No evidence of stigma towards people using PrEP on dating apps

From Avert.org

The study, published ahead-of-print in the Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes, monitored reactions on dating ‘hookup’ apps to see whether negative stereotypes of people on pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) led to unfavourable reactions to people who said they were using PrEP.

The research was carried out in response to damaging labels that described PrEP users as promiscuous and irresponsible, which have surfaced in recent years on social media.

Just over 200 respondents from the USA viewed four fake dating profiles displaying identical pictures and information, with one crucial difference. The profiles described themselves as either HIV-negative, HIV-positive, a PrEP user, or a recreational substance user. Participants were then asked to rate each profile on a number of factors, including attractiveness, desirability and trustworthiness.

The study found participants rated profiles of people on PrEP as positively as HIV-negative profiles. However, HIV-positive profiles and profiles where people indicated they used substances were rated significantly less attractive and desirable than HIV-negative or PrEP profiles.

Crucially, when the sample was split by history of PrEP use, those who had not taken PrEP before rated HIV-positive profiles as significantly less attractive and less desirable, compared to HIV-negative profiles.

Read the full article.

Trans men face heavy HIV burden

From the Washington Blade

HIV-positive transgender men in the United States have significant unmet social and health care needs, according to a study published in Research and Practice, AIDSmap reports. Approximately half were living in poverty and only 60 percent had sustained viral suppression.

“Many transgender men receiving HIV medical care in the United States face socioeconomic challenges and suboptimal health outcomes,” write the authors. “Although these transgender men had access to HIV medical care, many experienced poor health outcomes and unmet needs.”

Transgender people experience poorer health outcomes compared to cisgendered individuals, AIDSmap reports.

Little is known about characteristics and outcomes of HIV-positive transgender men (designated female at birth). A team of investigators therefore analyzed the records of patients who received HIV care in the United States between 2009-2014. Their aim was to characterize the sociodemographic and clinical characteristics of these patients, AIDSmap reports.

Overall, transgender men constituted 0.16 percent of all adults but 11 percent of transgender adults receiving HIV care in the United States. The majority (59 percent) were aged between 18-49 years and 40 percent identified as gay or bisexual. Although 42 percent had completed high school, almost half (47 percent) had an income below the national poverty level. A third were uninsured or relied on a Ryan White program for their health care. Over two-thirds (69 percent) had an unmet support need and a quarter were currently living with depression, AIDSmap report.

Read the full article.

Who we are…

m4mHealthySex.org is a joint effort between the HIV Prevention and Care Project and the Pitt Men’s Study at the Graduate School of Public Health, University of Pittsburgh. Our goal is to provide up-to-date sexual health information for men who have sex with men. Click on the menu or the page links above to find testing and care resources, including information about PrEP. You can also scroll down for the latest blog posts as part of our archive of sexual health information.

Coming out to your doctor in rural America

From NPR online

Finding the perfect doctor can be a feat for anyone. And a poll conducted by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health finds that 18 percent of all LGBTQ Americans refrain from seeing a physician for fear of discrimination.

One of those people is 20-year-old Alex Galvan. The moment right before he told his doctor earlier this year that he is gay and sexually active felt like a nightmare. Galvan lives in rural Tulare County in California’s Central Valley. He wanted to start a regimen of medication that helps prevent HIV infection, an approach called “pre-exposure prophylaxis,” or PrEP.

Alex Galvan

“Sitting in the waiting room was kind of like, ‘you got this, you’re just asking for a medication to help you,’ ” Galvan says, remembering what was going through his head before he came out to the doctor. “He’s not going to flip out. And then the moment before was, ‘Oh gosh, here it goes.’ ”

His doctor didn’t know about PrEP, and Galvan thought he was going to be rejected. Instead, his physician educated himself.

“I was kind of scared that he didn’t know what it was, but I was also relieved because I let him do most of the research,” Galvan says. “Yeah, and then I cried a little bit in the car, because I didn’t know what just had happened and it all kind of blurred together.”

Pediatrician Kathryn Hall knows about these concerns all too well. She has been practicing medicine in Tulare County for over a decade, and time and time again, her patients tell her they’re afraid to come out to their other doctors. A few years ago, she got so fed up that she surveyed more than 500 nearby doctors asking them basic questions about being welcoming. “I made the bar very, very low because we just didn’t get much education on LGBT health in medical school,” says Hall. “That is starting to change.”

Around 120 doctors responded to Hall’s survey, and most of them said they would be happy to serve this group. Hall says there are lots of ways that doctors can make it clear they’re accepting — a little rainbow flag on the door or taking out ad in a local magazine.

“Many of the physicians that I know are LGBT-friendly, but patients don’t know that and are very afraid that they’re being judged,” Hall says.

Read the full article on NPR.

 

Gay men’s stories of monogamy and non-monogamy: change, flexibility and tensions

From aidsmap.com

Many men, particularly younger men, implicitly expected monogamy to be the basis for long-term relationships. They felt it created stability, security, intimacy and trust. It was seen representing a more moral way of life than non-monogamy and promiscuity.

“We never discussed being completely exclusive: it was just a given that we would only see each other.” (Single, 21 years).

“Even though I’m gay I still believe in the whole stable family thing. So, I do want a husband and kids.” (Coupled, 22 years).

Nonetheless, men did not necessarily think that monogamy would last. It might be thought of as most important at the beginning of a relationship:

“I think it’s important to have monogamy for at least the first three years of your relationship because it creates emotional connections and a spiritual connection. And because in the first three years of your relationship, that’s all new and you don’t want to rip that out and have that strain put on the relationship.” (Single, 29 years).

Many men expected relationships to transition to non-monogamy over time. While some men explained this by talking about the ready availability of sex on the gay scene, others gave biological explanations:

“When you’ve got two hormonally driven men sometimes they just need an outlet if they don’t want to self-destruct.” (Single, 24 years).

The same man also said that social contact with other gay couples had led him to expect a non-monogamous relationship, even if he struggled with this expectation.

“Most people in relationships I know that have lasted are open so even though I don’t like it, I am aware that if I want a lasting relationship, there’s a good chance that’s the key to success.”

In contrast, other men aspired to non-monogamy. They might idealise older couples whose relationships were secure, successful and open:

“They’re deeply in love and they’ve got a home together. And they’re in a completely open relationship… That’s something I would like as well. It’d be nice to get to that point in time where insecurities have gone and you don’t worry about who’s sleeping with who, so long as you love the person you’re going home to… If [partner] and I do stay together long-term, that’s where I see our relationship going.” (Coupled, 28 years).

Read the full article.

Sexually active men in Pennsylvania need to get tested for Syphilis

Pennsylvania is experiencing an alarming increase in Syphilis cases, primarily among men who have sex with men (MSM). The State Department of Health reports that new Syphilis infections are primarily among minority MSM under the age of 25. Furthermore, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently reported that cases of new STDs are at record highs nationwide, including an 18 percent increase in Syphilis infections.

what-is-syphillisSyphilis is a sexually transmitted infection. If it goes untreated, it can lead to serious health problems including paralysis, blindness, and dementia. However, Syphilis is 100% curable with simple antibiotics.

Syphilis is spread through direct contact with a Syphilis sore during vaginal, anal, or oral sex. You can get Syphilis and not have any symptoms so the only way to know for sure you’re not infected is to get tested.

Several locations around the state have free Syphilis testing. Click on this link to find testing near you.

To find out more about Syphilis, go to www.cdc.gov/std/syphilis/stdfact-syphilis.htm

m4mHealthySex.org: Using social media to reach men who have sex with men in Pennsylvania

In a recent study published in the September issue of AIDS Behavior, researchers were able to shed some light on the use of dating aps and Websites by men who have sex with men (MSM). The study showed that 3 in 4 MSM use Internet-based social media venues for the purpose of meeting other men. More than half reported frequent use.

Considering that gay and bi men make up less than 2 percent of the population but account for roughly 70 percent of new HIV infections (based on surveillance data obtained in 2014), and given the recent announcement by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that the number of reported chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis infections are at an all-time high in the United States (with gay and bi men making up a disproportionate number of new syphilis infections), it makes sense that gay-related dating aps and Websites would be a logical place to reach out to MSM with important prevention and testing information. In fact, the previously mentioned study’s authors concluded the ability to target MSM through social media “ensures that the right prevention message can be received by the intended audience…and could be an effective strategy for sexual health prevention research, interventions, and communication efforts.”

That’s our mission in a nutshell.

As part of the HIV Prevention and Care Project, and with the experienced input of the Pitt Men’s Study medical staff (both housed within the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health), m4mHealthySex.org strives to get important health information to the people who need it, via the social media venues they frequent the most. Our sexual health educators reach out on Grindr, Scruff, Jack’d, Adam4Adam and Craigslist, in areas around the state that are particularly hard hit by HIV and other STDs. In the last six months, we referred more than 800 MSM in Pennsylvania to free HIV/STD testing, sent a variety of Health Alerts (short bulletins alerting MSM to critical health issues) to more than 8,000 recipients, and added to our archive of 450-plus informative posts concerning HIV and other STDs, PrEP, sexual health and the general well-being of men who have sex with men.

Being informed about sexual health can protect you from serious sexually transmitted infections. It can also keep our community healthy and strong. So if you see us online, don’t be afraid to ask questions. You can also browse through our helpful links related to STD/HIV testing, PrEP and general health.

For more information about m4mHealthySex.org, the HIV Prevention and Care Project, and/or sexual health in general, contact us at m4mInformation@pitt.edu. We’re here to help.