My (not-so-little) brother and I are totally beginning to train for the AIDS lifecycle for next summer! The ALC is a a 545 mile bike ride over 7 days from San Francisco to Los Angeles to raise money for AIDS research and support! We’ll be training separately (Me, Nicki in SF, Ben in Asheville, NC) and then connecting the month before (the ride is May 31-June 6) to finish training and prepare to leave

The money we’re raising goes to AIDS research and to support the San Francisco AIDS foundation and the Los Angeles LGBT Center. It’s pretty amazing, everyone we know who have done it before says it’s been one of the best experiences of their lives! 

So here’s the deal- We have to raise at least $3000 each. It’s a lot of money, but we know we can do it. We’re wondering if you would be open to making a contribution- any sized donation would be amazing and help us get closer to our goal of getting to undertake this huge challenge together and to also raise money for a great cause! We know that for us and our friends and extended networks and communities, money can be tight and there are so many important causes to donate to, so even just passing along this email would be tremendously helpful.

Here are our individual fundraising pages:

Nicki -

Ben -

 PLEASE NOTE: We’re asking that you donate to us evenly, as we’re doing this as a team (and wouldn’t be doing it without the other.) Unfortunately, we can only take donations as individuals, rather than as a team, so please be sure to just split whatever you’re able to donate in half and plug in the info on each page. Sorry for the hassle.

Also, regardless, it would be AMAZINGLY helpful if you could pass this along to your networks. We’re trying to connect with as many people as possible to try and meet our goal!

Thank you, thank you thank you in advance! We’ll totally send spandex-clad photos from the road, should you be interested! Let us know!


Nicki and Ben


Let’s stop HIV in New York City

  • If you are HIV-negative, PEP and PrEP can help you stay that way.
  • If you are HIV-positive, PEP and PrEP can help protect your partners.


Daily PrEP

PrEP is a daily pill that can help keep you HIV-negative as long as you take it every day.

  • Ask your doctor if PrEP (Pre-exposure Prophylaxis) may be right for you.
  • Condoms give you additional protection against HIV, other sexually transmitted infections, and unintended pregnancy.


Emergency PEP

If you are HIV-negative and think you were exposed to HIV, immediately go to a clinic or emergency room and ask for PEP (Post-exposure  Prophylaxis).

  • PEP can stop HIV if started within 36 hours of exposure.
  • You continue taking PEP for 28 days.

Many insurance plans including Medicaid cover PEP and PrEP. Assistance may be available if you are uninsured. Visit NYC Health’s website to find out where to get PrEP or PEP in New York City.

How A Dissolvable ‘Tampon’ Could One Day Help Women Stop HIV

University of Washington bioengineers have discovered a potentially faster way to deliver a topical drug that protects women from contracting HIV. Their method spins the drug into silk-like fibers that quickly dissolve when in contact with moisture, releasing higher doses of the drug than possible with other topical materials such as gels or creams.

“This could offer women a potentially more effective, discreet way to protect themselves from HIV infection by inserting the drug-loaded materials into the vagina before sex,” said Cameron Ball, a UW doctoral student in bioengineering and lead author on a paper in the August issue of Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy.

The UW team previously found that electrically spun cloth could be dissolved to release drugs. These new results build upon that research, showing that the fiber materials can hold 10 times the concentration of medicine as anti-HIV gels currently under development.
Read more »

This research was funded by the National Institutes of Health.

What’s the safest way for me to have a baby with my HIV+ partner?


Someone asked us:

My boyfriend has HIV and we always wear condoms as a result, but we’ve always wanted to have children together and have danced around the fact our condom use prevents that. Is there anything we can do to have children with IVF while still keeping me (and our future babies) safe?

Good news! Mixed-status couples can have perfectly healthy children without spreading HIV. Here’s what you need to know:

Look into something called “sperm washing.” Sperm washing can remove HIV from semen, making it safe to use for fertility procedures (like artificial insemination or in vitro fertilization).

If the person who is looking to get pregnant is HIV positive, then artificial insemination or in vitro fertilization is the way to go, along with following a doctor’s advice for treatment throughout pregnancy. Additionally, people living with HIV/AIDS should NOT breastfeed their babies. Along with semen, vaginal fluids, and blood, HIV is also carried in breast milk, so nursing can pass the virus to their child.

At the end of the day, your best bet is to find a doctor who knows about this stuff and work with them to figure out what makes the most sense for you.

Finally, whether or not y’all are trying to get pregnant, look into backing up those condoms with PReP to further reduce your risk of HIV transmission.

-Mylanie at Planned Parenthood

Here numerous HIV-1 particles leave a cultured HeLa cell. These viruses lack their vpu gene and thus can’t detach from the cell’s tethering factor, BST2. Each viron particle is ~120nm in diameter. The image was captured with a Zeiss Merlin ultra high-resolution scanning electron microscope. The cells were fixed, dehydrated, critical-point dried, and lightly sputter-coated with gold/palladium.

Human immunodeficiency virus

The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV, in yellow) causes acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). In patients with AIDS, specific immune cells (such as T cells, in blue) die as the virus hijacks normal cellular machinery in order to replicate in vast numbers. Without proper immune function, patients become susceptible to otherwise innocuous infections that the body can no longer fight off. Recent research has turned to powerful computer systems to decrease the time it takes to find new HIV drugs from several years to just weeks, tremendously accelerating the drug discovery process.

Image by Seth Pincus, Elizabeth Fischer, and Austin Athman, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health.

Why HIV patients develop dementia

Since the introduction of the combination anti-retroviral therapy (cART) in the mid-90s, the life expectancy of HIV patients has significantly improved. As a result, long-term complications are becoming more relevant: almost every second HIV patient is affected by neurocognitive disorders, which can lead to dementia. It has not as yet been fully understood how these disorders occur. Researchers from Bochum have now successfully identified mechanisms how infected cells can activate brain-specific immune cells which subsequently display harmful behaviour and lead to the destruction of neurons. These findings may help develop biomarkers to identify risk patients and to make a therapeutic strategy possible in the long term. The study was published in the trade journal “Experimental Neurology”.

Immune cells in the brain under suspicion

“HIV-associated neurocognitive disorders” (HAND) include disorders of the cognitive functions, motor capacities as well as behavioural changes. How exactly HAND occur has not, as yet, been fully understood. “Scientists assume that HIV is harmful to cells directly and that it also triggers indirect mechanisms that lead to nerve cell damage,” explains Dr Simon Faissner (RUB clinic for neurology, St. Josef-Hospital). The researchers strongly suspect that, once activated in the brain and the spinal cord, immune cells keep up a chronic inflammation level which then results in the destruction of nerve cells. An immune activation in peripheral tissue as well as therapeutic consequences may likewise contribute to nerve cell damage in the brain.

First steps of HIV infection are sufficient

The HI virus overcomes the blood-brain barrier hitchhiking on infected immune cells, the monocytes and probably the T cells. The researchers from Bochum tested the hypothesis that HIV-infected monocytes activate specific immune cells in the brain, the so-called microglial cells. These cells, in turn, respond by releasing harmful substances, such as reactive oxygen metabolites and inflammatory signalling molecules, i.e. cytokines. To test this hypothesis, the researchers developed a cell culture system in which they initially examined the effect of HIV-infected monocytes on microglial cells. The researchers simulated the individual steps of HIV infection and measured the concentration of the cytokines released at each stage. Thus, they were able to demonstrate that releasing the viral RNA in the monocytes was a sufficient trigger for maximal microglial activation. Subsequent infection phases – reverse transcription into DNA and the resulting formation of HIV proteins – did not augment activation any further.

Released substances result in neuronal cell death

In the second step, they analysed nerve cells from rat brains to determine if the substances released by the microglial cells could lead to cell death. Compared with the control group, the amount of cell death was indeed twice as high. Studies of liquor cerebrospinalis received from HIV-infected patients have shown a positive correlation with marker of neuronal degeneration in patients who did not as yet present any neurocognitive disorders.

Detailed understanding necessary for therapeutic strategies

“Thanks to our research, we have gained a better understanding of the mechanisms of HIV-associated neurodegeneration,” concludes Prof Dr Andrew Chan. “These results are likely to contribute to HAND biomarkers becoming established. In the long term, these data may be used to develop therapeutic strategies aiming at retarding HAND progression in HIV-infected patients.” Starting points may include activation of microglial cells – a method that is applied in other autoimmune diseases of the central nervous system, for example in multiple sclerosis.

Start-up through FoRUM funds

The research, which was initiated following a collaboration between clinics for neurology and dermatology, St. Josef Hospital, as well as the Department for Molecular and Medical Virology, has been made possible through start-up funding provided by the Faculty of Medicine at Ruhr-Universität (FoRUM). The collaboration has evolved into an international consortium of clinics and basic research organisations in Bochum, Langen, Strasbourg and Mailand. One objective of the follow-up study, for which an application for EU funds is pending, is going to be an in-depth analysis of inflammatory processes in the central nervous system. The researchers will attempt to inhibit inflammatory processes with different drugs. They are, moreover, planning to study direct cell-cell interaction by means of state-of-the-art microscopy, in collaboration with the University of Strasbourg.

(Image credit: Mehau Kulyk/Science Photo Library)

California Trees Nailed As The Source Of Mystery Infections (NPR)

A fungus called Cryptococcus gattii can cause life-threatening infections, especially in people with compromised immune systems. One-third of AIDS-related deaths are thought to be caused by the fungus.

But though people in Southern California have been getting sick from C. gatti for years, nobody knew how.

"We had a good idea that the fungus was going to be associated with trees," says , a postdoctoral fellow at Duke University who studies C. gatti. “We just didn’t know what trees.”

And she didn’t have the time to find out.

But someone did: Elan Filler, a 7th grader who was looking for a science fair project. Her dad, , an infectious disease specialist at the University of California, Los Angeles, ran into , Springer’s advisor, at a conference, and told him about Elan. Heitman told Springer.

Elan Filler and Springer connected on email and figured out a plan. Soon Elan was making her way around greater Los Angeles, swabbing tree trunks and growing out the fungus in Petri dishes. None of the eucalyptus trees in the first batch she gathered tested positive for C. gattii, so she expanded her tests to include more types of trees.

Springer analyzed the genetic fingerprints of fungi in the samples that Elan sent to North Carolina.

Bingo! C. gattii from three trees, Canary Island pine, New Zealand pohutukawa and American sweet gum, matched almost exactly with C. gattii from infected patients. And the tree samples matched not just those from recent patients but from people who were sick 10 to 12 years ago. Thus this strain of C. gattii has been causing health problems in California for at least that long.

The were published Thursday in PLOS Pathogens.

The Canary Island pine is one tree species that hosts a fungus that causes disease in humans.

Jesse Helms, the dead North Carolina senator, once said of gay people ”it’s their deliberate, disgusting, revolting conduct that is responsible for the disease.” The disease being HIV/AIDS. He also said, “There is not one single case of AIDS in this country that cannot be traced in origin to sodomy.”

Hope he’s rolling in his grave.

(Photo via Facebook)


'Although antiretroviral drugs were available in the States and throughout Europe they were nonexistent in Africa at that time. The cost of medicine and the surrounding treatment were price prohibitive in countries where the majority of people live off $2 a day.

While documenting this crisis I chose to focus on the stories of individuals. The scope of the pandemic was too widespread. My images exist as a record of people I met who lost their lives to AIDS, as a reminder that countless others seek access to life saving drugs and that children orphaned by the disease need our help.’

-Kristen Ashburn, winner of the Getty Images Grant for Editorial Photography 2006 for her project Bloodline.

2014 marks the ten year anniversary of the Getty Images Grants for Editorial Photography program, which has now awarded almost $1 million in funding to photojournalists. As we prepare to announce this year’s winners on September 4 at Visa Pour l’Image, we are taking a look back at some of the winners from the past 10 years. See more on In Focus.

This week, an initiative called dotHIV launched to bring a new, socially conscious domain to the web.

It ends in — surprise — .HIV. Companies and individuals can purchase .HIV domains for $179, and a small donation will be made to an HIV/AIDS organization every time someone visits the site. The domains are free for HIV/AIDS charities. 

CEO Carolin Silbernagl is now focused on selling the domains through third-party marketplaces like GoDaddy. More than 10,000 .HIV domains were pre-registered, although those agreements weren’t binding, she says. Included in that batch were big name companies like Amazon, LinkedIn and Instagram.

Silbernagl doesn’t expect these companies to include specific HIV or AIDS-related content on their .HIV page, but instead expects most will simply redirect the domain to their standard .com pages, which still helps out her cause. “The Internet user gets a second door to the same Web content but it’s actually cooler because [of our] donation program,” she said.

The donations are small — $0.001 per click — but go toward causes selected by Silbernagl and the Initiative. The first organization slated to receive funds will be WE-ACTx for HOPE, a group fighting HIV and AIDS in Rwanda. Next on the list is the Sero Project, an organization focused on “ending inappropriate criminal prosecutions of people with HIV.” Across the globe, more than 35 million people are living with HIV, according to the World Health Organization.

THIS is how you use technology to bring about social change. I am absolutely giddy to see that big-name brands have already signed on, and I hope the rest of the world catches on like wildfire.