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March 8, 2006

In This Update:
  • Living With HIV
  • HIV Treatment
  • Complications of HIV & HIV Treatment
  • HIV Awareness & Activism
  • HIV Prevention & Testing
  • HIV Policy in the U.S.
  • HIV Outside the U.S.
  •   LIVING WITH HIV

    HIV Helped Me Rediscover Life: A Gay Man of Color Tells His Story
    "HIV and AIDS swept through our communities like Hurricane Katrina, leaving a trail of drowned hopes, shattered lives, and homeless dreams," recalls Victor R. Pond. In this beautifully written personal essay, Pond explains what it felt like to live through the first 15 years of the United States' HIV epidemic -- and how that terrible period shaped the self-perception and the sexuality of HIV-negative gay men of color like himself.


    Helping Women With HIV Put the Joy Back in Sex
    An HIV diagnosis can turn anyone's sex life upside-down. How do you rediscover your sex life? How can you help yourself feel sexy when HIV medication side effects leave you nauseous, or with weird-looking body fat changes? How do you disclose your status to partners, and how do you live with the fear of rejection? Thankfully, many AIDS organizations provide counseling services that can help answer all of these questions. Dana Diamond -- an HIV-positive woman -- is one such counselor in New York City. In this article, she explains how people like her help HIV-positive women find a healthy, satisfying sex life.

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      HIV TREATMENT

    CD4 Count Rise Often Continues for Years After Starting HIV Treatment, Studies Find
    A long-term study by Dutch researchers has found that HIVers' immune systems continue to strengthen years after they begin taking HIV medications. According to the study, people who were on continuous HIV treatment saw their CD4 count increase by an average of 70 per year during the first three years, 30 per year during years four and five, and 10 per year between years five and seven. Meanwhile, a study by U.S. researchers found that the higher a person's CD4 count was when they started HIV meds, the higher it was likely to be after five years of treatment. For instance, people in the U.S. study who started taking HIV meds with a CD4 count over 351 had an average CD4 count of 681 after five years. By comparison, people who started taking HIV meds with a CD4 count between 201 and 350 had an average CD4 count of 501 five years later. (Web highlight from aidsmap.com)


    Expert Advice on Starting HIV Treatment, Straight From The Body's HIV Doctors
    Got questions about starting HIV treatment? You're not alone: Every week, dozens of people ask questions in our "Ask the Experts" forum on choosing meds. We've taken some of the most frequently asked questions -- and some of the most useful advice our experts have to offer -- and compiled it on this convenient new page.

    Speaking of convenient info, if you're about to start taking HIV medications, we've got an invaluable reference for you: The Body's Guide to HIV Medications: When to Start and What to Take. Check out our recently updated online version, or ask your clinic or AIDS organization for a free copy! The guide is also available in Spanish!


    Not All HIV Docs Know Everything: Watch Out for HIV Treatment Pitfalls
    Does your HIV doctor keep you in the loop about clinical trials that may help you? Does he or she make sound decisions about when is the right time to start or switch meds? Is your doctor prescribing the safest, most effective treatment possible? Hopefully, the answer to all of these questions is yes. But there are times not all HIV doctors will serve you best. Treatment advocate Matt Sharp of Test Positive Aware Network provides some examples.


    Updated HIV Drug Guide Provides Quick Info on Every Medication
    Want to quickly get the basics on every HIV medication approved (or soon to be approved) in the United States? Test Positive Aware Network just updated its annual HIV Drug Guide, a clear, concise overview of each HIV medication. The guide lists dosing information, average prices, potential side effects and drug interactions, and provides useful tips from both an HIV doc and a treatment activist to keep in mind if you're taking (or about to start taking) that medication. It's a handy reference for anybody who wants to know more about HIV treatment!

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      COMPLICATIONS OF HIV & HIV TREATMENT

    HIV Meds Reduce Illness Risk Even When Treatment Appears to Be Failing
    Even if someone's HIV treatment regimen doesn't completely suppress the virus or boost a person's CD4 count, it can still protect them against AIDS-related illnesses, U.S. researchers say. A 302-person study by University of Michigan researchers found that people who didn't seem to be benefiting at all from HIV medications -- their viral load was above 100,000 and their CD4 count was below 50, despite being on meds -- still had a lower risk of developing illnesses such as candidiasis (thrush) and pneumocystis pneumonia (PCP) than HIVers did before the modern era of combination antiretroviral therapy. (Web highlight from aidsmap.com)


    Interactions With HIV Medications: What HIV-Positive People Should Know
    Many people who are on HIV treatment take a bunch of different pills each day -- including some that they may forget to mention to their HIV doctor. They may be meds for high cholesterol, depression, migraines, even over-the-counter drugs for heartburn -- or they might even be vitamins and other supplements HIVers take to help stay healthy. No matter what you're taking, though, it's important to tell your health care providers about everything you take, since one or more of these treatments may interact. Hey, even garlic pills can interact with your meds. These interactions can potentially cause dangerous side effects or cause your HIV meds to stop working. This overview from the Center for AIDS explains.

    Learn much more about HIV drug interactions by browsing The Body's library of articles, which includes information about interactions with recreational drugs, supplements and herbal remedies.


    HIV-Positive Cocaine, Heroin Users Don't Live as Long as Other HIVers, Study Finds
    It's no secret that hard drugs can be bad for your health, but a new U.S. study has found stark evidence that using these drugs can actually shorten the lifespans of people with HIV. HIV-positive people who frequently use cocaine or heroin are three times more likely to lose their lives than HIV-positive people who don't use either drug, according to the large, three-year study. The study found that even HIVers who use cocaine or heroin only intermittently -- once every 10 days or so -- are about twice as likely to die as people who don't use either drug. Researchers also noted that HIV-positive people became more likely to develop opportunistic infections while they were actively using these drugs. (Web highlight from Reuters Health)


    Chart: What Are the Possible Side Effects of Each HIV Medication?
    Even though HIV meds are becoming safer and easier to take, all medications can still cause side effects. They won't happen to everyone, and they're usually minor, but they can happen -- so when you start taking meds, be sure you're aware of the potential risks, so you'll be prepared for side effects should they occur. This at-a-glance chart from Test Positive Aware Network lists some of the most well-known side effects associated with each HIV medication currently on the market.

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      HIV AWARENESS & ACTIVISM

    Black Church Week of Prayer Spreads HIV Awareness
    This week marks the 17th annual Black Church Week of Prayer for the Healing of AIDS, a nationwide AIDS awareness campaign that focuses on the African-American faith community. Led as always by the nonprofit group Balm in Gilead, the Week of Prayer looks to take HIV education directly to the pulpit, by helping organize events at black churches throughout the United States. For instance, in Syracuse, N.Y., black churches kicked off the Week of Prayer by leaving their lights on overnight as a symbol of support for people living with HIV.

    To learn much more about the Week of Prayer, visit Balm in Gilead's Web site.


    U.S. to Mark National Women and Girls HIV Awareness Day
    On Friday, March 10, the United States will observe its first National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, a much-needed attempt to bring national attention to growing impact of HIV on women and girls in the United States -- not to mention the rest of the world. As most of you who read this newsletter know, the HIV epidemic has undergone a huge change in the past 20 years: In 1985, just 7 percent of all people with AIDS in the United States were women, but by 2004 that proportion had increased to 27 percent. And the vast majority of newly diagnosed U.S. women are minorities: Between 2001 and 2004, a mind-boggling 83 percent of all diagnoses among women were African American or Hispanic. This statement from the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases describes the HIV epidemic among women in more detail, and explains some of the steps that are desperately needed to help curb this disheartening trend.


    Interactive, Animated Web Site Provides Sex Ed to Gay, Bisexual Men of Color
    Two of the United States' largest AIDS organizations, Gay Men's Health Crisis and AIDS Project Los Angeles, recently launched a Web site to promote sexual awareness among gay and bisexual men of color. The site, which is aimed specifically at men between the ages of 18 and 29, features a set of interactive, animated stories, where visitors can click on people or objects in every scene. In the process, the site provides info about HIV, sexually transmitted diseases, substance use, coming out and relationships. (Web highlight from Mysexycity.com)

    Note: To skip all the disclaimers you normally need to click through when you visit the Web site, head to the site's main page.

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      HIV PREVENTION & TESTING

    Whether It Prevents HIV or Not, Some HIV-Negative Men Are Already Taking Tenofovir
    Can taking tenofovir (Viread) before having risky sex help reduce a person's odds of being infected with HIV? Maybe, maybe not; researchers have only begun to investigate. But even though there's no proof it actually works, a growing number of HIV-negative men who have sex with men are popping an HIV pill before they have unprotected sex. As National Public Radio's "Morning Edition" recently reported, a nationwide July 2005 survey of men at U.S. gay pride events found that 7 percent of HIV-negative guys admitted they've taken an HIV medication before engaging in "risky behavior."


    Over-the-Counter Rapid HIV Tests: Coming to a Pharmacy Near You?
    Rapid HIV tests are widely used throughout the United States, but people have to go to a clinic, hospital or doctor's office to have one done. What if a person could do a rapid HIV test in the privacy of their home? Would it help more people become aware of their status, or would it do more harm than good? That's the question facing the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which is considering whether to approve an over-the-counter version of a rapid HIV test. While it debates the issue, you can make your own call: Read this in-depth review of the benefits, risks and other issues affecting whether these tests should be approved for use in the United States.


    The Future of HIV Prevention: New Tools, New Hope
    We may be nearing an exciting time in the world of HIV prevention. For years, HIV prevention strategies focused almost entirely on tried-and-true ideas: abstinence, condoms, education and so on. In recent years, though, researchers have started to move forward on a whole range of other possible methods for reducing HIV risk, such as microbicides, male circumcision and "pre-exposure prophylaxis," or taking HIV meds before you're even exposed to HIV. While many of these prevention methods are still a long way off, they've generated a lot of excitement -- especially among HIV prevention workers in developing countries. Betsy Finley and Carolyn Plescia provide an overview in this article from AIDS Community Research Initiative of America.

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      HIV POLICY IN THE UNITED STATES

    Policy Changes May Slice HIV Funds for California's Cities, Advocates Worry
    Renewal of the Ryan White CARE Act has generated controversy in the HIV community -- not because of the act itself, which is arguably the most important HIV-related law in the United States, but because of some of the changes being proposed to it. AIDS advocates in major metropolitan areas are worried that one of the changes -- an adjustment in the way that AIDS cases are counted -- could cost U.S. cities millions of dollars in HIV-related funding each year. In California, for instance, advocates are worried that the proposed Ryan White changes could reduce HIV funding from $31 million per year to $19 million, which might cripple many programs.

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      HIV OUTSIDE THE UNITED STATES

    77,000 Canadian Medical Records Accidentally Sold Off in Public Auction
    A stunning display of incompetence by government workers in Canada could have caused tens of thousands of personal medical records to fall into the wrong hands. In a monumental mistake, a set of computer tapes were sold at a government auction in British Columbia, but the information stored on the tapes was never erased. It turns out that the information was extremely sensitive: The tapes contained 77,000 personal medical records, including information about HIV status, substance abuse history and mental illness. When the buyer discovered the data on the tapes, he sent them to a Vancouver newspaper to ensure their safe keeping. British Columbia officials are now scrambling to figure out how such a gross breach of data security occurred.

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    Also Worth Noting

    Profiles in Courage
    Inspiring Stories From HIV-Positive African Americans

    Keith Green
    Keith Green's road to self-acceptance was long and difficult, but he successfully walked it -- and the world is a better place as a result. A talented reporter, editor and activist, Keith brings many weapons to the battle against HIV, ignorance and complacency -- including his potent sense of humor and his "very good working relationship" with God, which Keith feels has helped him understand that he is ultimately responsible for his life, his health and his happiness. As an African-American gay man with HIV, Keith is a passionate, tireless, articulate voice for all of the communities of which is he a part.

    The Body is honored to present this one-on-one interview with Keith, along with 12 other profiles in courage, in our new African-American HIV/AIDS Resource Center. Stop in and browse through interviews, personal perspectives, podcasts, resource listings and more!

    Connect With Others
    A
    t The Body's Bulletin Boards

    How Do I Tell My Teenage Son and My Younger Brother That I Have HIV?
    (A recent post from the
    "Women With HIV" board)

    "I have been living with HIV for almost three years. The only people who know my status are my mother, her husband, my aunt, my best friend and my partner. I am the mother of a wonderful 15-year-old son and sister to a fantastic younger brother. I have not been able to bring myself to tell them. We have a very close relationship and talk openly about most things. ... How do you tell the people you love the most that you are HIV positive?"

    -- pecanqtee

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

    Diagnosed Late and Filled With Questions
    (A recent post from the
    "I Just Tested Positive" board)

    "I am recently diagnosed, and wanted to reach out to speak out to others. Basically, I was diagnosed very late, i.e., with the following labs: viral load 770,000, CD4 count 13. Has anyone else out there been diagnosed with advanced HIV infection? If so, I wondered if you would mind answering a bunch of questions [about lab tests, coping, HIV medications, side effects, vitamins and lifestyle changes]. ... I live in the United Kingdom, where we do not have anything remotely like this Web site -- it truly is a godsend to find so many compassionate people on here."

    -- Gary UK

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

    Visual AIDS
    Art From HIV-Positive Artists

    Image from the March 2006 Visual AIDS Web Gallery
    "Light II," 1997; Rebecca Guberman
    Visit the March 2006 Visual AIDS Web Gallery to view this month's collection of art by HIV-positive artists! The March 2006 Web Gallery is entitled "Anti-Bodies"; it's curated by Michael Sappol, a curator-historian at the U.S. National Library of Medicine.