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May 17, 2006

In This Update:
  • Living With HIV
  • Pregnancy & HIV
  • HIV Treatment & Complications
  • News & Views
  • HIV Transmission
  • Safe Sex & STDs
  • HIV Outside the U.S.
  •   LIVING WITH HIV

    U.S. Reporter Goes From Writing About HIV to Living With It
    John-Manuel Andriote has been reporting on the HIV epidemic for two decades, both around the world and close to home. After his last annual check-up, John found out that he was HIV positive. "I never expected to mark the 25th year of the HIV-AIDS pandemic by describing how my perspective has shifted, from observer to participant," he writes. "I ... resisted believing that the stories I reported would ever become my story. I told myself I was smart, cautious, perhaps even 'spared' so I could bear witness." Now John realizes that, "despite all I knew, I never truly knew what I was writing about." (Web highlight from The Washington Post)


    Resisting Resistance: A Long-Term Survivor's Search for a Regimen That Works
    "What I didn't realize when I began HIV treatment was that I was creating a recipe for disaster," writes Matt Sharp, who's been living with HIV for 18 years. He had no choice but to take the HIV meds that were available at the time -- but after going through a multitude of different regimens, he's now developed multidrug resistance. Thanks to new drugs and his own moxie, though, Sharp will soon see his 50th birthday. "I am alive today not because of the mistakes I made in treatment choices, but because I was resilient, I fought back and was informed enough to buy time," he writes.

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      PREGNANCY & HIV

    Having a Baby: New Sperm-Washing Method May Eliminate All HIV Risk
    An improved method of sperm-washing appears to remove even a theoretical risk of HIV infection for an HIV-negative woman hoping to have a baby with an HIV-positive man, according to a study by Japanese researchers. The researchers revised a widely used method of sperm washing and designed an ultrasensitive HIV test to confirm that the sperm of all 48 HIV-positive men in the study was completely free of HIV -- including a "proviral" form of HIV's genetic code that has been theorized to carry a possible risk of HIV transmission to the woman. Forty-three mixed-status couples then underwent intracytoplasmic sperm injection or in vitro fertilization using the washed sperm; no women became HIV positive during the procedure, and 20 women conceived, resulting in the births of 27 babies -- none of whom tested positive for HIV. (Web highlight from aidsmap.com)

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      LIVE WITH IT: NEW EPISODE FROM THE ACCLAIMED ANIMATED SERIES

    TrevorTrevor has a good life: He's an African-American man with a loving wife, a flourishing career and a child on the way. But he has also just been told that he's HIV positive. How can he tell his wife? How can he cope? Will this revelation destroy the wonderful life he's built? Find out by watching the newly released second episode of Live With It, the Web's first animated series about living with HIV.

    Live With It follows the stories of a diverse group of HIVers, all with very different backgrounds, who have found their way to the same support group. Visit the Live With It site to read more about the fictional support group members, visit their blogs and MySpace pages, sign up for updates, join an online discussion and much more!

    Live With It is created and maintained by Incendia Health Studios, and is sponsored in part by Gilead Sciences, Inc.

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      HIV TREATMENT & COMPLICATIONS

    Women on HIV Treatment Who Smoke Have Lower CD4 Counts, Higher Viral Load
    Smoking cigarettes can blunt the benefits of HIV medications in HIV-positive women, a new U.S. study has found. The long-term study of 924 HIV-positive women on HIV treatment found that women who smoked tended to have lower CD4 counts, higher viral loads, a 36 percent greater risk of developing an AIDS-related illness and a 53 percent greater risk of dying during the study. Although the world has known for a long time about the health risks of smoking, this study shows just how large an impact cigarettes can have on HIV-positive women in particular.



    A Genetic Test for Abacavir Allergy: Heralding a New Era of HIV Treatment?

    In the United Kingdom, HIV doctors are increasingly using a new genetic test that may help HIV-positive people find out whether they're at risk for a potentially life-threatening allergic reaction to
    abacavir (Ziagen), one of the meds in the combination drugs Epzicom (abacavir/3TC, Kivexa) and Trizivir (AZT/3TC/abacavir). Robert Fieldhouse, HIV treatment editor for the British publication Positive Nation, writes that this genetic test could be just the tip of the iceberg: The ultimate goal, he says, would be a new era of HIV therapy in which doctors can look at a person's genes and create a personalized, ideal treatment regimen. (Web highlight from Positive Nation)

    In our May 3 newsletter, The Body highlighted a Canadian study on the feasibility of this genetic test for abacavir hypersensitivity risk. To learn more about the study, read this recap from aidsmap.com.


    Standard Dosing Charts for HIV Medications
    Looking for a quick online reference for info about HIV medication doses? This set of charts from Project Inform succinctly lists the basic information you need to know when taking standard doses of HIV meds: number of pills, frequency, food restrictions, potential drug interactions and side effects to watch out for.

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      NEWS & VIEWS

    Evangelical Group Tries to Prove It's Sincere About Turnaround on HIV
    Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., led by Rev. Rick Warren and his wife Kay, recently became perhaps the first major conservative evangelical congregation to start a local HIV ministry, sparking controversy and skepticism across the nation. Kay Warren believes it is God's work, revealed to her on a trip to Africa. To support its ministry, Saddleback has begun hosting afternoon-long HIV 101 seminars and training for all those interested in participating. Although some gay rights groups are convinced, local HIV care providers remain suspicious of the ministry program's motives. Concerned that the program has a hidden religious agenda or is an attempt to make gay men turn straight, many organizations are offering church members only menial jobs until the church proves its sincerity and commitment. (Web highlight from San Francisco Chronicle)

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      HIV TRANSMISSION

    NIAID Chief Fauci Urges More Support for HIV Vaccine Development
    Twenty-five years into the AIDS epidemic, an effective vaccine for HIV still manages to elude us. Although there have been dozens of studies involving experimental vaccines, none have yet panned out. That's the sobering backdrop for this year's HIV Vaccine Awareness Day, which takes place on Thursday, May 18. But even though the development of an HIV vaccine is taking longer than we had hoped, the HIV community must redouble its efforts to find the cure and increase the amount of funding for vaccine research, say the United States' top HIV health officials. Read this HIV Vaccine Awareness Day announcement from Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, head of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and colleagues for more.

    There's plenty more to learn about HIV vaccines, and The Body is the place to learn it: Visit our online library for overviews, clinical trial info and the latest news and research!


    HIV Among Asians and Pacific Islanders in the United States
    On Friday, May 19, the United States takes a moment to shine an important spotlight on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, who make up a growing minority in this country -- and who are being diagnosed with AIDS at a faster and faster rate. This updated fact sheet from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention contains the latest data on a quietly growing, but no less alarming, section of the U.S. HIV epidemic.

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      SAFE SEX & STDs

    Rare STD Continues to Spread Among Gay Men, HIVers in U.S., Europe
    Throughout the past year, The Body has highlighted reports on the spread of a rare form of chlamydia called lymphogranuloma venereum (LGV), a sexually transmitted disease (STD) that seems to mostly affect gay men, particularly those with HIV. Although normally not found in Western countries, the number of LGV cases in the United States and Europe has been steadily climbing. Although it can be quickly treated with antibiotics, if it's not caught soon enough LGV can cause severe stomach problems, rectal bleeding and damage to a person's genital area.

    To read more about the spread of LGV in Europe, where hundreds of people have now been diagnosed with the easily treated but difficult-to-diagnose disease, click here.


    Oops, There Goes My Virginity Pledge
    Another large U.S. study has found that teen abstinence pledges just don't work very well. According to the results of a government-sponsored survey of 14,000 youths between the ages of 12 and 18, 52 percent of young people who signed a virginity pledge had sex within the following year -- and most of the people who had sex later denied they'd ever signed a pledge in the first place. By some estimates, pledges of staying abstinent until marriage are made by 2.5 million young people throughout the world, including some people who have previously been sexually active.

    This isn't the first time a large U.S. study has cast doubt on the value of abstinence pledges. In 2004, a survey of 12,000 teenagers found that 88 percent of those who made a virginity pledge eventually had sex before they got married. Even worse, teenagers who made abstinence pledges were much less likely to get tested for sexually transmitted diseases, even though many of them had broken their vow.


    Oral and Anal Sex Increasing Among U.S. Teens, Young Adults
    The debate over abstinence aside, there's another sexual trend in the United States that may contribute to a rise in sexually transmitted diseases (STDs): A major increase in the number of teenagers and young adults having oral or anal sex. A recent study in Baltimore found that between 1994 and 2004, the percentage of 12- to 25-year-old males attending an STD clinic who said they'd had oral sex in the past 90 days climbed from 16 percent to 32 percent, while the percentage of females climbed even higher, from 14 percent to 38 percent. More young women also reported having anal sex: From 3 percent in 1994 to 5.5 percent in 2004. The findings show just how important it is that doctors of teenagers and young adults talk in detail about the risks of all types of sexual activity, the researchers say.

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      HIV OUTSIDE THE UNITED STATES

    Rwandan Genocide Survivor With HIV Tells Her Story
    Of 132 people in Margaret Mukacyaka's extended family, 127 were murdered. Like many survivors of Rwanda's 1994 genocide, her grief does not end with the loss of loved ones: her son and her HIV status are legacies of her ordeal. As a 16-year-old student, Margaret was imprisoned by members of the Hutu militia and raped for weeks until she was rescued. Alone, pregnant and newly HIV positive, Margaret slowly picked up the pieces of her life. Today, she's on treatment, has finished school and has a job as a social worker, helping other female survivors like herself. She acknowledges that her strength sometimes fails her, but she says, "[W]hen I'm in the spirit of prayer, I know I can keep going." (Web highlight from Newsweek)


    Bill Clinton Writes About His Quest to Improve HIV Care
    Former U.S. President Clinton is on a mission to bring HIV treatment to the developing world. "There are many thousands of people ... working tirelessly to combat and treat this disease," Clinton writes in this personal essay. "It's thanks to these efforts that there are now 1.3 million people getting the medicines they need to stay alive. But 1.3 million isn't enough when millions more need treatment." The William J. Clinton Presidential Foundation has been working since 2002 to lower the cost of testing and medication in the world's poorest nations. In cooperation with the makers of generic HIV meds, 55 countries have joined the Foundation's treatment alliance -- member nations are able to buy a year's supply of HIV meds for one person for as little as $140. In this essay, Clinton outlines the joys and disappointments of his quest for universal treatment access, and the work still to be done. (Web highlight from Newsweek)


    How Did Brazil Become a Model for the Fight Against HIV?
    Brazil could easily have met the fate of so many other developing countries that have been decimated by HIV. But it didn't: Instead, Brazil has become a shining example of all that a country can do right to prevent the virus from killing its people. How did Brazil achieve what so many other countries have failed? As Dr. Susan Okie reports in the New England Journal of Medicine, the reasons are many: from quick action to aggressive HIV prevention efforts to free, universal access to HIV medications, Brazil has managed to save a countless number of its citizens' lives. (Web highlight from the New England Journal of Medicine)

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    Also Worth Noting

    Be an AIDS Activist
    Call to HIV-Positive Youths:
    Join Operation Get Tested!

    Operation Get Tested: Infected, Affected, Real Stories, Real People

    Are you an HIVer between 18 and 26 years old? Do you want to encourage other young people to practice safe sex and get tested?

    Who's Positive, an organization dedicated to raising HIV awareness among youths, is seeking six HIV-positive young people to join a cross-country speaking tour of high schools and college campuses from Oct. 15 to Dec. 1. If you're selected as a speaker, you'll also participate in a training summit in Pittsburgh, Pa., from Sep. 8 to 10. Participants will receive a stipend, as well as free travel, lodging and meals.

    To apply, visit the Who's Positive Web site or click here to send Who's Positive an e-mail expressing your interest -- be sure to include a brief biography and a photo.

    Connect With Others
    A
    t The Body's Bulletin Boards

    My Son's Having Trouble With My HIV Status
    (A recent post from the
    "Women With HIV" board)

    "I am 28, have been HIV+ for nine years, since my son was one. About four days ago, he came home from the neighbors unexpectedly to find me reading a book on women and their perspectives of HIV. He flat out asked me if I had HIV, and although I cringed, I always told myself that when the day came that he asked ... I would never lie. And I didn't. Being that he is only 10, his information is limited, and I have tried to inform him on an age-appropriate level, but he seems to be stonewalling. He doesn't want details, doesn't want to know. I am concerned that this is going to consume his thoughts and without asking questions, he will be living in fear that I am surely dying. Anyone else been through this who might have suggestions?"

    -- Anonymous

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

    Visual AIDS
    Art From HIV-Positive Artists

    Image from the May 2006 Visual AIDS Web Gallery
    "Self-Portrait with Bruno and Horatio," 1998; Dominic Avellino
    Visit the May 2006 Visual AIDS Web Gallery to view this month's collection of art by HIV-positive artists! The May gallery is entitled "The 'Me' You See"; it's curated by Reed Massengill, a widely published writer and photographer who specializes in male nudes.