Ninth Retrovirus Conference, Seattle, February -- A French survey found that only one-half of all HIVer deaths are caused by LE SIDA. The top HIV-related killers are CMV, PCP and toxo; hep C, cancer and cardio disease are the non-AIDS villains. And those dastardly drug side effects? They caused a mere 1 percent of positifs to pass -- less than alcohol or accidents (Though "cardio" raises questions)... The death rate of British Columbia PWAs with CD4s below the telltale 200 was twice that of those with 200-plus -- regardless of drug regimen used... Johns Hopkins researchers found that in HIVers over 50, those on HAART died at about the same rate as young'uns on the meds, while untreated golden oldies died twice as fast as their younger peers... A small study of London HIVers found that those who tested "late" -- within a year of a full-blown AIDS diagnosis -- got sicker faster. Not exactly rocket science, but worth noting, since more than half of all HIVers are "late" bloomers... In the Duh! box: A study showing that people in the throes of primary infection who had high adherence to HAART saw their viral load fall to 50 copies or less in two months... In the Huh? box: HIVers with lousy compliance had a lower risk of drug resistance than the goody-two-shoes with high HAART adherence. Say what? Turns out the noncompliant don't stay on meds long enough to even develop resistance -- or to get any benefit of viral suppression... There's good news for HIVers who start HAART with a much-damaged immune system (below 50 CD4s). First, over three years, their average CD4 count went up to 480. Second, as CD4s rose, the rates of OIs declined, and prophylaxes against MAC, toxo, crypto and other nasties could often be safely stopped -- but talk to your doctor first... UCSF's CAPS prevention pioneers found that the rate of unprotected anal sex among newbies (gay men infected for one year or less) was twice as high as that of their neggie peers. One-third said that if their partner had sex sans condom, they assumed the guy was negative... The Young Men's Survey study found that of 3,500 urban homos, ages 15 to 22, 66 percent used drugs (such as cocaine, crystal meth and ecstasy) at least once in the past six months, 30 percent did so "frequently" and 30 percent also reported "poly-drug" use. As for condom use, take a wild guess... Brazilian researchers trumpeted a first-ever case of HIV transmission by bite. A 31-year-old epileptic, mid-seizure, bloodily gnashed his poor mom's arm; after 40 days and 40 nights, she tested positive, and molecular tests confirmed viral kinship... According to the CDC, 1 percent of the 775,000 Americans with HIV still living by December 2000 got it through contaminated blood transfusions; one-third were seniors, one-quarter black... Four New York state prisons reported a steady drop in HIV from 1988 to 2000: among guys, from 18 to 5 percent; among gals, from 18 to 14 percent. Investigators saw a similar decline in IV-drug use... Flakiest study of the confab? The one testing if daily phone calls reminding HIVers to take their meds improves adherence. The "surprising" finding that Ma Bell made no difference -- the phone arm and the placebo (no phone) arm were equally highly compliant -- suggests that just knowing that Big Brother is watching ups obedient dosing.