New HIV testing, treatment and prevention clinic opens in Washington

From the Observer Reporter in Washington County…

An HIV/AIDS medical clinic is operating in Washington, focusing not only on assisting people who are HIV positive, but testing for the virus and preventing those at high risk from contracting it.

Central Outreach Wellness Center South opened three months ago at 95 Leonard Ave., Washington. It is in Suite 203 in an office building adjacent to Washington Hospital, but it is not affiliated with the facility. For now, the center is open Wednesdays and Thursdays, or by appointment. Walk-ins are accepted.

Initial screenings for and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases is conducted at the clinic, and is covered by the state Department of Health. Central Outreach is filling a need in the Washington area, which did not have an STD clinic since one closed more than a year ago.

Nurse practitioner Carol Priest of Arden is running the office. She is assisted by Braden Bash, who has been trained as a physician assistant and is waiting to take his boards.

Nurse practitioner Carol Priest and physician assistant trainee Braden Bash oversee operations at Central Outreach Wellness Center South

“We hope to be open Monday through Friday by summer,” Priest said.

Stacy Lane, a physician and Washington & Jefferson College graduate, opened the clinic by appointment only in December. It is a “satellite” of the Central Outreach Wellness Center she launched two years ago – and still operates – on Pittsburgh’s North Shore, near the Andy Warhol Museum. She said there was an urgent need for the Washington facility.

“We noticed there were more than 50 people driving from West Virginia to the North Shore, and that wasn’t counting Washington and Canonsburg folks,” Lane said.

“There were no STD options in that area. There was a huge deficit.”

That deficit was underscored by the drug crisis that engulfed the region in recent times. “HIV can be transmitted by drug use,” Priest said.

A major weapon being used to combat HIV, Priest said, is a pill called PrEP, which stands for pre-exposure prophylaxis and has the brand name Truvada. It was used as a treatment for HIV, but is now used as a preventative for people who have been diagnosed as HIV negative and others who are at high risk of getting the virus. “These are people who use (intravenous) drugs and share needles, gay men not using condoms,” Lane said.

PrEP, according to results, has been a huge success.

“Of 200,000 people who were HIV negative and are on that pill, there have been only three cases of HIV,” Lane said.

Lane specializes in infectious diseases and was motivated to do so years ago. An uncle died from AIDS while she was in high school and pondering a medical career.

Read the full article.

AIDS United: Republicans’ American Health Care Act will “worsen treatment and care for people living with HIV”

Press release from AIDS United

AIDS United opposes the American Health Care Act as released by House Republicans on March 6th. The American Health Care Act would, if passed, strongly affect and potentially worsen treatment and care for people living with HIV and the provision of HIV prevention services for people at risk for infection. AIDS United works toward an end to the HIV epidemic by reaching outcomes described in the National HIV/AIDS Strategy and the many state-specific efforts to curb and finally end the epidemic. These outcomes include reducing HIV incidence, increasing access to care and improving health outcomes for people living with HIV, and reducing HIV-related health disparities.

The American Health Care Act undermines these goals. The replacement of premium subsidies with refundable tax credits will hurt the ability of low income people, including people living with HIV, to afford up-front payment of health plan premiums. Under this system thousands of people will lose coverage. These people will then be subject to a 30 percent penalty in their future cost of coverage because of continuous coverage requirements. These same requirements will hurt people who lose their jobs and will also make it more difficult for people to change jobs or move across the country. The bill also places a higher cost burden on older Americans by allowing higher premium as people age. This will result in much higher costs and lower access to care for lower income people. Finally, the bill effectively repeals Medicaid expansion in under three years at the end of 2019. Such a repeal will result in a loss of health coverage for millions of Americans, including people living with HIV and other chronic conditions.

Read the full press release.

Let’s stop shaming black men

From the Advocate.com

Last February, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a report predicting that, if things don’t change, one out of every two gay or bi black men will become HIV-positive in their lifetime. This statistic has been repeated endlessly, usually in connection with reasons why HIV rates are higher among African-American men who have sex with men. To be fair, there are a wide range of factors that play a part in raising HIV risks, including poverty, drug use, childhood sexual assault, and depression.

stop-shaming-black-men“We cannot separate the high infection rates among black gay men from several ills that continue to plague our society,” Greg Millet wrote for The Advocate in 2015. “Discrimination, poverty, stigma, and lack of access to health care all affect health care utilization for black gay men. As a result, a substantial proportion of black gay men remain undiagnosed, and others who are diagnosed and without the financial means to access medications will remain virally unsuppressed.”

Many of these factors also impact heterosexual black men, so what’s at the root of the disproportionate HIV rates for their queer brothers? One prevalent argument is that — because of excessive homophobia in the black community — black gay and bisexual men have low self-esteem. That lower self-esteem leads them to be more promiscuous, engage in riskier sexual behaviors, and even use drugs; which explains why HIV rates among black men who have sex with men is so high. Makes sense? Problem is, it’s also wrong.

Read the full article on Advocate.com.

NASTAD: People living with HIV on antiretroviral therapy (ART) do not transmit the virus

From LGBTweekley.com

nastad-300x195WASHINGTON, D.C. – NASTAD (National Alliance of State & Territorial AIDS Directors), a leading non-partisan non-profit association that represents public health officials who administer HIV and hepatitis programs in the U.S. and around the world, published a new statement affirming that durably virally suppressed people living with HIV on antiretroviral therapy (ART) do not sexually transmit the virus. The statement accelerates NASTAD’s longstanding work to end HIV and promote policies and public health practice grounded in science.

”The science is clear that people living with HIV with a sustained undetectable viral load do not transmit the virus to others. What’s also clear is that we have the tools to end the HIV epidemic and HIV-related stigma and make new infections a thing of the past. Today, we tackle a major part of this work by raising awareness about the latest science of HIV transmission risk,” remarked NASTAD Executive Director Murray Penner.

Read the full article.