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November 29, 2005
In This Hot Topics:
  • Living With HIV
  • Mental Health
  • Life & Health Insurance
  • Choosing Your Meds
  • HIV Drug Resistance
  • Other HIV Treatment Questions
  • Complications of HIV & HIV Treatment
  • Hepatitis
  • Strange but True

    Still Healthy After 20 Years
    I read a question from another forum user who had wondered about his future as an HIV-positive individual, and I felt compelled to share my experience. I became infected with HIV around 1984, when I was about 30, and was told that I probably had "a good six to months to live." I made the decision to prove the doctors wrong; I have stuck to the assumption that I will live a long, happy and productive life, and that in the end, old age -- not HIV -- will be the one and only thing to lessen my quality of life, and eventually end it. I know that in many ways I may have been just plain lucky, but I don't believe luck is the only reason I have had HIV for 20 years and remained healthy.

    The post this person is responding to was highlighted in our Nov. 14 "Hot Topics" e-mail. You can read it by clicking here.

    Short-Term Memory Loss in Healthy HIVers
    I've been talking with other HIV-positive people of varying ages, and although we're all in good health, we seem to share a problem with our short-term memory. When we try to recall some things, we're aware that we know the answer we seek, but can't actually remember it -- although later on, when we're under less pressure, the answer usually comes to us. We don't feel that we're experiencing dementia, since we're all reasonably intelligent and functioning people. Does this kind of thing occur often in people with HIV?

    Antidepressants Aren't Working, and Suicidal Thoughts Are Growing
    Ever since my HIV diagnosis in 2001, I've been severely depressed and full of anxiety. What makes it worse is that, when I go to work, my coworkers (who do not know my status) say such horrible things about HIV-positive people. This Sunday I spent much of the day wondering how I could commit suicide yet make it look like an accident so my family could collect life insurance. I've been on many antidepressants, antipsychotics and anti-anxiety pills, but nothing ever works over the long term. Will this ever end? Is there any treatment that will work for me, or am I destined to keep suffering with this and possibly not live to see my 25th birthday?

    Health Coverage as a Dependant Versus a Domestic Partner
    I'm an HIV-positive college student and currently get health coverage through my mother's insurance plan. My mother may lose her job, however, so I'm considering enrolling in my partner's health plan as a domestic partner. Would I have to pull out of one plan in order to enroll in another?

    Life Insurance Cancelled Without Warning
    About a year and a half ago, my employer switched life insurance carriers without notifying its employees. When this happened, I lost my coverage -- and now that I have HIV, our company's insurance representative says it's impossible for me to get that coverage back. Is there anything I can do?

    Is My HIV a "Pre-Existing Condition"?
    I'm considering upgrading my long-term health coverage, but the coverage comes with a confusing rule excluding "pre-existing conditions" that I've been treated for within the past six months. How can I know whether my HIV counts as a pre-existing condition?

    HIV Treatment Regimens That Fight HIV Throughout the Body
    In my research about HIV, I've learned that the virus can live in different "compartments" in the body (e.g., the blood, the brain, semen), and that not all HIV meds can reach all of those compartments. Can you recommend any regimen in particular that can fight HIV in the widest range of areas?

    CD4 Count = Zero; Avoiding HIV Treatment
    My 40-year-old son has had HIV for more than 20 years, and has never been on treatment. In the last five months, though, his CD4 count has plummeted; he now has zero T cells! His HIV doctor is recommending medications, but my son is afraid to take them; he says that meds killed his friends in the 1990s. What does it really mean to have a CD4 count of zero, and what can I say that will help him understand how important it is to start treatment?

    Recently Infected and Debating Treatment
    I've been told that a person's CD4 count and viral load tend to jump around a lot during the first year after he or she has been infected. I was infected 12 months ago. My last two CD4 tests showed a count below 350, so my doctor wants to start me on HIV meds -- efavirenz (Sustiva, Stocrin) + Truvada (tenofovir/FTC). But is it possible my CD4 count may still rise on its own? And if I do have to start treatment, is there a way I could avoid efavirenz? I'm afraid of the mental side effects.


    Think it's time to change your HIV meds? Whether the reason is side effects, a rising viral load or inconvenient dosing schedules, many HIVers reach the point where they start to ask, "Do I need a new treatment regimen?" On Monday, Dec. 5, top HIV specialist Dr. Paul Sax will answer your questions about switching treatment in a live chat!

    The Date: Monday, Dec. 5, 2005

    The Time: 9 p.m. Eastern/6 p.m. Pacific

    The Place:

    To sign up for e-mail reminders about this chat, or to presubmit questions you'd like Dr. Sax to answer, click here!

    This live chat is sponsored by Gilead Sciences, Inc.



    Did My Friend Get Drug-Resistant HIV From His Partner?
    Ten years into their relationship, my friend contracted HIV from his partner. Since his partner has been on HIV treatment for years, does this mean my friend has a drug-resistant strain?

    If I Have Resistance, Are All "First-Line" Regimens Off-Limits?
    I'm confused about how drug resistance affects my treatment options. If I develop resistance while I'm taking one of the "first-line" HIV treatment regimens recommended in U.S. government guidelines, does that mean ALL first-line regimens will no longer work for me? If I then take a "second-line" regimen and that fails too, am I out of options?

    Does Changing Meds Cause Drug Resistance?
    I need to switch off of my HIV treatment regimen because it costs too much money, but my doctor is reluctant to do so. She says that by switching, I may develop resistance to one or more of the drugs in my current regimen, Combivir (AZT/3TC) + efavirenz (Sustiva, Stocrin) + Kaletra (lopinavir/ritonavir). Is she right? Is the risk of resistance enough of a reason to avoid switching regimens?



    How Good Is the New Kaletra?
    Will the new, more convenient formulation of Kaletra (lopinavir/ritonavir) also be easier to tolerate? Are people more or less likely to have diarrhea when taking it? Would you recommend it over atazanavir (Reyataz) + ritonavir (Norvir)?

    Should I Retake My Meds if I Throw Up?
    I threw up about 45 minutes after taking my HIV meds. I didn't see any pills in the vomit, but should I take another dose of the meds just to be safe?

    Impact of Herpes Treatment on HIV, HIV Meds
    Do herpes medications like Famvir (famciclovir) have any interactions with HIV meds? How about herpes itself -- does it have any effect on HIV disease or treatment?



    Sleep Problems With Efavirenz
    I've been on efavirenz (Sustiva, Stocrin) for five years, and during the past two years I've developed severe problems with insomnia. Half an hour after I take efavirenz, I'm yawning, exhausted and ready for bed, but I just can't fall asleep. Do you have any recommendations?

    My Neuropathy Won't Go Away
    I was diagnosed with AIDS in 2005, but I started treatment right away; my viral load is now undetectable and my CD4 count is climbing above 200. The bad news is that I have a tremendous amount of foot pain -- I can barely walk! -- and my left hand is practically numb. My doctor prescribed Mobic (meloxicam) and Neurontin (gabapentin), but after the first day the pain and numbness came back. What's going on? What can I do?



    Scared of Hepatitis B Treatment
    I have hepatitis B. A recent biopsy found that I had stage 1 liver disease and stage 2 cirrhosis, so my doctor prescribed a medication called Baraclude (entecavir). I read about the drug's potential side effects, though; they scared me so much that I haven't taken it yet. I also don't want to start taking a drug I might have to keep taking for the rest of my life. Do you think it's OK to continue to avoid treatment?

    Is Safe Sex Necessary if Both Partners Have Hep C?
    My wife and I both have hepatitis C, though neither of us infected the other. Should we be using protection when we have sex?


    Ziploc: For the Safest Masturbation Ever
    Can I protect myself from HIV if I masturbate using a sandwich bag (instead of a condom)?
    Do. Know. See.
    The Body Commemorates
    World AIDS Day 2005
    World AIDS Day 2005
    Millions upon millions of dollars have been spent talking about HIV. There have been countless meetings, conferences, studies and reports devoted to talking about how to stop HIV from spreading. While the world talked in 2005, another three million people died from AIDS.

    It's now time to do -- to get involved. Check out The Body's World AIDS Day pages for some ideas on what you can do to help.

    Writing Contest
    Win $500 for Sharing Your
    Story; Deadline Dec. 1!

    Poster for the Positively Negative writing contest
    Are you between 14 and 22 years old and living in the United States? Do you have something to say about how HIV has affected your life? Enter the Positively Negative HIV & AIDS 2005 Story Writing Contest for U.S. youths. The winning writer will receive $500 and have his or her story adapted for an upcoming HIV prevention education film!

    To learn more about the contest or to download an entry form, visit the Hear Me Project at The deadline for entries is Dec. 1!

    Visual AIDS
    Art From HIV-Positive Artists

    Image from the November 2005 Visual AIDS Web Gallery
    "Crack is Wack," 1986; Keith Haring
    Visit the November 2005 Visual AIDS Web Gallery to view this month's collection of art by HIV-positive artists! This month's gallery is entitled "On the Road -- A Tribute to the Campaign to End AIDS."

    Want to learn more about the Campaign to End AIDS? Click here!