BRIEF BLOG INTRO:
I'm a man on a mission. A mission to convince everyone I meet that life is worth living, no matter how many obstacles are placed in your way.

I'm a singer/songwriter and actor from Texas "Living in the Bonus Round" in New York City. That is my way of describing how I feel having cheated death. (In a game show, the Bonus Round is where time speeds up and the prizes are better.) Accepting my death changed me. Now, I'm consuming life as quickly and as fully as I can, while still taking time to breathe and appreciate every single day as an utter miracle.

Last year, I turned 60 and I had a set of goals, all of which came true, including composing -- and performing in -- a Mass, recording a solo album (selling 10s of copies), headlining to a sold out house at a major night club in New York City and played the lead role in a staged reading of a play not written by myself. I update a few times a month these days, and I don't spam. So it's easier to keep up with me by following by Email. When this blog began, it was to track my death. I'm told it was the first AIDS blog. You can start at the gruesome beginning if you want. Or just jump in and maybe we can learn some life lessons together. Welcome to the Bonus Round. I'm Steve [SHACK-lin].

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

David Archuleta Does It Again.

Last night, on American Idol, little David Archuleta, who I praised here last week, has once again knocked it out of the park. He is so much better than anyone else on this show, letting anyone else sing seems almost a waste of time. And when his name was called, the little girls were screaming their heads off.

The Hemo2Homo Post Oscar Reconciliation Spectacular

hemo2homo.jpg Homo: So, positoid. I thought we should discuss the Oscars. I was amazed that most of the winners had very deep accents. What parts of America were they from, anyway? Ain't this supposed to be the AMERICAN movie awards?

Hemo: I'm not talking to you anymore.

Homo: Why?

Hemo: Read my blog.

Homo: You have a blog? Hold on. Hmmmm. Oh, I see someone's little ego is bruised because Homo beat his socks off in the predictions game. And you're blaming it on your cold?

Hemo: I learned blogging from watching you! And, yes, I was all out of sorts. I didn't even know Daniel Day Lewis was up for anything until you mentioned him.

Homo: Well I think you should blame it on your week on/week off med regimen. That virus is bouncing around your body all pissed off. Up and down. Up and down. Poor little thing.

Hemo: My virus is like Cuba Gooding Jr. when he won back in the day.

nighthawks4.jpgHomo: Look, young one. Let's be honest here. When your answer to every category is "Rambo," I don't really think you can expect good results. Especially Sylvester Stallone as Best Actress in a Leading Role.


Hemo: I guess so. And positoids should support other positoids, no matter what. So what did you think of your amazing run this year?

oscar.jpg

Homo: I was so happy for Marion Cotillard, nothing else mattered to me. But, yeah, I am impressed with myself.

Hemo: Okay, okay... now let's talk about the show itself.

Homo: Except for that Black choir, that was the single Whitest television show I've seen since Laurence Welk. I felt like I was in a time warp. They even forgot they used to have a Black host. Whoopi just got erased from picture.

Hemo: Did you notice they left Brad Renfro off the Death List? Probably because he was in an AIDS movie - The Cure - and AIDS isn't that cool in Hollywood anymore.

Homo: Oh, my god. You're right. We homos got a nod with the whole Heath Ledger thing even though he wasn't, you know, gay. I wonder if he was a thinblood and somehow the drugs overwhelmed his red blood count?

Hemo: I bet he was thinblooded... it's a big secret in Hollywood. James Dean? Thinblood. Died in a horrific straight razor shaving accident; wasn't deemed a cool way to go, hence the cover-up. Same thing with Belushi. Damn you Hollywood folks and you're hemophobia! We thinbloods are a lot of fun.

Homo: Maybe, but it didn't look like anybody was actually having any fun at the Oscars: nobody got drunk, or did anything especially interesting or stupid. Well, except for Gary Busey, but he doesn't count.

hiderinthehouse.jpgHemo: Busey was robbed back in '89. Hider In The House was awesome.

Homo: Hider In The ... huh?? We've been doing this for how long now? A decade? You haven't learned a damn thing about movies, have you?


Hemo: Look at the poster for this movie. Look into Busey's eyes. Tell me that's not acting.

The Hemo2Homo Connection are Shawn Decker and Steve Schalchlin.


The Hemo2Homo Connection's creators met online in 1996, and posted their first movie review in 1998. Both have been living with HIV for over twenty years, and have annoyed their friends and loved ones for longer than that. Steve Schalchlin resides in Los Angeles, CA. He is an award-winning musician, singer and songwriter. Shawn Decker lives in Charlottesville, VA. He is the author of My Pet Virus.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Virus Boy Gets Shot Down

The Oscarcast produced a sudden silence in Positoid Land. Then I got a mysterious message telling me to check out Shawn (AKA Hemo) Decker's blog.

Seems that he really DOES have thin blood!

BWAHAHAHAHA!

Saturday, February 23, 2008

TLS Revivals



For those of you in the Denver area, The Last Session will be presented beginning in March at a theatre called "Theatre Off Broadway." Here's the link to their site. I'm very excited that two of the superb actors from the first Denver production will be in the show, including Jody Wells and Carla Kaiser Kotcr as Vicki. I've also gotten a sweet note from the boy playing Buddy. His name is Rob Riney.

Then, in May TLS will begin performances at the Spirit of Broadway Theatre in Norwich, Ct.

Jim and I had a great meeting with Kevin Wood, who is playing Gideon. He's a bit young, but man can he sing! It's ironic because Kevin, who's about 30, is still older than Jody Wells was when he played Gideon in Denver.

Kevin and I played around a bit with the music when he was here -- and he sang "Connected" better just sight reading than I ever did having written the thing. He's amazing. He'll be coming by more and I'll get video and pics.

I hear there's going to be another in Florida soon, but I don't have specific info yet.

10 Years Ago I Met The Creator of Crixivan

Steve Schalchlin, Bruce DorseyBruce Dorsey and me.

When the Intertubes were still in their infancy, before there were blogs and sophisticated news aggregators and RSS feeds, when an online diary was barely a concept, much less thought of as something a person would, for heaven's sake, do, a few intrepid pioneers began keeping track of their diseases online in journal form.

We weren't organized. No one told us to do it. For me, it just seemed like an easy to communicate what was happening with our bodies.

The pharmaceutical companies were also, at that time, beginning to explore how to use the Internet, and one of the first things they discovered, was that they could get ongoing patient feedback on a much wider basis. A feedback operation that you don't have to pay for!

So, they checked out newsgroups and whatever else was available back then. (I'm not a Net historian, so others would have to remember what online life was like in '97, '98). And, somewhere along the line, someone at Merck found my diary page from when I began taking the Crixivan. (Which I'm no longer taking because it does, indeed, have strong side effects, but at the time, it was the miracle we had been waiting for.)

Now, remember, up to this point, AIDS was only barely treatable. The drugs only worked for a little while, if they worked at all, and they were very toxic to the system. Mine had stopped entirely and I was in a death spiral. People with AIDS were dying as if in a war or a holocaust. Each big city newspaper was filled with death notices.

Crixivan changed everything. People stopped dying. Instantly. My doctor at the time said it was like his garden was suddenly blooming. The health turnarounds were so immediate that they fast-tracked the drug onto the market, available in only limited amounts with patients determined by a lottery. I was one of the lucky ones.

Bruce Dorsey is the chemist who was credited with constructing the molecule that is Crixivan.

Drug chemists spend their every waking hour in the lab. They're always in a race against time. Their whole world becomes that laboratory. They never physically interact with patients nor, up to this point in time, could they see the life saving effect that their drug was having on the lives of ordinary people.

Now, along comes the Internet.

Someone at Merck found my page and forwarded it to Bruce. "Hey. There's this guy who's taking Crixivan and writing about it." Here's Bruce quoting from the NY Times article by Sheryl Gay Stolberg:

''Steve was the first person I knew who was actually taking Crixivan,'' said the chemist, Bruce Dorsey. ''As scientists, we just see numbers. It was pretty exciting to see a patient, to see how well he was doing.''

And that's when I got my note from Bruce Dorsey. Which led to my being invited to see the lab.


We had to get special permission, but eventually, Merck let me and I wrote all about it. (Scroll down on that page). A little excerpt:

Tuesday, February 17, 1998
Where Life Begins.


The building housing the chemical labs at Merck where Dr. Bruce Dorsey works looks like something you'd see in an old 1940's black and white documentary. The rooms are small and cramped. There are wooden cases (like built-in bookcases with glass and wood doors) on either side, one with a beaker and a solution of some kind swirling around in the bottom of it. [They're building a new lab just outside.]

Dr. Bruce is a 35-ish curly haired man with an infectious smile and a great attitude. As soon as I told him I was intensely interested in HIV and how it works, he hauled out the visual aids and gave me a crash course in virology, chemistry and microbiology. I learned that there are three enzymes the virus uses to replicate itself and part of their work is to find ways to interfere with these enzymes.

Amazingly, since my friend Dickie had been also giving me virology lessons in California, I found myself actually able to follow along with the explanation. We tangled with peptides, viral RNA, DNA, reverse transcriptase, protease, integrase, etc.; how the virus binds to the CD4 cell, injecting itself into the cell, turning its own RNA into DNA, then combining with the cell's own DNA and finally turning the host's own immune system into a HIV factory.

I met four of the five main team members who are credited with discovering Crixivan, Merck's protease inhibitor. Joe Vacca, Joel Huff, Kate Halloway and Jim Guare. (Randy Hungate was the other member). I also met Steve Young who has created Sustiva (DMP-266), a new non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor (NNRTI).

Dr. Bruce was also quick to credit a man named Dr. Ed Scolnick, who early on was the man who insisted Merck get into AIDS research back when there was real doubt being raised that it would pay off financially. He believed there was a moral obligation for the biomedical research community to fight this disease whether it would make money or not.
Notice the reference to Steve Young, which I highlighted. Sustiva had just been created. It's the drug that I switched to after experiencing the toxicity of Crixivan.

And that's your Steve Trivia of the Day.

Friday, February 22, 2008

"When You Care" by L.A. cast of The Last Session

We've been digitizing all our old VHS videos and are finding a treasure trove of material which I'm going to be uploading over the next few weeks. The first is a fantastic television performance of the L.A. cast of The Last Session singing "When You Care" for a TV special called "Hollywood Salutes The Easter Seals."

BTW, if you're a Bob Stillman fan, pay attention to his vocal dexterity. He's just incredible.



The cast, at this time, consisted of Bob Stillman, Jeff Juday, Michelle Mais & Amy Coleman. In the background is Alan Satchwell and the Heaven Bound Sound choir.

Hemo2Homo Predicts the Oscars!

hemo2homo.jpg

Glamour. Glitz. And People Who Take Themselves Way Too Seriously. Yes, It's Oscar Time, and The Hemo2Homo Connection weighs in with their thoughts and favorites.


Best Actor Award
Homo: It is gonna be Daniel Day Lewis for doing the best John Houston imitation of the year.

Hemo: I disagree. It's Johnny Depp for the Edward Scissorhands sequel.

nocountryoldmen3.jpg Best Supporting Actor

Hemo: Ben Affleck's little bro. Finally, Hollywood tells the story of the legendary outlaw Jesse James.

Homo: Javier Bardem for supporting actor for best new way to kill people in a movie while wearing a twisted Beatle haircut.

Best Actress Award
Homo
: Marion Cotillard gave by far the greatest performance of film in the last decade but god knows if they'll give it to her. If they don't, I'm going to put my fingers in my ears and go "La la la la" during the acceptance speech.

Hemo: Laura Linney, for her role as Miss Elizabeth in the "Macho Man" Randy Savage bio-pic, The Savages.

gone.jpg Best Supporting Actress
Homo
: Supporting Actress should go to Amy Ryan for "Gone Baby Gone." Great, baby great. But it'll probably go to Ruby Dee cuz, well, it's Ruby Dee. But frankly, I didn't like her in that movie.

Hemo: Cate Blanchett for I'm Not There, only because I wasn't there for any of the movies in this category.

Homo: Oh, you're probably right. By this time, it's obligatory to give Cate Blanchett an Oscar every time she sneezes on screen. But if you haven't seen any other movies, what have you seen?

Hemo: Rambo.

Homo: OK, that's it, I'm taking it from here.

Hemo: Have at it. But Rambo was good.

oscar.jpg Homo: Best Animated Film is RATATOUILLE, a film that will outlive all the other movies made this year.

Direction: No Country For Old Men. Hands down, a great piece of filmmaking.

Best Movie: No Country for Old Men. Driving, intense, brilliant.

Hemo: Best Action Movie: Rambo.

Homo: How about no action movies for old men, please? And if you're going to be a world famous film critic, you should try seeing a few movies.

The Hemo2Homo Connection are Shawn Decker and Steve Schalchlin.


The Hemo2Homo Connection's creators met online in 1996, and posted their first movie review in 1998. Both have been living with HIV for over twenty years, and have annoyed their friends and loved ones for longer than that. Steve Schalchlin resides in Los Angeles, CA. He is an award-winning musician, singer and songwriter. Shawn Decker lives in Charlottesville, VA. He is the author of My Pet Virus.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Austin's Jumping


My brother who lives in Austin just called me and said the city is jumping with excitement over this Presidential debate. He said all the bars are holding debate parties, including biker bars and sports bars. In one sports bar, some big game is playing on one screen while the debate is being shown on the other nine.

This is incredible to have this kind of citizen excitement and participation. I've never seen it before in my lifetime.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Truth Wins Out Releases New Videos

TruthWinsOut.Org Introduces Seven New Videos Leading Up To March 3 Launch of Dynamic Website

NEW YORK - TruthWinsOut.org (TWO) introduced seven new Internet videos today featuring a noted clinical psychologist, the attorney who represented a man who had possibly been exposed to HIV from an "ex-gay" leader and several ex-gay survivors. Each week leading up to the March 3 launch of TruthWinsOut.org's updated website, the organization will release new educational videos addressing the "ex-gay" myth from unique angles.

In today's first video, New York therapist Andrea Macari answers your questions about the harm of 'ex-gay' therapy and addresses the sensitive topic matter than you always wanted to ask. Dr. Macari also offers practical advice on coming out and finding a good therapist.

Dr. Macari is a nationally known expert and media personality. She frequently serves as a contributor to some of the nation's most popular programs, including The O'Reilly Factor, Nancy Grace, Montel, and The Morning Show with Mike and Juliet. With over 100 television and radio appearances, Dr. Macari is recognized as one of the leading disseminators of psychological information. Her website is www.drmacari.com.

In TWO's second video, Scott Melendez discusses how he escaped the ex-gay trap after seven years of hell. This video details the harm of 'ex-gay' ministries and highlights how they are ineffective and even dangerous.

Our third person featured is Brian Nesbitt, who grew up in a religious household and went to NARTH-affiliated therapist Dr. Chris Austin (later convicted of sexually abusing clients). When Brian couldn't change, Dr. Austin introduced him to "rubber band therapy." After this failed, Dr. Austin tried aversion therapy, using ammonia. Brian escaped the "ex-gay" horrors and has gone on to live as an out gay man.

In Aug. 2003, TruthWinsOut.org founder Wayne Besen received a call from Virginia attorney Michael Hamar. He had a client who believed he may have been infected with HIV from 'ex-gay' leader Michael Johnston. Johnston was the founder of National Coming Out of Homosexuality Day. He was Rev. Jerry Falwell's personal ex-gay leader. Johnston also starred in a video for the American Family Association, "It's Not Gay, and an ad for Coral Ridge Ministries. Additionally, he partnered with anti-gay activist Peter LaBarbera, who paraded Johnston around and hawked his tale of change. In this exclusive TWO video, we interview Virginia attorney Michael Hamar, who represented one of Johnston's victims.

In another video, 'ex-gay' survivor Jaylen Braiden discusses his time in Desert Stream and Portland Fellowship ministries as a teenager. While in Desert Stream, Jaylen was taken advantage of by an Exodus team leader, who later got in trouble for sexually abusing other minors. Exodus has yet to come clean and publicly discuss the Desert Stream scandal.

For many years, Chris Camp was a true believer in the "ex-gay" myth, only to later realize he was living in denial. In this video, he discusses how he had sex with women, prayed, tried sports and expensive therapy to go from gay to straight. Camp also details how Exodus members would caress his hand during prayer meetings - highlighting how no one had "changed."

For thirty years, Victoria Lavin thought reading Scripture would make her straight. When the miracle "cure" did not work, she numbed her pain with drugs and alcohol. In recovery for substance abuse, Victoria finally realized she was fine, just as she was. She came out to her pastor and he condemned her. Thankfully, Victoria's daughter was there for support in her moment of need. As a result, Victoria reconnected with God and entered seminary. Today, she is out and proud, living in rural Nebraska.

TruthWinsOut.org is a non-profit organization that counters right wing propaganda, exposes the "ex-gay" myth and educates America about gay life. For more information, visit www.TruthWinsOut.org.

Asleepment

Jim and I have been trying to catch all the Oscar nominated Best Movies lately just so we can know the score on everything. Yesterday, we went to something called "Atonement."

Gah. Arrrgh.

I know Oscar loves these long, dreary, tear-soaked British movies, but I have never been so bored in all my life watching these two colorless, drab people stare at each other from across the room for endless hours.

Finally, after about 45 minutes, with both of us shifting, coughing, eye-rolling and sighing loudly, I whispered to him, "I hate this."

He took a few minutes and said, "I hate it, too. Wanna leave?"

And we did. I was never so happy to get out of a theater in my life. What kind of people like this crap?

BTW, if you look at the poster above, you'll have seen the entire movie. That's literally all that happens.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Bev's Excellent Birthday Gift

Today, my blogger and real life friend Bev (who lives in Davis, California) did a particularly unique and beautiful thing as a birthday gift for a special friend of hers named Peggy, who lives in Perth Australia. Both of them are great animal lovers.

(They take in orphans from the animal shelter and nurse them to health so that they can be adopted. Her Flikr site is puppy-lovers heaven. On the other side of the world, Peggy cares for orphaned kangaroos).

Peggy recently visited a Nairobi shelter for orphaned elephants and rhinos. and it gave Bev an idea for a very meaningful and creative birthday gift. From Bev's blog:

I remember the tales of the traumatized babies, some only weeks old, watching their mothers be slaughtered by poachers. One of the articles linked on the Sheldrake web sites says, "When I met [Daphne] Sheldrake in 1989, she was soothing a baby elephant so traumatized after ivory poachers killed its family that it screamed in its sleep, apparently suffering nightmares."

You know what that did to my heart.

Each baby has an individual caretaker, so they are with a single human being 24 hrs a day, but they have discovered that separation anxiety is very real for these babies, so they rotate the caretakers so that the babies don't get too attached to one person, who might have to leave for one reason or another.

I won't spoil the story. Let Bev do tell the tale to you. But look at the face of that elephant.

Friday, February 15, 2008

The Tragic Murder of Lawrence King

It hasn't hit the major news outlets yet, but here on the local news, and reported on most of the gay blogs, is the tragic murder of Lawrence King, killed by a bullet to the head by fellow classmate aged 14. Though all the facts are not in yet, the police have determined it to be a hate crime.

Lawrence was an effeminate boy whose flamboyant demeanor disturbed the younger boy -- who took a gun to school and shot Lawrence. It's the reason so many of us have been pressing for educational programs in schools.

I wrote a letter for the group Families United Against Hate offering consolation and assistance to both families involved.

I'm encouraging readers of the Bonus Round blog to consider sending a donation to the Ventura County Rainbow Alliance in memory of Lawrence King. They sponsor after-school programs for GLBT youth. (Thanks to Joe.My.God. for this link).

American Idol's Dave

Yes. We watch American Idol. Sometimes I tape it and zip through it, just to watch the perpetual train wreck that is Paula Abdul, who showed up a couple a weeks ago so drunk she could barely find her chair. (Now THAT'S teevee!)

Also, during the Hollywood section, my favorite bass player, Lynn Keller, was onstage playing for the singers. You know her from her long, curly red hair.

So, we were following along, not impressed by anyone. And then, this adorable 16 year old boy came along. David Archuleta. In fact, he's so adorable and his performance is so smooth and emotional, if you look closely, you can see the back-up singer wiping away tears.

Here he is:



Then, of course, I had to run to YouTube to see if there was anything else on him. And wouldn't you know it. Here he is at age 13, on Good Morning Idaho singing "Imagine" by John Lennon. He messes up a few of the words, but at 13? Who's gonna complain?

DogTown -- Visit to an Animal Shelter

I have a cousin Shirley! Everyone should have a cousin Shirley. She lives in Arkansas, in North Little Rock, the town I lived in when I was born. Yep. Just a hop, skip and a jump from the Huckabees and the Clintons.

Shirley's daughter Katelyn made this touching video about the North Little Rock, Arkansas Animal Shelter. It's about 5 minutes long. We are taken along for a ride with the dog catcher, who proudly says that they've had a 100% adoption record. We see her pick up a stray dog, who is very timid but tail waggy, and then to the shelter.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

My Jury Duty.

This was my first time to go for jury duty, so I wasn't sure what to expect. We weren't allowed to take pictures, so you'll have to see it in your mind's eye.

First of all, I took the subway -- Yes! The L.A. Subway! -- to the Civic Center station and found the courthouse. I was about 45 minutes early, which suited me just fine, except for the fact that the waiting benches were concrete and I have no butt. So I folded up my hoodie and used it for a cushion.

Then, we were escorted into the jury room. There were probably a couple of hundred of us.

The first thing they announced was that there was a new law on the books called "One Day." Rather than having to be called every day for a week, we were given one day in the jury room. And if we weren't selected to be on a jury, then our duty would be over for a year. This was great! Orientation was boring, but short.

I found a chair next to a table, folded up my hoodie for a pillow and went promptly to sleep. All during the day, groups of 20 or so got called into chambers. My turn finally came about 3:30. We were directed to a courtroom where there was a civil case going on. Some guy got supposedly beat up by security guards at a nightclub and he was suing the nightclub.

We were clearly the second group of juror prospects because they had already chosen 10.

The courtroom was smallish. The judge seemed like a nice guy, a bit nebbishy. But I took one look at the plaintiff and immediately disliked him. I couldn't put my finger on why. There was just something about him that said "sneaky" and I wondered if, during questioning, whether I should admit this. In fact, the attorney said we should examine whether we could be fair if we that were true.

I opted for not mentioning it because it just seemed irrational. I wasn't necessarily trying to get out of jury duty, btw. In fact, I was interested in the process.

But then the plaintiff's attorney asked if we "believed in psychology." (I'm guessing he was ferreting out Scientologists, which are quite numerous here in Los Angeles. Scientology is currently waging a war against psychologists and psychiatry since they believe all our "bad thoughts" are the result of aliens called Thetans living inside of us -- or something.)

Then he asked if we had a problem with awarding damages for "psychological damage." He said, in fact, that his client admitted he should have been expelled from this nightclub. But that the method used by the guards was wrong.

Now, it's not that I don't believe that people can be psychologically damaged, but there was something about this that didn't set right. Damaged like he was afraid to go into a bar and get drunk now? So, I raised my hand and said, "I can understand a broken bone and awarding medical damages, but how do you quantify psychological damage done to someone who was drunk?"

They dismissed me.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

USS Metaphor in SF, Feb. 22-23.

I am so excited that the San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus is repeating their concert version of U.S.S. Metaphor on Feb. 22 & 23. But even more excited that it features my longtime buddy and pal Ken McPherson, who assisted in the adaptation of the material with Dr. Kathleen McGuire from the Gilbert & Sullivan original.

And yes, that's Ken front and center on the amazing poster. If you're in the Bay Area, do NOT miss this. They have already recorded a DVD to be released soon.

Congrats, Ken!! Knock 'em dead, my friend.

Jury Duty

I have jury duty this week!

I have to appear at the courthouse tomorrow at 7:45. Downtown Los Angeles. Luckily, the subway will get me there. I'll bring a book and then we'll see what happens.

I keep getting all this advice about how to keep from getting picked for the jury but I have this sneaking suspicion that they can tell when someone is trying too hard. So, I'm not gonna "do" anything except show up and be myself.

It might be fun to be on a jury. Jim did it once and he said it was very interesting, even though the court proceedings themselves were dull.

Monday, February 11, 2008

New Cellular Receptor Discovered for HIV

London, February 11 : Researchers from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), say that they have identified a new cellular receptor for HIV.

When the virus begins its assault on the body's immune system, say the researchers, it targets a cellular protein that helps guide immune cells to the gut.

The cell adhesion molecule that the researchers have identified as another potentially important receptor for HIV is known as integrin alpha 4 beta 7.

"The identification of this new receptor opens up new avenues of investigation that may help further elucidate the complex mechanisms of the pathogenesis of HIV infection," Nature Immunology quoted NIAID Director Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, chief of the Institute's Laboratory of Immunoregulation (LIR), as saying.

The researchers say that early in the course of HIV infection, the virus rapidly invades and replicates in gut-associated lymphoid tissue (GALT), the immune cells of the gut.

Once seeded with HIV, the gut is rapidly depleted of T cells, the main target of HIV. This triggers the process that ultimately leads to AIDS.

"In the very early days of infection, it is in the GALT where most of the damage caused by HIV occurs. The gut is where the virus really takes hold. We found that integrin alpha 4 beta 7, whose natural function is to direct T cells to the GALT, is also a receptor for HIV. It is very unlikely that this is a coincidence," says Elena Martinelli, a lead author of the paper and a fellow in Dr. Fauci's laboratory.

During the study, the researchers observed that a part of the HIV envelope, known as the gp120 protein, binds to integrin alpha 4 beta 7 on T cells that promotes the formation of a stable synapse between neighbouring cells.

"A synapse is a junction that allows two cells to adhere in a stable way. Many viruses have found a way to trick cells into forming these stable junctions. Now it appears that HIV can also trigger synapse formation," says Dr. James Arthos.

The researchers say that the new findings suggest that HIV mimics the natural molecular partners, or ligands, that normally bind to the receptor. They, however, note that some HIV isolates react more strongly to integrin alpha 4 beta 7 than others.

"The ability of a particular virus to bind to integrin alpha 4 beta 7 may determine whether it will have a major impact in targeting the gut lymphoid tissue. This finding could be a significant determinant in the pathogenic mechanisms that lead to AIDS," says Dr. Fauci.

Claudia Cicala, another researcher behind the study, said: "While this study provides important new information concerning the various mechanisms by which HIV debilitates the human immune system, it also raises new questions and challenges that our laboratory and others will pursue."

More info.

The Argument On The Plane

I got in a argument on the plane recently.

With the parents of a 5 year old girl sitting in front of me who wanted to tilt her chair back. The mom kept pushing it and pushing it, but it wouldn't budge. It was cutting into my knees.

Mother to flight attendant, "There's something wrong with this chair."

I said, "It's not the chair. That's my knee."

I needed to sit with my feet on the ground, my knees straight out in front of me. And the laws of physics were working against us. I'm a tall person.

I didn't want to cause a scene, but when she first started pushing on the chair (rather violently), I didn't say anything. I thought she'd just give up and leave it alone. Instead, she called the flight attendant.

Mother, (who is in the row in front of us with her two kids. The father is sitting to my right), "You can't stop her from leaning her chair back!"

Father, "If you wanted leg room, you should have bought seats in first class."

Mother, "She has a right to tilt her seat back."

Flight attendant, "That's true. She does have a right to tilt her seat back."

Now, really. Does she have a right to lean her seat back into my body space? Is that a right? I think of it more as a courtesy. We let people lean into us because we want to lean into the person behind us.

But these seats were jammed so close together. Babies were squalling. Chickens running up and down the aisle. And my back was hurting. I needed to sit straight up.

"Sir, couldn't I seat you somewhere else."

"No. I'm traveling with my friend."

My "friend" told me later that as the husband escalated his argument that I needed to move, the wife gave him a "cut-off" sign and the situation relaxed.

(Later on, I was able to figure out how to extend my legs straight out to beneath her seat, and I let them know she could tilt back).

The husband then thanked me.

That wasn't the punchline, though. The punchline was that he had an empty seat next to him. He could have moved the little girl to that seat. But he apparently wanted them as far away from him as they could get, up in the next row with mommy.

In front of me.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

International Circus of Pozitivities

From Ron Hudson:

Dear Friends of the International Carnival of Pozitivities (ICP):

It is a tremendous pleasure to announce the publication of edition 2.8 of the ICP at NotPerfectAtAll. Dragonette is our first European-based host, working from The Netherlands I encourage you to bookmark this edition and visit it over time so that you can enjoy each of the contributions from the world of HIV/AIDS. I hope that you will also join me in thanking Dragonette for her work this month.

This 20th consecutive edition of the ICP features personal accounts, video, music, self-help information and the latest in news from the HIV/AIDS community. Among these posts, you will find news about HIV/AIDS from around the world, posts from long-term survivors, an Annie Lennox-supported HIV-prevention campaign, news and personal accounts from Africa, Australia, Asia, Europe, and North and South America. I hope that you will spend some time reading and that you will leave comments for the contributors.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Sweeney Floyd

Growing up, our family loved The Andy Griffith Show. In fact, Jim and I watch it all the time now on TV Land. (We also love the early Beverly Hillbillies).

This little gem is pure genius if you know the show "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street." And even if you don't...



Hat tip to Bev.