New study finds 4% of HIV-negative gay/bi men are using PrEP

From OUT Magazine online…

A mere 4% of gay and bisexual men reported using Truvada as PrEP in a new study, recently published in PLOS ONE.

Led by Psychology Professor Phillip Hammack of the University of California Santa Cruz, the study examined HIV testing and use, familiarity, and attitudes toward pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) among HIV-negative gay and bisexual men in the United States.

Truvada is a daily pill that reduces the likelihood of acquiring HIV by almost 100%. Currently, it is the only FDA-approved form of pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, which is recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for those at high risk of HIV/AIDS.

“The extremely low rate of PrEP use, while not surprising given barriers to access in various parts of the country, is disappointing,” said Hammack.

The study used a national probability sample of 470 men ages 18-59. Participants completed the survey between March, 2016 and March, 2017.

Other key results of the study included:

— The majority of gay/bi men between the ages of 18-25 are not tested for HIV annually, as recommended by the CDC.

— 25% of young men in the same age group have never been tested for HIV.

— Approximately 8% of men over 25 had never been tested for HIV.

— Visiting an LGBT health clinic and searching online for LGBT resources were associated with greater likelihood of PrEP use.

— Bisexual and non-urban men were less familiar with PrEP compared to gay-identified and urban men.

— Attitudes were positive among most men (68.4%) who were familiar with PrEP, despite low usage of the drug.

“I worry especially about younger men who didn’t grow up with the concerns of HIV that men of older generations did,” said Hammack. “The low rate of HIV testing probably reflects a degree of complacency and cultural amnesia about AIDS.”

Principal investigator Ilan H. Meyer said of the study, “Our findings suggest that health education efforts are not adequately reaching sizable groups of men at risk for HIV infection. It is alarming that high-risk populations of men who are sexually active with same-sex partners are not being tested or taking advantage of treatment advances to prevent the spread of HIV.”

Health Alert: Rates of STDs climbed for the fourth consecutive year in the US

Rates of syphilis, gonorrhea and chlamydia have climbed for the fourth consecutive year in the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (DCD) announced recently. Last year, nearly 2.3 million US cases of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) were diagnosed, which is the highest number ever reported.

virusChlamydia, which remained the most common, is easily transmitted during any form of sexual activity. If not treated, chlamydia can cause permanent damage to the reproductive system. In men, the infection can spread to the tube that carries sperm from the testicles, causing pain and fever.

If not treated, gonorrhea can cause severe and permanent health issues, including problems with the prostate and testicles in men or problems with pregnancy and infertility in women. Gonorrhea is also typically treated with antibiotics but the threat of antibiotic-resistant gonorrhea persists nationwide. 

Syphilis can affect the heart, nervous system and other organs if left untreated. Syphilis is most often transmitted through sexual contact and is 100 percent curable with antibiotics.

Gonorrhea and chlamydia can infect other sites of the body such as the rectum and the throat and diagnosis requires a swab of each site. A urine test alone is not sufficient to diagnose STDs of the throat and the rectum. Additionally, all of these infections can be transmitted through unprotected oral sex.

It is important to remember that even if you don’t have symptoms, you can still be infected. If you’re sexually active, you should get tested for a full range of STDs, including the ones listed here. Don’t be shy about asking your doctor for a full screening. If you need to find free, confidential testing in your area, you can check the PA Department of Health listing here.

Health Alerts are presented by the Pitt Men’s Study and the HIV Prevention and Care Project at the University of Pittsburgh, with funding from the State Department of Health.

Who we are…

m4mHealthySex.org is a joint effort between the HIV Prevention and Care Project and the Pitt Men’s Study at the Graduate School of Public Health, University of Pittsburgh. Our goal is to provide up-to-date sexual health information for men who have sex with men. Page links include information about free HIV and STD testing, referrals to LGBTQ-friendly care providers, and information about PrEP.

Health Alert: Return of the AIDS epidemic

From voanews.com

Thirty-six million people currently live with AIDS, a disease that claimed the lives of nearly 1 million people last year. Experts predict that by 2030, 100 million people will have been infected with the HIV virus.

Despite the alarming numbers, there have been great strides in treatment. HIV is no longer a death sentence, and researchers say people receiving treatment for HIV are able to live normal lives and do not pose a risk to others when they are being treated proactively.

But success carries a price: complacency. Funding for AIDS research and treatment has declined, and in some places, so has government interest.

“When we talk to ministers of finance, they always say to me, ‘I thought HIV was over because I don’t see anybody dying,’” said Dr. Deborah Birx, a U.S. Global AIDS coordinator who oversees the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).

J. Stephen Morrison of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said, “We’re not reaching goals.” He added, “There’s going to be a struggle to hold ground. … There’s a widening deficit of political will and financial capacity that we face some really daunting challenges in prevention.”

Dr. Chris Beyrer, with Johns Hopkins Medicine, predicted that things will get worse if governments and civilians continue their complacency.

“We are not done with AIDS,” he said. “It is much too early to declare victory, and the risks of a resurgent epidemic are real.”

Read the full article.

Gay teens at least twice as likely to use illegal drugs, study suggests

From NBC News online

Lesbian, gay, bisexual and questioning (LGBQ) teens are at least twice as likely as their heterosexual peers to use illegal drugs like cocaine, ecstasy, heroin and methamphetamines, a U.S. study suggests. Previous research suggests that stressors related to being closeted or coming out and being rejected by family or friends could contribute to an increased risk of substance use among sexual minority teens, senior study author John Ayers of San Diego State University in California said.

For the new study, researchers looked at data from roughly 14,703 high school students who had been surveyed about their lifetime and prior-month use of 15 different substances, including illegal drugs as well as tobacco, alcohol and prescription drugs that weren’t given to them by a physician.

LGBQ youth were more than three times more likely to try heroin or methamphetamines at least once, and more than twice as likely to try ecstasy or cocaine, the study also found.

Stressors faced by LGBQ teens, such as stigma and isolation, “may make drugs foolishly appear attractive as a coping mechanism,” Ayers said by email. “Even experimentation with these harder drugs can derail a teen’s future,” he said.

The vast majority of teens didn’t use illegal drugs, regardless of sexual orientation, researchers report in the American Journal of Public Health.

Read the full article on NBC News.

Why STDs are on the rise in America

From the Economist online

Much of the increase in STDs has come from gay and bisexual men. Although a relatively small share of the population, they accounted for 81% of male syphilis cases in 2016, according to the Centres for Disease Control. As with heterosexuals, this seems to be because sex is now seen as less risky. That is due to the advent of PrEP, a prophylactic drug cocktail which gay men can take to nearly inoculate themselves from HIV. The reduced chances of catching HIV—along with the fact that a positive diagnosis is no longer a death sentence—seems to encourage men to drop their guard. A recent study of gay and bisexual men, published in the Lancet, a medical journal, found that as more began taking PrEP, rates of consistent condom usage dropped from 46% to 31%. Recent studies have shown that uptake of PrEP is strongly associated with increased rates of STD infection.

All this shows that changing sexual mores, and a reduced fear of the risks of unprotected sex, seem to be at fault—especially since the problem is not just limited to America. England experienced a 20% increase in syphilis diagnoses in 2017 and a 22% increase in those of gonorrhoea. Other countries in western Europe have seen ever worse outbreaks, sometimes exceeding 50%. Dwindling public spending on STD prevention—which in America has fallen by 40% in real terms since 2003—is not helping matters. Yet the chief methods of prevention, abstinence and condoms, are tried and true. Should these options seem too chaste or chaffing, then prospective partners ought to get an STD test (especially since most infections can be cleared up with a simple course of antibiotics). Verified testing is vital since verbal assurances, especially on the cusp of a liaison, can be misleading.

Read the full article.

CDC’s Eugene McCray discusses HIV prevention advances from AIDS 2018 in Amsterdam

Eugene McCray MD

From AIDS.gov

Advances in HIV prevention and program implementation were among the topics in the spotlight at the 22nd International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2018) this week. Eugene McCray, MD, Director of CDC’s Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention (DHAP)

reflects on some of the conference highlights. The division he oversees works to prevent HIV infections and reduce the incidence of HIV-related illness and death across the United States. Read more about their work.

During a live interview on Facebook, Dr. McCray discussed research being presented by CDC researchers at the conference, other HIV prevention research findings shared here at the conference, and shares his personal reflection on what how it feels like to be at this conference at this stage of the epidemic.

Watch the video.