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December 6, 2006

In This Update:
  • HIV & Your Health
  • HIV Treatment
  • HIV Policy in the U.S.
  • HIV Transmission
  • HIV Outside the U.S.

    Heart Disease in HIVers: A Stealthy Villain
    "I had been through enough health crises over the last 22 years that I pretty much knew, or I thought I did, how to handle most anything that came my way," writes Laird Petersen. But after living with HIV for more than two decades, the 46-year-old one day noticed an unusual tingling in his hands and arms. It turned out to be not neuropathy, but severe coronary artery disease -- an almost complete blockage of the blood supply to his heart. Laird's story has a happy ending, but his experience points to how important it is that HIVers stay aware of the potential heart risks of HIV and HIV meds, and to take every possible symptom seriously.

    The Risks and Benefits of Garlic Capsules
    Are garlic pills healthy or risky for people with HIV? Like some other natural therapies, evidence of the health benefits of garlic is somewhat thin. Garlic may help lower cholesterol and decrease the risks of heart disease and high blood pressure, but when taken in pill form as a supplement, it has its own side effects, which include interactions with the HIV medication saquinavir (Invirase). This article from the U.S. National Center for Complimentary and Alternative Medicine gives an overview of the uses of garlic and suggests sources for further information.

    Click here to learn more about garlic and its interactions with HIV medications.



    Expanded Access Program to Begin for CCR5 Inhibitor
    Treatment-experienced HIVers still waiting for an effective regimen may soon have another option: Within a few months, an expanded access program may make a drug in development, maraviroc, available in more than 30 countries to patients who have few other treatment options. Maraviroc is the first of a new class of HIV meds known as CCR5 inhibitors, which block HIV's main entry point into CD4 cells. Early studies suggest the drug will be especially useful for HIVers with resistance to many meds.



    Although HIV-positive people may experience anemia, many HIVers know very little about it. How much do you know about anemia and HIV? Share your thoughts in this quick survey brought to you by Ortho Biotech. Your responses will be kept completely anonymous.


    President Bush Eases U.S. Ban on HIV-Positive Visitors
    At long last, the United States appears to be reversing its ban on HIV-positive people visiting the United States. On World AIDS Day, President George W. Bush announced that he well issue an executive order allowing HIV-positive people to enter the U.S. on short-term visas without having to seek special permission. Since 1987, people living with HIV had been officially banned from entering the United States as tourists or immigrants, with some limited exceptions. Under the new rule proposed by Bush, HIV-positive people would obtain a "categorical waiver" for business or tourist visas for visits of no more than 60 days. It's not yet clear whether visitors would still be required to declare their HIV status. (Web highlight from the San Francisco Chronicle)

    Senate Strikes Compromise on the Ryan White CARE Act
    For more than a year now, the U.S. Congress has been locked in a stalemate over the Ryan White CARE Act, which funds HIV-related services throughout the United States. But now it finally seems a compromise on the act has been reached; the bill is expected to pass before Congress adjourns for the year. Reauthorization of the CARE Act had been stalled because several Democratic senators objected to parts of the Republican-sponsored version, which called for shifting funding away from urban areas to more rural parts of the country where HIV is on the rise. The compromise proposal makes the funding shift less drastic and protects programs from dramatic cuts from year-to-year.

    Democrats Seek to Investigate PEPFAR Faith-Based and Abstinence-Only Initiatives
    The United States requires HIV programs it funds in developing countries to offer abstinence-only education. Wondering why? You're not alone. In fact, Democrats in the U.S. Congress want to investigate funding for faith-based HIV and abstinence-until-marriage initiatives receiving money under the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), which is scheduled to be reauthorized in 2007. By law, at least one-third of the HIV prevention funds that countries receive through PEPFAR -- a $15 billion, five-year program -- must be used for abstinence-until-marriage programs. Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) also said last week that she wants the committee to follow up on reports that the Bush administration has given 98.3 percent of faith-based foreign-aid money to Christian groups, while groups of other faiths have received a pittance by comparison.



    Magic Johnson Kicks Off New HIV Awareness Campaign for African Americans
    On World AIDS Day in Los Angeles, basketball legend Earvin "Magic" Johnson launched "I Stand with Magic" -- a $60 million campaign to halve HIV rates in the African-American community within the next five years. A dedicated spokesperson on HIV, Johnson has remained in good health since he told the world he was HIV positive in 1991. However, part of his message is that people shouldn't assume that just because he's healthy, HIV is not a health risk: "The virus acts different in all of us. There's no certainty that if you get [HIV], you're going to be OK," he says. The new campaign will hold HIV testing drives in at least 10 cities every year, support community-based HIV advocacy programs and provide scholarships for doctors who provide HIV services and programs within the African-American community.

    For further information or to join the "I Stand with Magic" campaign, click here.



    Two Million in Developing Countries Are Taking HIV Meds, but Unmet Need Is Still Vast
    The number of people taking HIV meds in developing countries doubled from 2005 to 2006, according to newly released statistics. That brings to about two million the number of people now receiving HIV treatment, according to United Nations officials. Much of the credit for that huge increase belongs to the United States' President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, which together provide meds to 1.2 million people living with HIV. Sadly, despite all this progress, HIV is still spreading faster than drug access, and the world's leaders have fallen short of their pledges to make HIV treatment virtually universal within the next several years.

    World Is "Falling Behind" in Fight Against HIV, Says New York Times
    There's plenty of sobering news in the new report on the global HIV pandemic released by UNAIDS and the World Health Organization. Despite some recent advances as HIV treatment and prevention campaigns take root in developing countries, a recent New York Times editorial laments that the leaders of the world's richest nations have failed to make more of a dent in the pandemic: "Despite all the lofty goals set by world leaders, and billions of dollars thrown into the fight [against HIV] ... it is discouraging to learn the world is still falling behind," the Times says. The editorial also notes that a recent report from the International Treatment Preparedness Coalition says we won't be catching up any time soon: "Both the United Nations and the Group of 8 industrialized nations have set a goal of providing 'universal access' to AIDS treatment by 2010 ... [and] at the current rate, the coalition estimates, they will fall five million short."

    AIDS Orphans in Haiti: One Child at a Time
    Charline was seven years old when she appeared at Rainbow House with broken teeth, skin rashes, scars on her legs and a world of pain in her past. Rainbow House is a mountainside Haitian orphanage for children, like Charline, who have lost their parents to AIDS. Some of the children are HIV-positive themselves, some are not. Precious few of Haiti's numerous orphanages accept children whose parents have died of AIDS; that leaves many children on the street without the love of a family and with uncertain futures. Rainbow House aims to change that with the help of children like Charline -- who, nine years after she first joined the community, now acts as an older sister to a houseful of children. "I don't think that when people have AIDS they should be out of society," she says. "I always tell everyone ... people who are infected, who have AIDS, the only thing they need is love and affection and wisdom." (Web highlight from the South Florida Sun-Sentinel)

    This article is part of a Sun-Sentinel series examining the impact of HIV on children in developing countries. Click here for more articles focusing on children in Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

    Kenya Proves Sophisticated HIV Programs Can Succeed in Developing Countries
    Kenya is a poster child for the impact that international help can have on a country torn apart by HIV. In 2003, only 343 Kenyans were receiving antiretroviral therapy through the United States-run President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). Now, 70,000 HIV-positive Kenyans are getting treatment at 275 PEPFAR-supported sites throughout the country. The phenomenal growth of HIV services in Kenya demonstrates what developing countries can accomplish, despite the skepticism of some that very poor countries can't handle complex HIV treatment programs. "It was beyond the expectation of anyone," says Dr. Aida Samir, a hospital director in Nairobi.

    France to Fight HIV, Other Sexually Transmitted Diseases With 20-Cent Condoms
    Ten million discount-priced condoms will soon go on sale in 20,000 locations around France, the government announced. The condoms will be priced at 20 euro cents (25 U.S. cents). The goal of the outreach is to make safer sex behavior "a reflex," said health minister Xavier Bertrand. Venues selling the condoms will include high schools, night clubs, hospitals, pharmacies, newsstands and tobacco shops. France is home to 150,000 HIV-positive people.

    Also Worth Noting

    Visual AIDS
    Art From HIV-Positive Artists

    Image from the December 2006 Visual AIDS Web Gallery
    "Mike," 1997; David Abbott
    Visit the newly launched December 2006 Visual AIDS Web Gallery to view our latest collection of art by HIV-positive artists! This month's gallery is entitled "The Male Portrait"; it's curated by Richard Renaldi, a photographer living in New York whose works have been exhibited widely.

    Breaking Research
    The Latest HIV
    Research From Glasgow

    Glasgow 2006
    The 8th International Congress on Drug Therapy in HIV Infection took place last week in Glasgow, United Kingdom -- and The Body's team of experts was there to bring you coverage of the latest research! Check out our Glasgow 2006 home page for the latest highlights and a complete index of articles!

    Connect With Others
    t The Body's Bulletin Boards

    "I'm a Divorced, Lonely, HIV-Positive Woman"
    (A recent post from the
    "Women With HIV" board)

    "I tested positive in 1994, right after I moved to the United States and got married. After seven rocky years, my husband left me for another woman. He was negative and couldn't understand what I am going through. Right now I am undetectable on meds, but don't want to go out because of fatigue. I am lonely [and] don't want to date positive [people], but how to tell someone my status? What to do? We were divorced over the holidays and I am so sad, and cannot go home to my family."

    -- trish

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

    "Should I Start Treatment Early, or Should I Wait?"
    (A recent post from the
    "Treatment" board)

    "Have you started meds early in [your HIV] infection or later, after an opportunistic infection or low CD4 [count]? Can you share [your] experience? [I'm] trying to figure the best time to begin, and what the advantages and disadvantages are of starting sooner or later."

    -- Anonymous

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