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December 15, 2004

In This Update:
  • Party Drugs & HIV
  • HIV Treatment
  • HIV/HAART-Related Health Problems
  • HIV Transmission
  • U.S. HIV Treatment Access & Activism
  • Controversies in the U.S.
  • HIV/AIDS Outside the U.S.

    If Viagra Comes to the Party, Other Drugs Shouldn't Be Invited
    Whether you’ve got erection problems or not, if you live in the United States, Viagra is potentially as easy to get a hold of as M&Ms in some areas. Meanwhile, illicit use of Viagra is increasingly being associated with risky sex, HIV transmission and fatal cardiovascular problems. For HIV-positive people, mixing Viagra with protease inhibitors can also
    lead to visual problems, headaches or fainting, writes columnist David Salyer. Salyer also warns about inhaling "poppers," or nitrates, if you're on Viagra, Levitra or Cialis; the combination can lower a person's blood pressure to dangerous levels and can even lead to death.

    Meth, Like Viagra, Is a Sex Enhancer With Hefty Strings Attached
    Viagra's not the only drug people illicitly use to jack up their sex lives: Methamphetamine is also an awfully popular, and dangerous, party drug. Using it can give a short-term jolt to a person's sex drive -- although, in the long run, it can cause impotence, along with brain damage and a host of other problems. Since it's often injected, it also raises concerns about HIV and hepatitis infection via shared needles. (Web highlight from Newsday)

    Crystal Meth Awareness Campaign Targets Gay African-American Men in N.Y.
    "PNP? Party N' Play or Party N' Pay," says a new community-awareness campaign aimed at fighting crystal meth in New York City's gay African-American community. Posters for the effort went up on Dec. 6 throughout Harlem, Chelsea and the West Village. "As we talked about in the '80s and '90s with AIDS, campaigns have to be diverse, so does the meth campaign," said Dr. Perry Halkitis, whose research helped motivate the campaign. "All users are not buff boys from Chelsea."



    Diagnostic Tests: Supervising Your HIV Meds
    How do you know whether your HIV meds are working? It's all in the tests: CD4 and viral load tests can help gauge how well your treatment regimen is fighting off HIV. This quick fact sheet from the HIV/AIDS Treatment Information Service has more.

    Plus, be sure to visit The Body's own collection of articles on diagnostic tests for a mountain of useful info.

    How Early Should You Get a Resistance Test?
    With transmission of drug-resistant HIV growing more common, should you consider getting a resistance test before you start taking HIV meds? New studies suggest the answer is yes: Since drug resistance can limit a person's treatment options, it may be important to know beforehand which drugs are likely to work and which aren't. In this news item, the newsletter HIV Treatment ALERTS! recaps two recent studies on this issue.

    Once-a-Day HIV Meds: The Future Is Looking Simpler
    An ever-growing number of approved HIV medications in the United States can now be taken just once a day, making HIV treatment far less difficult than it was only a couple of years ago. In this research review, Dr. Susa Coffey writes about some new once-a-day formulations of existing HIV meds that are in the works, and provides an overview of studies done to date on the topic. (Web highlight from HIV InSite)

    Updated Research on How HIV Works
    HIV researchers are continually refining their understanding of how HIV works, how our immune system fights it and how HIV develops resistance to antiretrovirals. At a think tank earlier this year, experts gathered to talk about some of the latest research on the inner workings of this devious little virus. In this article, Treatment Action Group recaps some of the meeting's highlights.

    HIV Replication, Step by Step
    Whether you've recently tested positive or have been living with HIV since the '80s, it never hurts to review the basics: This fact sheet from Positively Aware reviews the five basic phases of HIV's life cycle, each of which is a potential target for HIV treatment.



    Breast Enlargement in Men Potentially Linked to HIV Meds
    You don't hear too much about it, but a small number of HIV-positive men experience breast enlargement, otherwise known as gynecomastia. Recently, two new, very small studies discovered signs that some HIV meds -- specifically, d4T (stavudine, Zerit), ddI (didanosine, Videx) and efavirenz (Sustiva, Stocrin) -- might cause the condition.

    Extended-Release Niacin May Help Decrease Blood Fats
    The vitamin supplement niacin has been studied as a treatment for dyslipidemia (unusual levels of blood fat, e.g., high cholesterol or triglycerides), but it can cause side effects such as skin flushing and early signs of diabetes. However, an experimental study found that an extended-release form of niacin may be safe and effective for people with HIV. The findings are only preliminary, though, and the researchers found signs that the treatment may cause or worsen symptoms of diabetes.



    New Book Says "Down Low" Is Not to Blame for HIV Epidemic Among U.S. Blacks
    The media whirlwind surrounding the supposed link between the "down low" and HIV infection among African Americans hides a much deeper problem, writes gay rights activist Keith Boykin in a soon-to-be-released book. In Beyond the Down Low, due out in February, Boykin says the real issue is not men on the "down low," who are in sexual relationships with women but also have sex with men on the sly. The real issue, he says, is that African Americans continue to avoid open, honest discussion about homosexuality, monogamy and personal sexual responsibility. (Web highlight from the Washington Blade)

    Lab Studies Examine Risks of HIV Infection Through Lining of Mouth
    Although the risk of becoming infected with HIV by giving unprotected oral sex is extremely low, two recent lab studies explain how it's theoretically possible -- and how drinking alcohol can actually increase the risk of infection. (Web highlight from



    813 People on ADAP Waiting Lists; Prospects Look Bleak, Watch Group Warns
    Thanks to a one-time infusion of cash from the federal government, 591 of 1,349 eligible HIV-positive people who were on AIDS Drug Assistance Programs (ADAPs) this summer have finally begun to receive their medications. However, 813 people remain on ADAP waiting lists in the United States, and 55 of them aren't eligible for help under the president's summertime initiative, according to the latest "ADAP Watch" released by the National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors. With the overall ADAP funding situation still looking bleak, six states expect to put new or additional restrictions on their ADAPs within the next few months.

    To read the full "ADAP Watch" report, click here.

    "You Can Never Not Fight Back": Larry Kramer on Gay Rights and AIDS Activism
    At 69, AIDS activism forefather Larry Kramer is still as vocal as ever. The founder of both ACT Up and Gay Men's Health Crisis, Kramer is HIV positive and the proud (and healthy) recipient of a liver transplant. He's a man who always tells it like it is -- even if his view is often the worst-case scenario. Alisa Solomon interviews Kramer in this Village Voice article. (Web highlight from The Village Voice)

    New Campaign Pushes for Better Hepatitis, HIV Care for U.S. Prisoners
    U.S. AIDS activists have launched a new nationwide effort to force medical workers in the country's prisons to meet national standards for treatment and care, especially for prisoners with hepatitis C and HIV. Interested in joining the cause? Access to Health Care for the Incarcerated, the group heading the new effort, is looking for volunteers.



    U.S. Health Official Rewrote Safety Report, Failed to Disclose Problems With Ugandan Trial on Nevirapine in Pregnant Mothers
    News broke this week that a Ugandan study involving single-dose nevirapine (Viramune) in pregnant women failed to report a potentially large number of severe side effects -- and that a key U.S. health official intentionally altered a safety report on the drug in order to justify continuing the trial. Details of this story are still emerging, but signs so far suggest that the official, Dr. Edmund Tramont, glossed over major problems with the trial because he thought it was more important to prevent HIV transmission in as many children as possible than stop the trial for what he considered to be minor reasons.

    In Africa, the use of single-dose nevirapine alone has been hailed by some for inexpensively saving the lives of thousands of children born to HIV-positive mothers. In the United States, however, the strategy has not been approved for preventing mother-to-child transmission of HIV, since more effective (though also more expensive) options are used.

    Despite the growing scandal, the U.S. National Institutes of Health released a statement defending the Uganda study's findings -- and insisting that single-dose nevirapine is a safe and effective way to inexpensively reduce the risks of HIV transmission to babies in developing countries, where more costly options aren't available.

    In a separate release from the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, the nonprofit group also defends the Ugandan study and the use of single-dose nevirapine, saying that there is no conclusive evidence that the drug poses a health risk for women or their babies.

    U.S. Docs Largely Unaffected By Free Drug Samples, Drug Rep Visits
    Drug companies spend billions every year to send salespeople to hospitals and doctor's offices, hoping to get their drug prescribed more often by promoting it in person -- and by showering doctors with free samples. Thankfully those efforts, expensive though they may be, have little effect, at least according to one new nationwide study. (Web highlight from Reuters)



    500,000 AIDS Deaths, 630,000 New HIV Infections Among Children in 2003
    More than one billion children worldwide face a "brutal existence" because of HIV/AIDS, poverty and armed conflict, according to a new UNICEF report. Almost 500,000 children under 15 years old died of AIDS-related causes in 2003, and another 630,000 children were newly infected with HIV in 2003, according to UNICEF estimates. The number of children worldwide who have lost one or both parents to HIV/AIDS increased from 11.5 million to 15 million between 2001 and 2003 -- and 80% of those children live in sub-Saharan Africa, the report says.

    Arab Religious Leaders Vow to Abolish HIV Stigma, Discrimination
    In Cairo, some 80 major Arab religious leaders signed an HIV/AIDS declaration that may mark the first cornerstone of a tangible response to AIDS in the Middle East. The declaration said those with HIV/AIDS are "our brothers and sisters and we stand by them seeking God's healing for each one of them. ... We reject and emphasize the necessity to abolish all forms of discrimination, isolation, marginalization and stigmatization of people living with HIV/AIDS. We insist on defending their basic freedoms and human rights."

    Another Drug Firm Receives License to Produce Generic HIV Meds in South Africa
    GlaxoSmithKline announced it has granted a voluntary license to a South African unit of the Indian drug firm Cipla to make and sell generic forms of some of its antiretroviral drugs. The license for the Cipla Medpro -- the third largest generic drug company in South Africa -- makes it the fifth company to receive a license from Glaxo to produce generics in South Africa. The license allows Cipla to manufacture, import and sell Glaxo's antiretroviral drugs 3TC (lamivudine, Epivir) and AZT (zidovudine, Retrovir), as well as a combination treatment of the two drugs.

    Fear, Stigma Increase HIV Risks in Britain's African Community
    "I was not expecting this diagnosis. I was respectably married. I had not gone with prostitutes," said DJ, who is a part of Britain's African community. "When my [doctor] got the results of my test he said that I had left it very late to come for treatment." DJ's story is a common, if depressing, one among African immigrants in Britain, where HIV stigma remains high and HIV testing rates low. (Web highlight from BBC News)

    David Brudnoy, 1940-2004
    David Brudnoy
    David Brudnoy, a fixture on Boston's radio airwaves for nearly three decades, died on Dec. 9 at the age of 64. He had been living with HIV for more than 10 years; he publicly disclosed that he was gay and HIV positive in 1994. Brudnoy died from Merkel cell carcinoma, a rare skin cancer, which had spread into his liver and kidneys. He said his goodbyes on the air the day before he died.

    To visit Loel Poor's photo profile of David Brudnoy, click here.

    Connect With Others at
    The Body's Bulletin Boards

    "I am 30, and I have been positive for over 6 years. My partner will be 27 on the 19th of December and has had AIDS for the past 3 years. I am his primary care giver, and it gets harder for me every day. I have no one to talk to about this. ... I'm looking for mental and emotional support. I never give up hope, but the day to day is starting to wear on me. Any words of encouragement or wisdom will be appreciated."
    -- CarlThomas

    Click here to join this discussion thread, or to start your own!
    Art From HIV-Positive Artists
    Image from the December 2004 Visual AIDS Web Gallery
    "While There Is Time ..."
    1987; Paul Thek
    Visit the December 2004 Visual AIDS Web Gallery to view this month's new collection of art by HIV-positive artists.
    HIV Positive and Looking
    For Advice or Support?
    Need to get U.S. government help for housing? Want to join a support group? Can't figure out how to get help paying for medications? You are not alone!

    There are AIDS organizations throughout the world that offer varying degrees of help. If you live in the United States, search The Body's ASO Finder to find an AIDS group near you.

    The Body's browseable listing of AIDS organizations and hotlines can also be useful for people in the United States or anywhere in the world.

    World AIDS Day 2004
    at The Body

    The Body's HIV Leadership Awards logo

    World AIDS Day is over, but it's still pivotal that we educate ourselves and others about the impact of the AIDS pandemic on women. Click here to browse through our online collection of fact sheets, background materials, event listings and World AIDS Day resources!