Gay Men Still Don’t Believe Undetectable = Untransmittable

From Logo online

Last September, on National Gay Men’s HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) declared that men with HIV who have an undetectable viral load—levels of HIV in the blood that are below the threshold of detection—are unable to transmit HIV to their partners. This is often summarized with the phrase Undetectable = Untransmittable or U = U.

The CDC came to this conclusion after evaluating three studies that included thousands of couples engaging in unprotected sexual acts in which one partner was HIV-positive with an undetectable viral load, and the other was HIV-negative and not on pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP).

“No HIV transmissions to an HIV-negative partner were observed when the HIV-positive person was virally suppressed,” the CDC reported.

When levels are this low, the virus is so suppressed that it’s impossible to pass on the virus to a partner sexually. Consequently, HIV treatment is now being used as a form of prevention, commonly referred to a TasP (Treatment as Prevention).

It’s been over 30 years since the inception of the virus, and still, there is so much shaming and stigma surrounding people living with HIV. This in large part due to misinformation and fear of contracting the virus. That’s what led Drs. Jonathon Rendina and Jeffrey Parsons of Hunter College to explore whether gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men actually believe that undetectable = untransmittable.

After the AIDS epidemic there was “a sense that nobody could be trusted that had negative effects on guys with and without HIV,” Dr. Rendina tells Newnownext.

Read the full article.

Grindr app to offer H.I.V. test reminders

From New York Times Health

In an effort to shrink the global AIDS epidemic, the world’s largest gay dating app is changing its software this week to urge millions of users to get frequent H.I.V. tests.

Grindr, which claims to have 3.3 million daily users from every country in the world, will send men who opt into the service a reminder every three to six months, and simultaneously point them to the nearest testing site. It will also let clinics, gay community centers and other testing sites advertise for free.

The company is making the move to “reduce H.I.V. transmission and support our whole community — regardless of H.I.V. status — in living long and fulfilling lives,” said Jack Harrison-Quintana, Grindr’s director for equality.

H.I.V. experts greeted the announcement enthusiastically.

“Wow — that’s great!” said Dr. Jeffrey D. Klausner, a former chief of sexually transmitted disease prevention in San Francisco who has used Grindr to promote testing. “For a company of this magnitude to do this is groundbreaking.”

Perry N. Halkitis, dean of the Rutgers School of Public Health and an expert in gay male behavior, called the decision “excellent.”

Read the full article.

Health Alert: HIV rate among gay and bi men between the age of 25 to 34 rose 45% between 2008 and 2015

During that time, the rate dropped 15 percent nationally and rose 25 percent among Latino men who have sex with men.

From Poz Magazine online

While the national annual HIV infection rate dropped by an estimated 15 percent between 2008 and 2015, a few key subgroups saw a rise in yearly new HIV infections, also known as HIV incidence. During this period, HIV incidence among 25- to 34-year-old men who have sex with men (MSM) increased by an estimated 45 percent while the rate increased 25 percent among Latino MSM.

These figures come from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) new, in-depth analysis of epidemic trends in the United States. Published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, the report is a more precise and granular version of reports on epidemic trends that CDC officials presented at the 2017 Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI) in Seattle a year ago.

At that time, the agency estimated that HIV incidence declined 18 percent between 2008 and 2014. This new estimate, therefore, represents a disappointing reduction in that hopeful figure.

Prior to 2008, HIV incidence was essentially stable in the United States for the two decades since the beginning of the modern era of combination antiretroviral (ARV) treatment.

Read the full article.

 

CDC identifies clusters of rapidly transmitting HIV nationwide

 

From Poz Magazine

Using routine genetic analyses of viral strains seen among those newly diagnosed with HIV, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has identified scores of rapidly expanding transmission clusters nationwide. These clusters, in which HIV is apparently spreading quickly among sexual networks, disproportionately affect young men who have sex with men (MSM), in particular Latinos.

According to a CDC analysis released in 2017, the HIV infection rate among Latino MSM has increased in recent years while it has decreased among Black and white MSM.

CDC researcher Anne Marie France, PhD, presented findings from the new study on transmission clusters at the 2018 Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI) in Boston.

Read the full article.

New York will investigate reports of gay men denied insurance

From the New York Times

State financial regulators in New York said Wednesday that they would investigate reports that gay men have been denied insurance policies covering life, disability or long-term care because they were taking medication to protect themselves against H.I.V.

Such denials would amount to illegal discrimination based on sexual orientation, and the companies doing so could be penalized, said Maria T. Vullo, the state’s superintendent of financial services.

The investigation was triggered by an article published Tuesday by The New York Times, she said.

The Times reported that various insurers around the country had denied policies to gay men after learning they took Truvada, a cocktail of two anti-AIDS drugs, to avoid catching H.I.V. through sex. To get insurance, some men even stopped taking the protective drugs.

The practice — known as “pre-exposure prophylaxis,” or PrEP — is recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Studies have shown that people who take the drug every day have nearly a zero chance of becoming infected, even if they are in a long relationship with an H.I.V.-infected person or have sex with many strangers without condoms.

Read the full article.

Allentown’s LGBT youth find sense of self through Project Silk

From Allentown’s Morning Call

Teenage life is brimming with insecurity, awkwardness and anxiety no matter who you are or who you love. But studies show that this already prickly period is several times more difficult for young people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. The struggles can go beyond typical teenage angst, and can lead to depression, suicide, home insecurity and drug and alcohol abuse.

Shyan Ortiz, 21, speaks about the impact of the Bradbury Sullivan LGBT Center’s youth program.

The risks for LGBT youth are real. Though they only make up 4 to 10 percent of the population, researchers estimate as many as 40 percent of homeless youth identify as LGBT. According to the American Psychological Association, young LGBT people have greater barriers to health services and therefore experience higher risks for alcohol and drug abuse, HIV and suicide.

“This is a population that is underserved, marginalized and stigmatized,” said Randell Sell, an associate professor at Drexel University’s Dorn School of Public Health. “Anything that provides access to care and a space like this for these young people is a huge leap forward.”

Project Silk is modeled after a similar program that started at the University of Pittsburgh. The aim was to target vulnerable groups at risk for HIV and find an effective way of providing testing and paths to treatment and other services. The Allentown program was made possible through a $210,000 grant from the University of Pittsburgh’s HIV Prevention and Care Project to replicate the program elsewhere in Pennsylvania.

The program turns what could be a clinical, impersonal service into something familiar and safe. Ketterer said it gives young people a place to belong before introducing services and resources that provide emotional and physical support.

The center has had visits by 115 individuals, Ketterer said. Of those, 70 visited three or more times, said Andrew Palomo, director of research and evaluations at Valley Youth House. The program has administered 50 HIV tests. Youth using the program also have the chance to earn smartphones and other technology by volunteering for work around the center or taking leadership positions.

Read the full article on The Morning Call.

February 7th is National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

From the National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day Website

February 7, 2018 marks the 18th year for National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (NBHAAD), a national HIV testing and treatment community mobilization initiative targeted at Blacks in the United States and the Diaspora.  NBHAAD was founded in 1999 as a national response to the growing HIV and AIDS epidemic in African American communities. The NBHAAD initiative leverages a national platform to educate, bring awareness, and mobilize the African American community. NBHAAD has four key focus areas which encourage people to:

  • Get Educated about HIV and AIDS;
  • Get Involved in community prevention efforts;
  • Get Tested to know their status; and
  • Get Treated to receive the continuum of care needed to live with HIV/AIDS.

For more information go to National HIV/AIDS Awareness Day online.  You can also find local testing resources by entering your zip code here.