A guide for LGBT people choosing health care plans

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) enrollment deadline is coming up on March 31st. There are a number of LGBT-specific resources available for you and your patients or clients to learn more about the ACA and how to get healthcare insurance coverage. Where to StartWhat to Ask: A Guide for LGBT People Choosing Health Care Plans, developed by Strong Families, is a guide that can help you help your patients, clients, friends and family:
  • Evaluate their healthcare needs,
  • Navigate new insurance options and
  • Choose the best plan for them.
Access to affordable health insurance can help address the health disparities that exist in the LGBT community, can provide critical preventative care widely and can ensure all individuals and families can get the care they need without going bankrupt. Click here to download the guide now. Click here for more information from our friends at Out2Enroll.

HPV common among young gay men

(Reuters Health) – Gay teenagers who have had at least four sexual partners are at increased risk of contracting human papillomavirus (HPV), a new study suggests. At least half of sexually active people get HPV at some point in their lives, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Previous research has suggested most adult gay men have the sexually transmitted infection. HPV is usually cleared by the immune system but can cause genital warts and anal cancer, as well as cervical cancer among women. “In this study we found rates of anal infection increased rapidly with increasing numbers of partners with whom they have received anal sex,” senior author Marcus Y. Chen said. “The virus is presumably being transmitted from penis to anus.” Chen is an associate professor in the School of Population and Global Health at the University of Melbourne in Australia.

The CDC recommends boys and girls get vaccinated against HPV at age 11 or 12, before becoming sexually active. There are two versions of the HPV vaccine, one of which is available for boys. The vaccine is very effective if given before a person is exposed to HPV but provides “diminishing protection” after that, Dr. Ross D. Cranston told Reuters Health. “Thus if there is a high rate of HPV acquisition, as we also see in girls, there is a lost opportunity to provide protection if the HPV vaccine is not given early,” he said. Cranston, who was not involved in the new study, directs the Anal Dysplasia Clinic and Research Program at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center in Pennsylvania.

Chen and his team tested 200 young gay men age 16 to 20 for HPV and genital warts and gave them a sexual history questionnaire. risk forms of the virus, and 11 percent tested positive for two or more forms. Men who’d ever had vaginal sex or anal sex were more likely to test positive for penile HPV, according to results published in the Journal of Infectious Diseases. Among men who had never received anal sex, 10 percent tested positive for anal HPV. That compared to nearly half of those who said they’d had at least four anal sex partners. The finding that some young men who reported never receiving anal sex tested positive for anal HPV suggests the virus can be transmitted in other ways, the authors write.

About 7,000 people in the U.S. will be diagnosed with anal cancer in 2013, according to the American Cancer Society. Rates are higher among gay men than heterosexual people, Chen noted. Of the many types of the HPV virus, HPV 16 is most commonly associated with anal cancers. “Our study found that gay male teens acquire the HPV virus including HPV 16 very soon after they first become sexually active,” Chen told Reuters Health. “This means that the HPV vaccine, which has been shown to be effective in preventing HPV infection in males, including anal infection in gay men, needs to be given very early on, preferably before gay teens start to have sex.”

Many countries routinely vaccinate all girls against HPV. But as of 2013, Australia is the only one to implement universal and free vaccination of boys at school, Chen said. “This is great news for boys in Australia including those that are gay but in other countries the absence of such a program means gay males will miss out on anal cancer prevention,” he said. Some gay teens might be reluctant to admit their sexuality and ask for the vaccine, he said. Gay men are no more susceptible to HPV than heterosexual men, but more often have anal infections, Cranston said. He said doctors can increase awareness and the likelihood that boys will be vaccinated against HPV through conversations with their parents.

Source: http://www.chicagotribune.com/health/sns-rt-us-hpv-common-20131205,0,3548102.story#ixzz2mzRm0gTb

“Speak Out: Let’s Bring HIV Out of the Closet”

From the Website Edge in Boston…

The signs are hard to miss. Exit a Muni train at the Castro station, and the wall-sized posters are greeting you as the doors slide open. The message – it is time to start talking about HIV and AIDS. Or, as Vincent Fuqua, program coordinator for the San Francisco Department of Public Health put it, “find our voice again.”

“As long as people are still becoming infected with HIV, as long as people are still HIV-positive,” Fuqua said, “it’s still a part of us.”

The Department of Public Health, along with the national Greater Than AIDS initiative and the Kaiser Family Foundation, recently introduced Speak Out: Let’s Bring HIV Out of the Closet, a social marketing campaign aimed at encouraging men not only to get tested for HIV regularly, but also to speak openly about their status and the disease in general, as a way to remove some of the stigma within the community associated with being HIV-positive.

“We understand that there’s been a lot of strides in the gay community, which is incredible. The thing is, though, HIV is still a big part of our community as well. So we wanted to make sure people don’t forget that,” Fuqua said.

The campaign was introduced October 10 at Blush Wine Bar in the Castro. It will extend to other cities next year.

Continue reading here.

Facing AIDS theme of National HIV Testing Day

From AIDS.gov

Facing AIDS is a digital photo sharing initiative with the goal of reducing HIV-related stigma and promoting HIV testing. Many AIDS.gov blog readers have contributed personal messages to the Facing AIDS photo gallery, most recently in recognition of World AIDS Day (December 1, 2012 – visit the gallery to see the inspiring messages collected over the five years of the initiative). Many of your Facing AIDS messages highlight the importance of confronting stigma and echo the theme of National HIV Testing Day: Take the Test. Take Control. That consistency made it easy for our team to re-purpose the photos into the newest video in our Facing AIDS series. To learn how participate in Facing AIDS, read this blog post. To watch other videos in the Facing AIDS series, please use this playlist Exit Disclaimer. Click here to learn more about locating HIV testing near you. Please watch and share the “Facing AIDS for National HIV Testing Day” video.

May is Hepatitis Awareness Month

awarenessmonth_211x205From AIDS.gov

May 1 marks the start of the month-long observance of Hepatitis Awareness Month. The observance is an important element of government-wide efforts to raise awareness about viral hepatitis and decrease health disparities by educating communities about the benefits of viral hepatitis prevention, testing, care, and treatment.

Throughout the month of May, HHS and our partners who support the Action Plan for the Prevention, Care and Treatment of Viral Hepatitis will be engaged in a variety of activities to increase awareness—among the public and healthcare providers—about viral hepatitis, including the importance of testing, the availability of care and treatment, and associated adverse health effects resulting from undiagnosed and untreated viral hepatitis. In the coming weeks, we’ll be sharing several blog posts about implementation of the Action Plan. On May 19, we will observe the second annual Hepatitis Testing Day. Viral hepatitis is the leading cause of liver cancer and the most common reason for liver transplantation in the United States. An estimated 4.4 million Americans are living with chronic hepatitis; most do not know they are infected. This places them at greater risk for severe, even fatal, complications from the disease and increases the likelihood that they will spread the virus to others.

Hepatitis Testing Day was established in the Action Plan as a means to raise awareness and educate health care providers and the public about who should be tested for chronic viral hepatitis. Unfortunately, many communities and populations remain uninformed about various facets of viral hepatitis, including associated adverse health effects, the need for testing and care, and the availability of vaccines (for hepatitis A and hepatitis B) and treatment – especially priority populations at high risk for viral hepatitis, such as injection drug users; people living with HIV; gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men; baby boomers (people born between 1945-1965); African Americans; and Asians and Pacific Islanders.

Please join us in promoting both of these important observances—Hepatitis Awareness Month and Hepatitis Testing Day—to enhance public awareness of viral hepatitis prevention, testing, care and treatment across the United States. Here are a few things you can do:

  • Learn more about awareness activities, including testing events, taking place in communities around the country to mark Hepatitis Testing Day. This page from CDC allows people to search for Hepatitis Testing Day events taking place near them in May. Event organizers can also list their events.
  • Review the web badges, digital tools, fact sheets, posters and other resources available from CDC on this page and find one you can use this month.
  • Take this 5-minute online hepatitis risk assessment developed by the CDC and get a personalized report on hepatitis testing and vaccination recommendations.
  • Read more about the Viral Hepatitis Action Plan on our recently updated page.

Won’t you please commit to learning more yourself and/or sharing information about viral hepatitis with at least two other people this month?  Working together, we can raise greater awareness about the epidemic of viral hepatitis in the United States and, in so doing, make great strides in improving the health of persons who are at risk for or living with viral hepatitis.

April 10th is National Youth HIV & AIDS Awareness Day

nyhaadcolorlogoNational Youth HIV & AIDS Awareness Day is a day to educate the public about the impact of HIV and AIDS on young people as well as highlight the amazing work young people are doing across the country to fight the HIV & AIDS epidemic.

Today’s young people are the first generation who have never known a world without HIV and AIDS. In the United States, one in four new HIV infections is among youth ages 13 to 24. Every month 1,000 young people are infected with HIV and over 76,400 young people are currently living with HIV across the country. While there has been much talk about an AIDS-Free Generation, we know that is not possible without our nation’s youth. Young people and their allies are determined to end this epidemic once and for all and this day is a way to acknowledge the great work young people are already engaging in to do so.

National Youth HIV & AIDS Awareness Day will be celebrated all across the country. There will be events hosted by various organizations and individuals in high schools, colleges, churches, community centers and more! There also will be opportunities for online participation.

To find out more about the National Youth HIV & AIDS Awarness Day, check out amplifyyourvoice.org

Free HIV educational forum at the University of Pittsburgh

hiv forum ad

On Wednesday April 17th at 7 PM, the Pitt Men’s Study will be hosting an HIV Educational Forum at the University Club (123 University Place, Oakland).

The forum will feature speakers and a Q & A session. Dinner will be served at 7:30 PM.

Those wanting to attend must register before April 5, 2013, by emailing Jessica McGuiness at pitteventrsvp@gmail.com, or calling 412-383-1674.

Doors open at 7 p.m., dinner is served at 7:30. Speakers and Q&A sessions will follow.

Sponsored by the Pitt Men’s Study.

Almost half of Grindr users engaged in unprotected sex despite knowing better

From Huffington Post Gay Voices:

A new survey focused on gay and bisexual men who use apps such as Grindr, Scruff and Manhunt Grindr users engage in unsafe sex more oftento meet sexual partners found that nearly half had engaged in unprotected sex.

Conducted by New York’s Community Healthcare Network (CHN), “Zero Feet Away: Perpective on HIV/AIDS and Unprotected Sex in Men Who Have Sex With Men Utilizing Location-based Mobile Apps” found that although 80 percent of respondents said they were knowledgable in how the HIV virus was transmitted, 46.4 percent admitted to having bareback sex always, often or sometimes.

The most frequently-cited reason for barebacking among the 725 gay and bisexual men who were surveyed was “with condoms, [sex] does not feel the same.” The poll reportedly received responses from men in Australia, South America, Europe, the United Kingdom, Canada and the U.S.

“Clearly, we’ve come a long way in educating people about HIV and AIDS,” Dr. Freddy Molano, Assistant Vice President of HIV Programs and Services at CHN, said in the report. “Yet among certain populations, HIV/AIDS is on the ride, and that’s alarming.”

Added co-author Renato Barucco: “The survey findings show a clear disconnect between the reasons why men engage in unprotected anal intercourse and the way prevention initiatives attempt to address risk behaviors.”

Read the full survey here.

HIV medical providers need to talk about sex with their patients

From the the AIDS Education and Training Center (AETC) Website:

Taking responsibility for preventing HIV transmission is an important concern for most people with HIV, as well as for their health care providers. Multiple studies have shown that one third to three fourths of HIV medical providers do not ask their patients about sexual behavior or drug use. However, many HIV-infected individuals report that they want to discuss prevention with their health care providers. Each patient visit presents an opportunity to provide effective prevention interventions, even in busy clinical settings.

It is clear that information alone, especially on subjects such as sexual activity and drug use, cannot be expected to change patients’ behavior. However, health care providers can help patients understand the transmission risk of certain types of behavior and help patients establish personal prevention strategies (sometimes based on a harm-reduction approach) for themselves and their partners. Some patients may have difficulty adhering to their safer sex goals. In these cases, referrals to mental health clinicians or other professional resources such as prevention case management may be helpful.

Patient-education needs are variable and must be customized. Providers must assess the individual patient’s current level of knowledge as part of developing a prevention plan. All the information that a patient needs cannot be covered during a single visit. A patient’s prevention strategy should be reinforced and refined at each visit with the clinician. Clinicians also should ask patients questions to determine life changes (e.g., a new relationship, a breakup, or loss of a job) that may affect the patient’s sexual or substance use practices. If the patient can read well, printed material can be given to reinforce education in key areas, but it cannot replace a direct conversation with the clinician.

Find out more on the AETC Website.

How safe is oral sex?

People often ask me how risky is oral sex? For the longest time, we knew that oral sex was safer than anal sex but we couldn’t put a number to it. Well, the CDC has come out with a graph that pretty much sums it up.

As you can see, being the “top” in generally safer than being a “bottom.” That is, if you’re getting cum in your body, you’re at a much greater risk. Just speaking of anal sex, for example, the top is 13 times more likely to get HIV (when not using a condom), as apposed to the bottom being 2,000 times more at risk.

Keep in mind too, the number of sex partners you have makes a difference, which isn’t represented here. It only takes one HIV positive person to pass on the infection, but the larger the number of sex partners, the greater your chances of having sex with someone who is, in fact, HIV positive.

LA-based web soap opera explores sexual decision making among young gay men

“Traditional methods of HIV prevention, like condom distribution, remain incredibly important,” says independent filmmaker Dave OʼBrien, 33, who wrote, directed and co-developed IN THE MOMENT, “Whatʼs missing among a younger generation of gay guys is any real discussion about HIV and safer sex. IN THE MOMENT is a sexy and entertaining way to capture their attention and stimulate dialogue regarding real-world sexual situations many gay men face today.”

IN THE MOMENT starts with an authentic, sexy and sometimes humorous web soap opera that explores the full range of factors that come into play in sexual decision making among young gay men. Issues like self-esteem, dating, relationships, age, body image, addiction and others are addressed as key factors in the lives of the characters. The episodes are broken into 3-5 minute “webisodes” that are easily accessible on most computers. The webisodes are a starting-place for discussion. Users create their own IN THE MOMENT profile on the site and use it to communicate on message boards and with other members.

Speaking of lubes, UCLA researchers found 4 out of 6 most used lubes are toxic to rectal lining

This bit of information was pointed out by a Facebook subscriber in Texas. One of the studies mentioned in the article is actually right here at the University of Pittsburgh – The Microbicides Trials Network. You can find out more about it under our “Get Involved in Research” tab. 

As the article notes: “Subjects who used lubricants during anal sex were three times more likely to contract rectal sexually transmitted infections than those who had anal sex without lubricant, found UCLA researchers. This and one other study examining the effects of sexual lubricants used in anal sex were presented last month at the International Microbicides Conference.” The bottom line is two of the lubes tested were found to be nontoxic – Wet Platinum and PRÉ.

To read the full article, go to 365gay.

HIV [is still a] Big Deal

“The core component of the HIV Big Deal project is a series of 10-minute video dramas that realistically address the social and health-related dilemmas gay men face. So far, two episodes have been released, and more are in production.”

If you haven’t watched the videos, you should. In fact, they should be required viewing for any guy who has sex with other guys.  If you’re HIV positive, HIV Big Deal also wants to hear from you. Share your stories about disclosing your HIV status for their new video production, Ask Me, Tell Me.