Health Alert: Beaver County has “notable increases” in new HIV and gonorrhea diagnoses


The PA Department of Health is reporting an increase in HIV and gonorrhea diagnoses in Beaver County.

However, a lack of willingness to test — combined with the potential spread of the diseases through illegal drug use — raises more questions than answers.

From 2017 through this year so far, the number of new HIV cases has increased “nearly threefold” in county residents compared to the average number of new diagnoses in previous years, according to a Pennsylvania Department of Health advisory issued earlier this month to local medical offices. The increases in HIV infection were predominantly identified in males with the risk factor of men who have sex with men. According to the state health department, four cases of HIV diagnoses were made in 2013, five in 2014 and three in 2015. Zero cases were reported in 2016, but the count may be incomplete because of reporting delays. The state has not yet shared the exact number of new diagnoses for 2017.

Individuals identified with new HIV infections also had a high rate of co-infection with other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), such as syphilis and gonorrhea.

In nearby Allegheny County, 119 new HIV diagnoses were made in 2013, followed by 128 in 2014, 142 in 2015 and 127 in 2016. In Lawrence County, there were three new cases in 2013, five in 2014, five in 2015 and zero in 2016. The latter also may be incomplete because of reporting delays.

Read the full article.

Who we are… 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.

CDC identifies clusters of rapidly transmitting HIV nationwide


From Poz Magazine

Using routine genetic analyses of viral strains seen among those newly diagnosed with HIV, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has identified scores of rapidly expanding transmission clusters nationwide. These clusters, in which HIV is apparently spreading quickly among sexual networks, disproportionately affect young men who have sex with men (MSM), in particular Latinos.

According to a CDC analysis released in 2017, the HIV infection rate among Latino MSM has increased in recent years while it has decreased among Black and white MSM.

CDC researcher Anne Marie France, PhD, presented findings from the new study on transmission clusters at the 2018 Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI) in Boston.

Read the full article.

New York will investigate reports of gay men denied insurance

From the New York Times

State financial regulators in New York said Wednesday that they would investigate reports that gay men have been denied insurance policies covering life, disability or long-term care because they were taking medication to protect themselves against H.I.V.

Such denials would amount to illegal discrimination based on sexual orientation, and the companies doing so could be penalized, said Maria T. Vullo, the state’s superintendent of financial services.

The investigation was triggered by an article published Tuesday by The New York Times, she said.

The Times reported that various insurers around the country had denied policies to gay men after learning they took Truvada, a cocktail of two anti-AIDS drugs, to avoid catching H.I.V. through sex. To get insurance, some men even stopped taking the protective drugs.

The practice — known as “pre-exposure prophylaxis,” or PrEP — is recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Studies have shown that people who take the drug every day have nearly a zero chance of becoming infected, even if they are in a long relationship with an H.I.V.-infected person or have sex with many strangers without condoms.

Read the full article.

Allentown’s LGBT youth find sense of self through Project Silk

From Allentown’s Morning Call

Teenage life is brimming with insecurity, awkwardness and anxiety no matter who you are or who you love. But studies show that this already prickly period is several times more difficult for young people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. The struggles can go beyond typical teenage angst, and can lead to depression, suicide, home insecurity and drug and alcohol abuse.

Shyan Ortiz, 21, speaks about the impact of the Bradbury Sullivan LGBT Center’s youth program.

The risks for LGBT youth are real. Though they only make up 4 to 10 percent of the population, researchers estimate as many as 40 percent of homeless youth identify as LGBT. According to the American Psychological Association, young LGBT people have greater barriers to health services and therefore experience higher risks for alcohol and drug abuse, HIV and suicide.

“This is a population that is underserved, marginalized and stigmatized,” said Randell Sell, an associate professor at Drexel University’s Dorn School of Public Health. “Anything that provides access to care and a space like this for these young people is a huge leap forward.”

Project Silk is modeled after a similar program that started at the University of Pittsburgh. The aim was to target vulnerable groups at risk for HIV and find an effective way of providing testing and paths to treatment and other services. The Allentown program was made possible through a $210,000 grant from the University of Pittsburgh’s HIV Prevention and Care Project to replicate the program elsewhere in Pennsylvania.

The program turns what could be a clinical, impersonal service into something familiar and safe. Ketterer said it gives young people a place to belong before introducing services and resources that provide emotional and physical support.

The center has had visits by 115 individuals, Ketterer said. Of those, 70 visited three or more times, said Andrew Palomo, director of research and evaluations at Valley Youth House. The program has administered 50 HIV tests. Youth using the program also have the chance to earn smartphones and other technology by volunteering for work around the center or taking leadership positions.

Read the full article on The Morning Call.

February 7th is National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

From the National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day Website

February 7, 2018 marks the 18th year for National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (NBHAAD), a national HIV testing and treatment community mobilization initiative targeted at Blacks in the United States and the Diaspora.  NBHAAD was founded in 1999 as a national response to the growing HIV and AIDS epidemic in African American communities. The NBHAAD initiative leverages a national platform to educate, bring awareness, and mobilize the African American community. NBHAAD has four key focus areas which encourage people to:

  • Get Educated about HIV and AIDS;
  • Get Involved in community prevention efforts;
  • Get Tested to know their status; and
  • Get Treated to receive the continuum of care needed to live with HIV/AIDS.

For more information go to National HIV/AIDS Awareness Day online.  You can also find local testing resources by entering your zip code here.