Health Alert for men who have sex with men

Pennsylvania (and the Pittsburgh area in particular) is still experiencing an alarming increase in syphilis cases, primarily among men who have sex with men (MSM). Over the last 5 years, Pennsylvania’s MSM community has experienced an 85% increase in syphilis infections. MSM represented approximately 65% of all new syphilis cases reported in the state.

Syphilis is a sexually transmitted infection. If it goes untreated, it can lead to serious health problems including paralysis, blindness, and dementia.   In the late stages, the disease can damage internal organs and can result in death.  In its early stages, syphilis is 100% curable with simple antibiotics.

You can get syphilis and not have any symptoms, so the only way to know you’re infected is to get a simple blood test.

As a result of the increase in syphilis cases, the Pennsylvania Department of Health recommends that all sexually active MSM get a routine syphilis test every 6 months. Several locations around the state have free syphilis testing, click on this link to find testing near you: hivtest.cdc.gov.

To find out more about Syphilis, go to the CDC’s Website.

H.I.V. treatment should start at diagnosis, U.S. health officials say

From the New York Times

People with H.I.V. should be put on antiretroviral drugs as soon as they learn they are infected, federal health officials said Wednesday as they announced that they were halting the largest ever clinical trial of early treatment because its benefits were already so clear.

The study was stopped more than a year early because preliminary data already showed that those who got treatment immediately were 53 percent less likely to die during the trial or develop AIDS or a serious illness than those who waited.

The study is strong evidence that early treatment saves more lives, the officials said. Fewer than 14 million of the estimated 35 million people infected with H.I.V. around the world are on treatment now, according to U.N.AIDS, the United Nations AIDS-fighting agency. In the United States, only about 450,000 of the estimated 1.2 million with H.I.V. are on treatment, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“This is another incentive to seek out testing and start therapy early, because you will benefit,” said Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Disease, which sponsored the trial. “The sooner, the better.”

Continue reading on the New York Times.

Advocate.com: 11 bad habits killing LGBT people

From the Advocate.com

ThinkstockPhotos-466033241X633We’re in the midst of LGBT Health Month, a time to take stock of the many health issues specific to our community. While we have plenty of people trying to do harm to us because of our sexual orientation or gender identity, we often don’t do ourselves any favors when it comes to self care. Here are the bad habits we should have given up last century.

New study shows gay and bi men twice as likely to get skin cancer

From USA Today

Tanning-x400Gay and bisexual men in the United States are twice as likely as heterosexual men to get skin cancer, a new study shows.

One likely reason: Gay and bisexual men are three times more likely to engage in indoor tanning, according to the study to be presented Friday in San Francisco at a meeting of the American Academy of Dermatology.

The study suggests that anti-tanning messages, most often aimed at young women, need to be broader, says researcher Sarah Arron, an associate professor of dermatology at the University of California, San Francisco. “The primary reason that men and women engage in indoor tanning is because of the cultural association of tanning with a healthy look and overall attractiveness,” Arron says. “We need to dispel the myth of the healthy tan.”

Tanning, whether in the sun or in a tanning bed, can cause skin cancer, including melanoma, the most dangerous kind, according to the U.S. Surgeon General’s office.

Mental health issues put gay and bi men at increased risk for HIV

(Reuters Health) – Gay and bisexual men are at increased risk of acquiring the virus that leads to AIDS if they have mental health problems, according to a new study. What’s more, their risk of acquiring HIV increases with the number of mental health factors they report, researchers found. Past studies have found that mental disorders, ranging from depression to substance abuse, are often seen among men with HIV, but “nothing about whether these factors predict HIV risk behaviors or becoming infected with HIV,” said study leader Matthew Mimiaga, from Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that some 1.1 million people in the U.S. are living with HIV. About one case in six is undiagnosed. While the CDC says only about 4 percent of U.S. males have sex with other men, they represent about two-thirds of the country’s new infections. Additionally, it’s known that the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community also suffers from an increased burden of mental health problems.

When two health conditions tend to occur together in one population, researchers call them “syndemic.” For the new study in the Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes, the researchers looked at how five conditions – depression, alcohol abuse, stimulant use, multi-drug abuse and exposure to childhood sexual violence – affect men’s risk of acquiring HIV. They analyzed data on 4,295 men who reported having sex with men within the previous year. The participants were asked about depressive symptoms, heavy alcohol and drug use and childhood sexual abuse.

Read more

 

CDC annual STD surveillance report: MSM bear a disproportionate burden

From the EdgeMediaNetwork

While anyone can become infected with an STD, certain groups, including young people and gay and bisexual men, are at greatest risk. Gonorrhea and chlamydia primarily affect young people. While surveillance data show signs of potential progress in reducing chlamydia and gonorrhea among young people aged 15-24, both the numbers and rates of reported cases of these two diseases continue to be highest in this group compared to other age groups. 

Both young men and young women are heavily affected by STDs, but young women face the most serious long-term health consequences. It is estimated that undiagnosed STDs cause 24,000 women to become infertile each year. The other group facing the burden of STDs are men who have sex with men (MSM). There has been a troubling rise in syphilis infections among gay, bisexual, and other MSM. Trend data show that MSM account for three quarters (75 percent) of all primary and secondary syphilis cases. 

Primary and secondary syphilis are the most infectious stages of the disease, and if not adequately treated, can lead to long-term infection, which can cause visual impairment and stroke. Syphilis infection can also place a person at increased risk for acquiring or transmitting HIV infection. In fact, available surveillance data indicate that an average of half of MSM with syphilis are also infected with HIV. 

Read the full article here.
Read the CDC report here.

“Syphilis is like the canary in the coal mine for HIV”

From Queerty.com

Think twice before hooking up with that out-of-towner this holiday weekend. And, if you do, be safe.

The CDC has just released reports that number of syphilis infections in the United States jumped a whopping 10 percent from 2012 to 2013, with gay and bisexual men accounting for 75 percent of the increase.

According to the report, 17,357 cases of syphilis were reported last year. That’s 5.5 cases per every 100,000 people.

Dr. Jill Rabin, co-chief of the division of ambulatory care in the Women’s Health Programs-PCAP Services at North Shore-LIJ Health System in New Hyde Park, N.Y., called the rise in syphilis cases “very alarming.”

“Syphilis is like the canary in the coal mine for HIV,” she said. “People are going to be positive for syphilis before they are diagnosed with HIV. This means that there is a potential increase in HIV cases.”

According to MedicalXpress, the sores caused by syphilis make HIV transmission easier. In rare cases, syphilis can lead to serious health problems, including death. Though it’s easy to cure with antibiotics if caught early.

“Having an STD doesn’t mean someone is dirty or broken,” said Fred Wyand, spokesperson for the American Sexual Health Association. “Far from it.”

Wyand urged people not to let the stigma of a STD prevent them from being tested and treated.

“One of the great barriers to having sexual health conversations is the sense of embarrassment. People need to have frank, open conversations,” he said. “It’s not about sex. It’s about health.”