• LIVING WITH HIV
Disclosing to a Potential Partner: When? How? (Why?)
Whether you're looking for a serious relationship or a one-night stand, the issue of when to tell a potential partner you have HIV is difficult. What's the best way to tell? When's the best time? Is it really necessary to tell the person at all? For Barbara Marcotte, the answer has increasingly been: Tell them, and tell them early. "It was a relief to me ... to have the issue out in the open and over with," she writes. She notes, though, that the decision of when, and how, to tell someone you have HIV is a very personal one, and can differ from situation to situation.
Looking for more advice on disclosing your HIV status, or more personal stories about how HIVers have disclosed to their partners? Visit The Body's library of articles on telling others you have HIV.
Where Art and LGBT Pride Meet, an Explosion of Color and Character
In honor of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) Pride Month, the advocacy group Heritage of Pride was invited to put together this captivating Visual AIDS Web Gallery for June 2005. "Think of this as a guided tour through 'L.G.B.T. land' for PRIDE month," explains Alan Reiff, the director of Heritage of Pride's yearly PrideFest street festival. "Sit back, relax, prepare to think, get angry and enjoy all at once."
Pregnancy and HIV: Choosing Between Vaginal and Cesarean Delivery
If you're HIV positive and pregnant, will you and your baby be better off if you have a vaginal or a cesarean delivery? Which carries a greater risk of passing HIV to your baby? Although the type of delivery you should have is an issue for you and your doctor to decide, the U.S. health department has put together this fact sheet to help provide some general info.
• HIV TRANSMISSION & TESTING
Why Condoms in Prisons Protect People on the Outside
The United States has lagged behind most countries in Europe -- and Canada, and Australia, and Brazil, and even South Africa -- in providing condoms to its prison inmates. However, California may soon join Mississippi and Vermont as the only states that allow condoms to be distributed in state prisons. The California Assembly voted earlier this week in favor of a measure that would permit agencies to distribute condoms in state prisons; the measure now goes to the state Senate. One of the Assembly members who voted for the law was Jackie Goldberg. She thought it was important that condoms be distributed simply because of the reality that male inmates have sex behind bars, even though it's illegal -- and even though most are self-described heterosexuals. Once they are released, infected inmates can transmit HIV to their wives and girlfriends. "Those of you who talk to us all the time about caring about life, let's worry about the lives of people who get infected because these inmates get out," she said.
The Early Test Catches the HIV: The Rise of RNA Testing
In the weeks after someone is infected, HIV is thought to reproduce at a rate 1,000 times higher than it does just a few months later. It's during this time, some say, that an HIV-positive person is most at risk of passing HIV to others. In fact, some scientists say that 40% to 50% of new infections occur in these early weeks, when people often have no clue they're positive. In an attempt to cut into that number, North Carolina and San Francisco have begun using a new HIV test that can detect HIV within 10 days of infection. It does so by looking for the genetic material of HIV itself, rather than the antibodies that a person's immune system develops in response to the virus. Now some experts in New York City -- still the epicenter for HIV and AIDS in the United States -- are calling for the city to adopt this same type of testing. (Web highlight from The New York Times; free registration required)
No Proof Yet of HIV "Super Strain"
Four months have already passed since the doomsday announcement out of New York that a potentially new, fast-progressing, highly resistant strain of HIV had been found in a gay man -- a possible harbinger, some said, of an HIV "super-strain" epidemic. Has such a "super strain" emerged? No. No other cases of this virus have been documented, not even among the man's known sexual partners. How's the HIV-positive man at the center of this firestorm doing? He's responded well to HAART. Are the people who sounded the alarm back in February now feeling the heat? You bet. (Web highlight from the Los Angeles Times; free registration required)
A Wild, Wild Weekend (for People and Viruses): The Circuit Party
Circuit parties: If you don't know what they are, you probably don't belong at them. They're weekend-long dance events where loads of sex and drug use are par for the course. As many as 25,000 gay and bisexual men can go to a single party, and remain there for days. In other words, it's a heck of a place to go for an unforgettable weekend, but not the safest venue in the world; many experts think circuit parties contribute to the spread of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases among men who have sex with men. This research paper from the International Association of Physicians in AIDS Care explores this link between circuit parties and HIV.
HIV Prevention for a New Age: Talking Openly About Sex
Many HIV prevention messages are as old as the virus itself -- but where the virus is still going strong in the United States, HIV prevention has generally stagnated in recent years. How can HIV prevention change to appeal to a new generation of Americans, many of whom are far too young to remember the horrors that HIV brought in the 1980s and early 1990s? Jeff Berry, the editor of Positively Aware, has a simple answer: "Let's talk about sex."
Rethinking HIV Prevention for African-American MSM
HIV prevention workers are increasingly wringing their hands over what to do about the worsening HIV situation in the United States. Although the overall rate of HIV infection has held steady, new infections are on the rise among many groups -- particularly African Americans and men who have sex with men (MSM), two intersecting communities that struggle both with the heavy stigma of HIV and with deep-set taboos about homosexuality. The question is: What can be done? AIDS advocate Keith Green held a focus group in Chicago with HIV-positive men of color who have sex with other men to find some answers.
• HIV/AIDS POLICY & FUNDING IN THE U.S.
U.S. Supreme Court Says Federal Gov't Can Prosecute Medical Marijuana Users
The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that the federal government is allowed to prosecute people who use medical marijuana, even in the 10 states where medical marijuana use has been legalized. Many people with HIV use medical marijuana to alleviate pain from complications like neuropathy, or to improve appetites that have been battered by severe nausea. Although many advocates are alarmed by the Supreme Court's ruling, its practical impact is uncertain: About 99% of all marijuana prosecutions are made by states, and the federal government tends to concentrate its efforts on shutting down large marijuana distribution networks rather than individual growers and users. Attempts to pursue other avenues for legalizing medical marijuana nationwide will continue in U.S. courts.
Prominent Washington, D.C., HIV Clinic Cuts Services
The Washington, D.C.-based Whitman-Walker Clinic, which serves more than 7,000 HIVers in the capital region, is dramatically slashing its services as a result of a funding crisis. The cuts include a permanent end to services at the clinic's satellite offices in Arlington, Va., and Takoma Park, Md., which serve about 600 people with HIV. The clinic will also close its food bank, end a residential treatment program for drug users, cancel a housing program for former drug users and lay off about a quarter of its entire staff.
More information on the service cuts is available in this article from the Washington Blade.
How did things get so bad at Whitman-Walker, one of the largest HIV clinics in the United States? Most agree the crisis didn't happen overnight; factors both within and outside of the clinic's control have contributed to its slow, steady financial erosion. "Our hearts have, for many years, extended beyond our purse," admitted board Chairperson Billy Cox.
• HIV-RELATED HEALTH PROBLEMS
Invasive Pneumonia Cases Way Down in HAART Era, but Still a Concern
Cases of invasive pneumonia, which claimed the lives of so many HIVers in the 1980s and 1990s, dropped by 57% between 1995 (just before HAART became available) and 2000, according to a new U.S. study. That's incredible news, but there's a cloud inside that silver lining: People with full-blown AIDS are still at high risk for the disease. Invasive pneumonia is 35 times more likely among people with AIDS than it is among the general, HIV-negative U.S. population, the study found. (Web highlight from aidsmap.com)
To read the journal abstract of this study, click here.
OUTSIDE THE UNITED STATES
South African Health Minister Tells AIDS Workers to Focus on Other Diseases
More insanity from South Africa's Health Minister, Manto Tshabalala-Msimang. Remember her? She's the senior government official who has repeatedly said that alternative diets -- like one consisting of beetroot, garlic, lemon and olive oil -- can be a better bet than antiretrovirals for treating HIV. Ever the newsmaker, Tshabalala-Msimang told a South African AIDS conference this week that attendees should also spend time focusing on other diseases besides HIV/AIDS. Part of her point is a good one, of course, in that HIV and other diseases often go hand-in-hand in devastating the developing world, and many experts have called for a health approach that tackles all of these diseases. But her speech was also not the best one to make at a conference entirely about AIDS, particularly when she has little popularity among AIDS workers and advocates to begin with. (Web highlight from Agence France Presse)
In Paris, the Debate Rages: Who's Responsible if Someone Gets HIV?
Should it be a crime for HIV-positive people to knowingly expose other people to HIV? As Barbara Marcotte noted in her article at the top of our e-mail update, 24 U.S. states criminalize intentional HIV exposure in some way, and the rest have some sort of criminal law that could be applied to HIV exposure. In France, on the other hand, knowingly transmitting HIV is not a crime. However, a group called Femmes Positives, which consists of 70 women who were infected by their partners, wants the right to put infectors behind bars. Many HIV activists in Paris (most of whom are gay men) openly oppose Femmes Positives -- in fact, the activists recently hired a lawyer to defend an HIV-positive French man accused by his ex-girlfriend of infecting her. The activists' argument? They say that preventing HIV transmission is the "shared responsibility" of both sexual partners. A fascinating article in this month's POZ magazine looks at this issue. (Web highlight from POZ)
Japan Forced to Confront Surge in New HIV Cases
Although the Japanese government estimates that it is home to only 10,070 HIV-positive people in a country of 127 million, some experts say the number could be two to four times higher. According to UNAIDS, 1,165 new HIV cases were reported in Japan in 2004 alone, up 14% from 2003. A Japan Center for International Exchange report released last year estimates that the total number of HIV cases is doubling every four years -- and that by 2010, 50,000 Japanese people could be living with HIV.