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Archive for July, 2007


All of the information I’ve gotten about HIV/AIDS has been from the charity website that I’m blogging for. AFAN (Aid for Aids of Nevada) is such an important charity. It educates those who don’t know anything about HIV/AIDS; or are very ignorant to the facts of the disease.

I have learned so much about this disease through the AFAN website. Some of the information I knew, and some (actually a lot) I have not known until tonight.

There are several ways, through the blood, to contract HIV/AIDS.

Blood Transfusions– This method of transmission is easy to understand. Infected blood, a pint or more at a time, is transfused into someone who is not in the best of health. Since March 1985, all donated blood in the U.S. has been tested for the presence of HIV and continuous screening takes place with each donor. This has tremendously reduced the risk of HIV transmission through blood transfusions. Reduced, but not completely eliminated. It is estimated that one in every 250,000 pints will contain HIV. There is NO risk of infection through donating blood.

Other Blood Products– Besides whole blood, transfusions of plasma, platelets, or red blood cells may transmit the virus. The risk has been reduced through screening. No other blood products, like gamma globulin or rhogam, are implicated to transmitting HIV.

Hemophiliacs(think Ryan umm I think his last name was White) Hemophilia is a genetic disease, which leaves a person without the ability to clot blood. If the person is cut, he/she could easily bleed to death. In order to control this condition, they take a clotting factor. Each dose is derived from the pooled blood of many donors. Most hemophiliacs in the U.S. have been infected with HIV from contaminated clotting factor or multiple blood transfusions before 1985. These products are now heat treated to kill the virus. Some clotting products are no longer made from blood, totally eliminating any risk.

Mother to Child
* HIV may be transmitted through maternal circulation
* To the infant during labor and delivery by inoculation or ingestion of blood and other infected fluids
* Rarely to the infant after birth through infected breast milk in the U.S.

With a vaginal birth, there is a 25% chance of a positive mother infecting her baby. In 1994, research led to a discovery that giving AZT to pregnant mothers during pregnancy and to the child, reduced the transmission from mother to child to 8%. However, researchers do not know if there are any long-term effects from the treatment. If both mother and child receive treatments of AZT and the baby is delivered c-section, there is only a 2%-4% chance of mother to baby transmission.

Time for a little light stuff!

How should you stay in shape?

You Should Stay in Shape With Running

Chances are that you’re already in fairly good shape
Why not challenge yourself with a run from time to time?
Running will give you that lean, toned body you desire

Guess my friend KP was right. He’s been pushing me to run.

And since my one true love, really is New York City (and the ONLY reason I’m not moving there is because of the weather!)

You Belong in Greenwich Village

Avant garde and bohemian, you’re quick to adopt new ideas and lifestyles.
And while you’re a bit less weird these days, you still have a “live and let live” philosophy.

My good friend MJ lived in the West Village the two times I visited. She lived down the street from the police station. I loved that. I could go outside to smoke and look at all the yummy men in uniform!

He was Will to my Grace

In September 2002, I met my best friend Todd. Todd was on the bowling league I joined and was on another team.

We hit it off fairly quickly. OK, that’s an understatement, we hit it off instantaneously. It was awesome. We became very good friends, soul mate type friends without the romantic side of it.

It became routine that when I would go to a meeting and he was not there, people would ask me where he was. They did the same to him when I wasn’t there. Whenever anyone would refer to us, they either called us Will and Grace or Jack and Karen. Depending on our moods, we acted like the characters from the show on more than one occasion. forgive me my spelling errors, I’m getting too tired to edit

Todd was always happy go lucky and had a smile on his face for everyone. He helped me through some rough times in the program and in my love life. We used to go to movies all the time. We would go to this bar here in town called The Big Inning and watch Buffalo Bills games. He was a HUGE Bills fan. While we were there, we found out it was also a Yankees bar (can you see where this went?) and so he would go with me during baseball season and I for him during football season.

We drove down to Dana Point, CA one year together, same year I got my lower back tattoo. Driving back in his car was so NOT fun LOL. I had a pillow behind me so that I didn’t a) bleed or b) get black tattoo ink all over his car. We sometimes laughed so hard, we’d almost pee ourselves.

That kind of connection doesn’t happen everyday. I’m blessed to have had that man in my life. He taught me love, he taught me acceptance and he taught me how to be me without fear of judgment.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
This was the last picture (that I know of) taken of Todd before he passed away. We had just finished eating at BJ’s Brewery and were getting ready to go see Mr. and Mrs. Smith. It was June 18, 2005. He lives forever in my heart and soul.

Transmission education


Three ways to transmit- HIV is transmitted from person to person in specific ways. The virus can only be transmitted from someone who has the virus in their body, specific behaviors do not “generate” this virus.

* Sexually- through unprotected, direct intimate sexual contact with an infected person who may or may not show symptoms at the time (Anal, Vaginal, Oral).
* Blood- through the transfer of blood or blood products from an infected person, (i.e. sharing unsterile needles and syringes, razors, toothbrushes, etc.). Rarely by blood transfusion, 1 in every 250,000.
* Birth/from mother to child- either during pregnancy or possibly after the child is born through breast-feeding.

There are three basic requirements for transmission to occur:

* The virus must be present in a person
* The virus must have a means to get into the bloodstream
* There must be enough of the virus in the bodily fluid to transmit

There are four bodily fluids that are known to transmit HIV:

* Blood
* Semen
* Vaginal Fluids
* Brest Milk (rare in U.S.)

HIV can be detected in the following bodily fluids, but the amount of virus is not sufficient means of transmission:

* Tears
* Urine
* Saliva
* Serum
* Cerebrospinal Fluid
* Alveolar Fluid

Even though the virus has been isolated in tears, saliva, urine, etc. the concentration level is extremely low, so the risk is minimal. Also remember, the virus must enter the bloodstream for infection to occur.

There are other ways besides unprotected sex to transmit HIV:

Sharing Needles-An IV needle can pass blood directly from one person to another. When a drug user goes to inject, they first will draw a small amount of blood up into the syringe to verify the needle is indeed in the vein. Then they will inject. This has allowed their blood to contaminate the needle and the inside of the syringe. The next person to use the needle will then be injecting their drug and a small amount of blood from the previous user of the needle.

Sharing needles also includes:

* (self) Body Piercing
* (self) Tattooing
* Skin Popping
* Injecting Steroids
* Sharing Razors
* Sharing Toothbrushes

Music and TV

7 Songs You Love
1. Moments ~ Emerson Drive
2. These Days ~ Rascal Flatts
3. Lean Like A Cholo ~ Down
4. Lonely In Your Nightmare ~ Duran Duran
5. Chasing Cars ~ Snow Patrol
6. Fall Into Me ~ Emerson Drive
7. The Red ~ Chevelle

7 TV Shows you Watch Regularly
1. Grey’s Anatomy
2. Heroes
3. Lost
4. Without a Trace
5. Big Brother 8
6. CSI: Crime Scene Investigations
7. Traveler

HIV Tests and Testing

HIV Tests/Testing

The HIV antibody test is NOT a test for AIDS. It will neither diagnose AIDS nor tell you if you will develop AIDS. It does not tell you if you are protected from infection. It indicates whether or not you have been infected with HIV at some point in time and are producing antibodies to the virus.

The antibody test is a simple blood test, which detects the presence or absence of the HIV antibodies in your blood.

Your body creates antibodies when foreign particles, like HIV, enter your system. In most cases, antibodies actually fight off the invaders and the body stays healthy. In some cases, like with AIDS, antibodies are not successful in fighting off the infection. When this happens, they are referred to as “marker” antibodies, and are used to indicate the presence of the virus.

Window Period – In most people, antibodies to HIV will develop within 3 to 6 weeks, 95% of the population will develop antibodies within 3 months, and 99.9% will develop antibodies within 6 months after infection. Occasionally, a person is infected and does not test positive. Since the HIV antibody test is looking for antibodies in the blood, people getting tested can test in 3 to 6 weeks, but they need to return in 3 months, and in 6 months after the unsafe activity for confirmation. It may be preferable to just test at 6 months, instead of taking two other tests. There will be exceptions; people who either take longer to produce antibodies, or who never produce antibodies. These exceptions are thought to be extremely rare.

However, it is very important to remain risk-free while testing. Risk-free means not engaging in any un-safe activities.

At 6 months, the HIV antibody test is 99.9% accurate.

Most common antibody tests:
Elisa: The first test given. Looks for the antibodies
to HIV. Can give false positives
Western Block: A more confirmatory antibody test conducted only if the Elisa test is positive or indeterminate.
Orasure: Recently FDA approved, Accurate, Saliva test

A test result POSITIVE means:

* Your blood was tested repeatedly with Elisa test and once with the Western Blot. These are highly specific confirmatory tests.
* You are carrying the HIV virus
* Your are infectious – capable of transmitting the virus
* You should take precautions to prevent infecting others

A test result POSTIVE does NOT mean:

* You have AIDS
* You will get AIDS
* You are immune to AIDS, even though you have antibodie

A test result NEGATIVE means:

* No antibodies were found in your blood at this time
* At 6 months you are not infected (having not had any risk in 6 months)

Indeterminate test result means:

* You were recently infected and are just starting to produce antibodies
* Something is cross reaching with the test
* You need to be re-tested in 4 – 6 weeks to determine if you are infected or not.

There are several reasons for a test to read negative:

* There hasn’t been any prior infection with HIV
* The person is in the early phase of infection and antibodies haven’t developed yet.
* The person has the infection and antibodies are no longer detectable. (Very rare, end stages of AIDS)
* The test was not performed correctly (Rare)
* There are basically 4 options for testing in Nevada. There is NO anonymous testing in Nevada. All testing in the state is confidential only. Never donate blood as a way to determine HIV status..

Clark County Health Department
Confidential testing 5 days a week, Monday – Friday, $10 fee, however no one is turned away for an inability to pay. Additionally, AFAN has testing vouchers that will allow you to test free at the Health Department. Pre and post counseling is provided. Test results may be picked up in one week from the test date.

Aid For AIDS of Nevada (AFAN)
Free confidential testing. Pre and post test counseling. Test results may be picked up one week after test date. There are several confidential testing locations in southern Nevada

Private Physicians/Clinics
Any private physician can order the test. Rarely does pre and post test counseling. They may charge whatever they want. This option involves factors such as cost, confidentiality, evidence of testing in medical records, reactions of physicians, etc. In some cases, physicians have been known to keep two separate files, one for the insurance companies and one for the private use with the patient.

Community Health Nurses
Most rural counties in Nevada. Sliding scale fees. Call the Nevada State AIDS Hotline for more information, 1-800-842-AIDS (2437). Nobody is turned away for inability to pay.

If you are tested Positive, who gets your test results?

Health Department

* Patient in person only. No telephone results.
* Patient lives in:
Clark County
Clark County Health Department Washoe County
Washoe County State Health Division, Carosn City All other Counties
Nevada State Health Division, Carson City

All counties report statistical information to the Nevada State Health Division in Carson City. State and county health departments DO NOT release test results to employers, insurance companies, relatives, spouses, or friends. Test results CANNOT be released through a subpoena. They can only be released through a court order signed by a judge. Health departments will notify sex or needle sharing partners on an anonymous basis. Both HIV and AIDS are reportable conditions in Nevada.

Private Physicians/Clinics

* Patient (In person or over the phone)
* Patient lives in
Clark County
Clark County Health Department Washoe County
Washoe County State Health Division Carson City All other Counties
Nevada State Health Division, Carson City; Insurance companies can get information

When is testing Mandatory in Nevada?

* Entering and exiting state prison system
* Donating blood
* Entering any Armed Service (routinely while in the service)
* Applying as a legal prostitute in a legal county
* Working as a legal prostitute in a legal county
* Being arrested and charges with illegal prostitution
* Being arrested and charges with a felony for sexual offense
* As part of a court order signed by a judge
* Entering Job Corps.
* To box professionally in the state of Nevada, the Nevada Athletic Commission has a policy that Boxers must test negative

Other tests associated with HIV:

* Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR)/Qualitative DNA- Looks for the virus itself. Especially useful for infants less than 18 months of age. Antibody tests may show false positives in infants. Expensive, difficult to perform. Not designed for regular screening of adults. For research purposes.
* P-24 Antigen- Not for diagnosis. Only used for screening blood supplies
* CD-4 Count (T-cell)- Done on positive individuals to determine how well the immune system is functioning. Counts the amount of CD-4 cells (T-cells) in the blood, normal=800 – 1200. Less than 500 is immune compromised, less than 200 or 14% is a diagnosis of AIDS. Not for diagnosis. In Nevada, a CD-4 count of less than than 500 is reportable to the Health Division.
* Quantitative RNA PCR- Measures Viral load. Not for diagnosis of HIV. Low is less than 10,000, high is greater than 100,000. The higher the viral load, the poorer the prognosis. Test is conducted on positive individuals to determine the level of virus activity in the blood. It helps physicians determine treatment issues.
* Saliva tests- Recently FDA approved, Accurate, Used by some insurance companies.
* Urine tests- Not FDA approved, Used by some insurance companies
* Culture tests- Not accurate if negative, Very accurate if positive

Places to see, things to have

OK! A few more things about me! Please don’t forget to sponsor me!

7 Favorite Places to Visit/Spend Time
1. Anywhere in New York City. Love that place!
2. Hawaii – again, anywhere!
3. San Diego (I didn’t list it first cause I’m moving there!)
4. Anywhere my friends are
5. My BFF’s house. It’s just so comfy there.
6. Temple, GA
7. San Clemente, CA

7 Things You Want
1. A loving, healthy relationship
2. A Volkswagen Eos hardtop convertible
3. A beach house in San Clemente or Newport Beach, CA
4. A beach house in Hawaii
5. To travel Europe and the UK without money worries.
6. Financial stability
7. Did I mention a loving, healthy relationship?

7 Things I REALLY need to do
1. Get back to the gym
2. Learn how to bellydance (Crystal knows!!! I read it on her blog)
3. Send out my resume some more
4. Pack some more stuff
5. Get on the phone to some apartment complexes down in SD and ask questions
6. Call and make an appointment with my doctor for a few minor nuisances
7. Make sure I get my dental stuff done.

A little bit of this, a little bit of that

I did the 100 things. Time to pull some MySpace surveys over or maybe some of those lists of 7 things Crystal suggested….Thank you Crystal!

7 Cities You Want to Visit
1. Athens
2. Rome
3. London
4. Dublin
5. New Westminster, British Columbia (that’s where my mom was born)
6. Edinburgh (Scotland)
7. NYC again.

7 Hobbies
1. Photography
2. Internet surfing
3. Reading
4. Dancing
5. Playing with my furbabies
6. Going to GA meetings
7. Watching TV

AIDS Defining Illnesses/Opportunistic Infections

AIDS Defining Illnesses/Opportunistic Infections

AIDS is diagnosed by the presence of one or more specific diseases or conditions that do not ordinarily occur in people with a healthy immune system. It may also be diagnosed by a severely damaged immune system. As of January 1993, a new indicator for the diagnosis of AIDS was established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which said if there is a dip in the level of T-cells 200 or less this became a diagnosis of AIDS.

For the most part, organisms that are common in the environment cause these diseases associated with AIDS. People, who have healthy immune systems, are able to fight off or control these organisms, but in people with deficient immune systems, the organisms can flourish and cause disease.

It is important to have any suspicious illness examined by a knowledgeable doctor to obtain an accurate diagnosis.

These are some of the most common AIDS related (associated) diseases and infections (these do not represent the entire list of AIDS defining diseases and infections):

Pneumocystis Carinii Pneumonia (PCP) – At one time the most opportunistic infection in people with AIDS. A fungus-like protozoan, an organism that is common in soil, houses, offices, and just about everywhere else, causes PCP. In one study, evidence of the PCP organism has been found in 75% of 4 year olds. In people with healthy immune systems, it causes no problems. In people with AIDS, it can multiply quickly in the lungs causing pneumonia. Pneumonia is a condition where fluid builds up in the lungs and can cause coughing and/or shortness of breath. The cough associated with PCP is usually not productive, meaning that no phlegm is brought up with the cough. The shortness of breath may or may not be present, and can precede or follow the cough (also recurrent pneumonia). PCP is now treated prophalactically with an antibiotic such as Bactrim.

Kaposi’s Sarcoma (KS) – A cancer of the connective tissues that support blood vessels, although it is usually referred to as a skin cancer because of the visible lesions it produces just under the skin. It is characterized by spots that can range in color from pink to purple to brown, depending on the skin color. The spots or lesions can be anywhere from 1/8 inch across to the size of a silver dollar and are usually irregular in shape. They can grow in size, get darker as they get older, and may sometimes grow together at the edges. They usually do not hurt or itch, although either sensation may occur as the lesions get older. KS is a cancer. It may be caused by a sexually transmitted infectious agent from the herpes family (KSHV). It is the second most common illness being experienced by people with AIDS, but is becoming less common as the epidemic progresses. KS most often occurs as growths visible on the skin, but it can occur in the nose, eyelids, mouth, rectum, or anywhere internally, especially in the lymph nodes.

Toxoplasmosis (Toxo) – Caused by Toxoplasma gondii, a parasite that infects the brain and sometimes the heart and lungs. Its symptoms are fever, weakness, confusion, seizures, dizziness, and headaches. The organism is a protozoan, like PCP. Most people have had exposure to Toxo, and many carry the inactive form in their bodies. When the immune system is deficient or compromised, the disease can flourish. Some common ways the disease is transmitted are through cat feces and soil. So, PLWA’s should avoid cleaning cat litter boxes or digging in the soil with their hands unless they are wearing gloves. It is possible to control this disease with medication, but the organism is not destroyed. Remember, cats themselves do not pose a risk to HIV patients, just their feces!

Cryptosporidiosis (Crypto) – This is another protozoal infection. Commonly found in farm animals, cryptosporidium can cause severe diarrhea. The diarrhea can last for months, and may produce gallons of stool each day. Diarrhea this severe results in weakness, dehydration, malnutrition, and can result in death because of fluid loss. There is no effective treatment for this infection. In 1994, Las Vegas experienced an outbreak of cryptosporidiosis in our water supply, which resulted in the loss of 38 HIV infected people.

Mycobacterium Avium Complex (MAC) – Is a bacteria that is related to tuberculosis. Like TB, they often infect the respiratory tract, but it was very rare before AIDS. If it is present only in the lungs or the lymph nodes, it is not enough to qualify as an AIDS diagnosis. Anywhere else infected in the body indicates AIDS. The most common symptoms are extreme weakness and wasting, which may be accompanied by other constitutional symptoms. (Constitutional symptoms refer to things like fever, night sweats, aches, and weight loss.) This is very difficult to treat.

Cryptococcal Meningitis – This type of meningitis is caused by a fungus that infects the meniges, the covering of the brain and spinal cord. Like most other diseases that have central nervous system (CNS) involvement, it can cause headaches, dizziness, and confusion. Other symptoms are blurred vision, nausea, memory loss, seizures, fever, and speech difficulties. The cryptococcus organism can also infect other parts of the body. If it infects the lungs, it is considered as AIDS defining.

Progressive Multifocal Leukoencephalopathy (PML) – Is caused by the JC virus that infects the brain. It can cause small abscesses on the brain and can result in memory loss, motor control problems, seizures, mood changes, and other CNS problems. This is difficult to diagnose prior to an autopsy.

Herpes – Herpes simplex 1 and 2 are viruses that cause small sores on the lips or genitals, and are very common. People who have weakened immune systems, who were previously infected with Herpes virus, can experience outbreaks of the disease that do not heal in the expected 7 to 14 days or that appear on other parts of the body, such as the hands. Herpes sores are usually small red bumps, or fluid filled blisters that break and then crust over. The affected area may be itchy, swollen, and painful.

Cytomegalovirus (CMV) – Is a common viral infection that is by no means only associated with AIDS. CMV is a member of the herpes family of viruses. Half of the population has been exposed to CMV. Usually it is asymptomatic or causes mild flu-like symptoms. In someone who is immune deficient, it can infect almost any organ system and cause serious disease. If it infects the liver, it can cause hepatitis, in the lungs it can cause pneumonia, and in the eyes it can lead to retinitis, or loss of sight. It is spread readily through semen, urine, or saliva, so it is common as an STD. It is suspected of being a significant co-factor in the development of AIDS.

Candidiasis – Is more commonly associated with immunosuppression in adults, where it appears as thrush (infection of the mouth). Thrush is a yeast infection in the mouth caused by an organism called Candida Albicans. Candida is a normal growth in the body, usually residing in the gut with many other organisms. During periods of lowered immunity, Candida sometimes flourishes in other parts of the body. It can cause vaginitis (frequent vaginal yeast infections) or sinus infections. (Sometimes Candida infections occur soon after taking antibiotics which kill the organisms that control Candida). When it is on the tongue or gums it’s called Thrush. It looks like gray or white patchy coating that can be wiped off. It might only cover part of the tongue, or the entire inside of the mouth. This same infection, if it progresses to the throat, lungs, or esophagus, can qualify for a diagnosis of AIDS.

Invasive Cervical Carcinoma – A form of cancer that infects women only.

HIV Encephalopathy/AIDS Dimensia – The AIDS virus has the ability to directly infect the cells of the brain and spinal cord, and may produce many symptoms of some of the opportunistic diseases. These include motor control problems, memory loss, mood swings, seizures, confusion, dizziness, and headaches. (Can also be due to Toxo, PML).

Lymphoma – A form of cancer that starts in the lymph nodes. Two major types of Lymphoma are Hodgkin’s disease and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Burkitts lymphoma, immunoblashi lymphoma and brain lymophomas in HIV positive people qualify as a diagnosis of AIDS.

Tuberculosis (TB) – This is a contagious air-borne communicable disease. TB can be spread by coughing or sneezing. When TB affects the lungs it’s called pulmonary TB. When it involves other parts of the body, it is called extra-pulmonary TB. Both types are qualifying for an AIDS diagnosis.

Wasting Syndrome – A loss of ten percent or more of the body weight with no explanation other than HIV infection. Contributing factors include malabsorption due to opportunistic infections or diarrhea and lack of adequate food intake because of decreased appetite and vomiting.

Opportunistic Infections:

There are other Opportunistic Infections that HIV infected individuals may experience. The above is only a partial listing of the Center’s for Disease Control & Prevention AIDS defining illnesses. An opportunistic infection simply means that there is an organism that is waiting for the most opportune time to attack the body. Not all HIV infected people will experience opportunistic infections, and others may experience them frequently. As we stated before, HIV disease can be different for each person

100 Things About Me – part 10 – final one!

This is the final installment of the 100 Things About Me posts. Now I’ve got to think of other stuff to post about. Crystal gave me a great idea, so I might do a few of those!

1. I’d like to travel Europe, the United Kingdom and parts of Asia (specifically Thailand, Korea and Japan)

2. I’d like to travel the Caribbean, on a cruise ship – for more than 7 days.

3. I’d like to become financially stable and be debt free (this one is happening sooner than I think)

4. I’d like to become a photo journalist and do freelance work on the side of whatever career I’m in.

5. Find the man I’m going to marry and have a healthy relationship

6. Lose about 10 more pounds and get into better shape than I already am in

7. Get laser hair removal on my legs, bikini area, underarms and upper lip. I’m tired of shaving, waxing and plucking.

8. Finish my dental work I need done and then take care of my investment.

9. Learn more about web design, CSS and HTML

10. Always be there for my friends when they need me.