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September 6, 2006

In This Update:
  • HIV Treatment & Complications
  • News & Views
  • HIV Transmission & Prevention
  • HIV-Related Policy in the U.S.
  • HIV Outside the U.S.
  •   HIV TREATMENT & COMPLICATIONS

    HIV and Body Shape Changes: What's the Real Story? An AIDS 2006 Recap
    Studies of body shape changes among HIVers have produced conflicting ideas about why these problems occur and how common they actually are. But at the XVI International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2006), we may have seen some movement towards more definitive answers: Several presentations focusing on body shape among HIV-positive people could get scientists to embrace theories that were once considered controversial. David Wohl, M.D., reports for The Body from AIDS 2006.

    For much more research and other news from last month's XVI International AIDS Conference, visit The Body's complete index of AIDS 2006 coverage!


    Uncertainty Persists Over HIV Treatment During Acute Infection
    It's still an open question whether it's helpful to temporarily take HIV meds during acute infection (the weeks immediately after a person becomes HIV positive). There have been many small studies, but no conclusive results. Two recently published studies seem to show a trend in the research, though: It appears that starting treatment early has at least some short-term benefit on viral load and CD4 count, but that the benefit seems to dissipate as time goes on.

    A relatively large study presented at the XVI International AIDS Conference last month came to a similar conclusion; click here to read a summary of the study by The Body's Brian Conway, M.D.

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      NEWS & VIEWS

    Exclusive Podcast: African-American Journalist and Advocate Keith Green Talks About AIDS 2006
    Transformed by the experience of his first International AIDS Conference last month, AIDS advocate and journalist Keith Green was especially struck by an unprecedented gathering of African-American leaders there. In this exclusive interview (which you can read online or download as a podcast), The Body talks with Keith about the new African-American initiative and his other thoughts about AIDS 2006.

    For many more podcasts and transcripts of interviews with HIV-positive people, advocates and researchers from around the world, visit Podcast Central at AIDS 2006!


    AIDS Conference Participants Seek Asylum in Canada
    Canada's national health care system and reputation for tolerance must seem utopian to HIV-positive delegates to AIDS 2006, many of whom have no access to treatment in their own countries. Perhaps that's why approximately 150 of the 24,000 conference delegates have filed claims for asylee status to remain in Canada. Most claimants are HIV positive; they include about 130 women from South Africa, as well as people from El Salvador, Eritrea, Uganda and Zimbabwe. Many are staying at hostels awaiting hearing dates before an immigration board.

    Click here to read about Amanuel of Eritrea, who was accompanied to the conference by Eritrean agents but escaped after arriving at Toronto's Pearson International Airport.

    To read more about the large group of South African women who have filed asylum applications, click here.

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      HIV TRANSMISSION & PREVENTION

    Black Leaders Commit to Fighting AIDS, Opening Dialogue on Taboo Topics
    Rapper Kanye West continues to earn his reputation for outspokenness. In an interview with MTV last year, West described how he learned homophobia as a child, and how he eventually realized it was wrong. He then did something that's virtually unheard of in the hip-hop community: He publicly called for an end to gay-bashing in rap music. His story shed light on a history of black anti-gay bias that has prevented many black men from coming out of the closet, according to this Boston Globe editorial. Last month, a year after West's statement, African-American leaders met at AIDS 2006, where they promised not only to fight HIV but to end the silence surrounding homosexuality, recreational drug use and sex behind prison walls -- all factors that have fueled the HIV epidemic in black America. "Now is the time for us to face the fact that AIDS has become a black disease," said Julian Bond, chairman of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.


    Anti-Homophobia Campaign Hits Black New York Neighborhoods
    "I am gay, and this is where I stay," proclaims a large billboard at the corner of 125th St. and Broadway in New York City's Harlem neighborhood. The ad depicts a young black man with his family -- and it's one of three ads that make up a new anti-homophobia campaign by the New York State Black Gay Network (NYSBGN). In addition to billboards, the ads will be displayed in subway stations in predominately black neighborhoods across the city. "We really wanted to impact the self-esteem and the resiliency of black gay men to combat the HIV epidemic," said Mark McLaurin, executive director of NYSBGN.


    Whatever Happened to That Rapidly Progressing, Multidrug-Resistant HIV Strain?
    It's been well over a year since a public health crisis exploded in New York City, when the city's top health official announced that a man had been infected with a rapidly progressing strain of HIV that was already resistant to virtually every HIV medication. After a brief period of panic, scientists realized that this was not the beginning of a new, deadly generation of HIV. But what's happened since? Extensive investigations by New York City scientists yielded this report.

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      HIV-RELATED POLICY IN THE UNITED STATES

    AIDS Activists Plan to Get Aggressive With U.S. Politicians as Elections Near
    In the past few years, we've seen the rise of a national movement in the United States called the Campaign to End AIDS. The group's goal is to push U.S. politicians for universal access to HIV treatment and support in the United States and abroad -- and to educate the public about where political candidates stand on important HIV-related issues. As this year's mid-term elections approach, the Campaign to End AIDS is beginning its "AIDSVote 2006" effort, which will include pressuring candidates to fill out questionnaires and publicly asking them about HIV-related issues.


    The Politics of HIV: One-on-One With U.S. Representative Jan Schakowsky
    Illinois is one of several states where people with AIDS could suffer if Republican-backed attempts to rewrite the Ryan White CARE Act go into effect. The CARE Act funds AIDS organizations and services throughout the United States, but Republicans have supported efforts to change the act in a way that would effectively funnel money from cities hard-hit by AIDS, like Chicago, to rural areas. In this interview with U.S. Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), Chicago AIDS organization Test Positive Aware Network talks with her about this and other HIV issues, such as microbicides. The Bush administration, as Schakowsky puts it, "has put ideology ahead of science on many issues."


    New York Times Chimes in on Ryan White CARE Act Debate
    An editorial in the New York Times puts in stark terms the reasons that the Ryan White CARE Act has become such a heated issue in the United States. Although HIV remains a major issue in many U.S. cities, Republican-backed changes to Ryan White may shift money away from cities to rural areas, which are also in need of greater AIDS funding. "Nothing could be more foolhardy for the nation as a whole," the Times points out, because "the AIDS battle knows no boundaries." Accusing Republican lawmakers of turning a critical public health issue into a political one, the Times argues that, "In effect, the potential urban losers stand to be penalized for having shown the way in fighting the AIDS scourge." (Web highlight from the New York Times; free registration required)

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      HIV OUTSIDE THE UNITED STATES

    HIV-Positive Indian Woman Has Abortion After Medical Personnel Shun Her
    India is grappling with a rapidly growing AIDS epidemic. Unfortunately, the country seems completely unprepared. When 23-year-old, HIV-positive Roshni Mulani requested an abortion at a Kolkata hospital last month, medical personnel refused. "I had to pull out the fetus with my hands and clean myself as health workers guided me from a distance," she explained. "They ... threw medicines from a distance." In a separate incident in the nearby state of Orissa, 35-year-old Loknath Mishra, who had full-blown AIDS, died after he was pelted with stones inside a hospital compound. According to the United Nations, 5.7 million Indians live with HIV, more people than in any other country. Authorities and activists said incidents like these highlight the stigma and even paranoia surrounding the disease in India.



    Pressure Heats Up on South African Government for Harmful Stance on HIV Treatment
    While the South African government delays the distribution of HIV meds to its citizens, an estimated 336,000 South Africans died of AIDS-related causes from mid-2005 to mid-2006, according to the president of South Africa's Medical Research Council, who spoke last week before a parliamentary committee. Meanwhile, protests against the South African government continue: last week, the South African Medical Association asked the government to end its "misrepresentation on treatment of AIDS." Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang downplays HIV meds as toxic, while strongly advocating the use of nothing more than dietary nutrients. In recent weeks, calls have grown louder for Tshabalala-Msimang to resign.


    "Born to Be Infected": A Nigerian Woman Speaks Out
    Growing up in Nigeria, Dorothy Aken'Ova had very little influence in decisions about her own life. Like many other women in Nigeria, her family set strict rules of conduct for her and allowed little freedom of movement. In many places in Nigeria, Aken'Ova says, girls as young as 12 are forced to marry older men, and a woman's right to choose who to have sex with is not respected. Aken'Ova says she is now devoted to ensuring that every girl and woman has equal rights and protections against discrimination and violation. "The world's failure to make effective commitments to women's health and rights has been commuted to a death sentence for far too many," Aken'Ova writes. In this opinion piece, she asks world leaders to finally do something about it. (Web highlight from Globe and Mail)

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    Also Worth Noting

    Photojournal
    Exclusive Images From
    AIDS 2006

    Image from The Body's AIDS 2006 Photojournal
    For us, this child's pajama suit and teddy bear, strung up on a clothesline alongside other clothing items by artist Fiona Kirkwood, symbolized the plight of children affected by HIV/AIDS in the developing world.
    The Body's exclusive AIDS 2006 Photojournal features dozens of images of the many people, protests and unique sights of the XVI International AIDS Conference. The photojournal is meant to give those who couldn't attend the conference a sense of what it was like to be there. From world leaders to HIVers in the developing world; from press conferences to protests; and from the conference center to downtown Toronto, we give you a glimpse of what it was like to attend the largest gathering on HIV in history.

    Connect With Others
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    Shingles, Stress and Stigma: HIV in Washington State
    (A recent post from the
    "My Loved One Has HIV/AIDS" board)

    "[My sister has] been fighting the shingles now for about five months and they'll just start to go away and then come back again. She was very thin for a while, but looked really good and had gained about 20 pounds when I saw her at my grandfather's funeral. I love her so much but I am so scared the stress of not telling her children (my niece is 11 and nephew is 4) nor anyone else except her husband, myself and our parents is eating her up. She doesn't want to risk others finding out and her family being shunned by the community. ... I feel like the stress may end her life prematurely. Any advice on any of this would be appreciated. Also, where can my parents turn for help/counseling/education if she doesn't want anyone to know. This is taking quite a toll on their life as well."

    -- shanniep

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

    Visual AIDS
    Art From HIV-Positive Artists

    Image from the September 2006 Visual AIDS Web Gallery
    "In The Scheme of Things," 1997;
    Jerry H. Hooten
    Visit the newly launched September 2006 Visual AIDS Web Gallery to view our latest collection of art by HIV-positive artists! The September gallery is entitled "Do You Remember the First Time?"; it's curated by Jeffrey Walkowiak, co-director of the Sara Meltzer Gallery in New York City.