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April 12, 2006

In This Update:
  • HIV Treatment Research
  • Living With HIV
  • HIV News & Views
  • Got Lipoatrophy Questions? Join Our Next Chat!
  • Complications of HIV & HIV Meds
  • HIV Transmission
  • HIV Prevention & Testing
  • HIV Outside the U.S.

    A Parallel Immune System for HIVers? Testing a Unique, Experimental Therapy
    Rumors are flying about a unique new study that's now taking place in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Sydney, Australia. It's a trial that uses a novel approach to HIV treatment: gene therapy, which in this small study involves the use of genetic engineering and stem-cell science. Researchers hope this experimental therapy may help HIVers -- especially those with multidrug resistance -- develop a "parallel immune system" that can fight the virus. The trial seeks to use stem cells to develop modified blood cells that block HIV infection. In theory, those blood cells would outlast a person's natural blood cells, effectively creating a stronger, more HIV-resistant immune system. Although this exciting strategy wouldn't actually replace antiretrovirals, the study's lead researcher says, it could work alongside HIV meds to establish "extremely effective control of HIV." Preliminary results from the study are not expected until 2007. (Web highlight from the San Francisco Chronicle)

    Kaletra-Only Treatment May Help Some With Multidrug Resistance, Small Study Suggests
    A small British study has lent new support to the idea that some HIV-positive people can benefit from a regimen that consists of a single HIV medication. An examination of data on 28 heavily treatment-experienced HIVers who switched from their current regimen to Kaletra (lopinavir/ritonavir) found that, after one year, half of the people had an undetectable viral load, and those individuals' CD4 count increased by an average of 115. Even in people whose viral load was still detectable, the Kaletra "monotherapy" regimen appeared to boost CD4 count. However, the study was a very small one, and didn't assess whether Kaletra monotherapy truly works better than any other treatment strategy. (Web highlight from



    Who Wouldn't Watch a Gay, Poz Dating Reality Show?
    "Being gay, single and HIV positive in your 40s is not for sissies," David Salyer points out -- and that's why he thinks the challenges of trying to find love for someone like him would make a terrific TV reality show. Imagine, he says: Viewers could watch as some of his dates turn into peer-counseling sessions with newly diagnosed men! Or, even better, viewers could get to know "Always-Been-Gay-But-Got-Married-To-A-Woman-Anyway Guy" and "I'm-Negative-And-Immune-To-HIV Guy."

    For Cheaper Vitamins and Supplements, Try Using a Buyers' Club
    HIV positive and looking for a more affordable way to buy your vitamins and other supplements? Consider joining or shopping at a buyers' club. AIDS Treatment News just updated its listing of recommended buyers' clubs in the United States, some of which allow you to order by mail or online.



    HIV Researcher Calls for Continued Push on Harper's Magazine for "Denialist" Article
    Harper's Magazine has not sufficiently responded to the HIV community's torrent of criticism following the publication in March of an article that supported the "AIDS denialism" argument, says Dr. John Moore, a noted HIV researcher at Weill Medical College of Cornell University. Many letters of protest were sent to Harper's, including a detailed, point-by-point rebuttal by prominent HIV experts. That rebuttal was trimmed to only 250 words, however, and it only appears as a letter to the editor. Dr. Moore says you can help by writing to Harper's and maintaining pressure on the magazine to publish a full rebuttal to the article.



    The Date: Wednesday, April 26, 2006

    The Time: 6 p.m. Eastern Standard Time/3 p.m. Pacific Standard Time

    The Chat: Lipoatrophy -- the loss of fat in certain parts of the body -- may be one of the most difficult issues for people with HIV. Join us for this chat on lipoatrophy with one of the most experienced HIV specialists in the United States! Dr. Cal Cohen, research director of the Community Research Initiative of New England, will answer questions from HIV-positive people who are dealing with, or worried about, this potentially disfiguring health problem. He'll talk about ways to avoid or alleviate symptoms, and will discuss the latest research.

    To sign up for an e-mail reminder about this chat, or to presubmit a question you'd like Dr. Cohen to answer, click here! You can also read a transcript of our last lipoatrophy chat, featuring Dr. Joel Gallant, by clicking here.

    This live chat is sponsored by Gilead Sciences.



    New Study Finds Links Between Lipodystrophy and Low Growth Hormone Production
    HIV-positive men with lipodystrophy appear to have lower levels of growth hormone in their system than HIV-positive women with lipodystrophy, as well as HIV-negative people, according to the results of a U.S. study. The 164-person study (most of the volunteers were men) also found that white men with lipodystrophy appeared to produce growth hormone at a lower rate than minority men with lipodystrophy. Another finding suggested that the success of growth hormone therapy in reversing lipodystrophy may depend somewhat on a person's ratio of waist to hip size. The findings may help shed light on just how likely certain HIVers are to benefit from growth hormone therapy as a treatment for lipodystrophy. (Web highlight from

    Hepatitis B: The Other Hepatitis Virus
    Of all the hepatitis viruses, it's hepatitis C we most often hear about in relation to HIV. But hepatitis B is another important virus to understand. Like hepatitis C, it can cause long-term damage to the liver, which can be a serious complication in people with HIV, who also often experience liver damage. Fortunately, hepatitis B, unlike hepatitis C, can be prevented with a vaccine. AIDS treatment advocate James Learned explains the ins and outs of hepatitis B in this overview.

    To learn more about hepatitis B, browse through The Body's large collection of overviews, prevention information and research news.



    Dual HIV Infection: A Look at the Evidence
    Can a person be infected with two different strains of HIV at the same time? Research shows that it's possible, but appears to be very rare. Scientists still have a lot to learn about why or how dual HIV infection, also called superinfection or reinfection, occurs -- and what it might mean if an HIV-positive person has two strains of the virus. In this detailed review, Nicholas Cheonis of San Francisco AIDS Foundation takes a closer look at the superinfection enigma.

    What's the Truth Behind the "Bug Chaser" Hype?
    "Bug chasing" has become the stuff of urban legend. The myth goes that some HIV-negative men ("bug chasers") actively seek out HIV-positive men ("gift givers") to infect them with HIV through unprotected sex. But are men who have sex with men really getting infected this way -- and if so, how many? An HIV-positive Brit named Ricky Dyer went undercover in the United Kingdom to find out the truth; what he learned is being aired in a BBC program called "I Love Being HIV+." BBC News reports that Dyer found "the overwhelming majority of the talk is pure fantasy," since most conversations between "chasers" and "givers" don't move beyond an online chat room. Even so, there is some concern that the fantasy itself may contribute to the spread of HIV by encouraging unsafe sex and playing down the realities of living with HIV.



    HIV Prevention Programs Promoting Condom Use Don't Lead to More Sex, Massive Study Finds
    A massive, U.S. government-funded examination of 174 studies has found that HIV prevention efforts that include information about condoms don't lead people to have sex more often, to start having sex earlier in their lives, or to have sex with more people. In fact, the meta-analysis found, some groups of people (including African Americans, men who have sex with men and people who "engaged in sex trading") seemed to benefit more when condom information was provided. (Web highlight from

    Florida Emergency Room to Offer HIV Tests to All Patients
    Should HIV testing be part of regular medical care in the United States? A growing number of people are making the case that it should be -- and in some parts of the country, it's already a reality. This month, Jackson Memorial Hospital in southern Florida will start offering a free, rapid HIV test to anyone who's admitted to the hospital's emergency room. Full-time HIV counselors will be on hand for people who agree to be tested.

    Magic Johnson Hits the Road to Promote Minority Health, Offer Free Screenings
    The Magic Johnson Foundation and Abbott Laboratories will launch a 10-city, multi-year U.S. tour to address HIV and other health disparities affecting minority communities. "Minority communities are faced with challenging health obstacles as a result of social and cultural factors, but we can change that," Johnson stated in a press release. The Magic/Abbott partnership will tour cities with high HIV rates, where the retired basketball legend will share his story about living with HIV. Free screenings for HIV, blood pressure and glucose will be offered everywhere the tour stops.

    Health Depts. in HIV-Hit Cities Increasingly Using Internet for HIV Prevention
    Although HIV prevention workers have taken their efforts to the Internet for years now, U.S. state and local health departments have mostly been slow to adapt prevention program to the new medium. In Los Angeles and San Francisco, however, local health officials are now using Web sites to spread HIV prevention messages, arrange testing for HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), encourage people to use online postcards to notify their partners that they may have been exposed to an STD, and involve counselors in online sex-chat rooms. Some Web sites even allow people to search for partners who share the same HIV status.



    Islamic Leaders Preach Compassion for All People With HIV
    Some Islamic leaders in the Middle East are breaking tradition when it comes to talking about HIV: They've begun promoting understanding and compassion for people with HIV, using their influence to spread HIV awareness and fight an overpowering social stigma against people living with the virus. "If someone has AIDS it is an obligation of us all not to ostracize them," said Ahmed Turky, whose recent sermon at an Egyptian mosque was far from the standard fare in a country where sex outside marriage is taboo and a person can be arrested simply for being gay. Turky began preaching about HIV after attending a United Nations seminar aimed at training local religious leaders about the virus. (Web highlight from Reuters via Daily Star Egypt)

    U.S. Focus on Abstinence Is Hurting HIV Prevention Overseas, U.S. Government Report Says
    Strict U.S. AIDS funding rules say that a large amount of the money used for HIV prevention in the developing world must be given to programs promoting only abstinence and faithfulness. But these rules are hurting efforts to prevent HIV in developing countries, according to a new report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office. The report warns that many HIV prevention programs overseas are now facing challenges because of the funding rules, including efforts to stop mother-to-child HIV transmission.
    AIDS advocate Paul Zeitz, Executive Director of the Global AIDS Alliance, supported the report's findings, saying: "The U.S. approach is far from the 'balanced, effective' policy we were promised by President Bush."

    Newspapers and columnists throughout the United States reacted strongly to the report. "[S]carce resources ought to be focused more clearly on saving lives, not reshaping morality to fit a red-states political agenda," said the Seattle Post-Intelligencer; the Salt Like Tribune said it was "shameful" that HIV continues to spread around the world, while the U.S. government "worries that distributing condoms without preaching abstinence is somehow un-Christian."

    Also Worth Noting

    Visual AIDS
    Art From HIV-Positive Artists

    Image from the April 2006 Visual AIDS Web Gallery
    "Paper Women of the World,"
    1971-96; Alan Walker
    Visit the April 2006 Visual AIDS Web Gallery to view this month's collection of art by HIV-positive artists! The April gallery is entitled "Diving Into the Archive"; it's curated by painter David Spiher, a gallery reviewer for Gay City News.

    Connect With Others
    t The Body's Bulletin Boards

    Still Scared; When
    Does This Get Better?

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

    "I got a positive confirmation status and now I have an appointment for the doctor to do all the necessary blood work. ... The HIV diagnosis was completely shocking. I am the type of person who almost never gets sick and likes to take care of himself physically, exercise and such. The thought of having this disease is dreadful. I am so used to relying on my body to make me feel good and so used to feeling good that it's like my whole self-identity has been destroyed. ...

    "What will the quality of my life be with or without meds? Will I develop symptoms of this disease or weird reactions to the meds after long-term use? I am 28 years old and I assumed I would live a normal life into my 70s or 80s, and I even wanted to have kids and do a lot more traveling. Now, I don't know how realistic any of my future dreams are. ... When do you get to a point of just being able to accept the situation and get down to the business of living a high-quality life?"

    -- SA_Intellect

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

    Anything Is Possible -- Even the Impossible!
    (A recent post from the
    "Gay Men With HIV" board)

    "I am a 45-year-old gay male living in Canada. I was first tested in 1984 or early '85. ... I have a CD4 count of 940, undetectable since December of 1996, when ... I was diagnosed with full-blown AIDS, had PCP [pneumonia] and was in palliative care. I was not expected to live. ... [I want] to tell so many people who are afraid, or [who] just tested poz, that life is such a wonderful thing even after all the loss. ...

    "It's not been easy, but I believe I am here for a reason: to let anyone who wants to listen to be proud and have faith in themselves and the caregivers. There is life after testing poz! In fact, I am happier now than when I first tested positive. ... Give it your best, believe in something. A person needs a goal -- mine at one time was simply to walk again, and then breathe on my own. And in 1999, I was taken off the oxygen and have not looked back. Anything is possible, even the impossible."

    -- Anonymous

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

    Special Report
    On HIV-Related Gut Problems

    Cover Image of 'The HIVer's Guide to Coping With Diarrhea & Other Gut Side Effects'
    Are you living with HIV and coping with problems like diarrhea, nausea, heartburn or stomach pain? These "gut" problems are the most common side effects experienced by people with HIV. Although people often like to make fun of gut problems, they're no fun at all to live with -- and they can make it hard for an HIVer to take their meds as prescribed.

    That's why The Body created "The HIVer's Guide to Coping With Diarrhea & Other Gut Side Effects." This free booklet is chock full of useful information, advice and personal stories that will tell you everything you need to know about these difficult health problems. Check it out online, or ask your HIV doctor or AIDS organization for a free print copy!

    (Clinics/AIDS organizations: You can order free print copies of this booklet by clicking here!)


    In the right column of last week's e-mail update, we provided information on an exciting new study that seeks to compare four different HIV treatment regimens in people who are taking HIV treatment for the first time. The study information we provided incorrectly named Emtriva (FTC, emtricitabine), rather than Epzicom (abacavir/3TC), as one of the meds being tested. The four regimens being examined in the study are:

    1) atazanavir (Reyataz) + ritonavir (Norvir) + Epzicom (abacavir/3TC)

    2) atazanavir + ritonavir + Truvada (tenofovir/FTC)

    3) efavirenz (Sustiva, Stocrin) + Epzicom

    4) efavirenz + Truvada

    For more information about the study and information on how to enroll, please click here.