Study shows equal rates of risky sex between gay and straight male teens — but queer youth still more susceptible to HIV

From the Advocate.com

As part of the International AIDS Conference in Durban, South Africa, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention presented a report today analyzing the sexual risk behavior of American males in high school. These risk behaviors included having sex without condoms and having multiple sexual partners. The new study, which compiled data from ninth- through 12th-grade males identifying as gay, bisexual, or heterosexual, found “no significant differences” in the HIV-related risk behaviors between these groups.

Queer youth still getting HIVBut despite the very little difference between the HIV-related risk behaviors of gay youth and that of straight youth, the data show that the rate of HIV transmission is still much higher among men who have sex with men. MSM have an HIV diagnosis rate at 57 times that of heterosexual men. In 2014, for example, MSM represented a full 80 percent of new youth infections.

So why does HIV infection disproportionately affect gay and bisexual men if they don’t engage in risky sexual behavior more often than their heterosexual peers? A huge factor is the increased prevalence of HIV in the sexual networks of gay and bisexual men. And one must also keep in mind that, when it comes to HIV transmission, not all sex acts are created equal. According to Dr. Laura Kann, chief of the CDC’s School-Based Surveillance Branch, MSM are at higher risk because “the transmission risk for receptive anal sex is 17 times higher than [for] vaginal sex.”

Read the full article.

Gay, Bi men frightening health officials in US and UK with skyrocketing STD rates

From Advocate.com

STD rates alarming health officialsThere are new scary findings about sexually transmitted infections and diseases from the United Kingdom, where cases of syphilis and gonorrhea have jumped 73 percent and 53 percent, respectively, between 2012 and 2015. Officials cite “very high rates of STIs among gay men and young adults” as a factor in the rise, according to The Guardian.

The troubling report follows a similar one last year from the U.S.’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which showed 2014 syphilis and gonorrhea cases outnumbering those from 2013, the first rise since 2006. Again, MSM (men who have sex with men) were specifically referenced in the findings, which repeated a shocking, underreported fact — potentially fatal syphilis among MSM has been increasing since the year 2000.

Read the full article on Advocate.com.

A silent LGBT epidemic

From the Advocate

The LGBT community is no stranger to attacks on the safety, health and well-being of its members. From the recurring police harassment and violence that precipitated the Stonewall riots to the ravages of HIV and AIDS in the 1980s — coupled with an apathetic government and public — all the way through to the recent Orlando massacre, LGBT people repeatedly find themselves in the crosshairs of dangerous threats.

LGBT smoking epidemicWith such monumental obstacles to our health and well-being, it’s easy to overlook a much more subtle but even more deadly killer: smoking.

The American Cancer Society estimates that more than 30,000 LGBT Americans die from tobacco-related diseases annually. By comparison, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 14,000 Americans with an AIDS diagnosis — gay, straight, transgender, and cisgender — died in 2012.

Read the full article.

Pennsylvania still experiencing alarming increase in new syphilis infections

As of May 2016, Pennsylvania is still experiencing an alarming increase in syphilis cases, primarily among men who have sex with men (MSM). Over the last 5 years, Pennsylvania has experienced a 90% increase in syphilis infections. Most were men under the age of 30.

Syphilis is a sexually transmitted infection. If it goes untreated, it can lead to serious health problems including paralysis, blindness, and dementia. In the late stages, the disease can damage internal organs and can result in death.  In its early stages, syphilis is 100% curable with simple antibiotics.

Syphilis can be transmitted through oral sex and although condoms can help prevent infection, they’re not an absolute guarantee against it.  

You can get syphilis and not have any symptoms, so the only way to know you’re infected is to get a simple blood test. As a result of the increase in syphilis cases, the Pennsylvania Department of Health recommends that all sexually active MSM get a routine syphilis test every 6 months. Several locations around the state have free syphilis testing, click on this link to find testing near you: hivtest.cdc.gov.

To find out more about Syphilis, go to www.cdc.gov/std/syphilis/stdfact-syphilis.htm

You can also email medical help at the University of Pittsburgh’s Graduate School of Public Health by sending a message to rgy2@pitt.edu.

Social apps responsible for increase in STDs?

From the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

About two years ago, Harold Wiesenfeld, medical director of Allegheny County’s sexually transmitted disease and HIV program, started hearing something from some of his patients that troubled him.

“They were volunteering that many of their partners were unknown because they met them through dating apps and it was anonymous,” he said. Apps like Tinder, OkCupid and Grindr that allow people to scroll through dozens or even hundreds of photos of possible potential dates in a given area within a matter of minutes.

Social apps cause rise in STDsMost troubling, though, was that many of those patients in his private obstetrics and gynecology practice at Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC believed they had contracted their STD from those anonymous partners they met on a dating app.

This occurred as Allegheny County was seeing a sharp and steady rise in cases of Gonorrhea (up 28 percent) and Chlamydia (up 35 percent) from 2006 to 2014 that concerned and worried health officials. Of even bigger concern is the rapid increase in just a few years of Syphilis, which is up 150 percent since 2009. Cases in that time jumped from 27 to 68 for the disease that can have long-term health concerns, particularly for women who want to get pregnant, and their fetus if they are pregnant.

It has become a big enough issue in Allegheny County, that in the last year, Dr. Wiesenfeld has made asking about the dating apps a standard question for his patients.

“Across the country we are in what we consider an STD epidemic, especially with Syphilis and its health implications,” Dr. Wiesenfeld said.

While some of the increase might be attributed to better screening and testing for the diseases, “many of us STD researchers are concerned with the popularity of these apps in facilitating more casual sexual encounters,” he said.

Read the full article.

“Half of black men who have sex with men (MSM) will be diagnosed with HIV during their lifetime”

From the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)…

If current HIV diagnoses rates persist, about 1 in 2 black men who have sex with men (MSM) and 1 in 4 Latino MSM in the United States will be diagnosed with HIV during their lifetime, according to a new analysis by researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The study, presented today at the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections in Bostonprovides the first-ever comprehensive national estimates of the lifetime risk of an HIV diagnosis for several key populations at risk and in every state.

croi_lifetime_risk_msm_race_ethnicity

“As alarming as these lifetime risk estimates are, they are not a foregone conclusion. They are a call to action,” said Jonathan Mermin, M.D., director of CDC’s National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and Tuberculosis Prevention. “The prevention and care strategies we have at our disposal today provide a promising outlook for future reductions of HIV infections and disparities in the U.S., but hundreds of thousands of people will be diagnosed in their lifetime if we don’t scale up efforts now.”

Read the full article on the CDC’s Website.

 

Vitamin D sufficiency may speed up immune recovery during HAART

From medicalnewstoday.com

vitimin D aids HARRTThere are an estimated 33 million people infected with HIV worldwide – 1.2 million of them in the US. The advent in 1996 of highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) – a combination of different classes of medications taken daily – means that for many patients who have access to the medication, what was once a fatal diagnosis can now be managed as a chronic disease.

For their study, Prof. Ezeamama and colleagues examined 18 months of data for 398 HIV-positive adults on HAART.

The data included a measure of participants’ vitamin D levels at the start of the trial (baseline) and their CD4 cell counts at months 0, 3, 6, 12 and 18.

In their analysis, the researchers looked at how the changes in CD4 cell counts related to the baseline levels of vitamin D over the study period.

They found that participants with sufficient levels of vitamin D at baseline recovered more of their immune function than participants with vitamin D deficiency.

Read the full story here.