Healthcare providers should discuss U=U with all their HIV-positive patients

From aidsmap.com

Healthcare providers should inform all patients with HIV they cannot transmit HIV to a sexual partner when their viral load is undetectable, argue the authors of  a strongly worded comment in The Lancet HIV. The authors note that despite overwhelming scientific data supporting the undetectable = untransmittable (U=U) message, significant numbers of healthcare providers do not educate their patients about U=U when telling them their viral load is undetectable.

“Providers caring for patients with HIV should universally inform their patients about U=U as part of their routine care,” write Dr Sarah Calabrese of George Washington University and Professor Ken Mayer of the Harvard Medical School and Fenway Institute. “Conveying benefits and risks surrounding any treatment is fundamental to patients’ decision making, and this HIV treatment benefit should be no exception.”

Read the article on aidsmap.com.

PrEP use up 35% among gay and bi men at risk

From NBC News

Thirty-five percent of gay and bisexual men at high risk of HIV infection were using PrEP, or pre-exposure prophylaxis, the daily pill that prevents HIV infection, in 2017, according to data released Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In 2014, just 6 percent of these men used PrEP.

However, despite the nearly 500 percent jump in PrEP use among men who have sex with men, the CDC notes “PrEP use remains too low, especially among gay and bisexual men of color.”

The study was presented Thursday in Seattle at the 2019 Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections, a major annual HIV/AIDS conference, and was based on more than 8,000 interviews in 20 American cities.

Read the full article.

Study shows high HIV prevalence in Black, gay men taking PrEP

From thevitalvoice.com

Black men who engage in sex with men have a 1 in 2 chance of getting HIV in their lifetime, according to the National Institutes of Health. This is unconscionable when a drug called PrEP (a once-a-day pill that prevents HIV) exists. However, as recently published in the Journal of AIDS, black men who have sex with men on PrEP had a higher incidence of HIV than those not on PrEP, due to poor adherence to the drug. The study suggests that PrEP alone is not enough to stop the spread of HIV. The study does not, however, challenge the efficacy of PrEP itself but rather the uptake of the surrounding preventative package including behavioral risk reduction support, STI treatment, and medication adherence counseling.

Two health technology startups, UrSure and Healthvana, have separately made enormous strides in reducing HIV. UrSure improves adherence to HIV medications with diagnostic tests, while Healthvana’s platform/app is being used by clinics and their 250,000 patients who are at high-risk for HIV or are HIV positive. Collaboratively, the two startups are now working to build the most technologically innovative PrEP programs in the 48 counties in the U.S. with the highest prevalence of HIV, as identified last week by HHS Secretary Azar.

Black and African American LGBTQ Youth Report

From the Human Rights Campaign

In 2017, the Human Rights Campaign Foundation partnered with researchers at the University of Connecticut to conduct a groundbreaking survey of over 12,000 LGBTQ youth and capture their experiences in their families, schools, social circles and communities. More than 1,600 Black and African American LGBTQ youth responded to the survey.

This resource presents data collected from these youth, shedding light on their challenges and triumphs encountered while navigating multiple, intersecting identities. This report utilizes the full sample (any respondent who answered more than 10 percent of the survey) and provides more detail than is captured in the 2018 Youth Report.

Find out more.

AIDS Resource Alliance offers education, support, prevention services in State College

From centredaily.com

Though HIV is treatable today, the challenges of navigating the health care system can be stressful for anyone, let alone an individual living with a chronic illness. AIDS Resource Alliance utilizes a team of case managers who are trained to help their clients with insurance, housing, treatment and other issues that impact the lives of persons living with HIV. Twice-monthly support groups give clients a chance to share their experiences and struggles within a safe space where judgment and stigma are not allowed.

AIDS Resource Alliance also provides prevention services to the communities they serve. HIV and STI testing are available free of charge during office hours, as are condoms and other harm reduction materials. Each testing client is also provided with risk-reduction education, and general education services are available to local agencies and organizations who want their members to learn more about HIV and sexual health.

Much has changed since the earliest days of the epidemic, and the staff at AIDS Resource are preparing for the future with programming that addresses the new landscape of HIV in America. PrEP, the daily medication that can prevent HIV infection, is prescribed free in the Williamsport offices, as are the required testing and physical examinations necessary to continue the medication (the cost of the drug is the responsibility of the patient, but the AIDS Resource team can assist the client in applying for programs that assist in covering the cost of the drug.) As the population of people living with HIV enters their 60s and beyond, support group and other focused social activities enable clients to maintain positive social connections. Counseling services are provided free of charge to clients who request them.

Find out more.

Health Alert: 10% of HIV cases in gay/bi men linked to gonorrhea and chlamydia infection

From Gaystarnews.com

One in ten new cases of HIV in gay and bisexual men are linked to gonorrhea and chlamydia infection. That’s the conclusion of a modelling study highlighted by the NCSD (National Coalition of STD Directors) in the US.

The journal, Sexually Transmitted Diseases, published the research this week. Both sexually transmitted infections can increase the risk of HIV transmission taking place: a fact known for some time.

However, with rates of both gonorrhea and chlamydia rising in the US, health experts are concerned how this may impact public health advances in tackling HIV.

Between 2013-2017, the US saw a 22% increase in chlamydia. Gonorrhea diagnosis shot up by 67%. By comparison, there has been a 13% drop in HIV diagnosis over the last eight years.

The precise extent to which chlamydia and gonorrhea increase HIV transmission is unknown. Other biological factors may also play an influence. For this reason, parts of the ‘modelling’ study relied on estimates.

However, researchers from Emory University and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta say their findings should be used by those working in public health to address the issue of STIs and HIV transmission.

Read the full article.

Experts debate if HIV prevention pill contributes to rise in other STDs

Prevention program manager Adam Weaver talks about sexually transmitted diseases in the testing room at Palmetto Community Care in North Charleston

From postandcourier.com

The STD explosion has led to a debate over a possible connection since the introduction of the HIV prevention pill.

PrEP is not a cure for HIV, and it also is not 100 percent effective, but, taken as directed at the same time once a day, it comes pretty close — up to 99 percent successful in preventing HIV, according to Palmetto Community Care, formerly Lowcountry AIDS Services, in North Charleston.

The drumbeat of safe sex practices hasn’t changed among health officials. Abstinence, using condoms and being in a monogamous relationship are still the best ways to help prevent STD infections.

But the naked truth is people don’t always follow that advice.

“After they start taking PrEP, we don’t see a great shift in risk behavior,” said Aaron O’Brien with Roper Hospital’s Ryan White Wellness Center.

Aaron O’Brien, quality and development manager of Roper Hospital’s Ryan White Wellness Center.

He puts condom users into two groups: those who use them regularly and those who don’t, and, based on his talks with patients, that doesn’t change much once they start taking the pill.

Adam Weaver, prevention program manager at Palmetto Community Care, agrees with O’Brien.

“What we are finding is that the people we are putting on PrEP aren’t changing their condom use,” he said.

They also don’t believe PrEP’s introduction, in and of itself, contributed to the explosion in STDs.

They say it has more to do with better reporting since people taking PrEP must check in with their doctor or provider every three months or so for regular testing.

Read the full article.