• LIVING WITH HIV
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.
• HIV BASICS
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
• HIV POLICY IN THE UNITED STATES
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.
• HIV TREATMENT
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.
• MAKING A DIFFERENCE
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."
• HIV TRANSMISSION
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)
• HIV OUTSIDE THE UNITED STATES
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
(Free registration at thelancet.com 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)
At The Body's Bulletin Boards
| "Recently Diagnosed
(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!"
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