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January 26, 2005

In This Update:
  • HIV Treatment News
  • Life With HIV
  • HIV/STD Transmission
  • Hepatitis & HIV
  • U.S. AIDS Policy & Funding
  • HIV/AIDS Outside the U.S.

    Women With a CD4 Count Over 250 Shouldn't Start Using Nevirapine
    Women with a CD4 count over 250 should avoid starting a HAART regimen containing nevirapine (Viramune), according to a new public health warning issued by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. A similar warning issued last year noted that the risks of potentially fatal liver problems after starting nevirapine were 12 times higher in women with a CD4 count over 250 than women with a lower CD4 count. The liver problems usually appear within the first few weeks after a person starts taking nevirapine, so the warning doesn't apply to women with high CD4 counts who have been taking the drug for a while. In addition, no similar warnings have been issued for HIV-positive men, HIV-positive children, women with CD4 counts below 250 or pregnant women taking single-dose nevirapine to prevent HIV transmission to their babies during delivery.

    HIV Treatment in 2005: Far From an Exact Science
    The management of HIV has always been more of an art than a science, no matter what the experts tell us. No 2 HIV-positive people are alike, and decisions about their care must be individually tailored. Dr. Ross Slotten provides an eye-opening look at HIV treatment in 2005.

    Behind the Hype: A Closer Look at Next-Generation NNRTIs
    Several newspapers in mid-December effusively reported on a family of drugs known as DAPYs, experimental NNRTIs designed to work in people who are already resistant to existing NNRTIs. The press reports may have exaggerated the revolutionary nature of DAPYs, none of which have yet been thoroughly studied in HIV-positive people. But as AIDS Treatment News explains, their potential is clear.

    Late HIV Diagnosis? Not a Problem
    Even if you're diagnosed with AIDS at the same time you're told you have HIV, there's a lot you can do to improve your health and prolong your life! Read this list of 13 tips from Dr. Mark Katz on how to get your treatment on track and keep yourself healthy for many years to come.



    Sometimes, You Can Be Your Own Worst Enemy
    It took a while for Penni Cleverley to realize that the biggest obstacle to her HIV care wasn't her doctor -- it was her. For years, she was in denial about her HIV, refused to take her meds and ignored her doctor's advice. "Doctors and patients need to work as a team," she says. "It's sad that it took my getting really sick for me to realize that I needed to build that relationship with my doctor."

    You Don't Need a God; You Just Need a Good Doctor
    "Before AIDS, I had viewed doctors quite simply: they were godlike beings who gave you pills that made you better," writes longtime AIDS activist Mark Milano, who was diagnosed with HIV in 1982. But his experiences since then, he says, remind him "of what I've seen time and again over the last 22 years. Doctors aren't gods." In other words, if you have HIV, empowering yourself and choosing the right doctor are essential. In this personal story, Mark explains how he came to that conclusion.

    For Cheaper Vitamins and Supplements, Try Using a Buyers' Club
    HIV positive and looking for a more affordable way to buy your vitamins and other supplements? Consider joining a buyers' club. AIDS Treatment News just updated its listing of recommended buyers' clubs in the United States, many of which allow you to order by mail or online.

    A Little Advice Before You Hunt Down an Online Partner
    Trying to get your feet wet in the online dating pool? There are some ground rules you should get straight before you dive in. The staff of POZ magazine has put together this sprinkling of advice for the cyberdating newbie that'll help you keep your head above water. (Web highlight from POZ)



    Male Circumcision Reduces HIV Infection Risk by Half
    The risk of female-to-male HIV infection is lower among circumcised men who have multiple sexual partners, even after accounting for differences in sexual behavior, according to a large study of male Kenyan truck drivers. The study found that uncircumcised men had a 1 in 78 chance of contracting HIV from a woman during unprotected vaginal sex, compared to a 1 in 159 chance for circumcised men. Both rates were way higher than the female-to-male HIV transmission rate in the United States and Europe, which is estimated at around 1 in 1,000. (Web highlight from

    Many African Americans Believe HIV Is a Government Conspiracy
    A large number of African Americans believe that U.S. government scientists created HIV specifically to eradicate or "control" African-American communities, according to the results of a 500-person nationwide phone survey.
    But Phill Wilson, executive director of the Black AIDS Institute in Los Angeles, warns that past discrimination against African Americans is not an excuse for allowing these HIV-related myths to continue. "It's a huge barrier to HIV prevention in black communities," Wilson said. As a result of conspiracy theories, he said, "We have an epidemic raging out of control, and African Americans are being disproportionately impacted in every single sense."

    Malaria Doubles an HIVer's Viral Load, Making Transmission More Likely
    HIV-positive people who are infected with malaria could see their viral load nearly double -- and remain that high until 8 to 9 weeks after their malaria has been treated, according to a study published in the Lancet. While their viral load is spiking, people with HIV and malaria might have a 50% greater risk of transmitting HIV than they usually do, some experts say. HIV disease progression may speed up during that time as well.

    Taking Prevention to U.S. Prisons, One Inmate at a Time
    How can we address the spread of HIV, hepatitis, tuberculosis and sexually transmitted diseases within the U.S. prison system? In this detailed overview, an inmate who works as a peer educator in a California prison explains how peer education can help inmates live safer lives.

    AIDS Expert Hails New Plan on HIV Vaccine Development
    The Holy Grail of HIV medicine -- the development of a vaccine that can prevent people from contracting the virus -- remains as elusive as ever. Part of the reason is a lack of organization, writes Dr. David Ho, a widely respected AIDS researcher and scientific director of the Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center. But a new plan announced by a global alliance of vaccine research supporters may change all that, Dr. Ho says, bringing much-needed cohesiveness and newfound direction to a pivotal field. (Web highlight from PLoS Medicine)

    For more information on this new strategic HIV vaccine plan, read this news summary.



    Hepatitis C Treatment for HIV-Positive Injection Drug Users
    Hepatitis C coinfection is extremely common among HIV-positive injection drug users in the United States, but healthcare workers have little guidance on how to treat it. This is because, until recently, doctors were told to withhold hepatitis C treatment until an injection drug user was able to stop using drugs. A handful of doctors, however, are trying to fill this yawning gap in HIV care: They're working to develop specialized outreach, care and treatment programs for active injection drug users who have both HIV and hepatitis.



    HIV Prevention Programs Take Another Hit in Washington, D.C.
    HIV numbers may be on the rise in the United States's capital, but the city government is slashing traditional HIV prevention funds anyway. As the aftershocks of a major shift in U.S. HIV prevention policy continue to be felt nationwide, D.C. advocates warn that HIV-negative gay men and other at-risk groups could suffer as a result. (Web highlight from the Washington Blade)

    United States Has Simply Failed to Lead on AIDS, Author Says
    "What has the world's wealthiest, mightiest, most advantaged country done to address perhaps the greatest threat known to mankind?" asks Greg M. Behrman, the author of a new book entitled The Invisible People. In this recent speech before the U.S. Foreign Policy Association, Behrman speaks bluntly about how the United States has failed to lead the world in the fight against AIDS, and why it's pivotal that the United States completely change its approach to the global AIDS crisis. (Web highlight from the Foreign Policy Association)

    Ashcroft Tries to Take Oregon's Aid-in-Dying Law With Him
    As U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft leaves his post as the country's top law enforcer, he's fired a parting shot at an Oregon law that he's tussled with throughout his tenure: The aid-in-dying law, which legalizes physician-assisted suicide for terminally ill people. As one of his last acts in office, Ashcroft filed a request asking the Supreme Court to reinstate an order he issued that effectively prohibited assisted suicide in Oregon; the order was blocked by a lower court in 2004.



    United States Gives OK to Use of Generic Drugs in Its Global AIDS Plan
    The United States has granted tentative approval for a South African drug company's generic HAART regimen, which clears the way for the regimen to be used as part of the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. Although the generic drugs -- nevirapine (Viramune) and lamivudine/zidovudine (Combivir) -- can't be used in the United States, the tentative U.S. approval could allow the drugs to reach a much larger number of HIV-positive people in developing countries.

    Spain's Catholic Church Quickly Takes Back Its Fleeting Support of Condoms
    After a bishop of the Spanish Roman Catholic Church publicly stated that "condoms have a place in the global prevention of AIDS," church officials immediately went into damage control mode. The Vatican issued a statement reiterating its steadfast opposition to condom use for any reason, and Spanish church officials quickly issued their own statement saying that nothing has changed about their anti-condom position.

    Treatment May Be on Its Way, But Damage Has Been Done
    Many African countries are finally beginning to ramp up their HIV treatment programs, but heartbreaking statistics in Nigeria show just how far we have yet to go. Of an estimated 4 million Nigerians with HIV, some 500,000 need HIV treatment, and only about 20,000 receive it. Two million Nigerian children have been orphaned by AIDS, and each day "more than 900 Nigerians will die of HIV-related diseases," said a spokesperson for Doctors Without Borders. A study by 3 United Nations agencies found that between 200,000 and 490,000 Nigerians died from AIDS-related causes in 2003 alone.


    Connect With Others at
    The Body's Bulletin Boards

    A recent post from the "Women With HIV" board:

    "Last year, my blood work was good enough where the doctor decided I could have a "drug holiday." Here we are a little over a year later, and I'm still on "holiday." However, my latest blood work came back, and my T cells dropped 200 points. ... With that announcement, my doc says he wants me to take Fuzeon, as well as the usuals. ... I have done nothing but cry and dread the thought of doing this. ... I don't have anyone in my life (other than the hubby) I can talk to about what I'm going through."
    -- Anonymous

    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
    "Mandala (brown)," 2002;
    Clifford Smith
    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 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.