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November 23, 2005

In This Update:
  • Living With HIV
  • Crystal Meth Use & Treatment
  • HIV Treatment & Care
  • Live Chat on Switching Meds, Dec. 5
  • HIV-Related Health Issues & Side Effects
  • HIV Statistics & Testing
  • HIV Policy & Activism
  • HIV Around the World
  •   LIVING WITH HIV

    Eight Simple Rules for Managing the Holiday Blues
    Holiday fever is about to kick into high gear in the United States, but many of us may not be in much of a festive mood. The time from Thanksgiving through New Year's can be one of warmth, togetherness and cheer, but it can also be stressful, lonely or depressing, especially for HIVers who are going through a rough patch or for those who have lost loved ones to the virus. What can you do to manage the holiday blues? Social worker Sarah Biel-Cunningham offers these eight important tips.


    Excruciating Experiences for HIV-Positive Women in U.S. Prisons
    "It's not a mystery why people with HIV in prison suffer," says former inmate and prison activist Laura Whitehorn. She knows firsthand just how awful the prison system can be to HIV-positive inmates in the United States -- especially to women. Inadequate medical care, discrimination and a complete lack of rights are only part of the problem; the humiliation is sometimes even worse. She writes: "In the federal prisons, women transported to an outside hospital [which often happens for HIV care] were always handcuffed, waist chained and shackled -- and strip searched. Being strip searched by a prison guard, an unpleasant enough procedure in any case, is even worse when you are recovering from surgery or delivery."


    The Ability of Faith to Heal What Meds Can't Mend
    When you're dealing with a life-threatening illness, you need all the strength you can muster. Many people find that spirituality can provide healing power. The strength and forgiveness that can come with believing in something, no matter what it is, should never be underestimated, says Sue Saltmarsh. "When people ask me what religion I am, I answer proudly, 'I'm a Sueist,'" she says. "It's less important Who or What you believe in, what Their names are, what the rituals are, where you go to celebrate them, than it is that you give yourself a chance not just to believe, but to know ... that you, like all of us, carry the Divine within."

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      CRYSTAL METH USE & TREATMENT

    Dueling Meth Banjos: Two Different Approaches to Online Meth Info
    When talking about crystal meth, some organizations take the fear approach: They beat you over the head with ominous statistics and health warnings, and make meth use an issue of good versus evil -- if you take meth, you're bad, end of story. Others take a calmer, more realistic approach: They encourage people to take a long, close look at their meth use and consider different options for treatment. Check out these excerpts from MethisDeath.com and Tweaker.org; try to guess which site chooses the more reasonable path to meth education (if the names themselves don't give it away).


    LGBT Crystal Meth Treatment Program Opens in Chicago
    With the crystal meth epidemic raging in many U.S. communities, some health centers have begun to respond. The Howard Brown Health Center in Chicago, Ill., has launched Crystal Clear, an outpatient treatment program for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered (LGBT) people dealing with crystal meth dependence. The intensive program provides counseling six days a week; access to the program's care manager; and referrals to financial, legal and social services.

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      HIV TREATMENT & CARE

    How to Work With Your HIV Healthcare Team
    Medical care -- and especially HIV care -- has become so specialized that some people with HIV may have a team of people to turn to for help: a primary care doc, an HIV specialist, a psychologist, a cardiologist, a case manager ... well, you get the idea. How do you make sense of all these different health providers, and what's the best way to manage all these relationships? Dr. Jeannine Bookhardt-Murray has put together this overview and list of tips.


    Your Viral Load Results: Can They Measure Your Health Care as Well as Your HIV? (Word Document)
    Some experts in the United States have proposed using viral load results to gauge whether healthcare providers are doing a good enough job treating their HIV-positive patients. A panel of HIV specialists recently completed this detailed report on that intriguing concept. They conclude that there are currently far more questions than answers when it comes to using viral load as a measure of the quality of HIV care provided by a health professional. (Web highlight from the New York State Health Department's Health AIDS Institute)

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      WANT TO SWITCH HIV MEDS? TALK LIVE
        WITH AN HIV SPECIALIST ON DEC. 5!

    Think it's time to change your HIV meds? You're not the only one: Whether the reason is side effects, a rising viral load or inconvenient dosing schedules, many HIVers reach the point where they start to ask, "Do I need a new treatment regimen?" On Monday, Dec. 5, top HIV specialist Dr. Paul Sax will answer your questions about switching treatment in a live chat! He'll provide expert advice on your treatment options.

    The Date: Monday, Dec. 5, 2005

    The Time: 9 p.m. Eastern/6 p.m. Pacific

    The Place: www.thebody.com/chat/

    To sign up for e-mail reminders about this chat, or to presubmit questions you'd like Dr. Sax to answer, click here!

    This live chat is sponsored by Gilead Sciences, Inc.

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      HIV-RELATED HEALTH ISSUES & SIDE EFFECTS

    Statin Drug May Reverse Limb Fat Loss, Small Study Suggests
    Australian researchers have inadvertently discovered what may be a side benefit of using the lipid-lowering drug pravastatin (Pravachol): an ability to reverse fat loss in the arms and legs of HIV-positive people. In a short-term, 33-person study that was designed for a totally different reason -- to examine pravastatin's ability to lower cholesterol and triglycerides in HIVers -- the researchers found that people on pravastatin experienced an average 0.72 kg increase in limb fat, compared to a 0.19 kg increase among people receiving a placebo. The researchers noted, however, that these results are highly preliminary and far from conclusive. (Web highlight from aidsmap.com)

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      HIV STATISTICS & TESTING

    Overall U.S. HIV Rates Stable, but Up Among MSM; Large Racial Differences Persist
    The rate of new HIV diagnoses in the United States "flattened" in 2004, falling from 22.8 new cases per 100,000 people in 2001 to 20.7 per 100,000 last year, according to newly released numbers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). That drop in new diagnoses wasn't across the board, however: new HIV cases rose by 8 percent among men who have sex with men (MSM), for instance. Racial minorities -- particularly African Americans -- also remain much more likely to be diagnosed with HIV than whites.

    Want to read the complete CDC report, which for the first time includes data from New York State? Click here to download the 46-page PDF.


    Broward County, Fla., Has Highest Rate of AIDS Diagnoses in U.S.
    One of the Florida counties at the center of the "hanging chad" controversy during the 2000 election now has an even more dubious distinction: It has the United States' highest rate of people newly diagnosed with AIDS. With 58.4 new AIDS diagnoses per 100,000 people, Broward leapfrogged New York City and Washington, D.C., to take the unwelcome crown. County officials hope the numbers are due to a new HIV testing campaign that, although successful, has resulted in many people being diagnosed with full-blown AIDS at the same time they've been diagnosed with HIV. (Web highlight from the South Florida Sun-Sentinel)


    New York Times Endorses Over-the-Counter Rapid HIV Tests
    Diving into the sensitive debate over at-home HIV testing, The New York Times has come down in favor of an over-the-counter version of the rapid HIV test that has become a standard at clinics throughout the United States. Some advocates (and now the Times) say that a quick, reliable HIV test that people can take in the privacy of their homes could greatly increase the number of people who know their HIV status, and thus boost HIV prevention efforts. But critics say there's far more to HIV testing than just the test, and results should be obtained in the company of experts who can provide education, support and referrals for medical care.

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      HIV POLICY & ACTIVISM

    Microbicide Development Depends on Your Support
    Although many believe that microbicides have the potential to revolutionize HIV prevention and empower women throughout the world, there's still a distressing lack of support from the U.S. government and major pharmaceutical companies. As a result, the responsibility for microbicide development has fallen on the shoulders of nonprofit groups and private foundations -- and it's up to regular people to increase awareness and push for more government backing. How can you get involved? Project Inform explains.


    AIDS Groups Protest HIV Name Reporting in Washington State
    Citing concerns about privacy and stigma, AIDS advocates in Washington state are protesting the growing trend toward HIV name reporting in the United States, in which a person's name, rather than a non-identifying code, is sent to the government after the person tests positive or seeks out medical care for HIV. Federal agencies strongly support name-based HIV reporting -- in fact, it's becoming a requirement in order for states to receive some medical funding. But many AIDS advocates feel that name-based reporting doesn't improve accuracy and only makes people feel more stigmatized about HIV. "A lot of the reason people don't get tested now is because of fear and discrimination," said Tina Podlodowski, Executive Director of Lifelong AIDS Alliance, Washington's largest AIDS organization.

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      HIV AROUND THE WORLD

    New UN Report Finds Some Gains Against HIV, but Big Picture Is Still Grim
    Over the past year, the number of people living with HIV has risen in every region of the world except the Caribbean, according to a new United Nations (UN) report released in advance of World AIDS Day. The report notes that, despite progress against HIV in Kenya, Zimbabwe and many Caribbean countries, the overall number of people with HIV worldwide has topped 40 million for the first time. Africa remains by far the most affected continent, but the pandemic is rising most quickly in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. Although access to HIV treatment saved as many as 350,000 lives in the developing world this year, the report says, AIDS nonetheless claimed the lives of three million people -- half a million of them children.

    If you'd like to read the UNAIDS/WHO report in its entirety, visit this Web page; the report is available in five languages.


    It's About Doing, Not Just Talking: World AIDS Day 2005
    Over the years, billions upon billions of dollars have been spent talking about HIV. There have been countless meetings, conferences, panel discussions, roundtables, studies, reports and statistical summaries, all devoted to talking about how to stop HIV from spreading. While the world talked in 2005, another three million people died from AIDS. It's time to do -- to get involved. How can you help? Join the fight against HIV and stigma in your community, and remember that every little step helps. Use The Body's World AIDS Day pages to get some ideas for what you can do.


    HIV in Africa Could Trigger Avian Flu Pandemic, Expert Warns
    Avian flu still doesn't have the ability to reliably jump from human to human; it primarily infects only live birds and people who come into close contact with infected birds. But experts are concerned that a lethal strain of avian flu, known as H5N1, may eventually find a way to effectively spread from person to person. At a recent U.S. conference, one expert warned that bird flu might flourish in people with a compromised immune system, like HIVers with a low CD4 count. The turning point for H5N1, the researcher said, could be when the virus reaches East Africa, where HIV rates are extremely high and there's little access to HIV treatment. East Africa is the final destination for many birds currently migrating from avian flu-impacted areas.


    Drug Resistance Found in 14% of Brits Who Have Never Taken HIV Meds
    A large study of HIVers in the United Kingdom (UK) has found that 14 percent of those who have never been on HIV treatment are already resistant to at least one HIV medication. That's a higher percentage than for any other country in Europe, and it means that 9 percent of first-line HIV treatment regimens in the UK won't work as well as they should, researchers say. According to the study, resistance did not discriminate: white or black, male or female, native Brit or African immigrant, all groups of people had about the same rate of pre-existing resistance.

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    Also Worth Noting

    Visual AIDS
    Art From HIV-Positive Artists

    Image from the November 2005 Visual AIDS Web Gallery
    "Tommy's," 2004; Thomas Belloff
    Visit the November 2005 Visual AIDS Web Gallery to view this month's collection of art by HIV-positive artists! This month's gallery is entitled "On the Road -- A Tribute to the Campaign to End AIDS."

    Want to learn more about the Campaign to End AIDS? Click here!

    Connect With Others
    A
    t The Body's Bulletin Boards

    Need Advice on Dealing With Lipoatrophy
    (A recent post from the
    "HIV Treatment" board)

    "I noticed about a year ago that my legs were getting skinnier. I know now that it is from lipoatrophy. My face has not sunken yet, but is thinner. Fat accumulation is mostly in the armpit area. The clinic where I go doesn't seem too worried! I'm going back on Dec. 7. My doc mentioned switching to abacavir [Ziagen] from Combivir [AZT/3TC]. Would Truvada [tenofovir/FTC] be better? Does lipoatrophy cause other health problems? Can it be reversed? Any experienced help [would be] appreciated! I am scared. [I have a] loving wife and family, so I don't want to appear 'sick' to the world."
    -- Anonymous

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

    Could I Have Infected My Husband?
    (A recent post from the
    "Living With HIV" board)

    "My name is Sara. I have been poz for about five years. My spouse is negative. A couple of days ago we were having sex. I was on top. When I got up, he noticed that the condom had slipped off. I'm really scared that I might have infected him. I am on meds and my viral load is almost undetectable. Now [my husband] says he's feeling dizzy and lightheaded. Was this high risk?"
    -- Anonymous

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

    Writing Contest
    Win $500 for Sharing Your
    Story; Deadline Dec. 1!

    Poster for the Positively Negative writing contest
    Are you between 14 and 22 years old and living in the United States? Do you have something to say about how HIV has affected your life? Enter the Positively Negative HIV & AIDS 2005 Story Writing Contest for U.S. youths. The winning writer will receive $500 and have his or her story adapted for an upcoming HIV prevention education film!

    To learn more about the contest or download an entry form, visit the Hear Me Project at www.hearmeproject.org. The deadline for entries is Dec. 1!

    Ryan White CARE Act
    The Reauthorization Fight
    Has Just Begun

    The Ryan White CARE Act is one of the most important laws in the United States for uninsured people living with HIV. For the first time in five years, the Ryan White CARE Act is up for reauthorization -- the entire law is currently being revisited, which could result in major changes in the way the act works and funding is doled out.

    What are some of the biggest issues impacting the reauthorization, and how might they impact you? Visit The Body's main page on the Ryan White CARE Act reauthorization for background info, news, policy statements and more!

    Want to take action now? Click here to send a letter to your U.S. senators and representatives urging them to increase funding for the Ryan White CARE Act.