Coming out to your doctor in rural America

From NPR online

Finding the perfect doctor can be a feat for anyone. And a poll conducted by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health finds that 18 percent of all LGBTQ Americans refrain from seeing a physician for fear of discrimination.

One of those people is 20-year-old Alex Galvan. The moment right before he told his doctor earlier this year that he is gay and sexually active felt like a nightmare. Galvan lives in rural Tulare County in California’s Central Valley. He wanted to start a regimen of medication that helps prevent HIV infection, an approach called “pre-exposure prophylaxis,” or PrEP.

Alex Galvan

“Sitting in the waiting room was kind of like, ‘you got this, you’re just asking for a medication to help you,’ ” Galvan says, remembering what was going through his head before he came out to the doctor. “He’s not going to flip out. And then the moment before was, ‘Oh gosh, here it goes.’ ”

His doctor didn’t know about PrEP, and Galvan thought he was going to be rejected. Instead, his physician educated himself.

“I was kind of scared that he didn’t know what it was, but I was also relieved because I let him do most of the research,” Galvan says. “Yeah, and then I cried a little bit in the car, because I didn’t know what just had happened and it all kind of blurred together.”

Pediatrician Kathryn Hall knows about these concerns all too well. She has been practicing medicine in Tulare County for over a decade, and time and time again, her patients tell her they’re afraid to come out to their other doctors. A few years ago, she got so fed up that she surveyed more than 500 nearby doctors asking them basic questions about being welcoming. “I made the bar very, very low because we just didn’t get much education on LGBT health in medical school,” says Hall. “That is starting to change.”

Around 120 doctors responded to Hall’s survey, and most of them said they would be happy to serve this group. Hall says there are lots of ways that doctors can make it clear they’re accepting — a little rainbow flag on the door or taking out ad in a local magazine.

“Many of the physicians that I know are LGBT-friendly, but patients don’t know that and are very afraid that they’re being judged,” Hall says.

Read the full article on NPR.

 

PATF changes name to reflect exapanded services

From the Pittsburgh AIDS Task Force

As of September 26, 2017, Pittsburgh AIDS Task Force will be Allies for Health + Wellbeing! The name change follows a period of significant expansion for the agency and is in keeping with feedback given by current and potential clients. The new name also pays homage to the agency’s founders.

In 1985, the volunteers who formed the Pittsburgh AIDS Task Force were truly allies fighting against HIV/AIDS on a number of fronts. They fought for the dignity, rights and humanity of those were dying of AIDS. They fought against rampant discrimination and fear. These allies fought to prevent HIV transmission by disseminating accurate information to the community and by offering free anonymous screenings.

Today, we continue to be on the side of people living with HIV, working with them to maximize their health and quality of life. From primary medical care to housing, to a food pantry and, soon, onsite mental health services, Allies for Health + Wellbeing delivers integrated services with a holistic approach. We have also expanded services for those at risk of HIV, including Pre-exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP), treatment for sexually transmitted infections and viral hepatitis, as well as primary medical care.

With a new name comes a new logo and a whole new brand image. Our new brand image will be unveiled at a launch party on September 26th.

Antibiotic-resistant Gonorrhea on the rise: Are you at risk of drug-resistant STD?

From techtimes.com…

The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned that gonorrhea, a common sexually transmitted disease, has become harder and sometimes even impossible to treat. Neisseria gonorrhoeae, the bacteria that causes the STD, is so smart it evolves to develop resistance against the antibiotics used to treat infection. [Read the WHO report here]

WHO said that decreasing use of condom, poor infection detection rates, urbanization and travel, as well as inadequate or failed treatments all contribute to the rising cases of antibiotic-resistant gonorrhea. “WHO reports widespread resistance to older and cheaper antibiotics. Some countries — particularly high-income ones, where surveillance is best — are finding cases of the infection that are untreatable by all known antibiotics,” WHO said in a statement. WHO experts said that oral sex is driving the spread of super-gonorrhea. In the United States, about two-thirds of those between 15 and 24 years old have had oral sex.

Teodora Wi, from the WHO, said that when antibiotics are used to treat infections of the throat such as normal sore throat, these get mixed with the Neisseria species in the throat, which can lead to resistance.

What makes matters more worrying is that many people with gonorrhea in the throat are not aware they are infected and are more likely to transmit the infection via oral sex. “In the US, resistance [to an antibiotic] came from men having sex with men because of pharyngeal infection,” Wi said.

Read the full article.

Undetectable viral load and HIV prevention: what do gay and bi men need to know?

What does undetectable mean? What about undetectable viral load and HIV transmission? And if I’m living with HIV, can I use “undetectable viral load” as an HIV prevention strategy?

From thebody.com

Risk of HIV transmission is virtually eliminated when people living with HIV are consistently taking effective HIV medication, (known as antiretroviral therapy or ARVs). It’s well-verified by research, and backed up by many years of real world observation: There have been no cases of transmission in couples where the HIV-positive partner was on meds and had “undetectable” viral load test results for at least six months.

But what does this mean for gay and bi men making decisions about sex, whether in ongoing partnerships, casual dating or anonymous encounters?

Get the answers on thebody.com.

Do doctors need to know their patients’ sexual orientation and gender identity?

From the New York Times

A growing number of federal agencies has been pushing health care providers to ask. Federally funded community health centers, which treat millions of patients, have begun to collect the data. Electronic health software must be able to store it. And blueprints for national health goals recommend collecting the information from all patients.

By knowing whether a patient is lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or straight, say public health experts, clinicians can be more alert to a person’s medical needs and more thoughtful in interactions. If hospitals report statistics on all patients, health care disparities among L.G.B.T. patients can be identified and redressed more effectively.

Read the full article.

Is technology increasing the rate of STDs among certain populations?

by Laurie Saloman, MS

It’s known that men who have sex with men tend to have disproportionately high rates of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) compared with the general population, particularly African American and Latino men. A new study has discovered a link between the methods that these men use to find sexual partners and STD infection rates.   The study, conducted by scientists at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), was comprised of 853 African American and Latino men who lived in Chicago, Illinois, Kansas City, Missouri, and Fort Lauderdale, Florida, who indicated that they had engaged in sex with at least 1 man during the previous year. The men were recruited either online or through some form of community outreach. Questions included their HIV status, whether they identified as gay or bisexual, how many male partners they’d had in the previous 3 months, and whether they used the Internet (via computer) and mobile-phone applications (apps) to look for sex partners.

Read the full article.

Laurie Saloman, MS, is a health writer with more than 20 years of experience working for both consumer and physician-focused publications. She is a graduate of Brandeis University and the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.

Finding LGBT-friendly care  

 

Resources for finding LGBT-friendly care, support and useful information:

• The Human Rights Campaign releases an annual report, “Healthcare Equality Index,” with information on the policies and practices that health care facilities in the United States offer to LGBT patients and their families.

SAGE is a national social service agency dedicated to LGBT seniors, with a free and confidential LGBT Elder Hotline: 888-234-7243.

• The National Resource Center on LGBT Aging offers a wide range of health, policy and legal info on its site, where you can search for local resources by state.

  • The LGBT National Help Center is an online and call-in resource center for information, support and referrals. It includes an online peer-support chat group and a hotline you can call to speak with a volunteer peer counselor: 888-843-4564.

• The Gay and Lesbian Medical Association allows you to search for health care providers in your area.

CenterLink, the Community of LGBT Centers, has a locator where you can find the gay community center nearest to you or your loved one’s home.

• The Metropolitan Community Churches, an international Christian denomination, is particularly welcoming of LGBT people. A staff person at the nearest MCC might be able to recommend appropriate resources in your area.

  • Family Caregiver Alliance offers LGBT caregiving FAQs, as well as a section on “Legal Issues for LGBT Caregivers” and other useful legal resources.

• The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has information about its policies and military benefits for LGBT service members and veterans.

• The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers a range of info on LGBT health issues.

• The American Psychological Association includes some general information on transgender people and gender identity.

• The World Professional Association for Transgender Health has established standards of care for the treatment of gender identity disorders, and offers information on a spectrum of transgender issues, plus a provider search engine.

• The Transgender Law Center fights discrimination, helps transgender people find legal assistance and has updates on related legal news (with some focus on California).

Editor’s note: If you live in Allegheny County, you can find local health resources on our Website in a downloadable pdf file.