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August 16, 2006

In This Update:
  • General News From AIDS 2006
  • HIV Treatment
  • HIV Transmission & Prevention
  • HIV Policy & Activism

    This week, The Body's e-mail newsletter features some of the top headlines from the XVI International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2006) in Toronto, Canada, the largest HIV conference in history. There's an awful lot going on at this week-long conference, and we're providing a front-row seat! This e-mail contains only a small part of our comprehensive coverage; visit our AIDS 2006 home page for the very latest news, research, speeches, podcasts, photos, interviews, protests and much more.


    Melinda and Bill Gates Call for Global Empowerment of Women to Prevent HIV
    In a stirring speech during the opening ceremony of the XVI International AIDS Conference, Bill and Melinda Gates implored the world to do more to empower women -- including sex workers -- in the fight against HIV. "No matter where she lives, who she is, or what she does, a woman should never need her partner's permission to save her own life," Bill Gates said. The Gateses also reaffirmed their commitment to make HIV the number one priority of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the richest charitable organization in the world.

    Click here to watch the complete opening ceremony as a Webcast, download a podcast or read a full transcript.

    Clinton Declares That Fighting HIV Is His Life's Mission
    Former U.S. President Bill Clinton said at the XVI International AIDS Conference on Aug. 15 that he will continue to combat HIV for the rest of his life, or until the pandemic is controlled. "I can't conceive of anything that would divert me from this commitment, short of a life-threatening illness or success (in defeating HIV/AIDS)," Clinton said. During the session, Clinton also spoke out against HIV prevention programs that focus solely on abstinence, saying, "I think that abstinence-only is an error." He also reiterated his regret at not having supported needle exchange programs more strongly while he was president.

    To watch a Webcast of the full session with Clinton and Stephen Lewis, UNAIDS' Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa, click here. You can also click here to watch a press briefing afterward in which Clinton and Lewis answered additional questions.

    Clinton, Gates Speak Openly About Challenges in Global HIV Battle
    "Did you hear the two Bills?" was the question buzzing among attendees on the first day of the XVI International AIDS Conference. Bill Clinton and Bill Gates took part in a Monday morning forum entitled "Priorities in Ending the Epidemic," which drew crowds and featured tight security that left many delegates waiting in long lines to have their bags searched.
    But the wait was worth it: Here were two of the world's most powerful men focusing their energies on HIV. And the fact that they chose to focus on the dire needs of women around the world was even more inspiring.

    Click here
    to watch the hour-long session as a Webcast, download a podcast or read a full transcript.

    Canadian Prime Minister's Absence "Breaks Heart" of Organizer
    Toronto, Canada, is hosting the largest HIV conference in history -- but the country's most powerful man isn't there to see it. At the conference's opening ceremony, Dr. Mark Wainberg, the co-chair of the conference and a prominent Canadian HIV researcher, lambasted Prime Minister Stephen Harper for his absence. "HIV is one of the worst enemies we have on this planet," Dr. Wainberg said. "Why is Mr. Harper not here to show leadership on the world stage? As a Canadian it breaks my heart." Later during the opening ceremony, protestors shouted "Where is Stephen Harper?" as Canada's health minister attempted to give a speech.



    Boosted Protease Inhibitors Are More "Forgiving" of Poor Adherence: Study
    A small study shows that there is a higher degree of medication "forgiveness" when boosted protease inhibitors (Kaletra [lopinavir/ritonavir] in particular) are used in a regimen rather than unboosted protease inhibitors. That "forgiveness" may translate into continued suppression of HIV, even if adherence is well below the recommended 95 percent of doses. Paul Sax, M.D., reports for The Body.

    Three HIV Meds or Four? Makes No Difference, Study Says
    People who are taking HIV meds for the first time are usually prescribed a three-drug regimen, and most do very well on it. But researchers have long wondered if, by adding a fourth drug to a standard first-line regimen, people could do even better. Well, a large, three-year study by the U.S. National Institutes of Health may have answered the question once and for all: The researchers found that adding a fourth drug offered no benefit over the three-drug cocktail either in terms of reduced viral load or increased CD4 cell count.

    Selenium Improves HIV Treatment Response in Nigerian Randomized Study
    Dramatic results from a large study in Nigeria suggest that people with advanced HIV disease who take selenium supplements along with their HIV meds could experience a CD4 count boost almost twice as quickly as people who take HIV meds alone. All of the 340 Nigerians who took part in the 72-week study had extremely low CD4 counts when they started treatment, suggesting the impact of selenium may be much greater for people who are diagnosed late in the course of their infection. People who took a daily dose of 200 micrograms of selenium with their HIV meds also experienced more weight gain, fewer opportunistic infections and higher hemoglobin levels. (Web highlight from

    Short-Term Treatment Shortly After Infection May Delay CD4 Count Drop, Study Finds

    In the largest study so far on treatment during primary HIV infection, researchers have found that taking HIV meds for a while during the primary HIV infection stage can delay the time it takes for a person's CD4 count to drop below 350 or viral load to climb above 100,000. Brian Conway, M.D., reports for The Body.



    HIV Prevalence Increases in the U.S.; 48% Are Black
    The number of people with HIV continues to rise in the United States, increasing by 6.3 percent per year from 2000 to 2004 in 33 U.S. states, according to U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention researchers. In addition, African Americans comprise 48% of all people living with HIV in 33 U.S. states, although they make up only 13% of the total population in those states, the researchers found. Mark Holodniy, M.D., reports for The Body.

    Inconclusive Early Results From Study on Tenofovir for HIV Prevention
    Results from a clinical trial that investigated the potential use of tenofovir (Viread) and the combination pill Truvada (tenofovir/FTC) as pre-exposure prophylaxis to prevent HIV transmission show possible effectiveness. However, scientists say that because so few people in the study became infected with HIV (regardless of whether or not they received pre-exposure prophylaxis), the effectiveness of tenofovir as a prevention pill cannot yet be guaranteed.

    African Nations Report "Mixed" Success With ABC Prevention Method
    The "ABC" method -- abstain, be faithful, use condoms -- is the lynchpin of the United States' global HIV prevention efforts, but some developing countries have had trouble implementing it, according to reports by African nations at the XVI International AIDS Conference. In Botswana, in areas where intense door-to-door education efforts took place, many people still didn't appear to know that being faithful was an important part of HIV prevention. In Kenya, although about half of teenagers in a survey understood why abstinence was important, only 23 percent understood faithfulness, and only 13 percent could explain the importance of condoms.

    The Debate Heats Up: Should Men in Developing Countries Be Circumcised?
    Researchers, experts and AIDS advocates engaged in a spirited debate at the XVI International AIDS Conference over whether male circumcision is a safe and effective method for preventing or reducing the spread of HIV in developing countries. Although recent studies suggest that it is, cultural beliefs may make the widespread acceptance of circumcision a daunting prospect in some areas. "The cultural meaning of this act is much more profound than this kind of research can take account of," said Gary Dowsett, an Australian sociologist.

    To watch a Webcast of this debate, which took place on Aug. 15, click here.



    Many Rich Nations Not Paying Their Fair Share in Global HIV Fight, Report Card Says
    Many of the world's wealthiest countries are failing to live up to their commitments to fund the global battle against HIV, according to a report card prepared by health advocates and released at the XVI International AIDS Conference. The report card graded countries based on how much money they had pledged to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria for 2006 and 2007. Only three wealthy nations -- France, Ireland and Sweden -- received a grade of A for both years, while nine countries were given two F's. The United States received a C for 2006 and an F for 2007. (Web highlight from PlusNews)

    To download a PDF of the report card, click here.

    Second-Line HIV Meds Still Far Too Expensive, MSF Says; Governments Have "Heads in the Sand"
    Although the world has made great advances in getting HIV meds to people who need them, many HIV medications remain too expensive in the developing world, especially meds that people must take when their first regimen fails, says Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF). At the XVI International AIDS Conference, MSF warned of the rise of HIV drug resistance in poor countries, and appealed for greater attention to the need for further price reductions. "Most patients whose lives had been saved by first-line treatment will be abandoned the moment they need second-line drugs unless governments pull their heads out of the sand and start tackling this issue," said Ibrahim Umoru, an MSF peer educator from Nigeria, at the conference. (Web highlight from PlusNews)

    To read an MSF press release on this issue, click here.

    New U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator Defends U.S. HIV Prevention Strategy Overseas
    Dr. Mark Dybul, the newly confirmed head of the United States' global HIV-fighting efforts, dipped his feet in the fire at the XVI International AIDS Conference this week as he tried to address widespread criticism about what many say is the Bush administration's abstinence-heavy focus on HIV prevention in developing countries. "They ought to actually look at our numbers, look at our data, look at our guidance. There is no evidence in support of what they are saying," Dybul said in an interview with

    Click here to see a Webcast of the interview with Dr. Dybul.

    Actor, AIDS Advocate Richard Gere Says Media Is Crucial in Fighting Pandemic
    The transformation of an actor like Richard Gere into a knowledgeable, passionate AIDS advocate has been remarkable. Gere was at it again at the XVI International AIDS Conference, where he joined media officials from throughout the world to talk about how important it is that the global media use its power to spread HIV awareness and fight stigma. In 2004, Gere co-founded the Heroes Project, which uses celebrities from Bollywood films, sports figures, business leaders and government officials as spokespeople to increase public discussion of the Indian HIV epidemic with television, radio and print advertisements.

    AIDS Activists Block Traffic at U.S. Consulate in Toronto
    In one of many protests occurring daily during the XVI International AIDS Conference, the AIDS advocacy group Housing Works organized a temporary shutdown of traffic in front of the U.S. consulate in Toronto, Canada, on Aug. 16. In a statement, Housing Works said the protest was meant to call attention
    to the United States' failure to commit to ending the AIDS pandemic. "People living with AIDS are tired of empty declarations. We call on President Bush to join with the leaders of other nations to provide universal access to prevention, treatment, care and support in the U.S. and abroad by 2010," said Housing Works president Charles King.

    Also Worth Noting

    Visual AIDS
    Art From HIV-Positive Artists

    Image from the August 2006 Visual AIDS Web Gallery
    "Eulogy: Sylvester," 1996;
    Joe De Hoyos
    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 currently on display at the XVI International AIDS Conference in Toronto, Canada.

    Connect With Others
    t The Body's Bulletin Boards

    Just Tested Positive. Now What?
    (A recent post from the
    "I Just Tested Positive" board)

    "I have just tested positive and do not know how to go about it from here. Is there anyone who can be in a position to assist in this? ... I still feel OK and healthy. Haven't started any treatment yet. But what should I do from here?"

    -- Anonymous

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

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