Posts Tagged ‘hiv’

Today is the 20th anniversary of Ryan White’s death…

Posted in Community, Family, General, News on Thursday, April 8th, 2010 by Kelly - 1 Comment

 

…but let it be more about his life.

Ryan White was diagnosed with AIDS at age 13 and gained international notoriety fighting for the simple right to attend school. In his short life, he opened hearts to the humanity of AIDS and opened minds to its reality.

As a father, I remember him most as a student and a son. He taught us about courage and forgiveness when by all accounts he should have shown none. His mother taught me how the strength of a parent can help shape the life of a child – even one facing the uncertain future of HIV/AIDS.

Photo courtesy of humanillnesses.com

It may have been inevitable that he would succumb to AIDS in a world without early diagnosis and anti-retroviral therapy. But his family’s fight for basic human rights drove awareness and focus in a time of fear and ignorance.

After moving to a new community, Ryan was able to thrive in his new world, attending school events, learning to drive, and making the honor roll. Maybe for a little while, he got to be a kid.

Two decades later, Ryan’s legacy lives on. His mark can be found in legislation that provides assistance to AIDS victims and in the commitment of his mother and friends around the world to fight the disease that killed Ryan.

His name is on our country’s most significant AIDS legislation: The Ryan White Comprehensive AIDS Resources Emergency (CARE) Act. First approved in 1990 and extended in 2009 by President Obama, the act created the nation’s largest HIV/AIDS federal grant program. It has been called America’s most important step in fighting the AIDS epidemic, helping thousands annually to receive support and care.

May we never need another Ryan White to lead a nation to better understanding. Bless Ryan and his family for their conviction and strength. This was something he didn’t need to go to school to learn.

“AIDS can destroy a family if you let it, but luckily for my sister and me, mom taught us to keep going. Don’t give up, be proud of who you are, and never feel sorry for yourself.”

~Ryan White

To find out more about the life and legacy of Ryan White, please visit http://ryanwhite.com.

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San Francisco leads with new HIV treatment policy.

Posted in Community, News, treatment, Well-Being on Tuesday, April 6th, 2010 by Kelly - Leave a comment

San Francisco public health doctors are urging patients to begin taking HIV medications soon after their diagnosis rather than waiting until their immune systems become compromised. Reports of this major policy change first surfaced last week in a New York Times article.

HIV AIDS ART drugsThese new city guidelines – to be announced next week by the Department of Public Health – may be the most forceful in the world in their strong endorsement of early treatment against HIV. Doctors will offer patients combination therapy and advise them to pursue early treatment, but the patients will ultimately decide whether to begin therapy right after their diagnosis.

Antiretroviral therapy is traditionally used to stall or prevent the progression of HIV to AIDS, and it can also prevent other side effects of a degenerating immune system, like opportunistic infections and cancers. The downside is that ART can also cause liver and kidney damage among other complications.

The issue of when to begin treatment is an often discussed decision that we are asked to make with very little information on when to begin a lifetime regimen of costly and sometimes toxic medications. The answer to when remains in dispute, but San Francisco doctors are opting for treatment before permanent damage is done

Even our nation’s experts are solidly divided on the issue of when to begin treatment. In December of last year, only half of the HIV experts on the 38 member Department of Health and Human Services panel favored starting drugs in patients with healthy levels of more than 500 T-cells.

The issue for doctors and patients is whether the damage caused by HIV is more life threatening than the damage caused by some of the antiretroviral drugs. Doctors just don’t know the answer to that question right now. You can expect a great deal of discussion on that in the coming weeks and months.

We will be exploring treatment options in the next few days on our blog. Please check back for new insights on when to start treatment.

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Can we control anything about HIV?

Posted in Community, Family, General, Information on Tuesday, March 30th, 2010 by Kelly - 5 Comments

I was speaking to a group at the Southwest Center for HIV/AIDS (http://www.swhiv.org) and heard some objections to the word “control” when it was used by another speaker. I started to think about what influence we really have over any aspect of our lives after a positive test…

The old Miram Webster dictionary says that control means to exercise restraining or directing influence over something or to have power over it. Let’s examine some ways we still have some control over our lives:

First, we control whether we seek or begin treatment.  The decision to begin treatment is a personal one best made in consultation with your healthcare provider.

Second, we control who we share our status with and who will be on our support team. I recently wrote a blog post about the positive benefits to your immune system when you share your status with supportive family and friends. It is your choice whether to share your status and who you share it with.

Third, we control our lifestyle choices. Even after a positive diagnosis, we make impactful choices about living a healthier lifestyle. Studies have shown that infection with a second strain of HIV (superinfection) may have medical consequences.

Fourth, we control our nutrition and diet. There are some basics we all should be aware of including the need for additional protein and calories in our diet. Several of the antiretroviral medications also require increased water intake in order to prevent kidney complications.

Fifth, we control how much we know about HIV. Have you heard the phrase “Knowledge is Power”? Read, ask, and share are the only ways that we will have the knowledge to take back some control after a positive diagnosis.

There are many more ways to exert some control over a diagnosis that may have us feeling out of control.

I recommend starting with Positively Aware – a publication by the Test Positive Awareness Network.  Please visit: http://positivelyaware.com/ . This bi-monthly publication is loaded with useful information.

Check back here frequently for more information and sources to build your knowledge and power.

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Exercise your way to managing side effects of HIV

Posted in Information, Well-Being on Monday, March 29th, 2010 by Kelly - 2 Comments

Michael Mooney and Nelson Vergel wrote a great article in the September/October 2009 edition of Postively Aware http://positivelyaware.com/2009/09_05/index.shtml about using exercise to manage the side effects of HIV.

In their research, they found that exercise can improve muscle mass and bone density while decreasing triglycerides and LDL (bad cholesterol). Building back your weight with lean muscles and improving your overall strength make exercise an attractive complement to your HIV therapy.

Starting an exercise program is tough for all of us and they recommend beginning with getting your blood pressure, heart rate, weight, body dimensions, fasting cholesterol, triglycerides, and blood sugar checked. Your doctor should be able to tell you if you are capable of exercising without affecting your health.

The number to remember is 10,000 – as in steps per day. If you are new to exercise, start walking every day and do the best that you can. Walking can help increase energy levels and get your ready for a more intensive exercise program as you are feeling better. Using a cheap pedometer to measure your daily steps is helpful and the number of 10,000 per day supports good cardiovascular health and fat loss.

The article provides a comprehensive guide to getting your workout program off the ground. It is an informative read at http://positivelyaware.com/2009/09_05/exercise.shtml.

Exercise always works best on the buddy system and it a good time to share with friends and family who support you. Beyond the physical benefits, it can improve your overall outlook and help with your quality of life.

Bottomline is that is a choice you make to take back some control. Choose yoga or choose basketball. Exercise can improve strength, fight fatigue and depression, improve endurance, increase cardiovascular fitness, help to reduce stress and promote muscle strength. It may also help the immune system work better.

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Common anti-biotic can fight HIV

Posted in Breakthroughs, News on Monday, March 22nd, 2010 by Kelly - Leave a comment

Last week, scientists at Johns Hopkins University made a startling announcement.

The common and  inexpensive antibiotic known as minocycline has been used to treat acne. Researchers found it effectively targets infected immune cells where HIV lies dormant and prevents them from reactivating and replicating.

Minocycline can be used in combination with a standard drug therapy we know as HAART (Highly Active Antiretroviral Therapy), according to this new research published online and appearing in April 15, 2020 edition of  The Journal of Infectious Diseases.

“The powerful advantage to using minocycline is that the virus appears less able to develop drug resistance because minocycline targets cellular pathways not viral proteins,” says Janice Clements, Ph.D., Mary Wallace Stanton Professor of Faculty Affairs, vice dean for faculty, and professor of molecular and comparative pathobiology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in their press release.

She went on to say that the big challenge for doctors is to keep the HIV in a dormant state and minocyline is another arm of the defense against HIV.

To read more about this new breakthrough, please go to http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/Press_releases/2010/03_18a_10.html.

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National Native HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

Posted in Community, Information on Saturday, March 20th, 2010 by Kelly - Leave a comment

National Native HIV/AIDS Awareness DayToday is 4th annual National Native HIV/AIDS Awareness Day.

National Native HIV/AIDS Awareness Day is a national effort designed to inform Native communities about the impact of HIV/AIDS in Native populations (American Indians, Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians). It was established to encourage education, testing and community involvement in HIV prevention.

Now that is an idea whose time has come.

I didn’t realize that Native Americans have the third highest rate of new HIV infections and I doubt most Americans do. Of persons who were diagnosed with AIDS, they have the shortest overall survival rate.

In real numbers this means 36 months after diagnosis, Native Americans survived at only 73%, compared to 79% for African Americans, 84% for Whites, 85% for Hispanics, and 89% for Asians.

This day challenges all of us work together to create a greater awareness of the risk of HIV/AIDS in our communities. It means better access to testing and increased treatment options. We flat out must decrease the occurrence of HIV/AIDS and increase survival rates.

The Centers for Disease Control is providing the funding and vital organizations such as CA7AE: HIV/AIDS Prevention Project, Colorado State University and Inter Tribal Council of Arizona (ITCA) are mobilizing their resources.

Gwenda Gorman, Health Promotion Program Director at ITCA  shared the impact of HIV/AIDS in Native Communities. She noted,” The awareness day will also challenge Native people to work together, in harmony, to create a greater awareness of the behaviors that put our communities at risk for HIV/AIDS.”

For more information on what you can do to recognize National Native HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, please follow this link:

http://www.itcaonline.com/nshapp/pdf/HIV%20AIDS%20Activity%20Sheet.pdf

Want to know more? Here is a link for more information on HIV/AIDS Awareness Days:

http://www.aids.gov/awareness-days/ .

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Going Bananas with HIV Prevention

Posted in Breakthroughs, News on Friday, March 19th, 2010 by Kelly - 16 Comments

It is true… a potent new HIV inhibitor derived from bananas may open the door to new treatments to prevent sexual transmission of HIV says the University of Michigan Medical School study published this week.

Banana may halt the spread of HIVScientists are taking a closer look at lectins, naturally occurring chemicals in plants, because of their ability to halt the chain reaction that leads to a wide array of infections. In this case, the banana lectin (BanLec) binds to a key HIV-1 protein opening the door to developing compounds that can prevent sexual transmission of HIV.

Sound a little far-fetched? It should be noted that drugs ranging from Quinine (used to treat malaria) to Taxol (an anti-tumor agent) are derived from plants.  Certainly we can’t forget that the powerful pain medication morphine comes from a plant.

The U-M team noted that some of the most promising compounds for inhibiting HIV transmission are agents that block the virus prior to integration into its target cell.

Michael D. Swanson, a doctoral student in the graduate program in immunology at the University of Michigan Medical School and lead author of the study, said “the problem with some HIV drugs is that the virus can mutate and become resistant, but that’s much harder to do in the presence of lectins.”

Therapies using BanLec could be cheaper to make than current anti-retroviral medications and BanLec may provide a wider range of protection. It works through a self-applied microbicide compound.

The authors of this study say that even a modest success with BanLec could save millions of lives. In a time of shrinking budgets for anti-retrovirals, the banana may truly hold promise for preventing infection.

So let’s hear it for one of our favorite fruits.

“On a traffic light green means go and yellow means yield, but on a banana it’s just the opposite. Green means hold on, yellow means go ahead, and red means where the hell did you get that banana at…”
~Mitch Hedberg

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Viral load may be related to your transmitting partner

Posted in General, Information on Tuesday, March 9th, 2010 by Kelly - 1 Comment

Now this is interesting…

US researchers have found that viral load in individuals recently infected with HIV is closely related to that of the individual who transmitted the virus.

In the online edition of AIDS, researchers noted, “We found a strong correlation between HIV-1 RNA levels in source and recipient partners in HIV-1 transmission pairs”.

The study also provided some insights into the factors contributing to the continuing HIV epidemic. Most notably, they found approximately two-thirds of the source individuals who transmitted HIV had only recently been infected with the virus themselves.

Viral load in early HIV infection has been identified as an important factor in disease progression and individuals who have higher viral loads at this time have a poorer overall prognosis.

Researchers from the UCSF Options Project sought to determine the relationship between viral load in the source partner and in the partner they infected within identified transmission pairs.

Their research involved 24 individuals with evidence of recent HIV infection. The study included total of 23 source individuals (one individual transmitted HIV to two partners). All 47 individuals included in the study were gay men.

The viral characteristics of nine of the transmitting individuals suggested that they had recently been infected with HIV. This finding adds to research suggesting that recently infected (and usually undiagnosed individuals) are a key factor in the continuing HIV epidemic.

The study’s analysis showed viral load in the source and infected partners were closely correlated.

The researchers noted that further study is needed to better identify the viral genetic characteristics associated with higher or lower HIV-1 RNA levels, and to further understand host immune responses that shape viral replication over time.

To read more about this study: http://bit.ly/bjBeZI

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Open with your HIV status? Could mean stronger immune system…

Posted in Community, Family, General on Monday, March 1st, 2010 by Kelly - Leave a comment

I knew that my son sharing his HIV status made our family stronger. What I didn’t realize is that he could have been making his immune system stronger as well.

Recent research has shown that people who were open about having HIV had a stronger immune system than those who didn’t and less illness as well.

There are many reasons why you might want to tell people that you have HIV, not least is the loving support which your partner, family and friends might be able to provide.

Being open about having HIV can also mean that you have more hope about your future.

A 2006 study by AIDS Services for the Monadnock Region (ASMR) in New Hampshire found that higher hope scores were associated with a stronger commitment to manage their illness and lower perceived denial.

More importantly, those with higher hope scores reported greater overall health, greater satisfaction with their physical state, and a higher energy level. The study also reported the higher hope scores were correlated with higher CD4 values at the start of the study and subsequently eight months afterward.

Decisions regarding sharing your HIV status are not simple ones. There are many factors that must be taken into considerations. It’s important to think about who you are going to tell, and your reasons for telling them.

Unfortunately, it is true that some people have experienced discrimination or rejection when they’ve told others that they are HIV positive.  You will have to determine what is best for you. 

The most important thing is that you feel you have control over who you tell about your HIV status. Now you may have some control over your HIV as well.

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Living a Normal Life Expectancy

Posted in Breakthroughs, News on Tuesday, February 23rd, 2010 by Kelly - Leave a comment

Many patients diagnosed with HIV today will have normal life expectancies, two European studies have found.

The studies were presented at the 17th Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI) found that certain groups of patients including those diagnosed recently and some patients with high CD4 counts when they begin treatment – will have normal or near to normal life expectancies.

In the first study done in the Netherlands, for a patient diagnosed at the age of 25 their life expectancy came to 52.7 years. This means they would die, on average, at the age of 77.7. There was relatively no difference to the life expectancy for 25 year olds in the overall Dutch population which was 53.1 years.

The study known as ATHENA is a long-term national observational study that has been following HIV positive people in the Netherlands since the introduction of combination Anti-Retroviral Therapy (ART)

The researchers noted, “The life expectancy of asymptomatic HIV-infected patients who are still treatment-naive and have not experienced [an HIV or AIDS-defining symptom] at 24 weeks after diagnosis approaches that of age and gender-matched uninfected individuals.”

It is important to note that the follow-up time in the study was short and that the predictions are dependent on ART treatment continuing to work. It is worth emphasizing that this study also excluded late-diagnosed patients.

In the second study performed in France in 2005, a similar result was reported.

In a time when we are concerned about the cost and support for continuing ART treatment, these studies reinforce the importance of early diagnosis and continued therapy.

To read more about these studies and how they were conducted, please read:

http://www.aidsmap.com/en/news/507F3477-660B-4D89-8527-DD915A1B339D.asp

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People Living with HIV and AIDS and HIV LIFE Expectancy

Posted in Information on Friday, January 15th, 2010 by admin - 4 Comments

People Living with HIV and AIDS and HIV Life Expectancy

If you were diagnosed as HIV positive, was one of your first questions–How long will I live?”  You’re not alone.  There is an HIV AIDS campaign regarding information on HIV life expectancy.  Before the current medications became available in the late 1990s, many people had the expectation that AIDS was an automatic “death sentence.”  In the terrible “old days,” people who were infected usually developed full blown AIDS within ten years of becoming positive, and then would usually lose their battle in less than two years.  Sadly, this is still the case with many other countries where the newer medications are not readily available.

image courtesy of content.undp.org

However, an HIV AIDS campaign regarding HIV life expectancy will give most people in North America a great sense of hope.  The reality is, most people here who carry the virus will most likely not die of AIDS, but like others who are HIV negative, eventually pass away from human realities, such as heart disease and injuries. 

image courtesy of squidoo.com

Another important teaching for people living with HIV and AIDS, is an HIV AIDS campaign regarding HIV life expectancy will give the good news the same things that will protect those who are HIV  negative—reducing risks—a healthy diet—quitting smoking—regular exercise—will also protect people with the virus.  This emphasizes the importance of looking out for high blood pressure, and for those who also have hepatitis, monitoring liver damage to make certain these non-HIV problems don’t develop into serious health challenges.

image courtesy of treatmentactiongroup.com

While overall, things are looking up, a small number of people are unable to tolerate the newer medications.  For these individuals and for those who do not receive treatment, or are unable to afford it, their life expectancies will be closer to that of patients at the start of the AIDS epidemic.

image courtesy of humorhaus.com

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