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.