Why are we so coy about sex education for gay teens?

From theguardian.com

Society likes to keep gay teens sexless. It likes to maintain that gay content (even something non-sexual, like the representation of gay parents) is inappropriate for children’s TV or books. Those who complain say it’s too adult – implying that queerness, essentially, is all about sex, while straightness is just what a normal relationship looks like. It’s a weird dichotomy: straight people holding hands are non-sexual, while queer people holding hands is somehow the same as broadcasting pornography. The message is clear across all media: gays have to be kept sexless because they’re already too much about sex.

Read the full article by novelist Lev Rosen.

Who we are… 

m4mHealthySex.org is a joint effort between the HIV Prevention and Care Project and the Pitt Men’s Study at the Graduate School of Public Health, University of Pittsburgh. Our goal is to provide up-to-date sexual health information for men who have sex with men. Click on the menu or the page links above to find testing and care resources, including information about PrEP.

You can also scroll down for the latest blog posts as part of our archive of sexual health information…

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.

Optimal Care Checklist available for men who have sex with men

for men onlyWhether you are gay, bisexual or any man who has sex with other men (MSM), there are certain health issues that are important for you to talk about with your doctor. This brochure entitled Your Sexual Health, published by the National Coalition of STD Directors and the National Alliance of State & Territorial AIDS Directors, is designed to help you get important health care specific to the wellbeing of gay and bi men.

Issues such as Pre-Exposure Prophylactics (PrEP), rising STD rates in the community, getting vaccinated for Hepatitis A & B and for Human Papillomavirus (HPV) are just a few of the topics you might want to discuss with your health care provider. Your Sexual Health can help you break the ice. Being informed is an important first step in protecting yourself and your community.

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.

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:

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.

HIV/AIDS still holds a powerful stigma

From NPR.org

Indiana was hit with an outbreak of HIV/AIDS this spring, and it got a lot of attention because it is so stigma still related to HIV/AIDSexceptional.

Our perception of HIV/AIDS has changed since the disease emerged in the early 1980s. There are all kinds of treatments and resources — things that simply didn’t exist when the epidemic began.

In the U.S., an estimated 1.2 million people are living with HIV, according to the CDC. New infections are down from the peak in the 1980s, but the epidemic is nowhere near over. HIV/AIDS has affected millions of people around the world. In this country, gay men have been hardest hit.

Today on For the Record: HIV then and now. Two survivors, from two different generations, tell their stories. Click the audio link on this page to listen to the full conversation.

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.

Question: What are the early signs of an HIV infection?

Answer: In the early stages of infection, many people will, in fact, develop no signs or symptoms at all. This is early signs of HIV infectionperhaps one of the reasons why one out of five of the 1.1 million Americans infected with HIV go undiagnosed.

However, in 40% or more of cases, flu-like symptoms will develop within 7-14 days of an exposure. This condition is commonly referred to as acute retroviral syndrome, or ARS(alternately known as acute seroconversion syndromeacute HIV syndrome, or seroconversion illness).

ARS can present with a number of symptoms, ranging from mild to severe, including:

  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Pharyngitis (sore throat)
  • Myalgia (muscular aches and pain)
  • Arthralgia (joint pain)
  • Lymphadenopathy (swollen lymph glands)

Occasionally, these symptoms are accompanied by a morbilliform rash (i.e., a rash characterized by a flat, red area of the skin covered with small, confluent bumps). Additionally, 30% of people with ARS are likely to experience short-term nausea, diarrhea or vomiting.

Most of these symptoms are a result of the body’s natural immune response as HIV rapidly disseminates (or spreads) from the site of infection to the lymphoid tissues of the body.

ARS can persist for up to four months in some individuals until such time as the immune system begins to take control of viral replication. While HIV is still actively replicating during this chronic stage of infection, it generally does so at a lower level until the HIV viral load is stabilized and a so-called “viral set point” is established.

Continue reading at aidsabout.com.

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.

New study: AIDS drug cuts risk of infection by 86 percent

prep-400x210(Reuters) – Gay men at high risk of HIV who took a daily dose of a Gilead AIDS drug as a preventative measure cut their risk of infection by 86 percent, according to results of a British trial released on Tuesday. Researchers who conducted the trial of so-called pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) said the results offer real hope of reversing the HIV epidemic among men who have sex with men, one of the highest risk groups.

“These results … show PrEP is highly effective at preventing HIV infection in the real world,” said Sheena McCormack, a professor of clinical epidemiology at University College London and the study’s lead investigator.

PrEP involves people who do not have HIV but who are at high risk of becoming infected and seek to protect themselves by taking a single pill, usually a combination of two antiretrovirals, every day.

Continue reading.

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.

Introducing #standOUTpgh

10933879_658281264281364_9173789996442469325_nThe #standOUTpgh campaign is a new media driven initiative to help prevent substance abuse and HIV and STDs as well as fight minority stigma among gay and bisexual youth of color and all that self identify as trans no matter their race or age.
#standOUTpgh seeks to change the conversation around subculture and different expressions by giving young minority gay and bisexual men and trans individuals a digital platform to share their stories of uniqueness and responsibility for the world to see!
We hope to engage all community organizations that care about and serve these individuals to participate in support by spreading the word to those who may wish to participate. By defeating stigma and promoting self worth, we can break down one of the largest barriers to getting tested for HIV and STDs, getting prevention messages, and living healthier and happier lives.
How can you help? Learn about the campaign and its corresponding awareness events at www.standout.hiv and follow our social media pages
and share as the pageant unfolds. That’s it! Find us at:
The #standOUTpgh campaign will culminate in 6 events held in celebration of uniqueness and responsibility built around relevant national awareness days. These events will feature HIV/STD testing and prevention counseling. Information on these events will be broadcast via social media and standout.hiv. They are as follows:
  • World AIDS Day: Dec 1, 2014.
  • National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day: Feb 7, 2015.
  • National Youth Violence Prevention Week: March 18-22.
  • National Youth HIV Awareness Day: April 10, 2015.
  • National Prevention Week: May 12-18, 2015.
  • National HIV Testing Day: June 15.
We hope you will join us in building a positive movement behind these communities and shining a spotlight on what makes them stand out!

Op-ed: “Looking” at HIV Testing in 2015

Looking at HIV testing in 2015From The Advocate online…

HBO’s Looking just aired an episode focusing in part on one character’s journey with HIV testing. The scene, filmed at one of AIDS Healthcare Foundation’s Out of the Closet thrift stores and HIV testing sites in the Bay Area, serves as a timely reminder why HIV testing is an important act for people individually and for the gay community in particular. Indeed, HIV testing is important for all Americans, as over 50,000 people of all stripes acquire HIV annually — a number we have had difficulty bringing down.

On an individual basis, folks fall into a wide spectrum of motivation in seeking HIV testing services. Some seek HIV testing because they have had an unprotected moment, some have been told by someone they were with, or perhaps another, that they may be at risk … or had something happen that caused them concern. Others use testing services as an element of their sexual health routine. I would suggest that wherever folks fall in the spectrum of risk or motivation in testing, every time someone seeks knowledge about their health status, it has a beneficial effect for them and for our community.

Why? Because gay men in particular and the LGBT community in general are working to emerge from two fog banks. One is the fog of the bitter war against a disease the community has been fighting for over 30 years to arrest its ravages on our friends, family, and community. The other, the haze of prejudice and ignorance, clouds our ability to truly value ourselves and form real, trusting bonds with each other irrespective of our HIV status.

Every time we test, every time we find out our status and share that with those with whom we share our bodies (whatever the result), we remove a teaspoon of that fog. Each step taken to know and disclose our status is another action that will slow the spread of HIV in our community and affirm that there is nothing to hide from. Our decisions with whom to be intimate in whatever way we choose in 2015, need not be apologized for, nor the subject of shame.

Continue reading.