Becoming my mother’s child: Afro-Latina and living with HIV

From thebody.com

By Tiffany Marrero

I remember the time when I was little, before I had a degree or the knowledge to verbalize that something was wrong: All I knew was the feeling of suffocating. Continually fighting to breathe, fighting to get through, fighting to wake up each morning.

Tiffany Marrero

I am not sure whether I was angry at nature or nurture. Whether I was angry at my inability to never fit in, to never seem to know how to shut up or just fold. My inability to accept a “yes” and just swim along the tides. Would HIV have been more bearable if I simply knew how to assimilate? I get a house with a white picket fence, monogamous sex, church three times a week, stay at home? Would it have been more bearable if I had known my mother, black HIV-positive woman, before she gave me up?

Why is that? Well, I think it’s because I didn’t grow up in a black household. My adoptive mother was a Boriqua queen who ran the house and the heart of my father (both were born and raised in Puerto Rico). I was black and, back then in 2000s when everyone my age thought being “Spanish” was looking like JLo or Pitbull, I wasn’t allowed to claim what my Afro-Latina stepmother did. (She often told me she was black, and once, that my white-passing father’s family did not want my caramel-toned stepmother in the family.) While I value her experiences, I needed to see other little black girls with Latinx last names and who loved merengue just as much as I did. There was no “Afro-Latina” then in the South Florida where I grew up. I had no right to be as proud of my parents’ culture as they were, although I was raised as stereotypically as you can get: loud bilingual momma, yuca and yellow rice on the stove, a mechanic father with plenty of machismo. There was no one to help me navigate the world as a black woman. Maybe my anger came because I understood things I couldn’t yet speak.

Stories of my biological mother are few and far between, pieced together and passed to me by the nursing staff of my former hospital in Broward County, where I was born in 1991. I know she was a woman living with HIV when there was inadequate treatment. I know she was black, a mother of at least nine children, dealing with drug addiction and HIV, and she never got to know me. I assume she used drugs because I was born with drugs in my system. I read my hospital report, which says that this beautiful black woman had more demons than I could ever come to understand. Before black spaces, I would have assumed she was doing drugs, running around sleeping with folks to fuel her life. Before black spaces, I would have read my chart and hated her more for passing so much onto me with little support — for making me deal with the so-much before I even learned how to walk. Truth is, black spaces helped me realize that she could only do as much as her chains would let her: I lived. I’m here writing and excelling. A black momma did that, not only did she, but with the weight of oppression on her shoulders. Mission complete. I think she did exactly as she was supposed to do with all against her.

The story was that she named me and that was it. Did she plan a name in the midst of her heightened addiction? Did she pray for forgiveness? To die? To separate from her blackness as I did? Was it her blackness that aided in her losing me to another momma? For a black women with HIV and children in the midst of drug addiction, police and jails and judgmental doctors and child protective services in the 1990s demonstrated a lot of disdain for her, her choices, and the children she birthed.

Read the full article on thebody.com.

Neurological manifestations of HIV

Dr Faktorovich, Department of Neurology, Icahn School of Medicine, Mt Sinai, New York, NY

From Neurologytimes.com

Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is responsible for a wide spectrum of neurological manifestations, with etiologies ranging from inflammatory, infectious, neoplastic. and more. The development of antiretroviral therapy (ART) has dramatically increased life expectancy, however neurological complications remain a significant cause of long-term disability. Understanding and recognizing these conditions is crucial in effectively managing HIV.

Dr Svetlana Faktorovich, Department of Neurology, Icahn School of Medicine, explains the various forms of neurological manifestations of HIV in this Neurologytimes.com article.

How Truvada helped propel the evolution of LGBT health

From The Advocate online

In light of the progress we’ve made over the past decades, it’s tempting to think that we are only steps away from a cure and that our previous advances will protect younger LGBTQ people for generations. While it’s empowering to feel confident in our current position, it is essential that we remember that all of this is fragile. According to a recent statistic from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, HIV and AIDS remain persistent problems globally. We’ve come a long way in preventing and treating HIV, but there is still much more to accomplish. Annual HIV infections and diagnoses are declining in the U.S., but progress has been uneven, and annual infections and diagnoses have increased among some groups. The declines can thankfully be attributed to targeted HIV prevention efforts, such as Truvada.

Read the full article.

Latinx People Living With HIV Share How They Came to Terms With Their Diagnosis

From thebody.com….

Coming to terms with an HIV diagnosis is rarely as easy as “just dealing with it.”

Depending on where you’re diagnosed, when you’re diagnosed, who you are, and where your life is, it can be a huge challenge to figure out how to make sense of living with HIV. It’s a process that can easily take years, and involves a ton of factors: your emotional health, your physical well-being, your support network — not to mention potential issues with family life, access to health care, housing, substance use, and so many other concerns.

We asked Latinx people living with HIV in the U.S.: How did you come to terms with your HIV diagnosis and develop the confidence to stay healthy? Here are the stories they shared.

Read the article on thebody.com.

By 2030, top cancers among people with HIV expected to be prostate and lung

From POZ Magazine online

By 2030, the most common cancers among people with HIV are projected to be prostate and lung cancer.

Publishing their findings in the Annals of Internal Medicine, researchers analyzed data from the National Cancer Institute’s HIV/AIDS Cancer Match study, modeling cancer diagnosis rates during 2000 to 2012 to make projections about how rates will change from 2013 to 2030.

The U.S. HIV population is steadily aging, thanks to effective antiretroviral treatment. In 2006, an estimated 27 percent of the population was age 50 or older, a proportion that increased to 45 percent in 2014. Between 2010 and 2030, the proportion of the population age 65 and older is expected to increase from 8.5 percent to 21.4 percent, while the proportion that is age 45 to 64 is expected to increase from 39.4 percent to 47.7 percent.

Between 2000 and 2012, the 463,300 HIV-positive adults in the HIV/AIDS Cancer Match Study were diagnosed with 23,907 cancers. During this period, the annual diagnosis rates (known as incidence) declined for Kaposi sarcoma (KS), non–Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL), cervical cancer, anal cancer (among men who have sex with men), lung cancer, Hodgkin lymphoma and other cancers among all age types. Colon cancer incidence decreased among those age 65 and older. Meanwhile, prostate cancer incidence increased among men ages 35 to 64.

Overall, cancer incidence among the U.S. HIV population is expected to decline through the next decade.

Among three AIDS-defining cancers, the estimated numbers of diagnoses seen in the U.S. HIV population in 2010 and projected to occur in 2020 and 2030, respectively, according to the study authors’ analysis were: 8,150, 7,490 and 6,690 diagnoses of NHL; 1,490, 750 and 450 diagnoses of KS; and 120, 50 and 30 diagnoses of cervical cancer.

As for non-AIDS-defining cancers, the respective numbers of diagnoses seen in 2010 and projected to occur in 2020 and 2030 were: 5,420, 6,150 and 5,980 diagnoses of lung cancer; 830, 910 and 1,030 diagnoses of prostate cancer; 750, 1,340, 1,590 diagnoses of anal cancer; 360, 460 and 480 diagnoses of liver cancer; 300, 200 and 120 diagnoses of Hodgkin lymphoma; 250, 320 and 340 diagnoses of oral cavity/pharyngeal cancer; 220, 260 and 260 diagnoses of breast cancer; 220, 230 and 200 diagnoses of colon cancer; and 1,910, 1,880 and 1,510 diagnoses of other types of cancers.

The study authors concluded that their findings stress the importance of expanding access to HIV treatment and cancer prevention, screening and treatment.

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

To read the study abstract, click here.

For women living with HIV, stress can become overwhelming

From TheBody.com

Everyone deals with a certain amount of stress every day. But if you are a woman living with HIV (HIV+), stress can become overwhelming. Long periods of high stress can damage your immune system and cause physical and emotional illnesses. Research has shown that stress can speed up the progression of HIV.

In the U.S., recent studies have shown that women living with HIV are five times more likely to have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and two times more likely to have survived domestic violence than women in the general population who are not living with HIV. In addition, women living with HIV who experienced recent trauma were four times more likely to stop adhering to their HIV drug regimens and to have higher viral loads than women living with HIV who did not experience trauma.

Read the full article.

HIV damages the Brain, but treatment halts progression

From Poz Magazine

Not long after an individual contracts HIV, the virus penetrates the brain and begins to cause progressive damage to the volume of the organ as well as cortical thickness. Antiretroviral (ARV) treatment apparently halts this progression and is able to dial back some of the damage.

Publishing their findings in Clinical Infectious Diseases, researchers studied 65 people who entered the study soon after they contracted HIV, in a period known as primary HIV infection. These participants, 30 of whom started ARV treatment during the study, received multiple MRIs of their brains over time.

The researchers compared the brain scans of the participants with scans of 16 people with long-term, or chronic, HIV infection as well as 19 HIV-negative individuals.

The study authors found that before participants began ARV treatment, a longer time spent with untreated HIV was associated with loss in volume in various parts of the brain, including the thalamus, caudate and cerebellum. More time living with untreated HIV was also linked with cortical thinning in the frontal and temporal lobes and the cingulate cortex.

After individuals started ARVs, the progression of such brain damage stopped, and there were some small increases in cortical thickness measures.

“We knew HIV could cause neurological damage, but we did not know it happened so early in the infection,” Serena Spudich, MD, MA, a professor of neurology at Yale and a co–senior author of the paper, said in a press release. “The findings emphasize the importance of identifying infected people early and treating them so we can halt its progression.”

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

To read the study abstract, click here.

Social isolation is bad for your health

From thebody.com

No one living with HIV/AIDS is immune from the impact of isolation. Numerous studies find that social isolation is a problem among the aging population in general, and especially among the elderly living with HIV. Younger persons are also affected. One study found that younger people living with HIV/AIDS experience more disconnectedness from family and friends than their older peers do. Researchers believe this is due to a combination of factors, including stigma, feeling blamed by others for their illness and younger people not identifying with the need to battle a chronic illness. It should also be noted that persons affected by HIV/AIDS, especially those who went through the 1980s and 1990s, can experience the same symptoms of trauma and isolation as people who are HIV-positive.

Read the full article.

HIV patients with depression face serious risks

From Reuters Health

The proportion of time patients with HIV spend depressed is directly related to their likelihood of missing doctor appointments, how well their infection is suppressed and their risk of death from any cause, according to a multi-site U. S. study.

In a large analysis of records for nearly 6,000 patients receiving HIV primary care across the country, the researchers found that for patients depressed during the entire study period, the risk of death was double that of patients with no depression.

Even shorter periods of time spent with depression were tied to increases in viral load, missed appointments and increased mortality, researchers report in JAMA Psychiatry.

“If we can shorten an HIV patient’s exposure to depression by picking it up early and treating it well using evidence based protocols, we can make a difference in their outcomes,” said lead author Brian W. Pence, an associate professor of epidemiology at the Gillings School of Global Public Health at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

This is the first time that the impact of cumulative depression has been studied across the whole HIV care continuum, Pence told Reuters Health in a telephone interview.

The results suggest that even short-term, mild depression can have“meaningful negative outcomes on HIV treatment and survival,” Pence and colleagues write.

An estimated 1.1 million people in the U. S. were living with HIV at the end of 2015, according to the latest statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Between 20 percent and 40 percent of people living with HIV also have depression, Pence noted.

“We need to find better ways to integrate mental health care into chronic disease care . . . There’s good evidence that primary care providers and non-specialists can be as effective as psychiatrists using assertive dosing schedules.”

Read the full article.

HIV care continuum: Effects of depression, alcohol use on early retention in ART

From Infectiousdiseaseadvisor.com

Both alcohol use and depression are associated with increased disengagement from antiretroviral therapy for patients with HIV in South Africa, according to the results of a recent study published in PLoS ONE.

In this prospective cohort study, 136 people living with HIV in South Africa who were initiating antiretroviral therapy were enrolled. Anxiety and depression were measured with the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale, and alcohol use disorder was evaluated with the CAGE questionnaire. Researchers also measured internalized stigma and quality of life in participants. The associations between mental health variables and 6-month retention in care and viral suppression were evaluated.

Read the full article here.