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Sex Drugs Called Avenue to HIV

Diedtra Henderson

Sep. 26--WASHINGTON -- Richard Gallo's experience is shared by thousands of men who sometimes find other men through e-mail messages that read: "Do you want to PNP?" It stands for "party and play." To party, they take crystal methamphetamine, which reduces inhibitions but also their ability to have sex. To play, they pop Viagra at the same time. Gallo, a 28-year-old Boston resident, said he had many such sexual encounters.

That worries public health officials who say the drug combination promotes risky, unprotected sex with multiple partners.

Drug companies and government agencies, including the Food and Drug Administration, are scheduled to meet today and tomorrow in Maryland to discuss how the erectile dysfunction drugs Cialis, Levitra, and Viagra might be contributing to the transmission of HIV and other diseases.

Gallo, who worked in the porn industry, received hundreds of Viagra pills for free. After work, he popped them to party and play.

"We're talking days. Days, not hours," he said. One drug-fueled sex marathon lasted "10 days in a row," he recalled. "No eating, no sleeping." Gallo, now sober for a year, said taking the drugs together made him feel "invincible."

They are also potentially deadly.

Last year, a New York man was infected by a strain of HIV that overwhelms almost every drug treatment. The source of his infection: Sex with two Connecticut men who warned him they were HIV-positive. A doctor said crystal meth impaired the New York man's decision-making.

In cities across the nation, including Boston, reports of new cases of sexually transmitted diseases between men are on the rise. One reason, some health officials say, is the misuse of Viagra.

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Disease Rates High in Massachusetts Prisons; HIV Infection Ranks 7th in U.S

Stephen Smith

Oct. 19--Massachusetts prisoners suffer some of the highest rates of infectious disease in the nation, with hepatitis C, HIV, and other chronic conditions so prevalent that measures must be adopted to reduce prospects that prisoners will spread illness once they are freed, according to a sweeping report on inmate health scheduled to be released next week.

Inmates incarcerated by the state had the seventh-highest rate of HIV infections in the nation, a study from the Massachusetts Public Health Association found. While the report does not specifically address why conditions such as HIV are more common among prisoners in Massachusetts, disease specialists speculated that the wider use of injectable drugs in the Northeast probably bears much of the blame.

The rate of hepatitis C in jails and prisons is equally alarming: 27 percent of the men and 44 percent of the women entering Massachusetts prisons were diagnosed with the potentially lethal ailment most often spread through the sharing of tainted drug needles. Female prisoners were 24 times more likely to be stricken with hepatitis C than women in the general population.

Researchers said the high disease rates can make jails and prisons incubators of illnesses that, in turn, threaten the health of the disadvantaged communities that many prisoners return to when they finish their sentences. Public health advocates called for improvements in medical care for parolees, and a state senator has filed a bill to give them instant access to the state's health plan for the poor.

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PHS forum offers a glimpse of living with AIDS

Sara Newbury

PORTSMOUTH - More than 20 years after the first cases were documented in the United States, HIV and AIDS are still out there. But so are preventive measures.

Prevention was the focus of a World AIDS Day assembly at Portsmouth High School on Thursday.

"For a while, a lot of high schools had addressed the facts of AIDS, and then we felt that it had stopped and been forgotten," said Lexi Brackett, a PHS sophomore and member of Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) - the organization that put the assembly together.

"A lot of people don’t realize how it affects them," Brackett said. "It has to be addressed so people realize they can get it."

Between 850,000 and 950,000 people in the United States today are living with HIV - with 40,000 new infections each year, according to Jessica Frickey, spokeswomen for the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, Ga. Half of the new infections are among people 25 and under, and one-fourth are among people 21 and under.

Despite these daunting statistics and continued HIV and AIDS education, young people are still indulging in risky behavior, Frickey said.

"Over the last 20 years, the epidemic has changed a lot," she said. "There’s a new generation that has not experienced HIV firsthand. They’ve never seen their friends living with HIV or dying with AIDS."

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A life lost to AIDS

Richard Fabrizio

PORTSMOUTH - The crowd filled St. John’s Church on Chapel Street on Saturday in a mix of sadness and celebration.

Kevin Murphy is gone.

His ashes were in a beautiful urn, but he does not leave this world in ashes. And he is not limited by memories.

John Seavey, former president of the AIDS Response-Seacoast Board of Directors, said Murphy leaves a wonderful legacy.

"He fought the best fight," Seavey said, "touched the lives of many, made a difference in the fight against AIDS/HIV, and left on his own terms."

Kevin turned 46 in July and died Sept. 17 after a 10-year fight against AIDS. His death is at once a tragedy of a disease without a cure and the end of a cherished story of man who did not quit. He left a mark in the fight against AIDS, now in its third decade of human destruction.

Kevin died this past Wednesday in his Dover home, surrounded by his nieces and his nephew, his spiritual advisor and his beloved black Labrador, Sebastian.

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Gay marriage fight is personal

Adam Leech

CONCORD - During last week’s emotional debate at the Statehouse regarding gay marriage, according to a report by The Associated Press, Rep. Corey Corbin, an openly gay Democrat from Sandown, stunned fellow legislators by stating that he understands the vows in sickness and in health because he is HIV positive and his partner has remained by his side.

Last Thursday, the House of Representatives voted 213-140 in favor of a bill that blocks the recognition of gay marriage in the state. Corbin was among the 18 representatives, some of whom are also gay, to speak against the bill during the four hours of testimony before the vote. During his testimony, Corbin chastised an unidentified lawmaker who said homosexuality is "all about sex." Choking back tears, Corbin said his partner of eight years stood by him out of love and respect when Corbin found out he was HIV-positive.

"He hugged me and told me everything would be fine," said Corbin, who challenged any representative who voted for the bill to "look me in the eye and tell me my life, my eight years in the armed services, my time in this body means nothing."

Corbin - state representative of District 79, which comprises Sandown, Hampstead, Plaistow, Kingston, Danville and Chester - said he served eight years in the military to defend America’s freedoms, yet the bill treats him as less valuable than heterosexuals.

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