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 dating apps pledge to do more to combat HIV stigma and promote testing

From the Gay Star News online…

Representatives of seven of the most popular gay dating websites and apps have collaborated with leading US AIDScell phone organizations to discuss strategies to help promote HIV/STI testing and to reduce the stigma associated with HIV infection. The results of a San Francisco summit between representatives of the dating sites and health leaders – including San Francisco AIDS Foundation, and amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research – have been published in a new report.

Across the US, around 20% of gay and bisexual men are estimated to be living with HIV, while some estimates indicate that 3 in 5 men now meet their partners online. The apps and websites that were able to attend the summit – which took place over two days in early September – included BarebackRT, Daddyhunt, Dudesnude, Gay.com, Grindr, PozPersonals, and SCRUFF. Three other apps were unable to attend the summit but have pledged their support.

Continue reading on Gay Star News.

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.”

Less than half of HIV-pos U.S. Hispanics getting proper care

From U.S. News and World Report

Even though Hispanics in the United States become infected with HIV at rates triple those of whites, less than half of Hispanics with the virus are receiving adequate treatment, a new report finds. The report, based on 2010 U.S. government health data, finds that while 80 percent of HIV-infected Hispanics do receive care soon after their diagnosis, only about 54 percent continue that care and only about 44 percent receive the virus-suppressing drugs they need to stay healthy.

The researchers, led by epidemiologist Zanetta Gant of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), also found that only 37 percent of the more than 172,000 HIV-positive Hispanic adults in the United States have the virus under control. HIV is the virus that causes AIDS. The findings “underscore the need for enhanced linkage to care, retention in care, and viral suppression for Hispanics or Latinos,” Gant’s team writes in the Oct. 10 issue of the CDC journal Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
Continue reading on U.S. News and World Report.