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October 30, 2006
In This Hot Topics:
  • You and Your Labs
  • Just Diagnosed
  • HIV Drug Resistance
  • Complications of HIV & HIV Meds
  • Living With HIV
  • Mixed-Status Relationships
  • Strange but True
  •  YOU AND YOUR LABS

    Undetectable Viral Load Without Meds?
    Is it possible for someone's viral load to be undetectable, even if they aren't on HIV meds? Does this mean that their bodies have somehow fought off the virus?


    What Does "CD4" Mean?
    I know that my CD4 count is a measure of the health of my immune system, but what does "CD4" actually mean?
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     JUST DIAGNOSED

    Just Diagnosed and Very Hopeful -- Am I Being Realistic?
    Since I was diagnosed with HIV three months ago, I have been doing a lot of research about treatments on the horizon. It seems like scientists are exploring a lot of exciting new ways to beat this disease. I know there is a long road ahead of us, but I hope that we are on the road to drug-free management of the disease or -- dare I say it? -- a cure. Please tell me I'm not deluding myself. My doctor tells me I may not need meds for years and I'm a naturally optimistic person, but I still need some reassurance!


    I Was Just Infected; Should I Start Treatment Now?
    Although I tested HIV negative on an antibody test in July, I had a viral load of 214,000 and a CD4 count of 380, indicating I was probably just infected with HIV. By September, my viral load was 18,000 and my CD4 count was 270. Is it time for me to begin HIV treatment?
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     HIV DRUG RESISTANCE

    What Are the Symptoms of HIV Drug Resistance?
    When an HIV-positive person switches to new meds, how long does it take to determine whether they are resistant to any of the new drugs? Are there any signs one should look out for?


    Confused About Drug Resistance and My Muddied Treatment History
    I was diagnosed in 2001, and since then my doctors have put me on a range of different regimens. I also recently ended a yearlong treatment holiday due to peripheral neuropathy. Throughout the past five years, my viral loads and CD4 counts have been going up and down with no perceivable pattern. What's happening? Am I resistant to any of the meds I've taken? What should I do next?


    My Doctor Wants to Try Mega-HAART. How Do We Pick the Drugs?
    My HIV is resistant to all medications on the market. My current regimen, 3TC (lamivudine, Epivir) + T-20 (enfuvirtide, Fuzeon) + tenofovir (Viread), has become ineffective. My CD4 count is down to 100 and my viral load is 750,000. My doctor and I are discussing trying "mega-HAART" -- taking a combination of many different HIV meds -- until an effective new drug is developed. How do we pick which meds to try?
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     COMPLICATIONS OF HIV & HIV MEDS

    I Can't Stand These Side Effects, But My Doc Says I Can't Stop Treatment
    When I started taking HIV meds, my CD4 count was 0. Thanks to treatment, my viral load has now been undetectable for five years, but to be honest, I can't stand all of the side effects. My doctor says that because my CD4 count was so low when I first started treatment, it's dangerous for me to ever stop taking HIV meds. What should I do? I want to stay healthy, but I also want a better quality of life.


    Your Kaposi's Sarcoma Lesions Will Go Away (Mine Did!)
    Last week a man asked Dr. Frascino whether his Kaposi's sarcoma lesions would ever go away. I want to tell him my story. When I was diagnosed last February, I had about 50 lesions on my torso, arms, legs -- even the soles of my feet and the top of my head. Immediately after I started HIV treatment, they began to disappear. Eight months later, I only have about 20 lesions, and even they are shrinking and fading away. So, don't throw away your shorts and T-shirts just yet! It takes a while, but once your immune system is restored, those lesions will go.


    Should I Change Meds to Prevent More Heart Problems?
    I am a 42-year-old woman who was diagnosed with HIV in 1997. Since I began treatment, I've had great CD4 counts (over 1,000) and a viral load below 50. Sounds great, right? The problem is that within the last two years, I have had high cholesterol, hypercoagulation syndrome, several mini-strokes and needed two stents put in to widen my arteries. Currently, I'm taking atazanavir (Reyataz) + ritonavir (Norvir) + Truvada (tenofovir/FTC) for HIV, along with a cholesterol-lowering drug and blood thinners. Is there an HIV treatment regimen that's more cholesterol-friendly?


    Could My HIV Meds Have Increased My Testosterone?
    I've been HIV positive for 18 years and use testosterone gel to help combat fatigue. Two months ago, however, I switched to a new HIV treatment regimen, and my testosterone counts suddenly shot through the roof, even though I still feel fatigued at times. What could have caused this to happen?
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     LIVING WITH HIV

    What Can We Do to Help Fight HIV Stigma Worldwide?
    I just read an article about two boys who were expelled from an orphanage in India because they tested positive for HIV. I feel terribly sad when I read stories like this. So much has been done to educate people about what can and cannot cause HIV, yet we hear about instances like this almost every day. What can we do to help?


    Can My HIV-Positive Friend Take Viagra?
    I have an HIV-positive friend in Saudi Arabia who is taking Combivir (AZT/3TC) + Kaletra (lopinavir/ritonavir). He has been married three months and hasn't been able to have sex with his wife because of impotence. Would it be alright for him to take Viagra?


    How Can I Learn About HIV Travel Restrictions Throughout the World?
    I'm HIV positive, and this winter I will be traveling in South America for six weeks. I'm wondering whether any of the countries I plan to visit restrict the travel of HIV-positive people. How can I find out what to expect from immigration and customs agents in countries across South America?


    Should I Keep Taking Vitamin E?
    I've been taking a multivitamin and a vitamin E supplement ever since I was diagnosed with HIV. I'm also taking HIV medications and doing extremely well. However, I've seen some conflicting reports about vitamin E: Some say it's good for you, but others say it may be harmful. What do you think?
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     MIXED-STATUS RELATIONSHIPS

    Can a Gay, Mixed-Status Couple Skip the Condoms if the Pos Partner Is the Bottom?
    A few months ago, I decided to stop using condoms with my HIV-positive partner. He is on meds and his viral load is undetectable. I am strictly the top in the relationship. We are in good health and monogamous. Are we foolish to skip protection?


    Mouth Cut During Oral Sex: Is There an HIV Risk?
    My HIV-positive boyfriend gave me a blowjob (unprotected). Afterwards, he noticed that he had apparently cut his mouth during oral sex. Is there any risk that he may have transmitted HIV to me?
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      STRANGE BUT TRUE

    A Halloween Tale: The Curse of the Pink-Lined Tongue
    I had unprotected sex with a girl about 10 years ago, and lately I've noticed a pinkish line running down the left side of my tongue. Do you think it could be HIV?
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    Visual AIDS
    Art From HIV-Positive Artists

    Image from the October 2006 Visual AIDS Web Gallery
    "Red Brassier, Mask and Cat Eye Glasses," 1996; David Abbott
    Visit the October 2006 Visual AIDS Web Gallery to view our latest collection of art by HIV-positive artists! This month's gallery is entitled "Stardust: A Two-Part Show"; it's curated by Leah Oates, an artist and independent curator living in New York.