My Own Demons
I need to let you know that I read about Roy Simmons's 'health' experience at Martha's Vineyard Holistic Retreat ['Tackling Demons,' April]. I too visited this place, and my visit was nothing like Simmons's. The director basically took my money and tried to starve me. I do not think you should be giving them any press.
Name withheld by request
[The editors reply: Yours was not the only communication we received on this topic, and we regret that you had a negative experience. Our profile of Simmons and his decision to take on an HIV activist role was not intended as an endorsement of any therapy. Indeed, our reporter was careful to speak with experts regarding Simmons's comments about his experience, and their responses were included in the profile as cautionary statements for our readers.]
Give Me the Scoop
I remember reading about morning-after treatments and would like to know if there has been any additional news that would prove their success.
Also, I am unclear about statements in your February news section about data showing that antiretrovirals have extended HIVers' lives ['HAART Has Cut the AIDS Death Rate by 80% in Western Countries']. My fianc' has been on a treatment for only 21/2 months but now has high blood pressure and pain in his chest from clogged arteries. I have other friends with similar problems that have resulted because of their medications. Should the only way to reduce viral loads and raise
T-cell counts be at the cost of lives?
[The editors reply: The administration of antiretroviral medications to treat an individual after exposure to HIV'known as postexposure prophylaxis'has been used to treat workplace accidents, such as needle sticks in a health care setting, since the mid 1990s. In recent years treatment has been offered to patients in cases of exposure in nonoccupational settings. However, the key word is patients: Medications for PEP require a prescription from a physician, and treatment must begin within 72 hours of potential exposure. So a quick visit to your doc if you think you have been accidentally exposed to HIV is a must. Be aware that PEP is used in an effort to prevent an HIV infection; however, there is no guarantee of its success, although data show that success rates have been fairly high.
[In regard to your second query, antiretrovirals indeed can have negative side effects'some being more severe for some patients than others. It is important to have regular conversations with a physician about these side effects and their ability to prevent adherence to a medication. Often, alternative regimens can be used to reduce negative side effects. This patient-physician dialogue is extremely important to formulating a tolerable and hopefully successful regimen.]
Gratitude Is Spoken
Many, many thanks for the work Sue Rochman did on the article about black churches working to educate their congregants about HIV-related issues ['Seeing the Light,' February]. Someone once told me that the highest praise you can extend to a journalist is 'You got it right.' Great story, Sue, and yeah, you got it right!
Robert E. Fullilove III, Ed.D.
Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University
New York City
For the Record
We incorrectly reported in Pharmaceutical Update in our May 2004 issue that data on the Bristol-Myers Squibb experimental drug known as BMS-488043 came from a Phase I clinical trial. The data actually came from a Phase II clinical trial.