Monday, February 17, 2014

Living Positively: Why Practicing Safer Sex Is Still A Good Idea

A look back at the HIV epidemic, shows that HIV transmission increased significantly in the 70s and 80s when anonymous sex and sex with multiple partners in drug and drink fueled haze were the norm.  HIV spread quickly and quietly in this era, leaving many dead in its wake.  These days we have anti-retrovirals that improve life expectancy for those infected and allow many to lead a somewhat normal life.  The fear of HIV infection and death has diminished greatly, but there is still stigma surrounding the virus, which often leads to sero-sorting or HIV positive people limiting their sexual encounters to others with the virus and HIV negative people avoiding those who are infected.  The use of crystal meth, poppers, and other drug fueled sex romps that decrease inhibitions has returned as HIV infected people on meds with undetectable status cope with discrimination and the reality of living day to day with a dark specter following them.  This often leads to living for the moment and engaging in natural or unsafe sex; throwing caution to the wind.  But, what fueled the epidemic before could easily return and hurt those most at risk.  We have no guarantee that antiretrovirals will continue to work.  There is no exemption from the possibility that engaging in unsafe sex will not lead to a recombinant HIV infection that has mutated into a more lethal form with drug-resistance.    Often people with HIV infection are seeking intimacy and skin-to-skin encounters, but are we unwisely putting ourselves at risk again?  Its time to rethink our sexual encounters and how we practice safer sex.  What happened before can just as easily happen again.  A new virus or drug resistant bacteria could emerge from out of nowhere and defeat all the progress that has been made in the gay community.  As gays become more accepted in society, its time to rethink our self-worth and how we engage in sexual encounters.  I propose that we continue using condoms even with other HIV-positive sex partners and save the barebacking for that special person we find to settle down with and marry.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

CAMI 7 Years Later. A look back at what we've learned.

    We know that antiviral medications dramatically reduce HIV viral levels to undetectable status, but what have we learned about complementary and alternative efforts to maintain health of those infected with HIV? As evidence suggests that a cocktail of pharmaceuticals provides the means necessary to combat HIV's relentless attack on the body's immune system, we have failed to provide complementary medicinal data to individuals to add to the pharmaceutical cocktails in an effort to preserve health and lengthen lifespan. What practices and lifestyle modifications can HIV infected individuals use to gain a sense of power and control over their own health besides taking powerful pharmaceutical anti-retrovirals?  I've compiled this list.  

  • Marijuana
    • Recent research has shown that one of the active ingredients in marijuana, THC, preserved immune tissue in the stomach and patient's had better overall survival rates when monkies with SIV were given daily THC. Researchers at Mount Sinai School of Medicine have shown marijuana-like compounds inhibit disease progression specifically in late stage AIDS. It is also used for chronic pain, nausea, and to increase appetite. THC-like compounds have shown benefit in preventing new cells from being infected by blocking HIV's entry into the cells and also suppression of HIV viral replication.

  • Lactobacillus (yogurt and probiotics and prebiotics)
    • The University of Benin, Benson Idahosa University and the Canadian Research and Development Centre for Probiotics at the University of Western Ontario found that probiotically boosted yogurt or yogurt containing lactobacillus rhamnosus GR-1 and Lactobacillus Reuteri RC-14 subspecies eased symptoms of nausea, flatulence, and diarrhea in women. It also showed that daily intake of these species helped consumers maintain their CD4 cell counts while NOT taking anti-retrovirals and overall white blood cell counts increased after 15 days.

  • Curcumin
    • The active extract of turmeric and curry, acts as a natural HIV integrase inhibitor.

  • Sodium Selenite
    • Researchers at Penn State reported that this form of the anti-oxidant Selenium reduced HIV viral load in blood withdrawn from HIV+ patients by 10-fold.

  • Korean Red Ginseng
    • Long-term intake of Korean Red Ginseng has shown delayed disease progression in HIV+ patients, slowing the rate of CD4 cell count loss.

  • Astragalus Root
    • UCLA researchers have discovered that a chemical in Astragalus root called TAT2 preserves the telomeres or chromosomal endings within immune cells and helped stabilize CD4 and CD8 counts and helps CD8 cells produce chemokines and cytokines that have been shown to block HIVs ability to reproduce.

  • Cinnamon Extract
    • Frutarom, a multinational company and Tel Aviv University researchers have concluded that a cinnamon extract they are developing neutralized many viruses including HIV.

  • Medicinal Mushrooms
    • Shiitake mushrooms contain lentinan compound that prevents HIV from replicating.

  • Chinese herb formulations
    • Used in conjuction with Acupuncture and western pharmaceuticals can be of added benefit to HIV+ patients. More than 140 Chinese herbs have shown anti-viral activity with more than 20 showing significant anti-HIV activity.

  • African Traditional Herb (Sutherlandia)
    • South African traditional plant Lessertia frutescens (Sutherlandia) is currently being investigated for its ability to reduce inflammation and combat infection in HIV+ patients.

  • K-Pax
    • This micro-nutrient pharmaceutical grade vitamin supplement showed an average of 24% increase in CD4 cell counts at the end of a 12 week study for those on anti-virals.

      As HIV is largely a disease of poverty, what free practices can people infected with HIV use to empower themselves in maintaining their health?

  • Oral Health
    • They say “only floss the teeth you want to keep”, but more aptly for HIV+ patients perhaps we should say “only floss for health you want to keep”. An acid produced when people get gum disease accelerates HIV disease progression.

  • Mindfulness Meditation
    • Study participants at the University of California showed that daily mindfulness meditation or 'meditating while being present in the moment' and not focusing on either the past or the future slowed the rate of CD4 cell count loss in active participants whether they were taking anti-retrovirals or not. The more time spent meditating, the more benefits the participants experienced.

  • Acupuncture
    • Acupuncture produced endorphins and endorphins have been shown to increase CD4 counts. Acupuncture and Chinese herbs are most effective for patients whose CD4 counts are above 300. It is more difficult to regain normal CD4 counts in patients whose CD4 counts have dropped below 200.

  • Tai Qi
    • Helps reduce stress which leaves the body more able to fight infection and maintain CD4 counts.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

More Research On THC Sheds Light on Plants Potential Benefits In Fighting HIV

Dr. Patricia Molina has shared her team's latest study results achieved by Louisiana State University in the journal AIDS Research and Human Retroviruses.  Researchers gave SIV-infected monkeys daily doses of THC, a compound in marijuana, for 17 months.  Their findings showed that immune tissues in the stomach's of these animals were less damaged by the virus.  Also, the monkeys receiving the THC maintained higher levels of healthy cells.  This research builds upon 2011 study results by Molina that found that monkeys given daily THC had better overall survival rates.  Another 2012 study has shown that marijuana-like compounds successfully fights HIV in AIDS patients and contributes to a longer lifespan.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Marijuana-like compounds may hold the key to preserving life in late-stage AIDS patients.

The journal PLoS ONE has published research from Mount Sinai School of Medicine in NYC that marijuana-like compounds have been shown to inhibit HIV disease progression, specifically in late-stage AIDS. Doctors and patients alike have long known the therapeutic benefit of medical marijuana for HIV/AIDS patients to treat chronic pain, nausea, and to increase appetite to fight wasting, but now it seems they have found the mechanism by which resting CD4 cells are prevented from being infected with the HIV virus as happens in late-stage AIDS. Active CD4 cells are targeted in the earlier stages of the disease. HIV infects those cells and uses them to multiply, destroying the immune cell in the process of making more copies of itself to infect and destroy a person's immune system. CD4 cells have THC and other marijuana-like compound receptors called CXCR4 on their exteriors. When CXCR4 coreceptors encounter the THC-like compounds it was shown those compounds both prevented HIV entry into the cells and also suppressed HIV viral replication within the cell. Scientists are planning a mouse model study that will study the effects of the cannabinoids in vivo or in living mice. Further research may yield more drugs, but it seems to lend more evidence of support to the medical marijuana movement. Does medical marijuana only alleviate symptoms of illness or does it do something more? Is it keeping people alive? If marijuana can ease symptoms and suppress infection in late-stage AIDS patients, that would be a two-fer. Free the leaf!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Study Suggests Nutritional Formula Can Decrease ART-Naive Patient's Average CD4 Cell Loss

BITE Study results of the nutritional supplement NR100157 presented recently at the 49th Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy (ICAAC 2009) in San Francisco suggests that many treatment-naive HIV+ individuals can slow their CD4 cell loss by taking a daily nutritional supplement. Participants in the study were randomly selected and divided into a control group and a group designated to take the nutritional supplement. Those participants taking the nutritional supplement lost an average of fewer than half of the CD4 cells than did their peers in the control arm of the study. The average yearly CD4 cell loss for participants in the nutritional supplement arm of the study was 28 CD4 cells vs 68 CD4 cells in the control group not taking supplementation. The viral load of participants in both arms of the study remained stable.
The 340 study participants were 80 per cent male with an average age of 40 years. They had tested HIV+ an average of 420 days prior to beginning the study and had an average of 420 CD4 cells with an average viral load of approximately 32,000 copies.
Researchers composed the NR100157 compound of singular ingredients that had previously shown an immune benefit when studied alone. NR100157 contains vitamins and minerals, bovine colostrum, omega-3 fatty acids, N-acetyle cysteine, and prebiotic oligosaccharides. The individual ingredients are aimed at reducing oxidative stress on the body, enhancing nutrient absorption in the body, and maintaining digestive tract integrity. Further studies are needed but the NR100157 study could lead to longer, healthier lives for HIV+ individuals, potentially reduce the high lifetime expenditures for anti-HIV medications, and possibly delay treatment initiation.

HIV and Coverage of the
49th Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy (ICAAC 2009)

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Form of Selenium Shows Promise in Reducing HIV Viral Load By 10-Fold

Researchers at Penn State have reported a form of the anti-oxidant mineral Selenium proves to reduce HIV viral load in vitro by 10-fold. Sodium Selenite was used in test tubes to prevent HIV from reproduce in human blood. Healthy volunteers donated blood. Later the blood was infected with HIV and small amounts of sodium selenite were added. Viral replication was reduced by 10-fold. Selective reduction of the selenium compound in the cells increased viral replication by 3.5 per cent. This suggests that incorporating a selenium compound into current HIV therapies could prove a valuable method of complementary anti-viral therapy.

Science Daily