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Archive for October, 2006

Raging Bull

Posted by pozlife on October 31, 2006

Nov 2006

by Laura Whitehorn

Testosterone therapy glitches can morph positive people into incredibly angry hulks. How to keep your cool while keeping your hormone levels up

I abhor violence,” says the usually mild-mannered New Yorker Mark Milano. “Until I started testosterone shots, I couldn’t even watch boxing.” But once the 50-year-old Milano, who’s had HIV since 1982, began the hormone-lifting injections, he says, “I became aggressive and obnoxious. I wanted to see guys hurt each other.”
Low testosterone (or “T”) troubles about 25% to 45% of men and women with HIV, causing fatigue, depression and bone thinning and shrinking weight, energy and libido. Milano’s T level was borderline low when his doctor prescribed weekly 100 mg injections of testoster-one cypionate in an attempt to reverse his weight and muscle loss.
The shots soon restored some size—both muscle and fat—but “I found myself constantly itching for a fight,” Milano says. “I provoked my very first brawl: a shoving match with a great big guy.” After three months, Milano shed the shots; nowadays, he bulks up with exercise and diet.
But testosterone replacement—in shots, patches, gels or creams—doesn’t have to make you mean (or, for women, hairy and husky-voiced).
Doctors recommend:

  • Monitoring your testosterone (both “free” and “total” counts) with periodic blood tests. The normal range is wide and idiosyncratic; only you and your doctor can determine whether (and when) you need replacement therapy. The decision will involve looking not only at the blood test results but also at your particular symptoms.
  • Dosing carefully. You need just enough replacement testosterone to get your levels back to normal (women require far less than men). During replacement therapy, your doctor will check your testosterone levels regularly and adjust doses accordingly. Men should have prostate exams before and during T-replacement therapy because if cancer is present, testosterone can accelerate its growth.

Milano thinks a lower dose or the more gradual boosting of a gel or cream might have produced better results for him. As it is, he’s not interested in trying again. “It’s true that the shots turned me into a raging bull,” he says, although he has since eased back into his old softie self. Peace out.

 

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Researchers flip ‘switch’ on immune system

Posted by pozlife on October 25, 2006

The HIV virus exploits the human body’s natural mechanism for shutting down the immune system, but the process can be reversed, according to several new studies.

The Wall Street Journal reports that studies headed by researchers at Canada’s Université de Montréal point to the tantalizing possibility that doctors one day could switch a patient’s immune system back on, so that it could resume its fight against HIV, or even cancer cells, certain parasites or the virus that causes hepatitis C.

The studies, published in the journal Nature and its sister journal, Nature Medicine, build on almost 15 years of work by other researchers, including Kyoto University Prof. Tasuku Honjo, who in the early 1990s discovered a molecule, which he named PD-1, on the surface of disease-fighting T-cells.

The latest findings are preliminary, and there isn’t any way to predict whether this avenue of research will ever yield new treatments. And there’s several looming trouble areas, most notably that switching the immune system back on — the most obvious treatment strategy — might trigger autoimmune disease.

 

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SIN is in: An HIV-positive social network

Posted by pozlife on October 24, 2006

Far from being devastated by HIV, Bryan Levinson grew with it. A welcome by-product of his experience is Strength in Numbers (SIN), the fast-growing social network of HIV-positive men and friends Levinson founded.
By Mark Breindel
An Advocate.com exclusive posted October 19, 2006

Different people react to HIV-positive diagnoses in different ways. Some become depressed, some try to escape. Bryan Levinson responded by starting his own HIV-positive social network.

“Maybe my way of denial was to be in total openness about it,” he muses, a few busy years later. “I’ve been totally open from day one.”

Far from being devastated by HIV, Levinson grew with it. After “coasting along” in his late 20s, Levinson said the experience of getting HIV at 30 made him start taking better care of himself, and more fully appreciate life.

“I find that happens with positive guys,” Levinson said. “They tend to become more settled, because they’ve had the shit knocked out of them. I tell people God bitch-slapped me: ‘Wake up, bitch!'”

Original SIN

A welcome by-product of Levinson’s “bitch-slapping” is Strength in Numbers (SIN), the fast-growing social network of HIV-positive men and friends Levinson founded.

Levinson started SIN with a potluck dinner at a private home in the Hollywood hills in 2003. He initially conceived of the group as a dating vehicle for HIV-positive men. It was three years since the entertainment executive had become positive himself, and he felt he’d be more comfortable going out with other HIV-positive men.

“I think that there’s more acceptance,” Levinson said. “We’re not going to have that big issue weighting between us.”

Dinner led to weekly breakfasts in West Hollywood. Soon the group had grown from dozens to hundreds. A Web site was created. Meanwhile, the original dating club had morphed into a social organization.

“Here I was trying to put something together because I knew guys really needed a venue for dating, because being positive brings so much [emotional] risk with it, but when I saw how the guys were interacting, it became more social very quickly,” Levinson said.

SIN provided an ideal environment for HIV-positive gay men to share their experiences with one another. Men who’d been infected for 20 years offered guidance to younger men like Levinson, who’d only recently started dealing with HIV — and vice versa.

“Newer guys have a whole new take on living with HIV,” Levinson said. “I think they don’t come with that same emotional baggage. If you’ve been living with HIV for 20 years, you’ve probably lost the vast majority of your friends, and that takes a huge emotional toll. Guys like myself don’t have that same emotional baggage. I think we’re more optimistic about what the future can bring.”

At the same time, HIV “veterans” know the ins and outs of long-term treatment, and they’ve navigated some of the illness’s trickier emotional curves. “When [newly positive guys] post these questions — ‘I have KS (Kaposi’s sarcoma)! I’m freaking out!’ — Then the guys who have had it since the ’80s can walk them through it: ‘I’ve had it. You’re gonna be OK,'” Levinson says.

Since going online, SIN has expanded across the U.S., Canada and the U.K. SIN groups in larger cities hold dinner parties like the ones Levinson continues to host in Los Angeles. “I really want guys to be able to meet each other in person,” Levinson says. “When you actually get to see people in the flesh, that’s really where you’re going to make a bond.”

Levinson doesn’t see an inherent conflict between the Internet and the offline world. Over time, he predicts, the Web will serve more and more as a means of bringing people together physically.

One major benefit the Internet already provides is that it connects isolated men in smaller towns. “First they’re gay in a rural area, and now they’re positive,” Levinson empathizes. “Here’s this great vehicle for them to be able to reach out.”

An important part of Levinson’s mission is to reach out to such men, who lack social outlets. He sees that group growing, unfortunately, as public resources contract. “A lot of times the first thing they cut in AIDS services is any kind of social event; now they have to put all their resources into pure therapy,” Levinson says. “In a lot of areas, they’re seeing all of their HIV services cut.”

SIN doesn’t require much funding. Levinson is not actively seeking grants — and especially not the strings that are typically attached to them. Mostly, he’s focusing on private and online fundraising to keep the Web site running.

SIN also helps more urban men find one another, especially when they travel. AIDS is still stigmatized; HIV-positive men risk rejection whenever they meet new people in new cities. With SIN, they can hook up with people they or their network buddies have pre-screened.

“I think that’s a huge relief,” Levinson says. “Because when you go to a new city, and you’re positive, you put up these walls — ‘I’ve gotta start watching myself.’ It comes in subtle but profound ways. You have to monitor yourself like you’re back in the closet, and it gets exhausting after a while.”

Local SIN chapters enjoy substantial autonomy, by design. “We try to let each group be as independent as they can be, because I really think local ownership is the key,” Levinson says.

SIN’s popularity in the U.S. suggests the group could become a hit worldwide. Levinson says he’s brushing up on his college French and Spanish: “Once we really establish ourselves in the U.S. and Canada, I think more people will start hearing about us around the world, and we can start helping people around the world.”

Wisdom of SIN

Levinson has learned a lot about HIV life through SIN. For one thing, he’s found that many HIV-negative men value the community HIV-positive men share. Whether they’re the partners of HIV-positive men or just friends, HIV-negative men are drawn to SIN, and to the social bonds they find there.

At the same time, Levinson has discovered that some HIV-negative gay men are more skittish about AIDS than even straight folks. “I think gay men tend to be a little more uptight about the issue, because they’re afraid of catching it,” Levinson says. “I think there’s also this sense of fear and denial. So when you come to them and you’re really open about being positive, that puts the issue right in their face. If they push away anybody in their life who’s positive, they don’t have to deal with the issue.”

HIV-negative men would do well to overcome their fear and recognize the allies they have in HIV-positive men, Levinson suggests. SIN members tend to be very protective of their HIV-negative friends and lovers, committed to preventing any more infections, Levinson says. In fact, many HIV-positive men prefer not to date HIV-negative men, Levinson has found — sometimes to their suitors’ consternation: “I’m supposed to be rejecting you, not the other way around!” Levinson hears them protest.

Given the complexities of HIV life, Levinson’s greatest surprise may be just how many HIV-negative men have fallen for him since he was diagnosed. After all, he started SIN with the expectation he’d be dating HIV-positive men, yet it seems the tables are turning. “Now I have to face dealing with that,” Levinson says. Such are the wages of SIN.

 

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Could You Fill ‘Er Up, Please?

Posted by pozlife on October 24, 2006



From the October 2006 issue

Although kidney disease can be yet another affliction for aging HIVers, it can be managed effectively

By Dan Bowers, MD

The prevalence of kidney disease is increasing in the HIV population, which is good news and bad. The good news is that patients are living longer, but the bad news is that as HIVers age, they’re at increased risk for declining kidney function just as the general population is. Unfortunately, there’s additional bad news; the risk factors for kidney disease are more prevalent among HIVers.
Hypertension and diabetes account for about 85% of the kidney disease in the general population. Depending on the study cited, hypertension is found in 10% to 20% of HIV patients and diabetes in 2.5% to 14%. Another risk factor for kidney damage is elevated lipid levels, a problem well-known by people with HIV. Even higher risk is found in HIVers with low CD4 counts, high viral loads, hepatitis C coinfection, or cardiac or vascular disease. It is also more common in people with a family history of kidney disease and in people of African descent.
Nephropathy, the leading cause of end-stage renal disease among HIVers, requires dialysis, and 88% of patients who have it are black. But since this disease is the result of HIV’s attack on the kidneys, the introduction of combination therapy in 1996 has reduced the incidence of end-stage renal disease.
The initial screen for kidney disease is relatively simple: a standard urinalysis and a basic blood test. If no protein is found in the urine and the calculation of kidney function, called a glomerular filtration rate, is normal (based on a formula using the serum creatinine), then no further testing is needed. These measurements should be repeated annually, especially in patients with the higher risk factors mentioned above.
If urine protein is present or the GFR is low, further quantification of urinary protein loss, renal ultrasound, and a possible nephrology consult for kidney biopsy would be the next steps.
If kidney disease is found, it is important to control blood sugars and lipids. Blood pressure should be treated to maintain readings below 125/85, preferably with either of two standard classes of antihypertensive medications, called angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors or angiotensin receptor blockers. Quitting smoking helps too.
Anti-HIV medications might not need much adjusting. Generally, nonnukes and protease inhibitors can remain unchanged, since they are large molecules, tightly protein-bound, and primarily liver-metabolized. Nukes, though, are excreted through the kidneys, so adjustments need to be made, especially for drugs with significant dose-dependent toxicities such as d4T and ddI.
Viread (tenofovir) is a nucleotide that can cause kidney damage if it accumulates in the kidney tubules. Since tenofovir is kidney-excreted, declining kidney function can lead to higher tenofovir levels. Therefore, it is important to monitor kidney function regularly in patients on tenofovir. To date, all randomized double-blind studies with tenofovir show similar kidney safety compared to other compounds.
As the awareness and importance of monitoring for declining kidney function leads to more diagnosis, we may see a rise in the incidence of kidney disease in HIV patients. But with early screening comes early treatment and the prevention of end-stage renal disease. This scenario may be similar to the late 1990s when lipid levels began to rise after the introduction of combination therapy and then an increase in cardiovascular events was noted. Once aggressive lipid control became the standard of care, the incidence of cardiovascular events stabilized.
So I see lots of hydration in your future. “Could you give me a urine sample, please?”

 

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Attention pointed in wrong directions

Posted by pozlife on October 23, 2006

SEAN KOSOFSKY

Republicans need to take responsibility for the Mark Foley scandal.

The latest revelation that a priest may have victimized the former U.S. representative when he was a child does not let Foley off the hook for his own despicable behavior. Nor does it exonerate Republican House officials.

Party leaders have exploited the “family values” mantra, while all along vilifying the most vulnerable among us – gays, minorities and women.

Yet the minute one of their own behaves abhorrently, they try to cover it up, then try to deflect blame and finally turn on each other.

Foley blamed alcohol before predatory priests.

House Speaker Dennis Hastert blamed the media.

And Christian fundamentalists blamed the entire gay community.

The Family Research Council and other far-right voices have used this current scandal to make the farfetched claim that tolerance of gay people allowed Foley secretly to hit on male congressional pages.

But this issue has nothing to do with sexual orientation or tolerance. The scandal has to do with abuse of power and those who may cover it up to save face. Plus, congressmen have engaged in predatory behavior toward female pages, and the Family Research Council didn’t use that as an occasion to denounce heterosexuality.

If organizations such as the Family Research Council have their way, Americans will learn nothing from these scandals. What’s worse, many people may begin to believe the lies about gay people being a threat to children. The saddest part is that this smokescreen will only continue to hurt children because parents and law-enforcement leaders will look for the bogeyman in the wrong places.

An article from 1998 in the Journal of the American Medical Association shows, as other studies have, that

98 percent of male pedophiles are heterosexual.

Researchers and advocates for children agree that it is not gays who are the problem – but people with disorders who may be the ones you least expect.

The smokescreen of anti-gay profiling has clouded the dialogue about how to protect children and has needlessly fostered a climate of discrimination.

We shouldn’t be misled by all the distortions surrounding the Foley scandal.

Myrtle Beach Online

 

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Student Convicted

Posted by pozlife on October 22, 2006

A student in the internal Russian republic of Mordovia was convicted of slandering two traffic police officers. He pleaded guilty to publishing a pornographic story about two homosexuals where the officers became the main characters.
It turns out that Alexei, the student, committed the act out of revenge, writes the “Novye Izvestiya” newspaper. At the beginning of last year he was driving his Zhiguli in his hometown when the two officers stopped and fined him 500 rubles for not having his driving license. Alexei felt this was unjust and went out of his way to exact revenge.
During a computer class in the Mordovia State University he downloaded a pornographic story from the Internet that recounted the love games of two homosexuals in graphic detail. Alexei changed the names of the characters to those of the police officers, including their ranks and place of work. He placed the updated story on another site, which suddenly became popular.
Eventually his actions were detected by the deputy prosecutor of Mordovia, who “accidentally happened to look” at the site. Upon his request, the Mordovia Ministry of the Interior started investigating why the “personal lives of the guards of law and order” were described in such explicit detail on the internet. A special unit on technological crime for spheres like the internet found the culprit fairly quickly.
The prosecutor’s office of Saransk proceeded with two charges, “Insulting the authorities” and “Unlawfully distributing pornographic materials”. They even created an expert group with the Ministry of Culture.
“I reviewed all of the evidence, and it is definitely pornography!” said the expert group assistant head Anna Shatova.
The trial took place in a local Saransk court, and the judge sentenced Alexei to one year in prison and moral compensation to each officer. Alexei pleaded guilty as charged.

 

 

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HIV & Disability

Posted by pozlife on October 18, 2006

Changes to the federal disability application process could remove some high hurdles that HIVers have had to jump to receive much-needed benefits

By Bob Adams

Applying for Social Security disability benefits can be challenging, to say the least. This has been especially true for HIVers, whose debilitating ailments often sound like symptoms of minor illnesses to analysts who are meant to be suspicious and prevent fraud in the federal system. But a new pilot program launched this summer in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont—and slated to expand nationally beginning next year—could significantly streamline the process and speed the review of disability claims.
While none of the changes were specifically tailored for HIV-positive applicants, many will nevertheless benefit HIVers by eliminating inefficiencies in the sometimes cumbersome and slow-moving application process.
“With HIV-positive people living longer and people still getting infected, you’re going to see HIV-related disability applications rise,” says Jason Roundy, program manager of client advocacy services at AIDS Project Los Angeles. “So anything that eliminates inefficiencies is a positive step for people with HIV.”
The new disability process being piloted in the Northeast has five key enhancements.
• Mandating a quick turnaround on approval—within 20 days—for people who are clearly disabled.
• Forming a Medical-Vocational Expert System that includes health care and workplace professionals to help evaluate applications and appeals.
• Creating a new position—the Federal Reviewing Official—to review state agency disability determinations as needed.
• Allowing an administrative law judge to rule on applications if an applicant disagrees with the Federal Reviewing Official.
• Creating a Decision Review Board to review and correct inaccurate disability determinations.
Most HIV-positive applicants will not fall into the “clearly disabled” category whose ailments prevent one from working, which is expected to include blindness, paralysis, amputation, and other serious medical conditions, according to Howard Schwartz, associate director of coordinated care at New York City’s Gay Men’s Health Crisis. But automatically approving certain other ailments, Schwartz says, should free up time and resources for speedier reviews of complex applications, including those from HIVers. The majority of the other changes, advocates say, will benefit all Americans simply through eliminating inefficiencies in the disability review process.
However, Roundy explains, one new provision that should directly aid HIVers is adding medical and vocational experts to the application review process. Many HIVers seeking disability benefits are unable to work because of such HIV-related conditions as fatigue or impaired cognitive function or even antiretroviral-related side effects such as neuropathy, nausea, and diarrhea. Having experts on the review team who are familiar with these pitfalls should help avoid unnecessary decision delays and reduce initial application rejections. “Essentially it’s going to shore up where Social Security doesn’t have the experience to look at or evaluate the case,” Roundy says.
One step that hasn’t changed is the need for applicants to detail why they are unable to work and to have their doctors provide specific evidence of their work-related disability, Roundy adds. “There has to be a very high level of clarity that an individual is incapacitated in some way,” he says. “You have to state very specifically that you are unable to perform key work activities.”
The good news is that most caregivers, AIDS service organizations, and other groups helping HIVers to file disability claims are more savvy about what it takes to document an approvable application. AIDS Project Los Angeles, for example, offers Social Security disability workshops for clients twice each month.
“We’ve had 25 years’ experience at this at this point,” Roundy says of the agency. “Doctors are better at explaining why a client is disabled. The populace is better at clarifying conditions that are disabling. We’re better at coaching them through that. The goal is to have a positive outcome on the first evaluation, and fortunately we’re all much more experienced in achieving that.”

There are two types of federal disability benefits: Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income.

SSDI is available for people who have a substantial work history and is based on an applicant’s lifetime average earnings and Social Security contributions. The higher the earnings and contributions, the larger the monthly benefit.

SSI is available for people with few assets and a limited income or work history. SSI benefits are lower than those provided by SSDI, but some states augment the flat federal amount provided—currently $603 for a single person.

Why HIV Isn’t a Disability

It’s the accompanying ailments and side effects that matter when qualifying for benefits

Simply having HIV—or even receiving an AIDS diagnosis—isn’t enough to qualify an individual for federal disability benefits, according to Howard Schwartz, associate director of coordinated care at Gay Men’s Health Crisis in New York City. “It’s the medical ailments and the day-to-day symptoms that prevent someone from working that are important,” he says. “It’s really all connected to employability.”
And it’s your doctor who plays the key role in securing your disability benefits. Your primary care physician must agree that you are unable to work and fill out forms detailing precisely why that is the case. “For people dealing with a complicated HIV-related disability, it has to be very carefully spelled out,” cautions Jason Roundy, program manager of client advocacy services at AIDS Project Los Angeles.
But you can certainly help document your claim, Schwartz and Roundy say. If your anti-HIV medications give you severe diarrhea, keep a journal noting how many times a day you use the restroom while at work and how long each visit keeps you away from your desk or workstation. If you’re nauseated, keep a record of when and how often you experience symptoms on the job. If you’re fatigued, chronicle what work-related tasks—or even simple activities like standing or walking—you’re too tired or weak to perform.
“Be specific up to and past the border of being graphic on the kinds of issues you deal with that are related to being disabled,” Roundy urges. The more detail you provide, he adds, the easier it is for the people reviewing your disability application to clearly understand your work-related restrictions.

 

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‘HIV Is a Gay Disease’: Advertising’s Shock Troops Strike Again

Posted by pozlife on October 17, 2006

by Nicole Joseph

October 11, 2006-Los Angelenos scanning their local gay newspapers in the past few weeks may have been surprised to read that “HIV is a gay disease.” That pronouncement was printed in an AIDS awareness ad, sponsored by the LA Gay and Lesbian Center and produced by Better World Advertising, that also urged gay men to “own it” and “end it.”

The applause came quickly. “They have finally advocated taking responsibility for the spread of AIDS by their lifestyle,” said one blogger in favor. “I think we’ve pussy-footed around this topic for too long,” Jonathan Warnock, an HIV negative gay New Yorker, told POZ.com.

But the booing was just as loud. “It is a throwback to the early days of the AIDS crisis,” raged another blog, “and does nothing to promote the practical considerations of sexual harm reduction.” And what about straight people? African Americans? Injection-drug users? Are they off the hook now? The ads “feed into denial and homophobia” in the black community, according to Cynthia Davis, director of HIV/AIDS Education and Outreach at LA’s Charles Drew University of Medicine and Science.

All of which is to say that the ads are doing just what their creators intended. “This is an effort to get people talking in Los Angeles,” says Darrel Cummings, chief of staff at the Center, which tested the campaign on several hundred people and went with it because they got strong reactions of all kinds. Indeed, Cummings is satisfied with Better World’s use of today’s heavy-hitting shockvertising methods. “It’s more and more difficult to get people’s attention,” explains Les Pappas, Better World’s president.

You may remember Pappas’ company from last year’s “HIV (not fabulous)” ads, which featured positive men visibly transformed by lipodystrophy and other treatment side effects (one man wears a diaper because his diarrhea is so bad). Better World’s ads are part of an HIV/AIDS advertising trend that also has included a French ad showing a man having sex with a scorpion (that never made it past the testing stage) and one earlier this year in Philadelphia that asked, “HIV: Have You Been Hit?” while depicting a black man in a rifle’s crosshairs. Supporters of these campaigns feel that the ends justify the means, that it’s OK to feed antigay or racist myths if there’s a chance of lowering high rates of HIV infection.

It won’t be easy to measure the precise impact of the LA Center’s campaign, if it endures. Activists talked this week about formally calling for its removal. Others want to organize a conference to debate the issues or demand a moratorium on HIV prevention advertising, hoping to move the focus toward other ways of stemming high rates of transmission among gay men. Just the kind of vibrant discussion the LA Center says it was after.


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First Test for Early HIV Infection

Posted by pozlife on October 16, 2006

October 6, 2006 (AIDSmeds)-The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has announced the approval of Aptima®, a new assay that can be used to aid the detection of HIV in those who may be newly infected with the virus and cannot yet depend on the results of antibody testing. However, even if Aptima testing yields a positive result, standard antibody testing must still be conducted to confirm the diagnosis of HIV infection.

The Aptima HIV-1 RNA Qualitative Assay, developed by San Diego-Based Gen-Probe Incorporated, is a nucleic acid test (NAT) for the detection of HIV in blood samples. It is intended to be used as an aid in the diagnosis of HIV infection, including acute or primary infection, before the appearance of antibodies to HIV.

A traditional HIV diagnosis is based on testing for antibodies to the virus by enzyme immunoassay (EIA), with positive results confirmed using supplemental antibody tests such as Western blot or immunofluorescence assays (IFA). Although the sensitivity of HIV antibody detection has increased in the last few years with the availability of new assays, a window period between infection and antibody detectability still exists. Following a recent exposure to HIV, it usually takes up to three months for the antibody response to reach detectable levels using EIA testing. Until three months after a possible exposure has occurred, a negative test result using EIA cannot be considered totally reliable.

The newly approved test may provide earlier diagnosis of infection because it detects nucleic acid (RNA) of HIV in a blood sample. In other words, the test looks for the virus itself, not the antibodies produced by the immune system.

The test, however, is not meant to be used as a stand-alone assay for the diagnosis of HIV infection. A positive Aptima test result should be viewed as an unconfirmed test result, indicating probable infection. It should be followed up later with traditional EIA antibody testing to confirm infection with HIV.

Aptima may also be used as an additional test to confirm HIV infection in someone whose specimen is repeatedly reactive for HIV antibodies. This is important because the Western blot can, in some instances, be difficult to interpret and may not always provide a conclusive positive test result. According to the FDA, the Aptima test can be used instead of the traditional Western blot test or IFA for confirming HIV infection when the screening test result for HIV antibodies is positive.

Aptima is different from quantitative HIV assays, better know as viral load tests. Qualitative assays, such as Aptima, detect the presence of viral genetic material and give a “yes-no” answer as to whether the virus is present. In contrast, quantitative assays, such as Roche’s Amplicor®, are used to estimate the amount of genetic material present in a sample. Aptima is not approved for quantitative use. Similarly, viral load tests – although sometimes used to diagnose early HIV infection – are not approved for this purpose.


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The crystal party is over

Posted by pozlife on October 12, 2006

More addictive and destructive than alcohol or marijuana, crystal meth has become the drug of choice for gays. We need to do more than just acknowledge this is true. We need to take action

An Advocate.com exclusive posted August 24, 2005

 The crystal party is over

Newsweek magazine recently gave national cover exposure to the deadly horrors of America’s most dangerous drug, and we now cannot escape the reality of crystal meth.

The most horrifying part of the article was the map of the United States showing areas with the most rampant use and how badly the crystal meth epidemic is hitting us.

Years ago our common battles were booze, cigarettes, and pot. Today we are faced with prescription painkiller abuse, heroin addiction, and now methamphetamine abuse.

But we are not just talking simple abuse. In West Hollywood, Calif., we have an epidemic of crystal-meth users. Let’s not kid ourselves. Ask anyone who has ever been online in the middle of the night: The Internet is filled with gay men who have been tweaking all night long who go to online chat rooms looking for PNP, which is shorthand for “party and play.” This goes hand in hand with gay men who want to have bareback sex.

How has this happened? Even in a tony town like West Hollywood, where we have had town hall meetings to talk about combating crystal-meth use, we do not have a handle on this epidemic. Just like the rest of the country.

About five years ago the L.A. Weekly newspaper had an article about the Internet, reporting that the number of people who shopped online was highest between 1 a.m. and 7 a.m. These numbers had quadrupled in a four-year span, from 1996 to 2000. What the article’s author did not cover-or probably even consider-was the all-night tweaking people, high on crystal meth, who had gone online to solicit partners.

One of the most striking characteristics of this epidemic of drug abuse is that the demographic includes all ages, which is even more horrifying.

When I attended New York University, crack, or rock cocaine, was just beginning to peak. I would come home from work to my third-floor walk-up apartment in Hell’s Kitchen and find young adults about my age smoking crack at the front door.

I would say to them, “You can’t do that here.” One time a young woman responded, “We’re almost finished.”

Crack vials littered my apartment building’s front steps, and I would call the crack hot line listed in the New York Post to have the police clear the street.

But today young and middle-age people are doing crystal meth throughout the country. There is no universal hot line to call to clear the nation’s streets. So how do we address a problem that is everyone’s dirty secret? When I say “everyone,” I really mean that somehow we are all responsible. Don’t we all have a responsibility to tell someone, to confront someone online about their lives, their health, and their addiction? Do any of us have the need to help anyone when the user is a meth-head?

I have watched acquaintances bottom out on booze and pot. But booze and pot seem so tame compared with crystal meth today. Usually a sane person gets away from a crystal-meth user as fast as he can, since trying to help can turn violent.

Five years ago on my cable TV show I interviewed Kathy Watts, the executive director of the Van Ness Recovery House. She told me that crystal meth is an attractive drug because it can suddenly charge you up to go all night after working all week. The drug gives you the energy to party all night long.

After all, we are bombarded through television, advertising, and pop culture to want the “maximum,” what’s “new and improved,” what’s “stronger,” what’s “double strength, the “ultimate,” the “extreme.

That is exactly why the drug of choice today is one that can lift you higher, faster, and deliver quick results. But the cost for this ultimate high is a catastrophic and tragic crash.

We’re all in this together. It’s time for each of us to take action, get involved, confront users, educate would-be users, and get a grip. The party is over.


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