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January 9, 2007
In This Hot Topics:
  • Living With HIV
  • HIV Treatment
  • Complications of HIV & HIV Meds
  • HIV Transmission
  • Strange but True
  •  LIVING WITH HIV

    The Power of Prayer: Does It Have a Place in HIV?
    I am a Christian and have some medical problems. I still go to the doctor when it's necessary, but I've also had good physical, emotional and psychological responses to prayer. Dr. Bob, I've noticed that you seem to hold a grudge against religious approaches to HIV, but in a world of medicine and technology, sometimes faith is all we have.


    Disclosing HIV Status to Mom
    I was diagnosed with HIV in 1995 and I'm healthy: My CD4 count is 569, my viral load is 100,000 and I'm not on HIV meds. I've told some friends that I'm HIV positive, and I feel the time has time to tell my mom. Do you think it would be OK to invite my mom to see my HIV specialist with me? That way I could tell her in front of him, so that she could ask questions and not be so afraid.


    Will My Crack Addiction Interfere With My Meds?
    I've been smoking crack for the past 10 years, and I continued to do so even after I was diagnosed with AIDS. Will my addiction interfere with my HIV meds? Is it safe for me to continue smoking?
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     HIV TREATMENT

    Why Do Some HIV Meds Have to Be Taken on an Empty Stomach?
    I've noticed that some HIV meds are supposed to be taken on an empty stomach. Why is this, exactly? What would happen if I took one of these meds with a meal?


    What's So Special About MK-0518?
    There's been a lot of hype surrounding the possible approval of the integrase inhibitor MK-0518 in the near future. What will this HIV med offer in comparison to currently available treatments for people with drug resistance?


    Should I Drop Fuzeon From My Five-Drug, First-Line Regimen?
    When I began HIV treatment, I had a CD4 count of 10 and a viral load of more than 500,000. Within six months I was also diagnosed with two opportunistic infections. My doctor started me on a three-drug regimen, then added two more when my CD4 count didn't climb past 60. (A drug resistance test came up negative.) Since I started taking the fifth drug -- Fuzeon (enfuvirtide, T-20) -- my CD4 count has jumped from 60 to 190. But now my doctor wants to take me off Fuzeon. Do you think that's a good idea?


    Should I Start HIV Treatment Early if I Have Chronic Diarrhea?
    I developed diarrhea after taking a round of antibiotics last August. Not long after that I was diagnosed with HIV. My CD4 count is 405 and my viral load is 2,900, so normally I wouldn't need to start HIV meds right now. However, my diarrhea won't go away, and my doctor thinks that HIV in my gut could be the cause. I can manage it with over-the-counter medications, but if HIV is somehow damaging the immune system in my gut, should I consider starting HIV meds?


    My Doctor Wants Me to Take a Long-Term Drug Holiday
    I've been HIV positive and taking meds since July 2001. My viral load has been undetectable (except for one small blip in 2003 and one large blip this past November), and my CD4 count has been high -- about 1,200, usually. Now my doctor is encouraging me to stop my HIV meds entirely for two or three years. That sounds risky to me. What are the risks and benefits of intentionally going off meds for so long?


    Is It Safe to Switch From Sustiva + Trizivir to Atripla?
    I started Trizivir (AZT/3TC/abacavir) in 2000, a year after testing positive. In late 2005, a test showed that my viral load, which had previously been undetectable, had risen to 1,100. Although my viral load remained low or undetectable after that test, my doctor and I decided to add an additional drug (currently Sustiva [efavirenz, Stocrin] to my regimen, just to be on the safe side. The regimen has been successful: My CD4 count remains high and my viral load remains low. Despite that, the convenience of taking a single once-a-day pill -- Atripla (efavirenz/tenofovir/FTC) -- intrigues me. Would it be foolish of me to switch from Sustiva + Trizivir to Atripla?
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     COMPLICATIONS OF HIV & HIV MEDS

    Acetyl-L-Carnitine Dosing and HIV Drug Interactions
    To deal with joint pain and neuropathy, I've been taking daily doses of acetyl-L-carnitine for the past few weeks. I think it's helping, but how can I know if the dose I'm taking (1,000 mg to 1,500 mg) is the right amount? To avoid any possible drug interactions, how much time should pass between when I take my HIV meds and supplements like acetyl-L-carnitine?


    Will Cleaning Up Cat Vomit Endanger My Health?
    I know it's important for HIVers to be careful when they clean a cat's litter box because of the danger of acquiring toxoplasmosis. Is the same true of cleaning up furballs or vomit?


    I'm Resistant to My Sleeping Pills; Should I Replace Sustiva?
    I've taken Sustiva (efavirenz, Stocrin) for four years. Because it disturbs my sleep, I've also been taking sleeping pills. Unfortunately, the sleep aid is becoming less effective, and I've had to increase my dose. Now I'm wondering whether it would be better to switch from Sustiva to a new HIV med or just find a new drug to improve my sleep. What do you think?
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     HIV TRANSMISSION

    Gay and Just Diagnosed: Is My Partner at Risk?
    I have just been diagnosed with HIV and I'm still trying to get my head around it. I must have been exposed to the virus just before I met my new boyfriend. We had unprotected anal sex a couple of times right around the time I must have become infected, and a couple more times since. (I was the receptive partner each time.) I'm having trouble telling him that I've tested positive. How likely is it that he could already have contracted the virus from me?
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     STRANGE BUT TRUE

    Are Cigarettes HIV Killers?
    If I smoke cigarettes, will the smoke kill any HIV that might be in my mouth?
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    Visual AIDS
    Art From HIV-Positive Artists

    Image from the January 2007 Visual AIDS Web Gallery
    "Athletic Love," 1996;
    John Dugdale
    Visit the newly launched January 2007 Visual AIDS Web Gallery to view our latest collection of art by HIV-positive artists! The first gallery of the new year is entitled "Energy"; it's curated by the Tisch Summer High School Photography Program at New York University.