Vitamin D sufficiency may speed up immune recovery during HAART


vitimin D aids HARRTThere are an estimated 33 million people infected with HIV worldwide – 1.2 million of them in the US. The advent in 1996 of highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) – a combination of different classes of medications taken daily – means that for many patients who have access to the medication, what was once a fatal diagnosis can now be managed as a chronic disease.

For their study, Prof. Ezeamama and colleagues examined 18 months of data for 398 HIV-positive adults on HAART.

The data included a measure of participants’ vitamin D levels at the start of the trial (baseline) and their CD4 cell counts at months 0, 3, 6, 12 and 18.

In their analysis, the researchers looked at how the changes in CD4 cell counts related to the baseline levels of vitamin D over the study period.

They found that participants with sufficient levels of vitamin D at baseline recovered more of their immune function than participants with vitamin D deficiency.

Read the full story here.

Scruff makes it easier for users to advertise prevention preferences


Last month, Scruff, the popular mobile hookup app, unveiled new profile options that will allow users to disclose their safer-sex practices more easily. The drop down menu presents three HIV prevention methods: condoms, pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and treatment as prevention (TasP). Scruff users can select one of those options (PrEP or condoms orTasP), select a few combination options (PrEP and condoms or TasP and condoms) or choose to leave the field blank. prevention preferences on ScruffThe new feature has the potential to promote disclosure of HIV prevention practices upfront and facilitate connections between app users with similar approaches to stopping HIV transmission. Notably, it more easily allows individuals to indicate that they use only PrEP or TasP and choose not to use condoms.

New menu options that promote transparency and normalize disclosure of HIV prevention status are certainly welcome, and, with any luck, other mobile apps will follow Scruff’s lead. For many men who have sex with men (MSM), it is often unsafe to discuss our HIV prevention practices openly and with full honesty. We often feel the need to self-censor because our sex lives are already under such intense scrutiny. We dare not draw further attention to ourselves by saying that we do not use condoms 100% of the time. Hopefully, these new choices will help Scruff users make selections that are more in line with their actual prevention choices.

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LGBTQ Americans: Time to enroll in health care

enroll in the affordable care actFrom

The 2016 open enrollment season has begun. Through January 31, 2016, you can apply for a 2016 health plan, renew your current plan, or pick a new plan through the Health Insurance Marketplace.

This is important news for all Americans, including those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT). On average, LGBT Americans experience greater exposure to violence and homelessness, as well as higher rates of poverty, HIV infection, tobacco and substance use, mental health disorders, and cancer. These disparities are even more pronounced for LGBT individuals who are also members of racial and ethnic minorities and have low incomes.

These health disparities are due in part to lower rates of health coverage. Now, thanks to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), LGBT Americans have increased access to quality, affordable health insurance.

Visit to enroll in a new plan, change your current plan, and get answers about the ACA. See’s LGBT Health and Well-being: The Affordable Care Act to learn how the ACA helps LGBT individuals and families.

Chemsex rise prompts public health warning


The growth in use of illegal psychoactive substances during sex could pose an increasing risk to public health, experts say. The popularity of “chemsex” – mostly but not exclusively among gay men – is leading some sexual health services to set up special clinics to treat the consequences of drugs such as GHB, GBL and crystal meth.

chemsex and gay healthUsers are turning to such sources to lower inhibitions and increase pleasure, according to an editorial in the BMJ by experts in sexual health and drug misuse. Its authors warn of a “small but important” increase in the use of mental health services by chemsex drug users. Psychological and physiological dependence on the drugs can become permanent, they say.

“Chemsex drug users often describe losing days – not sleeping or eating for up to 72 hours – and this may harm their general health. Users may present too late to be eligible for post-exposure prophylaxis for HIV transmission.” say the authors. “An increased number of sexual partners may also increase the risk of acquiring other sexually transmitted infections. Data from service users suggest an average of five sexual partners per session and that unprotected sex is the norm.”

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PrEP and Beyound: HIV/AIDS & Black, Gay Men


By Terrence Chappell

HIV PrEP and Black gay menLast month, a new study conducted by the Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in San Francisco found that 100% of study participants taking the HIV prevention pill Truvada as a pre-exposure prohylaxis (PrEP) remained infection-free when engaging in sex with high-risk partners.

While the new study is a tremendous step in the right direction in the fight against HIV and AIDS, Black men who have sex with men (MSM) are still significantly over represented in new HIV infections. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), African Americans are the group that’s most affected by HIV, and the rate of new HIV infection is eight times higher for African Americans than Whites.

Advocate, an LGBT media outlet, reports that although gay men are 40 times more likely to contract HIV than the general population, that number launches to a whooping 72 times more likely among Black, gay men. If not treated properly, HIV can lead to AIDS. In 2013, of the estimated 14,611 gay and bisexual men diagnosed with AIDS, 40% were Blacks/African Americans; 32% were Whites, and 23% were Hispanic/Latinos according to the CDC.

Simply put, long-term PrEP  needs to reach the community’s most at-risk people. Howard Brown Health Center in Chicago, one of the nation’s largest LGBTQ health services organizations, recognizes the gap for Black MSM.

“Howard Brown Health Center (HBHC) is committed to providing PrEP access, navigation and counseling services to help HIV negative people stay negative,”  said Kristin Keglovitz, Howard Brown’s Chief Operations Officer. “This is particularly true for Black men who have sex with men, a population that experiences disproportionate rates of HIV infection and barriers to access quality healthcare services.”

There’s no ONE reason why cases of HIV infection are skyrocketing among Black men who sleep with men. It’s a holistic mix of stigma, access, and lack of awareness that form the perfect storm.

Stigma doesn’t always have to be attributed to family and friends. Healthcare-related stigmas often lead to mistrust and medical visit gaps. The American Journal of Public Health published an article in its February 2015 issue titled: “The role of stigma and medical mistrust in the routine healthcare engagement of Black men who have sex with men.” The piece focused on a study that sampled 544 Black MSM attending a community event. Of the 544 participants, 29% reported experiencing racial or sexual orientation discrimination from their healthcare providers, and 48% reported an overall mistrust of medical establishments.


University of Pittsburgh launching study to determine ways to promote health among aging gay and bisexual men


Dr Ron Stall at the University of Pittsburgh Grad School of Public Health

Dr Ron Stall at the University of Pittsburgh Grad School of Public Health

As the U.S. reaches an important milestone this year in the fight against HIV with more than half the people living with the virus older than age 50, the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health is launching a study to determine ways to promote health among aging gay and bisexual men, who make up about two-thirds of the people aging with HIV.

In an effort to create strategies for use in public health outreach nationwide, the research team will be taking an innovative approach to the study by looking for protective factors – called “resiliencies” – that are helping keep some men with HIV healthy and could be extended to other men, rather than simply fixing health problems as they arise. This research is funded with a three-year, $2.1 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

“We celebrate that medications now exist to enable people with HIV to live well into old age,” said study principal investigator Ron Stall, Ph.D., M.P.H., director of the Center for LGBT Health Research at Pitt Public Health. “But we also need to recognize that the health complications that come with aging – both mental and physical – are compounded when you’re living with HIV. It is critical that we develop research-based programs to support HIV-positive people as they age.”

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People with HIV are at higher risk of several types of cancer, large study finds


People living with HIV remain at risk of AIDS-defining cancers in the era of effective antiretroviral therapy, and also have higher rates of several non-AIDS cancers than the general population, including lung, anal and liver cancer, according to findings from a study of more than 86,000 HIV-positive people published in the October 6 Annals of Internal Medicine.

Since the advent of effective combination antiretroviral therapy (ART) in the mid-1990s, rates of the three AIDS-defining cancers – Kaposi sarcoma, non-Hodgkin lymphoma and cervical cancer – have fallen among people with HIV. These cancers are caused by opportunistic viruses that can take hold when the immune system is damaged and CD4 T-cell counts are low, though human papillomavirus (HPV) also causes cervical and anal cancer in otherwise healthy people.

Most studies, however, have found that HIV-positive people have a higher overall risk for other non-AIDS-related cancers compared to HIV-negative populations, although data have been inconsistent about specific cancer types. In fact, cancer rates among people with HIV have risen over time as they live long enough to develop malignancies.

Michael Silverberg of Kaiser Permanente Northern California and fellow investigators evaluated trends in cumulative incidence of common cancer types by HIV status among participants in the large North American AIDS Cohort Collaboration on Research and Design (NA-ACCORD).

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