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October 3, 2005
In This Hot Topics:
  • Mixed-Status Relationships
  • Living With HIV
  • Financial Issues for HIVers
  • Understanding Your Labs
  • HIV Treatment
  • HIV-Related Health Issues
  • HIV Transmission
  • Strange but True
  •  MIXED-STATUS RELATIONSHIPS

    From a Chat Room to a New Apartment -- and an Unexpected Diagnosis
    I've been in a whirlwind romance with a guy I met in an online chat room. We chatted for hours in the two days after we met online, and when I met him in person on the third day, it was like a dream come true -- he was everything a gay man could ask for! Within a week, we felt we'd known each other for years. He decided to move to my city, and by week three, we had found an apartment and moved in together. Everything was going perfectly -- until we both decided to get tested for HIV. My test came out negative. His was positive. Now I'm confused and scared; I love him so much, but I worry about my safety. What do I do?
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     LIVING WITH HIV

    Is Long-Distance Mountain Biking Safe for HIVers?
    I am passionate about mountain biking and have done several long-distance stage races (100-140 km each day for up to eight straight days). I'm also HIV positive and on treatment. Is there anything I need to be wary about when taking my body to these extremes? Mountain biking and off-road racing is what motivates me, but friends say it could be too stressful and dangerous.


    HIV and Death in the United States
    I have been HIV positive for six years now, and I still worry about dying all the time -- how I will die, when I will die. What are the main causes of death for HIVers in the United States? Do any U.S. states or territories have particularly high death rates? I graduated from college this year and plan on starting meds in the next six months, but I'm afraid to make major life decisions. How much longer am I likely to live?


    Becoming a Doctor When You're HIV Positive
    Can I become a doctor if I have HIV? Could I even become an HIV specialist?
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     FINANCIAL ISSUES FOR HIVERS

    Getting Meds When You Don't Qualify for Help
    My wife and I are both HIV positive, and have three children -- the newest was born healthy and HIV-free just last week. That's the good news; the bad news is that, as the sole provider, I have to take care of the entire family, and we're running out of money. The stress and responsibility of keeping my children and wife healthy is hurting my own health, and I can no longer afford to pay for my own HIV meds. We're a low-income family, but apparently not low enough to get help from local clinics. Oddly, agencies near my home (in Austin, Texas) have taken excellent care of my wife, but nobody seems to care about me at all. What can I do to keep myself alive and providing for my family?


    New Insurance Company Is Cutting Off T-20 Access
    My new insurance company refuses to cover my T-20 (enfuvirtide, Fuzeon) unless a doctor administers each of my twice-daily injections, which isn't a realistic demand. My efforts to get T-20 through a patient assistance program have failed. I've been taking T-20 for two years, and it's kept me healthy. What can I do to keep receiving it?
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     UNDERSTANDING YOUR LABS

    CD4 Count Decline in a Newly Diagnosed Smoker
    I recently tested HIV positive, and am not yet on treatment. My first blood tests showed a CD4 count of 375 and a viral load of 57,000; four weeks later, my next tests showed a CD4 count of 345 and a viral load of 10,000. Why would my viral load and CD4 count both drop? Could my smoking cigarettes have anything to do with it?


    What Could Cause a Sudden Jump in CD4 Count and Viral Load?
    My partner's viral load became immediately undetectable on his first HIV treatment regimen, efavirenz (Sustiva, Stocrin) + Trizivir (AZT/3TC/abacavir). However, he has had to switch the efavirenz to nevirapine (Viramune) because of side effects. His latest blood tests show that his CD4 count has risen by 165 in just three months -- but that his viral load went from undetectable to 34,000! How is this possible? He's been 100% adherent. Could this be a lab error?
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      HIV TREATMENT

    A Complicated Treatment Tale From a Medication Veteran
    Since my AIDS diagnosis in 1996, I've taken most of the available HIV medications and developed a long history of health complications. My latest blood tests showed that my CD4 count has begun to sink and my viral load to rise, raising the question: What can I try next? My doctor, as well as another doc we asked for a second opinion, are recommending tipranavir (Aptivus) plus T-20 (enfuvirtide, Fuzeon) with some other meds, but I'd like your take on my situation. What options are there for someone with my complex treatment history?

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      HIV-RELATED HEALTH ISSUES

    Mood Swings and Testosterone Replacement Dosing
    I'm experiencing wild mood swings; could it be because of my testosterone replacement therapy? I initially took AndroGel, but it stopped working after a while, so my doctor switched me to injections of Depo-Testosterone (a 1 mL vial once a week). Every fifth day after an injection, I get on a mood roller coaster to manic depression city. Then I inject on the seventh day and spend the next two days just leveling out. Essentially, I only have about three days a week where people can stand me. What should I do?


    Inconsistent Hepatitis B Test Results
    I've been tested for hepatitis B multiple times over the past four years, and keep getting different results! What's going on?


    Liver-Friendly Sleep Medications
    I'm mostly healthy, but I have problems with insomnia. As an inactive carrier of hepatitis B, are there any sleep medications I can take that won't hurt my liver?

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      HIV TRANSMISSION

    Can a Partial Circumcision Still Protect Against HIV?
    I have some loose skin on the underside of my penis, behind the head. When my penis is erect, the head is completely visible, but when I'm flaccid, the head vanishes completely into the skin. I've heard that uncircumcised men are more susceptible to HIV than circumcised men; how does this risk apply in my case?


    If We Have the Same HIV Strain, Is Unprotected Sex OK?
    My HIV-positive boyfriend and I always practiced safe sex, but I was recently diagnosed with HIV anyway. Does this mean we have the same strain of the virus -- and that we can stop using condoms?


    Twins Born With Different HIV Status?
    If an HIV-positive mother gives birth to twins, can one be born HIV positive while the other is HIV negative?

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      STRANGE BUT TRUE

    Masturbation Reinfection
    I'm HIV positive. A nurse told me that if I masturbate, I can infect myself with another strain of HIV. Is this true?
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    Visual AIDS
    Art From HIV-Positive Artists

    Image from the October 2005 Visual AIDS Web Gallery
    "Lucio on Tony's Bed";
    George Towne
    Visit the October 2005 Visual AIDS Web Gallery to view this month's collection of art by HIV-positive artists! This month's gallery is entitled "Manner of Solitude."

    Art Benefit in N.Y.
    Postcards From the Edge:
    Oct. 17-18, 2005

    Postcards From the Edge
    Every fall in New York City, Visual AIDS holds its hugely popular "Postcards From the Edge" benefit, and this year's event is fast approaching! On Oct. 17 and 18, people who come to the Robert Miller Gallery in Manhattan can view, and purchase, any of more than 1,200 original, postcard-sized works donated by many talented artists -- some of whom are widely renowned! Each postcard costs $50; all benefits go to Visual AIDS.

    To learn more about the 2005 "Postcards From the Edge" benefit, including info on how you can get a sneak preview of this year's postcards, click here!