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.


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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National Latino AIDS Awareness Day

National Latino AIDS Awarness DayOctober 15 is National Latino AIDS Awareness Day. Coordinated by the Latino Commission on AIDS, this day encourages Latino  communities to take action against HIV. This year’s theme,You and I Will Defeat AIDS (Tu y Yo Vamos a Derrotar al SIDA), is a call to action to work together to end the spread of HIV. It asks each of us to learn and share the facts about HIV, get tested, and stay in medical care if we are living with HIV.

And for good reason.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released the results of a recent study that confirms Latinos are diagnosed with HIV at a rate three times that of whites.

The report was featured in a recent issue of the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. Based on data from 2008 to 2013 on HIV diagnoses in the U.S. (and six “U.S. dependent areas” including Puerto Rico), the CDC concluded that although HIV infection rates went down for adult and adolescent Latinos overall, they increased three percent among Latino males who have sex with men. The rate of diagnosis—18.7 per 100,000—was nearly three times that of whites (6.6 per 100,000).

To find out more about National Latino AIDS Awarness Day, go to You can find free HIV testing near  you by searching by zip code at (Espanol)

‘Undetectable’ a new identity for gay men diagnosed with HIV


Achieving an undetectable viral load is a key milestone in the period after diagnosis with HIV, qualitative interviews with Canadian gay men suggest. Men incorporated knowledge of their own undetectable status into their identities as HIV-positive gay men and their sexual decision making, according to a study published in the August issue of AIDS Education and Prevention. Being undetectable helped many men feel ‘responsible’ and ‘normal’.

The findings come from in-depth, qualitative interviews with 25 gay men diagnosed with HIV in British Columbia, Canada between 2009 and 2012. All had acquired HIV less than a year before their diagnosis and half had been diagnosed with acute (very recent) infection. Up to four interviews were done, in order to see how experiences changed during the year after diagnosis.

Interviewees typically reported a period of sexual abstinence immediately after being diagnosed with HIV. During this period of adjustment, many men had no sex drive. Avoiding HIV transmission was a major concern for many, including this man:

“First of all, I killed my sex life. I was like, you know, I don’t want to infect anyone, I don’t want to take the risk and I don’t want to disclose, so the way of not doing is just not having sex.”

When participants did start to have sex again, they found themselves in an altered sexual landscape, facing new scenarios, challenges and possibilities. Faced with the difficulty of talking about having HIV with new partners, some sought out other HIV-positive men. Others avoided anal sex, even with condoms.

Learning that one’s viral load was undetectable could open up new possibilities:

“I didn’t play around when I was not sure… if I was undetectable or not. I didn’t play. They [sexual partners] would be open to it, but I didn’t want… Personally I didn’t feel comfortable, so I didn’t play until I was undetectable.”

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