New primary care practice in Pennsylvania catering to the LGBT community

new practice in PAFrom lehighvalleylive.com

Bethlehem resident Allen Smith was in his 40s before he felt comfortable telling his doctor he was gay. And when he worked for 10 years at Lehigh Valley Health Network’s AIDS Activities Office in Allentown, most of the patients he saw also lacked primary care physicians they were open with. It’s a trend Smith hopes to help end. After working for more than three years, he’s opened a primary care practice in Bethlehem especially to provide medical care for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

Smith’s Novus Adult Care Services is the third primary care practice in Pennsylvania catering to the LGBT community, Equality Pennsylvania President Adrian Shankersaid. A U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention listing shows only 13 such practices nationwide. “With any underserved population, sometimes there are needs that aren’t met by general practice health centers,” said Shanker, a Bethlehem resident. “It’s important for people to see a doctor you feel comfortable being out with.”

In addition to serving as a medical office where patients feel comfortable disclosing their sexuality, LGBT specialty providers also are better versed in health concerns specific to the community, including HIV and AIDS and transgender issues, Smith said.

Read the full article on lehighvalleylive.com

LGBT advocate and doctor on a mission for LGBT advocacy in health care

From the Daily Pennsylvanian

Baligh Yehia  at the White House LGBT Enrollment Summit.

Baligh Yehia
at the White House LGBT Enrollment Summit.

Baligh Yehia, a self-described LGBT advocate and a doctor who treats HIV, is on a mission for LGBT advocacy in health care. An instructor of medicine and attending physician at the Philadelphia Veterans Administration Medical Center and the Penn Presbyterian Medical Center, Yehia was recently invited to the White House Briefing on Obamacare and the LGBT Community conference.

The conference focused on how to provide the nation’s LGBT community with access to the newest addition to Obamacare — a system called the “Health Insurance Marketplace” that will allow individuals to shop around for a private health care insurance plan that best meets their needs. However, Yehia has been working to improve LGBT rights on campus and in the national sphere long before this event — as a self-identified gay male, Yehia “wanted to advocate for the community that [he] was a part of.”

When Yehia first came to Penn in 2009 as a part of the department of infectious diseases, he immediately started looking for ways to work for LGBT rights on a national scale. He began by serving on the LGBT advisory committee for the American Medical Association, offering advice to board members on various issues related to LGBT affairs in the sphere of public health. This past June, he was elected chair of this committee.

Soon after serving time with the AMA, Yehia decided to bring his advocacy work to the surrounding community. This year, with the help of the Provost’s Excellence Through Diversity Fund, he created the Penn Medicine Program for LGBT Health, which works to bring leaders in the local LGBT community together to generate a discussion about prominent health issues and ways in which they can be solved. “I realized that there was a need locally and that Penn could be a big part of championing these issues,” Yehia said. “This is a group that has not had much representation for a long time.”

Now, after returning from the White House conference on LGBT health, Yehia is focused on getting the word out to the LGBT community at Penn about how the new health care system could affect individuals’ coverage.

Read the full article on The Daily Pennsylvanian online.

Activists campaign for better access to HIV “morning after pill”

From the Guardian.com

Two years ago, James Krellenstein had unprotected sex. Luckily, the 22-year-old knew exactly what to do. The next day, he took a train from his parents’ house on Long Island to see a doctor at Bellevue Hospital inNew York City. The doctor prescribed James PEP – a strong combination of drugs usually prescribed for people who already have HIV. Months later, Krellenstein found out his partner from that night was indeed HIV-positive. But James remained negative. PEP’s little-known effectiveness in preventing the virus taking hold in someone’s body has led it to be dubbed the “morning-after pill for HIV”.

Yet Krellenstein’s experience remains rare. While the idea of treating people who may have been exposed to HIV with PEP has gained ground among doctors and activists over the last few years, most local governments in the United States have yet to implement a comprehensive PEP distribution or education program. That’s left many who are most at risk from contracting HIV unaware the option even exists. Now, as HIV diagnoses continue to rise among gay men, activists and experts are urging governments to invest money in PEP awareness campaigns and treatment programs. Otherwise, they say, many communities might be heading for a new HIV and AIDS crisis in coming years.

“We’re going to have to deal with [HIV] one way or another,” said Krellenstein, a member of the HIV awareness and activism group Act Up. “And I’d rather do it on the prevention side rather than waiting for everyone to be positive.” Krellenstein’s concern about “everyone” contracting HIV may sound like hyperbole. But if current infection rate trends continue, 54% of all men who have sex with men (MSM) will have HIV by the time they are 50, according to a 2009 University of Pittsburgh study. Among African American men who have sex with men, half will have HIV by the time they are 35. And while contracting HIV is no longer a death sentence, many worry that the increasing incidence of infection will burden the already-strained US healthcare system. The lifetime cost of treating someone with HIV can reach over $1m.

Those staggering numbers are what’s led groups like Act Up to campaign for increased funding for PEP, and increased awareness within the gay community. Act Up’s involvement is notable. The group made a name for itself pushing for politicians to take the HIV crisis seriously in the 1980s. But as treatment for HIV improved, gay marriage and other social issues replaced health at the forefront of the LGBT rights movement, and Act Up faded from view. Now, the group has found renewed purpose in calling notice to the increasing prevalence of HIV and the lack of funding for unorthodox solutions like PEP. While no one in Act Up thinks PEP is a cure-all in the ongoing fight to stop the spread of HIV, many believe it’s a missing piece in comprehensive “prevention pipeline” that includes condoms, regular testing, and education.

“A lot of young gay guys, even well-informed ones, don’t know a lot about HIV,” said Jim Eigo, an activist with Act Up who also petitioned governments to take action on HIV in the 1980s. “We’ve got to open up the eyes of the gay community … and say if you’re HIV-negative, there’s an individual value and a community value in staying that way.”

Continue reading the full article here.

Today is National HIV/AIDS and Aging Awareness Day

Today is National HIV/AIDS and Aging Awareness Day (NHAAAD). This year’s theme for NHAAAD is Aging is a part of life: HIV doesn’t have to be.

Whether you are 50+ and living with HIV yourself, or you are taking care of someone older who does, NHAAAD provides an opportunity to bring attention to the complex issues of HIV and aging, and to take action.

Here are three ways you can recognize NHAAAD:

Know Your HIV Status

Share the Facts

Join the Conversation

Want to be a part of today’s dialog on HIV and aging? All you have to do is follow or tweet with the hashtag #NHAAAD Exit Disclaimer on Twitter, post a message on Facebook, or comment on this blog post or other AIDS.gov posts. We want to hear about your plans to observe NHAAAD!

Find out more at AIDS.gov.

September 21 is A Day With HIV

From Positively WilliamAware Magazine

Three years ago, we here at Positively Aware  magazine launched A Day with HIV , our anti-stigma photo campaign. With more than 50,000 new HIV infections each year in the U.S. alone, we understood that the stigma often associated with HIV was preventing people from getting tested, starting treatment, or discussing their status with loved ones and potential partners.

Now in its fourth year, the idea behind A Day with HIV remains the same. On September 21 people everywhere, both HIV positive and negative, take a picture to show what it means to live in a world with HIV—because positive or negative, HIV affects us all. Take a photo that says something about you or expresses a feeling you want to share, and then write a caption to go with it.  Last year nearly 200 participants from 12 countries submitted photos on our website or via email. This year people everywhere will again share their stories, regardless of their status, and coming together on one day, Saturday, September 21— A Day with HIV. We invite you to join us, and help take a stand against stigma.

From the beginning, we found that it’s the captions that make these images so incredibly powerful and moving. William is only one of several past participants who have decided to use A Day with HIV to “come out” for the first time about their HIV status. Seen smiling and flashing a victory sign, William says, “This picture was my way out of the closet. I decided that after hiding my HIV status for 20 years it was time to show my friends and family the true me…I am free!”

Find out more on Positively Aware Magazine online.

Men can use a female condom for anal sex

From the Pacific Standard online…

fc2-condom-290x290“We see sexy commercials for Trojan. We see sexy commercials for Durex,” says Jennifer Medina Matsuki, condom availability director for the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, addressing a breakout session on FC2, the new female condom, at the National Harm Reduction Conference in October. “There was no sexy marketing. People would see it at various events and say, ‘What is that?’”

FC2 was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2009, and bears considerable advantages over both its predecessor and male condoms—namely, they put more power in the hands of the receptive sex partner and feel better than the first female condom, also lacking its trademark rattling sound—but is still a minor player in the world of safer sex.

Matsuki’s department started stocking the first female condom in 1998, seven years after its introduction, and now buys 1.5 million female condoms per year, compared to 35.5 million male condoms. Worldwide, FC2s account for just 1.6 percent of total condom distribution. So far, there’s just one manufacturer, as opposed to the dozens of male condom manufacturers, though other companies—such as Origami, which is working on insertable condoms for both anal and vaginal sex—have devices in development. Where FC1 was advertised aggressively in women’s magazines—only to be mocked in the same publications as a noisy, awkward novelty—FC2 has been sold via social media and gatekeepers at public health organizations. But it’s yet to shrug off FC1′s bad rap.

Read the full article here.  You can find out how to use a female condom in this YouTube video.

Facebook chats help minority men get tested for HIV

From opb.org online…

It didn’t take long for people to figure out that Facebook could be a great place to connect with other people dealing with the same health problems. But public health officials have moved cautiously, lest their efforts backfire. Do you really want to “like” STDs?

But there is now evidence the social media approach can help, even when the health condition is sensitive. Facebook can play a role in persuading people at high risk of HIV/AIDS to use a home HIV test kit, a study finds.

To reach young gay Latino and African-American men, researchers at the David Geffen School of Medicine and School of Public health at the UCLA trained men in the same demographic as peer leaders, giving them information on how HIV spreads. That’s a time-honored public health technique. They also created a comparison group, with peer leaders trained to share general health information.

The peer leaders then tried to communicate on Facebook with men who had volunteered to participate in a study. Because there are no best practices for using social media to communicate health information, the peer leaders had to make it up as they went along. First, they tried a friendly message and then some social chat, with messages tailored to the participants’ interests. Then they invited participants to join either a closed Facebook group with information on HIV prevention, or if they were in the control group, on general health.

For their part, the participants, who were recruited through Facebook and community organizations, were told to use Facebook as they normally would. Most interacted with the peer leaders, a fact that the study authors say reflects the fact that African-Americans and Latinos are more likely to use social networking sites than the general population.

Read the full article here.