Erie County Health Department: A little-known prevention tool can help reduce infection

From Lisa Szymanski, R.N. public health nurse with the Erie County Department of Health (via goErie.com)…

On the heels of World AIDS Day, I can think of no better time to talk about HIV prevention.

HIV is no longer the death sentence it once was. Today, people infected with the virus are living healthier and longer lives; there are well over 300 people living with HIV in Erie County alone.

But HIV can still have serious health consequences.

A little-known HIV prevention tool is available. We call it PrEP, or pre-exposure prophylaxis.

PrEP helps HIV-negative adults greatly reduce their risk of infection. It consists of a medication, Truvada, taken once a day.

If used as prescribed, the U. S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that daily PrEP reduces the risk of getting HIV from sex by more than 90 percent or higher if combined with other risk-reducing behaviors. Among people who inject drugs, it reduces the risk by more than 70 percent.

The CDC is recommending PrEP for people who are HIV-negative and diagnosed with a sexually transmitted disease in the past six months. It is also recommended for those who have an HIV-positive sexual partner, heterosexual men and women who do not regularly use condoms during sex with partners of unknown HIV status, and gay or bisexual men unless in a mutually monogamous relationship with a partner who recently tested HIV-negative.

PrEP is also recommended for people who have injected drugs and have shared needles or been in drug treatment in the past six months.

You must take an HIV test before beginning PrEP and every three months while you’re taking it. There are several health-care providers in the Erie area who are now prescribing PrEP to their patients.

The cost of PrEP is covered by many health insurance plans, and a commercial medication assistance program provides free PrEP to people with limited income and no insurance to cover PrEP care.

Talk with your doctor or health-care provider to determine if PrEP is right for you. For more information, you may contact the Erie County Department of Health.

No evidence of stigma towards people using PrEP on dating apps

From Avert.org

The study, published ahead-of-print in the Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes, monitored reactions on dating ‘hookup’ apps to see whether negative stereotypes of people on pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) led to unfavourable reactions to people who said they were using PrEP.

The research was carried out in response to damaging labels that described PrEP users as promiscuous and irresponsible, which have surfaced in recent years on social media.

Just over 200 respondents from the USA viewed four fake dating profiles displaying identical pictures and information, with one crucial difference. The profiles described themselves as either HIV-negative, HIV-positive, a PrEP user, or a recreational substance user. Participants were then asked to rate each profile on a number of factors, including attractiveness, desirability and trustworthiness.

The study found participants rated profiles of people on PrEP as positively as HIV-negative profiles. However, HIV-positive profiles and profiles where people indicated they used substances were rated significantly less attractive and desirable than HIV-negative or PrEP profiles.

Crucially, when the sample was split by history of PrEP use, those who had not taken PrEP before rated HIV-positive profiles as significantly less attractive and less desirable, compared to HIV-negative profiles.

Read the full article.

Trans men face heavy HIV burden

From the Washington Blade

HIV-positive transgender men in the United States have significant unmet social and health care needs, according to a study published in Research and Practice, AIDSmap reports. Approximately half were living in poverty and only 60 percent had sustained viral suppression.

“Many transgender men receiving HIV medical care in the United States face socioeconomic challenges and suboptimal health outcomes,” write the authors. “Although these transgender men had access to HIV medical care, many experienced poor health outcomes and unmet needs.”

Transgender people experience poorer health outcomes compared to cisgendered individuals, AIDSmap reports.

Little is known about characteristics and outcomes of HIV-positive transgender men (designated female at birth). A team of investigators therefore analyzed the records of patients who received HIV care in the United States between 2009-2014. Their aim was to characterize the sociodemographic and clinical characteristics of these patients, AIDSmap reports.

Overall, transgender men constituted 0.16 percent of all adults but 11 percent of transgender adults receiving HIV care in the United States. The majority (59 percent) were aged between 18-49 years and 40 percent identified as gay or bisexual. Although 42 percent had completed high school, almost half (47 percent) had an income below the national poverty level. A third were uninsured or relied on a Ryan White program for their health care. Over two-thirds (69 percent) had an unmet support need and a quarter were currently living with depression, AIDSmap report.

Read the full article.