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January 4, 2006

In This Update:
  • HIV News & Views
  • Living With HIV
  • HIV & Lipoatrophy (Fat Loss)
  • African-American HIVers:
        Share Your Story!
  • HIV Treatment & Care
  • HIV Transmission
  • HIV & U.S. Policy
  • HIV Outside the U.S.

    HIV Experts Sound Off on the Most Important HIV Developments of 2005
    While covering the 45th Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy (ICAAC) in Washington, D.C., from Dec. 16-19, The Body asked a range of doctors, researchers and other attendees what they felt were the most significant developments in the world of HIV in 2005 -- and what they thought 2006 may have in store. Here's what they had to say.



    Ten Things You Can Do to Improve Your Physical Fitness
    You've made the resolution before, and you'll make it again: This is definitely the year you'll start keeping yourself physically fit. But as so many of us know, it's one thing to make the promise; it's another thing entirely to actually follow through on it. The thing is, improving your physical fitness doesn't require an exhausting exercise regimen or a huge time commitment -- in fact, it can be as simple as occasionally taking the stairs instead of the elevator. To help you fulfill your New Year's resolution to stay fit in 2006, health counselor Gary Rosard provides this list of tips.

    From Birth Through Her 25th Birthday, a Young Woman Thrives With HIV
    Maria Velasquez was born with HIV, but she didn't begin to fully understand what it meant to have the virus until she turned 11. That year, HIV claimed the lives of both of her parents. She was left devastated beyond tears. Incredibly, Maria's inner strength carried her through -- even at that tender age. "I remember saying to myself, 'what's done is done, just move on with life.' And that's exactly what I did," she writes. "When I was first diagnosed ... my doctors never expected me to live to the age of 18, much less 25. Now ... I'm just a young woman living with HIV, and I plan to live a long, happy, and healthy life."



    Twice-Daily Massage Reduces Bumps Under Skin in People Receiving Sculptra
    Poly-L-lactic acid (Sculptra, New-Fill) injections have been hailed by many as an excellent short-term way to fill out the cheeks of people who have facial wasting. The treatment does have side effects, however -- including tiny, invisible bumps underneath the skin, which doctors call "papules." But a small study presented at ICAAC 2005 suggests that there's an easy way to prevent those bumps from cropping up: a brief, twice-daily massage. The Body's Dr. Timothy Wilkin reports.



    Later this month, The Body will launch a new online resource center focusing specifically on the HIV epidemic among African Americans. If you're African American and have been affected by HIV, we'd love to hear from you. We may include your story in our resource center!

    If you'd like to tell us about your thoughts and personal experiences, please send us an e-mail at You can give as much or as little information as you feel comfortable giving; we won't put anything on our Web site without contacting you for permission first. Please be sure to leave us your e-mail address or phone number so we can get in touch with you!



    Genotypic Resistance Test May Be Accurate Even If Viral Load Is Below 1,000
    What happens if someone has a low, but detectable, viral load, and their doctor is worried about resistance? Although genotypic resistance tests can help HIV-positive people and their doctors figure out which HIV meds are most (or least) likely to work for them, U.S. treatment guidelines advise against the use of these tests when a person's viral load is below 1,000, because of concerns about the test's accuracy. As The Body's Dr. Timothy Wilkin reports, a new study presented at ICAAC 2005 suggests that genotypes can work even if a person's viral load is below 1,000.

    Edward's Lesson: How I Became an HIV Specialist
    As a fresh-faced graduate from medical school in 1989, Shannon Schrader at first tried to avoid working in HIV medicine. But when he found himself with Edward, his first HIV-positive patient, everything changed. "He helped me grasp the simple notion of how important it is to be present during an examination: physically, mentally, and emotionally," he writes. "I often learn from my patients, and I feel part of my job is to empower them to live their lives to the fullest. I continue to practice what I learned was so important to Edward -- end an office visit with a hug."



    African Americans and the Search for an HIV Vaccine
    For years, AIDS advocates have warned that not enough people of color are participating in HIV vaccine research. The same can be said for clinical trials of new HIV medications. A recent study suggests part of the reason for this disparity may be that many African Americans don't know all the facts about HIV vaccines. In this article, Steve Wakefield, a science reporter for, dispels some of the most pervasive myths about vaccine research.

    HIV Risk Higher for Babies Born to HIV-Positive Women With Herpes, Study Suggests
    HIV-positive pregnant women who also have genital herpes may be more likely to pass HIV on to their babies, a new study has found. A long-term, but relatively small, examination of medical records in New York City showed that six out of 21 HIV-positive women who had been diagnosed with genital herpes during pregnancy gave birth to an HIV-positive infant, a much higher transmission rate than for HIV-positive women in general. The study findings are only preliminary, however; in addition to its small size, the study only looked at patient records from 1994 (before the era of modern HIV treatment) through 1999, and did not examine the HIV transmission risk for women who had been diagnosed with genital herpes before they became pregnant.


      HIV & U.S. POLICY

    The Federal Budget Process and HIV Funding
    After months of debate, the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate finally came to agreement on the new federal budget -- a budget that includes some dramatic (and potentially harmful) changes in how money will be spent on healthcare programs like Medicare and Medicaid. Although these budget deliberations can have a huge impact on HIV care in the United States, most of us have hardly a clue about how the budget process works. In this fact sheet, AIDS Action Council explains the federal budget process -- and how it can affect programs that help people with HIV in the United States.



    At Rare Free HIV Clinic in Nigeria, Doctors Take a Stand
    Nigeria is home to more than three million HIV-positive people -- but, shockingly, the country has only two free HIV clinics in the entire country, both operated by foreign groups. The Nigerian government charges far more for HIV care than most of its people can afford. It is for this reason that the larger of the two free clinics -- a nondescript medical office run by Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) -- is trying to serve as an example for the kind of care that Nigerian HIVers should receive. "We have to make this project a driving force for activism and a pain in the backside for government," an MSF official explained. (Web highlight from The Guardian)

    Ethiopian AIDS Orphans Find New Homes in Europe and North America
    Stefan and Miriam Collet, who live in Belgium, always wanted a bigger family. Their wish came true when they adopted Hani and Medhanit, two three-year-old girls from Ethiopia. Both girls' mothers were infected with HIV; one has died and the other is seriously ill. Hani and Medhanit are two of a growing number of Ethiopian children adopted by European and North American families every year. Ethiopia has five million orphaned and adopted children, a growing number of them left behind by parents who are ailing or deceased due to AIDS. Ethiopian orphanages place children abroad only as a last resort, but face an uphill battle trying to promote adoption in a culture where doing so is not popular. (Web highlight from BBC News)

    Also Worth Noting

    Visual AIDS
    Art From HIV-Positive Artists

    Image from the January 2006 Visual AIDS Web Gallery
    Untitled (Keith Haring), 1985-1988;
    Juan Rivera
    Visit the January 2006 Visual AIDS Web Gallery to view this month's collection of art by HIV-positive artists! This month's gallery is entitled "Compassion, Responsibility and Independence"; it's curated by a group of 16 teenage photographers who completed a summer program at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts.

    Connect With Others
    t The Body's Bulletin Boards

    17 Years and Counting; Can Anyone Relate?
    (A recent post from the
    "Gay Men With HIV" board)

    "I started counting the years yesterday and realized I have been positive for 17 years. Believe it or not, I have never had an opportunistic infection. I started meds in 1996 and although I suffer from depression and sexual dysfuntion, I am essentially healthy. Are there any other long-termers out there with simillar experiences?"
    -- Anonymous

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

    Do I Have AIDS
    Dementia Already?

    (A recent post from the
    "I Just Tested Positive" board)

    "I was diagnosed in September 2005. It has been a long four months, from constantly being sick to having to deal with my husband, who is HIV positive also. ... Lately ... I have felt like I can't concentrate like I used to. I forget everything. I tried to unlock my office door with a bottle of perfume! I know it all sounds nuts, and the good lord knows I never claimed to be sane, but this is bad! I am taking Lexapro (an antidepressant) and estrogen. I am not on any other meds and am just not sure what to think of all this. My energy level is going down and I am just exhausted all the time. ... At this point my viral load is below 50 and my CD4 count is in the 800s. ... Someone please tell me this is not HIV related. I know I have been stressed out, but everyone gets stressed out. I feel like I have brain damage."
    -- daisey6205

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