HIV activist learning modules: engaging our community in HIV prevention policy advocacy

From thebody.com and the Treatment Action Group

While many of us who come from communities highly impacted by HIV have the lived experiences and the passion required for HIV prevention advocacy, developing an advocacy agenda and getting up to speed on the current state of HIV prevention science is not always easy. In order to support the efforts of prevention advocates across the United States, Treatment Action Group has developed a series of modules to help support activists’ capacity needs and to develop advocacy action plans. The slides, handouts, and webinars in each module focus on how to identify and change the governmental, organizational, and institutional policies that create roadblocks to comprehensive HIV prevention in our communities. The materials are useful for personal education or group discussion on HIV prevention and policy advocacy.

Go to thebody.com to find links to each of the learning modules.

Let’s stop shaming black men

From the Advocate.com

Last February, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a report predicting that, if things don’t change, one out of every two gay or bi black men will become HIV-positive in their lifetime. This statistic has been repeated endlessly, usually in connection with reasons why HIV rates are higher among African-American men who have sex with men. To be fair, there are a wide range of factors that play a part in raising HIV risks, including poverty, drug use, childhood sexual assault, and depression.

“We cannot separate the high infection rates among black gay men from several ills that continue to plague our society,” Greg Millet wrote for The Advocate in 2015. “Discrimination, poverty, stigma, and lack of access to health care all affect health care utilization for black gay men. As a result, a substantial proportion of black gay men remain undiagnosed, and others who are diagnosed and without the financial means to access medications will remain virally unsuppressed.”

Many of these factors also impact heterosexual black men, so what’s at the root of the disproportionate HIV rates for their queer brothers? One prevalent argument is that — because of excessive homophobia in the black community — black gay and bisexual men have low self-esteem. That lower self-esteem leads them to be more promiscuous, engage in riskier sexual behaviors, and even use drugs; which explains why HIV rates among black men who have sex with men is so high. Makes sense? Problem is, it’s also wrong.

Read the full article on Advocate.com.

New online tool finds providers of HIV Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) in the US

PrEP Locator is a national directory of providers of HIV Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) in the US. PrEP Locator seeks to provide patients access to a national, integrated service including both public and private practice providers. An open source tool, PrEP Locator data and map-based widget are easily accessible via API.

logoThe Locator seeks to serve as a common repository for information regarding providers and clinics that prescribe PrEP. The Locator is an open source tool for those who are managing existing directories to share their resources in a common format, so that patients can access a national, integrated PrEP provider location service that includes both public and private practice PrEP providers. Data will be made accessible with open source tools to facilitate patient access through existing organizational websites and mobile apps.

PrEP Locator is presented by Emory University, in partnership with M•A•C AIDS Fund. The project is led by Dr. Aaron Siegler, Research Assistant Professor of Epidemiology at Emory University’s Rollins School of Public Health. The project is guided by a coalition of partners with expertise in the field of HIV prevention: PleasePrEPMe.org, Greater Than AIDS represented by the Kaiser Family Foundation, National Alliance of State & Territorial AIDS Directors (NASTAD).

MidAtlantic AIDS Education and Training Center hosts World AIDS Day 2016 conference

nov_labg_worldaidsday2WHAT: To observe the 28th World AIDS Day, The MidAtlantic AIDS Education and Training Center (MAAETC), based at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health, will collaborate with UPMC and local HIV/AIDS clinics to host an all-day educational event. The World AIDS Day 2016 conference will bring together experts in the field of HIV to enable physicians, nurses and other HIV care providers to improve care. Experts will discuss prevention including PreP, aging and HIV, antiretroviral treatment, and substance use and HIV. To learn more or register, visit https://www.maaetc.org/events/view/8202.

WHY: Despite advances in HIV treatment, there continues to be an increase in HIV infections. This necessitates routine testing for everyone, to identify and link persons with HIV to care so that they can live longer lives. New treatment is available to prevent HIV infection, and concerns and issues are emerging among persons aging with HIV infection.
WHO: Introductions by Corey O’Connor, councilman, City of Pittsburgh, and Donald S. Burke, M.D., Dean, Pitt Public Health. Speakers include Rachel Levine, M.D., physician general, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Harold Wiesenfeld, M.D., M.P.H., Allegheny County Health Department, and Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC, Donna Gallagher, Ph.D., M.S.N., ANP-BC, F.A.A.N., New England AIDS Education and Training Center, Ken Ho, M.D., M.P.H., medical director, Pitt Men’s Study, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Antoine Douaihy, M.D., medical director, Addiction Medicine, University of Pittsburgh Department of Psychiatry
WHEN: 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 1
WHEREUniversity Club, 123 University Place, Pittsburgh, 15260
Note to Media: To cover this event, contact Allison Hydzik at 412-647-9975 or HydzikAM@upmc.edu.

Department of Health, Division of HIV/AIDS is seeking your input

stakeholders survey imageYou have a stake in the fight against HIV/AIDS. The Pennsylvania Department of Health, Division of HIV/AIDS is seeking your input regarding planned activities for statewide HIV prevention and care efforts. This anonymous and confidential survey will gather your response to the planned goals for helping people at high risk for getting HIV and those that are HIV-positive in Pennsylvania. To participate in the survey go to the online surveyPlease consider forwarding this link to all your co-workers, clients, and community members who might be interested in HIV prevention and care in Pennsylvania. This survey ends July 7th, 2016.
 

National Coalition of STD Directors honors April as National STD Awareness Month

Washington, D.C. – Every April, the National Coalition of STD Directors (NCSD) is proud to join its member health departments, along with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and other partners to recognize April as National STD (sexually transmitted diseases) Awareness Month.  With the reality that last year, for the first time since 2006, rates for chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis all increased concurrently, we dedicate this month to renewing the fight against STDs and refocus our members, ourselves, and our communities on sexual health and STD prevention.

“At a time when we are seeing skyrocketing STD rates, particularly rates of syphilis, we know that STD programs in state and local health departments need more funding, providers of all kinds need to scale up STD screening, and we need a renewed focus on encouraging condom use,” stated William A. Smith, Executive Director of the National Coalition of STD Directors (NCSD).

logoIn 2014, for the third year in a row, reported cases of primary and secondary syphilis – the stages where the infection is most likely to spread – have increased by double digits.  In 2012, primary and secondary syphilis increased by 11 percent, in 2013, by 10 percent, and in 2014, by a shocking 15 percent.  Monitoring and controlling these STD epidemics are state, territorial, and local public health STD programs, which are the backbone of our national STD infrastructure.  However, the current public health infrastructure has been continually strained by budget reductions at the federal, state, and local levels and is cannot sufficiently prepare for the reality of rising rates of STDs, and other outbreaks.

To bring attention to these growing needs, NCSD will be hosting a Congressional Briefing On April 13th, titled “Syphilis Resurgence and Why STD Programs Are Critical to the Nation’s Health.”  To bring this message home, NCSD will also be mailing “syphilis and gonorrhea to the Hill” in the form of mailing stuffed microbes to all Members of Congress’ offices.  Please contact NCSD’s Director of Policy and Communications, Stephanie Arnold Pang, for additional information on these events.

In addition, to ensure that policymakers and their staff are aware of the importance of STD programs, this year NCSD is sponsoring a Virtual Hill Day for STD Awareness on April 26th.  More information on this opportunity can be found here.  NCSD has also created a number of materials available for members’ and partners’ use to honor STD Awareness Month, including a draft op-ed, and sample social media posts, including a Thunderclap to coincides with the Virtual Hill Day for STD Awareness, which are available on NCSD’s website.

###

The National Coalition of STD Directors (NCSD) is a partnership of public health professionals dedicated to promoting sexual health through the prevention of STDs. NCSD provides dynamic leadership that strengthens STD Programs by advocating for effective policies, strategies,and sufficient resources by increasing awareness of the medical and social impacts of STDs.
For more information, visit www.NCSDDC.org.  

National Youth HIV & AIDS Awareness Day: The realities of our lives

From the HRC blog

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention caused a media firestorm when it announced that Black men who have sex with men in the United States now have a 50 percent chance of being diagnosed with HIV in their lifetime.

Youth and HIVBut for us, this is not some abstract statistic. It is the reality of our lives. And it is not the whole story either. Often lost in mainstream coverage of HIV are the ways stigma and discrimination put young people like us at increased risk for HIV – while also limiting our ability to get tested or seek treatment.

How can we take steps to reduce the spread of HIV if our schools failed to offer comprehensive sex education? How could we be expected to take advantage of Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis – the once-daily pill regimen that can prevent HIV – if there were no providers in our communities willing to prescribe it? How could we be expected to adhere to our medication and reach an undetectable viral load if we were constantly worried about where were going to put our heads at night? Or, what food we were going to eat? These are the questions young people are grappling with as we continue to make-up more than 25 percent of all new HIV transmissions in the U.S. These are the questions that demand answers.

But rather than scaring young people into submission with reminders of how terrible things used to be, we should be empowering them to make smarter, healthier choices. Young people don’t need to be shielded from the truth about HIV and AIDS. What we need is love, compassion, and mentorship from the people around us. What we need are laws and policies that affirm all of who we are. Only then will an “AIDS-free generation” ever truly be in sight.

Continue reading on the HRC blog.

February 7th is National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

5February 7th marks the 15th annual observance of National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (NBHAAD). Led by the Strategic Leadership Council, this initiative is designed to increase HIV education, testing, community involvement, and treatment among black communities across the nation.

Compared to other racial/ethnic groups in the United States, blacks/African Americans* account for a disproportionate burden of HIV and AIDS. While blacks represent approximately 12% of the U.S. population, they account for more new HIV infections (44%), people living with HIV (43%), and deaths of persons with diagnosed HIV (48%) than any other racial/ethnic group in the nation. Among blacks, gay and bisexual men, especially young men, are the most affected population—accounting for the majority of new infections.

Read more.

Lambda Legal launches “Know Your Rights: HIV”

From thebody.com

On September 28, 2015, Lambda Legal launched the newest section of its Know Your Rights information hub. “Know Your Rights: HIV” provides information for people living with HIV people on topics such as disclosure and discrimination in housing, healthcare and employment.

Justice“Based on calls to our Legal Help Desk, people living with HIV still face, even in 2015, continued discrimination rooted in ignorance, unfounded fear, misconceptions and outdated science,” said Scott Schoettes, Senior Attorney and HIV Project National Director.

“When denied access to health care or fired from a job because they have HIV, people living with HIV will be able to turn to the “Know Your Rights: HIV” hub to provide much-needed information to help access and navigate the resources and protections that are available. This resource helps to further educate the public and end the stigma and discrimination that people with HIV encounter. Such stigma and discrimination hinder efforts to combat the epidemic.”

Launched the day after the 2015 National Gay Men’s HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, the “Know Your Rights: HIV” hub provides a wide range of information about the rights of all people living with HIV, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.

“Though Lambda Legal is primarily an LGBT organization, our mission with respect to HIV covers all people living with HIV, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity,” said Kyle Palazzolo, HIV Project Staff Attorney. “We believe everyone living with HIV will find this information useful, and we hope that even more people will call our Legal Help Desk when seeking guidance.”

Read more.

HIV prevention pill a tough sell among Latinos

From NPR.org

“It hasn’t really hit the Latino community yet,” Jesse Hinostroza, an HIV prevention specialist with AltaMed health clinics, says while sitting at a table with a bowl of condoms and a stack of bilingual pamphlets about the pill. “They aren’t educated about it.” In California, New York, Texas and elsewhere, health workers are trying to get more high-risk Latino men to use the drug, Truvada. AltaMed’s efforts are being paid for by Gilead, the pharmaceutical company that makes Truvada.

The medication, which is used for “pre-exposure prophylaxis,” or PrEP, was approved by the FDA in 2012 for HIV prevention and has been shown to be more than 90 percent effective when used correctly. But health workers are encountering barriers among Latinos. Those barriers include a lack of knowledge about the drug, and the stigmas attached to sleeping with men and to perceived promiscuity. Many Latinos also have concerns about costs and side effects.

Read the full article.

HIV testing ad causes controversy

From OUT.com

An ad for FreeHIVTest.net that appeared earlier this spring has caused controversy in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and other areas where it has appeared on billboards and on public transportation kiosks. In the “white” version, the AIDS Healthcare Foundation’s ad features a gay couple in bed, covered only by a sheet and looking ashamed of what they’ve just done. A blond man clutches his pillow and looks suspiciously over the shoulder of the other man who appears to be almost catatonic. Above them, written in big letters is, “Trust Him?”

 

trusthim_gayaa_1094x335After the campaign launched this spring in Los Angeles, it’s been slated to appear in Oakland, California; Washington, D.C.; Columbus, Ohio; and Broward County, Florida. In a press release, AHF president Michael Weinstein explained:

“In today’s tabloid culture when it can seem that the game called ‘Life’ should be more appropriately tiled ‘Lies,’ the old adage holds true now more than ever, ‘It’s better to be safe than sorry.’ While infidelity is nothing new, the level of risk in contracting STDS from bed-hopping partners is at an all-time high. We want to remind couples that STDs linger around much longer than a wandering eye and that secret sexual experiences can often produce much more than what one bargained for.”

For some, it’s just a cautionary PSA about the realities of HIV and the importance of getting tested. For others, it’s been seen as a scare tactic to shame people out of having sex and demonize people with HIV — and many have spoofed the ads.

Continue reading.

HIV health advocates reach gay men at risk on cell phone apps

images (1)From the Washington Blade

Hook-up apps on smartphones continue to be an avenue for HIV health advocates to reach gay men at risk, Bloomberg reports.

Citing surging rates of new infections in gay and bi men 24 or younger, the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and the CDC coordinated an online campaign last month with several dating services to promote testing. The messages, which were donated by the app companies, were seen by 19 million users and more than 30,000 clicked through for more information, Hecht said.

Hornet and Jack’d are among dating apps that have undertaken their own awareness campaigns, deploying them in regions with less public discussion about the virus that causes AIDS. Last year Hornet teamed with a local non-profit in the Philippines to send messages to 94,000 users about testing services, with links for online registration. More than 4,300 men responded, and 539 were HIV positive, said Sean Howell, founder and chief executive officer of the San Francisco-based company.

“Gay men are always on their phone, looking for other gay men,” said Howell, 34, who created Hornet after he realized how much time his friends spent online. “We have 4 million users worldwide who are at the highest risk for HIV and we have their attention.”

 

 

February 7 is National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

From AIDS.gov

Like so many Americans, I have seen the tragedy first hand, of friends lost to HIV/ AIDS. I’ve also seen the hope of those living with HIV as we continue to work toward an AIDS free generation.

Each February 7th, we mark National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (NBHAAD). It’s an opportunity for all of us to honor the memory of those we’ve lost, and to call attention to the fact that HIV continues to disproportionately affect African American men, women, and youth.

The numbers are startling: African Americans represent only 14 percent of the U.S. population, but account for almost half of all new HIV infections in the United States per year, as well as more than one-third of all people living with HIV in our nation.

NBHAAD Banner

This year’s NBHAAD theme, “I Am My Brother’s/Sister’s Keeper: Fight HIV/AIDS” challenges all of us to work to eliminate these unacceptable health disparities by ramping up our HIV prevention efforts, encouraging individuals to get tested, and helping those who are living with HIV to access the life-saving medical treatment they need.

One of the ways the Department of Health and Human Services is responding to this charge is by launching a new four-year demonstration project funded through the Secretary’s Minority AIDS Initiative to address HIV disparities among men who have sex with men (MSM), including men of color.

We are focusing on HIV disparities among MSM, including MSM of color, because black gay and bisexual men—particularly young men—remain the population most heavily affected by HIV in the U.S. Young black MSM account for more new infections (4,800 in 2010) than any other subgroup of MSM by race/ethnicity and age. These shocking figures demand that we take action.

The cross-agency demonstration project will support community-based models in strengthening HIV prevention efforts, addressing gaps in care for those living with HIV, and helping meet the health care needs of MSM, including MSM of color. More specifically, the funding will support state and local health departments in providing MSM of color, and other MSM, with the health and social services they need to live healthy lives free of HIV infection. For those already infected, the funding will support community-based services that help MSM of color, and other MSM, get diagnosed and linked to the right care—including substance abuse and mental health treatment as well as necessary social services, like stable housing. Helping people access and remain in HIV care is good medicine and important to our public health—since it lowers individuals’ risk of passing HIV to others.

We all have a role to play in working toward an AIDS free generation. Education and understanding prevention and treatment of HIV is important. And HIV testing is also critical as we continue to tackle this disease. One thing we can all do is speak out – speak out against HIV stigma whenever and wherever you encounter it. Stigma and shame continue to prevent too many people from seeking testing and getting the health care they need to live healthy, active lives.

Read more about HIV among African Americans and efforts to prevent and treat this disease at CDC.gov.

Young gay men describe trust as an HIV prevention strategy

What constitutes safer sex? Sex with a condom? Sex with PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis)? Oral sex? At GAYCON 2014, an annual conference on gay and bisexual men’s health in Scotland, researcher Nicola Boydell presented the results of a study that sought to discern young gay men’s attitudes toward safer sex, Aidsmap reports.

The good news: Young gay men see safer sex as more than just condom use. The bad news? Many consider condomless sex within the context of a relationship as being relatively safe, even when they knew nothing about their partner’s HIV testing history.

Yet, the majority of HIV transmissions among gay men happen within the context of a relationship, according to data from a 2009 U.S. study. When speaking of these relationships, men cite trust as the number one reason to take off the condom.

Continue reading on The Body.

 

26th World AIDS Day: Get in there, do something, change things

From Huffington Post…
by

red ribbonPre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and treatment as prevention (TasP) have successfully returned sexual health to the national and international headlines. Not since the early years of the HIV epidemic has there been so much constructive dialogue, progress, and involvement by the public.

Long-term survivors, HIV organizations, scientists, public-health experts, and the generation that never knew a world without HIV joined hands on the 26th World AIDS Day in an effort to educate and advocate in commemoration of those we have lost to HIV and the people living with the infection today.

While a few still wage a lonely and wasteful fight against science and progress itself, it is time to acknowledge that we finally have the opportunity to move on from a monotonous, one-way conversation and use these new tools as catalysts for serious and much-needed change.

Of course, it doesn’t help when one of our favorite Star Trek actors throws all logic overboard and simply dismisses today’s generation as lazy, complacent and irresponsible, but it certainly shows that we haven’t progressed much since President Reagan’s infamous call to abstinence 27 years ago.

Six of the estimated 39 million people we lost worldwide to HIV were my friends and mentors. All six would have agreed with Meryl Streep’s Margaret Thatcher when she says in The Iron Lady, [I]f something’s wrong, they shouldn’t just whine about it. They should get in there and do something about it. Change things.”

Keep reading on Huffington Post.

Gay dating apps pledge to do more to combat HIV stigma and promote testing

From the Gay Star News online…

Representatives of seven of the most popular gay dating websites and apps have collaborated with leading US AIDScell phone organizations to discuss strategies to help promote HIV/STI testing and to reduce the stigma associated with HIV infection. The results of a San Francisco summit between representatives of the dating sites and health leaders – including San Francisco AIDS Foundation, and amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research – have been published in a new report.

Across the US, around 20% of gay and bisexual men are estimated to be living with HIV, while some estimates indicate that 3 in 5 men now meet their partners online. The apps and websites that were able to attend the summit – which took place over two days in early September – included BarebackRT, Daddyhunt, Dudesnude, Gay.com, Grindr, PozPersonals, and SCRUFF. Three other apps were unable to attend the summit but have pledged their support.

Continue reading on Gay Star News.

Gay-rights organization endorses the use of a once-a-day pill to prevent HIV infection

From ABC News online

Some doctors have been reluctant to prescribe the drug, Truvada, on the premise that it might encourage high-risk, unprotected sexual behavior. However, its preventive use has been endorsed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization, and many HIV/AIDS advocacy groups

The Human Rights Campaign, which recently has been focusing its gay-rights advocacy on same-sex marriage and anti-discrimination issues, joined those ranks with the release of a policy paper strongly supporting the preventive use of Truvada. It depicted the drug as “a critically important tool” in combatting HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. “HRC does not take this position lightly,” the policy paper said. “We recognize there is still ongoing debate … and that there are those out there who will disagree with our stance.”

Truvada has been around for a decade, serving as one of the key drugs used in combination with others as the basic treatment for people with HIV. In 2012, the Food and Drug Administration approved it for pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP — in other words, for use to prevent people from getting sexually transmitted HIV in the first place. “Today, there is an unprecedented chance to end the HIV/AIDS epidemic, in part through PrEP’s aggressive prevention of new HIV infections,” said Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign. “There is no reason — medical or otherwise — to discourage individuals from taking control of their sexual health and talking to their doctor about PrEP.”

The CDC says studies have shown that Truvada, when taken diligently, can reduce the risk of getting HIV by 90 percent or more. Research discussed at the International AIDS Conference in July found that use of the drug does not encourage risky sex and is effective even if people skip some doses.

As part of its announcement, the Human Rights Campaign called on insurers, regulators and Truvada’s manufacturer to take steps to reduce costs, raise public awareness, and make the option available to all medically qualified individuals who could benefit from it, regardless of ability to pay.

The cost of Truvada varies widely; a New York State Health Department fact sheet gives a range of $8,000 to $14,000 per year. The manufacturer, California-based Gilead Sciences Inc., has a program that provides assistance to some people who are eligible to use Truvada but cannot afford it.

The Human Rights Campaign urged all states to emulate Washington state, which implemented a program earlier this year offering assistance in paying for PrEP. The preventive option also was endorsed by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo when he announced initiatives in June aimed at ending the state’s AIDS epidemic by 2020.

The HRC called on state insurance regulators to take action against any insurers who deny legitimate claims from patients who’ve been prescribed PrEP by their doctors.

A prominent provider of services to HIV-positive people, the Los Angeles-based AIDS Healthcare Foundation, remains a vocal critic of the preventive use of Truvada. In an ad campaign launched in August, the foundation says many gay men fail to adhere to Truvada’s once-a-day regimen and describes government promotion of the drug as “a public health disaster in the making.”

Come out against stigma, live out proud

by  – Executive Director of the National Minority AIDS Council

 

The fight against HIV/AIDS has always been about more than the search for medicine or a cure. It has been a battle for human dignity, to demonstrate that each life, regardless of race, sexual orientation, gender identity, nation of origin, or religion, has inherent value. From the beginning, this epidemic has taken the largest toll on our most marginalized communities. From gay men and transgender women to injection-drug users and people of color, those who are most often shut out of our nation’s halls of affluence and power are also the most vulnerable to a whole host of health challenges, including HIV.

A few days ago I had the honor of participating in a panel on HIV sponsored by U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee (D-California) at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s Annual Legislative Caucus. During the event the always-inspiring Douglas Brooks, who is the first black gay man living with HIV to head the White House Office of National AIDS Policy, gave brief opening remarks in which he quoted the Bible, saying, “He came unto his own, and his own received him not” (John 1:11). As we once again marked National Gay Men’s HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (Sept. 27), this simple verse resonated with me in a powerful way and seemed to reflect the position that so many gay men, especially gay men living with HIV, find themselves in.

Continue reading on the Huffington Post.