September #63 : Teen Talk - by Tim Horn

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Long Live The Queens

How To Vote

Pills! Chills! Thrills! Spills!

Keeping Up With The Jones

Alabama Bound

Green Alert!

Publisher’s Letter


Double Identity

Say What?

Thespian Avengers

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Off-Line Service

Data Drill

Hair Comes The Condoms

There’s No Place Like Om

Straight To The Heart


Second Sex First


He’s All That

Recovery Lite

Road Trippin'

Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls

Change of Heart

Crossing the Liver

Warning: Natural Selection

Dandelion Whine

Teen Talk

Skin Deep

Resistance Assistance

Dishes On The Side

Kentucky Woman

Comfort Zone

The Funky Fungus Among Us

Most Popular Lessons

The HIV Life Cycle


Herpes Simplex Virus

Syphilis & Neurosyphilis

Treatments for Opportunistic Infections (OIs)

What is AIDS & HIV?

Hepatitis & HIV

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September 2000

Teen Talk

by Tim Horn

Ah, the hallmarks of youth: acne…MTV…an active thymus? While the desirability of the first two are questionable, the third turns out to be especially valuable for teens with HIV. A recent study of 270 adolescents with and without HIV, conducted by the nationwide Adolescent Medicine HIV/AIDS Research Network, found that those with HIV who are on HAART may be able to control the virus more effectively than adults can. A possible reason is a working thymus, the chest gland that churns out finished T cells (both CD4s and CD8s) after their initial production in the bone marrow. “Many adults—both HIV positive and negative—have limited function of this gland,” says Steven Douglas, MD, lead author of the study, “and young children infected at birth lose thymus function early.” But kids who don’t get the virus until adolescence appear to retain functioning thymus glands. “Adolescents have not lost thymic function,” he says, “yet their thymuses are mature enough to better withstand the damage inflicted by HIV.”

The study found that teens maintain high levels of HIV-fighting naive CD4 and CD8 cells—immune-system soldiers that have never before battled germs. Over time, the thymus halts production of naive cells, leaving most adults to rely on memory T cells—those that have already combatted invaders—which can limit HAART’s effectiveness. “Starting antiretroviral therapy early to protect naive cells is definitely a good idea,” Douglas says. “Immune-based therapies and structured treatment interruptions [drug holidays] may enhance the function of these cells, but it’s way too early to tell.”

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