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November 15, 2006

In This Update:
  • Living With HIV
  • HIV Basics
  • HIV Policy in the U.S.
  • HIV Treatment
  • Making a Difference
  • HIV Transmission
  • HIV Outside the U.S.

    How to Beat the Holiday Blues
    The upcoming holiday season can be a time of joy and togetherness, but for many of us in the HIV community, it can also bring a rush of conflicting emotions, exhaustion, stress or loneliness. If you're one of those people who tend to slip into the "holiday blues" this time of year, read over this list of eight simple tips that can help you cope.

    Stopping the Flu Before It Starts: Flu Vaccines and HIV
    There are no buts about it: If you have HIV, a flu shot is a good idea. Need proof? Check out some of the things The Body's own HIV specialists -- the doctors who staff our "Ask the Experts" forums -- have said to people asking questions about flu vaccination.



    Where HIV Came From: Fact vs. Fiction
    You've probably heard some of the fiction surrounding how HIV started: A gay male Canadian flight attendant caused the pandemic by sleeping his way around the world. HIV was created by the U.S. government to kill minorities and gay men. The U.S. Army and CIA developed HIV for biological warfare and it somehow escaped from their secret lab. The list goes on and on. But what's the real story behind the origins of HIV? HIV treatment advocate David Salyer explains just how impossible most of those theories are. The real story of HIV's origin, he says, was revealed by Dr. Beatrice Hahn, and involved a chimpanzee in Cameroon.



    Waiting for a Lifeline: The Tragedy of South Carolina's ADAP
    Three HIVers on South Carolina's AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP) waiting list recently died. This tragedy highlights the all-too-real problem of inadequate state and federal funding for ADAPs, which supply HIV meds to low-income, underinsured HIVers. Numbering over 200, South Carolina's waiting list is the longest in the country, and it's not going to get shorter anytime soon: The list is growing by eight to 12 people every week. Right now, South Carolina's ADAP -- as well as others throughout the country -- are hoping that the U.S. Congress will pass an emergency spending bill to increase funding for ADAPs by the end of this year. Unfortunately, that won't be fast enough for some HIVers on the waiting list; another AIDS-related death is expected in South Carolina within the next few days.



    Join a Clinical Trial on Neuropathy
    Are you suffering from HIV-related pain such as tingling, "pins and needles" or burning sensations in both feet? Do you live in the United States? If so, you may be eligible to participate in a clinical trial. Click here to find out more.


    Joining a Clinical Trial: Asking the Right Questions
    Enrolling in a clinical trial can be a great way for people with HIV to get access to free meds and cutting-edge treatments, but it can also be a worrisome process. One of the major questions you might ask yourself is: Is this study safe? In fact, there are special committees set up to ask precisely that question. Institutional review boards (IRBs) scrutinize all clinical trials of new drugs in the United States. Studies they don't approve can't proceed. This thorough article explains how IRBs work, outlines the shortcomings of the current system and lists the kinds of questions that HIVers should ask if they're considering enrolling in a clinical trial.

    Pipeline Update: The Scoop on Meds in Development
    Are you looking for new HIV treatment options? Trying to keep up with the latest research? If staying aware of the HIV treatment pipeline seems like a challenge, this overview can help. Project Inform provides brief summaries of the most promising HIV meds in different stages of development, including new integrase inhibitors and entry inhibitors. This article also includes a handy review of what happens during the different phases of drug development.



    A Personal View on HIV Treatment Activism
    Gregg Gonsalves has been an HIV treatment activist since the late 1980s and HIV positive for more than a decade. He understands the power of activism: He saw it push the scientific community to create HIV medications more quickly and discover the strength of combination drug therapy in the 1990s. In a recent speech at a South African HIV conference, however, Gonsalves also notes that the power of activism comes with a great deal of responsibility: "[W]e also have to say no to people who put ideology ahead of science, we need to stand up for reason and rationality, in the face of dogma, irrationality, quackery, and the politics of pandering to religion and ethnicity that are willing to sacrifice the truth for votes or political expediency. ... We are in this together -- doctors, scientists, nurses, pharmacists, laboratory technicians, people with HIV/AIDS, AIDS activists. We need to stand up against the madness all around us."



    Most Americans Favor Sex Ed That's Not Just About Abstinence
    The U.S. government is spending an astonishing $170 million a year on abstinence-only sexual education programs, which provide no information about safer sex for people who may have sex outside of marriage. Experts on sex education say the approach is ineffective and unrealistic -- and, it turns out, most Americans agree. In a survey of nearly 1,100 U.S. adults, a whopping 82 percent favored sex education that includes information about how to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, as well as abstinence. Even conservatives, who one might least expect to favor teaching young people about safer sex, said they prefer comprehensive sex education over preaching chastity and nothing else.

    Don't Blame Stigma for Fueling HIV Pandemic, Experts Say
    HIV-related stigma and discrimination are real: Every day they impact the lives of people living with HIV around the globe. But in a recent essay, a pair of public health experts argue there is no evidence that stigma harms HIV prevention or treatment efforts. The two experts write that blaming stigma for fueling the HIV pandemic oversimplifies the problem: It "gives too much weight to individual behavioral change as the answer to HIV prevention," they say, and neglects other complex social issues that affect HIV transmission.

    To read the full essay in the open-access journal PLoS Medicine, click here.

    Controversial HIV Prevention Campaigns Spark Uproar in California
    It's just the latest example of a string of HIV prevention efforts in California that are stirring up vocal opposition: A new campaign in San Francisco effectively supports the idea of "serosorting," or choosing sex partners who you know share your HIV status. This and other California prevention efforts -- which use billboards, bus shelters and magazine ads to urge men who have sex with men (MSM) to disclose their status and have safer sex -- have ignited plenty of controversy. Critics say the campaigns further the stereotype that MSM are sexually irresponsible. The Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center's controversial "HIV is a gay disease" campaign and a San Francisco billboard bearing the slogan, "New Year's Resolution: I Won't Infect Anyone," have also received vocal criticism. Campaign organizers say their goal was to get people talking; they seem to have succeeded. (Web highlight from Bay Area Reporter)



    Catholics and Jews Discuss HIV at Interfaith Conference in South Africa
    Catholics and Jews are divided over condoms. The Catholic Church forbids using them, even to prevent transmitting HIV to a spouse. Judaism is more flexible: Even Orthodox Jews may permit using condoms among married couples if the life of the husband or wife is potentially threatened. Despite these differences, however, when rabbis and cardinals recently gathered at an interfaith meeting in Cape Town, South Africa, to discuss HIV, they focused on what they have in common. Together, Catholic and Jewish attendees called for "unrestricted palliative care and appropriate attention for all those suffering, threatened or victimized by the tragic pandemic."

    World's Teens Aren't Having Sex at Younger Age, Study Finds
    Considering how swiftly HIV and other sexually-transmitted diseases (STDs) have spread worldwide, some might guess that people are having more and more sex at younger and younger ages -- especially in places where HIV has struck hardest, like sub-Saharan Africa. But that's not so, say researchers who conducted a massive, 59-country study. Across the board, men and women reported having their first sexual experience at about the same age (15 to 19 years old) as 10 years ago, the study found. While the researchers expected to find the most promiscuous behavior in areas of Africa where STD rates are among the world's highest, multiple partners were actually more common in industrialized countries, where STD incidence is relatively low. The study suggests that poverty, lack of education and gender inequity, not promiscuity, are fueling the HIV pandemic.

    To read the full text of the study, which appeared in The Lancet, click here. (Free registration at is required.)

    How HIV Brought Two Lovers Together
    Nomvula Mnkandlha's journey with HIV started out as a horror story; then, unexpectedly, it became a romance novel. A month after her diagnosis, Nomvula's husband filed for divorce, forcing Nomvula and her daughter to move back in with her parents. Nomvula then sought out a support group for positive people in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, where she became friends with a man named Skhumbuzo Muvhinjeva. Three years later, the two now share a home with Nomvula's daughter and Skhumbuzo's three children. Despite ever-present stigma, the couple is outspoken about their HIV status in the community: "This is not a secret, Nomvula said. "Why should we hide what we are?" They plan to get married later this year. (Web highlight from PlusNews)

    Also Worth Noting

    Breaking Research
    The Latest HIV
    Research From Glasgow

    Glasgow 2006
    The 8th International Congress on Drug Therapy in HIV Infection is now taking place in Glasgow, United Kingdom -- and The Body's team of experts is there to bring you a front-row seat of the latest developments! Coverage from this conference will start arriving shortly; check out our Glasgow 2006 home page for highlights and a complete index of articles!

    Visual AIDS
    Art From HIV-Positive Artists

    Image from the November 2006 Visual AIDS Web Gallery
    "Halloween Party with My Guys,"
    1995; Juan Sanchez
    Visit the November 2006 Visual AIDS Web Gallery to view our latest collection of art by HIV-positive artists! This month's gallery is entitled "Hot Chicks and Others"; it's curated by Rocío Aranda-Alvarado, the curator at Jersey City Museum, where she organizes exhibitions of contemporary art featuring work by both established and emerging artists in the New Jersey and New York region.

    Connect With Others
    t The Body's Bulletin Boards

    "Recently Diagnosed at 52"
    (A recent post from the
    "I Just Tested Positive" board)

    "Well, here I am at 52. Having survived the first and second waves of HIV as a gay man in New York City in 1975-1983, [I] find myself now, in 2006, facing this disease. I am a hepatitis C survivor -- took that treatment and tolerated it well, and most [people] say the HIV drugs aren't as toxic. ... But [I] feel as if disease has knocked me down emotionally so many times now that I'm simply reeling.

    "[I'm] having dual reactions: [a] classic, hysterical freak out, as if it were 1985 in Chelsea in New York City ... [and a] more sane, calmer reaction. ... I am just so sad. Feeling like sex was a game of roulette and I lost. ... I want not to be a drama queen or neurotic, and deal with this all calmly. But it's damn hard. Still am testing negative, with viral load of 1,000 as of four weeks ago. ...

    "[I] have many wonderful role models, but is there anyone else out there who survived all the first, second and third waves [of HIV transmission] in their 20s, 30s, and 40s, only to succumb finally in their 50s? ... I'm an intelligent man, successful and formerly thriving even after a hepatitis C nightmare, who now feels stupid and enfeebled. I know time will help, but I am simply in shock!"

    -- Anonymous

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