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Archive for December, 2006

Bradley Fowler Turns Life around

Posted by pozlife on December 31, 2006

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Gay Ex-con Empowers LGBT Community
By Herndon Davis

He spent a total of 19 years in prison having been involved in a variety of schemes from counterfeiting checks to identity theft. He was also a gay teenager whose mother kicked him out of the house when he soon found himself engaging in prostitution and further being mentored by the wrong crowd.

His name is Bradley Fowler, someone whose life surely should have had a wretched and sad ending, but instead his future has become far greater than his past. Today, Bradley is a two-time author whose latest book “I’m Me And I’m Proud, You Should Be Too” is sure to become an anthem of self-help, inspiration and healing for the gay community at large.

“I have not overcome my trials. Life is a trial within itself. Once I am no longer living, then I have overcome my trials. But, for the trials that I once had to endure, it took belief in God and my faith that there was something better for me beyond the darkness, I had succumbed to,” explains Fowler.

In fact, he has served three different stints within the prison system, a victim of falling back into the wrong crowd combined with the desperation to make ends meet. It is through this experience and his deeply seated faith in God that his wisdom flows throughout the pages of his book as someone who has indeed been lifted beyond the darkness of his life.

While in federal prison, he began researching various topics to write about. Having grown up in a Baptist environment, Fowler explains that he had “always kept God in my heart and mind, even when I was indulging in criminal activity. I had studied Theology many of times during my years of incarceration, Islam, Scientology, Hinduism and Spirituality.”

“One day, while sitting over at the prison chapel listening to Bishop T.D. Jakes, I was moved so much, tears streamed down my face. I knew GOD was reestablishing my mind frame because I no longer desired a lot of the things I once did, and I welcomed the change. I immediately threw myself into studying the Bible, but not in a group setting, but by allowing the spiritual realm to conduct my research.”

As a result of his intense personal theological study Fowler has now produced his newest book titled “I’m Me And I’m Proud, You Should Be Too,” an anthology of essays and personal accounts from his own life plus from the lives of contributing authors, most notably Richard Hatch from CBS’ “Survivor.” 

“I elected to write this particular book as a means to enlighten the LGBT community on my distaste of what I have come to witness over the years. But more importantly, I wanted to express what I feel is important to the gay community to acknowledge and expose our weaknesses, that society utilizes to continually attempt to defeat LGBT people with.

The book is very insightful and extremely educational, which will allow mainstream society the opportunity to see the LGBT community in a different light.”

Tough Topics and Viable Solutions

Fowler digs deeply into an array of topics dealing with the LGBT experience. One look at the chapter titles makes it clear that he’s left few stones unturned. He first starts with “Coming Out,” then onward to “Family Orientation Empowerment.” He then skips to “Religious Dogma,” and breezes into “Soul Mating,” while making sure we remember the “HIV/AIDS Epidemic,” before finally tackling “Gay Segregation.”

He explains that “I felt it was needed to discuss the images portrayed by the LGBT community and how we could possibly eliminate a great deal of our issues with society, if we took a deeper look at our own actions and see what we are putting out there.

People treat you according to the way you treat yourself. And when dealing with ignorance, on any level, you can avoid a lot of problems, when you are capable of adapting to your surroundings. Not camouflaging who you are, but presenting who [you are] in a manner that is respectful enough to gain the respect needed.”

In fact the book’s introduction explains that “focusing on GLBT issues within the family seem to be an even greater matter most endure, we have taken the initiative to pour our lives out on paper to share with you, the experiences we both endured with our own families, over the years.

Some of these experiences have been grueling, sometimes unbearable; however, in spite of our trials and hurdles, we have overcome and know that you too, can do the same.”

For A Much Greater Cause

The creation of “I’m Me And I’m Proud, You Should Be Too,” is actually a collaboration between Bradley Fowler and The William-Harold AIDS Project which was founded earlier this year by Bruce G. Chaundy, for the sole purpose of assisting those infected and affected by the HIV/AIDS virus.  Half of the proceeds gained from the sell of the book will be donated to fund the services within AIDS Project.

More information can be found about the organization’s work at http://www.whapi.org

To hear an online radio interview of Bradley Fowler, click here!

Herndon Davis is an author, lecturer, and TV/Radio Host. He can be reached directly at www.herndondavis.com

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Kidney Health and HIV

Posted by pozlife on December 27, 2006

No bigger than a fist and shaped like beans, your kidneys are easy to ignore. But when you’re living with HIV, kidney health deserves your undivided attention. Tim Horn shows you how to keep these miraculous organs working for you

When it comes to kidney health, Fort Wayne, Indiana pastor Donald E. Archey has plenty to pray about. Diagnosed with HIV more than 20 years ago, the 45-year-old knows that he has several risk factors for kidney disease. Not only is he African American and HIV positive, both of which increase his risk of a condition called HIV-associated nephropathy, Archey also has hepatitis C, which makes him three to five times more likely to develop kidney problems. And he’s taking a few HIV drugs that can potentially damage his kidneys. (See “Mind Your Meds” for more information.)
Just because Archey has risk factors, doesn’t mean that the risk factors have him. “My kidneys are at the top of my health agenda,” declares the energetic pastor, who presides over Fort Wayne’s nondenominational New World Church and chants down HIV denial and stigma at black congregations around the country. “Talking to my doctor and doing my own research taught me to keep a close eye on my kidneys.”
More folks need to pay attention to their kidneys. After all, roughly 20 million Americans—one in nine U.S. adults—have kidney disease, and another 20 million are at increased risk, according to the National Kidney Foundation. Step one is to understand what these bean-shaped vital organs do for you.
A Tale of Two Kidneys
The kidneys are located halfway up the back, on either side of the spine. Each fist-size kidney houses about a million nephrons, tiny filtration units made up of blood vessels called glomeruli and fluid-collecting tubules. Over a 24-hour period, all of the blood in the body flows through the kidneys about 30 to 40 times. The nephrons siphon off waste products and excess water for removal in the form of urine.
In addition to waste disposal, the kidneys regulate various chemicals in the blood and, if necessary, release hormones including renin, which helps control blood pressure; erythropoietin, which stimulates red blood cell production; and calcitriol, the active form of vitamin D.
Renal Knowledge
When doctors talk about kidney health, they usually refer to renal function. People with two healthy kidneys have 100% renal function, which is actually more than you need. This is why people do well with just one kidney. However, if renal function falls below 25%, serious health problems can occur.
During the early stages of kidney disease, people usually don’t feel sick. If the illness worsens, their need to urinate may increase or decrease, they may have trouble concentrating and they may experience fatigue, darkened skin, muscle cramps, and swollen feet or hands. Those who suffer end-stage renal disease (ESRD)—total and permanent kidney failure—won’t live long without dialysis or transplantation.
According to the Infectious Disease Society of America (IDSA), up to 30% of HIV positive people have abnormal renal function. “African Americans are particularly susceptible to kidney damage because of traditional factors like hypertension and diabetes, as well as HIV,” notes Stephen Symes, MD, program director of the Division of Infectious Diseases at Jackson Memorial Medical Center in Miami, Florida.
Because the kidneys play a critical role in processing many medications, including HIV drugs, “kidney health is very important,” says Dr. Symes. If the kidneys aren’t working correctly, levels of these meds remain elevated in the body and can result in serious side effects.
Thankfully, the two leading causes of kidney disease—hypertension and diabetes—can be managed and, in many cases, prevented, with the help of a doctor.
Pressure Point
One out of three American adults has hypertension, or high blood pressure. Although this disease is most often associated with heart health, it can do damage to the tiny blood vessels in the kidneys, preventing them from filtering waste properly. High blood pressure can also be a sign that kidney health is already impaired.
The jury is still out on whether HIV positive people are more likely to suffer hypertension than their HIV negative counterparts. Whatever your status, you can improve your health odds by keeping blood pressure in check. “Controlling blood pressure will reduce the likelihood of heart attack, stroke and kidney disease,” says Antonio Urbina, MD, medical director of HIV and AIDS education at St. Vincent’s Medical Center in New York City.
The Sweetest Taboo
Diabetes is a disease that prevents the body from breaking down glucose correctly, causing sugar levels to remain high in the bloodstream. As sweet as this may sound, excess glucose can poison the body and damage the nephrons in the kidneys, leading to a condition called diabetic nephropathy, the most common cause of chronic and end-stage kidney disease in the United States.
HIV positive people, especially those on protease inhibitor (PI) therapy, are at an elevated risk of glucose-related problems. According to Dr. Urbina, you can reduce the likelihood of developing kidney disease by 50% by maintaining tight control of glucose levels. Your doctor can show you how.
MisbeHIVAN
Of the diseases that can attack the tiny filtration units in your kidneys, HIV-associated nephropathy (HIVAN) is perhaps the most sinister. HIVAN develops when HIV enters the kidneys and multiplies, wearing away at the lining of the glomeruli and tubules in the process. Left untreated, the disease can lead to kidney failure in six to 12 months.
While researchers aren’t sure how many HIV positive people have HIVAN, they do know that people of African descent are at much greater risk, that HIVAN is seven to ten times more common in men and that up to 60% of HIVAN patients have a history of intravenous drug use. Low CD4 counts and a family history of renal disease also place people at a heightened risk for HIVAN.
Because HIVAN is a direct result of virus replication in the kidneys, HIV treatment is believed to reduce the risk of its occurrence. “We are seeing less HIVAN in general,” notes Dr. Symes, “but it still occurs in areas like Miami, where HIV prevalence is high, a large percentage of patients are minorities and many patients [arrive] with the disease in its advanced stages.”
Sage Advice
Given the considerable risk of kidney disease in positive people, experts in the field have done their part to raise awareness among positive people and their doctors. For example, the IDSA has developed recommendations that focus on chronic kidney disease (CKD) in people living with HIV.
Published in 2005, these guidelines urge folks to get screened for kidney disease as soon as they test positive for HIV (see “The Big Screen” for more information). They also recommend that patients at high risk for renal impairment—such as those with high blood pressure, diabetes, CD4 counts below 200, viral loads above 4,000 or hep C—get their kidney function checked every year, even if everything seems fine. Finally, the IDSA encourages those who develop renal problems to get a referral for a kidney-specializing nephrologist.
When it comes time to select HIV meds, Dr. Urbina stresses that doctors should screen patients for kidney disease before reaching for the prescription pad. “Pretreatment analysis should include a urinalysis and [other lab tests],” he says. “In patients with kidney problems, I would avoid use of kidney-toxic agents and aggressively manage other risk factors, such as high blood pressure and diabetes. Keep in mind that simple, regular exercise and diet can have a profound effect on protecting the kidneys, but use of blood pressure and diabetic medications is most protective.”
So far, prevention has been the best medicine for Pastor Archey, who hasn’t developed renal problems despite his risks. He uses simple but effective strategies to stay diabetes- and hypertension-free, and his kidneys continue to thank him for it.
“I took sugary soda out of my diet and replaced it with water,” Archey explains. “I get my cholesterol and [glucose] levels checked every three months and my kidneys checked twice a year.”
Although Archey is busy—in addition to performing his pastoral duties at New World Church, he heads up the nonprofit Archey AIDS Foundation, and he’s touring to promote Pastor, How Did You Get AIDS?, a new memoir—he also makes time for physical activity.
About three times a week, Archey rides a stationary bike for 30 minutes, does push-ups and sit-ups and bench-presses weights, a throwback to his high school wrestling days.
“I don’t do it all the time, but I’ve been known to pump 260 pounds worth of iron, and I only weigh 140 pounds,” Archey says with a chuckle. “Exercise is an effort, but it’s something I know I have to do. It helps me maintain my physical health and keep my energy level high.”
The clergyman also remains in constant dialogue with his doctor. “It’s so important for me to take the medication as it’s prescribed,” says Archey. “But if I have any questions for my doctor, I just ask. I don’t wait around for her to tell me things. I just believe in being inquisitive about my health.”

Mind Your Meds

Several medications, and some complementary therapies, can lead to kidney side effects. Discuss the following with your doc

Prevention Attention

Use these tips to stop kidney problems before they start

The Big Screen

Four powerful ways your doctor keeps tabs on your kidney health

Kidney Health and HIV

No bigger than a fist and shaped like beans, your kidneys are easy to ignore. But when you’re living with HIV, kidney health deserves your undivided attention. Tim Horn shows you how to keep these miraculous organs working for you

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CD4s in Gut Respond Poorly to Treatment

Posted by pozlife on December 9, 2006

by Tim Horn

(AIDSmeds.com)—It is well known that HIV-positive people often experience healthy increases in their CD4 (T4 cell) counts after starting antiretroviral therapy. Unfortunately, two new studies reported in online versions of PLoS Medicine and the Journal of Virology suggest that CD4 counts in other parts of the body—notably the mucosal tissues of the gut—are much less likely to rebound in response to treatment.
A handful of studies reported to date (including a University of California study reviewed by AIDSmeds.com in July) have demonstrated that within two to four weeks after HIV infection is established in he body, the mucous membrane of a patient’s gastrointestinal (GI) tract – tissue that is usually rich in disease-fighting white blood cells – can lose up to 60% of its CD4 cells.
Taking these results one step further, Saurabh Mehandru, MD, of New York’s Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center (ADARC) and his colleagues set out to determine whether this mucosal loss of CD4 cells was reversible with the use of antiretroviral therapy.
The study conducted by Dr. Mehandru’s group enrolled 40 HIV-positive people who began antiretroviral therapy shortly after contracting the virus – during the acute/early infection phase – and followed them from one to seven years. While the researchers found that the blood population of CD4 cells rebounded to normal levels in the vast majority of patients, a subset of the GI tract CD4 cell population remained depleted in 70% of the patients.
“If we sample the blood, it only has two percent of the total volume of these cells. It doesn’t give us the whole picture,” says ADARC’s Martin Markowitz, MD. “But if we actually go into tissue, we see something different. What we see there is eye-opening.” After three years of intensive drug therapy that suppresses HIV replication very effectively, he explained, most patients still had only half the normal number of CD4 effector memory T cells – responsible for recognizing disease-causing microorganisms and priming other immune system cells for attack – in their GI tracts.
“Obviously the first question is, ‘why, what’s the mechanism?’ ” Dr. Markowitz says.
A second paper, published online in the Journal of Virology, makes some headway toward an answer. By examining the amount of HIV-DNA and HIV-RNA in cells from the GI tract, and comparing that to cells from the blood, Drs. Mehandru’s and Markowitz’s team determined that the mucosal lining of the GI tract carried a disproportionately high viral load. This likely explains the initial loss of CD4 cells in that area. But the researchers also found evidence suggesting that there are at least two more ways in which the cells were being killed off. Some of the CD4 cells self-destruct – a process called apoptosis – while some appear to be killed by other immune system cells.
“These papers speak strongly to HIV pathogenesis, to HIV therapy, and to understanding how the host and virus interact,” Dr. Markowitz says. However, he adds, the short and long term consequences of the persistence of this depletion remain unknown.
The finding that immune cells of the intestinal mucosa remain depleted and over-activated for years, despite antiretroviral treatment, raises the concern that health problems may arise down the line. For example, Dr. Markowitz suggests that it could potentially lead to an increased risk of polyps or colorectal cancer. This may call for HIV-positive patients receiving colonoscopies earlier and perhaps more frequently than current recommendations suggest.
The new data also pose a challenge to HIV vaccine developers. “What good is a vaccine going to be if you get immune responses in peripheral blood but there’s nothing in tissue?” Dr. Markowitz says. “It’s pretty clear that a successful vaccine will need to address issues surrounding mucosal immunity, which is an area that – relatively speaking – has been previously ignored.”

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How crystal meth changes the brain and leads to cognitive loss

Posted by pozlife on December 9, 2006

 

Crystal methamphetamine can cause brain structure changes in HIV patients, leading to a higher risk of impaired cognitive functions, according to researchers at the University of California, San Diego. Brain scans showed that meth use increased the volume in portions of the brain linked with understanding one’s surroundings, motor function, and motivation. The greater the size increase, the more significant the loss of cognitive function. Because HIV itself can shrink other key parts of the brain that control thought, reasoning, memory, and learning, a combination of HIV infection and meth use could result in significant brain changes and greater chances for cognitive loss.

 

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Click To Light A Candle

Posted by pozlife on December 1, 2006

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