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.

Gay or bi men who disclose sexual history may get better healthcare

From Reuters online

Young men who have sex with men (MSM) who disclose their sexual orientation or behavior to a health care provider are more likely to receive appropriate healthcare, new data suggest.

Dr. Elissa Meites of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and her colleagues studied 817 MSM, ages 18 to 26, who had seen a healthcare provider in the past year. Men who had disclosed were more than twice as likely as those who had not to have received the full panel of recommended screenings and vaccines, the researchers found.

The CDC and the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommend that MSM be screened for HIV, syphilis, gonorrhea and chlamydia at least once a year, and immunized against hepatitis A and B and human papillomavirus (HPV), Meites and her colleagues note the journal Sexually Transmitted Diseases. Overall, 67 percent of the study participants had received all four recommended STI screenings, but that was true for only 51 percent of the MSM who had never disclosed. Nine percent overall had received all vaccinations, compared to six percent of those who hadn’t disclosed.

The pattern was similar when researchers looked to see how many participants received all seven recommended services. The rate was just seven percent for the overall study population, but it was even lower – at less than four percent – for the MSM who hadn’t disclosed.

Read the full article.

Grindr looking for ways to add partner notification to services

From Mashable.com

Popular dating apps could soon help stop the spread of record high STD infections among their users.

Grindr and other primarily gay dating apps are exploring ways to add the ability for people who test positive for an STD to notify partners using the app, Mashable has learned in multiple interviews with public health experts.

According to Dr. Heidi Bauer, the chief of STD control at the California Department of Health, and Dan Wohlfeiler, director of the health consortium Building Healthy Online Communities(BHOC), STD partner notification messages are currently under consideration by several different app-makers, including Grindr, with one possibility already in the design and piloting phase.

Read the full article.

Opinion: We need to talk about how Grindr is affecting gay men’s mental health

I’m a gay psychiatrist. Here’s why I went on Grindr to survey men.

When I open the Grindr app on my smartphone, I see there’s a 26-year-old man with tanned abs just 200 feet away. He’s called “looking4now,” and his profile explains that he wants sex at his place as soon as possible.

Scrolling down, I find 100 similar profiles within a one-mile radius of my apartment in Boston. I can filter them by body type, sexual position (top, bottom, or versatile), and HIV status.

As a gay psychiatrist who studies gender and sexuality, I’m thrilled with the huge strides we’ve made over the past decade to bring gay relationships into the mainstream. The Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriage is a constitutional right. Today in Boston, two men can walk down the street holding hands without consequence.

But I’m worried by the rise of the underground digital bathhouse. Apps like Grindr, with 3 million daily active users, and others like Scruff and Jack’d, are designed to help gay men solicit sex, often anonymously, online. I am all for sexual liberation, but I can’t stop wondering if these apps also have a negative effect on gay men’s mental health.

Since there’s little published research on the men using Grindr, I decided to conduct an informal survey and ask men why they’re on the app so much and how it’s affecting their relationships and mental health. I created a profile identifying myself as a medical writer looking to talk to men about their experiences. I received about 50 responses (including propositions).

It’s a small sample size, but enough to give us some clues about how Grindr is affecting gay men. And it doesn’t look good.

Read the full article on Vox.

Grindr’s full response to disclosing users’ HIV status to outside vendors

As a company that serves the LGBTQ community, we understand the sensitivities around HIV status disclosure. Our goal is and always has been to support the health and safety of our users worldwide.

Recently, Grindr’s industry standard use of third party partners including Apptimize and Localytics, two highly-regarded software vendors, to test and validate the way we roll out our platform has drawn concern over the way we share user data.

In an effort to clear any misinformation we feel it necessary to state:

  1. Grindr has never, nor will we ever sell personally identifiable user information – especially information regarding HIV status or last test date – to third parties or advertisers.
  2. As an industry standard practice, Grindr does work with highly-regarded vendors to test and optimize how we roll out our platform. These vendors are under strict contractual terms that provide for the highest level of confidentiality, data security, and user privacy.
  3. When working with these platforms we restrict information shared except as necessary or appropriate. Sometimes this data may include location data or data from HIV status fields as these are features within Grindr, however, this information is always transmitted securely with encryption, and there are data retention policies in place to further protect our users’ privacy from disclosure.
  4. It’s important to remember that Grindr is a public forum. We give users the option to post information about themselves including HIV status and last test date, and we make it clear in our privacy policy that if you choose to include this information in your profile, the information will also become public. As a result, you should carefully consider what information to include in your profile.

As an industry leader and champion for the LGBTQ community, Grindr, recognizes that a person’s HIV status can be highly stigmatized but after consulting several international health organizations and our Grindr For Equality team, Grindr determined with community feedback it would be beneficial for the health and well-being of our community to give users the option to publish, at their discretion, the user’s HIV Status and their Last Tested Date. It is up to each user to determine what, if anything, to share about themselves in their profile.

The inclusion of HIV status information within our platform is always regarded carefully with our users’ privacy in mind, but like any other mobile app company, we too must operate with industry standard practices to help make sure Grindr continues to improve for our community.  We assure everyone that we are always examining our processes around privacy, security and data sharing with third parties, and always looking for additional measures that go above and beyond industry best practices to help maintain our users’ right to privacy.

– Scott Chen, CTO of Grindr

 

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.