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July 12, 2005
In This Hot Topics:
  • HIV Treatment Decisions
  • Mental Health & HIV
  • HIV/HAART-Related Health Issues
  • Hepatitis C Treatment
  • HIV Transmission
  • Strange but True

    How Risky Is a Two-Week Treatment Holiday?
    I have to stop taking my HIV meds for 15 days in order to make a work-related trip abroad. Given that my CD4 count is around 250 (up from a low of 14) and my viral load has been undetectable for two years, how risky is this break in treatment?

    Inconvenient Dosing for a Once-a-Day Regimen
    I've been told to start taking a once-a-day regimen of 3TC (lamivudine, Epivir) + atazanavir (Reyataz) + ddI (didanosine, Videx) + ritonavir (Norvir). But I have to take atazanavir with food and ddI without food. Is this definitely the right combination for me to take? I have had HIV since 2002; my CD4 count is 320 and my viral load is 1,500,000.

    Despite Support, Weighed Down by Life With HIV
    Dr. Bob, how do you keep such a positive attitude? I've had HIV for 13 years, and although my numbers are better than ever, I still feel awful, have many health issues and cannot work. I have the support of my entire family and my friends, but recently I have become hateful to everyone around me, including my family and my HIV-negative partner of 22 years. (I was infected when we briefly broke up and I had unsafe sex with somebody else.) I don't want to fight this anymore; I'm not going to do anything stupid, but I'm ready to stop treatment altogether. What is wrong with me?

    Depression and HIV: How Much Are My Meds to Blame?
    After 11 months on efavirenz (Sustiva, Stocrin) + Truvada (tenofovir/FTC), my CD4 count is up to 780 and my viral load is undetectable. I haven't had any sleep problems, but at times I feel depressed, negative and antisocial; sometimes I feel like jumping out of my skin. How can I tell if these are being caused by my meds, clinical depression or just my situation -- dealing with stigma, pills, dating/sex, being furious at myself for allowing this to happen, etc.?


    Is Smoking More Dangerous for People With HIV
    My partner, who was just diagnosed with HIV a month ago, has been smoking for about 20 years. How bad is it having HIV and being a smoker? How can I help him quit?

    Will New HIV Meds Be More Lipid-Friendly?
    Are there any data on whether the new or developing HIV meds, like tipranavir (Aptivus) and TMC114, affect cholesterol and tricyleride levels? I'm currently on Kaletra (lopinavir/ritonavir) and my levels are extremely high, even though I'm taking lipid-lowering meds.

    Fatigue After Heart Attack
    I'm 45 and was diagnosed last year. My HIV doc started me on Combivir (AZT/3TC) + efavirenz (Sustiva, Stocrin). Within six months, my CD4 count was up from 99 to 238 and my viral load was down from 450,000 to undetectable. Everything was fine until April, when I had a heart attack. Two arteries were blocked, one 100% and the other 80%. I had angioplasty and stents placed in both arteries. Now, not only am I on the HIV meds, I am also taking a host of medications for my heart. I have absolutely no energy at all. My life basically consists of going to work each day and sleeping when I get home. The cardiovascular doctors tell me that I should be exercising, but it is all I can do just to keep working each day. I quit smoking and am eating better, but I still don't feel any better. I'll be seeing my HIV doc in two weeks; any specific questions I should ask regarding my extreme fatigue?

    Impact of Surgery on HIV and HAART
    I was hospitalized for two weeks due to complications from pancreatitis. While I was in the hospital, my HIV treatment was stopped, because my doctors felt the HIV meds were limiting the accuracy of their blood work. In a few weeks I will need surgery to correct these complications; I expect they'll have to stop HIV treatment again when that happens. What impact will the trauma of surgery have on my immune system, and how will these brief treatment interruptions affect my HIV?

    Bactrim and Sunlight: A Real Risk?
    The warning label on my bottle of Bactrim (an antibacterial drug often used to prevent or treat pneumonia) states: "Avoid prolonged or excessive exposure to direct/and or artificial sunlight while taking this medication." Why is this, and what can I do to protect myself if I plan a day outside?



    Worried About Hepatitis C Treatment Side Effects
    My doctor says I'm in the acute phase of hepatitis C infection. I'm about to begin 24 weeks of treatment with Pegasys (generic name: peginterferon alfa-2a) + ribavirin, but I'm scared about the side effects. Can you offer me hope?



    South African HIV-Positive Couple Having a Baby
    I am 30 years old and living in South Africa; I've had HIV for nine years now, and have been taking Kaletra (lopinavir/ritonavir) and efavirenz (Sustiva, Stocrin) for a year. My CD4 count is 415 and my viral load is 950. My husband and I are considering having a baby. Do you think it's safe for me to do so?

    Safety of Doing Dental Work on HIV-Positive People
    I'm a dental student who recently volunteered to treat HIV-positive people at the clinic in my Ivy League dental school. We haven't been instructed to take any extra precautions with our HIV-positive patients (like double gloving), and all of our instruments (even those covered in blood) are sterilized with instruments used on HIV-negative people. I assume my clinic knows what it's doing, but I just wanted to know what risks I, as the healthcare provider, face. Is there something I should do to give myself extra protection?


    Sex in a Fitting Room
    The other day my wife and I had sex in a dressing room at Bloomingdale's. Both of us have tested HIV negative in the past, but what if we came into contact with blood or some other fluid that was already in the dressing room? Could there be a risk for HIV?
    Meet the Winners of's 2005 HIV Leadership Awards!
    Joni Lavick, winner of a 2005 HIV Leadership Award
    Joni Lavick from Los Angeles, Calif., is one of 10 outstanding HIV case managers and social workers who have won a 2005 HIV Leadership Award from Joni is a therapist specializing in HIV at the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center. She has been helping people with HIV since 1986; since those early years, she says, her job has shifted from helping people cope with dying from HIV to helping them cope with living with HIV.

    Want to meet all 73 winners of's 2005 HIV Leadership Awards? Click here!
    Art From HIV-Positive Artists
    Image from the July 2005 Visual AIDS Web Gallery
    Sum of its Parts #8, 1998;
    Daniel Gray
    Visit the July 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.