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February 2, 2005

In This Update:
  • HIV, STDs and Disclosure
  • HIV Treatment
  • HIV/STD Transmission
  • HIV Prevention
  • HIV-Related Health Problems
  • U.S. AIDS Policy & Funding
  • HIV/AIDS Outside the U.S.

    AIDS Advocate Tells the World: HIV Ain't No Walk in the Park
    Former British Cabinet member Chris Smith's disclosure that he's been living with HIV for 17 years (see story in "HIV/AIDS Outside the United States" section below) is a sign that the cloud of stigma surrounding HIV is beginning to lift, writes HIV educator Michael Carter. But in this column -- to which comments have been added by other HIV-positive people, including prominent U.S. political analyst Andrew Sullivan -- Carter explains to the world at large that living with HIV brings its own set of problems, and disclosing can still be awfully hard to do. (Web highlight from the Guardian)

    "You've Got Syphilis": E-Cards Let People Anonymously Tell Partners They Have STDs
    Have you just been diagnosed with a sexually transmitted disease (STD)? Looking for a discreet way to tell your past (and present) partners they should get tested too? Try using inSPOT, a free online service that lets you send specialized e-cards -- anonymously, if you want -- notifying your partners that you have an STD. Although the service was created for San Francisco men who have sex with men, anybody can use it. (Web highlight from inSPOT)



    HIV Treatment Progress: We've Come So Far, We've So Far to Go
    There's no denying that, over just the past several years, the advances we've seen in HIV treatment have been extraordinary. But there's also no denying that despite the enormous progress we've achieved, we still have a long way to go. HIV treatment educator Heidi M. Nass admits that she feels torn between those positives and negatives; in this review, she reflects on some of the big questions in HIV/AIDS that have yet to be answered.

    GBV-C: A Viral Antiretroviral?
    If you have HIV, getting infected with another type of virus probably isn't the first item on your to-do list. But a number of studies suggest that the virus GBV-C -- formerly known as hepatitis G -- may actually slow HIV disease progression. As this overview explains, researchers still know little about the interplay between GBV-C and HIV, but what they've learned so far is intriguing.

    HIV Treatment Interruptions: No Immune Benefit, Study Says
    Although doctor-supervised HIV treatment holidays have enormous benefits for people seeking relief from treatment, difficult side effects or high copays, it appears pretty certain that they don't have much long-term medical use. A recent study of 14 HIV-positive people who went on structured treatment interruptions found that virtually all of them had to restart treatment within 2 years. The findings, which are supported by earlier studies, suggest that HAART doesn't have the ability to help the body's immune system control HIV on its own. Most of the study participants, however, also didn't need to go back on treatment for at least 90 days, showing that in many cases a brief, supervised treatment holiday may not help, but it doesn't especially hurt, either.



    African Americans Are Majority of New HIV Infections; Women Heavily Impacted
    African Americans make up more than half of new HIV cases reported in the United States annually, but represent only 13% of the general U.S. population, according to a new report released by the Black AIDS Institute. The report, based on previously released statistics, found that African Americans currently account for 54% of new HIV cases reported each year in the United States, and that as many as 1 out of every 3 young African-American men who have sex with men have HIV. In 2001, African Americans also accounted for 67% of all AIDS (i.e., advanced HIV) diagnoses among women, the report said.

    Mother-to-Child HIV Transmission Nearly Eliminated in United States
    The transmission of HIV from pregnant mothers to their babies, which once led to the deaths of hundreds of U.S. infants annually, has been virtually eliminated in the United States, according to public health officials. In 1990, nearly 2,000 U.S. infants were born HIV positive, but that number has been cut to approximately 200 annually today, the officials said. Though this news is definitely good, it also re-illuminates just how massive the gap in HIV care is between the United States and the developing world, where mother-to-child HIV transmission remains extremely common.

    "Sexual Map" of High Schoolers Shows How Widely STDs Can Spread
    In the United States' heartland, researchers have developed a new tool that shows that having a single sex partner you trust doesn't always mean you're safe from sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). It also shows that, ironically, even in states where the abstinence-only push is strongest, high-schoolers are having an awful lot of sex. The "sexual map" created by Ohio State University researchers shows that Midwestern high-school teens often intentionally avoid sleeping with people they know are connected with people they've slept with in the past. But by doing so, they make their sexual network even more diverse -- which could help STDs spread even farther than they otherwise would.



    Even Where Legal, Many Injection Drug Users Still Can't Buy Clean Needles
    Resistance to selling injection drug users sterile syringes has persisted in the United States, despite laws permitting their sale without a prescription. According to a recent study, people who sought to purchase sterile syringes from pharmacies in Colorado, Connecticut, Kentucky and Missouri were refused at least one third of the time. Clearly, this will have an impact on HIV prevention, since people who cannot purchase sterile syringes are more likely to share needles and receive or transmit bloodborne viruses.

    "HIV Stops With Me" Campaign Debuts in New York
    A nationwide advertising blitz aimed at encouraging HIV-positive people to be safe about exposing HIV-negative people to the virus has reached New York. The campaign, which features real-life spokesmodels, will hit the Web, print publications, subways, bus shelters and other locations throughout New York City and Buffalo. (Web highlight from The Advocate)



    Remind Your Docs: Lab Numbers Donít Tell the Whole Story
    HIV-positive nurse Richard S. Ferri says it's easy for healthcare workers to get too caught up in lab results, and forget about the impact that some illnesses can have on HIVers' lives. When he went from being a nurse to being a patient, "Monkeys could be flying out of my butt, and all that mattered [to my doctors were] my numbers," Ferri said. "When we talk to our healthcare team, we need to make it clear how fatigue -- or any symptom for that matter -- is affecting us."

    Safe Eating 101: Avoiding Foodborne Illnesses
    Foodborne diseases like salmonella and listeria can strike anybody, but they're especially a concern for people with compromised immune systems -- i.e., those with low CD4 counts. By taking a few common-sense steps, though, you can dramatically reduce your risk of being infected with one of these ugly bugs. Dietician Ellen Steinberg offers this list of important food safety tips.

    Diabetes Increases HIV Dementia Risk
    HIV-positive people with diabetes appear to be more than 5 times as likely to develop dementia than HIV-positive people who don't have diabetes, according to the results from a small Hawaiian study. The reasons are unclear, though the researchers said the risk is the same regardless of a person's age, ethnicity, CD4 count or other typical factors. The findings show how important it is to prevent and manage the causes of diabetes in HIV-positive people, the researchers say. Diabetes can potentially result from complications both of HIV itself and of some HIV medications. (Web highlight from



    The Fourth Annual "Just Shut Up" Awards
    The AIDS world has plenty of heroes, but unfortunately, it also has its share of losers. In his annual presentation of the "Just Shut Up" awards, AIDS advocate David Salyer pays tribute to the people who are least likely to be invited to any AIDS community parties in the near future.



    Former High-Ranking British Official Says He's Had HIV Since 1980s
    Former British Cabinet member Chris Smith, saying he was inspired by Nelson Mandela's disclosure last month that his son had died from AIDS, publicly disclosed that he's been living with HIV for the past 17 years. He's the first senior public figure in the United Kingdom to go public about his status. A policy analyst said this will help the world at large see what those in the AIDS community already know: that with access to good health care, HIV-positive people can live long, fulfilling, healthy lives.

    A Global AIDS Tax? Not So Fast, Officials Say
    Many of the world's politicians and investors aren't exactly embracing French President Jacques Chirac's proposal to institute a global tax on international financial transactions, which he estimated would raise $10 billion annually to fight HIV/AIDS. The Bush administration, as you might expect, was extremely skeptical about the idea of any kind of worldwide tax, and billionaire-cum-AIDS advocate Bill Gates said it would take far too long to implement such a tax plan, while millions of lives hang in the balance right now.

    The State of AIDS in Western Europe
    Although HIV's deadly impact on the developed world has dramatically decreased over the past decade, the epidemic is far from over -- and as HIVers live longer, new health concerns drift to the forefront. At a meeting late last year in London, HIV specialists gathered to review the current state of the epidemic in Western Europe. In this wide-ranging summary, Julian Meldrum recaps the highlights of this meeting.


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    Art From HIV-Positive Artists
    Image from the February 2005 Visual AIDS Web Gallery
    "Afflict the Comfortable, Comfort the Afflicted," 1985; Paul Thek
    Visit the February 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.

    Buyers' Clubs Can Offer Discounts on Vitamins, Supplements

    Houston Buyers Club

    The Houston Buyers Club is one of several organizations in the United States that sell nutritional supplements at a reduced cost to people living with HIV/AIDS and other chronic illnesses such as diabetes, hepatitis C and cancer.

    For a listing of other buyers' clubs in the United States, click here.