News - Project Neon BLOG News - Project Neon BLOG Speed - Project Neon BLOG News - Project Neon BLOG News - Project Neon BLOG News - Project Neon BLOG Speed - Project Neon BLOG

September 2009 Archives

HIV's Ancestors May Have Plagued First Mammals

Posted by Project NEON on September 29, 2009 10:39 AM

HIV's Ancestors May Have Plagued First Mammals

The remains of an ancient HIV-like virus have been discovered in the genome of the two-toed sloth. (Credit: iStockphoto/Nancy Craft)ScienceDaily (Sep. 28, 2009) -- The retroviruses which gave rise to HIV have been battling it out with mammal immune systems since mammals first evolved around 100 million years ago - about 85 million years earlier than previously thought, scientists now believe.

The remains of an ancient HIV-like virus have been discovered in the genome of the two-toed sloth [Choloepus hoffmanni] by a team led by Oxford University scientists who publish a report of their research in this week's Science.

'Finding the fossilised remains of such a virus in this sloth is an amazing stroke of luck,' said Dr Aris Katzourakis from Oxford's Department of Zoology and the Institute for Emergent Infections, James Martin 21st Century School. 'Because this sloth is so geographically and genetically isolated its genome gives us a window into the ancient past of mammals, their immune systems, and the types of viruses they had to contend with.'

The researchers found evidence of 'foamy viruses', a particular kind of retrovirus that resembles the complex lentiviruses, such as HIV and simian retroviruses (SIVs) - as opposed to simple retroviruses that are found throughout the genomic fossil record.

'In previous work we had found evidence for similar viruses in the genomes of rabbits and lemurs but this new research suggests that the ancestors of complex retroviruses, such as HIV, may have been with us from the very beginnings of mammal evolution,' said Dr Aris Katzourakis.

Understanding the historical conflict between complex viruses and mammal immune systems could lead to new approaches to combating existing retroviruses, such as HIV. It can also help scientists to decide which viruses that cross species are likely to cause dangerous pandemics - such as swine flu (H1N1) - and which, like bird flu (H5N1) and foamy viruses, cross this species barrier but then never cause pandemics in new mammal populations.

AIDS vaccine promising; experts urge caution

Posted by Project NEON on September 25, 2009 4:53 PM

AIDS vaccine promising; experts urge caution
Victoria Colliver, Chronicle Staff Writer

Friday, September 25, 2009

(09-24) 19:20 PDT -- As Bay Area scientists celebrated the first promising results from the largest-ever AIDS vaccine trial, they cautioned that much more research is needed before a vaccine could be available to the public.

The news that an experimental AIDS vaccine tested on 16,000 heterosexual volunteers in Thailand had been shown to be safe and modestly effective surprised researchers, who had become used to failure in the decades-long effort to find a vaccine to protect against HIV infection.

The elusive search for a vaccine has its roots in the Bay Area, where one of the two genetically engineered vaccines used in the Thai trial was developed.

The trial relied on a combination of a modified canary-pox vaccine from Sanofi Pasteur and a drug made from an engineered version of a protein found on the AIDS virus, which was made by a Brisbane biotechnology company called VaxGen Inc. The patent for the VaxGen vaccine is now owned by Global Solutions for Infectious Diseases, a nonprofit in South San Francisco.

"At this point, especially after all the failures, any promising information is exciting," said Dr. Phillip Berman, a VaxGen co-founder and inventor of the vaccine, who woke up to the news Thursday morning. "But it's still a long way to having an approved product and figuring out how to deliver the vaccine to the people who need it the most."

The watershed results announced Thursday in Bangkok came just over a year after the National Institutes of Health dropped plans for a large-scale test of its AIDS vaccine. Two years ago, Merck & Co. halted its vaccine study after results showed the drug may have actually increased some participants' susceptibility to the virus.

A one-two punch
The vaccine, known as RV 144, employed a two-pronged or "prime-boost" approach in the Phase 3 trial. The drug made by Sanofi Pasteur "primed" the body's immune system to attack HIV and the drug developed by VaxGen "boosted" the body's response.

According to the Thai Ministry of Health and the study's other backers, the vaccine regimen was safe and 31 percent effective in preventing HIV infection compared with a placebo. Researchers described that result as significant and promising for the future, but not enough to make such a product available to the public soon.

"We are still many years away from a vaccine that will be used universally," said Dr. Jay Levy, professor of medicine at the AIDS Research Institute at UC San Francisco and one of the discoverers of HIV. "But this is encouraging because it says maybe we can derive things from this study and not have to go into something totally different."

Half of the more than 16,000 study participants were given six doses of the vaccines in 2006, and half received placebos. All received condoms, counseling, regular HIV testing and treatment for any sexually transmitted diseases. Of the 8,197 volunteers who were given the vaccine, new infections occurred in 51 people. New infections occurred in 74 of 8,198 participants who received the placebo shot.

Questions remain
The most confusing aspect of the study is that the people who received the vaccine and still got infected had no lower levels of the virus than those who took the placebo and got infected. That indicates the vaccine may be better at preventing the virus than controlling it once it gets into the body.

"That would suggest the immune stimulus isn't very strong," Levy explained. "With that said, it still was enough to block low levels of the virus from coming into the body. We would want a vaccine that would also control the virus if it infects a person."

One strain rare here
In addition, the trial focused on two subsets of the HIV strain that are common in Thailand and Southeast Asia, only one of which is commonly found in the United States. So it's unclear whether the results of the vaccine combination could be replicated in a different population.

Researchers said many aspects of the trial results are unclear. For example, several scientists said it is uncertain how the drug combination worked and whether one part was more effective than the other.

"We don't really know why and how this vaccine worked and did what it did," said Dr. Alan Bernstein, executive director of the Global HIV Vaccine Enterprise, an alliance of AIDS scientists, governments and donors.

"This trial is raising more questions almost than it's answering," he said. "It's opened the door and it's opened up a whole lot of questions that are answerable and will be answered over the next months and years to come."

Because of the long time frame, health advocates warn that people should not count on a potential vaccine to treat and contain infections.

"It doesn't have a public health impact perhaps for many, many years," said Mark Cloutier, San Francisco AIDS Foundation. "We need to continue to keep our vigilance about prevention, testing and getting people into care."

E-mail Victoria Colliver at

9.24.09 - 6 pm - 8 pm - Speed, Sex and Sanity presents...

Posted by Project NEON on September 21, 2009 4:29 PM

A spoken word event:

Your're Write about Meth

@ Kaladi Brothers Coffee

511 Pike Place

for more info or to perform:

206.323.1768 Anthony  or

Beyond Crystal begins September 21

Posted by A.T. Martin on September 14, 2009 5:31 PM

  SGN Sept 2009.pdf 

Beyond Crystal, NEON's Crystal Meth Recovery Group, is a 12-week psycho-educational group designed for gay and bi men who want to quit crystal meth use.  It runs weekly on Mondays and Thursdays from 5:30 to 7:00 pm.

Please contact Martin at or 206.323.1768 x122 to schedule an assessment. Got more questions? Ask away!

Drug czar kicks off anti-meth ad campaign

Posted by Project NEON on September 3, 2009 3:39 PM

Drug czar kicks off anti-meth ad campaign

04:34 PM PDT on Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Associated Press

ST. LOUIS - Josh Palmer's story has played out countless times here in the heart of meth country. Introduced to methamphetamine as a teenager, he soon became addicted, couldn't keep a job, lost his house, lost his family.

Today, he's turned his life around, so much that he's part of a national anti-meth marketing campaign that was launched Tuesday in St. Louis.

"At one time in my life I thought everybody was doing dope because everybody I knew was," Palmer, 32, said after a news conference at St. Louis City Hall. "I found out there was another world out there. And I like it a lot better."

Drug czar Gil Kerlikowske was on hand Tuesday to launch the $9 million ad campaign. Missouri is among the states worst-affected by methamphetamine addiction, and has ranked first in the nation for years in meth lab busts and seizures. Wyoming, Arkansas and Nevada were the top three states as far as per capita usage of meth among people ages 18-25 in a 2007 survey by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

The new campaign focuses on a message of hope -- that meth addiction can be overcome.

The ad blitz runs through November and will be run in newspapers, online and on TV, radio, billboards and even gas pumps. It focuses on the 16 states with the worst meth problems -- Missouri, Illinois, Iowa, Oklahoma, Minnesota, Arkansas, Indiana, Kentucky and Nebraska in the Midwest and Alaska, Washington, Oregon, Nevada, Wyoming, Arizona and New Mexico in the West. Anti-meth radio and Web ads will run nationally.

"Despite the overall decline in meth usage across the country, we still have work to do," Kerlikowske said. "This drug leaves a path of destruction that affects individuals, families and entire communities."

The ads focus on prevention and provide information to meth users and their families seeking recovery services. They target people ages 18-34, the age group most likely to use the drug.

"Meth is literally stealing the lives of people across the state, specifically young people," Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster said.

Kerlikowske's office cited a 2007 survey that found that more than 5 percent of Americans age 12 or older had tried meth at least once, and that an estimated 529,000 Americans had used meth in the past month.

Palmer, of Malden, kicked his habit about five years ago, thanks in large part to a treatment program mandated through the Dunklin County Drug Court. He now works as a drug counselor at a treatment facility.

Palmer said he first used marijuana and drank beer at age 13. He tried meth at 17 and quickly became addicted to the point where he became a maker as well as a user.

While high on the drug, nothing else mattered, he said. Though he lived just down the road from his mother, who was dying of cancer, the only time he saw her during the final three months of her life was when he raced home from a drug deal to be at her death bed.

He lost several jobs because of his drug use, then lost his young children when the state removed them because both Palmer and his wife were on meth. The kids were eventually returned, but only after Palmer hit bottom and sought help.

"I was just exhausted and saw that I lost everything," Palmer said. "I realized there had to be a better way."

Now, he wants others addicted to meth to understand that, too. He is featured in a full-page ad in several metro daily newspapers that ran Tuesday, including both major papers in the Twin Cities and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. It reads, in part, "People can -- and do -- recover from meth addiction."

September is National Recovery Month!

Posted by Project NEON on September 2, 2009 4:27 PM

What is Recovery Month?

Recovery Month is an annual observance that takes place during the month of September.

The Recovery Month observance highlights the societal benefits of substance abuse treatment, lauds the contributions of treatment providers and promotes the message that recovery from substance abuse in all its forms is possible. The observance also encourages citizens to take action to help expand and improve the availability of effective substance abuse treatment for those in need. Each year a new theme, or emphasis, is selected for the observance.

Recovery Month provides a platform to celebrate people in recovery and those who serve them. Each September, thousands of treatment programs around the country celebrate their successes and share them with their neighbors, friends, and colleagues in an effort to educate the public about treatment, how it works, for whom, and why. Substance abuse treatment providers have made significant accomplishments, having transformed the lives of untold thousands of Americans. These successes often go unnoticed by the broader population; therefore, Recovery Month provides a vehicle to celebrate these successes.

Recovery Month also serves to educate the public on substance abuse as a national health crisis, that addiction is a treatable disease, and that recovery is possible. Recovery Month highlights the benefits of treatment for not only the affected individual, but for their family, friends, workplace, and society as a whole. Educating the public reduces the stigma associated with addiction and treatment. Accurate knowledge of the disease helps people to understand the importance of supporting treatment programs, those who work within the treatment field, and those in need of treatment.

Recovery Month is sponsored by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration's (SAMHSA's) Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (CSAT). CSAT, created in October 1992 by a Congressional mandate, provides national leadership in the Federal government's effort to improve the lives of individuals and their families affected by alcohol and drug abuse. CSAT works to improve access to clinically sound, cost-effective addiction treatment to reduce the health and social cost to our communities and the Nation. Such factors as inadequate capacity, limited public and private health insurance benefits, and stigma have contributed to the gap between the number of people who need treatment and the number who receive it.
CSAT works cooperatively with a myriad of public and private addiction treatment organizations and related entities to identify, develop, and support approaches and programs that expand and enhance treatment services. As a part of those efforts, CSAT produces a number of publications that provide technical assistance to providers seeking to deliver the most effective treatment services to their clients. CSAT also aims to assist the public with localized efforts to promote treatment effectiveness and encourage communities to invest in addiction treatment services.

Speed, Sex and Sanity Presents...You're Write about Meth.

Posted by Project NEON on September 2, 2009 12:27 PM

When: Thursday, September 24th, 2009; 6 pm - 8 pm
Where: Kaladi Brothers Coffee
What: A spoken word event for gay/bi men about crystal View image
Who: a collaboration: Project NEON and Gay City Health Project

Hey you!!

Stop clicking that mouse and get to your calendar immediately!! Speed, Sex and Sanity is at it again!! This time we're testing the microphones, dimming the lights and gettin' honest: You're Write about Meth! a dynamic performance event brought to you by gay/bi men for gay/bi men who have or are struggling with meth use. Whether you are in recovery or actively using - this event it the spot for you Thursday, Sept. 24th @ 6 pm.

Here what you do: mark your calendar, sync your blackberry, grab a pencil, write a piece and connect with other gay/bi men who share similar experiences with meth.

The mic is open, the space is safe and the coffee is great - from motivations to use to starting recovery and eveywhere in between.

So you in??? Email your:
art form (i.e., poem, song, spoken word piece); and
contact information

And guess what else- we've joined forces with Bent Writing Institute to offer a creative writing workshop to help your creative juices flow- so no excuses - rsvp with

Remember - Thursday, September 24th @ 6 pm...

see you there!!!

Project NEON

« August 2009 | Blog Home | Archives | October 2009 »