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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. Page links include information about free HIV and STD testing, referrals to LGBTQ-friendly care providers, and information about PrEP.

Scroll down for the most recent news and information about sexual health. Or click on links from the menu above to find health resources in Pennsylvania.

PrEP regarded as a social problem by some gay and bisexual men

From aidsmap.com

[A]ccording to US research published in Sociology of Health & Illness. A series of focus groups conducted in New York City showed that some men regarded PrEP users as irresponsible, naïve, vectors of disease and a social problem. In contrast, other men articulated PrEP as a beneficial new option for preventing the spread of HIV, and also had a nuanced view about the effectiveness of condom-based prevention campaigns and the epidemiology of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) among gay and bisexual men.

“By framing PrEP use as enabling gay and bisexual men to violate subcultural norms of sexual etiquette espoused in previous HIV prevention efforts, claims makers were able to present PrEP users as social problem villains,” write the authors. “Countering claims makers’ framing PrEP as a social problem, some men constructed PrEP as a helpful prevention tool in the fight against the HIV epidemic within gay an bisexual communities. Much of their discourse was couched within a harm reduction model in which PrEP medication is framed as significantly reducing the harm associated with engaging in risky sexual behavior.”

The use of emtricitabine/tenofovir (Truvada) as PrEP was approved in the US in 2012. Studies have shown that, with good adherence, this treatment can reduce the risk of infection with HIV by over 90%.

Read the full article.

Health Alert: Post-Exposure Prophylaxis for HIV (not to be confused with PrEP)

From redorbit.com

Post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) involves taking of Anti-Retroviral Therapy (ART) drugs after potential exposure to HIV infection. This is an emergency HIV treatment usually received within 72 hours after the possible exposure. This should be confused as a cure for HIV but rather a form of preventing infection. It is, in fact, a short course of ARV drugs to stop the exposure to HIV from progressing into a life-threatening condition.

Some facts about PEP:

  • Taking PEP can result in an array of side effects including fatigue and nausea, but it is advisable not to stop taking the medication, instead consult your healthcare provider.
  • The emergency treatment should be started as soon as possible to guarantee its effectiveness. That means, it should be less 72 hours after exposure to the virus.
  • PEP is prescribed by your doctor to be taken daily at the same time for up to 4 weeks. This is according to the World Health Organization’s guideline on PEP use.

Read the full article.

Get more information about PEP from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Stop blaming PrEP for the increase in STI rates

From LGBTQ Nation

In an interview with the Los Angeles Blade about the new study, lead author Phillip Hammack, a professor at the University of California, Santa Cruz, debunked the notion.

“Our data don’t support the idea that we can attribute the rise in STIs to PrEP use, at least not in a direct manner. I personally don’t think that’s what’s happening,” said Hammack.

Instead, Hammack points at the rise of dating apps like Grindr, and a decrease in fear towards contracting HIV, as more likely causes.

“I would speculate it has more to do with a culture shift about sex,” said Hammack. “More people are having sex today. We’re in sort of a quiet sexual revolution when it comes to new identities, new labels, and sexual behavior.”

On the down side, the study also showed that only 4% of men who have sex with men are using PrEP. What’s more, many gay and bisexual men aged 18-25 aren’t getting annual HIV tests. 25% of men who have sex with men in that age range have never gotten an HIV test.

“I worry especially about younger men who didn’t grow up with the concerns of HIV that men of older generations did,” said Hammack in the William Institute press release on the study. “The low rate of HIV testing probably reflects a degree of complacency and cultural amnesia about AIDS.”

Read the full article.

New study finds 4% of HIV-negative gay/bi men are using PrEP

From OUT Magazine online…

A mere 4% of gay and bisexual men reported using Truvada as PrEP in a new study, recently published in PLOS ONE.

Led by Psychology Professor Phillip Hammack of the University of California Santa Cruz, the study examined HIV testing and use, familiarity, and attitudes toward pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) among HIV-negative gay and bisexual men in the United States.

Truvada is a daily pill that reduces the likelihood of acquiring HIV by almost 100%. Currently, it is the only FDA-approved form of pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, which is recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for those at high risk of HIV/AIDS.

“The extremely low rate of PrEP use, while not surprising given barriers to access in various parts of the country, is disappointing,” said Hammack.

The study used a national probability sample of 470 men ages 18-59. Participants completed the survey between March, 2016 and March, 2017.

Other key results of the study included:

— The majority of gay/bi men between the ages of 18-25 are not tested for HIV annually, as recommended by the CDC.

— 25% of young men in the same age group have never been tested for HIV.

— Approximately 8% of men over 25 had never been tested for HIV.

— Visiting an LGBT health clinic and searching online for LGBT resources were associated with greater likelihood of PrEP use.

— Bisexual and non-urban men were less familiar with PrEP compared to gay-identified and urban men.

— Attitudes were positive among most men (68.4%) who were familiar with PrEP, despite low usage of the drug.

“I worry especially about younger men who didn’t grow up with the concerns of HIV that men of older generations did,” said Hammack. “The low rate of HIV testing probably reflects a degree of complacency and cultural amnesia about AIDS.”

Principal investigator Ilan H. Meyer said of the study, “Our findings suggest that health education efforts are not adequately reaching sizable groups of men at risk for HIV infection. It is alarming that high-risk populations of men who are sexually active with same-sex partners are not being tested or taking advantage of treatment advances to prevent the spread of HIV.”

Health Alert: Rates of STDs climbed for the fourth consecutive year in the US

Rates of syphilis, gonorrhea and chlamydia have climbed for the fourth consecutive year in the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (DCD) announced recently. Last year, nearly 2.3 million US cases of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) were diagnosed, which is the highest number ever reported.

virusChlamydia, which remained the most common, is easily transmitted during any form of sexual activity. If not treated, chlamydia can cause permanent damage to the reproductive system. In men, the infection can spread to the tube that carries sperm from the testicles, causing pain and fever.

If not treated, gonorrhea can cause severe and permanent health issues, including problems with the prostate and testicles in men or problems with pregnancy and infertility in women. Gonorrhea is also typically treated with antibiotics but the threat of antibiotic-resistant gonorrhea persists nationwide. 

Syphilis can affect the heart, nervous system and other organs if left untreated. Syphilis is most often transmitted through sexual contact and is 100 percent curable with antibiotics.

Gonorrhea and chlamydia can infect other sites of the body such as the rectum and the throat and diagnosis requires a swab of each site. A urine test alone is not sufficient to diagnose STDs of the throat and the rectum. Additionally, all of these infections can be transmitted through unprotected oral sex.

It is important to remember that even if you don’t have symptoms, you can still be infected. If you’re sexually active, you should get tested for a full range of STDs, including the ones listed here. Don’t be shy about asking your doctor for a full screening. If you need to find free, confidential testing in your area, you can check the PA Department of Health listing here.

Health Alerts are presented by the Pitt Men’s Study and the HIV Prevention and Care Project at the University of Pittsburgh, with funding from the State Department of Health.

Health Alert: Return of the AIDS epidemic

From voanews.com

Thirty-six million people currently live with AIDS, a disease that claimed the lives of nearly 1 million people last year. Experts predict that by 2030, 100 million people will have been infected with the HIV virus.

Despite the alarming numbers, there have been great strides in treatment. HIV is no longer a death sentence, and researchers say people receiving treatment for HIV are able to live normal lives and do not pose a risk to others when they are being treated proactively.

But success carries a price: complacency. Funding for AIDS research and treatment has declined, and in some places, so has government interest.

“When we talk to ministers of finance, they always say to me, ‘I thought HIV was over because I don’t see anybody dying,’” said Dr. Deborah Birx, a U.S. Global AIDS coordinator who oversees the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).

J. Stephen Morrison of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said, “We’re not reaching goals.” He added, “There’s going to be a struggle to hold ground. … There’s a widening deficit of political will and financial capacity that we face some really daunting challenges in prevention.”

Dr. Chris Beyrer, with Johns Hopkins Medicine, predicted that things will get worse if governments and civilians continue their complacency.

“We are not done with AIDS,” he said. “It is much too early to declare victory, and the risks of a resurgent epidemic are real.”

Read the full article.