HIV Levels Before Treatment Can Predict This Immune System Indicator

HIV hides its genetic material in cells or locations in the body that remain out of reach of ARVs. This result of this overall effect is known as the viral reservoir, the existence of which prevents standard HIV treatment from curing the virus.

Publishing their findings in PLOS Pathogens, researchers from the AIDS Clinical Trials Group (ACTG) studied 101 people with HIV who had plasma and blood-cell samples taken before they started ARVs, one and four years after beginning HIV treatment, and once more between years six and 15 of treatment. All the participants achieved a viral load considered undetectable by standard laboratory measures and maintained this level of viral suppression for an average of seven years, with some doing so for more than a decade.

The participants experienced the steepest decline in measures of HIV’s genetic material (detected with highly sensitive tests) during their first four years on ARVs; afterward, they still experienced a decline, albeit at a slower pace.

Looking at the samples taken before the participants started ARVs, the researchers identified a correlation between levels of HIV and indicators of immune system activation and inflammation. However, this association ceased after the individuals started treatment for the virus. More specifically, the low levels of HIV found in the samples taken while people were on ARVs did not seem to influence the levels of immune system activation and inflammation during that time.

The investigators ultimately concluded that the levels of both immune system activation and HIV in the pretreatment samples predicted the levels of persistence of the virus and immune activation seen in the samples taken when the participants were on ARVs.

“Our findings suggest that damage to the immune system that occurs before people are started on [HIV] treatment leads to continued immune activation, even though the medicines are keeping the virus in check,” the study’s lead author, Rajesh Gandhi, MD, of the Massachusetts General Hospital Division of Infectious Diseases, said in a press release. “This suggests that diagnosing HIV and starting antiretroviral therapy as soon as possible may prevent the elevated immune activation that can lead to health problems, such as heart disease. The results also suggest that new strategies focused on reducing immune activation may need to be added to novel interventions designed to reduce and eventually eliminate HIV.”

To read the study, click here.

To read a press release about the study, click here.

Reproduced from from 24 April 2017.


Say ‘Hello!’ to PAN

I thought that I would share this email that I received today from Michael Whelan from PrEPaccessNOW…share the love and please if you have any comments check out the website and let him know.

PrEPaccessNOW have undergone a bit of an overhaul in the last couple of weeks, including a new design and a new website which launched today.

PrEPaccessNOW have chosen to slim things down to ‘PAN’. While also being a handy acronym for PrEPaccessNOW, PAN also means ALL. We believe PrEP should be available to everyone, and we believe in promoting and supporting access to all of the available HIV prevention tools: PrEP, TasP, PEP, and condoms.

What’s changed?

We’ve added:
·         A new logo, and a new URL
·         Content specifically for Treatment as Prevention, PEP, and condoms
·         A links page to refer people to state-based AIDS organisations and PLWHIV organisations
·         A new PrEP clinic locator map
·         Step-by-step instructions on how to order from SIX online PrEP websites, as well as easy side-by-side price comparisons in $AUD per month
·         A video gallery with great PrEP content
·         A  handy glossary of terms (ARV, TasP, UVL, generic medications, etc)
·         A state-by-state breakdown of options for accessing PrEP

What hasn’t changed?

·         Our statement of principles, goals, and committee structure are all exactly the same
·         We still have the Assistance Scheme available for those with a health care card, concession, or low income
·         We still have tonnes of PrEP FAQs
·         Our Facebook page is still active at

What does this mean for

All the information and resources that were on the website are available on, including the Assistance Scheme through Green Cross Pharmacy.

Anyone who visits the old website will be directed over to the new site; so if you happen to be a clinic, sauna, or venue with our business cards – that link will still work… but we’ll have some new cards available within the next week. Send us back an email to request some, or drop us a line via the website.

Feel free to update the copy on your websites to reflect the new URL

We’d love to hear your feedback on the content – please get in touch!

Michael Whelan

12 HIV-Positive Tattoos You Must See

By Diane Anderson-Minshall

Nothing fires up a conversation like asking a group of HIV-positive people how they feel about poz tattoos. Bottom line, you either love ’em or hate ’em. Aaron Lamout, who is currently planning for his own tattoo, argues that “willingly branding yourself, I feel, takes away any power others have of causing harm. You wear your status proudly for all the world to see. It might, in it’s own small way, help spread awareness. Once seen it cannot be unseen. By putting it in the public eye it forces people to talk about it.”
Others feel like the tattoo both communicates to their partners and the wider world, but also helps them feel safe. Hawaiian Sean Hannah says
he got a tattoo on the one-year anniversary of learning he was HIV-positive. “It protects me well,” he says, “and warns others.” While some say that warning is stigmatizing, and these tattoos mark people who have HIV like biohazards or radioactive waste. Mikey Barnum posted on the HIV Plus Facebook page, “The very idea of a biohazard tattoo to differentiate poz people from those who are not is offensive. I am not a biohazard. In fact, I’m less of a biohazard than some random person coughing or sneezing without covering!”
So we asked our readers to send us their thoughts on — and their photos of — tattoos that symbolize their positive status. Here are a few of the favorites.
Joshua Middleton
“I got this tattoo on my right forearm a couple months after I was diagnosed in 2012,” says Joshua. “It is two swallows carrying the HIV ribbon. I got this because swallows symbolize coming home from a journey. I wanted it to represent my daily struggle with HIV and one day hopefully the end of my journey, the day we all hope for — a cure. The ribbon represents all that did not make it through their journey and throughout the years have died from AIDS-related Illnesses. I had it purposely put on my right fore arm so it would be a visible tattoo that people can see. I see no shame in being HIV positive. I love my tattoo, the meaning behind it, and it has actually become a conversation starter many times already to give me a chance to educate people about HIV. HIV does not and will never define me. I am more than HIV, I am a person.”
Chad Henry
Chad says, “This isn’t the best photo unfortunately. However it has real meaning to me. I was diagnosed in 2009 and, for me, I decided the only way to deal with it was to be 100% open about my status. That opened the door to being an advocate for other people. I decided to get this tattoo as a way to be more visible and open up the conversation and hopefully dispell stigma at the same time.”
 Rob Kinsey
Rob says, “My tattoo is a simple one — a small plus sign on my left pec, shaded blue to black — but its simplicity is only superficial. After I was diagnosed as HIV+ in June of 2010, I thought about getting something to symbolize my status. I knew that I needed to be comfortable in my skin before I went inking it up and that, at the time, I wasn’t ready. After two and a half years and a lot of personal growth, I was ready to publically announce that I’m HIV+.”
He admits that a lot of things had coalesced into “going public” with his status. “First, I had to decide that I didn’t care who knew my status and that there was no one from whom I wanted to hide it. Second, I had to decide that this was a one-way process – that I would never hide my status again. Once I’d made those decisions, it was easy to decide to make a public “Coming Out, Take Two” post on Facebook and to get a tattoo a few days later. “
Kenn, Rob’s tattoo artist, was thrilled when he heard that he had a virgin, that he would get to give Rob his first ink. “It’s not that I had anything against tattoos or that I hadn’t considered getting one earlier,” Rob says. “I just could never think of a design I’d want on me for a year, let alone the rest of my life. Unlike musical tastes or hobbies, I knew that I’ll always be HIV+. Even if a cure is found in my lifetime, having been positive has shaped my life in a permanent way. Going public with my status was a terrifying relief. I’m no longer stuck trying to find the right situation or conversational segue to tell someone I’m HIV+. I don’t have to keep track of who knows and who doesn’t know. I don’t have to answer the same questions all the time; I just give people the link instead. Most rewardingly, I’ve stripped HIV of some of its last power over me. I’ve made it clear to the world that I’m not ashamed of my status and that I feel no need to hide it. I’m not someone to be whispered about or pitied.”
Rob says that “having worked in research labs — where biohazard signs are everywhere — the suggestion that the biohazard symbol is stigmatizing is as absurd as saying that a traffic sign tattoo is stigmatizing. Truth be told, I was debating getting a biohazard tattoo for a while. After a lively discussion with fellow HIV advocates, I came to see how someone who has only seen the symbol above the words ‘Infectious Waste’ could feel that the tattoo was stigmatizing. In the end, we agreed to disagree and I moved on to other design ideas and landed on the plus sign.”
James Johnson
“The tattoo on my chest is the Angel of Bethesda,” says James. “It was inspired by Tony Kushner’s Angels In America and by the statue in Central Park. As the story goes, when the Angel of Bethesda comes down to earth, a fountain will appear where her foot touches the ground which will cure all ills. I had it over my chest because due to a number of operations when I was younger, my chest is the weakest part of my body. On top of tha,t my chest houses my heart which has had its moments of fragility. I like having the piece as a reminder of my own frailty yet also as armour against harm, as a nod to my HIV status, and as a salute to what may be possible, given time.”
Jay Reedy
Jay says, “I got this tattoo for two reasons. I saw a tattoo of a hazard symbol and decided it was time to own my HIV, so I took the tattoo I saw and added my own twist by adding the ‘P’ and ‘Z’ within the symbol. First reason and most important was, the day I got it was the day I finally faced reality and owned my disease. Until that day, I refused to own the disease or the consequences of my past actions which lead me down this road. Secondly, I wanted a reminder to myself and any of my future sexual partner that I was HIV positive. I now own my status, admit to and own my poor decisions in the past. I am not afraid, scared, or ashamed now. It’s been seven years now and I am stronger now than before I was diagnosed. I guess in an odd way, HIV has made me a better and stronger person.”
Michael Stacey
“I was diagnosed with AIDS on August 11, 2004,” Michael recalls. “In 2006, I disclosed this information to my boss. He was a trusted mentor and the first person of any significance in my life that I had told. Approximately a year later in 2007, there were rumors circulating around work that I was HIV-positive. My former boss had inadvertently confirmed my status to another employee while at a bar during off hours. I was devastated, something I had kept so tight to my chest was now out in the open. After allowing myself a pity party lasting about a week, I decided to take control of the situation. I checked with human resources and sent an email disclosing my status to the entire sales organization at my company. I used it as an effort to raise funds for the United Way. I hit send, went to the local tattoo parlor and created the tattoo.”
Michael says this tattoo is “my diagnosis date, the first three words of my personal mission statement, Heal The World, and the red ribbon. I placed it on my left forearm as a constant reminder of what I had been through, and to never, ever allow myself to become a victim of the stigma. My closest friends will tell you, it is a badge of honor, and one I wear proudly.”
Sven Paardekooper
“I am so happy to submit a picture of my HIV tattoo,” says Sven. “It is a plain old plus sign, on my leg, in blue, because it’s my favorite color.
Why a plus sign? Because I was troubled by the toxic sign; it made me feel ashamed, an outcast. I am none of that. I am not toxic, I am not a biohazard. In fact, HIV has proven to be an utterly positive experience in life. It took me off the path I was on and firmly placed me on the path I was supposed to be on. The things I have in life today, the friends I have today, the love I experience today, everything is because and due to HIV. I don’t regret being HIV-positive for anything.  I am proud of it.”

 Darrell Lewish

“I added the biohazard design and some modifications to the tribal design I already had on my upper back shortly after I learned I was HIV positive,” says Darrell.
Brad Crelia
“I got my mother’s initials tattooed on my left wrist a few years after she passed away,” says Brad, founder and creative director of “After my positive diagnosis, in 2009, I knew I wanted to do something similar. I decided that on my right wrist I would get the outline of a plus sign. The permanent marking reflects the seriousness of this illness I’ll have the rest of my life, but I remember that all the possibilities I had before are still accessible and that life can and will be still be full.”
Keoni Lizaso
His tattoo, says Keoni, has a couple of meanings. “The first reason is obvious; it basically says that I’m tainted. Sometimes I feel that having this disease makes me useless,” Keoni admits. “That I can’t love, have sex, or express feeling towards another human being and even those feelings can’t be reciprocated because I am positive. The other meaning is the poison that my last boyfriend inflicted on me. Not literally but it was a reminder of the scars he left me.”
“This I got to remind myself,” says David of his tattoo. “Also when I get naked, they ask what does it mean, which forces me to explain. Plus I have something to talk about before sex. It just represents being healthy and poz.”
Cindy Pivacic
“I am a bit of an extrovert and wondered how I could get people to be open about discussing HIV and AIDS,” says Cindy. “I decided after my bout of cancer and losing my hair that I didn’t look too shabby with a bald head. And as my friend said, ‘You have such a nice round head’ so I decided to use it to get dialogue going in and around my community and hopefully further in the South African sector. It is reasonably strange for a Caucasian women to be open about her HIV status and I have hopefully created a lot of awareness in my own little way.”
Cindy, an author, activist, and speaker, says her henna tattoos are also “a passive aggressive way of creating dialogue and awareness from young to old.”


It is timely in an era of undetectable viral load to look at how far we have come with women with HIV being able to start a family from the early days of the epidemic.

The following is an article that was recently updated from

Pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding infographic

How is HIV transmitted from mother-to-baby?

If you are a pregnant woman living with HIV, HIV in your blood could pass into your baby’s body. This is most likely to occur in the last few weeks of pregnancy, during labour, or delivery. Breastfeeding your baby can also transmit HIV, because HIV is found in your breastmilk.1

There is a 15-45% chance of passing HIV to your baby if neither of you take HIV treatment.2

How do I know if I have HIV?

If you are pregnant, it is important to attend your antenatal appointments, as this is where you can get an HIV test.

You will be offered a test at your first appointment. If the result comes back positive you will be encouraged to start treatment straight away. You will also be offered a test in your third trimester (from 28 weeks).3

If at any point during your pregnancy or breastfeeding stage you think you have been exposed to HIV, you may be able to take post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP). PEP has to be taken within 72 hours and prevents HIV from establishing in your body and being passed to your baby. If you’re breastfeeding, you should discuss whether or not to continue with your healthcare professional.4

How can I prevent passing HIV to my baby?

If your HIV test result comes back positive, there are a number of things you can do to reduce the risk of passing HIV to your baby.

Taking treatment to protect your baby

Taking treatment properly can reduce the risk of your baby being born with HIV to less than 1%.5

If you found out that you are HIV-positive before you got pregnant, you may be taking treatment already. If you are not, talk to a healthcare professional about starting treatment straight away.

If you found out that you are HIV-positive during your pregnancy, it is recommended that you start treatment immediately and continue taking it every day for life.6

Your baby will also be given treatment for four to six weeks after they are born to help prevent an HIV infection developing.7

Protecting your baby during childbirth

If you take your treatment correctly, it will lower the amount of HIV in your body so much that it is said to be ‘undetectable’ (undetectable viral load).

This means that you can plan to have a normal, vaginal delivery because the risk of passing HIV to your baby during childbirth will be extremely small.

If you don’t have an undetectable viral load, you may be offered a caesarean section, as this carries a smaller risk of passing HIV to your baby than a vaginal delivery.8

A few months after arriving in the UK, I was diagnosed with HIV. After a few years I entered a relationship and we decided to have children. My HIV consultant assured me that it was fine since my viral load was undetectable. I had my twins through C-section, which was planned.

Protecting your baby during breastfeeding

Breast milk contains HIV. However, guidelines on whether to breastfeed vary depending on what resources are available to you.

If you always have access to formula and clean, boiled water, you should not breastfeed and give formula instead.

If you do not have access to formula and clean, boiled water all of the time, you may be advised to breastfeed while both you and your baby are taking antiretroviral treatment.

If you do breastfeed, you must always take your treatment and exclusively breastfeed (give breast milk only) for at least 6 months. Mixing breast milk and other foods before this time increases your baby’s risk of HIV. You can mix-feed your baby after 6 months.9

If you are unsure whether to breastfeed or not, talk to a healthcare professional for more specialist advice.

Does my baby have HIV?

Your baby should be tested for HIV at birth, and again four to six weeks later.10

If the result comes back negative, your baby should be tested again at 18 months and/or when you have finished breastfeeding to find out your baby’s final HIV status.11

If any of these tests come back positive, your baby will need to start treatment straight away.12 Talk to your healthcare professional, and attend follow-up appointments to ensure your baby receives treatment.

Top 5 Anal Douching Safety Tips

March 30, 2017

This article appeared on the great HIV website ‘’ and highlights an issue that we do not really take enough time to consider.

Anal douching is something that some people who have anal sex do and others do not know about.  So here are the Top 5 tips to consider when preparing for a night of passion.  You can click on the link below to read the full article that comes from the San Francisco AIDS Foundation.


Top 5 Anal Douching Safety Tips

Read the full article of anal douching safety tips for gay men who bottom by Pierre-Cédric Crouch, Ph.D., A.N.P.-B.C., a PrEP provider and nursing director at Magnet for San Francisco AIDS Foundation.