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January 23, 2006
In This Hot Topics:
  • Living With HIV
  • HIV Treatment
  • HIV & Treatment-Related Health Problems
  • Health Insurance & HIV
  • Hepatitis
  • Strange but True
  •  LIVING WITH HIV

    Is Lasik Eye Surgery Safe for HIVers?
    I've just been diagnosed with HIV, and although I have yet to get any viral load or CD4 test results, my only symptom is some swollen lymph nodes. I had Lasik surgery on both of my eyes last September (before I was diagnosed), and am scheduled to go back for an enhancement next month. Given my new HIV diagnosis, should I consider putting off the surgery?


    Newly Diagnosed at 40: Can I Live a Normal Life?
    I'm a 40-year-old man in the United States who's been newly diagnosed with HIV. My HIV doctor (who is excellent) doesn't feel I need to begin HIV meds because my numbers are all near normal. I don't smoke or drink to excess, and have no other infections or diseases that could complicate my HIV. Can I live a normal lifespan?
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     HIV TREATMENT

    Resistant to Most HIV Meds: Is There Still Hope?
    I've developed resistance to many HIV meds, and am now on a six-drug combination that isn't keeping my HIV at bay: My viral load is 6,500 and my CD4 count is 266. I'm afraid I won't make it through this year. My doctor says there are new drugs on the way that may help me. Is he right? What are my prospects?


    Gaining Access to TMC114, a Drug in Development
    My doctor wants to start me on an HIV medication in development, TMC114. Since it's not yet approved by the U.S. government, though, he's having trouble gaining access to it. Do you know any way I can help my doctor obtain the drug?


    Concerns About Starting Treatment: Timing and Side Effects
    I'm a recently diagnosed, but otherwise healthy, 33-year-old man living in Thailand. My doctor feels I won't need to start treatment for years, but I'm not so sure: my viral load is hovering between 30,000 and 40,000, and although my CD4 percentage is steady at 38%, my CD4 count has dropped from 767 to 580 over the past three lab tests. When do you think I'll need to start HIV treatment -- and when I do, will the side effects be as bad as some of the horror stories I've heard about?


    How Reliable Are Genotypic Resistance Tests?
    I could have sworn I had resistance to nelfinavir (Viracept), but my genotypic resistance test says I don't. Can I trust the test results?


    Are All HIV Treatment Regimens Doomed to Fail?
    From the things I've read about HIV treatment, I get the sense that HIV meds are doomed to fail. Despite its success in bringing down the death rate due to AIDS, it seems to me that all HIV treatment has managed to do is prolong a decline in health and make it expensive for HIV-positive people in the process. What do you think?
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     HIV & TREATMENT-RELATED HEALTH PROBLEMS

    Interactions Between Lipid-Lowering Drugs and HIV Meds
    My doctor has prescribed Lipitor and Zetia to treat my hyperlipidemia (high cholesterol/triglycerides). Could either of these drugs interact with my HIV regimen? I'm taking abacavir (Ziagen) + efavirenz (Sustiva, Stocrin) + fosamprenavir (Lexiva, Telzir).


    Thoughts on Weight Loss vs. Fat Loss, And the Use of Steroids
    I think it's important that people with HIV -- and their doctors -- understand the difference between fat-related problems and the best way to handle them. HIV-related wasting is not the same thing as weight loss, and a person can develop the "HIV look" in their face without actually losing any weight. Also, the use of steroids may not help people with body-shape problems; in fact, sometimes it can make those problems worse. Could you comment on this?


    Fat-Related Concerns When Switching From Atazanavir to Kaletra
    I'm taking atazanavir (Reyataz) + ritonavir (Norvir) + Truvada (FTC/tenofovir), but the atazanavir has turned my eyes yellow. I'm thinking about a switch from atazanavir + ritonavir to Kaletra (lopinavir/ritonavir), but am worried that Kaletra may be more likely to cause fat-related problems. Could you clarify the risks?


    Efavirenz to Atazanavir: A Smart Switch to Stop Side Effects?
    I've been taking Combivir (AZT/3TC) + efavirenz (Sustiva, Stocrin) for two years now, but the efavirenz has caused nightmares and made me irritable. My doctor wants to replace efavirenz with atazanavir (Reyataz) boosted with ritonavir (Norvir). Do you think this is a good idea, or will it just cause a new set of side effects?
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      HEALTH INSURANCE & BENEFITS

    Health Insurance for the Newly Self-Employed
    I have good health insurance coverage through my current employer, but I'm considering leaving this job and working for myself. I know that COBRA coverage will maintain my health plan for a while after I leave my job, but what can I do for insurance after COBRA runs out?


    COBRA and Bankruptcy
    My company may be on the verge of bankruptcy, leaving me with two options: 1) resign from my job to get COBRA or 2) stick it out and hope for the best. However, is it true that if my company declares bankruptcy, both my current benefits and my COBRA coverage will cease to exist? Can I get medical insurance for HIV if I am forced out of my company's plan due to bankruptcy?


    Applying for Social Security Disability
    How do I go about filing for Social Security disability benefits in the United States?

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      HEPATITIS

    Hepatitis C Treatment: Options After Relapse?
    I finished a full course of hepatitis C treatment with interferon and ribavirin, and it looked like the drugs worked: my hepatitis C viral load was undetectable after 24 and 48 weeks. But my latest test showed a detectable hepatitis C viral load. What should I do now? Does the fact that I have low-level cirrhosis impact my treatment options?


    PCR Testing for Hepatitis C
    Why do doctors use PCR testing to confirm whether a person is infected with hepatitis C?


    Testing for Hepatitis B DNA
    When is it necessary to measure a person's hepatitis B DNA levels?

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      STRANGE BUT TRUE

    You'd Think He'd Be More Worried About the Rented Shoes ...
    Can I get HIV or other sexually transmitted diseases at a public bowling alley by using a bowling ball that had leftover blood or other deposits in the holes?


    I Borrowed a Masturbation Device; Is My Penis at Risk?
    I used someone's pocket masturbator in a public restroom, and since then, my penis has felt tingly. Could I have gotten a sexually transmitted disease?
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    Visual AIDS
    Art From HIV-Positive Artists

    Image from the January 2006 Visual AIDS Web Gallery
    Untitled, 1991;
    W. Benjamin Incerti
    Visit the January 2006 Visual AIDS Web Gallery to view this month's collection of art by HIV-positive artists! This month's gallery is entitled "Compassion, Responsibility and Independence"; it's curated by a group of 16 teenage photographers who completed a summer program at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts.
    HIV/AIDS Quiz
    Will You Pass the Test?
    (100 Bucks Says You Will)

    Looking for a little extra pocket change? Take The Body's monthly HIV/AIDS Knowledge Quiz for a chance to win a $100 cash prize. You may also learn some things about HIV that you didn't already know!

    How can you get in on the action? Easy: Just take our five-question quiz. Answers to all five questions can be found on The Body. A particularly good place to look for answers is in recent editions of our weekly e-mail updates.