Living with HIV

From U.S. News and World Report

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 1.1 million people in the United States are living with HIV. In 2017, 38,739 people received an HIV diagnosis, and when they first heard the word “positive,” many were thrust into feelings of anger, sadness, denial and fear.

“There are some people who suspect they are HIV-positive but go a very long time without testing, and then there are other people who test for whatever reason and turn out positive,” says Mallory Johnson, a clinical psychologist and professor at the University of California–San Francisco School of Medicine and co-director of the NIH-funded Center for AIDS Prevention Studies. “Those tend to be the extremes of the experience.” Disbelief and shock, Johnson says, are the most common responses.

Of those living with the virus in the U.S., about 14%, or 1 in 7, are unaware of their infection. HIV weakens the immune system by destroying cells meant to combat infection and disease; AIDS is the final stage of the infection, when the immune system has been severely damaged. Not all HIV-positive individuals will develop AIDS – antiretroviral therapies and other medications now allow people with the virus to live long, healthy lives.

Still, receiving a chronic diagnosis like HIV is likely to produce emotional distress. Here’s a look at the toll such a diagnosis takes, as well as how patients can tend to their psychological health.

Scarcity of scientific studies on interventions to reduce health inequities in LGBTQ youth

From HealthNewsDigest.com

There is a dearth of scientifically investigated, evidence-based interventions to address substance use, mental health conditions and violence victimization in sexual and gender minority youth, according to a research review led by the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health and published today in the journal Pediatrics.

After poring over thousands of research publications spanning nearly two decades, the scientists identified only nine studies that evaluated such interventions, and most of these used suboptimal study designs, thereby limiting the validity of the findings. None of the programs would be sufficient to mitigate the substantial inequities faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) youth, the scientists concluded.

“While this knowledge gap is distressing, I think we can look at it as an opportunity,” said lead author Robert W.S. Coulter, Ph.D., M.P.H., assistant professor in Pitt Public Health’s Department of Behavioral and Community Health Sciences. “Promising programs are being created by community-based organizations that are ripe for rigorous evaluation by scientists to determine if they are successfully improving health among LGBTQ youth and, if so, whether they can be replicated in other communities.”

Compared with their heterosexual peers, sexual minority youth have up to 623% higher odds of substance use in their lifetimes; up to 317% higher odds of mental health conditions, such as suicidality and depression; and up to 280% higher odds of violence victimization, such as being bullied at school, or sexually or physically abused. Due to these health inequities, the federal government has designated LGBTQ youth as a priority population for research focused on preventing, reducing and treating these health issues.

Read the full article.

Learning he was “undetectable” was a game changer

In 2012, Bruce Richman received news about his health that would set him on an unexpected path.

His doctor explained to him that he was “undetectable,” meaning that by adhering to his HIV antiretroviral therapy, the viral load in his blood was so low that it could no longer be detected.

Bruce Richman, founder of Prevention Access Campaign, is working to change the way the world views people living with HIV

This was a game changer for him. The news meant that Richman, who first found out he had HIV in 2003, would be unable to pass the virus on to any sexual partner.

“I found out nine years after my diagnosis that I can’t transmit the disease. My doctor told me and, here I am, a privileged white guy with a support system. I’m privileged with this information, and I started looking around and saw that nothing confirmed it was true,” Richman told Healthline. “I started doing research. There was no information out there to the general public that was clear and inclusive and accepted that this was true.”

Richman’s realization that this information, which could benefit thousands upon thousands of people living with HIV, rested mainly within medical circles — accessible to those with connections and privilege — awakened something within him.

Continue reading on Healthline.com.

Use of HIV prevention pill rising among men who have sex with men

From Reuters Health

A growing proportion of American men who have sex with men know they can take a daily pill to avoid infection with HIV and more of them are using it, a U.S. study suggests.

So-called HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) is highly protective against the virus that causes AIDS, but many people worldwide don’t get this pill because they aren’t aware of it, don’t think they need it, or because it’s unavailable or unaffordable. Efforts to raise awareness among one high-risk group – men who have sex with men – have been complicated because some of these men don’t identify as gay or bisexual and mistakenly think heterosexual people don’t need PrEP.

In 2014, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) launched an effort to get PrEP to all men who have sex with men who might benefit from the pill, not just gay and bisexual individuals. The current study looked at national health survey data to track changes in awareness and use of PrEP from 2014 to 2017 in 20 American cities.

Overall, there was “a significant increase in the percentage of gay and bisexual men at high risk for HIV who are using PrEP,” said Teresa Finlayson, lead author of the study and a researcher at the CDC in Atlanta.

Read the full article.