Do doctors need to know their patients’ sexual orientation and gender identity?

From the New York Times

A growing number of federal agencies has been pushing health care providers to ask. Federally funded community health centers, which treat millions of patients, have begun to collect the data. Electronic health software must be able to store it. And blueprints for national health goals recommend collecting the information from all patients.

By knowing whether a patient is lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or straight, say public health experts, clinicians can be more alert to a person’s medical needs and more thoughtful in interactions. If hospitals report statistics on all patients, health care disparities among L.G.B.T. patients can be identified and redressed more effectively.

Read the full article.

Is technology increasing the rate of STDs among certain populations?

by Laurie Saloman, MS

It’s known that men who have sex with men tend to have disproportionately high rates of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) compared with the general population, particularly African American and Latino men. A new study has discovered a link between the methods that these men use to find sexual partners and STD infection rates.   The study, conducted by scientists at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), was comprised of 853 African American and Latino men who lived in Chicago, Illinois, Kansas City, Missouri, and Fort Lauderdale, Florida, who indicated that they had engaged in sex with at least 1 man during the previous year. The men were recruited either online or through some form of community outreach. Questions included their HIV status, whether they identified as gay or bisexual, how many male partners they’d had in the previous 3 months, and whether they used the Internet (via computer) and mobile-phone applications (apps) to look for sex partners.

Read the full article.

Laurie Saloman, MS, is a health writer with more than 20 years of experience working for both consumer and physician-focused publications. She is a graduate of Brandeis University and the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.

Mental health care is key to ending AIDS

From Advocate.com

Research shows a strong correlation between mental health disorders and living with HIV or AIDS, a correlation that is often overlooked. According to the National Institutes of Health, people with HIV have an increased risk for developing mood, anxiety, and cognitive disorders and are twice as likely to live with depression as those who do not have HIV. A 2010 U.K. study showed that one-third of HIV-positive men who participated in the survey met the criteria for a post-traumatic stress disorder diagnosis.

For those living with HIV or AIDS, depression is more than just mental hell — it can be a silent killer. Studies show that if people living with HIV feel stigmatized or suffer from mental illness, they are less likely to take their medication properly, which not only puts their own health at risk by not suppressing the individuals’ viral load, but also raises the likelihood that they will pass HIV on to others. Individuals living with HIV and depression are also more likely to think about suicide or even attempt to take their own lives.

Despite what we know about the connection between mental health and HIV/AIDS, too few people living with HIV or AIDS, and those invested in their health and happiness, are getting the mental health support they need. That is why we are proud to announce the opening of the state-of-the-art GMHC Carl Jacobs Mental Health Clinic, which will allow us to incorporate innovative treatment and counseling into our service model. Services will be available to adult New Yorkers of all sexual orientations, gender identities, and income levels, regardless of HIV status.

Past traumas, stress, depression, reduced self-esteem, and other challenges can be grueling to deal with. We aim to offer holistic services that address not only our clients’ mental health issues, but their social, spiritual and health concerns as well. Meanwhile, the ability to reach more HIV-negative people with HIV-preventive interventions and mental health services will help us decrease new HIV infections.

Read the full article.

The new gay sexual revolution

From Advocate.com

Now there’s hope the younger generation may also experience worry-free sex lives — without the side effects of living with HIV. The use of the antiretroviral drug Truvada as pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP (it’s the only medication approved for HIV prevention), has been shown to reduce the chance of HIV transmission to near zero. Since the medication was first approved as PrEP in 2012, only two verified cases of transmission have been documented among those who adhere to the daily schedule (a third, according to HIV expert Howard Grossman, could not be confirmed). New, longer-lasting PrEP injectables should reach market in the next few years. Studies suggest that on-demand PrEP (such as taking it before and after sexual activity) may also be effective.

“This is a revolution!” Gary Cohan, MD, who prescribes PrEP, told us in 2016. “This should be above the fold in The New York Times and on the cover of Time magazine. A pill to prevent HIV?”

Read the full article on Advocate.com.