Learning he was “undetectable” was a game changer

In 2012, Bruce Richman received news about his health that would set him on an unexpected path.

His doctor explained to him that he was “undetectable,” meaning that by adhering to his HIV antiretroviral therapy, the viral load in his blood was so low that it could no longer be detected.

Bruce Richman, founder of Prevention Access Campaign, is working to change the way the world views people living with HIV

This was a game changer for him. The news meant that Richman, who first found out he had HIV in 2003, would be unable to pass the virus on to any sexual partner.

“I found out nine years after my diagnosis that I can’t transmit the disease. My doctor told me and, here I am, a privileged white guy with a support system. I’m privileged with this information, and I started looking around and saw that nothing confirmed it was true,” Richman told Healthline. “I started doing research. There was no information out there to the general public that was clear and inclusive and accepted that this was true.”

Richman’s realization that this information, which could benefit thousands upon thousands of people living with HIV, rested mainly within medical circles — accessible to those with connections and privilege — awakened something within him.

Continue reading on Healthline.com.

Use of HIV prevention pill rising among men who have sex with men

From Reuters Health

A growing proportion of American men who have sex with men know they can take a daily pill to avoid infection with HIV and more of them are using it, a U.S. study suggests.

So-called HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) is highly protective against the virus that causes AIDS, but many people worldwide don’t get this pill because they aren’t aware of it, don’t think they need it, or because it’s unavailable or unaffordable. Efforts to raise awareness among one high-risk group – men who have sex with men – have been complicated because some of these men don’t identify as gay or bisexual and mistakenly think heterosexual people don’t need PrEP.

In 2014, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) launched an effort to get PrEP to all men who have sex with men who might benefit from the pill, not just gay and bisexual individuals. The current study looked at national health survey data to track changes in awareness and use of PrEP from 2014 to 2017 in 20 American cities.

Overall, there was “a significant increase in the percentage of gay and bisexual men at high risk for HIV who are using PrEP,” said Teresa Finlayson, lead author of the study and a researcher at the CDC in Atlanta.

Read the full article.

We won’t end the HIV epidemic until we help the most vulnerable

How do we reduce rates concentrated among black and Latino men who have sex with men? Or meet the needs of HIV-positive patients caught between insurance plans or places to live? To end the epidemic, we must start where we began — by focusing on those most affected, uniting advocacy efforts, pushing for a cross-sector response and focusing on the social determinants of health.

As someone who has spent the better part of my professional career as both an advocate and HIV public health expert, I’ve been reflecting on the decades-long fight for gay rights sparked by people who gathered together at Stonewall in 1969 to demand change for the LGBTQ+ community and put an end to years of discrimination. Not long after, the AIDS epidemic swept across the country, closely intertwining the movement for increased LGBTQ+ rights with the AIDS response. Gay rights groups were relentless in pushing for increased government attention and funding as thousands died from the disease. Activists organized “buyers clubs,” lobbied for faster FDA approval of promising drugs and countered the fear and discrimination people living with AIDS faced.

Read the full article.

Thoughts of self-harm still and epidemic among gay youth

From the San Diego Gay and Lesbian News

There were 34,000 respondents in what is being called the “largest survey of LGBT youth mental health ever conducted and provides a critical understanding of the experiences impacting their lives.”

According to the Washington Blade, here are some of the findings:

• 39 percent of LGBT youth seriously considered attempting suicide in the past 12 months with more than half of transgender and non-binary youth having seriously considered it.

• 71 percent of LGBT youth reported feeling sad or hopeless for at least two weeks in the past year

• Less than half of LGBT respondents were out to an adult at school with youth less likely to disclose their gender identity than sexual orientation.

If you or someone you know is feeling hopeless or suicidal, contact The Trevor Project’s TrevorLifeline 24/7/365 at 1-866-488-7386. Counseling is also available 24/7/365 via chat everyday atTheTrevorProject.org/help or by texting 678-678.

Most Americans have never been tested for HIV

From CNN

Most Americans have never been tested for HIV, the virus that attacks and weakens a person’s immune system.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is hoping to change that.
According to a new report, the agency found that fewer than 40% of people in the United States have been screened for HIV. It recommends that all people 13 to 64 be tested at least once.
Fifty jurisdictions across the country are responsible for more than half of all HIV diagnoses, yet only 35% of the people recommended for testing in those areas were screened in the previous year, the CDC says. And fewer than 30% of people across the country with the highest risk of acquiring HIV were tested in that period.
“Diagnosis and treatment are the first steps toward affording individuals living with HIV a normal life expectancy,” CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield said in a statement. “As we encourage those at risk for HIV to seek care, we need to meet them in their journey. This means clearing the path of stigma, finding more comfortable ways of delivering health services, as well as learning from individuals already in treatment so the journey becomes easier for others who follow.”

Researchers receive NIH grant to develop rapid, low cost HIV test

From eurekalert.org

Currently, there is no reliable technology that can detect HIV during the early stages of the infection or measure viral rebound in antiretroviral therapy in treated patients in resource constrained point-of-care settings. There is therefore, an urgent need to develop a rapid, disposable, automated, and low-cost HIV viral load assay to increase timely access to HIV care and to improve treatment outcomes.

WASEEM ASGHAR, PH.D., PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR

That’s exactly what a researcher from Florida Atlantic University’s College of Engineering and Computer Science is developing. He has teamed up with a researcher from FAU’s Schmidt College of Medicine to combine their expertise in microchip fabrication, microfluidics, surface functionalization, lensless imaging, and biosensing to create a reliable, rapid and inexpensive device for viral load quantification at point-of-care settings with limited resources.

They have received a $377,971 grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to develop a disposable HIV-1 viral load microchip that can selectively capture HIV from whole blood/plasma. The technology is being developed to be highly sensitive to quantify clinically relevant viral load during acute phase and virus rebound as well as inexpensive (costing less than $1), and quick (results in less than 45 minutes). Moreover, this technology is highly stable, and does not require refrigeration or a regular electric supply to enable HIV viral load at point-of-care settings.

Read the full article.