Health Alert – Rates of STD infection still at record high

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recently been reporting a record increase in cases of syphilis, chlamydia and gonorrhea—after these diseases had been on the decline for several previous years. HIV infections continue to increase as well, especially among men who have sex with men (MSM).  Even worse, catching both HIV and one or more STDs can lead to particularly rapid and damaging health outcomes.

As a result, health experts across the country (including here at the Pitt Men’s Study) recommend that all sexually active men get a full screening for STD, especially HIV, Gonorrhea, Chlamydia, and Syphilis.

To find testing near you, go to the CDC’s testing locator and enter your zip code to find local free testing. The best way to protect your health is to get tested.

New research suggest that stigma and discrimination may alter gay men’s cortisol balance resulting in stress

From PscyhCentral

New research suggest that stigma and discrimination may alter gay men’s cortisol balance resulting in stress. Moreover, black gay men, a double minority, are likely to experience more stress that white gay men.

gay men and stressInvestigators explain that research over the past two decades has shown that cortisol is a life sustaining adrenal hormone essential to maintaining the natural balance of the body. Cortisol is often referred to as “the stress hormone,” as it influences, regulates, and modulates many of the changes that occur in the body in response to stress.

New studies measure cortisol at various times during the day on a 24-hour basis to examine possible adrenal imbalances. The majority of these diurnal cortisol studies have been conducted among white heterosexuals, with very little research examining HPA-axis functioning between different minorities.

However, individuals who identify as both sexual and racial minorities may experience increased stigma and discrimination that can affect this HPA-axis functioning.

To address this need for more expansive research, investigators led by Stephanie H. Cook, DrPH, conducted a study, “Cortisol profiles differ by race/ethnicity among young sexual minority men”, examining differences in diurnal cortisol rhythm between young, self-identified, white gay men (WGM) and black gay men (BGM).

The research appears in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology.

Read the full article.

New app helps HIV-positive youth remember medication

From the Minnesota Daily

With widespread accessibility of mobile technology, researchers hope a new app may support the wellbeing of HIV-positive youth.

A study funded by the National Institutes for Health drew together faculty from across the country, including some from the University of Minnesota, to develop an app – called “Youth Thrive”. The app for mobile devices reminds HIV-positive youth to take their medications.

phone-app-for-hiv-pos-youthThe five-year study is in its earliest stages, and the team will spend the next year developing the app and getting feedback from youth before they launch it at the end of 2017, said Keith Horvath, community health and epidemiology professor at the University.

While the project officially started in July, Horvath said it took a few months to get moving. He said the NIH funded two other centers to research technology’s impact on slowing HIV’s spread.

The idea for the app stemmed from an earlier program for adult men living with HIV, he said.

The original app is already in the field and lets users talk to each other and access specific information about their situation. It also sends text message reminders to take medications.

“All of the studies use technology since we’re really a technology-based center,” Horvath said. “We’re trying to figure out how can we really leverage technologies for youth either who are living with HIV in the case of my study or youth who are at high risk for HIV.”

Read the full article online.

Pittsburgh AIDS Task Force adds PrEP to its efforts in fighting HIV

From the Pittsburgh AIDS Task Force

As part of our new medical services, PATF is excited to now offer Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP), a powerful new tool in the fight to halt the spread of HIV! PrEP involves taking a daily medication, called Truvada, and is over 90 percent effective at reducing the risk of HIV transmission for HIV-negative individuals.
logoExpanding access to PrEP is a main component of the national HIV strategy, which has a goal of eliminating new HIV infections. Despite best efforts at HIV prevention, including encouraging condom use, the number of new HIV infections per year in Pittsburgh and the surrounding area has remained stable in the last few years. PrEP empowers individuals with a critical new method to help prevent HIV and is an especially important tool for those who are disproportionately affected by the virus including men who have sex with men and transgender women.
While any medical doctor is able to prescribe PrEP, many are unaware of the regimen or are uncomfortable prescribing it. Furthermore, many individuals may not be comfortable discussing HIV risk factors, like sexual practice or drug use, with primary care physicians. We’re proud to now be part of a small group of clinics and practitioners in Pittsburgh who regularly offer PrEP and who provide a stigma-free zone to discuss HIV risk factors openly and honestly.
PATF’s PrEP for Wellness program takes a holistic approach to sexual health care. Individuals who enroll in the program come into PATF every three months for HIV and STI testing and have a clinical check up every six months. Trained Health Advocates lead clients through the process, answer questions, and help devise strategies to adhere to the medication.
Individuals in our PrEP program are also able to use PATF’s pharmacy, which delivers medications directly to clients at their home or location of their choosing. Though side effects from Truvada are rare and are generally very mild, pharmacy staff is available on-call to answer any questions related to the medication, drug interactions or side effects.
Most insurance covers PrEP, and our pharmacy is specially trained to help with drug assistance programs, including those that cover co-pays and deductibles. Assistance is also available for those without insurance.
For more information on our PrEP for Wellness program, visit patf.org/prep or call 412-248-0550.