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April 4, 2005
In This Hot Topics:
  • HIV Treatment
  • Living With HIV
  • Just Diagnosed & Struggling to Cope
  • HIV Transmission (Pos-Pos Couples)
  • HIV Transmission (HIV-Negative People)
  • Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP)
  • Strange but True

    HAART and Heart Attacks: Are They Connected?
    At the age of 48, I suffered a heart attack and had a triple bypass. I had no history of heart problems prior to my heart attack, although I am HIV positive. I began taking abacavir (Ziagen), ddI (didanosine, Videx) and Kaletra (lopinavir/ritonavir) a little over a year before my heart attack. I've been reading more and more about heart attacks and HIV medication. It seems like there's a lack of honesty concerning HIV/AIDS drugs and their side effects. Did my meds do this to me? Should I keep taking my meds and chance another heart attack, or quit them and wait for AIDS to take me?

    Are Slow Progressors Worse Off When Starting Treatment?
    On my doctor's advice, I've been on a treatment break for the past two years, after being on HIV meds for five years. My overall health is pretty good: My CD4 count is 480, my viral load is 33,000, I don't smoke or drink and I exercise regularly. However, my doctor says that when viral load increases as slowly as mine is, I shouldn't expect my meds to work well when I restart treatment. Is she right? How many years will I be able to look forward to after I start meds again?

    Can Treatment-Naive People Have Drug Resistance?
    I was infected with HIV back in December 2002, but have never been on treatment. I've had a genotypic resistance test done, and just received a call from the doctor's office asking me to come in to discuss the results. Now I'm very worried that he's calling me in to tell me I'm drug resistant. How common is it to find someone completely or almost completely drug resistant even though they've never been treated for HIV?



    Can Workplace Stress Cause HIV Disability?
    My boyfriend, who is positive, and I, a "neggie," have been together for almost five years. We're two gay men living in central Pennsylvania, where the workplace is quite conservative, making his work life extremely stressful. One of our friends, who is HIV positive, suggested that my partner try going on disability because the stress could be affecting his immune system. My question to you is, what amount of workplace stress will have a dire effect on a person's CD4 count and viral load?

    Leaving College for the Working World -- and Health Insurance Uncertainty
    I'm a soon-to-be college graduate who will be entering the workplace. I've had HIV for four years, with no major changes in my health. My father's insurance is eager to dump me and is counting the days until I graduate. I'm worried about being able to find health insurance. My prospective employers all offer plans, but does that mean they have to cover me, or are they allowed to refuse me coverage? Is it as hard for people with HIV to get health insurance as it is to get life insurance?

    How Do I Go on Disability?
    I've been with the same company for the past 13 years, and am considering going on disability because of my HIV status, my depression and my need to start treatment soon. I have medical benefits (including short- and long-term disability) through my employer, as well as an independent long-term disability policy. What are the procedures for going on disability, and how will this affect my health benefit payments?

    Are Disability Payments Taxable?
    I am HIV positive and my employer offers short- and long-term disability. The policy says it pays about half of my base salary. Would I have to pay taxes on that?


    A distraught, newly diagnosed person recently posted to The Body's "Starting Treatment" forum to ask about HIV meds and the prospect of living with HIV. His note triggered an unusual back-and-forth discussion between him, Dr. Ben Young (a co-moderator of the forum) and other forum visitors. We link to the original post, and a couple of the responses to it, below.

    The Original Post:
    I've just been diagnosed with HIV, and thinking about how I've ruined my life is unbearable. Are these HIV meds worthwhile, or is it better just to get out now?

    Response #1:
    It seems like only yesterday that I was going through the same thing as you. The day I got my positive results was the worst in my life, and the year that followed was not much better. I know we got ourselves into a mess that we could have avoided, but it does not mean that your life as you knew it is over! I don't want to downplay things, because there are millions of people that have died and are dying of this disease all over the world, including people in the industrialized world. But if you have just been diagnosed and you have access to healthcare, DON'T BE SCARED, FIND SUPPORT and LIVE!!

    Response #2:
    I have to echo the previous person. Most days for me are also about a nine on a 10-point scale. I have been on HAART for about three and a half years. It took about a year to find a combination that had tolerable side effects but it was well worth it. You do have to get yourself mentally prepared to take responsibility for your health on a daily basis. You need to eat a balanced diet, exercise, get regular sleep, take your meds on schedule and never miss a dose. I saw what HIV did to all of my friends in the late 80's and early 90's, and my doctor told me that I had to let go of those images. The new generations of medicines have really changed the outcome of many lives.

    Response #3:
    There are so many things besides HIV that can mess up your life, and hiding in your house the rest of your life will probably kill you before HIV infection does. Get help: medical, spiritual, mental, emotional, whatever. Don't hide from life. If knowing who to talk to is a problem for you, let someone direct you to your nearest AIDS service organization and talk to them. And don't beat yourself up for walking into this particular trap. Learn to improve how you think about things and how you deal with difficulties, and you will find that, although HIV does take away in some ways from your life (such as not being able to donate blood, having to make frequent visits to various docs, and get lots of blood draws), it can also push you toward a greater understanding of yourself and others. It can get better, but ya gotta get up and get started and not beat yourself up all the time with how stupid you are. Push toward accepting your situation and yourself, and live!

    Is It OK for Two Pos Guys to Bareback?
    My boyfriend and I are both HIV positive -- him for 10 years, me for four months. If I bareback him (as the top), could I catch his more advanced strain of HIV?

    Transmitting Resistance Between Partners
    I just got married to an HIV-positive man who is already resistant to the HIV medications I'm taking. If we stop using condoms (I'm starting birth control), can he reinfect me with his drug-resistant strain, and make me resistant to the treatment regimen I'm doing so well on?

    HIV Exposure and Self-Hatred
    I am addicted to unprotected sex. I know the risks. I know that I will eventually seroconvert if I continue with my reckless behavior. But I don't know how to stop. Despite my knowledge, I find myself compulsively drawn to unsafe, anonymous encounters. I know what you're thinking. You're disgusted. Everyone who reads this will be disgusted. You'll all see it as irresponsible and suicidal. You'll think that I'm lower than the lowest scum. That I deserve everything I get. But you see, you're right. All of you. I hate what I'm doing, and I hate myself so much. I want to stop. I just don't know how. Every time I get tested, and it comes back negative, I'm so relieved. But then, I continue the same unsafe behaviors all over again. I need help. I know I do. I just don't know where to turn or who to trust. I've been betrayed so many times.

    Early HIV Testing and False Positives
    Two weeks after a having a few minutes of unprotected receptive anal sex with someone (no ejaculation), my boyfriend had a PCR test done -- it came back positive, with a count of 83. However, his ELISA tests so far have been negative. He's convinced he's HIV positive, but I told him the results were unclear, and that the symptoms he's feeling might just be stress. What do you think?

    HIV Risk for Exotic Dancers
    I've never seen any information regarding HIV risk for an exotic dancer. It happens all the time: the customer ejaculates in his pants and is not wearing a condom. The dancer finds a wet spot on her cloth. What is the risk? Is there any evidence that exotic dancers have become infected this way?


    Is PEP Necessary for Barebacking?
    Yesterday I barebacked this HIV-positive guy I'm seeing, foolishly thinking that I was relatively safe because I was on top. I now know better, but the deed is done; do you think I should seek out post-exposure prophylaxis? My doctor's office told me they don't see any urgency.

    PEP for Low-Risk Sexual Contact
    I had several low-risk exposures with a prostitute, and my doctor -- who shared my concerns about possibly contracting HIV through microscopic tears in the condom, or because I bite my fingernails -- prescribed a post-exposure prophylaxis regimen. But I can't tolerate this regimen; I feel sick all the time. If I were to quit the regimen, what is my risk?


    Can I Get HIV From Eating a Thumb?
    I just heard someone found a thumb in their spaghetti out in California. Is this true, and if so, would the person who ate it get HIV?
    Art From HIV-Positive Artists
    Image from the new April 2005 Visual AIDS Web Gallery
    "2 Spirit Girl," 2001; Mooshka
    Visit the new April 2005 Visual AIDS Web Gallery to view this month's collection of art by HIV-positive artists!

    Your Unused HIV Meds
    Can Save Lives!


    AID FOR AIDS is a New York-based nonprofit organization that collects unused, HIV-related medications and redistributes them to people living with AIDS in Africa, the Caribbean and Latin America.

    Have HIV-related medications (including antiretrovirals and meds used to prevent or treat opportunistic infections) you'd like to donate? AID FOR AIDS will pay the price of postage if you're unable to afford the cost. Click here to learn more.