Study shows promise for those struggling with mental health and HIV treatment adherence


A clinical review published in the peer-reviewed journal LGBT Health in early June by Jaclyn M. White, M.P.H., Janna R. Gordon, and Matthew J. Mimiaga, Sc.D., M.P.H., from Harvard and the Fenway Institute in Massachusetts, indicates that there may be relief at hand for HIV-positive gay men struggling with added mental health and substance abuse issues that can add difficulty to sticking to an HIV medication regimen. White et al concluded that interventions that combine both adherence counseling with standard cognitive behavioral therapy have made some headway with participants in several recent intervention trials.

Mental health issues, as well as substance use, can lend comorbidity to HIV — that is, an additional condition that compounds the effect of a primary disease. These factors can make adherence to medication more difficult than normal, though this connection is not yet well established.

White et al pointed out that concentration problems and feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness behave as barriers to self-care behavior patterns that are required for optimal outcomes on antiretroviral therapy (ART). Optimal outcomes are measured by self-efficacy efforts; those who believe in their ability to manage their own condition are more likely to approach the 80%-plus adherence level required to thrive while living with HIV, according to White et al.

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Men at high risk for HIV may misjudge their vulnerability

By Andrew M. Seaman

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – Many gay, bisexual and queer men who are good candidates for a drug that prevents HIV don’t believe their risk of being infected with the virus is high enough to warrant the drug’s use, suggests a new study. The poor perception of HIV risk suggests people need to be educated about how to lower the chance of being infected, according to the researchers, who do HIV testing and other research in commercial sex venues in New York City.

“Our testers and counselors were always amazed that a lot of these guys underestimated their risk for HIV – anecdotally,” said Dr. Demetre Daskalakis, the study’s senior author and medical director of ambulatory HIV services at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City.

Continue reading on the Chicago Tribune Website.


Users of smartphone apps like Grindr more likely to get STDs

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Gay men who use smartphone apps such as Grindr or Scruff to find sexual partners are more likely to acquire certain sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) than if they meet partners in bars or clubs, a new study suggests. The research was led by Matthew Beymer of the L.A. Gay and Lesbian Center, Los Angeles, and included nearly 7,200 local gay and “bi-curious” men. All of the men were tested for STDs and provided information about how they found their sexual partners.

Smartphone apps such as Grindr, Scruff or Recon are designed to make it easier for gay men to meet potential partners more quickly. According to background material provided in the study, Grindr, one of the first gay male “hook-up” apps, garnered 2.5 million new users in 2012, and by 2013 its makers said that Grindr had 6 million users in 192 countries worldwide. However, the authors of the new study say the use of these technologies may raise the chances of anonymous and risky sexual encounters and the likelihood of getting an STD.

Compared to other men in the study, those who used smartphone apps to find sex were 35 percent more likely to be infected with chlamydia and 23 percent more likely to be infected with gonorrhea, the researchers found. The method of finding sexual partners had no effect on the risk of being infected with syphilis or HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, however.

Find out more on The Daily Beast.

Bisexual men facing unique sexual health challenges


Bisexual men are disproportionately affected by HIV and sexually transmitted diseases, according to a new study. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has published the research in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine. According to study author William Jeffries, bisexual men are facing unique sexual health challenges. Factors that may affect the sexual health include sex without condoms, forced sexual encounters, an increased number of sexual partners and attitudes toward pregnancy.

While the study notes HIV is less common in bisexual men than gay men, bisexuals are less likely to get tested for HIV which can increase the possibility of transmitting the virus to partners. In the US last year, 21% of bisexual men reported STD treatment compared to 12% for gay men and 2.3% of straight men. In the social climate, Jeffries says men who have sex with men and women (MSMW) face ‘several sociocultural obstacles’ including biphobia. Biphobia can manifest in erroneous beliefs that MSMW are gay men who have not disclosed their sexual orientation and, particularly for black men, responsible for HIV transmission to women,’ he said. ‘Experiencing these sentiments can contribute to MSMW’s social isolation and psychological distress, which in turn may promote HIV/STI risk through substance use, sexual risk behaviors, and the avoidance of prevention services.’

Jeffries said even though the percentage of bisexual men is small in his estimate, around 2% of the population, he says more research and outreach is needed to understand their sexual health. ‘Recognition of MSMW’s unique sexual and social experiences can lay the foundation necessary for ensuring that these men have healthy and fulfilling sexual experiences,’ he said. ‘Purposefully designed and tailored efforts for MSMW are indispensable for improving the sexual health of this vulnerable population.’


Condoms being used by MSM and youth

LOS ANGELES–(Business Wire)–A survey by AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) studying the effectiveness of its social marketing efforts found that men-who-have-sex-with-men (MSM) reported using condoms nearly 64% of the time, while the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) sponsored 2013 Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) showed that despite a decrease in usage from ten years ago, 59% of young people still report using condoms. Despite a recent push by the CDC to encourage high-risk individuals to take a daily AIDS treatment tablet as a form of possible HIV prevention in a procedure known as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), condoms remain the most effective barrier protection to prevent transmission of HIV and a number of other sexually transmitted diseases.

The AHF survey, conducted by L.A.-based Sentient Research, surveyed over 600 Los Angeles area gay men and MSM in February and March of this year. Participants were asked questions about AHF’s extensive social marketing and advertising—including their ‘Awareness & Associated Behaviors’ or their recall of, and reactions to artwork for AHF billboards and bus bench ads as well as print and online advertisements. Study participants also were queried on their sexual practices including condom use during the previous six months.


“We are heartened to see that despite rumors and hearsay to the contrary, a majority of gay men report using condoms, which remain by far the most effective method of preventing HIV and STD transmission when used—and when used properly,” said Michael Weinstein, president of AIDS Healthcare Foundation.


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STD screenings increasingly important for all men


June is Men’s Health Month, and Planned Parenthood Federation of America is encouraging men of all ages to take charge of their sexual health by getting regular checkups and, if they are sexually active, regular testing for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), including HIV.

“The truth is that not enough men get the checkups and preventive care they need. It can be easy to take your health for granted, but preventive care is a critical part of staying safe, healthy, and happy for men,” said Dr. Vanessa Cullins, PPFA vice president of external medical affairs.

Men are less likely than women to visit the doctor until they’re experiencing the symptoms of a serious ailment. Twenty-four percent of men don’t have a usual source of health care. Twenty-one percent of men didn’t have a health care visit at all in 2012.

“Protecting themselves against sexually transmitted diseases is one of the most important things men can do to protect their health,” said Cullins. “STDs, if left untreated, can lead to serious health outcomes.”

Rates of STDs among men are on the rise in the U.S. It’s important for men to think about getting tested for STDs as a basic part of staying healthy and taking control of your sex life — and it’s easier than ever before.

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Presure to be macho puts Black gay men at risk for HIV

By Mathew Rodriguez

Being macho puts black men at risk for HIVSocial and cultural pressures to adopt masculine norms — to act, to walk, to talk and to be as masculine as possible — cause young, black gay men extreme psychological distress and isolation, which can cause them to engage in “high-risk” behavior that can result in HIV transmission, according to research led by the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center and newly published in the American Journal of Public Health. Often, these behaviors occur because young, black gay men are seeking approval and acceptance. However, these high-risk behaviors have resulted in young, black gay and bisexual men accounting for 4,800 new HIV infections in 2010 — about 10% of all the infections in the U.S., and more than twice that of either young white or young Hispanic/Latino gay and bisexual men, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The study is the result of interviews conducted with 35 openly gay or bisexual young black men, as well as men who have sex with men, but who do not identify as gay or bisexual. Investigators stressed that their findings “offer one possible explanation for the disproportionately high HIV infection rate among young black men who have sex with men.”

“HIV risk is the sum total of many factors, but social and family stress is a well-known driver of all types of risk-taking behaviors, and our findings clearly support the notion this also holds true when it comes to HIV risk,” says study lead investigator Errol Fields, M.D., Ph.D., an adolescent medicine expert at the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center.

Continue reading on The Body.

The use of PrEP can help reduce anxiety and provide greater ‘peace of mind’

American gay men who have chosen to take pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) are aware of their own risk of being exposed to HIV and see PrEP as providing ‘an extra layer of protection’ on top of their efforts to use condoms, some or all of the time. The use of PrEP can help reduce anxiety and provide greater ‘peace of mind’, men reported in in-depth interviews.

The study also sheds light on the motivations of men who stopped taking PrEP or who chose not to take it at all. Most frequently this was because their sexual relationships or behaviour had changed, but concern about potential side-effects also deterred a number of men.

The findings were presented to the 9th International Conference on HIV Treatment and Prevention Adherence in Miami earlier this week. Hailey Gilmore and colleagues interviewed 87 American men who have sex with men who were enrolled in iPrEx OLE – a programme which offered men who had participated in a clinical trial of PrEP the possibility to take, or continue to take, PrEP after the randomised study had ended. Whereas the effectiveness of PrEP had previously been unknown, by this stage men had learnt that it could help prevent HIV infection.

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Truvada as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) against HIV takes about a week to be effective in preventing infection


Truvada (emtricitabine/tenofovir) as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) against HIV takes an estimated seven days to reach full efficacy and may protect for nearly a week afterward, the National AIDS Treatment Advocacy Project (NATAP) reports. But those taking PrEP should not assume these are hard facts at this time. Presenting their findings at the 15th International Workshop on Clinical Pharmacology of HIV and Hepatitis Therapy in Washington, DC, researchers conducted an analysis of 11 men and 10 women who took daily Truvada as PrEP for 30 days and then, after stopping the drug, remained in an additional 30 days of follow-up.

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