he Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) HIV Treatment Works national communication campaign for people living with HIV features the stories of individuals living with HIV talking about how sticking to treatment helps them stay healthy, protect others, do what they love, and live a longer, healthier life. Visit the campaign website for resources and free materials: http://www.cdc.gov/HIVTreatmentWorks. More than 1.1 million people in the United States are living with HIV.
The Pennsylvania Department of Health in conjunction with the Allegheny County Health Department (ACHD) has documented an alarming increase in Syphilis cases, primarily among men who have sex with men (MSM) in Allegheny County. As of September 10, 2014, the ACHD has reported 67 cases of early Syphilis which now exceeds the total of 63 cases reported in all of 2013. Here is a breakdown of the data:
· 54% of the cases have been reported individuals under the age of 30
· 96% of the cases reported were male
· 75% of the male cases reported with MSM risk factors (had sex with other men)
· 39% of the male cases were co-infected with HIV
You can get Syphilis and not have any symptoms so the only way to know you’re infected is to get tested with a simple blood test. And if you do have symptoms, note that Syphilis has any number of symptoms that can look like symptoms from other diseases. One example is a painless sore that you would get after you are first infected can be confused for an ingrown hair, zipper cut, or other seemingly harmless bump. Another example is a rash over the body that can sometimes (but not always) involve the palms of the hands and the soles of the feet. As a result of the uptick in Syphilis cases, we are recommending that all sexually active MSM get a Syphilis test. The PA Department of Health as well as the Centers for Disease Control recommend that all sexually active MSM receive full STD screening (including HIV) annually. The Pitt Men’s Study offers testing for syphilis (as well as testing for Gonorrhea and Chlamydia) as part of your routine study visit. Free testing is also available at the Allegheny County Department of Health.
To find testing near you, check out the CDC testing database at http://hivtest.cdc.gov/
To find out more about Syphilis specifically, go to http://www.cdc.gov/std/syphilis/stdfact-syphilis.htm
To subscribe to Pitt Men’s Study Health Alerts, send an email to email@example.com with the word “subscribe” in the subject line.
To find out more about Health Alerts, go to http://pittmensstudy.com/health-alerts/
From the Seattle Times…
In a very unusual step, King County public-health officials have gone to court to try to stop a man with HIV who has infected eight partners in the past four years from infecting others.
“We’re not trying to criminalize sexual behavior here,” said Dr. Matthew Golden, director of Public Health — Seattle & King County’s HIV/STD Control Program. “We are trying to protect the public’s health. And we’re trying to make sure that everyone gets the care they need, including the person involved in this.”
The order, issued Sept. 4 by King County Superior Court Judge Julie Spector, requires the man, identified only as “AO,” to follow a “cease-and-desist” order issued in late July by the public-health department requiring him to attend counseling and all treatment appointments made by public-health officials.
If he defies the court order, the judge could order escalating fines or even jail time.
“AO” tested positive at the Public Health STD Clinic at Harborview Medical Center in June 2008, where he was counseled to disclose his status to sex partners and how he should practice safe sex, according to papers filed in the court case.
Since then, despite having received HIV counseling at least five more times, he is believed to have infected eight adult partners from 2010 through this June. Public-health officials said in the court documents that eight people newly diagnosed with HIV had named AO as a partner with whom they’d had unprotected sex.
The officials in July and August served “AO” with “cease-and-desist” orders, the first specifying he attend counseling and the second adding the requirement he seek HIV treatment.
Continue reading on the Seattle Times online.
By Mark S. King
When Donald Sterling dissed Magic Johnson for being promiscuous and unworthy, it was nothing new for people
living with HIV. They’ve heard it all over the years. A lot of those misconceptions persist today, even (or maybe especially) among gay men. Our attitudes can be hurtful, stigmatizing, and even contradictory. Let’s give HIV-positive gay men the chance to set the record straight, and break down ten things they would like the rest of us to know. This list may not represent the views of every positive guy, but they definitely echo many of their most common frustrations.
- Not all positive guys are barebacking drug addicts
It’s probably human nature to try and find fault in the actions of those becoming infected. If we see them as extremists it helps the rest of us feel more secure in our own choices. And yet the truth is that the majority of new infections occur within “primary relationships,” such as a lover or boyfriend, and usually because one partner did not know he was infected and then transmitted HIV to his partner. That’s why there’s such intense focus on getting tested and doing it regularly. New infections are typically not the result of some insane night at a meth-fueled sex party or a boozy night at the baths. It happens, sure, but that doesn’t make good ol’ fashioned sex any safer. Leather or lace, it’s all the same to HIV.
- Living with HIV is not a toxic horror show of medications
Yes, HIV usually requires medications and doctor visits. So does every chronic condition. With so many options for HIV drug therapies, side effects have been reduced drastically and ones in development will reduce them even further. Poz guys are not weeping every morning as they chug down pills with their morning coffee.
- HIV infection does not automatically turn guys into dangerous liars
One of the most unfortunate misconceptions about positive guys is that they outright lie about their status just to get laid, or worse, are on a mission to infect others. Can we dial down the rhetoric about intentional transmission, please? What is true is that positive men often have trouble disclosing because of the very stigma that results from sensational rumors like this one. It is unfair to blame all positive men due to the reckless behavior of a relative few.
- “Drug and Disease Free, UB2″ is every bit as stupid and non-productive as it sounds
If you are using this dangerous phrase as a filter for potential sex partners, you could be doing yourself more harm than good. We know positive guys who are undetectable are not infecting their partners, so rejecting people based on their status can be more discriminatory than practical. Besides, labeling someone as damaged goods or unworthy sucks, and if you’ve been on the receiving end of this practice you know how demoralizing it can be.
“UB2″ also sets you up for a false sense of security, because as one British study suggests, the risk of sex with someone who thinks they are HIV negative is higher than sex with an undetectable positive person. This is because the viral activity in a newly positive person can be incredibly high, and he may not even know it. Of course, either way you have to know who you’re dealing with. So hold off on any risky moves until you know him well enough to be sure he’s negative (get tested together!) or be sure he’s taking his meds and is undetectable.
If you are compelled to demand your sex partner’s HIV status up front, consider a more respectful way to do it (“I tested negative as of this date. What about you?”). Asking if he’s “clean” or “disease free” just makes you look like a dick, especially since you don’t know what STDS you may have if you are sexually active at all.
- Our health and risk behaviors are up to us and no one else
After decades of scientific and treatment research focused on those with HIV, new options are now available to sexually active negative men, such as Pre-exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP). This advance puts negative guys in control of their own infection risks. Yes, there’s been some concern about the toxicity of Truvada, the PrEP medicine, although new reports suggest that these have been overstated. Your own health is always in your hands through the choices you make – and they have nothing to do with the status of your partner, whether known or unknown. The blame game has never benefitted anyone, and the playing field has always been level, whether we acknowledge it or not.
- Guys with HIV are not promiscuous… or have a rotten sex life… or no sex life
All of these are usually false, if you’re using the typical sex life of a single gay man as a barometer. We all have our moments. Sometimes our dance card is filled, sometimes there’s a drought, and sometimes the sex we have sucks, and not in a good way. And just like the rest of us, positive guys are getting their share and having satisfying, balls-to-the-wall sex when they’re lucky. Judging guys for the degree of action they are getting feels like an old, worn argument against all gay men that we could really do without. This is just another example of trying to distance ourselves from positive guys by judging them as different from ourselves. They’re really not. Some are prudes, some are sluts. After all, it only takes one time. And isn’t a slut just someone who has more sex that you do?
- How they got it and who gave it to them is none of your business
The details of someone else’s infection isn’t your personal soap opera or cautionary tale, no matter your good intentions. If poz guys feel like sharing it with you sometime, they will. Chances are they came to terms with it long ago and it’s probably not very interesting, anyway. They probably had sex and got HIV. The details are not yours for the asking.
- If you need an HIV educator, go find one
Having HIV doesn’t come with a master class in epidemiology and HIV transmission. Every person with HIV is not an expert or a prevention specialist – or an activist. They are simply living with the virus. And if they do find themselves having to educate you about the simplest facts of HIV prevention, don’t be surprised if they are the ones that decline to have sex. Nothing kills the mood like HIV 101. And most positive guys aren’t going to be put into the position of talking anyone into bed. They probably have hotter, more enlightened options on their smart phone anyway.
- Positive guys aren’t going anywhere soon
Recent studies suggest that someone becoming infected with HIV today in the United States has the same odds of living a normal life span as anyone else. Some research even suggests a life expectancy that is longer than average, because people with HIV see a physician more often and other health concerns can be identified and addressed sooner. They are also more likely to avoid drugs and alcohol, eat well and exercise regular, the keys to health and longevity.
Positive guys know this, and are living their lives with appreciation, joy, and an eye towards the future. There’s no reason for them to settle for second best. As infections continue and treatment improves, healthy HIV positive gay men are a growing population. It might be better to try and understand and respect them than hang on to outdated fears or biases.
10. Even more breakthroughs are coming
There is research underway that will continue to change the landscape and make life easier and less risky for both positive and negative. Rectal microbicides (lubes and douches that kill HIV on contact) are being tested. More medications to be used as PrEP are being developed, including injections that could offer protection from HIV infection for months rather than the regimen of a daily pill. Condoms are getting a makeover with new designs and sensitivity profiles. Before long, even modest risks of infection could be eliminated for those who take advantage of new technology. Treatments for HIV infections will become even less toxic and even more effective. All this progress isn’t only significant in terms of HIV transmission rates. It could help bridge a viral divide that has troubled our community for well over a generation.Mark S. King produces the award winning video blog MyFabulousDisease.com about life as an HIV positive addict in recovery. He can be reached at Mark@marksking.com. This article was originally written for Queerty.com
From the Advocate…
By Mondo Guerra
I have been living with HIV for 10 years, and what I have learned is this: having this virus is not easy. Living with a lifelong condition presents incredible challenges that not everyone sees. No one hears the difficult conversations you have to have with your partner, your family, or your doctor throughout the multiple appointments you must maintain for the rest of your life. I believe these moments that people don’t see make many misinterpret the reality of living with HIV.
When I look around me, I think the reason there has been such an increase of HIV infections among young gay men is that HIV is no longer viewed as a death sentence. While I am overjoyed at how far we have come since the early 1980s when the disease emerged, I fear the younger generation may no longer view HIV as something serious.
The latest numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show a major increase in the number of new infections among gay and bisexual men who are between the ages of 13 and 24 — a 132.5 percent increase between 2001 and 2011.
It is important to remember that one irresponsible or uninformed move can result in a lifelong condition. Not only do those with HIV have to live with the responsibility for their own health, as does everyone else, they must ensure they are asking the right questions, being safe, and staying responsible with their partner or partners. New treatment options make it possible to live an active life with the disease. But these treatment options can provide the younger generation with a false sense of security, as perhaps they are no longer fearful of what may happen if they act irresponsibly.
A lot of this confusion can be caused by the media. The conversations in the news surrounding HIV must be revamped to focus on the extensive steps needed to protect oneself as well as the difficulties of living with HIV. In addition, the younger generation should speak with those who have been living with HIV into their older years to get a firsthand account of how the disease affects people over the course of a lifetime.
Continue reading on the Advocate.
From the Latin Post…
The Center for Disease Control rolled out a new campaign to target Hispanic and Latino communities in addressing HIV/AIDS, citing a high number of new infections each year. Annually, the CDC reports, 500,000 people become infected each year in the U.S., and the Hispanic and Latino population — which is 16 percent of the nation’s population — constitutes 21 percent of new infections.
Introducing their new campaign, accompanied with two videos highlighting the information, the CDC said, “We all have a role to play. We can stop HIV one conversation at a time. Together, all of our conversations can help protect the health of our community and reduce the spread of HIV. ” The “one conversation at a time” tagline is the being promoted ahead of the National Latinos AIDS Awareness Day, which coincides with the last day of Hispanic Heritage Month, on Oct. 15.
The CDC said that 1 in 36 Hispanic/Latino men and 1 in 106 Hispanic/Latina women will be diagnosed with HIV at some point in their lives. “Because there is no single Latino culture, the factors driving the epidemic in this population are as diverse as the communities themselves,” the CDC said.
Despite prevention methods and measures, the Latinos continue to bear a heavier burden than most when it comes to HIV/AIDS. Where Latinos live also affects the numbers of infected men specifically. HIV diagnosis in the Northeast is more than twice that of any other region in the country, mostly from male-to-male sexual contact and intravenous drug use. In the South, those with HIV are more likely to have been affected by male-to-male sexual contact, according to the CDC.
One of the campaign videos by the CDC titled Sin Verguenza, or “Without Shame,” starts off like a soap opera — introducing the main characters, each with a somber face as their names flash across the screen. It is intended to engage the audience as the 8-minute video begins with an introduction to the fictional Salazar family. Once over, one of the characters comes into the camera frame and asks the audience if they can identify which of the family members may have HIV/AIDS.
This is the first installment in the campaign, which promises more episodes. “It may not always be easy to talk about HIV/AIDS, but we must talk openly about it to protect our community. By learning the facts about HIV and talking about ways to protect ourselves, our loved ones, and our community, we can help increase HIV awareness, decrease stigma and shame that are too often associated with HIV, and play a part in stopping HIV in the Hispanic/Latino community,” the CDC said.