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February 14, 2007

In This Update:
  • HIV Treatment & Complications
  • HIV Policy in the United States
  • Tell Us What You Think!
  • HIV Transmission
  • HIV Outside the U.S.
  •   HIV TREATMENT & COMPLICATIONS

    Marijuana Might Reduce Neuropathy in HIV-Positive People, Study Shows
    For years some HIVers have been using medical marijuana to cope with a myriad of health complications, from nausea to neuropathy. Yet the federal government says any use of marijuana is illegal, and only 11 states have passed laws stating otherwise. Unfortunately for the feds, a new study by a major U.S. research center supports the use of medical marijuana to alleviate the symptoms of neuropathy: pins and needles, burning, stiffness or numbness in the extremities. People who smoked marijuana cigarettes reported a higher -- up to 72 percent -- reduction in pain than those who were given a placebo. But if medical pot is illegal, where did the study participants get their doses? Believe it or not, straight from Uncle Sam: The federal government has a single marijuana farm in Mississippi that it uses for research purposes. Experts note, however, that the marijuana grown on that farm is far weaker than what people normally have access to, which suggests that "regular" medical marijuana could work even better.


    FDA Panel to Consider CCR5 Inhibitor in April
    Maraviroc, the first of a new class of HIV medications known as CCR5 inhibitors, continues to make progress in the HIV treatment pipeline. On April 24, a U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advisory panel will review study findings on the drug and decide whether to recommend it for full approval. Maraviroc is being developed mainly as a drug for HIVers who have developed multidrug resistance. Other drug companies developing CCR5 inhibitors have had mixed success: GlaxoSmithKline stopped development of its candidate aplaviroc in 2005 after some people developed signs of liver damage, and Schering-Plough Corp. is continuing mid-stage trials of its own candidate despite reports that some people developed lymphomas.

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      HIV POLICY IN THE UNITED STATES

    Virginia Moves to Allow Hospital Visitations by Gay Partners
    In 1986, when hospital administrators in Seattle, Wash., refused to let Mike Rankin visit his gay partner, who was dying of AIDS, Rankin was forced to sneak into the ward with the help of a sympathetic nurse. Two decades later, Rankin, who now lives in Arlington, Virginia, is delighted that a bill being considered by Virginia's legislature might protect gay men and lesbians from the discrimination he faced. The bill, which passed the Virginia House of Delegates without opposition and is headed to the Virginia Senate, would require the state's hospitals to allow visits from anyone a patient wishes to see, which would guarantee gay partners, married spouses, friends and relatives equal visitation rights. (Web highlight from Washington Blade)


    U.S. Bill Would Cancel HIV Program for Pregnant Women and Infants
    Many breathed a sigh of relief in December when the Ryan White CARE Act, which funds HIV prevention, treatment and other services in the United States, was renewed after a year in political limbo. However, the status of Ryan White-funded programs won't be absolute until the U.S. Congress passes the 2007 budget. A last-minute change passed by the U.S. House of Representatives would eliminate a new $30 million program designed to support HIV prevention projects aimed at pregnant women and infants. The program was originally sponsored by a Republican senator; Democratic lawmakers claim that few states would have qualified for the program, which required extensive testing programs for infants, pregnant women and clients at sexually transmitted disease clinics and substance abuse centers. The senator who first sponsored the program has pledged to fight its elimination.


    U.S. ADAPs Still Lack Money, Watch Group Warns (PDF)
    Even with a $75 million increase in funding for 2007, many HIVers without insurance in the United States will continue to go without HIV treatment because there just isn't enough money for the country's AIDS Drug Assistance Programs (ADAPs), according to a report from the National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors. There are now 558 people on ADAP waiting lists in three states and Puerto Rico, according to the report, and other ADAPs have had to restrict the types of treatment available to low-income people with HIV. "ADAP traditionally grows at a rate of $100 million annually and with no additional funding ... waiting lists and other cost-containment measures will continue to be a permanent feature of this critical program," the report says.

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      TELL US WHAT YOU THINK!

    Take The Body's New Visitor Survey
    Don't you sometimes wish you could give us a piece of your mind? We wish you could, too! That's why The Body has launched its new online visitor survey: We're eager to hear what you have to say about what makes our site great (or not-so-great), and what we can do in the future to make it better. Please click here to spend just a few minutes anonymously sharing your thoughts. Our site will be better for it!

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      HIV TRANSMISSION

    Anal Sex Survey Launched by Rectal Microbicide Advocacy Group
    Most of the research into microbicides has focused on developing vaginal microbicides, but we all know that vaginal sex ain't the only kind. That's why the International Rectal Microbicides Working Group (IRMWG) is advocating for more attention and funding to be funneled toward developing microbicides that can be used during anal sex. The group is sponsoring this anonymous online survey for men and women; it asks a few brief questions about your anal sex practices and lubricant use. IRMWG says it will use the results to help it prioritize research. (Web highlight from International Rectal Microbicides Working Group)


    HIVer Delivers Frank Talk to Florida Teens
    "Boyfriends and girlfriends come and go. HIV stays with you forever," 35-year-old Damaries Cruz told an auditorium filled with teenagers last week. Cruz's talk was part of a two-hour HIV forum at the African-American Research Library and Cultural Center in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Cruz, who has been living with HIV for 15 years, spoke candidly to the 75 young attendees about safe sex and HIV prevention, and her audience returned the favor. "There are some young girls who are having intercourse like crazy," said 18-year-old Sadrina Habersham, of Miami. "A lot of people know the right thing to do, but they're not doing it." People ages 13 to 29 make up 24 percent of Broward County's 6,752 HIV cases and 15 percent of the 16,625 AIDS cases, according to the health department. (Web highlight from South Florida Sun-Sentinel; free registration required)

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      HIV OUTSIDE THE UNITED STATES

    HIV-Positive Canadian Football Player Convicted of Sex Without Disclosure
    In 2005, two women accused Canadian Football League linebacker Trevis Smith of having sex with them many times after he was diagnosed with HIV without revealing his status. Last week, a judge found Smith guilty of two counts of aggravated sexual assault for failing to disclose that he is HIV positive, and promised the football player a stiff prison sentence. Smith, a 30-year-old, married father of two, looked stoic after the verdict was announced, but his wife sobbed in the courtroom as he was escorted out. One of the two women who accused Smith -- neither of whom tested HIV positive, by the way -- said she was overjoyed at the decision. (Web highlight from Canadian Press)


    Africa's Largest-Ever HIV Vaccine Trial Is Set to Begin
    An HIV vaccine trial involving 3,000 people -- the largest ever conducted in Africa -- is set to begin in South Africa. The trial aims to test whether the experimental vaccine can either prevent HIV transmission or lower viral load in people who become HIV positive during the trial. Both HIV-negative men and women will participate in the four-year trial, which will enroll healthy, sexually active people ages 18 to 35. The vaccine cannot infect participants with the virus because it does not contain live HIV. All participants will be given condoms and will receive regular counseling on how to reduce their risk of becoming HIV positive.

    AIDS Awareness on Parade: Carnival Festivities Include Safe-Sex Message
    Carnival season is often associated with all sorts of wild behavior, including plenty of unsafe sex. But Caribbean HIV activists hope that will change this year. During Carnival, which begins next week, Caribbean HIV awareness groups will use songs, dances and parade floats to spread a safe-sex message. Condoms will be widely distributed for free. Caribbean AIDS experts believe the region is at a crossroads: Its HIV rate is the highest outside sub-Saharan Africa, and experts say that infections in the region could either plummet or climb dramatically.

    Meanwhile, 3,000 miles away in Brazil, the health ministry will distribute 10 million condoms ahead of the country's Carnival celebrations. National radio and television ads are also planned to remind Carnival-goers that with fun and joy should come sexual responsibility.


    Nigeria Trying to Outlaw Homosexuality
    Less than three months from now in Nigeria, it may become illegal to be a homosexual, or to participate in any homosexual sex acts. A new bill is currently being debated in Nigeria's House of Representatives that proposes a five-year jail term for anyone convicted of the "offense." Critics renounce the bill as anti-freedom, and more than 100 petitions have already been filed asking that it be withdrawn. A representative from UNAIDS also warned that, if passed, the bill would promote the spread of HIV: "[M]en who cannot talk about their sexual orientation are less likely to seek appropriate support services," he said. However, many analysts believe the bill will prove popular in a country where homosexuality is already taboo and elections are looming. (Web highlight from BBC News)

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    Also Worth Noting

    Safe Sex on City Streets
    New NYC Condoms Tell
    You Where to Get Off

    NYC Condom
    Just in time for Valentine's Day, New York City has begun distributing its own brand of condom with a special subway theme. More than 150,000 free "NYC Condoms" are being handed out across the city, and will be available at retail stores and night spots. The image above is of a condom wrapper; New York's subway lines are denoted by letters and numbers surrounded by colored circles.

    Medicine Recycling
    Your Unused HIV Meds
    Can Save Lives!

    AID FOR AIDS

    Do you, or does someone you know, have any Emtriva, Viread or Ziagen you don't need? The medicine recycling program AID for AIDS -- which collects unused meds from people in the United States and donates them to people in developing countries -- has issued an urgent announcement stating that it is extremely low on its supplies of these three meds.

    The organization specifically needs 200-mg doses of Emtriva, 300-mg doses of Viread and 300-mg doses of Ziagen. Click here to find out how you can donate.

    Profiles in Courage
    Inspiring Stories From HIV-Positive African Americans

    Brian Datcher
    When he was diagnosed with HIV in 1996, Brian Datcher's CD4 count was only 62. A steadfast commitment to his HIV treatment regimen has brought it up to 900, but Datcher doesn't consider his battle against HIV to be won. After losing both a partner of 10 years and an older brother to AIDS, he has focused his life on making a difference in the HIV community and empowering others who are HIV positive.

    "HIV/AIDS has made me realize that you must not take this life for granted. You must know that life is a gift and you must take care of that gift," Brian says. He helps people to realize their gifts by working in HIV prevention with his city and state health departments, as well as running an HIV prevention youth group. He believes that, besides his health regimen, what keeps him healthy is his faith in God.

    The Body is honored to present this one-on-one interview with Brian, which you can listen to as a podcast or read as a transcript. It's just one of many profiles in courage in our updated African-American HIV/AIDS Resource Center. Stop in and browse through interviews, personal perspectives, podcasts, resource listings and more!

    Visual AIDS
    Art From HIV-Positive Artists

    Image from the February 2007 Visual AIDS Web Gallery
    Untitled, c. 2000; Amos Beaida
    Visit the February 2007 Visual AIDS Web Gallery to view our latest collection of art by HIV-positive artists! This month's gallery is entitled "You Darkness"; it's curated by Bruce Hackney, a director at the art gallery Yvon Lambert, and Tim Smith, administrative manager of the artist Lisa Ruyter's studio.