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.

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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.

Gay men follow HIV prevention regimen, if MDs prescribe it

From Reuters

Out of more than 1,000 gay and bisexual men surveyed, only 83, or fewer than one in 10, reported that they use HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP).

But 42 percent of those who do use it said they had not skipped a single dose in the previous 90 days, and only 6 percent had skipped more than two doses per week, the investigators reported at the annual meeting of the Society of Behavioral Medicine in Washington, DC.

Docs need to prescribe PrEPThe lesson for care providers is that men are willing and able to take a daily pill, so it is important to talk to those who could benefit and increase prescription rates, study leader Jeffrey Parsons, a professor of psychology at Hunter College, City University of New York, told Reuters Health by email.

“The majority of gay men who are . . . good candidates for PrEP are not on the medication, and many haven’t spoken to their medical providers about PrEP. We need to get conversations going, and in general promote more open dialogue between doctors and patients regarding sexual health,” Parsons said.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control has guidelines to help healthcare providers determine who is an appropriate candidate for PrEP with safer sex practices and Truvada, a pill made by Gilead that contains the antiviral drugs emtricitabine and tenofovir.

Read the full article.

Meet the man who got HIV while on daily PrEP

From POZ.com

Ever since July 2012, when the FDA approved Truvada as PrEP, a pre-exposure prophylaxis to prevent getting HIV, its success rate has been, well, perfect. In fact, not a single person adhering to the daily regimen has ever tested HIV positive—and that includes everyone in clinical trials and studies, and the more than 40,000 people taking Truvada as PrEP in the United States. But PrEP researchers, like most scientists, rarely speak in absolutes and guarantees; they’ve acknowledged that, under rare circumstances, an infection is feasible. Last week, that hypothetical situation became a known reality.

HIV pos while on daily PrEPOn February 25 at the annual Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI) in Boston, David C. Knox, MD, an HIV specialist at the Maple Leaf Medical Clinic in Toronto, presented data on a patient who, after two years of good PrEP adherence, tested HIV positive (for more on that, read this article by POZ’s Benjamin Ryan).

In Knox’s presentation, his patient remained anonymous, but many of us in the PrEP and HIV communities had followed his seroconversion story in real time as he posted about it last May in the Facebook group PrEP Facts: Rethinking HIV Prevention and Sex, in which he was an active member. Since then, Joe—as he prefers to be called here—dropped off the discussion boards. I had kept his information and interviewed him earlier this year for a potential POZ feature. At that time, the 44-year-old was excited to put 2015 behind him (more on that later). We chatted about gentrification in Toronto’s “gay village,” and he described himself as a “foreigner” whose family had lived in Kuwait and Denmark before moving to Canada when he was 11, experiences that resulted in his speaking several languages and working as an international flight attendant for 14 years. Now employed at a telecommunications giant, Joe sounded optimistic about his future job prospects and he was devoting energy to the new love of his life: Oliver, a Lhaso Apso-Maltese-Yorkie mix. Importantly, Joe had acclimated to a new HIV regimen, taking his meds each morning, and his viral load had remained undetectable.

Read the full article on POZ.com.

The gay sex questions you’re afraid to ask your doctor

From the Huffington Post

No one likes going to the doctor. It’s scary.

But for gay men, it’s even scarier. For one, gay men experience a great deal of stigma and shaming, which makes difficult conversations even harder. Gay men, as a population, are also at higher risk for certain sexually transmitted diseases and conditions. That’s also scary. Lastly, predicting a health care provider’s response to gay-specific isn’t easy. Some doctors are totally comfortable talking about gay sex and gay men’s health; in other instances, doctors shut down entirely.

The reality is, gay men need to feel empowered to have difficult conversations with their doctor. After all, your life is literally on the line. And if your doctor doesn’t respond with professionalism and understanding, it’s time to find someone new.

To get the ball rolling, I asked the gay internet (i.e., my Facebook page) for questions that they’re afraid to ask their doctor — and walked the walk by asking my own doctor, Dr. Jay Gladstein. Here’s what he had to say:

Dept of Health launches program providing coverage for uninsured with Hep C and HIV

 
Harrisburg, PA – Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Dr. Karen Murphy and Secretary of Aging Teresa Osborne announced today the Special Pharmaceutical Benefits Program (SPBP) is implementing a pilot program offering no cost coverage of hepatitis C antiviral medications for individuals with a dual diagnosis of HIV and hepatitis C. This pilot program will be a collaboration between the Department of Health (DOH) and the Department of Aging (PDA).
 
“Protecting Pennsylvania’s more vulnerable residents is one of the Wolf Administration’s primary objectives,” said Secretary Murphy. “Providing drug coverage for individuals suffering from hepatitis C or HIV who couldn’t otherwise afford the proper medical treatments is a part of our goal to ensure that every resident of the commonwealth has the ability to access needed medication.” 
 
The $13 million, six-month program will be made available to hundreds of low-income Pennsylvanians with both hepatitis C and HIV and is funded through additional pharmaceutical liability recoveries made by the Department of Aging’s Pharmaceutical Assistance Contract for the Elderly program (PACE), which offers low-cost prescription medication to qualified residents, age 65 and older.
 
“The opportunity to partner with the Department of Health on this pilot program  is an exciting opportunity to leverage 30-plus years of experience administering an effective prescription drug program with the Wolf Administration’s steadfast commitment to support the health of and improve the quality of life for all Pennsylvanians,” said Secretary of Aging Teresa Osborne. 
 
The SPBP is Pennsylvania’s AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP), which is funded by a federal grant through the Health Resources and Services Administration Ryan White HIV/AIDS Part B Program. The SPBP plays a vital role in providing access to medications for people living with HIV, including those with hepatitis C co-infection. The program serves low to moderate income individuals who are underinsured or uninsured and have a diagnosis of HIV. In addition to HIV viral load suppression, maintaining optimal overall health is equally vital to the management of HIV disease and increases the quality of life for commonwealth citizens.
 
Individuals eligible for or enrolled in other prescription plans must utilize those benefits prior to SPBP. For a full list of the medications, the approval criteria, request form and additional details, please go to the SPBP website at:www.health.pa.gov/spbpFor more information about the PACE program, call 1-800-225-7223.

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.

Gay/bi men are 2% of population but 67% of all new HIV infections in 2014

From Reuters Health

HIV still on the rise among gay menNew strategies to reduce risky sexual behaviors among young gay and bisexual men with human immunodeficiency virus may be needed to reduce new infections, according to a new study.

Researchers found that most young gay and bisexual men with HIV don’t have the virus suppressed by medication, making them more likely to infect others, and more than half reported recent unprotected sex.

While medications for HIV and access to those treatments improved over time, lead author Patrick Wilson said addressing unemployment, education and mental health is also important.

“I think we have to take a multipronged approach,” said Wilson, of the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health in New York City.

Gay and bisexual men represent about 2 percent of the U.S. population, but accounted for about 67 percent of all people diagnosed with HIV in 2014, according to the HIV Surveillance Report released on Sunday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (see Reuters Health story of December 6, 2015 here).

The steepest rise in HIV diagnoses between 2005 and 2014 was among young gay and bisexual men, with increases ranging from 56 percent among young white men to 87 percent among young black and Latino men.

Continue reading.

LGBTQ Americans: Time to enroll in health care

enroll in the affordable care actFrom AIDS.gov

The 2016 open enrollment season has begun. Through January 31, 2016, you can apply for a 2016 health plan, renew your current plan, or pick a new plan through the Health Insurance Marketplace.

This is important news for all Americans, including those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT). On average, LGBT Americans experience greater exposure to violence and homelessness, as well as higher rates of poverty, HIV infection, tobacco and substance use, mental health disorders, and cancer. These disparities are even more pronounced for LGBT individuals who are also members of racial and ethnic minorities and have low incomes.

These health disparities are due in part to lower rates of health coverage. Now, thanks to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), LGBT Americans have increased access to quality, affordable health insurance.

Visit HealthCare.gov to enroll in a new plan, change your current plan, and get answers about the ACA. See HHS.gov’s LGBT Health and Well-being: The Affordable Care Act to learn how the ACA helps LGBT individuals and families.

Awareness of treatment’s impact on transmission is transforming the lives of couples of mixed HIV status

From aidsmap.com

A greater understanding of the impact of HIV treatment on prevention is changing the experience of being in a relationship with a partner of a different HIV status, according to a qualitative Australian study published last week in the Sociology of Health and Illness. A biomedical intervention appears to be having unexpected effects – loosening the association of serodiscordant relationships with ‘risk’ and helping couples to experience their relationships as normal and safe.

Asha Persson of the University of New South Wales reports that people’s views about treatment as prevention have changed significantly in recent years. She previously researched the topic in 2009, soon after the ‘Swiss Statement’ was issued. At that time, people in a relationship with a partner of a different HIV status often expressed scepticism or uncertainty about the idea that HIV treatment could make a person non-infectious. They did not always see the relevance of the information to their own lives.

But in her more recent interviews, conducted in 2013 and 2014, couples readily discussed the implications of having an undetectable viral load. HIV treatment appears to be transforming the social and sexual lives of people living with HIV and their partners.

The research specifically focuses on so-called ‘serodiscordant couples’, in other words those in which one person has HIV and the other does not. The public health literature on serodiscordant relationships typically focuses on the risk of HIV transmission and tends to see such a relationship as inherently problematic. In contrast, Persson found that her interviewees wanted to stress how normal and positive their relationships were, with HIV being seen as ‘no big deal’.

Read the full article on aidsmap.com.

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.

Paying for PrEP without breaking the bank

From thevoice.com

paying for PrEPThere’s a lot of misinformation circulating around the internet and in conversations about PrEP (Pre-exposure prophylaxis), the single-daily dose of Truvada, once only used to treat those living with HIV, but now available and approved by the FDA to prevent new HIV infections in negative individuals. PrEP has proved to be more than 90 percent effective in clinical trials when taken as prescribed along with condom use. That’s great. But paying for PrEP, whether you’re insured or not, can be a stressful and expensive experience.Georgia Voice is here to provide you with some basic information about how you can get access to and pay for PrEP. This is by no means a comprehensive list. And of course, you’ll want to consult your health care provider before beginning any drug regimen.

Get more information on thevoice.com.

Updated HIV/AIDS strategy and amfAR releases report

From OUT online

Last week the White House released the National HIV/AIDS Strategy for the United States updated through the year 2020. It’s vision statement read: “The United States will become a place where new HIV infections are rare, and when they do occur, every person, regardless of age, gender, race/ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, or socio-economic circumstance, will have unfettered access to high quality, life-extending care, free from stigma and discrimination.”

The five-year plan discusses steps that are necessary to take across different facets of the HIV/AIDS topic, including reducing new HIV infections, increasing access to care for those infected and improving health outcomes for them, reducing HIV-related disparities and health inequities, and achieving a more coordinated national response to the HIV epidemic.

To accompany the strategy, the American Foundation for AIDS Research released a report commending the amount of coordinated efforts to tackle the HIV/AIDS epidemic on the federal level, but admits that to be successful, the same thing has to happen on a state level.

The foundation gave recommendations for the states so they can improve their HIV prevention and care, and align with the vision set out by the national strategy. “The burden of HIV, and the responses to it, varies across states due to a number of social, political, and economic factors,” said Jeffrey S. Crowley, Program Director of the National HIV/AIDS Initiative at the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law in a release. “But we have found that if states focus on a handful of priority action steps and implement them successfully, they can begin to close critical gaps and dramatically accelerate progress toward ending their HIV epidemics.”

Continue reading.

AIDSVu releases updated interactive online maps

map2

Click on the map to go to AIDSVu interactive online maps

AIDSVu releases its annual interactive online maps that show HIV prevalence data for 34 highly-impacted U.S. cities, including for the first time Birmingham, AL, updated state- and county-level prevalence data, and year-by-year new diagnosis data for 2008 to 2013. HIV testing and treatment locator maps include, for the first time, housing opportunities for persons with AIDS, and also show NIH-funded HIV prevention, vaccine and treatment trials locations.

 

 

New site answers your questions: “What is PrEP?”

From whatisprep.org

PrEP means Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis, and it’s the use of anti-HIV medication that keeps HIV negative people from becoming infected. PrEP is approved by the FDA and has been shown to be safe and effective. A single pill taken once daily, it is highly effective against HIV when taken every day. The medication interferes with HIV’s ability to copy itself in your body after you’ve been exposed. This prevents it from establishing an infection and making you sick.

Even though PrEP has been around in the U.S. for over a year, not a lot of people know about it. And, even fewer people feel like they know enough about it to be able to make an informed decision about whether or not to use it. For those who do use it, the information they have might be more focused on practical issues, like where to get it, rather than on what PrEP does in the body to prevent HIV infection.

By using animation to show PrEP in the body and why “once a day” is recommended, people can see what PrEP does and people who currently use PrEP can create an image of what happens when they take a PrEP pill every day.

View the video below to get information about PrEP and see an illustration of how it can work inside the body to prevent HIV infection.

Learn More About PrEP

See CDC 2014 Clinical Practice Guidelines at http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/pdf/PrEPguidelines2014.pdf

AIDS.gov – PrEP information page (aids.gov/hiv-aids-basics/prevention/reduce-your-risk/pre-exposure-prophylaxis)

AIDSinfoNet – Reliable, Up-To-Date Treatment Information(aidsinfonet.org/fact_sheets/view/160)

AVAC – Global Advocacy for HIV Prevention (avac.org/ht/d/sp/i/262/pid/262)

Avert – AVERTing HIV and AIDS (avert.org/pre-exposure-prophylaxis.htm)

CDC – Questions and Answers from the U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (cdc.gov/hiv/prevention/research/prep)

My PrEP Experience – Real stories from real people who adopted PrEP for prevention in the US (myprepexperience.blogspot.com)

PrEP Facts – San Francisco AIDS Foundation PrEP information in visual format for MSM and heterosexual individuals, with an option for Spanish(prepfacts.org)

PrEP Watch – Interactive webpage with information and resources on gaining access to PrEP (prepwatch.org)

PrEParing for HIV – An Epidemic Interventions Initiative by the University of California

Project Inform – Videos, publications and resources (projectinform.com/prep)

SFHIV – City and County of San Francisco Department of Public Health’s PrEP information page (sfhiv.org/resources/prep)

Guidance for Use of PrEP in Practice and Research Settings

WHO – World Health Organization (who.int/hiv/pub/guidance_prep/en)

CDC – Downloadable PDF from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (cdc.gov/nchhstp/newsroom/docs/CDC-Interim-PrEP-Guidance-012811.pdf)

Human Rights Campaign (HRC) publishes updated guide to practicing safer sex

Press release from the HRC

The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Foundation, in collaboration with Whitman-Walker Heath (WWH), released an updated guide to practicing safer sex that includes essential tips to minimize the spread of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

The guide, “Safer Sex,” an updated version of the first edition released five years ago, is written for people of all sexual orientations and gender identities, covering topics ranging from basic facts about HIV and STIs, and the importance of practicing safer sex, to the role of new HIV prevention regimens including Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis, or “PrEP.”

The pocket-sized publication is the latest collaboration between the HRC Foundation and WWH, building on their shared commitment to securing the health and well-being of LGBT people in the nation’s capital and beyond.

“It’s a fact that many LGBT people don’t see themselves, or their relationships, discussed in mainstream sexual health resources,” said Jay Brown, the HRC Foundation’s Director of Research and Public Education. “With rates of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections on the rise among young people and in communities of color, HRC and Whitman-Walker remain committed to providing crucial health and wellness information in a way that is medically accurate, culturally competent, and judgement-free.”

Read more on the HRC Website.

Social apps back in the news after Rhode Island study notes alarming rise of STDs

From Latinos Health

In the report by the Rhode Island Department of Health, researchers highlighted the alarming rise of STD’s in the state between 2013 and 2014, with HIV infections up by 33 percent, gonorrhea up 30 percent, and syphilis rising an alarming 79 percent.

“New cases of HIV and syphilis continued to increase among gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men at a faster rate than in other populations,” the report noted, adding that “infection rates of all STDs continued to have a greater impact on the African-American, Hispanic, and young adult populations.”

While better testing partly explains the increase, health officials also highlighted “high-risk behaviors that have become more common in recent years,” such as “using social media to arrange casual and often anonymous sexual encounters.”

Read the full article.

New study shows gay and bi men twice as likely to get skin cancer

From USA Today

Gay and bisexual men in the United States are twice as likely as heterosexual men to get skin cancer, a new study shows.

One likely reason: Gay and bisexual men are three times more likely to engage in indoor tanning, according to the study to be presented Friday in San Francisco at a meeting of the American Academy of Dermatology.

The study suggests that anti-tanning messages, most often aimed at young women, need to be broader, says researcher Sarah Arron, an associate professor of dermatology at the University of California, San Francisco. “The primary reason that men and women engage in indoor tanning is because of the cultural association of tanning with a healthy look and overall attractiveness,” Arron says. “We need to dispel the myth of the healthy tan.”

Tanning, whether in the sun or in a tanning bed, can cause skin cancer, including melanoma, the most dangerous kind, according to the U.S. Surgeon General’s office.