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February 21, 2007

In This Update:
  • HIV Treatment & Complications
  • African Americans & HIV
  • Tell Us What You Think!
  • HIV Outside the U.S.

    Starting Next Week: The Body Covers CROI 2007
    The most important HIV research conference of the year, the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI), begins on Feb. 25 in Los Angeles. As always, The Body will be there to provide thorough coverage! Our team of HIV specialists and journalists will bring you the latest reports on everything from HIV-related health issues (such as body-shape changes), treatment strategies (such as structured treatment interruptions and the "when to start" debate) and new HIV medications. Our coverage will include news, summaries of key studies and podcast interviews with top researchers. Check our CROI 2007 home page beginning next week!

    Traditional Risk Factors, Not HIV Meds, Are Behind Metabolic Problems, Study Suggests
    It’s been the subject of debate for years: Why do HIV-positive people develop heart disease and metabolic problems (such as obesity, high blood pressure and high blood sugar)? Is it because of HIV meds? HIV itself? Or something else entirely? Well, according to U.S. study results published in medical journal Clinical Infectious Diseases, it looks like HIV meds are not the main culprit. The study found that traditional risk factors, such as older age and higher body mass index, play a much stronger role than HIV meds in determining an HIVer's risk of developing metabolic problems or heart disease. The study also dropped another bomb: Turns out metabolic problems are no more likely among HIV-positive people than they are among HIV-negative people, the researchers say. Intriguing findings, although this is unlikely to be the final word on this controversial subject. (Web highlight from

    An HIV Treatment Primer
    In the beginning, there was Retrovir (zidovudine, AZT) -- and only Retrovir. But since the early 1990s -- and especially in the new century -- the number of HIV medications has skyrocketed, and so has the range of treatment issues that HIVers need to understand. This article from the AIDS Community Research Initiative of America covers it all, from the days of monotherapy, when Retrovir was the first and only option for someone with HIV, to the plethora of choices and questions HIV-positive people are faced with today. Let this treatment primer walk you through what you need to know about deciding when to start treatment, choosing meds, managing side effects, reading your lab reports and avoiding resistance.

    How to Find the Perfect Health Care Provider
    Finding a good HIV health care provider, especially one you trust and feel comfortable with, can be a difficult and complicated process. Not only do you want to find a health care provider that keeps up to date on the latest medical knowledge, but they also need to be someone with whom you can discuss personal, and sometimes intimate, concerns. But how do you find that kind of health care provider? In this article from AIDS Community Research Initiative of America, some of the most important factors to consider in choosing a health care provider are discussed. It even includes topics you may not be considering yet because you're in good health, such as hospitalization and emergency access.

    Disclosing Status Can Improve Your Health, Researchers Suggest
    Can disclosing your HIV status and your sexual orientation help your immune system and raise your CD4 count? The answer, according to one Seattle, Wash., study, is yes -- at least among one group of low-income HIVers at a mental health clinic. The reason: By relieving potential causes of psychological distress, the researchers believe that people in the study were able to strengthen their body's natural immune response. (Web highlight from

    No Dangerous Interactions Between Two Major HIV Meds in Development
    Are you a treatment-experienced HIVer who's hoping for new treatment options from some of the HIV meds currently in development? You might be encouraged by the results of a recently completed drug-drug interaction study between the integrase inhibitor MK-0518 and the NNRTI etravirine (TMC-125). The study found no significant interaction between the two drugs, which means that they could be safely taken together in the hopes of creating a potent drug combination. Both meds are currently available through expanded access programs, which allow HIVers who have few other treatment options to access almost-approved HIV medications.

    ADAP State-by-State: Drug Assistance Across the United States
    More than 134,000 HIV-positive people in the United States receive help from the AIDS Drug Assistance Programs (ADAPs) because they're not poor enough to qualify for Medicaid but still can't afford HIV treatment. Though ADAP is a federal program, it is managed by the states, so benefits and eligibility requirements vary widely. While people enrolled in New York can get 480 different medications and supplements for free, Idaho and Iowa only offer 35. In California and Massachusetts, people can qualify for ADAP even if they make as much as $50,000 a year; in North Carolina, however, people making more than $12,250 aren’t eligible. Read this article to see how ADAPs differ across the United States.



    HIV & MeThe Body Presents: An African American's Guide to Living With HIV
    Within the African-American community, there's still an enormous amount of fear, ignorance and prejudice about HIV and HIV-positive people. If you're black and you've just been diagnosed with HIV, this stigma may cause you to feel guilty, depressed or angry in ways that can be hazardous to your health. That's why it's vital to know the facts. The Body's newest informational booklet, "HIV & Me: An African American's Guide to Living With HIV," can provide you with basic guidance, key details and inspiring stories that can help you live a full -- and fulfilling -- life with HIV.

    Do you work for an HIV service organization or health care provider? Free print copies of "HIV & Me" are available to professionals ordering from within the United States! Click here to download an order form.

    Among MSM, Blacks Are Least Likely to Have Risky Sex -- But Most Likely to Have HIV
    In San Francisco, black men who have sex with men (MSM) are less likely than any other MSM racial group to have risky sex, such as unprotected anal sex with a partner of unknown or different HIV status, according to an official report. However, despite having less risky sex, black MSM are more likely to have HIV than any other MSM racial group, the report says. San Francisco estimates that 14,205 of the city's 63,577 gay men have HIV -- and that more than 30 percent of MSM with HIV are African American. No one is sure why black MSM continue to be disproportionately affected by HIV; however, the most popular theories center on their lack of access to, or trust in, the health care system.

    U.S. Media Weigh in on HIV in the Black Community
    Feb. 7 marked the seventh annual National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day in the United States, and for one day at least, newspapers throughout the country took the time to acknowledge the African-American HIV crisis. The U.S. media showed varying rates of awareness: For instance, in Florida, the Palm Beach Post decided take "a rare chance to celebrate" the fact that federal data suggests HIV infection rates among blacks in Florida dropped 8 percent per year between 1999 and 2004 -- despite the fact that blacks are still 8.4 times more likely than whites to be diagnosed with HIV. By contrast, a Dallas Morning News columnist took a more sober tack, reminding readers that HIV "continues to take a toll on the black community," which can "no longer afford to be silent." For a closer look at editorials and opinion pieces concerning the impact of HIV on African Americans, read this round-up from the Kaiser Family Foundation.



    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!



    Three Patients at Italian Hospital Given Organs From HIV-Positive Donor
    Standard precautions in wealthy countries have virtually eliminated the spread of HIV through transfusions, organ donations and other medical procedures. In Italy, however, an apparent breakdown in the system resulted in three people receiving organs from an HIV-positive woman who had died of a brain hemorrhage. The 41-year-old woman's kidneys and liver tested positive for HIV, but the expert in charge of testing them mistakenly wrote down that they tested negative. Only time will tell if any of the three Italians actually become HIV positive, but for now, they seem to be keeping everything in perspective. "They asked immediately if the transplanted organ was working, and it was working perfectly," said hospital director Mauro Marabini. "They reacted quite calmly." (Web highlight from Associated Press)

    A Peace Corps to Fight AIDS?
    What is the best way for the United States to fight the global HIV pandemic? A new Institute of Medicine report suggests the United States create a “Global Health Service,” a Peace Corps-style program to send U.S. health care professionals to the countries hardest hit by HIV. An editorial this week in the prestigious Journal of the American Medical Association praises the idea. The program is a natural fit, writes Dr. Fitzhugh Mullan: The countries most affected by HIV are in dire need of health care professionals, and doctors in the United States are eager to help. The initiative would also be cheap, relatively speaking: The Institute of Medicine report estimated the cost of starting the program would be about $150 million a year -- roughly 4 percent of the $3.9 billion proposed 2007 budget for the President's Global AIDS initiative, and equal to the cost of 18 hours of the war in Iraq. (Web highlight from the Journal of the American Medical Association; a paid subscription is required to read the full article)

    To read the Institute of Medicine Report, click here.

    Also Worth Noting

    Profiles in Courage
    Inspiring Stories From HIV-Positive African Americans

    David Lee
    David Lee did not expect to be diagnosed with HIV. After all, he was an HIV case manager at a Houston clinic. "My diagnosis was especially difficult for me because I worked in HIV services at the time and I had to deal with a lot of self-imposed shame and guilt about 'knowing better,'" he explains.

    David has since realized that "Nobody has to feel ashamed." He tries to pass that wisdom on to his clients. Living with HIV has helped him become more focused on his goals; he has earned two master's degrees and traveled the globe. David also believes that growing up in a small, all-black town in Oklahoma shaped his identity as an African American; he has worked in the field of HIV for 15 years, mostly focusing on programs for African Americans.

    The Body is honored to present this one-on-one interview with David. 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
    "Red Flare," 2005; Stephen Andrews
    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.

    Connect With Others
    t The Body's Bulletin Boards

    "One Year in,
    and Still at a Loss"

    (A recent post from the
    "Gay Men With HIV" board)

    "I'm a poz guy living in Philadelphia. It's been one year and change since I found out I was positive and ... [I'm still] completely out of direction as to how to lead my life now that I have this condition, and still not able to be rid of this nasty 'death wish.' ... Don't get me wrong, I love life and the possibilities it brings, but I always somehow manage to f*** myself over. ... I've never been good at meeting people, but now, with this poz thing, I find it even scarier to meet men. Either they freak out or they are interested in me for completely strange reasons.

    "Anyway, what I want to say is F@#$!!!!! I'm stuck away from home (where everything I knew is pretty much destroyed), in an environment that fosters solitude, a city that unless I stick to my very straight (and close) friends has nothing to offer me but a life of unsafe sex and drugs, or condemmnation for being poz. I want to live and fight, but I see so little ahead I don't know if it's worth it. I'm alone, feel discarded, and sad, very sad. I have no strength left in me. ... Someone help me see the way out. ... I dare not pray to a God that apparently has already condemmed my very existence. Godless, loveless and healthless. ... How can I break through?"

    -- oz1975

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