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June 5, 2006
In This Hot Topics:
  • HIV Treatment
  • Complications of HIV & HIV Meds
  • Living With HIV
  • HIV & Health Coverage
  • HIV in the News
  • HIV Transmission
  • Strange but True
  •  HIV TREATMENT

    Switching From a Long-Successful Combo to a Simpler One
    I'm interested in simplifying my meds and would appreciate your feedback. For almost nine years now, I've been on Combivir (AZT/3TC) + delavirdine (Rescriptor) + indinavir (Crixivan), with an undetectable viral load and a CD4 count in the 500-to-800 range. However, 23 pills a day, three-times-a-day dosing, and indinavir's empty-stomach requirements seem quite onerous compared to some of the newer drug combos. I've also experienced lipoatrophy and increased blood lipid levels. They say if it ain't broke don't fix it, but a Truvada (tenofovir/FTC) + efavirenz (Sustiva, Stocrin) once-a-day combo sure looks appealing. What's your advice?


    Should I Start Treatment if My CD4 Count Is Still Over 350?
    My doctor suggests I should wait until my CD4 count drops below 250 before I start taking HIV medications -- I'm currently between 700 and 800, with a viral load below 10,000. But I recently read an article that says studies have shown that those who start therapy with a CD4 count above 350 have a far better chance of keeping AIDS at bay. Should I question my doctor's recommendation and try to start treatment earlier?


    Multivitamins, Garlic Oil for People Taking HIV Meds
    Is it safe for HIV-positive people who are taking HIV meds to also take multivitamins that contain small amounts of DNA and RNA? How about garlic oil supplements? I'm currently on efavirenz (Sustiva, Stocrin) + Truvada (tenofovir/FTC) and am trying to find an affordable vitamin regimen.


    Could Kaletra Monotherapy Work for Me?
    I've been taking HIV meds for 10 years without a problem. Recently, my physician modified my treatment to a single drug: Kaletra (lopinavir/ritonavir). Is there anything you can tell me about how wise (or foolish) this approach is?
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     COMPLICATIONS OF HIV & HIV MEDS

    How Can I Get My Mojo Back?
    I've been HIV positive since 1991 and am feeling less and less interested in sex. My doctor tried prescribing depo-testosterone injections, but if anything they just seem to be making things worse, and Viagra has had only minimal success. Is there anything else I can do?


    Too Little Fat for Testosterone Injections
    I've been taking testosterone injections for the past two years to treat wasting and low testosterone. Recently, however, my buttocks have shrunk so much that there's no muscle left to inject into. What other options do I have?


    Is the Measles/Mumps/Rubella Vaccine Safe for HIVers?
    Here in Iowa, there's been an outbreak of mumps on college campuses. I'm not a college student -- I'm a 51-year-old man with HIV -- but I live in a college town. Should I take the mumps vaccine to protect myself, or does the vaccine itself pose risks for people with HIV?


    Can I Restart an HIV Medication That May Have Caused My Anemia?
    In December 2005 I enrolled in a clinical trial in which we were given Combivir (AZT/3TC) along with either efavirenz (Sustiva, Stocrin) or an HIV medication in development, UK-427,857. Within a month, I became so anemic that I had to be hospitalized. My doctor switched my Combivir to Truvada (tenofovir/FTC). Throughout this entire time, I've also been taking valproic acid (Depakote, Depacon, Depakene; used to treat migraines, seizures, bipolar disorder and other psychiatric problems), which has the potential to cause anemia. If I stop taking valproic acid, is it OK to take Combivir again, or is it no longer safe for me to use Combivir?
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     LIVING WITH HIV

    If I Marry Someone With HIV, Will We Grow Old Together?
    My fiancé is 32 and HIV positive. I am HIV negative. While I know that there is an excellent possibility that he will live a normal life span, what are the chances that he and I will grow old together? He is 100 percent adherent to his meds, but I have to wonder about toxicity and opportunistic infections and cancers. I guess I want someone to tell me that I am not setting myself up for a lifetime of loving someone who will die a slow, painful death.


    Dealing With an Unexpected AIDS Diagnosis
    My brother was hospitalized with pneumonia, and after being admitted, he was diagnosed with AIDS. We didn't even know he had HIV, and we think he may have known but was in denial. He's still in the hospital now; his CD4 count is very low, and he's being treated for a number of other infections as well. Once he recovers and is ready to be discharged, what should his next steps be?


    U.S. Travel/Immigration Restrictions for People With HIV/AIDS
    Is it true that a person isn't allowed to enter the United States if they've been diagnosed with AIDS? What if they're HIV positive but don't have AIDS -- would they be allowed into the country?
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     HIV & HEALTH COVERAGE

    Maintaining Health Coverage While Switching Jobs
    I'm leaving my job at a large corporation to join a start-up company. There will be two weeks between my last day at my current job and my first day at my new job, and I'm concerned about maintaining my health insurance during that period. How do I ensure uninterrupted coverage?
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     HIV IN THE NEWS

    Does the Newly Found HIV-Chimp Link Bring Us Closer to a Cure?
    I just read an article about how researchers have finally isolated the origin of HIV in chimpanzees in Cameroon. Will this discovery bring us any closer to developing a vaccine or a cure?
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     HIV TRANSMISSION

    Is the Pull-Out Method Safe Enough for Anal Sex?
    I'm an HIV-negative male bottom, and my partner is an HIV-positive male top. We have unprotected sex, but his viral load is undetectable (he's on meds) and he always pulls out well before he ejaculates. Am I still putting myself at risk for HIV?


    Newly Diagnosed Husband; What Kind of Contact Is Safe?
    My husband just found out that he is HIV positive. What is the risk that he'll transmit HIV to members of our family?


    Drinking Urine: An HIV Risk Factor?
    A guy urinated on me during sex the other night. It wasn't much, but some did get in my mouth. Am I at risk for HIV or any other sexually transmitted diseases?
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      STRANGE BUT TRUE

    Moldy Semen, Old Cooked Chicken and HIV
    I realized I had accidentally thrown away something important, so I was digging through my trash bin. I found some Kleenex with moldy semen in it (I had masturbated earlier), which was next to an old chicken bone. I didn't think much of it at the time, but the next day I felt sick to my stomach and started to worry about HIV infection. Could it be that there is a chicken immunodeficiency virus, which reacted with my sperm and produced HIV? Could this virus have become airborne and infected me when I was digging through the trash?


    The Chicken Boy Strikes Back
    Do chickens get a version of HIV, like a cat can get FIV or a monkey can get SIV? How similar are these animal viruses to HIV? How long did it take for the virus to pass from chimps to humans?
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    Did You Know?
    Today in AIDS History

    On June 5, 1981, scientists published a report about a mysterious illness that had been found in a handful of gay men in San Francisco. The five men, all of whom had previously seemed healthy and had no known immune disorders, had developed Pneumocystis pneumonia -- a disease that usually only strikes people with severely impaired immune systems.

    The report, of course, turned out to be the first published cases of HIV/AIDS. In the 25 years since, HIV/AIDS has taken the lives of some 25 million people throughout the world. At the same time, the HIV medications we've developed today are saving millions of lives -- and have the ability to save millions more, if only we could reach all of the people who needed treatment.

    HIV/AIDS in 2006 is a completely different disease than it was in 1981: Today, it has a name, it has a treatment, and we know it can be stopped. This 25th anniversary won't provide any new answers, but it does give us the chance to look back on how far we've come -- as well as how painfully far we still have to go.

    For much more on the history of HIV/AIDS and the events surrounding the 25th anniversary of the first public HIV/AIDS report, click here.

    Visual AIDS
    Art From HIV-Positive Artists

    Image from the June 2006 Visual AIDS Web Gallery
    "Insight," 2003; Clifford Smith
    Visit the newly launched June 2006 Visual AIDS Web Gallery to view this month's collection of art by HIV-positive artists! The May gallery is entitled "Magick Eyes"; it's curated by Malik Gaines, an independent critic and curator, and Alex Segade, a film and video director.