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November 30, 2005

In This Update:
  • World AIDS Day: Dec. 1, 2005
  • Living With HIV
  • HIV Treatment & Care
  • Live Chat on Switching Meds, Dec. 5
  • HIV Statistics & Transmission
  • HIV Outside the U.S.
  •   WORLD AIDS DAY: DEC. 1, 2005

    To learn more about how you can make a difference this World AIDS Day -- and every day -- visit The Body's special collection of resources on World AIDS Day 2005.

    "The Fight Against AIDS Demands More Than a Goat at Christmas"
    The latest World AIDS Day report from UNAIDS repeats a story we've heard far too many times in recent years: HIV is devastating southern Africa, with HIV rates in some countries approaching 30 or 40 percent. It's easy to talk about the need for better access to HIV treatment and better HIV prevention programs, but the real story is not that simple. As The Guardian's Madeleine Bunting explains, the reasons behind Africa's continuing -- and, in many places, worsening -- epidemic are complex and deeply rooted. It will take a deep, long-term commitment, as well as an awful lot of money, to find a way out. In this opinion piece, Bunting urges everybody to donate even a little to the global battle against HIV: "Think of it as the first global tax: each of us pays for one person's drugs. For the rest of our lifetime, Africans will be struggling with this catastrophe. We can't leave them to it." (Web highlight from The Guardian)

    To read the full UNAIDS report, which provides a complete update on the current state of the global HIV pandemic, click here (PDF only).


    WHO Says It's Sorry for Missing "3 by 5" Target
    "All we can do is apologize," said Jim Yong-Kim, head of the World Health Organization's (WHO) HIV/AIDS program, this week. Since launching its ambitious "3 by 5" campaign in 2003, which aimed to put three million people in the developing world on HIV treatment by the end of 2005, the WHO has watched its effort fall well short of the mark. Although official numbers won't be available until next year, even the most optimistic estimates say that 90 percent of Africans and 86 percent of Asians who need HIV meds are still not receiving them. Still, Kim insists that "3 by 5" has been anything but a failure: In addition to providing treatment to more than a million people, the program has also greatly increased awareness of the issue, he said. (Web highlight from BBC News)

    Meanwhile, an international coalition of HIV treatment advocates released a report placing most of the blame for the WHO's missed treatment target on the rest of the world. Many countries experienced some type of failure in leadership, bureaucracy, logistics or planning that prevented a more complete distribution of HIV medications, the report said.


    A Few Among Millions: Meet the Men, Women and Children of Africa's HIV Pandemic
    This beautifully produced online feature contains photographs, sound clips and personal stories of a few of the millions of HIV-positive people who are living in South Africa. Documented by photojournalist Gideon Mendel, these powerful stories will bring you about as close to understanding what it means to have HIV in Africa as is possible without actually experiencing it yourself. (Web highlight from The Guardian)


    Singing in the Shadow of AIDS
    In 2004, journalist Jonah Eller-Isaacs spent six months traveling through sub-Saharan Africa. As he spent time living with local families, he found that people were using a weapon to fight HIV that experts never mention: music. In this multimedia documentary, Eller-Isaacs reports from Malawi, Tanzania and other countries on the ways in which Africans use music to teach, to heal, and to try to change the deep-seeded cultural issues that allow the HIV pandemic to fester. (Web highlight from Minnesota Public Radio)

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      LIVING WITH HIV

    CD4 Count Over 500? You're as Likely to Live as Anybody Else, Researchers Say
    HIV-positive people with a CD4 count over 500 appear to have about the same risk of dying as HIV-negative people, according to a review of HIV-positive participants in a large, ongoing French study. The study found only a 10 percent greater risk of death for the over-500 crowd as compared to the general public -- a finding that was not considered statistically significant. As you might expect, a person's risk of death increased as his or her CD4 count decreased, although it's important to note that the findings are generalizations, and each person's prognosis depends on his or her specific situation. (Web highlight from aidsmap.com)


    Ten Things You Can Do to Eat Better and Save Money
    When many of us think of the holiday season, we think of one thing: food, glorious food. But if you have HIV -- and particularly if you have a low CD4 count -- there's a lot more to think about, such as eating and drinking safely, finding affordable meals and staying healthy while treating yourself to good eats. How can you make sure that you're eating well, without having to break the bank? HIV nutritionist Edwin Krales provides these ten tips.


    HIV-Positive, in Prison, and On His Own
    "I feel alone," says New York prison inmate Michael Brown. Since his imprisonment in January 2003, Michael, who has HIV and hepatitis C, has discovered just how difficult it can be to get good care for his illnesses. Each day, he has to cope with spotty medical services, mistake-prone workers and a huge lack of support, both from his prison and his fellow inmates. "The medical staff here treats me okay," Brown writes, "but where I really get help is at ... AA [Alcoholics Anonymous] and NA [Narcotics Anonymous]. I can let loose of whatever I'm going through with no problem." Unfortunately, his prison offers no HIV support group; "I've tried asking for one," Brown says, but he's been told that the group was stopped because nobody showed up for the meetings.


    Art News for HIV-Positive Artists: The Visual AIDS Newsletter
    Are you an HIV-positive artist looking for the latest information on events and exhibition opportunities in the United States? Check out the latest issue of the Art+ Newsletter, a seasonal publication from Visual AIDS. It includes recent news on available gallery space, residency openings, grant opportunities and much more.

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      HIV TREATMENT & CARE

    When It Comes to Good HIV Care, Nurses Score as High as Doctors
    If you're an HIV-positive person living in the United States and you want the best in HIV care, you go to a physician specializing in HIV care, right? Not always, a new study says. According to a nationwide survey of 68 HIV clinics, physician assistants (P.A.s) and nurse practitioners (N.P.s) specializing in HIV care often provide care that is comparable in quality to that of doctors who are HIV specialists -- and is usually better than that of regular doctors who don't specialize in HIV.


    Clinical Trial Researchers May Be Too Picky About Women, Study Suggests
    Do the people who participate in HIV clinical trials have the same characteristics as the real-world people they're supposed to represent? A new finding by researchers suggests that the answer is no: Many HIV clinical trials exclude HIV-positive women for seemingly arbitrary or unnecessary reasons, the researchers say. In this unique study about HIV studies, the researchers found that women are often found to be "ineligible" for clinical trial studies, even though the criteria being used may be too strict in the first place. As a result, few HIV-positive women take part in clinical trials, and those who do are less reflective of HIV-positive women as a whole, the researchers assert. (Web highlight from aidsmap.com)


    How Your Body Processes the Meds You Take
    HIV meds don't work exactly the same way for everybody. The question is, why? Welcome to the magical land of pharmacokinetics, a branch of medicine that studies how your body handles the medications you take. In this article from Positively Aware, Tim Horn explains how your body turns those pills you pop into life-saving chemicals -- and how this process can sometimes go wrong, causing side effects or making a drug less effective. Through a better understanding of pharmacokinetics, researchers hope they can keep developing new treatments that are safer, better and easier for people with HIV to take.


    New Research on HIV Meds Presented at European Conference
    Is FTC (emtricitabine, Emtriva) basically the same as 3TC (lamivudine, Epivir), or are there important differences between the two drugs? Is it a bad idea to take HIV treatment regimens that contain no NRTIs? What's the latest research on the success rates for people who switch meds because of side effects such as lipoatrophy or high cholesterol? These were just a few of the intriguing topics discussed by researchers at the 10th European AIDS Conference, which concluded in Dublin, Ireland, on Nov. 20. This article, which is geared toward medical professionals, summarizes some of the conference's most important studies. (Web highlight from the Foundation for Better Health Care)


    The Dizzying World of HIV Drug Interactions
    Although HIV meds usually work the way they're intended to, their use with certain other drugs can occasionally alter the way in which they work. These "drug interactions" may involve other HIV medications, prescription meds, over-the-counter pills, supplements, herbal remedies or even part of your regular diet. How can you help ensure that you and your doctor are aware of any possible interactions before they occur? This overview from Test Positive Aware Network can help.

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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 a complicated dosing schedule, 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 Standard Time/6 p.m. Pacific Standard Time

    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 STATISTICS & TRANSMISSION

    Montana: More Women Becoming Infected With HIV
    As you know, HIV doesn't discriminate; it infects people of every race, gender and sexual preference. The latest example of this comes from the rural state of Montana, where health officials have spotted a jump in new HIV cases among heterosexual women over the past few years. These women are usually infected by their boyfriends or husbands, the officials say, illustrating how important it is for women to make sure they have safe sex with their partners. "You have the right to say to somebody ... 'This is my body, and I am asking and demanding that we use protection,'" said Montana HIV specialist Kathy Hall.


    Florida Officials Say AIDS "Increases" Due to More Testing
    Newly released statistics from the U.S. government show that two metropolitan areas in Florida -- Broward County (which includes Fort Lauderdale) and Miami-Dade County reported huge increases in new AIDS cases in 2004, and now have the highest rates of AIDS diagnoses in the country, surpassing even New York City and Washington, D.C. But Florida officials insist that the numbers aren't what they seem, and that ramped-up efforts to get people tested for HIV is the reason behind them. "'The more people you test, the more your numbers will go up," one official explained. (Web highlight from The Miami Herald)


    Circumcision Rates Down in the United States
    Although evidence increasingly shows that circumcision reduces a man's risk of contracting HIV, the United States is in the middle of an anti-circumcision trend. About 56 percent of newborn males in 2003 were circumcised, down from nearly 64 percent a decade earlier. Experts say that the decline is due to the assumption by both parents and doctors that the procedure isn't medically necessary and the feeling that other safe-sex methods (such as condoms) do a good enough job protecting men. In addition, Medicaid has reduced coverage for the procedure in some states. The American Academy of Pediatrics currently does not recommend circumcision, and says it has no plans to change that policy, given the United States' relatively low HIV infection rate.


    Small Tears in Placenta May Increase Risk of Mother-to-Child HIV Transmission
    In a finding that has more bearing for the developing world than for wealthier nations, researchers have found that small rips in the placenta of an HIV-positive pregnant woman may make it easier for HIV to pass from the woman's blood into her baby during delivery. The study was conducted with 149 pregnant, HIV-positive women in Malawi. The results may help explain why a cesarean section carries a much lower risk of HIV transmission to the baby than a vaginal birth.

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      HIV/AIDS OUTSIDE THE UNITED STATES

    Casual Sex by Young People Drives STD Rates to Record Highs in UK
    Sexually transmitted disease (STD) rates are skyrocketing in the United Kingdom (UK), and officials are blaming a more relaxed attitude toward casual sex. In 2004 alone, nearly 700,000 STD diagnoses were made on the island nation, up 62 percent from a decade ago. More than 7,000 people were newly diagnosed with HIV last year -- most of whom acquired it in Africa -- while chlamydia diagnoses hit an all-time high. "People don't take [casual sex] that seriously so neither do they take protecting themselves seriously," said one expert. "There is a perception that these infections are trivial."

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    Also Worth Noting
    Do. Know. See.
    The Body Commemorates
    World AIDS Day 2005
    World AIDS Day 2005
    Millions upon millions of dollars have been spent talking about HIV. There have been countless meetings, conferences, studies and reports 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 now time to do -- to get involved. Check out The Body's World AIDS Day pages for some ideas on what you can do to help.
    Fighting for Treatment Access
    for HIV-Positive Children
    Millions of Babies Won't Live to See Their Second Birthday.
    Why are so many children still dying from AIDS in the developing world, even as HIV treatment access improves? Because the overwhelming majority of the meds available are for adults, not children.

    Médecins Sans Frontières has launched a campaign to push for greater access to these urgently needed medicines. Watch a 15-second ad for the campaign here (QuickTime), or visit the campaign at www.accessmed-msf.org to learn more.

    Connect With Others
    A
    t The Body's Bulletin Boards

    Slowly Coping With My HIV Diagnosis
    (A recent post from the
    "Gay Men With HIV" board)

    "I tested positive three years ago this month (November) and I just hate the fact that I allowed myself to become HIV positive. Sometimes I just want to hide from the world. Although I am starting to understand that I have nothing to be ashamed of, the past several years have not been easy. At least I'm not drinking to excess like I did the first year. I never wanted to be just another HIV-positive queer, but I guess it's better than being an HIV-positive drunk queer. I'm not sure that I have a point here, I've just been thinking a lot about my HIV status lately and wanted to vent a little. Often I feel no one understands what I'm going through. I guess I should find a group so I can explore some of these feelings."
    -- 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.