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March 22, 2006

In This Update:
  • Living With HIV
  • HIV Policy in the U.S.
  • Making a Difference
  • HIV Treatment
  • Complications of HIV & HIV Treatment
  • HIV Transmission & Prevention
  • HIV Outside the U.S.

    Nutrition and HIV: Far More Than an Afterthought
    We often focus so much on HIV medications that it's easy to neglect another critical part of staying healthy with HIV: eating right. As this in-depth overview from San Francisco AIDS Foundation explains, what you eat -- and what supplements you take -- can make a difference. This article features a wealth of background info and advice about how certain foods, vitamins and diets can impact the health of someone with HIV.



    FDA Will Review Controversial Ban on Gay Men Donating Blood
    If you're a gay man in the United States, you may be able to donate blood in the future -- provided you haven't had sex for a year. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) plans to formally revisit its lifetime ban on blood donations from any man who has had sex with a man (MSM) since 1977. The FDA enacted the ban in the 1980s in an effort to protect the nation's blood supply from HIV. The American Red Cross, the American Association of Blood Banks and America's Blood Centers all acknowledge that the ban on MSM blood donation is unnecessary, but recommend that MSM still be barred from donating blood for one year after having sex with a man. The one-year deferral period is standard for some other at-risk groups, but at the moment, only MSM and current or former sex workers are subject to a lifetime ban because of their sexual behavior.

    So, what are the rules regarding who can and can't donate blood in the United States? A partial list is available in this FAQ from the American Association of Blood Banks; scroll down to the question "What does the term 'donor deferral' mean?" for the list. To learn more about blood donation and HIV, visit The Body's collection of articles and resources.

    Keep Those HIV-Positive Gay Athletes Out of Illinois, Group Demands
    Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security waived a regulation that generally bars HIV-positive nonresidents from entering the country. The waiver is for the Gay Games 2006, an international athletic event taking place this summer in Chicago, Ill. Of course, not everyone is thrilled about the policy decision: The conservative group Illinois Family Institute (IFI) has argued that the waiver poses a potential public health threat. IFI has called on the homeland security department to revoke the waiver, and is seeking the help of influential conservatives. Gay Games Co-Vice Chair Kevin Boyer responded that linking the Gay Games to the spread of HIV was a form of "abhorrent and irresponsible ... fear mongering." About 12,000 athletes from 100 countries are expected to participate in the event.

    To check out the Illinois Family Institute's call to action, click here.

    Palm Beach Loses $1.2 Million in Federal HIV Funds; Many Services to Be Cut
    While U.S. funding for the fight against HIV outside the United States continues to ramp up, some government funding for HIV services within the United States is diminishing. Palm Beach County in Florida is one of the areas hardest hit by HIV in the United States, but federal officials have cut the county's HIV funds by more than $1 million this year. In explaining the cut, the federal government said the county's funding request was riddled with errors and inconsistencies. Unfortunately, regardless of who's to blame, low-income people with HIV are the ones who will suffer. Palm Beach County already plans steep reductions in food services, legal assistance and caseworker staff for its HIV-positive residents. (Web highlight from the Palm Beach Post)

    Palm Beach County isn't the only metropolitan area whose HIV funds have been cut: This month also brought news that federal funding for HIV services is being sliced by nearly $2 million in Los Angeles, Calif., and by $312,000 in Boston, Mass., which had already lost more than $1 million last year. The cuts could be bad news for HIV-positive people who rely on public clinics and AIDS organizations for food, transportation, medical services and other forms of support.



    Interview With Pioneering AIDS Activist Mary Fisher
    Long-time AIDS activist Mary Fisher may be best known for her courageous speech at the 1992 Republican National Convention, in which she cast aside the threat of stigma and implored people of every age, color, gender and sexual preference to support people living with the virus. The address is regarded as one of the greatest American speeches of the 20th century -- and Fisher didn't stop there. Since then, the HIV-positive mother of two has been an active participant in the fight against HIV throughout the world. She recently sat down with the Kaiser Family Foundation for this interview, which is available as a transcript or a podcast. (Web highlight from

    Want to read or hear Mary Fisher's historic 1992 speech? Click here to read the full transcript or download a podcast.



    Treatment Interruption Arm of Major African Study Is Halted
    For the second time this year, a study examining a specific type of HIV treatment holiday has been prematurely stopped after people who tried the strategy developed a larger number of HIV-related illnesses. Last time, the halted trial was the SMART study, which tried to gauge the benefit of stopping HIV meds when a person's CD4 count topped 350, and restarting them when CD4 count dropped below 250. This time, the affected study is called DART -- which, despite its similar name, is a very different type of clinical trial. In fact, DART, which is being conducted in Africa, isn't designed specifically to study HIV treatment holidays. However, one arm of the study involved HIV-positive volunteers stopping treatment for 12 weeks, restarting it for 12 weeks, and then repeating the cycle over and over again. The study arm was cancelled when researchers found that people using this strategy developed HIV-related illnesses at a rate more than four times that of people who were on HIV meds continuously. The most common illness was candidiasis (thrush). (Web highlight from



    Graves' Disease May Be a Risk for People Starting Treatment With a Low CD4 Count
    When someone starts HIV treatment with a low CD4 count (below 200), the sudden recovery of their immune system can sometimes trigger what's known as "immune reconstitution inflammatory syndrome," or IRIS. Experts believe that IRIS happens when a person's immune system, with its newfound strength, spots an unwelcome microbe in the body that it was too weak to notice before, and launches an all-out attack. That overreaction can lead to a rush of symptoms. A new U.S. study has proposed adding an illness called Graves' disease to this list of potentially IRIS-related problems. In Graves' disease, a person's thyroid kicks into overdrive, causing symptoms like anxiety, tremors, heart palpitations, intolerance to heat and dramatic weight loss. (Web highlight from



    Stopping the Resurgence of HIV Among Gay Men in the U.S.
    "When it comes to HIV, gay men literally wrote the book on how to prevent the disease," writes gay AIDS activist Spencer Cox. So why are HIV rates rising among gay men in the United States? Is it crystal meth? Depression? The failure of prevention programs to evolve with the epidemic? Cox offers his analysis in this article, and talks about a number of ways to reverse the trend.

    Syphilis Rates Increase, Especially Among Gay Men; African Americans Also at Higher Risk
    Syphilis is growing more common in the United States, with the rate of new syphilis cases jumping 8 percent between 2003 and 2004, according to new government statistics. This marks the fourth consecutive year that U.S. syphilis rates have increased -- and the increase is most pronounced among men who have sex with men. While syphilis rates held steady or declined in women between 2000 and 2004, they nearly doubled among gay men. Government stats also showed that African Americans were 5.6 times more likely to get syphilis than whites in 2004, and that the greatest jump in new cases occurred in the southern United States.

    New Data Find Hetero Men Using Meth More Likely to Have High-Risk Sex
    Heterosexual men who use crystal meth are much more likely to have high-risk sex than nonusers, potentially putting their female partners and themselves at greater risk for HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases, according to a North California study. The study of 1,000 heterosexual men living in low-income neighborhoods found that 6 percent used crystal meth over the past six months. Men who used meth were more likely to have multiple sex partners and anal sex with women, the study found. Researchers suggested that heterosexual men might benefit from the same HIV prevention programs that are currently targeted toward meth-using men who have sex with men.

    To read the full study, click here.



    HIV-Positive Indian Activist Is Denied Her Party's Nomination
    In last week's newsletter, we highlighted the efforts of Jahnabi Goswami, an HIV-positive woman who's running for a seat on the state assembly in the Indian state of Assam. She's putting a rare public face to India's growing HIV epidemic among women, and is a staunch advocate for efforts to end HIV stigma and increase HIV testing. Unfortunately, her own political party appears to have undermined those very efforts by denying her nomination for the state assembly spot. According to Goswami, she was denied the nomination partly because the other candidates spread false rumors that HIV could be spread just by talking to an HIV-positive person.

    United Nations Should Create Agency for HIV Among African Women, Envoy Says
    The impact of HIV on women in Africa is so devastating that a new United Nations (UN) agency needs to be created specifically to help them, says UN Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa Stephen Lewis. "What has happened to women is such a gross and palpable violation of human rights that the funding must be found," Lewis said, adding that a well-funded and influential agency targeting women would reduce HIV infections. An estimated 4.6 percent of all women and girls ages 15 to 24 in sub-Saharan Africa are living with HIV, compared to 1.7 percent of young men.

    Provide Help to the Millions of AIDS-Affected Children, Begs Advocacy Group
    It's a mind-boggling concept: The British charity Save the Children says that there are now nine million children in Africa whose mothers have died of AIDS-related causes. By 2010, this number is expected to increase to 18 million. The group is appealing to the Group of Eight wealthy nations, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the World Bank and the European Commission to provide desperately needed help to these children, as well as the millions more whose parents are living with HIV.

    Also Worth Noting

    Profiles in Courage
    Inspiring Stories From HIV-Positive African Americans

    Michelle Lopez
    Energetic and effusive, Michelle Lopez has a lot to say for herself as a mother, a lesbian, a trauma survivor and a woman living with HIV. Diagnosed with the virus after the birth of her second child, the Trinidad native fought loneliness and isolation to become not only an advocate for herself and her daughter, but for other immigrants, women and African Americans living with HIV. "What's keeping me going is, I am doing something about it," she says. "I always say there are hundreds and hundreds of Michelle Lopezes that are still out there today."

    The Body is honored to present this one-on-one interview with Michelle, along with 12 other profiles in courage -- including one of Michelle's 15-year-old daughter, Raven -- 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
    t The Body's Bulletin Boards

    It's Hard Adjusting to My HIV-Positive Life
    (A recent post from the
    "Gay Men With HIV" board)

    "It's been five months now since I was diagnosed. Had enough of self-pity and cried a lot. I ... gained the support of my family and friends who knew about my concerns ... [but] there are times my mind [turns] to the dark side and [I] can't help ... thinking that I can't have that 'genuine happiness' in life. ... My concern at this time is how to get back to life after losing my airline career and [a] chance to settle overseas. Need help ... can't sleep for the last two weeks."

    -- Cyrus

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

    Join a Study!
    Under 25 and Affected by HIV? Tell MTV Your Story
    HIV Turns 25: Use Your Voice to Fight HIV

    If you're a young person whose life has been affected by HIV -- and if you're reading this newsletter, it almost certainly has -- MTV wants to hear from you. Grab a video camera and put together a three- to five-minute snapshot showing how HIV has affected your life. Send your video to MTV, and it may be used for a 30-minute special MTV will air this summer to commemorate the 25th anniversary of HIV.

    Interested? Click here for more information on how to produce and submit your entry!

    Visual AIDS
    Art From HIV-Positive Artists

    Image from the March 2006 Visual AIDS Web Gallery
    "Anatomical Garden," 1990;
    Robert Flack
    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.