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August 3, 2006

In This Update:
  • Living With HIV
  • HIV News & Views
  • Youth & HIV
  • HIV Treatment & Complications
  • Sexually Transmitted Diseases (Non-HIV)
  • HIV Outside the U.S.
  •   LIVING WITH HIV

    A Final Reminder: You Are Not Alone
    For almost 20 years, the New York City AIDS organization Body Positive fought to provide HIV-positive people with the support, services and information they needed to overcome stigma, discrimination and the challenges of everyday life. Body Positive also provided The Body with some of our most useful, compelling articles. But after battling through the darkest years of the epidemic, Body Positive closed its doors forever this summer. Like a growing number of AIDS organizations throughout the United States, it was done in by dwindling government funds. But the legacy of Body Positive will always remain: This encouraging article on coping with an HIV diagnosis, which began every issue of Body Positive magazine and changed the lives of many HIVers, is a testament to the stigma and isolation that many people with HIV still feel today -- and to the strength and determination that an HIV diagnosis can bring out in all of us.


    Depression, Fear of Disclosure Appear Common Among HIVers Over 50
    HIV-positive New Yorkers over age 50 are 13 times more likely to be severely depressed than the general New York City population, according to a large survey by the AIDS Community Research Initiative of America. The survey of 1,000 older HIVers also found that many respondents might lack the support they need because they are afraid to disclose their status: Less than half of respondents said their family knew they had HIV, and only 35 percent said they had told their friends. A whopping 82 percent of respondents also said they had no job. The findings point to the need for much stronger services for HIV-positive people over 50, the study's authors said.


    The Rising Importance of Mind-Body Medicine
    Given the HIV community's focus on HIV medications, viral load tests and CD4 counts, it's easy to forget that it can be extraordinarily helpful to also focus on the emotional, mental, social, spiritual and behavioral factors that affect our lives. Mind-body strategies such as relaxation, visual imagery, yoga and prayer have been recognized to have positive effects on mental outlook, quality of life and even the immune system. Want to find out more? Read this overview.

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      HIV NEWS & VIEWS

    HIVers Should Avoid Raw Oysters From U.S. Pacific Northwest, FDA Warns
    The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is warning everyone -- particularly HIV-positive people with low CD4 counts -- to avoid eating raw oysters harvested in the U.S. Pacific Northwest. A naturally occurring bacteria has been causing an unusually high number of gastrointestinal problems in people who eat oysters from the region; the most common symptoms are diarrhea, abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting, fever and chills. People with weakened immune systems are especially at risk. Until the threat has passed, the FDA recommends that all oysters harvested in the Pacific Northwest be thoroughly cooked before eating, and that people avoid eating raw oysters if they're not sure where they were harvested.


    Drugs Into Bodies! A History of AIDS Treatment Activism
    Although stigma, government inattention and poor funding are still major concerns for the HIV community today, it's easy for us to forget how much worse things used to be. The heroism of AIDS activists and AIDS organizations during the 1980s and early 1990s paved the way for many of the services and laws that protect HIVers today, as well as the HIV meds that now keep so many HIVers healthy. In one of its final articles, the now-defunct AIDS organization Body Positive remembers the fearless efforts of groups such as ACT UP, the People with AIDS Coalition and the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, all of which fought to put HIV on the social and political map and speed up the development of life-saving HIV meds.


    Why We're Still Waiting for an HIV Vaccine (Hint: It's All About the Benjamins)
    Back in the 1980s, some prominent HIV researchers believed it would be only a few years before scientists developed an HIV vaccine. Here in 2006, though, we still seem far away from finding a vaccine that works. What's taking so long? Marc Gunther, a senior writer for Fortune magazine, puts it in stark economic terms: "Drug companies have good reason for their reluctance to invest more in AIDS prevention," he writes. "Because there's no clear path to finding a vaccine, the costs of research are high. ... [And] there's no guarantee that whoever finally develops an AIDS vaccine will make money selling it." His article provides a sobering look at how ruthless economic calculations may have led to the loss of millions upon millions of lives. (Web highlight from Fortune)


    Nebraska Officials Say List of HIVers in Omaha Area Is a Hoax
    If you're HIV positive, live in Nebraska and have heard rumors about a list of HIV-positive people that's circulating around the state, you should know that the rumors are not true. The Nebraska Health and Human Services System has proclaimed that the list of 87 supposedly HIV-positive people, which popped up in the Omaha area, is a fake. The origin of the list is unknown, but Nebraska's health department stresses that information on people with HIV is kept confidential and safeguards are in place to protect it.

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      YOUTH & HIV

    Born With HIV, a Young Man's Story of Addiction and Survival
    As American kids who were born with HIV during the 1980s and 1990s begin to come of age, their astonishing stories are slowly being heard. Arlo Andrade is one such young man. He didn't know he was HIV positive until he was seven, when he asked his mom why he had to take so many pills. "That's when ... I realized I wasn't a normal kid where I could go out and just have fun," he recalls. Though most of the children at his school were supportive when they found out his status, Arlo also had to deal with ridicule and bullying. That stigma followed him into high school, and soon Arlo began drinking and doing drugs. Now 19, Arlo has learned to manage his addiction and his HIV. He's back on HIV meds and considering his future. He spoke with Test Positive Aware Network about disclosure, dating and the importance of safe sex for young people. "I have a life I want to live now," Arlo says. "In the past, I didn't want to live or I feared the future. I am facing life head on."


    Call to HIV-Positive Youths: Join "Operation Get Tested"
    Are you an HIVer between 18 and 26 years old living in the United States? Do you want to encourage other young people to practice safer sex and get tested? Who's Positive, a U.S. organization dedicated to raising HIV awareness among youths, is seeking five 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 Sept. 8 to 10. Participants will receive a stipend, as well as free travel, lodging and meals. To apply, visit the Operation Get Tested Web site or send Who's Positive an e-mail expressing your interest (be sure to include a brief biography and a photo).


    Having a (Drag) Ball: An Underground Youth Community Takes HIV Prevention Into Its Own Hands
    As far back as the 1920s, competitive drag balls in Manhattan's Harlem neighborhood have provided a safe space for black gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender youth to celebrate their sexuality. Today, a nationwide community has grown up around the ball scene, offering lessons in HIV prevention and awareness. Dozens of nationally recognized "houses" provide ball participants with makeshift families, often replacing biological families that shun them. House leaders take it upon themselves to mentor younger members. Kenny Omni, a house "father" in Chicago, Ill., requires that his "kids" participate in educational sessions about safer sex practices and HIV, and also urges them to help raise awareness and money to support AIDS service organizations. "More important than [the balls], to me, is seeing to it that my kids succeed in life and realize their potential to be whatever they want to be," Omni explains.

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      HIV TREATMENT & COMPLICATIONS

    Early HIV Treatment May Improve Gut Health, Study Suggests
    Although HIV meds may keep your viral load undetectable in your bloodstream, HIV can still keep replicating in other parts of your body, which can potentially lower your CD4 count. For instance, researchers have found that HIV can sometimes thrive in a person's digestive tract even when they're on a successful treatment regimen. In a new 10-person study, however, U.S. scientists have found signs that people who start HIV treatment shortly after becoming infected are more likely to suppress HIV in the gut than those who begin treatment after their CD4 count has dropped below 350. (Web highlight from aidsmap.com)


    Researchers Examine Potential Treatments for Central Fat Gain in HIVers
    There's no approved medical treatment for HIV-related "lipohypertrophy," or unusual fat gain in specific parts of the body. But researchers are hard at work trying to develop medications that can reverse the condition. Several of these meds in development try to spur the body to create more human growth hormone, which some studies have suggested can treat fat gain in the waist area. Unfortunately, one of these experimental meds recently hit a wall when an HIV-positive study participant died after receiving an injection of the drug. However, as researchers try to figure out what went wrong, studies of other lipohypertrophy treatments continue. (Web highlight from aidsmap.com)

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      SEXUALLY TRANSMITTED DISEASES (NON-HIV)

    Gonorrhea: The Facts
    Many people are unaware that you can get gonorrhea in the back of your throat from giving unprotected oral sex. Gonorrhea is an extremely common sexually transmitted disease, with over 700,000 new infections every year in the United States. People with gonorrhea can more easily contract HIV, and HIV-positive people with gonorrhea are more likely to transmit the virus to someone else. Antibiotics can cure a gonorrhea infection, but if left untreated, gonorrhea can cause serious and permanent health problems. In women, it's a common cause of pelvic inflammatory disease, which may lead to internal abscesses and infertility. In men, gonorrhea can cause epididymitis, a painful testicular condition that can also lead to infertility. Get more information on gonorrhea in this fact sheet from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

    For additional news and info about gonorrhea and other sexually transmitted diseases, check out The Body's collection of articles.

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      HIV OUTSIDE THE UNITED STATES

    Children Are "Missing Faces" in Global Response to HIV, Groups Warn
    Every day, about 1,800 children throughout the world become infected with HIV. Hungry, poor and uneducated, many children in the world's most poverty-stricken countries end up selling sex just to survive. "When the only choice you have is the chance you might catch AIDS and die in a few years' time, or the certainty of starving to death in a few weeks, there is no choice," states Tom Miller of the children's organization Plan International. In a new report, Plan International calls for improved HIV prevention education for children and adolescents, programs focused on preventing parent-child transmission and strategies to support all vulnerable children. For the 2.3 million children already infected, Plan International focuses on providing access to health care and basic human rights. It's also pushing for universal birth registration for all AIDS orphans and HIV-positive children, as well as protection of inheritance and property rights for AIDS orphans. It's a step in the right direction. However, a UNICEF spokesperson points out that, "Despite some progress, children are still the missing face of AIDS in the global response." (Web highlight from BBC News)


    An Engrossing Look at the HIV Epidemic in Latin America and the Caribbean
    The battle against HIV in Latin America and the Caribbean has yielded a mix of triumphs and failures. In an extraordinary series of articles published in Science magazine, Jon Cohen examines the unique challenges faced by the region, including the tension between Brazil's progressive stance on HIV and its ability to finance prevention and care efforts; the impact of the sex trade in the Dominican Republic; and how Catholic Church leaders are addressing HIV in Honduras. Although poverty hurts the region's ability to develop successful HIV programs, Cohen says, several nations -- including Haiti, Mexico and Peru -- have shown that "even with the poorest people in the world, there's a way to get them treatment."

    Click here for a summary of Cohen's coverage of HIV in Latin America and the Caribbean, or click here to read the full collection of Cohen's articles in Science magazine.


    India: Men With Many Partners Spurring Spread of HIV Among Women, UN Says
    Trusting your husband or partner to remain monogamous may be risky business in any country, but a recent study shows that it's especially dangerous in India. According to the study, a large number of new HIV cases occur among women who are in monogamous relationships with husbands or male partners. The study also found that women are less knowledgeable about HIV prevention than men, putting them even more at risk. "Biological, socio-cultural and economic factors make women and young girls more vulnerable to HIV/AIDS," write the researchers. "There is a need to empower adolescent girls and women by increasing their knowledge about their body and sexuality, as well as about sexually transmitted infections, HIV and AIDS."

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    Also Worth Noting

    Visual AIDS
    Art From HIV-Positive Artists

    Image from the August 2006 Visual AIDS Web Gallery
    "AIDS Isn't Over?," 1996;
    Nancer LeMoins
    Visit the Visual AIDS Web Gallery to view this month's collection of art by HIV-positive artists! The August gallery is entitled "Between Ten"; it showcases the work of seven artists bracketing the 10 years since the introduction of combination HIV treatment in 1996. The Web gallery highlights some of the works in a larger exhibit to be shown at the XVI International AIDS Conference in Toronto, Canada, later this month.

    Multimedia Coverage
    The Body Is Your Home for the XVI International AIDS Conference

    AIDS 2006: Toronto, Canada; Aug. 13-18, 2006
    The largest HIV conference in the world takes place from Aug. 13-18 in Toronto, Canada -- and The Body will be on hand with extensive reports! While at the XVI International AIDS Conference, we'll be conducting podcast interviews with researchers, activists and other attendees; keeping a photo journal throughout the week; and providing expert analyses of important research presentations. We'll also feature live Webcasts of key conference events from kaisernetwork.org! Bookmark our conference home page and check back throughout the conference for the very latest.

    Connect With Others
    A
    t The Body's Bulletin Boards

    I Had a Horrible Dream
    (A recent post from the
    "Living With HIV" board)

    "Last night I had one of the worst dreams I've ever had. I dreamed that I'd committed a risky sexual behavior and became infected with HIV. People began treating me differently. ... My words and authority at home and at church were questioned. I became uneasy around extended family members and frequently saw sadness and disappointment in their eyes. I was unable to sleep at night or focus at work. As a result of the pressure and despair, I ate to mask the pain, and gained 20 pounds in three months. I was a pathetic shell of the man I once was.

    "I woke up around 3 a.m. feeling anxious and soaking wet in a pool of sweat. It took me a while to realize that I'd just had a nightmare. Then all of a sudden I began to cry, when I recognized that my nightmare was actually reality. ...

    "It saddens me to think of how screwed up my life has become. I wish there was a way to 'check out' without hurting my family. If so, I think I'd strongly consider it. This way of thinking does not sound like me. Maybe I need to meet with a counselor again or find another one. Has anyone else ever been through this phase? Please tell me that it doesn't last long."

    -- Choosing2Liv

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

    Why Won't HIV Stigma Go Away?
    (A recent post from the
    "I Just Tested Positive" board)

    "I tested poz on March 31; still emotionally roller-coasting -- depression, fear, anxiety, etc. My doc says I don't need meds for three to five years or more. Reading these posts has been so helpful; there are heroes on these boards, truly. [But if] all the news is so encouraging, the disease is treatable, the outlook better than ever, why is the stigma attached to it so powerful? I still cry, worry myself sick, burden my partner -- and I'm aware of all good news and know friends that have had it 20 years or more. And yet it grips me. ... Why is this stigma so strong?"

    -- polywog

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