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.

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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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Awareness of treatment’s impact on transmission is transforming the lives of couples of mixed HIV status


A greater understanding of the impact of HIV treatment on prevention is changing the experience of being in a relationship with a partner of a different HIV status, according to a qualitative Australian study published last week in the Sociology of Health and Illness. A biomedical intervention appears to be having unexpected effects – loosening the association of serodiscordant relationships with ‘risk’ and helping couples to experience their relationships as normal and safe.

Asha Persson of the University of New South Wales reports that people’s views about treatment as prevention have changed significantly in recent years. She previously researched the topic in 2009, soon after the ‘Swiss Statement’ was issued. At that time, people in a relationship with a partner of a different HIV status often expressed scepticism or uncertainty about the idea that HIV treatment could make a person non-infectious. They did not always see the relevance of the information to their own lives.

But in her more recent interviews, conducted in 2013 and 2014, couples readily discussed the implications of having an undetectable viral load. HIV treatment appears to be transforming the social and sexual lives of people living with HIV and their partners.

The research specifically focuses on so-called ‘serodiscordant couples’, in other words those in which one person has HIV and the other does not. The public health literature on serodiscordant relationships typically focuses on the risk of HIV transmission and tends to see such a relationship as inherently problematic. In contrast, Persson found that her interviewees wanted to stress how normal and positive their relationships were, with HIV being seen as ‘no big deal’.

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Increasing levels of engagement with care is key to controlling HIV epidemic in US


engagement with care key to controlling HIVTest-and-treat’ is unlikely to be an effective strategy to control the HIV epidemic in the United States without improvements in retention in care, investigators argue in the online edition of Clinical Infectious Diseases. A mathematical model suggested that without interventions to address poor levels of engagement in HIV care, there could be as many as 1.39 million new HIV infections in the US over the next 20 years, at a cost of $256 billion. Targeting testing and linkage would only prevent 21% of these new infections. But a package of interventions comprising testing, linkage and retention in care would prevent over half of the projected new infections, reduce AIDS-related mortality by almost two-thirds and be cost effective.

“To alter the course of the HIV epidemic in the United States, strategies of ‘test and treat’ alone may be insufficient; attention to the full continuum of care will be essential,” comment the authors.

United States guidelines recommend expanded HIV testing and antiretroviral therapy at any CD4 count as strategies to reduce rates of AIDS-related deaths and HIV transmissions. However, this approach may not be as effective as hoped. Recent research has shown that there is significant attrition at each stage of the HIV care continuum in the US. Up to a fifth of HIV-infected individuals are undiagnosed; 20% of recently diagnosed patients are not linked to care within 90 days; 54% of patients are not retained in care; only 30% of diagnosed patients have an undetectable viral load.

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Gonorrhea rising among gay and bi men


gonorrhea on the rise according to the CDCDiagnoses of gonorrhea among men who have sex with men are apparently rising in the United States. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) researchers, in order to determine demographic information, interviewed a random sample of individuals diagnosed with the sexually transmitted infection (STI) in 12 areas across the country between 2010 and 2013. The researchers then used census and Gallup opinion polling data to estimate the respective sizes of the U.S. MSM, heterosexual male, and female populations by age group at the state, county and city levels.

In 2010, there were an estimated 1,169.7 diagnoses of gonorrhea per 100,000 MSM. In other words, about 1.17 percent of MSM contracted the STI that year. This rate rose 26 percent in three years, hitting 1,474.4 diagnoses per 100,000 MSM, or 1.47 percent, in 2013. Looking at MSM according to age bracket, those between 25 and 29 years of age  had the highest diagnosis rate: 3,400 per 100,000, or 3.4 percent.

During the study period, gonorrhea diagnosis rate among MSM was between 10.7 and 13.9 times higher than that of women or heterosexual men. While the researchers speculate that the rising gonorrhea rates may be indicative of a national trend, they caution that the data in this study is not nationally representative.

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Research shows structural barriers need to be addressed for PrEP to have an impact


The uptake of PrEP in people who need it risks being limited due to low levels of awareness, gaps in health insurance, opaque bureaucratic procedures, under-usage of medical services, and limited awareness and skills in healthcare providers, according to an analysis published online ahead of print in Clinical Infectious Diseases. Also taking into account sub-optimal adherence among some PrEP users, the researchers conclude that just 15% of gay men in the American city of Atlanta who could benefit are likely to achieve protection from HIV with PrEP.

The PrEP care cascade

Colleen Kelley and colleagues at Emory University outline a ‘care cascade’ or ‘continuum of care’ for PrEP which identifies the key steps in the process of getting hold of PrEP and using it effectively. Analysis of the care cascade can help focus attention on where there are significant barriers to a person moving on to the next step.

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