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.

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.

Sex and COVID-19

It may seem obvious that if a person is infected with COVID-19, they risk infecting others during sex. But people still have a lot of questions. Here’s an excerpt on the topic form the Mayo Clinic Website:

The virus spreads by respiratory droplets released when someone with the virus coughs, sneezes or talks. These droplets can be inhaled or land in the mouth or nose of a person nearby. Coming into contact with a person’s spit through kissing or other sexual activities could expose you to the virus. People who have COVID-19 could also spread respiratory droplets onto their skin and personal belongings. A sexual partner could get the virus by touching these surfaces and then touching his or her mouth, nose or eyes. In addition, the COVID-19 virus can spread through contact with feces. It’s possible that you could get the COVID-19 virus from sexual activities that expose you to fecal matter.

There is currently no evidence that the COVID-19 virus is transmitted through semen or vaginal fluids, but the virus has been detected in the semen of people who have or are recovering from the virus. Further research is needed to determine if the COVID-19 virus could be transmitted sexually.

Since some people who have COVID-19 show no symptoms, it’s important to keep distance between yourself and others if the COVID-19 virus is spreading in your community. This includes avoiding sexual contact with anybody who doesn’t live with you. If you or your partner isn’t feeling well or think you might have COVID-19, don’t kiss or have sex with each other until you’re both feeling better. Also, if you or your partner is at higher risk of serious illness with COVID-19 due to an existing chronic condition, you might want to avoid sex.

In case that wasn’t clear, The National Coalition of STD Directors (NCSD), in partnership with National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors (NASTAD), released a frequently asked questions resource regarding sex and COVID-19. In short, if you’re in the same room with someone who has the virus, you can get infected–sex or no sex.

If you have questions about getting tested, talk to your doctor or health care provider. You can also find testing in your area via a Google search. In Pennsylvania, call the Health Department at 1-877-PA-HEALTH (1-877-724-3258).

The dudes who won’t wear masks

From the Atlantic

Americans are figuring out how to live with a deadly new virus now, just as gay men did in the early years of AIDS. Abstinence from sex wasn’t sustainable, and condoms became a ticket to greater sexual freedom. Likewise, Americans can’t abstain from human interaction forever, and widespread masking may be a ticket to more social and economic freedom. But trying to shame people into wearing condoms didn’t work—and it won’t work for masks either.

man wearing a mask The public-health messaging around masks during the coronavirus pandemic has been muddled and confusing. The federal government recommended against face coverings for the public in March, with some public-health officials positing that they may even cause more harm than good. But a growing body of science, including evidence that people can transmit the virus when they don’t have symptoms, indicates that masks are an important tool for mitigating coronavirus transmission, especially in combination with physical distancing, hand hygiene, and other preventive strategies. Indeed, public-health concerns may justify mask mandates in some settings, including indoor spaces where many people gather for extended periods of time. But mandates have major downsides: Any enforcement is likely to disproportionately affect communities that are already marginalized, and some Americans—including some elected leaders in states facing serious coronavirus outbreaks—believe that requiring people to wear masks is an infringement on civil liberties. In practice, if Americans are going to mask up, public-health officials will have to cajole, not compel.

Read the full article.

STD rates likely skyrocketing in US as fewer people get tested during pandemic

From businessinsider.com

decorative imageAs clinics and health departments across the country have shuttered during the coronavirus pandemic, the nation’s roughly 2,200 disease detectives, the so-called “contact tracers” of infectious disease outbreaks, have been re-deployed to track where cases of COVID-19 — the disease caused by the novel coronavirus — are spreading, to try to stop those outbreaks in their tracks. It’s a necessary shift, but one that may have serious, long-term impacts for the country’s sexual health, and for President Trump’s year-and-a-half-old plan to “eliminate” HIV from the US by 2030.

[…] According to a recent NCSD survey of HIV and STD disease tracers around the country, 83% are forgoing their usual field visits as a result of this pandemic. Two-thirds of the country’s clinics (66%) have also reported decreases in health screenings and testing due to COVID-19.

Read the article.

Pandemic sparks concerns about surging STD, HIV rates

The pandemic that has upended life in the U.S. could lead to increased STD rates and setbacks in the fight against HIV as public health resources are shifted to the coronavirus response.

Access to STD and HIV testing and treatment services are dwindling as local health departments shuffle staff to respond to COVID-19 and clinics reduce hours or close altogether and cancel outreach programs.

“We are seeing a complete disruption to STD prevention here in the United States,” said David Harvey, executive director of the National Coalition of STD Directors (NCSD). “We expect to experience even higher STD rates as a result.”

Read the full article.

Second Open Letter on COVID-19 Focuses on Nondiscrimination, Data Collection and Economic Harm for LGBTQ Communities

From the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association

On April 21, 2020, GLMA, Whitman-Walker Health, the National LGBT Cancer Network, the National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance, the New York Transgender Advocacy Group, and SAGE issued a second open letter to public health officials, healthcare institutions and government leaders on the impact of COVID-19 on LGBTQ communities. The letter, joined by 170 organizations, called for action to protect LGBTQ patients from discrimination and to include sexual orientation and gender identity in data collection efforts related to the pandemic. The letter also called for action to address the economic harm to LGBTQ communities from the pandemic.

To read the full second open letter and list of signatories, click here.

The letter released on April 21 is a follow-up to an open letter signed by more than 150 organizations issued by the six coordinating organizations on March 11, 2020. Information on the first letter is available here.

Important COVID-19 Resources:

What you need to know about managing HIV during the COVID-19 outbreak

From Parade.com

Decorative imageDuring the coronavirus pandemic, people with HIV fall into the “underlying conditions” group that may need to be more careful about their health. As states give shelter-in-place orders and move through the toughest weeks ahead in the outbreak, those with HIV should take a few extra precautions to plan ahead and remain safe.

Overall, people with HIV should know that they aren’t more likely to contract COVID-19 than others, the World Health Organization says. At this time, it is unknown whether those with HIV face a greater risk of infection or more serious complications.

“While there’s not yet a lot of evidence here, COVID-19 does not appear to affect people with HIV differently than other people,” says Stephen Lee, executive director of NASTAD, formerly known as the National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors.

Until more data from the cases in China and the U.S. can be analyzed, those living with HIV should be “extra vigilant,” he says, especially those who have advanced HIV, are older, or have poorly controlled HIV. Those with additional chronic diseases, such as diabetes or heart or lung disease, should be careful as well.

“Stay home as much as you can, keep a safe distance, and wash your hands often,” Lee says.

[…]

Researchers haven’t been able to study much about the correlations between HIV and COVID-19. At the same time, those living with HIV should follow CDC guidelines for those with underlying health conditions, says Jonathan Mermin, director of the National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD and TB Prevention.

Read the full article on Parade.com.

How does COVID-19 impact LGBTQ2 communities?

From Xtra.com

As the COVID-19 pandemic threatens the health of people and of economies worldwide, many in the global LGBTQ2 decorative imagecommunity sense a particular vulnerability to the pandemic’s immediate and downstream effects. In response, many are coordinating efforts to care for their own communities, often modeling their strategies on lessons learned from HIV/AIDS advocacy.

“One of the things I’m very concerned about is the social safety net,” says Charles Stephens, the director of The Counter Narrative Project, a Black gay men’s advocacy organization based in Atlanta, Georgia. Indeed, systematic employment discrimination could make the potential economic and health-related fallout of COVID-19 a greater threat to queer communities.

 

Read the full article.