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January 18, 2006

In This Update:
  • Living With HIV
  • HIV Treatment
  • HIV Outside the U.S.

    "My American Dream": Mexican American and Living With HIV
    "I am an HIV-positive, Mexican, gay male receiving treatment and services in the U.S.: I guess I am living my American dream," writes Bernie Vázquez. As he explains in this personal essay, HIV-positive immigrants from Mexico and South America often face a range of challenges and obstacles to HIV care in the United States. But when they manage to get access to that care, Vázquez says, it's well worth the difficulties.

    Dealing With Stomach Problems When You're HIV Positive
    Are you living with HIV and coping with health problems like diarrhea, nausea, heartburn or stomach pain? Many people with HIV have these symptoms, whether they're taking HIV meds or not. Thankfully, there's plenty of support out there to help you deal with such problems. This online overview of "gastrointestinal problems," as doctors call them, has been put together by Test Positive Aware Network, a prominent AIDS organization in Chicago. The overview takes a look at many of the gut-related problems HIVers may experience, whether they're caused by HIV itself or by the meds that people with HIV are often prescribed.

    Ayurvedic Medicine May Help Boost Energy Levels in People With HIV
    Many people with HIV know that there's more to staying healthy than just taking meds. More than 70 percent of people with HIV in the United States are believed to have used some type of complementary therapy, which uses strategies other than (or alongside) prescription drugs to improve a person's physical, mental, spiritual and emotional health. In particular, some HIVers believe that a traditional Indian therapy known as Ayurvedic medicine can raise their energy levels, strengthen their immune system and enhance their ability to fight off infections and cope with medication side effects. As with all complementary therapies, though, people exploring Ayurvedic medicine should use caution by reading up on treatment and consulting with their healthcare provider.



    Heavy Blow to HIV Treatment Interruptions as Major Study Is Cancelled
    It's a sad moment for the many HIVers, healthcare providers and researchers who had hoped that a lifetime of taking daily HIV medications could be safely paused for months, or even years: A massive, international trial on HIV treatment interruptions, known as the SMART study, has been abruptly cancelled just two years into what was expected to be a nine-year research effort. Study researchers recently discovered that people who took an occasional treatment holiday were developing AIDS at a dramatically higher rate than people who remained on constant treatment. This month, the trial organizers decided to end the study entirely, and to advise all participants who were currently on an HIV treatment interruption to immediately restart their meds. (Web highlight from

    CCR5 Inhibitors May Make People More Susceptible to West Nile Virus
    In the latest blow to an experimental class of HIV meds known as CCR5 inhibitors, researchers have discovered a genetic quirk that might make people who take them more susceptible to the mosquito-borne disease known as West Nile virus. CCR5 receptors are used by HIV to invade a person's immune cells, and it turns out that a small percentage of people have a genetic mutation that makes it extremely hard for HIV to use those CCR5 receptors. Unfortunately, scientists now say that the very same mutation also appears to make people more likely to contract West Nile virus -- and may make West Nile infection more deadly as well. Researchers worry that people who take experimental CCR5 inhibitors -- which work by blocking HIV's ability to use CCR5 receptors -- may likewise be at a greater risk for West Nile. This would make it all the more important for people involved in CCR5 inhibitor trials do all they can to avoid exposure to mosquitoes.

    HIV Treatment May Not Boost CD4 Count as Well in People With HIV and Hepatitis C
    Researchers have known for a while that HIV and hepatitis C are not a happy mix: People who are infected with both viruses appear to have faster HIV disease progression than people with HIV alone do. Now, a large study has found that hepatitis C coinfection may also make it harder for HIV treatment to strengthen the immune system. Canadian researchers have found that the CD4 count of a person with HIV and hepatitis C appears to rise much more slowly after starting HIV treatment than a person with HIV alone. (Web highlight from

    A New Look at 3TC + Abacavir + Tenofovir: Why Did This Promising Regimen Fail?
    In 2003, researchers abruptly stopped a study of a promising three-drug combination -- 3TC (lamivudine, Epivir) + abacavir (Ziagen) + tenofovir (Viread) -- after it failed to suppress HIV in a surprisingly large number of people. We may never know exactly what caused this regimen's unexpected failure, but researchers think they may have discovered the answer: It takes only two HIV mutations to make people resistant to all three drugs.



    Clinton Foundation Reaches Deal to Cut Costs on HIV Tests, Medications
    Former U.S. President Bill Clinton announced that his foundation has reached an agreement that will slice the costs of generic versions of abacavir (Ziagen) and efavirenz (Sustiva, Stocrin) in developing countries by 30 percent or more. Clinton also said a deal had been reached to reduce the cost of rapid HIV tests in developing countries to between 49 and 65 U.S. cents each.

    Latin American and Caribbean Nations Team Up to Bargain for Lower Drug Prices
    Nineteen Caribbean and Latin American nations plan to join together to negotiate a reduced price for HIV medications and, if necessary, to jointly produce the drugs themselves, Brazil's official news agency said. At a recent Latin American AIDS conference, the head of Brazil's AIDS program urged poor countries to break patents and produce their own versions of approved HIV medications -- a move that is permitted under World Trade Organization rules, provided there is a public health emergency and the country can't reach a pricing agreement with the drug company that holds the patent. The Brazilian official also noted that the annual cost of treating someone with HIV nearly doubled from 2003 to 2004, and now stands at US$2,500.

    HIV Rates Soaring Among Young Canadian Women
    More and more women are being newly diagnosed with HIV in Canada, health officials warn. Of Canada's 2,529 new HIV infections in 2004, 27 percent of the cases were among women, marking a huge jump from the 11 percent of HIV cases in 1996. The rising infection rate is even starker among people under age 29: Of these newly diagnosed people, 42 percent were female, compared to 13 percent a decade ago. In a clear sign that HIV education is sorely needed in Canada, an alarmingly high number of newly diagnosed women (17 percent) said they had no idea how they became infected with the virus.

    Proposed Mandatory Condom Law in Colombia Causes Uproar Among Priests
    Given the abstinence-crazy environment promoted by the Bush administration, it can be hard to believe that there's any place on Earth where a government actively encourages people to use condoms. But in the South American country of Colombia, Tulua town councilman William Pena has proposed going even further: He's pushing for every man and woman in town over the age of 14 to be required to carry a condom in his or her pocket, or risk a hefty fine. As you might imagine, Roman Catholic priests in the area are fuming. (Web highlight from the Associated Press)

    Also Worth Noting

    Visual AIDS
    Art From HIV-Positive Artists

    Image from the January 2006 Visual AIDS Web Gallery
    "The Optimist," January 1, 1995;
    Joel Wateres
    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

    A New HIV Diagnosis and a Suddenly Sexless Relationship
    (A recent post from the
    "Gay Men With HIV" board)

    "In November, I cheated on my boyfriend and was subsequently diagnosed as positive. ... [But] he's still here and we're still in love with each other. ...

    "I've only been positive a little over two months now and I'm so confused. ... I know my long-term chances are good, but I don't feel like I'm doing enough. I don't eat well enough, I don't exercise enough, I stress out too much, etc. At 23, I've started to actually consider the long-term consequences of my actions, and it's a bit unsettling to me. So, I guess what I'm asking for is guidance. ...

    "Also, ever since my diagnosis my boyfriend (who is negative) and I have had no sexual contact. We've been together over a year and are as committed to each other as two 23-year-old homos can be, but I don't know how to talk to him about this. ... If I bring it up I feel selfish. Should I wait? It's only been a couple of months, but I feel like something needs to be said. I just don't know how to do it."

    -- chuntzu

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

    Had My First Doctor's Visit; I Think I'll Be OK
    (A recent post from the
    "I Just Tested Positive" board)

    "I just got back from my first visit with the HIV specialist. Basically it was: let's draw blood, check you over, send you on your way, and see you again in six weeks. Nothing major. Unless the numbers come back bad they will just be monitoring for a while. Their philosophy is to let your body handle this [without meds] as long as it can. ... I'm still very scared, but the doctor was clear in saying that in most cases this is a chronic, manageable disease, with advances in treatment coming all the time. [He] basically said to get on with living life and not let this overshadow things, but to be careful and, of course, to practice safe sex all the time."
    -- Blixer

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