Using conversation to tackle LGBTQ health issues

From the Baltimore Sun

Charles Quamina sat in the spotlight on a dark stage with his long, blown-out locks falling over his shoulders and told the story of how he believes he contracted HIVfrom a cheating boyfriend.

He said he was in love — so much so that he and his beau stopped using condoms. He sighed heavily and raised a red flag as he hit parts of the story where he should have recognized that his boyfriend was not as perfect as Quamina wanted to believe.

The talk at The Motor House in Station North was part of “Baltimore in Conversation,” an initiative by the city’s Health Department to better understand the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people and how the obstacles they face affect their health. The hope is that sharing their experiences will help foster better sexual health practices and awareness. Health officials also want to erase stereotypes and stigma about the LGBTQ community.

“Data is very easy, but storytelling brings us to the point where we are human again and we can share our deep-seated issues with each other,” said Kehinde Bademosi, who coordinated the conversations initiative and handles social innovation and social marketing for the city’s Bureau of HIV Services STD/HIV Prevention Program.

Charles Quamina shares his story with the audience during the Baltimore in Conversation: Community Dialogue to Build Empathy Through Storytelling," at Motor House.

Charles Quamina shares his story with the audience during the Baltimore in Conversation: Community Dialogue to Build Empathy Through Storytelling,” at Motor House.

The city recently embarked on an initiative to have an HIV-free Baltimore, but program administrators say obstacles such as homophobia, transphobia and serophobia — fear of and discrimination against people living with HIV — create barriers that contribute to the spread of HIV. Public health officials have begun these conversations to help them understand what prevents Baltimoreans from seeking medical care, Bademosi said.

“Baltimore in Conversation” is focused on the populations most affected by HIV/AIDS in Baltimore: African-American men who have sex with men and African-American transgender persons, Bademosi said.

Read the full article.

People with HIV are less likely to get needed cancer treatment

From NPR

We’ve made great progress treating people who are infected with HIV, but if they get cancer they’re less likely to get the care they need, a recent study found.

Cancer treatment and HIVResearchers examined treatment for a variety of cancers, including upper gastrointestinal tract, colorectal, prostate, lung, head and neck, cervix, breast, anal and two blood cancers. With the exception of anal cancer, treatment rates differed significantly between HIV-infected people and those who weren’t infected, according to the study published online Tuesday by the journal Cancer.

For example, a third of patients with HIV and lung cancer failed to receive any treatment for the cancer, compared with 14 percent of those who were HIV-negative. Similarly, 44 percent of people who were HIV-positive didn’t receive treatment for upper GI cancer versus 18 percent of those who weren’t infected with HIV. Twenty-four percent of men with prostate cancer who were HIV-positive didn’t get treatment, compared with 7 percent of men uninfected with HIV.

Cancer treatment was defined as radiation, chemotherapy and/or surgery.

“To have made such great strides with treating HIV only to have them succumb to cancer is devastating,” said Dr. Gita Suneja, a radiation oncologist at the University of Utah’s Huntsman Cancer Institute in Salt Lake City and the lead author of the study.

Read the full article.

The psychological benefits of coming out (though for Latino gay men, it may not matter much)

From the Pacific Standard online…

coming out researchThere are well-documented struggles of being a gay man who’s in the closet, depression and anxiety chief among them. Indeed, according to a recent study, life could significantly improve for those who are able to sit their parents down and express their true identity—unless, that is, that person is Latino.

At issue, Adrian Villicana, Kevin Delucio, and Monica Biernat write in the journal Self and Identity, is how gay men form healthy identities. While psychologists’ understanding of that process is a little murky, most researchers think that coming out—specifically, verbally disclosing the fact that one is gay—is an essential part of identity development.

There is evidence that being able to say “I’m gay” out loud is both an indicator that someone’s comfortable with their sexual orientation and a powerful action in itself. Verbal disclosure is associated with more social support; verbally coming out can boost self-esteem and well-being.

Read more.

Pennsylvania still experiencing alarming increase in new syphilis infections

As of May 2016, Pennsylvania is still experiencing an alarming increase in syphilis cases, primarily among men who have sex with men (MSM). Over the last 5 years, Pennsylvania has experienced a 90% increase in syphilis infections. Most were men under the age of 30.

Syphilis is a sexually transmitted infection. If it goes untreated, it can lead to serious health problems including paralysis, blindness, and dementia. In the late stages, the disease can damage internal organs and can result in death.  In its early stages, syphilis is 100% curable with simple antibiotics.

Syphilis can be transmitted through oral sex and although condoms can help prevent infection, they’re not an absolute guarantee against it.  

You can get syphilis and not have any symptoms, so the only way to know you’re infected is to get a simple blood test. As a result of the increase in syphilis cases, the Pennsylvania Department of Health recommends that all sexually active MSM get a routine syphilis test every 6 months. Several locations around the state have free syphilis testing, click on this link to find testing near you:

To find out more about Syphilis, go to

You can also email medical help at the University of Pittsburgh’s Graduate School of Public Health by sending a message to