December #77 : *69: AIDS, We've Got Your Number - by Kevin O'Leary

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Table of Contents

*69: AIDS, We've Got Your Number

Sleeping With The Enemy

Enter the Dragon

Change of Heart

Name Game

Chimp and See

Pop Tart

Milestones

Magilla Guerrilla

Spin Cycle

Poetry in Motion

Gifts That Keep Giving

All Versed Up

Obit

Let's Get Naked

Vax for HIVers

States of Emergency

Bundleland

Fat Chance

Hep C, Hep Do

Fed Tape

Gift of Life

Publisher's Letter

Mailbox

Bishop Rainey Cheeks



Most Popular Lessons

The HIV Life Cycle

Shingles

Herpes Simplex Virus

Syphilis & Neurosyphilis

Treatments for Opportunistic Infections (OIs)

What is AIDS & HIV?

Hepatitis & HIV


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December 2001

*69: AIDS, We've Got Your Number

by Kevin O'Leary

R-r-r-ring! The virus calling." Though it turned 20 this year, HIV barely even took a cake break from punching our digits like a bullying bill collector. Nor did it stop its creeping on September 11 as the rest of the Earth stood still. There's clearly no rest for the wicked, so POZ got busy and made a list of the most memorable moments that jerk AIDS appeared on our caller ID in 2001. Kevin O'Leary counts up to 69.

1. What a Coup...

George W. Bush, squeaking in by a hanging chad and a Supreme injustice, took the oath of office in January -- without once having put his mouth around the "A" word.

2. ...and What a Card!
In February, Chief of Staff Andy Card leaked a shutdown of the White House AIDS Office to USA Today. After all hell broke loose that morning, Bush told a South Lawn crowd, "We're concerned about AIDS inside our White House, make no mistake." Still, come late March, The Washington Post reported that "the only thing left of [the AIDS office] is a website directing callers to an empty office with a telephone no one answers."

3. Sign 'o' the Times
January readers of The New York Times Magazine got treated to a 7,500-word Rx from famed reporter Tina Rosenberg, "How to Solve the World's AIDS Crisis." Her answer: Look at Brazil. Championing its move to give generic copycats of brand-name anti-HIV meds to its 530,000 HIVers, Rosenberg set the tone for 2001's global activism -- and Times coverage: "Brazil is showing that no one who dies of AIDS dies of natural causes. Those who die have been failed..."

4. That's It -- We're Moving
In October, the Brazilian Health Ministry reported that distributing free syringes has reduced the HIV infection rate among IVDUs by 40 percent in the last four years.

5. Wake Up, Oscar
When the Academy Award nominations were announced in February at 5:30 a.m., Javier Bardem awoke to a Best Actor nod for his portrayal of Reinaldo Arenas, the late, great Cuban exile novelist and PWA, in Before Night Falls. Heartbreaker Bardem lost to home-wrecker Russell Crowe, but the real loser was the biopic -- passed over for Best Picture for the likes of the inedible Chocolat.

6. Enter Miming
When new U.S. health honcho Tommy Thompson introduced former Wisconsin Log Cabin Republican prez Scott Evertz as the new AIDS Czar at an April press conference, the HIV novice pulled a Nancy and stood by smiling silently. The screaming quiet continued till an oft-heckled abstinence-emphatic August speech to preventionistas. "I need your feedback," he told them.

7. Wake Up and Smell the...
Kofi Annan, UN Secretary-General, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, with the Swedes citing his single-handed global-AIDS push, including June's first-ever General Assembly on the epidemic.

8. Diluted Draft
At the Assembly, community reps and member states nearly came to blows over the anti-AIDS "Declaration." All mention of fags, sluts and junkies was muzzled by Muslim delegates, while cheap prevention prevailed over pricier treatment.

9. Jane Crow Law
The ACLU's AIDS Project filed suit on behalf of the Hispanic AIDS Forum after the agency was forced out of its Queens, New York, digs in June. The landlord had caved to a tenant's complaint that transgendered clients -- who have the highest infection rate of any group anywhere -- were using the "wrong bathroom."

10. Cheap Suit
From Botswana to the Bronx, March 5 was a global day of protest in solidarity with South Africa in its Pharmaceutical Manufacturers' Association v. South Africa case. Why so litigious? The Pharma 40 wanted to protect their AIDS-meds monopoly.

11. Blue-Light Special I
Smack dab in the middle of the suit, Pharma announced a spring closeout sale. Glaxo offered Africans a 90 percent reduction on three of its anti-HIV drugs. Then Merck slashed Crixivan annual payments to $600, half-off last year's discount rate. The same week, Bristol-Myers Squibb pitched Zerit at a below-cost 15 cents a day. Two weeks later, Abbott began selling Norvir and Kaletra at "no profit."

12. Blue-Light Special II
That supermarket sweep registered a ka-ching! only in October when Senegal made the first deal. Wall Street Journal AIDS muckrakers Mark Schoofs and Michael Waldholz had the real skinny: UNAIDS brokered the price talks, with each drug company negotiating with each country individually -- to avoid antitrust concerns, Pharma said. Activists grumbled that it was a divide-and-conquer tactic.

13. Feel the Burn
In April, the media hot seat moved the Pharma 40 to drop its lawsuit against South Africa. There was dancing in the courtroom, literally.

14. Drama Queens
NBC ER'd on the side of caution in February with its toe-dip into the barebacking rapids. Young gay Jeff -- with Sean, his controlling older lover -- gets a negative HIV test result after copping earlier to condomless sex. "Really?" says Jeff, looking disappointed. When the doctor asks why the chagrin, Sean announces he has HIV. Ruffling Jeff's hair, he adds, "Jeff and I are together. Through everything." Stricken, the doc asks, "So, what?...You a bug chaser, Jeff?" And so barebacking slang entered millions of living rooms nationwide. Let's see Queer as Folk be so bold.

15. America's Most Bareback
Seven years ago, the CDC's Linda Valleroy started plucking gay and bi 15-to-22-year-olds from public venues in seven cities to talk about their sex life. No perv, she's heading up the feds' Young Men's Survey -- and the media can always count on its data for drama. Last year's big headline was that only 18 percent of the guys who tested positive at the survey's annual HIV prick had known they had HIV. In May, she scratched San Fran, and the remaining 2,942 surveyees, now 23 to 29, didn't spare the bad news. A fearsome 41 percent had had condomless sex in the last six months.

16. Ass Online
In a community panty-twist worthy of a John Waters film, pugnacious pundit Andrew Sullivan was outed for posting an explicit web page on barebackcity.com. Hypocrisy-hungry gay journos sharpened the pencils to dig into "Rawmuslglutes," but like the Slick Willie whom Sullivan has harangued in his Times Mag column and on his website, the Catholic expat made a plea for privacy. FYI: Glutes is butch for buns.

17. Indian Giver
Cipla, a generic-drug giant in India, revolutionized treatment access in February by offering cocktails at a happy-hour price of $350 a year. A price war was spawned, putting meds on the map of poor countries.

18. Who Can (Not) Take It?
The year's top advance in AIDS treatment was -- surprise! -- stopping it. But with research slim and docs wary, HIVers were on their own in doing personal cost-benefit analyses of Strategic Treatment Interruptions. The medical miasma only got murkier after the feds revised down the when-to-start-HAART rules. Now it's when CD4s are below 350 or viral load above 55,000, leaving many wondering if they should be burning through treatment options at all.

19. Pfizer's No Miser
Kingsize kudos to Pfizer for its June offer of free fluconazole to developing countries. The lifesaving drug is used to treat fungal brain infections and systemic yeasty beasts. Stay tuned for the poop on whether the fluc actually reaches HIVers.

20. Losing Nkosi
On June 1, 12-year-old Nkosi Johnson, South Africa's Ryan White, died after a lifetime fighting HIV. The precocious speaker stole the show at 2000's international AIDS conference in Durban. Before 10,000 delegates, his adopted mom and the world, the little guy had the balls to berate President Thabo Mbeki for skipping out just minutes before. Mbeki skipped the funeral, too -- but thousands of others attended.

21. Hmmm, Mbeki...
A November New York Times editorial blasted the former anti-apartheid hero, warning that millions of poor blacks will die if he keeps up his ostrich act. Mbeki still denies that AIDS is South Africa's No. 1 killer; in August he bothered to dig up old stats "proving" it was No. 12. Adding insult to injury, he also offered only minimal programs to prevent transmission from moms to babies and nixed deals for cheap meds. The coup de grâce? He recruited HIV denialists for the health department.

22. 54 to 41 -- Fight!
The Medical Research Council predicted in October that 7 million South Africans are expected to die of AIDS by 2010, echoing a UN study showing an average life-expectancy drop from 54 to 41 within 10 years.

23. China Syndrome
What a planet where one-fifth of all humans live in a nation that denies it has a single case of the worst epidemic in history! Earth to China: A-I-D-S. This year, at last, the reds joined not only the WTO but reality itself by tearing down its Great Wall of silence. Then an HIVer boldly stepped up to address China's first-ever national confab on AIDS prevention in November, but at press time officials were still debating... For more, see "Enter the Dragon".

24. Bored of Ed
Fifteen left-coast teens disrupted a Santa Ana Unified School District board meeting in October. The high schoolers demanded safe-sex ed beyond abstinence-only programs, based on peer surveys on which two-thirds of Santa Ana High students rated current lesson plans as inadequate. The twist? The school board thanked them and promised to follow up.

25. Geri's Kids
In October, the artist formerly known as Ginger Spice, Geri Halliwell, launched a website with Brit-based Mary Stopes International serving up info about contraception and STD-prevention for the under-16 set.

26. What Gaul
The Adventures of Felix had a hunky HIVer traipsing around France like any art-house hero and trading tips on combo therapies like, well, POZ's own.

27. Airport Security
When Michael Barry, 41, fell in a wheelchair mishap while boarding a Continental flight to St. Louis in June, he staggered to his seat bleeding. Barry reports that when he blurted out to a helpful stewardess that he had HIV, things got very unhelpful. Passengers were evacuated and a plastic-suit brigade came to clean up. Continental would not let him reboard their plane, instead sending him to TWA with an $8 food voucher.

28. Willie, We Hardly Knew Ya
Under a cloud of presidential-pardon scandal, Bill Clinton ran for cover to former AIDS Czar Sandy Thurman. The longtime FoB took her formidable Rolodex on a world tour this year to found the International AIDS Trust. Clinton settled into the advisory-board chair -- and was soon appearing at a splashy press gig with Babyface, who announced upcoming benefit concerts and albums.

29. Dollars Short, Years Late
At the April AIDS Summit in Nigeria Clinton urged the Bush administration to commit $1.75 billion. "That's about the same amount the U.S. government spent last year on office supplies," said Clinton, taking a break from televised PWA hugs. The new New Yorker neglected to mention that his own final budget had allotted just $150 million to fight AIDS in Africa.

30. Turner's Rebellion
ACT UP/DC's Wayne Turner cornered Clinton at a September Congressional Black Caucus awards dinner. The wily one was signing autographs when Turner began screaming at him about his failure to deliver on a promised Manhattan Project for AIDS. Turner invoked the name of his late lover, superactivist Steve Michael, and said Thurman hadn't been a real AIDS czar. Clinton responded, "I'm sorry you lost your lover. I'm sorry we didn't find a cure," but would take no Thurman thrashing. Later, Turner said, "I plan to haunt him till the day he dies."

31. Kickin' Kiev
In the largest demo ever in the Ukraine, 15,000 marched in May to urge fellow citizens to "turn to God" to resolve the country's HIV crisis. The virus is spreading faster there than in any other European country, with official forecasts of as many as 2.1 million dead by the year 2010.

32. Mercury Risen
In March, Queen frontman Freddie Mercury had a comeback 10 years after his AIDS death when the champion rock-opera group was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

33. Paper or Latex?
Korrin Krause, 16, worked for one day as a bagger at Quality Foods IGA in Schofield, Wisconsin, before the manager fired her. Krause, who had disclosed her HIV status in her interview, filed an ADA complaint with the EEOC, which sued on her behalf. After an IGA official said he did not want other store workers "to take this [HIV] home to our families," the EEOC sided with Krause in May. Of the still-in-the-works settlement, Krause's AIDS Resource Center lawyer said, "Their initial offer was to give her $1,000 to go around to schools and talk about what it's like to live with AIDS." IGA, bag this.

34. Livin' in the Styx
As part of a National Coming Out recruitment drive for the Human Rights Campaign, Styx bassist Chuck Panozzo, still rocking on tour at 53, announced that he is gay and has HIV.

35. MTVidiots
"Talk to your partner about MTV." "The best defense against MTV is abstinence." "Can I get MTV from kissing?" Those were the helvetica-bold messages printed across the faces of worried teens in MTV's 20th-anniversary nationwide ad blitz in April. MTV denied any viral connection.

36. Teacher's Pet
A tabloid-led transmission tsunami ensued after Bronx second-grade teacher and HIVer Milton McFarlane was charged with sexually assaulting three boys. Similar allegations had been made three years before, but the school never dropped a dime on teach.

37. Not a Great Dane
After a 59-year-old Danish painter was arrested in Sweden and charged with infecting seven of his lovers with HIV, Denmark's justice minister launched a campaign to push parliament to approve a law punishing "careless or deliberate" transmission with up to four years behind bars.

38. Twilight Zone
It hit the fan when 24-year-old San Fran health department HIV prevention worker Seth Watkins -- or "Twilightchild," as he's known in his web profiles -- told The New York Times in August that he sometimes has condomless sex in backrooms. Sex-advice columnist Dan Savage spilled a whole columnful of ink calling him a moron whose "skanky ass" should be fired.

39. The Morning After
Post-Twilightchild twirl, things got weirder for the DoH by the bay. Roland Foster, a House Committee on Government Reform staffer, sent a letter to the CDC claiming that DoH bigwig Jeffrey Klausner, MD, "has urged Virginia to use its public health powers to shut down the online chat rooms of AOL." Pas moi, said Klausner, who has pushed AOL to put syphilis warnings in its SFM4M chat room since a '98 outbreak. In November, Klausner told Washington Monthly he backed policing his city's sex spaces and even quarantining barebackers. ACT UP/SF and Michael Petrelis immediately sprang into action, calling for Mayor Willie Brown to 86 the "dangerous and sick...married breeder."

40. Wild About Larry
The media rediscovered Larry Kramer, 65, when the senior announced he had end-stage liver disease and was on a transplant quest. A blockbuster June "AIDS at 20" Newsweek boasted a photo of the angry prophet with a hep B-distended stomach, naked but for a pair of Champion briefs and -- need we add? -- no smile. And on Nightline, Ted Koppel all but sang "The Way We Were." At press time, Larry's original liver was happily reported to be no longer acting up.

41. A Merck-y Story
A Jane Doe with HIV won a defamation and civil rights suit against Merck and its ad agency in June. The thirtysomething soccer mom -- who says she got HIV from her hubby -- was identified in a 1997 "Sharing Stories" brochure she gave face to as a 19-year-old with two kids who got HIV and herpes from promiscuous sex. Sweet Jane is seeking a mere $12 million in compensatory damages and $6 million in punitive damages.

42. Speed the Plow
The "instant bottom" effect of Tina, or crystal methamphetamine, is famous among gay male partiers, especially Bathhouse Bettes and Web Debs. It has also become famous for speeding HIV infection rates, with study after study this year confirming its involvement in impaired decision-making about safe sex.


9-11 Blowback

43. Donor Fatigue
After the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, more than 330,000 Americans lined up to donate blood to the Red Cross. Two weeks later, the letters started going out asking certain donors to contact one of the nine RC blood-screening centers to schedule a visit to discuss an "abnormal" result. In Orlando alone, 80 people tested positive for HIV, while 300 got news about hepatitis.

44. Bittersweet Charity
Funds originally marked for the Global AIDS Alliance from the all-star World AIDS Day single "What's Going On" -- with Britney, Justin, J-Lo, Bono, Mary, et al. -- will now be "evenly shared" with families of the WTC tragedy. Meantime, only 5,000 of the expected 25,000 walkers dared show up for the Washington, DC, AIDSWalk. The small crowd scared up $400,000 of the hoped-for $1 million.

45. American Pie
Mayor Rudy Giuliani sliced 15 percent from funding to New York City agencies in the wake of the economic disaster, including the Division of AIDS Services.

46. Heroic Measures
The National Minority AIDS Council had the bad luck to schedule its annual confab for the travel-restricted in Miami on September 12 -- and the good luck to have 300 attendees drive from as far as California to register anyway.

47. A Case of Déjà Vu
The general public began to do flu-symptom inventories for fear they'd test positive for the virus. Then they demanded lifesaving drugs. And as the invisible anthrax spread, our leaders kept HHS, CDC, FDA and NIH under a gag order, sewing mass confusion -- the same silence AIDS activists long shouted about.


48. Ad Infinitum
AIDS drug ads came under fire from Survive AIDS' Jeff Getty, who blamed their emphasis on HAART takers' health and happiness for new infections. The San Fran full-court press got the FDA's Thomas Abram to order Big Pharma to retire the "misleading" mountain climbers in favor of more "realistic" images of side effects and sickness. Whoever said you can't be too healthy?

49. Talking Trash
Getty then used the unfactchecked bully pulpit of his Survive AIDS column in an April Bay Area Reporter to call for a boycott of POZ. He spilled much ink to damn what's in your hands as "trash" and a "prostitute" of drug companies. Then he e-mailed the editor in chief: "You've trashed me for years but now when I stand up to you, it's poor POZ magazine and that mean old Jeff Getty....Call me to discuss how to stop an unneeded war." For more on his "war," see www.poz.com.

50. Uganda, You Got It!
Uganda pioneered in prevention yet again in July with a "Save the babies" campaign. By the year 2005, every mom-to-be will get free pre-natal Nevirapine. Bear hugs for Boehringher-Ingelheim, which donated the easy-to-use pill.

51. New Year's Eves
In January, the FDA ordered Bristol-Myers Squibb to warn doctors about the dangers of prescribing d4T (Zerit) and ddI (Videx) together to preggers ladies. Three expecting women got the ultimate side effect -- death -- after the meds brought lactic acidosis to fatal levels.

52. Pfizer Is a Miser
A royal raspberry to Pfizer for pulling the plug on trials of Remune, an experimental therapeutic vaccine, in July. When the feds followed suit, some activists and researchers cried foul, charging that the drug giant axed the vax not because it was a dud but because it was too far from market to be cost effective. For more, see "Treatment".

53. The Great Restoration
Out with HIV eradication, in with immune reconstitution. Immune-based research got bigger buzz and bucks this year. In particular, Chiron's old-faithful IL-2 was name-dropped in talks on STIs. For more, see "Sleeping With The Enemy".

54. African Queen
Brit Wit star Emma Thompson is headed to Africa to spend a year working for ActionAid, a global anti-poverty group, with her hubby and child. "I will talk to women and orphans and try to spread the message about AIDS to inform people of the risks," the Oscar winner told the British tabs. Hello, Hollywood?

55. "Keep Off the Grass"
In May, the Supreme Court ruled that -- states' rights be damned! -- medical marijuana just ain't legal. Tokers note: The unanimous decision nixed clubs' distribution, not patients' use, of maryjane. Meantime, our northern neighbor stoked cannabis Canucks by legalizing prescription pot.

56. AIDSRide Tanqued
The Palotta TeamWorks fundraiser's biggest backer since 1994, Tanqueray announced it would drop support next year. Though it will award a $200,000 grant in each participating city, the liquor company said it was making a shift in its overall brand-marketing strategy. Gin 'n' bear it.

57. Hale Storm
After an investigation into Hale House's financial funny business, ED Lorraine Hale, 75, was tossed out in April. In 2000, of the $8.9 million raised for the house that Mother built, a mere $3.9 million went to services.

58. She's a Goodman
In June, New York State Supreme Court Justice Emily Jane Goodman slammed the Giuliani administration for its treatment of homeless HIVers. The state judge found the city in contempt of a court order guaranteeing immediate housing and ordered payment of $250 to 17 HIVers for each night spent sans shelter.

59. Tide Is High
Tenofovir (Viread) was the only new anti-HIV drug in 2001. Approved for the naive as well as for folks whose regimens have tapped out, the once-a-day, new-class nucleotide clocked in with a November showing. Industry watchers forecast salvage therapy alone to bring windfalls of $125 million in 2002 and $275 million in 2003 for Gilead. But is it or is it not a new class ("nucleotide")? For more, see "Treatment".

60. The War at Home
After a two-year study of 2,942 volunteers in six major cities, the CDC reported in May that young black men who have sex with men were getting infected at a rate of almost 15 percent a year (compared to rates of 2.5 and 3.5 among white and Latino peers, respectively). Translation: Already, one-third of urban gay black men under 30 have HIV. Caught between homophobia in the black community and racism among gays, these guys are falling through all the cracks.

61. Gayle Storms In
After 17 years at the CDC and six as its HIV prevention honcha, Helene Gayle, MD, split in August to become the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation's senior advisor on HIV. Her tenure, critics say, was a mixed bag of arriving late on each scene to discover "stunning," "staggering" new epidemics hiding in plain sight -- women and gay black men. But once a Bush bureaucrat takes over, Gayle will surely be missed.

62. Drug Bust I
The LA Cannabis Resource Center was a respectable member of the local Chamber of Commerce, but that didn't stop Attorney General John Ashcroft from sending in 30 DEA agents to confiscate pot plants, indoor growing lights and computers with the 960 members' names and medical records. Two related busts took down the California Medical Research Center near Sacramento and a farm that grew weed for the City of Angels. Further north, a San Francisco pot shop shut down in advance of a raid. Patients and pols alike cried foul, while cynics noted the timing -- Halloween week, when the state was on high alert for al-Qaeda on its bridges.

63. Drug Bust II
Osama, anthrax and...Valium were at the top of Ashcroft's public-enemies list one week later. The AG sent DEA agents after doctors who legally prescribe barbiturates to help patients hasten their own deaths under Oregon's unique assisted-suicide law. Even state pols opposed to the Death With Dignity Act were appalled by the feds' tromping on a measure passed by the state's voters twice. Meantime, two dozen dying Oregonians lie in limbo -- and misery.

64. Demanding Retractions
In October, Ottawa's health department laid plans for a pilot program replacing standard syringes at needle exchanges with automatically retractable ones. Post-use, the needle withdraws into the plunger, preventing reuse, sharing and accidental sticking.

65. Chowchilla Killa'
When California legislators visited Chowchilla women's prison to investigate the high rate of HIVer deaths, they found enough systematic negligence and abuse to start a riot. So reps demanded immediate improvements, but post 9-11 cutbacks mean Chowchilla chicks still get crappy care.

66. Hope Chest
African heads of state met in April to pledge 15 percent of their annual budgets to health care, amassing what the UN'S Annan called for a "war chest." The 43 nation heads put the kibosh on Annan's hopes to devote the funds solely to AIDS.

67. Feeding Frenzy
Cryspus Kyongi, former minister of health for safe-sex phenom Uganda, was picked to lead the Global AIDS Fund in July. His tall order: distributing all that dough among thousands of groups. Some worry that salaries will get fatter and bureaucracies bigger -- but HIVers no healthier.

68. Here's Your Hat
Jesse Helms, who in five senate campaigns never got more than 55 percent of the tobacco state's vote, packed up his brand of hate-filled, AIDS-phobic politics and declared in August that he's retiring in 2003. Our favorite immortal Helms moment: On October 14, 1987, during a debate on federal AIDS funding, Helms stood on the Senate floor, waving and railing against a safe-sexually graphic GMHC comic book. His colleagues promptly passed the "Helms Amendment," which prohibited federal funding for AIDS-ed materials that "promote or encourage, directly or indirectly, homosexual activities." P.S. The homo-promo comic's production wasn't even paid for by feds.

69. Nearly Legal
AIDS turned 20 this year. The major media showed up, as did some celebs, researchers and activists -- and, of course, many PWAs who were grateful for the attention now that their virus is no longer a big story. Missing but not forgotten: the 20 million dead. We hope the media will stick around to help blow out the candles.

With additional reporting by Cindra Feuer and Suzy Martin.




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