Building Healthy Online Communities (BHOC) works with dating aps to reduce online stigma and hate from within

From the BHOC report

While gay, bi, and trans people have long been subjected to discrimination, stigma and hate speech from outside our communities, the way we treat one another can also cause harm. Too often, people within the queer community hurt others because of their race, gender identity, age, body size, disability, or because they’re living with HIV. This was true long before the internet, social networks, and apps provided the means to fuel harmful behavior. People take advantage of the anonymity the internet provides to say things they would never say in person. Too often, dating app and site users do the same. “No fats,” “No femmes,” “Clean only” – these words and their derogatory implications are all too prevalent on sites.

two men walking while looking at their cell phones

This kind of hate speech can cause not only psychological harm but can also facilitate HIV risk.Yale Researchers, John Pachankis and Charles Burton, found that for some gay and bi men,being repeatedly rejected by other gay and bi men online, and having a lower ‘status’ in thesexual marketplace–like not having a gym-toned body or masculine gender expression–isassociated with greater risk taking and symptoms of depression and anxiety. Building HealthyOnline Communities (BHOC), a consortium of national and local HIV and STD preventionagencies working with the owners of dating sites and app owners to support their users’ sexualhealth, decided to take action to reduce stigma for gay, bi, and trans app and site users.

BHOC reached out to app and site owners and found that there was widespread support among them to look for ways to make the experience better for everyone. Adam4Adam, Daddyhunt,dudesnude, Grindr, GROWLr, Jack’d, Manhunt, POZ Personals, and SCRUFF all joined in, andthrough advertising and messaging recruited more than 5,500 users to share ideas on whatapps and sites could do to help reduce online stigma. This was the first time that apps and siteshave come together to address an industry-wide issue.  

Read the full report

Study: Combining PrEP with U=U yields incredible results

From HIVplusmag.com

When people use a combination of HIV prevention methods, researchers found there was a significant drop in HIV transmission.

Published in the academic journal HIV Medicine, the study found that using several methods such as taking PrEP, early HIV diagnosis from frequent testing, and proper antiretroviral treatment decreased transmission by 80 percent.

The research was evaluated at 56 Dean Street, which is a sexual health clinic and part of Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust in London.

“We witnessed an 80% reduction in the number of HIV diagnoses between 2012 and 2017, following the introduction of a number of HIV prevention measures (PrEP introduction, early HIV diagnosis through frequent and facilitated access to HIV testing and timely ART used as treatment-as-prevention) were key to the success of this model,” lead author Nicolo Girometti, told Contagion. Girometti is also a consultant in HIV medicine at 56 Dean Street.

Read the full article.

Penn State and Pitt team up to create getmyHIVtest.com—free HIV test kits to anyone who resides in Pennsylvania, with a focus on minority/ethnic communities most at risk.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that some racial/ethnic groups are at higher risk for getting HIV than others.  

CDC data shows that Black/African American communities account for a higher proportion of new HIV infections as compared to other races and ethnicities. In 2018, Black/African Americans accounted for 13% of the US population but 42% of new HIV diagnoses.

Similarly, in the same 2018 report, the CDC notes adult and adolescent Hispanics/Latinos made up 27% of the 37,968 new HIV diagnoses in the United States.

Why? Because these communities are impacted by demographic factors such as discrimination, stigma, and institutionalized health disparities—all of which affect their risk for HIV.

So what can we do?  

People who know they’re infected can get into treatment and become HIV undetectable—which means the level of virus in the body is so low that it can’t be passed on to a sex partner. And people who know they’re not infected can take steps to prevent future infection by practicing safer sex (like using condoms) and taking the HIV prevention medication known as PrEP.

The first step, then, to preventing HIV is to get tested.

Men sitting together and smiling

The good news is that anyone who resides in Pennsylvania can now get a free HIV self-test kit delivered in the mail.

In early 2021, the Pennsylvania Expanded HIV Testing Initiative (at Penn State University) and the HIV Prevention and Care Project (at the University of Pittsburgh) began a joint program called getmyHIVtest.com.

“We created getmyHIVtest.com to make test kits available to anyone in the state who might be at risk for HIV,” explains Raymond Yeo, one of the project’s coordinators at the University of Pittsburgh. “Knowing your HIV status is key in the preventing HIV in our communities—especially those most at risk for new infections.” 

The website, www.getmyHIVtest.com, provides easy-to-follow instructions and online form where PA residents can order their free kit, which typically arrives—in an unmarked package—within five to ten business days. Recipients of the kit are asked to provide basic demographic information and to take a follow up survey as a means to improve the program in the months ahead.  

“This is a big development in the fight against HIV in Pennsylvania and we need all the input we can get,” added Yeo. “It’s unrealistic to think we can test everyone in the state so it’s important that we find ways to get our test kits into the hands of the people who need them the most.”  

Questions and comments about the getmyHIVtest.com program can be sent to info@getmyHIVtest.com. To order your HIV self-test kit, go to www.getmyHIVtest.com.

CDC releases new STI stats and they aren’t looking good

From EdgeMediaNetwork.com

On April 13, the Centers for Disease Control released their latest national survey for Sexually Transmitted Infections (aka Sexually Transmitted Diseases) and the data isn’t looking good. The 2019 STD Surveillance Report concludes “that reported annual cases of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) in the United States continued to climb in 2019, reaching an all-time high for the sixth consecutive year.”

Amongst the findings are:2.5 million reported cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis, the three most commonly reported STDs in 2019.

A nearly 30% increase in these reportable STDs between 2015 and 2019. The sharpest increase was in cases of syphilis among newborns (i.e., congenital syphilis), which nearly quadrupled between 2015 and 2019.

“Less than 20 years ago, gonorrhea rates in the U.S. were at historic lows, syphilis was close to elimination, and advances in chlamydia diagnostics made it easier to detect infections,” said Raul Romaguera, DMD, MPH, acting director for CDC’s Division of STD Prevention, in the report. “That progress has since unraveled, and our STD defenses are down. We must prioritize and focus our efforts to regain this lost ground and control the spread of STDs.”

Read the full article.

Are Straight Men Having Gay Sex Closeted? This Prof Thinks Not in Provocative New Book

From Edge Media Network

…University of British Columbia sociology professor Tony Silva offers new insight on sexual attraction, behavior and their implications in his book “Still Straight: Sexual Flexibility Among White Men in Rural America.”

“Drawing upon interviews with 60 white men from rural areas in the United States over three years, Silva delves into the sex lives of straight men who have hookups, sexual friendships, and secretive loving relationships with other men, but remain mostly attracted to women and strongly identify with straight culture,” writes the website Straight in an interview with Silva.

In his book Silva asserts “that the men he focuses on in his book aren’t closeted, bisexual, or experimenting, and that they aren’t a version of the tortured love story in ‘Brokeback Mountain’,” writes Straight.

In his findings, Silva says that the men he interviewed were primarily married and attracted to women, but for reasons such as boredom and fears of attachment with a female partner, turn to sex with men. “These men think that sex with men is a lot less complicated with no attachment. I find it particularly interesting and ironic that their conservative beliefs about gender actually encourage them to have sex with men.”

Read the full article.

PrEP for beginners: What to know about the HIV-preventive drugs

From mensvariety.com

Truvada was the original PrEP drug. All of the trials and data about PrEP that you can find right now are about Truvada. It’s the tried and true option. Meanwhile, the Food and Drug Administration approved a second drug in 2019 from Gilead Sciences. As clinic trials showed, this second drug, called Descovy, is less toxic to the kidneys and bones than Truvada. That’s not to say that Truvada is toxic, but that the drug can possibly cause kidney problems or bone mineral density problems later on. As such, PrEP users have celebrated the arrival of Descovy. On top of that, it is MORE effective in preventing HIV. But, of course, it’s more expensive too.

Are you considering getting PrEP but need to know more basic info before you take the plunge? Are you concerned about your safe sex measures and want to know your options in protecting yourself from STIs like HIV? We decided it would be a good idea to write up a “basics” post and general guide for anyone wanting to know more about the HIV-preventive drug. If that sounds interesting to you, keep reading

One size doesn’t fit all when it comes to products for preventing HIV from anal sex

From medicalXpresss.com

Conducted by the National Institutes of Health (NIH)-funded Microbicide Trials Network (MTN), DESIRE focused on potential delivery methods for rectal microbicides—topical products being developed and tested to reduce a person’s risk of acquiring HIV and other sexually transmitted infections from anal sex. MTN researchers are particularly interested in on-demand options—used around the time of sex—and behaviorally congruent options that deliver anti-HIV drugs via products people may already be using as part of their sex routine.

“DESIRE stands out as a unique study because we took a step back and said, ‘Let’s figure out the modality without automatically pairing it with a drug’,” explained José A. Bauermeister, Ph.D., M.P.H., study protocol chair and Albert M. Greenfield Professor of Human Relations at the University of Pennsylvania. “It gave us the ability to manipulate the delivery method without having to worry about how reactions to a particular drug might confound the results. We also had people trying out these methods in their own lives, and only then asked them to weigh the attributes of each.” As such, he said, participants weren’t making choices based on theoretical concepts, but instead using real experiences to guide their preferences.

Read the full article.

Get a free HIV self-test kit delivered to your home

The Pennsylvania Department of Health, in partnership with the Pennsylvania Expanded HIV Testing Initiative (PEHTI) and the HIV Prevention and Care Project (HPCP), has introduced HIV Self-Testing (HST) for individuals who reside in Pennsylvania (excluding Philadelphia County). The goal of the getmyHIVtest.com program is to help people get tested who wouldn’t otherwise go to their doctor or to a testing clinic.  

Tests are available from the website getmyhivtest.com. Individuals are asked to read the information on the website and answer a few questions in order to receive an FDA-approved, OraQuick home HIV test kit mailed to their provided address. Support for clients who request and administer the HIV self-test is available through OraQuick and the HPCP, as noted on the website.   

Individuals who reside in Philadelphia County should visit PhillyKeepOnLoving.com to order the HIV Self-test kit and for additional information about testing from the Philadelphia Department of Public Health.   

If you have any questions, please send an email to info@getmyHIVtest.com.  

National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day Puts Focus on Need to Address Equity and Drivers of HIV Disparities in U.S.

From HIV.gov

By: Harold J. Phillips, MRP, Senior HIV Advisor and Chief Operating Officer for Ending the HIV Epidemic: A Plan for America, Office of Infectious Disease and HIV/AIDS Policy, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

This year’s National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (NBHAAD) observance comes amidst a national dialogue on systemic racism and calls for a greater focus on equity in all our work. We should use this opportunity to examine and address historic inequities experienced by Black Americans. For the HIV community, this means working to understand and address the circumstances that put people at risk for HIV or that create barriers to HIV care and treatment.

Black Americans continue to be disproportionately affected by HIV compared to other racial/ethnic groups. According to CDC data,

  • Black Americans represent 13% of the U.S. population, but 41% of people with HIV in the U.S. in 2018.
  • 42% of new HIV infections in 2018 were among Black Americans.
  • Among the estimated 161,800 people in the U.S. with undiagnosed HIV, 42% (67,800) are Black. That means that nearly one in seven Black Americans with HIV are unaware of their HIV status and are not receiving the care they need to stay healthy and prevent transmission to others.

Fewer Black Americans in HIV care are virally suppressed: In 2018, 60% of Blacks, 64% of Latinos, and 71% of whites with diagnosed HIV were virally suppressed.

The recently released HIV National Strategic Plan (HIV Plan) makes clear the disproportionate impact of HIV among Black Americans, and includes Black women, transgender women, people who inject drugs, and Black gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men among its designated priority populations. The HIV Plan notes that focusing efforts on priority populations will reduce HIV-related disparities, which is essential to the nation’s effort to end the HIV epidemic by 2030.

Read the full article.

How the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting another epidemic among teens: STDs | Expert Opinion

2020 marks the fifth consecutive year of increasing rates of gonorrhea, chlamydia and syphilis in the U.S.

From The Philadelphia Inquirer

While the eyes of the nation are on the coronavirus pandemic, another threat to public health has been steadily growing in the United States. We’ve been battling rising rates of sexually transmitted infections (STI) for the last several years. In fact, 2020 marks the fifth consecutive year of increasing rates of gonorrhea, chlamydia and syphilis in the U.S., due in part to significant funding cuts to more than 50% of the nation’s public health STI programs. And now the COVID-19 pandemic has placed an even greater burden on our strained public health system and supply chains, shifting focus from one major public health issue to another.

virus and bacteria images

We can’t risk losing one critical resource that will be essential to ending the STI epidemic — the availability of free and confidential STI testing for adolescents. Prior to the pandemic, national public health efforts were scaling up to improve STI and HIV testing, and quickly link youth to prevention services.  Rapid identification and treatment of STIs not only has public health benefits in terms of lowering transmission, but when left untreated, STIs increase the risk of infertility, severe pelvic infection, chronic pelvic pain, ectopic pregnancy and HIV transmission.

While accounting for 25% of the population, adolescents and young adults comprise over 50% of STIs in the U.S. each year. Black, Latinx, and LGBT youth face the greatest burden of infections and risk of complications. Fortunately, significant advances have been made over the last several decades to improve rates of STI and HIV testing among adolescents and young adults. The American Academy of Pediatrics now recommends HIV screening by the age of 16-18 years for all youth regardless of their sexual activity.

Read the full article.

Transmission of HIV through oral sex is rare — here’s how to reduce your risk

From insider.com

HIV does not reproduce outside a human host and cannot be transmitted through saliva, tears, or sweat. It is a common misconception that sharing dishes, shaking hands, or hugging can transmit HIV, says Anne M. Neilan, MD, MPH, Infectious Disease Physician at Massachusetts General Hospital.

Generally, it’s unlikely that you will contract HIV from oral sex. However, there are some circumstances in which this could happen, though uncommon. This article will discuss the likelihood of getting HIV through oral sex and how to avoid contracting or transmitting it.

“The likelihood of acquiring HIV from oral sex is far lower than vaginal or anal sex,” says Neilan. The risk is so low that scientists have not established a conclusive statistic, but a 1999 study estimates a 0.04% risk among male sexual partners. 

Saliva contains secretory leukocyte protease inhibitors that inactivate the virus. Because of this HIV inhibitor, the virus reproduces less than it would in the blood cells. 

Although the risk is low, unprotected oral sex still carries the risk of transmitting HIV, as well as sexually transmitted infections (STI). “Protection against HIV does not mean protection against all sexually transmitted infections,” says Neilan.

A person without HIV may contract the virus by giving or receiving any type of oral sex to or from a partner with HIV. Some risk factors increase the likelihood of contracting HIV through oral sex, which include:

The risk of HIV from oral sex may be minimal, but it’s still important to know how to avoid contracting and transmitting the virus.

Using dental dams, male and female condoms during oral sex reduces the likelihood of contracting HIV, but you must use them correctly, says Neilan. Refraining from oral sex when risk factors are present, and avoiding seminal or vaginal fluids in the mouth also lessen the risk, but does not completely eliminate it.

STIs like gonorrhea or syphilis can cause sores on the mucous membrane, increasing the chances of getting or transmitting HIV, so get tested regularly and seek treatment if needed. 

Read the full story.

CDC 2018 report: Black/African American gay and bi men still have the highest rates of new HIV infections.

From the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

In 2018, 37,968 people received an HIV diagnosis in the United States (US) and dependent areas. From 2014 to 2018, HIV diagnoses decreased 7% among adults and adolescents. However, annual diagnoses have increased among some groups.

Info graphic showing Black / African American men still have the highest rates of H I V infection as of 2018 according to the latest C D C report
click to enlarge graph

Gay and bisexual men are the population most affected by HIV, with Black/African American, Hispanic/Latino gay and bi men having the highest rates of new infections.

The number of new HIV diagnoses was highest among people aged 25 to 34.

Source: CDC. Diagnoses of HIV infection in the United States and dependent areas, 2018 (updated)HIV Surveillance Report 2020;31.

HRC is mailing sex positive kits as part of its “My Body” HIV campaign to celebrate Black and Latino LGBT people

From Poz.com

“Embrace your body and your sexuality. Taking precautions against HIV doesn’t mean you should be ashamed of your sexuality or not enjoy sex—you can love your body and stay safe.”

Find out how you can get your box of goodies…

That’s the opening message of “My Body,” a new HIV awareness and education campaign by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), a national LGBT advocacy group. Recognizing that nearly a quarter of young queer adults lack proper evidence-based sex education about HIV, the campaign is geared to empowering Black and Latino LGBT people between ages 16 and 35.

You can learn more about the boxes in the video and request one at HRC.im/MyBody.

Read the full article on Poz.com.

Latino Gay/Bi men’s health rally to focus on U=U during COVID-19

From Poz.com

Spearheaded by the Hispanic Health Network, this year’s rally includes two panel discussions. “HIV Stigma and COVID-19” takes place at 1 p.m. ET Monday, November 9. According to the rally’s website, “panelists will share and discuss information about the importance of U=U in the times of COVID-19, how U=U is used to combat stigma and barriers to reach an undetectable viral load. They will also discuss how COVID-19 has impacted Latinx Gay/Bi Men’s Communities and HIV-related stigma connected to U=U. During this panel, speakers will explore the role of religion to interrupt stigma.”

U=U stands for Undetectable Equals Untransmittable, which refers to the fact that people living with HIV who maintain a suppressed viral load cannot transmit HIV via sex, even when condoms are not used.

The second virtual panel, “Strengthening of the Latinx Gay/Bi Men’s Communities,” is scheduled for 1 p.m. ET, Tuesday, November 10. “The panelists will discuss racism colorism, machismo and heteronormativity in Hispanic/Latinx communities,” according to the website. “Panelists will also touch upon how to address these issues through diversity acceptance. Panelists will talk about the impact of Black Lives Matter on the Hispanic/Latinx communities and the importance of developing leadership to strengthen communities for a healthier future.”

You can register for both events and read speaker bios on the Rally 2020 site.

9 FAQs for when your partner has HIV

From Everyday Health

If you’re in a new relationship with someone who has HIV or you’ve recently found out that your longtime partner is HIV positive, you may be experiencing a whirlwind of emotions — possibly fear, sadness, or even anger, depending on the context. You may be concerned that you’ll get HIV from your partner or wonder how being with an HIV-positive person will affect your relationship or daily life.

As you begin to emotionally adjust to your situation, it’s important to get the facts about being with a partner who has HIV. Certain fears about having an HIV-positive partner may be outdated, but there may also be precautions you weren’t aware of that you could take to avoid HIV

Here are some questions you may have if your partner has HIV, and answers from leading experts on the virus.

Meet the queer artists changing the way we think about owning our sexual health

From Queerty.com

So it’s no surprise that James, like thousands of others, has turned to OraQuick’s in-home HIV test as a key part of their sexual health toolkit. James Falciano is a champion of their queer community, something that is reflected in their art, activism, and everyday life.

It’s the simplest way to get accurate, fast results without waiting in line at the clinic or doctor’s office – if you can even get one these days. In as little as 20 minutes, in the privacy of your own home, you obtain your results, along with access to 24/7 support.

It’s the way to take control of your own sexual health and to own your own sex life.

James and two other fabulous queer artists, Preston Nelson and Kitsch Harris, are partnering with OraQuick to encourage HIV self-testing.

Here are samples of their art to explore along with conversations about their work (and read more at Queerty.com).

  • James Falciano

Switching HIV treatment to delstrigo is safe and effective

From Poz. com

People with HIV who switch from a stable antiretroviral (ARV) regimen to Delstrigo (doravirine/tenofovir disoproxil fumarate/lamivudine) had a high rate of full suppression of the virus at the three-year mark in a large Phase III clinical trial.

Princy Kumar, MD, of Georgetown University, presented findings from the open-label, randomized, active-controlled, noninferiority DRIVE-SHIFT trial at the virtual HIV Drug Therapy Glasgow meeting.

Delstrigo contains the relatively new non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor (NNRTI) Pifeltro (doravirine), which, like Delstrigo, was approved in September 2019.

Read the full article.

The single biggest risk factor for gay, bi men becoming HIV-positive

From the Advocate.com
Of all those who became HIV-positive, over a third (36 percent) were persistent meth users. Men aged 36-45 reported the most meth use, and those living in Western states had the highest incidence of the drug.

Persistent meth use is the biggest factor for seroconversion, researchers stated, followed by Black ethnicity and a syphilis diagnosis.

Researchers detailed the correlation between meth and HIV.

“Methamphetamine exacerbates HIV risk via increasing sexual libido while simultaneously reducing inhibitions,” the authors stated, according to AIDSMap. “Our findings highlight the need to address methamphetamine use and its associated risks among sexual and gender minorities, the likes of which may also serve to help end the HIV epidemic.”

Read the full article.

Has the COVID-19 pandemic marked the end of casual sex?

From Boston Magazine online

by 

Not long after the virus first hit, I was in a committed relationship, so casual sex wasn’t really an issue. When the relationship ended, though, I realized the impact of the disease on my sex life. Sleeping with random guys was off the table. Even making out with someone at a bar seemed risky. I felt ripped off. I’d been faithful, but he’d cheated, and after kicking him out of our apartment and getting tested (and, I believe, paying extra to expedite the lab results), I wanted to cut loose. I’ve always thought that beyond it being consensual and not involving minors or dire physical harm, there are no moral imperatives connected to sex, and because being a “gay man” means being at least partially defined by your sexuality, I believe it’s a gay man’s birthright and prerogative to exercise that sexuality freely.

This was the late ’80s. Not 10 years earlier, bathhouses and tricking were accepted and celebrated parts of gay life. In 1978, at the hormonally supercharged age of 13, I visited my uncle in San Francisco and had to hide my titillation walking down Polk Street, with all the leather-clad men who looked like Tom of Finland had drawn them. I secretly purchased a steamy memoir about hedonistic gay sex in Paris nightclubs, and snuck over to a convenience store on the other side of town to buy copies of Blueboy and Mandate magazines. Then, not long after, HIV slammed the door shut on all of that, delivering a sharp slap in the face to a horny twentysomething. Now, a possible death sentence came along with getting physically intimate with a stranger. It was unspeakably unfair, and frightening.

Fast-forward to today, and here we are again, it seems. Although I’m now happily married, I was pleased to know that casual sex was beginning to steam up in recent years, thanks to pre-exposure prophylaxis and hookup apps such as Grindr, allowing sex parties and cruising the dunes of P-town to once again become possibilities. But then the novel coronavirus came roaring in. As self-isolation became the new normal, I was reminded of my experiences as a young man during the dark days of the HIV/AIDS crisis, and I sympathized with my uncoupled friends who were suddenly saddled with unsought chastity belts, their libidos on lockdown. Not to make light of it, but among its many horrors, COVID-19 has turned out to be a total cock block. Once again, the idea of physical contact is married to mortal danger, making me wonder whether and how COVID-19 has affected singles’ sexual behavior. Are we headed right toward another pandemic-induced Victorian era?

Read the full article.

14 Things I Wish Queer Men Were Taught in Sex Ed By Zachary Zane

From Pride.com (By Zachary Zane)…

Oh, sex ed. A decade later, and the only thing I remember “learning” from it is “wear a condom.” I honestly don’t think I could tell you another single bit of information they “taught” me except for that men have a vas deferens, which is somewhere in the penis. (Testicles, maybe?)

Imagine how nice it would have been if they actually taught us something useful! Imagine if instead of scaring us and making us fear our own sexuality, sex ed courses taught us how to embrace and explore our sexuality safely! Can you imagine??

So here are 14 things I wish sex ed courses taught me! (And all queer men and queer folks, for that matter. Screw it—everyone can benefit from this!)