BETA Summer/Fall 2008

This issue of BETA marks the magazine’s 20th anniversary. In the summer of 1988, the lead article in the very first issue opened with a one-word title: “AZT.” Since then, BETA has covered the development, progress, and demise or approval of hundreds of experimental drugs and treatments for HIV, related conditions, and prevention.

But despite dramatic changes in HIV research, the magazine has remained true to the statement of purpose articulated in that first issue: 
BETA reviews available scientific data on AIDS treatments as well as anecdotal information provided by physicians, researchers, people with AIDS and [AIDS-related conditions], and individuals infected with HIV"
Over the past two decades, BETA has continued to be defined by this statement of purpose, recognizing the value not only of data gathered from research studies but also the vast experience and knowledge accumulated by people living with HIV, and their communities.    

Who better, then, to help shape BETA’s future?        

This milestone issue asks you, the reader, to lend your own expertise to the magazine. In the anonymous BETA Reader survey, you will find questions about your interests, the issues that affect your health and well-being, and your opinions about what BETA is doing right—and what it could be doing better. The few moments you take to complete the online questionnaire will make a huge contribution to the magazine, and to BETA’s community of readers.

Also in this issue, Liz Highleyman addresses two timely and important topics: when to start anti-HIV treatment, and what to start with. A feature article by psychotherapists Gaetano Vaccaro and Joni Lavick discusses the well-researched connections between HIV and physical, emotional, or sexual trauma, and describes numerous treatment options that have offered relief to their own HIV positive clients. And in the “Women and HIV” column, Naina Khanna of WORLD talks about the new National Positive Women’s Network, a support and leadership organization that recognizes HIV positive women as the “experts in their own lives.”           

Readers will also find an article on what counts as “evidence” in evidence-based HIV prevention, and how that evidence is used—or not—in prevention programs. As authors Judith D. Auerbach and William Smith explain, HIV prevention might be better served by a notion of evidence that goes beyond the results of scientific studies to include “the knowledge gained from the lived experience of individuals and communities affected by HIV/AIDS.”            

This kind of community-derived knowledge has informed BETAs news coverage from the start, when many people’s survival depended on educating one another. With your help, BETA will build on its 20-year history by continuing to cover the HIV prevention and treatment research news that is most relevant to your health and quality of life, and by sharing strategies—tested in doctor’s offices, homes, neighborhoods, and community organizations—for living well with HIV.

When to Start Antiretroviral Treatment: A Changing Equation

The decision about when to start antiretroviral treatment is among the most vexing puzzles in the field of HIV management. HIV begins killing CD4 T-cells key players in the body’s immune response from the time of initial infection, yet many HIV positive people go for years without experiencing clinical symptoms. Antiretroviral drugs effectively suppress viral replication and enable CD4 cell recovery, but also can lead to side effects that are at best bothersome and at worst debilitating or even fatal. While the optimal time to begin treatment for many diseases is as soon as possible after infection, in the case of HIV the decision involves balancing the benefits of preventing immune system decline as well as other harmful effects of HIV infection that are only beginning to be understood against the inconvenience, expense, and health risks associated with antiretroviral therapy. Read more...

Trauma: Frozen Moments, Frozen Lives

Throughout our lives, we all experience significant events that impact our perceptions of the world and determine how we interpret and respond to future experiences. These events elicit powerful thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations that can become imprinted upon the mind. They are moments frozen in time. Read more...

Confronting the "Evidence" in Evidence-Based HIV Prevention: Current Scientific and Political Challenges’

Recent years have witnessed the increasing adoption of an evidence-based public health approach in HIV prevention science, yet this approach is limited by lack of consensus about what counts as evidence. Read more...

News Briefs

The Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections, which took place February 3-6, 2008, in Boston, is one of the major annual scientific meetings covering HIV/AIDS and its management. Highlights from the meeting are described below (with abstract numbers), along with recent news from medical journals and other sources. Read more...

Drug Watch: Getting the Most from Available Antiretroviral Therapies

Two decades after the approval of the first antiretroviral drugs, combination HAART has dramatically lowered the risk of illness and death for people with HIV. The year 2007 was another milestone, witnessing the approval of the first agents in two new anti- HIV drug classes CCR5 antagonists and integrase inhibitors that provide new options for treatment-experienced patients. Read more...

Women and HIV: A New National Positive Women's Network

According to a report by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, approximately 300,000 women are living with HIV in the United States. To the Oakland, California based organization WORLD, these are 300,000 invaluable sources of insight into the strengths, priorities, and needs of HIV positive women, and the gaps in women-focused HIV prevention approaches. Read more...

Open Clinical Trials

Below is a selected list of currently enrolling clinical trials gathered from various sources. The federal government’s AIDSinfo website includes a clinical trials section that features an introduction to HIV/ AIDS research and study listings from the National Institutes of Health’s database. AIDSinfo also offers personalized advice about clinical trial participation via email (, an interactive website (, and a toll-free telephone service (800-448-0440, international 301-315- 2816). Read more...

HAART Chart - Approved Antiretroviral Drugs


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