational drugs, were not white or reported experiencing physical or sexual abuse. "Childhood sexual abuse prevention, more intensive abuse treatment, and continuing drug treatment may enhance HIV disease treatment of women," the researchers concluded.

    The Latest on Treatment Options for the HAART Experienced
    "Salvage therapy" is the decidedly unattractive name scientists use to describe HIV treatment for people who have already tried and failed many HAART regimens. It also remains largely unexplored territory, since most treatment research focuses on developing new drugs rather than finding new uses for old ones. In fact, five years have gone by since the last "Salvage Therapy Think Tank," a meeting for HIV researchers to discuss the latest developments in the field. This special issue of Research Initiative/Treatment Action! offers a summary of the meeting, as well as detailed coverage of many of its sessions.

    New Ideas in HIV Treatment Research
    Antiretrovirals aren't the only weapon science is developing to fight HIV; there are plenty of other innovations in the works. Two recent conferences featured considerable discussion on these experimental treatment methods; AIDS Treatment News reviews the highlights.



    Is It Safe to Take a Flu/Chicken Pox/Hepatitis Vaccine?
    Vaccines that protect people from illnesses like the flu, chicken pox and hepatitis B differ in how they work and in the potential side effects they can cause in people with HIV. This chart from Project Inform briefly explains the advantages and disadvantages of common vaccines.

    Wondering if you should get a flu vaccine this year? Check out our collection of articles and decide for yourself.

    Scientists Link HIV Dementia to Loss of Dopamine in Brain
    People with HIV who show symptoms of dementia have much lower levels of a brain chemical called dopamine than HIV-positive people with no dementia, a new study has found. The finding could help researchers develop new ways to treat AIDS-related dementia. Experts note, however, that using dopamine-enhancing drugs alone might not help -- earlier studies have shown that some of these drugs (including recreational drugs like cocaine and Ecstasy) might actually make it easier for HIV to attack brain cells. (Web highlight from AScribe Newswire)

    HAART Users Warned About Combination of Two Lipid-Lowering Drugs
    Fibrates and glitazones are two different classes of drugs that have been successfully used to lower triglycerides and raise levels of good cholesterol in HIV-positive people on HAART. But when the two types of drugs are prescribed together in people on HAART, they appear to have the opposite effect -- they significantly raise triglycerides and dramatically lower levels of good cholesterol, according to a new Canadian study. (Web highlight from the Canadian AIDS Treatment Information Exchange)

    Hepatitis B: Hep C's Dangerous Cousin
    Did you know that as many as 40 percent of people infected with hepatitis B have no idea they're infected? Hepatitis B -- which is transmitted in much the same way as HIV (namely through unprotected sex and sharing injection drug equipment) -- can be an extremely dangerous illness, especially when you're HIV positive. Use this fact sheet from AIDS Community Research Initiative of America to educate yourself about how the virus works, how to avoid it and how to get treatment for it.

    New Research Alliance Looks to Make Organ Transplants Safer
    Transplants are occurring more often than ever in people with end-stage organ failure, including people who are coinfected with HIV and hepatitis C. But despite the growing number of successful transplants, the procedures are no guarantee that a person will live a long and healthy life. That's why the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases has formed a new consortium of major transplant sites, so scientists can work together to improve the long-term outcomes for people who receive lifesaving organ transplants.



    Your State ADAP Needs You!
    Local and federal efforts this summer gave many U.S. AIDS Drug Assistance Programs (ADAPs) a short-term reprieve, but there's still a long way to go. What ADAPs need most -- besides more money, of course -- are activists who are willing to learn about the issues and get involved in the push for better funding. Interested in getting involved? AIDS Treatment News offers some key resources you can use to get started.

    AIDS Organization Declines Federal Funding, Citing Too Many Strings Attached
    The AIDS organization Vermont CARES has chosen not apply for almost $100,000 in federal HIV prevention funds because the "strings attached would have been too onerous," according to a press report. Specifically, the group said that accepting federal money would require it to "disclose potentially identifying information" of people who wanted anonymous HIV testing. Government regulations, it says, would also require it to provide abstinence-based education and to "question the effectiveness" of condoms for HIV prevention.

    Gay Men, Lesbians, Countrymen, Give Us Your T-Shirts!
    Gay history may be written by historians, but it's being created by everyone in the gay community. Lesbian activist and historian Maria Helena Dolan urges everybody in the gay community to share their stories, and even some of their belongings, in order to ensure that the history of gay culture is never lost.



    Extremely Few Asians Have Access to HIV Treatment
    Fewer than 6% of the 170,000 HIV-positive people in the Asia-Pacific region who need antiretrovirals are receiving them, according to a World Health Organization report. There are about 7.4 million people living with HIV in the region, and about 500,000 people are believed to have died from AIDS-related causes last year.

    In the Developing World, Greed Kills, Not AIDS
    "The most painful experience I can think of, after living with HIV for thirteen years, is being poor and HIV positive," said Paisan Suwannawong, director of the Thai AIDS Treatment Action Group, at the XV International AIDS Conference this summer. "Again and again, I watched many friends die in front of me, from terrible opportunistic infections, simply because they were poor and could not afford treatment. What kills us is not AIDS, but greed."

    HIV in Uganda May Be Far More Common Than Thought
    Uganda has long been viewed as the shining example of how a comprehensive approach to HIV prevention can dramatically reduce infection rates. But an AIDS organization in Uganda is questioning the government's claim that only 6% of its population is HIV positive. The group has been conducting surveys throughout the country, it says, and has found that the actual rate of HIV in Uganda is closer to 17%. (Web highlight from BBC News)

    Tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS: Fighting One Means Fighting the Other
    HIV doesn't kill people -- at least not directly. If left untreated, HIV weakens your immune system to the point where other diseases can wreak havoc. The most common of those deadly diseases in the developing world? Tuberculosis, which in some parts of Africa can be found in three out of every four HIV-positive people. In this report for The New York Times, Tina Rosenberg explains why efforts to fight HIV in the developing world must fight tuberculosis as well. Doing so could keep millions of HIV-positive people alive long enough to benefit from gradually expanding HIV treatment programs, she says. (Web highlight from The New York Times)

    I still ... / miss you even if you don't miss me. / think of you even if you don't think of me. / want you to be my friend even if you can't make love to / me again.
    Click here to read the rest of Gene Valentine's moving poem about HIV, disclosure and lost love.
    Image from the September 2004 Visual AIDS Web Gallery
    Untitled ("Vanity Interrupted: KS"),
    1993; Gin Louie
    Visit the September 2004 Visual AIDS Web Gallery to view this month's new collection of art by HIV-positive artists.