Health Alert for men in Pennsylvania – Syphilis on the rise again

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 rgy2@pitt.edu with the word “subscribe” in the subject line.

To find out more about Health Alerts, go to http://pittmensstudy.com/health-alerts/

Smoking and HIV – One man’s story


Smoking is especially dangerous for people who are living with HIV, the virus that can cause AIDS. Brian learned that lesson the hard way, when he had a stroke—a brain attack—at age 43. In this video, Brian talks about surviving HIV-related medical problems—then nearly losing his life because of smoking.  See All Brian’s videos.

And from LOGO online…

Smoking now leads to more deaths in the LGBT community than HIV according to the Centers for Disease Control, which also reports that while 20.5% of heterosexuals smoke, 30.8% of  gay people use tobacco products. “We know that approximately one million LGBT people [in the U.S.] will die early from tobacco-related causes,” says Dr. Scout from the Network for LGBT Health Equity. “We want to save those lives instead.”

I you’re HIV-positive and smoke, the combination can take even more years off your life: According to the Network for LGBT Health Equity, being HIV-positive takes an average of 5.1 years off one’s life, but people who smoke and have HIV die 12.3 years earlier on average. Yet the smoking rate is two to three times higher among adults who are HIV-positive than in the general public.

 

Users of smartphone apps like Grindr more likely to get STDs

cell phoneFrom MedlinePlus (a National Institutes of Health Website)…

Gay men who use smartphone apps such as Grindr or Scruff to find sexual partners are more likely to acquire certain sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) than if they meet partners in bars or clubs, a new study suggests. The research was led by Matthew Beymer of the L.A. Gay and Lesbian Center, Los Angeles, and included nearly 7,200 local gay and “bi-curious” men. All of the men were tested for STDs and provided information about how they found their sexual partners.

Smartphone apps such as Grindr, Scruff or Recon are designed to make it easier for gay men to meet potential partners more quickly. According to background material provided in the study, Grindr, one of the first gay male “hook-up” apps, garnered 2.5 million new users in 2012, and by 2013 its makers said that Grindr had 6 million users in 192 countries worldwide. However, the authors of the new study say the use of these technologies may raise the chances of anonymous and risky sexual encounters and the likelihood of getting an STD.

(…) Compared to other men in the study, those who used smartphone apps to find sex were 35 percent more likely to be infected with chlamydia and 23 percent more likely to be infected with gonorrhea, the researchers found. The method of finding sexual partners had no effect on the risk of being infected with syphilis or HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, however.

Continue reading on MedlinePlus.

Truvada as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) against HIV takes about a week to be effective in preventing infection

From aidsmeds.com

Truvada (emtricitabine/tenofovir) as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) against HIV takes an estimated seven days to reach full efficacy and may protect for nearly a week afterward, the National AIDS Treatment Advocacy Project (NATAP) reports. But those taking PrEP should not assume these are hard facts at this time. Presenting their findings at the 15th International Workshop on Clinical Pharmacology of HIV and Hepatitis Therapy in Washington, DC, researchers conducted an analysis of 11 men and 10 women who took daily Truvada as PrEP for 30 days and then, after stopping the drug, remained in an additional 30 days of follow-up.

Continue reading on aidsmeds.com.

HIV associated with increased risk of melanoma

man-sunbathingFrom aidsmap.com:

HIV infection is associated with an increased risk of melanoma (skin cancer), according to the results of a meta-analysis published in PLOS ONE. In short, people living with HIV had a 26% increase in their relative risk of melanoma compared to the general population. The risk increases to 50% for white-skinned people living with HIV.

The authors of the analysis therefore recommend fair-skinned people with HIV should get regular screenings for suspicious skin lesions and should be warned about the dangers of prolonged exposure to the sun.  You can talk to your doctor about finding a specialist who can perform a skin cancer screening.  To help prevent melanoma, it is also important to use sun block with an SPF of at least 15 on exposed skin, when outdoors.

Read the full article on aidsmap.com.

To find out about how indoor tanning (tanning beds) also increases the risk of melanoma, go to the CDC information page.

For tips on how to spot a melanoma, go to the Skin Cancer Foundation.

To subscribe to Pitt Men’s Study Health Alerts, send an email to rgy2@pitt.edu with the word “subscribe” in the subject line.

HIV infection increases risk of melanoma

From aidsmap.com

HIV infection is associated with an increased risk of melanoma, according to the results of a meta-analysis published in PLOS ONE. Overall, people living with HIV had a 26% increase in their relative risk of melanoma compared to the general population, the risk increasing by 50% for white-skinned people with HIV. The increased risk was statistically significant in white-skinned people diagnosed with HIV and of borderline statistical significance for all people diagnosed with HIV.

The authors recommend that fair-skinned people living with HIV should be regularly screened for suspicious skin lesions and should also be warned about the dangers of prolonged exposure to the sun.

Melanoma (skin cancer) diagnoses have increased markedly in the UK and many other countries in recent years. There is also evidence suggesting that people living with HIV have a higher risk of developing this skin cancer compared to individuals in the general population. Studies conducted before effective antiretroviral therapy became available in the mid-1990s showed that having HIV increased the relative risk of melanoma by approximately a quarter.

However, it is uncertain whether people living with HIV continue to have an increased risk of melanoma in the era of effective antiretroviral treatment. A team of Australian and UK investigators therefore conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis, looking at the association between HIV and the relative risk of melanoma in the periods before and after potent HIV therapy became available. The investigators’ analysis included cohort studies involving adult patients.

A total of 21 studies met their inclusion criteria. These were conducted between 1999 and 2013. Most (twelve) were conducted in the United States, eight in Europe and one in Australia. Most of the studies reported on cohorts of patients with HIV and those diagnosed with AIDS, but six studies defined their study population as patients with AIDS. The majority of studies (16) were population based, most of the patients being men (76-92%). One study included only men who have sex with men; one study included women only; a single study was restricted to veterans and two studies reported on single-clinic patient cohorts.

Continue reading on aidsmap.com.

New gay epidemic — and what you can do to end it

From the Huffington Post… 

(by Jimmy LaSalvia)

quit-smoking-man-largeThe new gay epidemic is an old one. It’s killing your gay friends and family, and it’s totally preventable. No, it’s not what you may be thinking. It’s not HIV/AIDS. I’m talking about smoking. Last week was LGBT Health Awareness Week, so this is good time to bring up a LGBT health crisis that many ignore or minimize. According to the American Lung Association, gay men are approximately 2.5 times more likely to smoke, and lesbians are about twice as likely as their straight counterparts. Most everyone knows that smoking is the leading preventable cause of death. That’s true for everyone, including LGBT Americans.

There’s not a physical reason why gay people smoke more, but there are some unique factors that contribute to the higher rate of smoking. For decades, the gay community has socialized and interacted in smoking venues such as bars. For a long time, gay bars were the only place for LGBT people to find others like them. It’s still a big part of gay culture and socialization. The American Lung Association also says that stress from social stigma and discrimination because of their sexual orientation is frequently cited as a reason that LGBT people start smoking. That’s especially the case with young people, who have a much higher rate of smoking than their straight peers.

It’s important for all of us, no matter who we are, to combat this epidemic within our own families and circles of friends. Understanding these unique pressures and risk factors can help us to urge our gay friends and family who are still smoking to stop. Quitting smoking is hard. Everyone knows that. While giving it up “cold turkey” (ideally with some advice from a doctor) is the best and most effective way, it’s just not possible for everyone. A wide range of pharmaceutical products — everything from over-the-counter nicotine gum to prescription medicine — can also help some people some of the time but also have very high failure rates particularly over the long term. Nicotine is addictive and quitting it is very, very hard.

For those who simply can’t quit or don’t want to there are products such as e-cigarettes and dissolvable smokeless tobacco that can help people with their addiction to nicotine without carrying the risks of smoking. These products are still addictive and certainly aren’t “safe” overall. But they are still safer than smoking. It’s the smoke that’s the real killer.

Continue reading on the Huffington Post.