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January 13, 2005

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

    When It Comes to Choosing an HIV Doc, Do Your Research
    "I thought of myself as confident and savvy enough to choose and have a relationship with a good, new doctor when the time came," says Carlos H. Arboleda, a gay HIV treatment educator. But even though he's become skilled in teaching HIVers how to advocate for the best treatment possible, he ended up with a doctor who didn't care about him at all. In this essay, he shares the lessons he learned from that awful experience.

    The U.S. and HIV: The "S" Still Stands for "Stigma"
    Despite the incredible progress we've made against HIV in the past 20 years -- especially in the United States -- American society has hardly budged against HIV stigma. "Isolation, fear and shame continue to cloud this diagnosis for many," writes Vincent J. Lynch, Ph.D., in this essay. "We can't afford to let another 20 years go by before we separate the myths surrounding HIV and AIDS from the reality."

    HIV-Positive Gymnast Fired by Cirque Lands New Gig
    Matthew Cusick, who made headlines in 2003 when he sued Cirque du Soleil for firing him because of his HIV status, is back in the daredevil business: He's been hired by AntiGravity, a New York-based stunt-performance group. "It's a happy ending," Cusick said. "AntiGravity has a much more human face." (Web highlight from the Washington Blade)



    Gene That Blocks HIV in Monkeys May Yield New Treatment for Humans
    A gene called TRIM5-alpha, which prevents HIV from replicating in rhesus monkeys, could provide new treatment options for humans with HIV -- and could even help prevent HIV-positive people from developing AIDS, according to a new study. British researchers found that, when a single change was made to the TRIM5-alpha gene, it appeared to make human cells resistant to HIV.

    Using Medical Marijuana Doesnít Reduce HAART Adherence, Study Finds
    HIVers who smoke medical marijuana specifically to alleviate nausea are just as likely to adhere to their HAART regimens as HIVers who don't smoke marijuana, a new U.S. study has found. Marijuana did have a negative impact on HAART adherence for people who smoked it for other reasons, though -- as did the use of other illicit drugs. (Web highlight from

    HIV's Life Cycle Offers Different Targets for Treatment
    Whether you've recently tested positive or have been living with HIV since the '80s, it never hurts to review the basics: This article in Positively Aware reviews the five basic phases of HIV's life cycle, each of which is a potential target for new and existing HIV meds.

    Adherence May Affect HIV Drug Classes Differently
    Is one type of HIV drug class better for people who sometimes forget a dose? According to a new Italian study, HAART regimens containing a non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor (NNRTI) appear to be more "forgiving" than regimens containing a protease inhibitor when a dose is occasionally missed. However, the reverse is true for people who go on drug holidays or have severe adherence problems, the study found: In those cases, NNRTI-based regimens are less likely to continue working than protease inhibitor-based regimens. (Web highlight from

    What Meds to Start Treatment With: A Shorthand List (PDF)
    Looking for a quick review of the first-line HAART regimens currently recommended in major U.S. HIV treatment guidelines? This one-page PDF from the newsletter Resolute!, though heavy on acronyms, provides a concise summary.

    For more information on the often-changing recommendations for when to start treatment and what to start with, read this fact sheet from New Mexico AIDS InfoNet.

    Study Probes Potential Uses of Structured Treatment Interruptions
    Structured HIV treatment interruptions (STIs) are now being looked at as a potential strategy for providing relief from the side effects of HIV meds, or for reducing the overall cost of treatment. One recent, small study, summarized here by the free online journal PLoS Medicine, found that people who went on 2- to 6-week STIs were no worse off than people who took their meds the entire time. The findings suggest that, although STIs might not do anything to improve an HIVer's health, they may not do any harm. Much research remains to be done, however, before any conclusive results are reached. (Web highlight from PLoS Medicine)



    U.S. Patient Assistance Program Now Available for Facial Wasting Treatment
    Most U.S. health insurance plans refuse to cover facial wasting treatment for HIV-positive people. However, the producer of poly-L-lactic acid (Sculptra, New-Fill) in the United States, Dermik Laboratories, has started a patient assistance program that provides free or low-cost treatments to people who meet certain income and other eligibility requirements. AIDS Treatment News has compiled this list of Internet, e-mail and telephone sources to check for the latest information.

    Experimental Treatments for Facial Wasting
    Poly-L-lactic acid isn't the only product that has been investigated as a facial wasting therapy. At a recent conference on lipodystrophy and drug side effects, research was presented on several other experimental drugs. Tim Horn provides an overview of studies on these facial wasting treatments in the December 2004 issue of The PRN Notebook. (Web highlight from The PRN Notebook)

    Lining Up for Flu Shots: One HIVer's Day-Long Experience
    Brian Varner, who has AIDS and was blinded by cytomegalovirus in 1996, showed up at his pharmacy at 4 a.m. to be sure he'd have a chance to get his flu shot. He was number 56 in line. "I was reminded of the '70s," Brian writes, "when gas was rationed. I was reminded of World War II, a time I never knew, when the whole country was forced to ration coffee, gas and other staples for the war effort."



    New Forms of HIV Prevention May Be Key to Slowing Pandemic
    What's the most important type of HIV research scientists are doing today? The development of new antiretrovirals? Work on an HIV vaccine? Try again. Microbicides and pre-exposure treatment are where the short-term future really lies, says Project Inform. In this overview, the AIDS organization explains why these two experimental prevention methods may be the best chance we'll have in the next 10 years to reverse HIV's spread.

    Hepatitis C Rates Climb in Long Island, N.Y.; Crystal Meth Is Blamed
    The number of people with hepatitis C is increasing in Long Island, N.Y., and could become an even greater threat to public health than the emergence of HIV in the 1980s and 1990s, one official says. The number of people coinfected with HIV and hepatitis C is on the rise as well. Health experts believe the jump in hepatitis C infections is tied to the huge popularity of crystal methamphetamine use, as well as to needle sharing by people who use injection drugs.

    New York City's AIDS Deaths Drop in 2003, but Remain a Concern
    The number of AIDS-related deaths in New York City decreased in 2003, according to an annual summary released by the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. AIDS-related deaths dropped from 1,713 in 2002 to 1,656 in 2003, the survey found. However, AIDS continues to be the leading killer of city residents between the ages of 35 and 44, health officials said, and AIDS-related causes are the third-leading cause of death among city residents under the age of 65.



    Religious Fundamentalism (of All Stripes) Is a Danger, AIDS Advocate Says
    The Bush administration has often been accused of giving its fundamentalist Christian base too much influence over policy and science -- particularly when it comes to abstinence and HIV prevention. But the global AIDS fight is seriously hurt by all types of fundamentalism, regardless of the religion, writes long-time AIDS advocate Mark Milano.



    HIV Discrimination Remains Entrenched in Jamaica
    Discrimination and violence against men who have sex with men and HIV-positive people in Jamaica have hurt the government's ability to fight HIV, says Human Rights Watch in a newly released report. The report also said that many HIV-positive Jamaicans often receive poor or no treatment from public health workers because of the stigma surrounding the disease.

    British Government Blamed for Poor Treatment of Gay Men, Africans With HIV
    Gay men and Africans living with HIV in the United Kingdom face widespread discrimination -- and the British government's policies make the situation far worse than it would otherwise be, according to a report by National AIDS Trust and Sigma Research. British laws requiring the prosecution of people who "recklessly transmit" HIV and the placement of HIV-positive asylum seekers throughout the country were singled out as examples of poor policy decisions. (Web highlight from BBC News)

    South African Satirist/Activist Blasts Government on AIDS (Audio)
    Once an outspoken opponent of South Africa's pro-apartheid government, the satirist and activist Pieter-Dirk Uys has more recently turned his rage on South Africa's current, democratically elected government, which has been excruciatingly slow to respond to the AIDS epidemic.
    "After having had an apartheid government that killed people," Uys says, "we now have a democratic government that just lets them die." Listen in to this audio interview with Uys, conducted by Boston's National Public Radio-affiliated program The Connection. (Web highlight from The Connection)

    Who Tells the Deaf About AIDS? In Parts of Africa, Nobody
    People with physical disabilities, particularly deafness or blindness, often have a harder time getting access to important information, be it about HIV or any other subject. Imagine, then, how much tougher it is in the developing world -- where even non-disabled people often don't receive the education they need. In Kampala, Uganda, for example, deaf people often learn little to nothing about HIV because many don't know sign language -- leaving HIV educators with no effective way to communicate with them. (Web highlight from New Vision, Kampala)

    Gabonís New Weapon in the Fight Against HIV: Taxis
    Flag down a red and white taxi in Gabon's capital between now and February, and you might get more than you bargained for. Around 300 taxi drivers in Libreville have been drafted into the fight against HIV; they're handing out free condoms to passengers, as well as leaflets that educate people about HIV and ways to practice safe sex. (Web highlight from Integrated Regional Information Networks)


    Connect With Others at
    The Body's Bulletin Boards

    A recent post from the "Gay Men With HIV" board:

    "I am poz and have been on numerous occasions asked by 'bug chasers' to give them a 'charged load.' I have always declined, and when I have tried to question them in an attempt to try to understand why they would do this, they have become hostile and defensive and have moved on to another potential source of whatever it is they are in search of. ... Without a doubt, this is not all that uncommon."
    -- tallbeartx

    Click here to join this discussion thread, or to start your own!
    Art From HIV-Positive Artists
    Image from the January 2005 Visual AIDS Web Gallery
    Untitled, 1995; Luis Carle
    Visit the January 2005 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 browsable listing of AIDS organizations and hotlines can also be useful for people in the United States or anywhere in the world.

    Your Unused HIV Meds
    Can Save Lives!

    AID for AIDS

    AID for AIDS is a New York-based nonprofit organization that collects unused, HIV-related medications and redistributes them to people living with AIDS in Africa, the Caribbean and Latin America.

    Have HIV-related medications (including antiretrovirals and meds used to prevent or treat opportunistic infections) you'd like to donate? Click here to find out how.