Young gay men describe trust as an HIV prevention strategy

What constitutes safer sex? Sex with a condom? Sex with PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis)? Oral sex? At GAYCON 2014, an annual conference on gay and bisexual men’s health in Scotland, researcher Nicola Boydell presented the results of a study that sought to discern young gay men’s attitudes toward safer sex, Aidsmap reports.

The good news: Young gay men see safer sex as more than just condom use. The bad news? Many consider condomless sex within the context of a relationship as being relatively safe, even when they knew nothing about their partner’s HIV testing history.

Yet, the majority of HIV transmissions among gay men happen within the context of a relationship, according to data from a 2009 U.S. study. When speaking of these relationships, men cite trust as the number one reason to take off the condom.

Continue reading on The Body.

 

Can Selfies in the Shower Fight HIV Stigma?

If you’re looking for HIV’s answer to the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, which raised over US$100 million for the ALS Association, Jack Mackenroth just may have it: the HIV Shower Selfie Challenge. Mackenroth, a famous HIV-positive activist and prior contestant on Project Runway, has partnered with Moovz, a global gay social networking app, to launch the project. Playing to a culture that loves a good selfie, Mackenroth is urging everyone to fight HIV stigma by simply taking a special kind of selfie.

Jack Mackenroth

“I was inspired by the use of the word ‘clean,’ especially common in gay culture, to describe oneself as STI/STD free. Indirectly this implies that HIV-positive people are somehow ‘dirty,'” says Mackenroth. “I thought a PG or PG-13 shower selfie or Vine video would be a fun way that everyone could easily show their support for finding a cure on social media by using the hashtag #weareALLclean when they post their photo with the link. They then nominate 3 other people to participate and hopefully donate to the project as well.”

Continue reading and find instruction on how to participate at TheBody.com.

U.S. HIV ‘Treatment Cascade’ stats dismal among western nations

From AIDSmeds.com

Compared with other high-income Western nations, the United States fares remarkably poorly in getting people with HIV diagnosed, into stable care, on treatment and to an undetectable viral load, aidsmap reports. Researchers conducted an analysis of the “treatment cascade” figures for Australia, British Columbia (statistics for all of Canada were not available), Denmark, France, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the United States. Results were presented at the HIV Drug Therapy Glasgow conference in Scotland.

The estimated rates of HIV diagnosis among the countries ranged from a low of 71 percent in British Columbia to a high of 86 percent in Australia, with the United States at 82 percent. The United States had the lowest rate of linkage to care, at 66 percent, and Denmark had the highest at 81 percent. The United States had by far the lowest rate of HIV-positive people retained in care at 37 percent, with British Columbia the next lowest at 57 percent. Australia’s 76 percent care-retention rate was the highest. 

Because of the United States’ low retention figures, the remainder of the nation’s figures were also markedly lower than the other countries’. The U.S. rate of people with HIV taking antiretrovirals was 33 percent. The high for that figure was the United Kingdom’s 67 percent. The rates of viral suppression were as follows: the United States, 25 percent; British Columbia, 35 percent; France, 52 percent, the Netherlands, 53 percent, the United Kingdom, 58 percent; Denmark, 59 percent; and Australia, 62 percent.

To read the aidsmap story, click here.

To read the conference abstract, click here.

Health Alert – Syphilis infections among gay and bi men growing at an alarming rate

The Allegheny County Health Department has documented an alarming, ongoing increase in Syphilis infections among men who have sex with men in the greater Pittsburgh area. Syphilis is a sexually transmitted disease that, if untreated, can cause serious health problems. You can get Syphilis and not have any initial symptoms so the only way to know you’re infected is to get a simple blood test. Syphilis is 100% curable.

The Health Department suggests all sexually active gay and bi men get tested for Syphilis. To find free testing near you, go to https://gettested.cdc.gov/.

You can also call the Allegheny Health Department to find out more about getting a free test: (412) 578-8332.

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To find out more about Syphilis go to the CDC Website at http://www.cdc.gov/std/syphilis/

To read the official Allegheny Health Department press release, Syphilis health alert November 17 2014.

The Body’s “10 Moments in HIV Empowerment in 2014″

From TheBody.com

logo_notopicsIt’s more than 30 years into the HIV/AIDS epidemic, and around 35 million people are living with HIV/AIDS,according to the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS). About 50,000 new infections per year happen in the U.S. — and black and Latino Americans are disproportionately affected. Men who have sex with men — especially those of color — have among the highest infection rates across the globe.

The elusive search for a “cure” and a preventive vaccine may succeed one day — but unfortunately it may not be soon enough to help the millions of people living with HIV/AIDS today. But despite significant obstacles, there are some reasons for celebration this World AIDS Day. Here is our look at “10 Moments in HIV Empowerment in 2014.”

Read the 10 moments in HIV Empowerment on TheBody.com

PrEP use rising in United States among men

From aidsmap.com

The number of people using Truvada for pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) in the US is increasing and a growing proportion of users are men, according to an analysis of data from approximately half of American pharmacies presented this week at the HIV Drug Therapy Glasgow conference.

PrEP refers to the use of antiretroviral medications to prevent HIV infection. Gilead Sciences’ Truvada(tenofovir + emtricitabine) taken once daily was shown to be effective in the iPrEx study of mostly gay and bisexual men, reducing the risk of HIV infection by 42% overall, rising to 92% among participants with blood drug levels indicating regular use. A mathematical model suggested that taking Truvadafour times per week would provide 99% protection, and in an open-label extension of iPrEx none of the men who took Truvada at least this often became infected.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved once-daily Truvada for PrEP in July 2012. In May of this year, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended that people at ‘substantial risk’ should consider PrEP to prevent HIV infection, and the World Health Organization (WHO) has also recommended PrEP as an option for at-risk gay men.

Yet uptake of Truvada PrEP has not been as widespread as many had hoped, facing barriers such as lack of awareness among people at risk for HIV, resistance from some medical providers and inconsistent insurance coverage.

Continue reading on aidsmap.com.

Gay-rights organization endorses the use of a once-a-day pill to prevent HIV infection

From ABC News online

Some doctors have been reluctant to prescribe the drug, Truvada, on the premise that it might encourage high-risk, unprotected sexual behavior. However, its preventive use has been endorsed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization, and many HIV/AIDS advocacy groups

The Human Rights Campaign, which recently has been focusing its gay-rights advocacy on same-sex marriage and anti-discrimination issues, joined those ranks with the release of a policy paper strongly supporting the preventive use of Truvada. It depicted the drug as “a critically important tool” in combatting HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. “HRC does not take this position lightly,” the policy paper said. “We recognize there is still ongoing debate … and that there are those out there who will disagree with our stance.”

Truvada has been around for a decade, serving as one of the key drugs used in combination with others as the basic treatment for people with HIV. In 2012, the Food and Drug Administration approved it for pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP — in other words, for use to prevent people from getting sexually transmitted HIV in the first place. “Today, there is an unprecedented chance to end the HIV/AIDS epidemic, in part through PrEP’s aggressive prevention of new HIV infections,” said Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign. “There is no reason — medical or otherwise — to discourage individuals from taking control of their sexual health and talking to their doctor about PrEP.”

The CDC says studies have shown that Truvada, when taken diligently, can reduce the risk of getting HIV by 90 percent or more. Research discussed at the International AIDS Conference in July found that use of the drug does not encourage risky sex and is effective even if people skip some doses.

As part of its announcement, the Human Rights Campaign called on insurers, regulators and Truvada’s manufacturer to take steps to reduce costs, raise public awareness, and make the option available to all medically qualified individuals who could benefit from it, regardless of ability to pay.

The cost of Truvada varies widely; a New York State Health Department fact sheet gives a range of $8,000 to $14,000 per year. The manufacturer, California-based Gilead Sciences Inc., has a program that provides assistance to some people who are eligible to use Truvada but cannot afford it.

The Human Rights Campaign urged all states to emulate Washington state, which implemented a program earlier this year offering assistance in paying for PrEP. The preventive option also was endorsed by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo when he announced initiatives in June aimed at ending the state’s AIDS epidemic by 2020.

The HRC called on state insurance regulators to take action against any insurers who deny legitimate claims from patients who’ve been prescribed PrEP by their doctors.

A prominent provider of services to HIV-positive people, the Los Angeles-based AIDS Healthcare Foundation, remains a vocal critic of the preventive use of Truvada. In an ad campaign launched in August, the foundation says many gay men fail to adhere to Truvada’s once-a-day regimen and describes government promotion of the drug as “a public health disaster in the making.”