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The Body Covers: CROI 2005, Feb. 22-25, 2004

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May 18, 2005

In This Update:
  • Drug Use & HIV
  • Living With HIV
  • HIV Vaccine Awareness Day
  • HIV Awareness & Prevention
  • HIV Treatment
  • Hepatitis C Treatment
  • U.S. AIDS-Related Policies
  • HIV/AIDS Outside the U.S.
  •   DRUG USE & HIV

    Much Ado About Meth
    Meth, meth, meth: A popular party drug for years, its name has suddenly been plastered all over newspaper headlines and has virtually become public enemy No. 1 on the HIV prevention beat for men who have sex with men. What do we really know about crystal methamphetamine -- how it works, what it does to a person’s body, how it increases a person’s HIV risk and how it might affect HIV disease progression and treatment? Turns out we know quite a bit. This informative overview by Tim Horn fills us in.


    Stigma May Harm Some HIV-Positive IV Drug Users as Much as Drugs Do
    Intravenous (IV) drug use and HIV are peas in an unpleasant pod; about one third of U.S. HIV cases are attributable to IV drug use, and the use of IV drugs can make it much harder to adhere to HIV treatment. However, as Dr. Sharon Stancliff explains, the problem with HIV and drug use doesn’t lie only with the person using drugs: Because of the stigma associated with the use of IV drugs, even some medical providers will refuse to treat HIV-positive drug users, or even provide them with the kind of assistance they need.


    HIV Meds, Alcohol and Party Drugs: Which Don't Mix?
    Usually, when doctors talk about drug-drug interactions, they're talking about potentially dangerous reactions that can happen when certain prescription drugs mix -- for instance, HIV meds and cholesterol meds. But what if you use party drugs? What are the potential interactions with HIV meds, or between HIV meds and alcohol? What about people who are on methadone treatment for substance abuse -- are some meds more of a health risk than others? Research in this area has been sporadic, but there is a lot we do know; this article from ACRIA Update provides a thorough review.

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      LIVING WITH HIV

    Strategies for Healing When You've Been Sexually Abused
    If you got HIV from being sexually abused, how can you begin the process of healing -- not just physically, but emotionally as well? Social worker and therapist Jeff Levy spells out these 10 strategies for coping.


    Sexually Transmitted Diseases in HIVers: Signs and Symptoms
    Usually, people talk about gonorrhea, chlamydia and other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) as a major concern for HIV-negative people, since they can increase a person's risk for contracting HIV. But what about the risks these STDs hold for HIV-positive people? Some studies show that STDs may increase an HIVer's viral load, which can accelerate disease progression. And, of course, most STDs carry significant health risks in themselves if they're not diagnosed and treated. This overview explains the symptoms, dangers and treatments for some of the most common STDs in HIV-positive people.

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      HIV VACCINE AWARENESS DAY

    Although an HIV vaccine remains elusive, efforts to find an effective vaccine are as fervent as ever -- as is the need for greater attention, funding and study volunteers. What better time to reiterate this need than on May 18 -- HIV Vaccine Awareness Day?

    In this statement, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), urges people to flip their AIDS ribbons upside-down so they form a V for "vaccines" -- and to help spread awareness about HIV vaccines, the elusive Holy Grail of HIV prevention.

    To help spread that awareness, NIAID has prepared this brief educational brochure (available as a PDF) about HIV vaccines, which explains many of the fundamentals about how vaccines work, how they are tested and how HIV-negative people can help advance research efforts by volunteering for vaccine studies.

    NIAID also put out a call for greater support from men -- specifically from men who have sex with men, who still account for the largest number of new HIV infections every year -- in helping along efforts to produce and test an HIV vaccine.

    In addition, the AIDS Vaccine Advocacy Coalition just released a new handbook about HIV vaccines; the 404-page primer offers an in-depth, wide-ranging picture of the history and current state of vaccine development. Click here to download the entire file (it's a 14MB PDF). If the file size is a bit much for you, you can also click here to browse the table of contents and download individual chapters.

    And, of course, for a hefty offering of overviews, news articles, clinical trial information and research on HIV vaccines, visit The Body's own collection of articles.

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      HIV AWARENESS & PREVENTION

    U.S. Marks First HIV Awareness Day for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders
    On May 19 -- the day after HIV Vaccine Awareness Day -- the United States will commemorate its first annual National Asian and Pacific Islander HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. As this official statement from Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, notes, Asians and Pacific Islanders make up a small, but rapidly growing, percentage of HIV infections in the United States. Few HIV prevention efforts are tailored specifically toward these communities, and most studies on HIV and HIV medications don't provide much data on them.

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      HIV TREATMENT

    Tenofovir Labeling Updated; Ritonavir 30-Count Pill Bottle Approved
    The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved new labeling for tenofovir (Viread), which includes 144-week safety and efficacy data from the Gilead 903 study. Among the revisions is updated information regarding resistance to tenofovir and the long-term impact of tenofovir on bone mineral density. The updated labeling recommends that people on tenofovir receive bone monitoring if they have a history of pathologic bone failure or are at risk for osteopenia.

    In other FDA news, the agency also approved a 30-count pill bottle for ritonavir (Norvir). Some people may find it a more convenient package size than the 120-count bottle, which previously had been the only package size available.

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      HEPATITIS C TREATMENT

    Hepatitis C: Not All Peg-Interferons Are Alike, Study Finds
    Peginterferon alfa-2a (Pegasys) and peginterferon alfa-2b (PEG-Intron) may have virtually identical names, but 2b may be more effective at treating hepatitis C -- especially for obese people, according to a small, informal study released at the annual Digestive Disease Week meeting in Chicago, Ill. In an analysis of patient records of 86 Caucasian people with hepatitis C, 48% of those treated with peginterferon alfa-2b had the virus eliminated from their system, versus 28% of those receiving peginterferon alfa-2a. The difference was even more striking among obese people: 53% were successfully treated with peginterferon alfa-2b, versus 18% with peginterferon alfa-2a.

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      U.S. AIDS-RELATED POLICIES

    Brazil's High-Profile Rejection of U.S. Aid Triggers Global Fallout
    As we noted in last week's update, Brazilian officials have refused $40 million in U.S. AIDS grants because of the Bush administration's requirement that the organizations receiving such funds adopt specific positions expressing their opposition to prostitution. In Brazil, as in some other countries, prostitution is legal and sex workers are a vital part of the effort to prevent HIV. This article provides additional information on the story, including U.S. and Brazilian reactions.

    Brazil's decision to reject the U.S. funding was "sensible and humane," writes the editorial staff of the California newspaper Sacramento Bee. The editorial disagrees with the contention some make that countries receiving U.S. assistance must pass a "moral litmus test."

    Meanwhile, a coalition of 11 international AIDS and human rights organizations, including Gay Men's Health Crisis and Human Rights Watch, have put together a sign-on letter to President Bush protesting this U.S. policy.

    On a related note, a senior U.S. official on AIDS policy has rescinded an identical policy that would have required any group receiving assistance through the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria to publicly state their opposition to commercial sex work and sex trafficking. A government spokesperson said that the policy "hadn't been fully reviewed and cleared" before it was adopted.


    ACLU Sues U.S. Government for Funding Overtly Religious Abstinence-Only Programs
    In its effort to expand abstinence-only education, the Bush administration has directed millions of dollars to programs run by Christian organizations. Most seem to keep religion out of the educational mix. However, earlier this week, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed suit against the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) -- which doles out the money for these programs -- alleging that the government improperly used taxpayer dollars to support an abstinence education program that overtly promotes Christianity. Since 2003, the Silver Ring Thing (SRT) -- an offshoot of a Pennsylvania-based Christian ministry -- has received more than $1 million from DHHS. The ACLU alleges that SRT makes no effort to use DHHS money only for secular purposes.

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      HIV/AIDS OUTSIDE THE UNITED STATES

    Two New Retroviruses Discovered in Humans in Cameroon
    U.S. scientists have detected the first human cases of two new retroviruses -- close relatives of HIV -- in two bushmeat hunters in Cameroon. To date, there has been no evidence of human-to-human transmission of the viruses, which are being named HTLV-3 and HTLV-4. The viruses have also not yet been linked to any disease. However, the findings show that HIV isn't the only retrovirus that can make the leap from primates to humans. In fact, such occurrences may be downright common, the researchers suggest. (Web highlight from BBC News)


    Many Pregnant Malawian Women Say No to HIV Tests
    Why won't pregnant women in Malawi get tested for HIV? "Most of the women that have come to be tested have been either attacked or left by their husbands," explains a Malawian health official; the considerable stigma associated with HIV makes many women feel as though it'd be better not to get tested at all. However, medical workers in Malawi say that a positive test result would mean that the women would receive treatment to protect their children from getting HIV. It is estimated that 14% of adult Malawians are HIV positive. (Web highlight from BBC News)

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    Meet the Winners of TheBody.com's 2005 HIV Leadership Awards!
    Troy Duke, winner of a TheBody.com 2005 HIV Leadership Award
    Troy Duke is an HIV-positive naval officer who counsels other military personnel who have been newly diagnosed with HIV. He's also one of the winners of a 2005 HIV Leadership Award from TheBody.com!

    Later this spring, Troy will be involved in the production of an educational film designed to increase HIV awareness and prevention efforts at all branches and levels of the U.S. military. His open participation in this film will serve as his "HIV coming-out" to the broader military population -- no easy task for a senior member of the Navy.

    Want to meet all 73 winners of TheBody.com's 2005 HIV Leadership Awards? Click here!
    Vaccine Research Can't Exist Without Study Volunteers
    HIV Vaccine Awareness Day poster
    The U.S. National Institute of AIDS and Infectious Diseases released this poster in time for this year's HIV Vaccine Awareness Day. Despite growing numbers of HIV infections in the United States -- particularly among African-Americans -- few people are signing up for vaccine studies, even though experimental HIV vaccines carry no risk of HIV infection.

    HIV negative and want to get involved? Join a vaccine trial. To learn more about HIV vaccine studies throughout the world, click here!

    Connect With Others at
    The Body's Bulletin Boards

    "Telling the In-Laws"
    (A recent post from the
    "Living With HIV" board)

    "I'm a regular around here, but find myself really needing help. ... My husband's family does not know about my status. When we first decided not to tell them, it was because I didn't want his mother to worry. ... But as years went by, I've learned how much she didn't know about HIV -- how she thought she could get it by touching some 'mess' (maybe spit) at a store. ...

    "I've never been ashamed of my HIV status, nor do I want to act like I am. ... Maybe I should leave well enough alone, but I'm tired of 'pretending' this is NOT part of my life. I always make it a point to tell his family how important HIV is to me, but they think it's just because it is my work! If [my mother-in-law] did find out, she would have the family tested ... for the next 10 years. ... Appreciate all your help guys -- you are all great."
    -- Anonymous

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

    Art From HIV-Positive Artists
    Image from the May 2005 Visual AIDS Web Gallery
    "Bad Boy, New York," 1985;
    Bruce Cratsley
    Visit the May 2005 Visual AIDS Web Gallery to view this month's collection of art by HIV-positive artists!