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April 6, 2005

In This Update:
  • HIV Treatment & Side Effects
  • Living With HIV
  • HIV/STD Transmission & Prevention
  • HIV/AIDS Policy & Activism
  • HIV/AIDS Outside the U.S.

    New Issue of HIV JournalView Highlights HIV Testing, Treatment Studies
    Need your monthly fix of the latest in HIV research? Dr. David Wohl brings us a new issue of HIV JournalView, our regular recap of important, recently published studies. This month, Dr. Wohl's enlightening summaries include a closer look at the relationship between HAART adherence and drug resistance. To learn more, r
    ead the latest HIV JournalView at The Body Pro, The Body's sister site for healthcare professionals!

    TMC-114 Sets a New Standard in Rescue Therapy Trials
    Its name might sound like something out of Star Wars, but TMC-114 is a real protease inhibitor currently in development -- and it may eventually become a pivotal new option for HIVers with multi-drug resistance. One of the most important studies presented at last month's Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections provided interim phase 2 study results on TMC-114. As Ian Frank, M.D., reports, these newly presented results were quite impressive.

    Avoiding T-20 Skin Reactions: The Fatter, the Better?
    Almost everybody who takes T-20 (enfuvirtide, Fuzeon) gets injection site reactions -- painful, red bumps that develop where T-20 is injected under the skin. Unfortunately, the absence of subcutaneous fat (fat immediately underneath the skin) may make those injection site reactions worse -- and many people who use T-20 may lack this type of fat because they have lipoatrophy. Timothy Wilkin, M.D., reports for The Body from the 12th Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections.

    Looking for more summaries of the latest in HIV research? The Body's the place to turn for highlights from the 12th Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections, which included a large number of presentations on HIV treatment strategies, HIV medications in development and a host of other important issues.

    Genetic Testing Could Help Some Avoid Ritonavir Side Effect
    Could genetic testing someday become a key part of choosing a HAART regimen? A recent study suggests it might be a good idea, especially before prescribing people a regimen that includes ritonavir (Norvir). In some people, ritonavir causes a sharp jump in triglycerides, which can eventually increase a person's risk for heart disease if left untreated. Researchers have pinpointed a specific genetic mutation that makes a person more likely to have this side effect, which could help doctors prescribe a less-risky, ritonavir-free regimen instead. (Web highlight from



    Visual AIDS Web Gallery Depicts the Darker Side of HIV
    HIV and artistry intersect at this month's Visual AIDS Web Gallery at The Body! New in April: Guest curator Sarah Lippek selects 20 works by HIV-positive artists that explore the darker side of living with HIV -- "for those nights when you open a drawer in the kitchen and all the forks and spoons have turned to knives," she says.

    Should There be a New Definition of AIDS?
    In the days of the pre-HAART AIDS epidemic in the United States, a diagnosis of AIDS meant your time was almost up. However, HAART has transformed what it means to have HIV. HIVers in the developed world are living healthier lives, and are going longer and longer without ever developing what the U.S. government has defined as AIDS. Which brings us to an intriguing question: Should the definition of AIDS be changed? It's an important question to ask, since an AIDS diagnosis can entitle Americans to receive government assistance for their treatment and quality of life. In this detailed examination,
    Liz Highleyman discusses the ways in which the U.S. epidemic has changed so dramatically that a new definition of AIDS may be in order.

    HIV's Metabolic Effects Differ by Gender, Race and Age
    We've long known that HIV itself can alter a person's metabolic system, increasing levels of fat and sugar in the blood and putting HIVers at greater risk for health problems like heart disease and diabetes. But little is known about how this risk differs between genders, races and ages. A recent study by U.S. researchers suggests that there is a difference -- and that women, African Americans and younger people may actually be at a lower risk for some of these HIV-related complications than others. The study was conducted among HIVers who had never taken HAART. (Web highlight from



    Oral Sex Isn't REALLY Sex, U.S. Teens Say
    This won't come as a surprise to most of you, but a recent study has found that oral sex is much more common than sexual intercourse among U.S. teens, probably because it's viewed as a more acceptable, less risky alternative to "real" sex. The study, which surveyed an ethnically diverse group of ninth graders in California, found that 20% of surveyed teens said they'd had oral sex, versus 14% who said they'd had vaginal sex. (The study didn't focus on homosexual activity, nor did it ask teens about anal sex or other types of sexual contact.) Boys more commonly performed oral sex on girls than vice versa, and teens rarely reported using condoms or dental dams during oral sex. Although the risk of HIV transmission through oral sex is extremely low, transmission of many other sexually transmitted diseases, such as herpes and gonorrhea, are much more common.

    U.S. Gay Communities Begin Stronger Push Against Crystal Meth Use
    Many gay leaders in the United States readily admit to the unique, devastating impact that crystal methamphetamine is having on men who have sex with men (MSM), including the drug's link with unsafe sex and HIV transmission. As a result, many leaders and communities are stepping up their efforts to discourage meth use. A 12-step recovery program called Crystal Meth Anonymous (which is available for anyone who takes crystal meth, not just MSM) is bustling throughout the United States and Canada, and in Chicago, bartenders at gay bars and clubs are being trained to educate their customers about the risks of crystal meth use.

    For a more in-depth look at this story, read this article from the San Francisco Chronicle.

    The Elusive Holy Grail of HIV Medicine: The Vaccine
    Why is an HIV vaccine so much harder to create than vaccines for other diseases, like polio, measles, hepatitis B and the flu? Much of the problem has to do with HIV's uncanny ability to mutate and adapt to our efforts to fight it. In this article, a pair of HIV vaccine experts explain some of the strategies that researchers are using to develop a vaccine that'll stop HIV in its tracks.

    Black Colleges Get Serious Against HIV
    Historically black colleges in the U.S. South have begun to adjust to the fact that HIV is no stranger to their students: After a headline-grabbing study a little over a year ago found an outbreak of new HIV infections among black college students in North Carolina, historically black colleges in the region -- including many in Alabama -- are now speaking with their students more openly about HIV, and increasing the amount of HIV education and testing they offer on their campuses.

    Scant Evidence That Hepatitis C Can Be Transmitted Sexually
    Can hepatitis C be passed through sex? Not all researchers agree. But in one of the largest-ever studies to look at sexual transmission of hepatitis C, Canadian researchers found virtually no evidence that the virus can be passed sexually from one person to another, at least between HIV-negative men who have sex with men. The eight-month study of 1,054 gay men found only one case of hepatitis C transmission -- and the man who was infected said he'd also recently shared injection drug equipment. (Web highlight from

    PEP: Walking the Thin Line Between HIV Exposure and HIV Infection
    There's an emergency option available for people who know they've just had a high-risk exposure to HIV: post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP). Although it should never be confused for a "morning-after pill" -- PEP is more like 74 pills taken over the course of a month -- PEP can be an important tool to help prevent HIV transmission, particularly among people who have had a high-risk exposure (such as unprotected intercourse) with someone they know has HIV. Pharmacist Tony Hosey explains further in this overview from Positively Aware.



    In the World of AIDS, Don't Count on Anybody to Get Your Back
    "These are not days in which to be lazy, my dears," croons outspoken AIDS advocate Jim Pickett. People like him may dedicate themselves to the AIDS battle, but each and every one of us must take our own action to defend our beliefs, he says. "I'm not suggesting you shouldn't put your faith into institutions and people in whom you trust ... But never, ever rely on them to do it all for you. Never, ever feel like it's unnecessary to engage. Never, ever kick back on your Jennifer Convertible and say, 'They got my back. Gimme the remote.'"

    U.S. Government Web Site Blasted for Anti-Contraception Stance
    U.S. advocacy groups are fuming over a new Web site launched by the U.S. health department that's designed to help parents discuss the importance of sexual abstinence with their children. In a letter written to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt, the groups accuse the site of providing biased, inaccurate information about condoms, teenage pregnancy and other issues, and of failing to emphasize the need for contraception if a teenager does become sexually active. A total of 145 groups signed the letter, including the American Civil Liberties Union, Human Rights Campaign and Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

    Religious Investors Will Press Drug Companies to Lower HIV Drug Prices
    An association of 275 faith-based institutional investors -- who control an estimated $110 billion in assets -- plans to introduce shareholder resolutions at annual meetings of pharmaceutical companies to pressure the companies to provide lower-cost medications, including drugs for HIV.



    The Pope's Legacy in the AIDS Community
    With the death of Pope John Paul II has come a deluge of positive media attention toward the former pontiff's legacy. It's almost enough to make you forget that the late pope's staunch opposition to condom use made it much harder to effectively fight HIV, particularly in developing countries, where married women are often at the greatest risk. Nathan Geffen, a spokesperson for the South African AIDS advocacy group Treatment Action Campaign, said he hopes "the new pope will have an attitude much more progressive and less conservative regarding the utilization of condoms and practice of contraception." Several National Public Radio programs recently interviewed religious and academic figures to get their take on the Roman Catholic Church's anti-condom policy.


    Connect With Others at
    The Body's Bulletin Boards

    "Holding Down a Job"
    (A recent post from the
    "Living With HIV" board)

    "I was recently infected ... May I ask if other folks continued going to work after testing positive? If so, for how many years were you able to work? I can't quit my job, since I really need the money. ... Ideally, though, I'd like to talk to my boss and reduce my workweek to 4 days a week instead of 5. It's a demanding job with lots of deadlines. I don't want to be under constant stress while fighting this illness. ... Have employers been understanding about these types of requests?"
    -- Anonymous

    Click here to join this discussion thread, or to start your own!

    Art From HIV-Positive Artists
    Image from the April 2005 Visual AIDS Web Gallery
    "Ruffle Your Feathers," 2002;
    James Fackrell
    Visit the April 2005 Visual AIDS Web Gallery to view this month's new collection of art by HIV-positive artists!

    Clinical Trials Now Enrolling for Kaposi's Sarcoma Treatment

    HIV positive and diagnosed with Kaposi Sarcoma (KS)? If you live in Los Angeles, there are two open clinical trials on experimental KS treatments that may interest you. One study will investigate the use of oral valproic acid; the other will examine the potential benefits of halofuginone ointment. Both studies will last for 24 weeks.

    Interested? Fill out our clinical trial application form. If you qualify for either of these studies, or for another clinical trial that may be of interest to you, you'll be contacted with more information!