Overwhelming evidence shows HIV undetectable = untransmittable

From Gay Star News

HIV positive people with an undetectable viral load cannot sexually transmit HIV. That’s the unequivocal conclusion from one of the leading health agencies in the US.

Researchers from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) undertook a review of recent research. Their conclusion is simple: Undetectable = Untransmittable (U=U). It’s the same message now backed by over 300 health agencies all around the world.

The results of the NIAID review were published yesterday in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). One of the reports co-authors is NIAID Director, Dr Anthony Fauci. He is widely regarded as one of the world’s leading HIV experts.

In a statement, NIAID called evidence for Undetectable = Untransmittable ‘overwhelming’. Not only does getting those diagnosed with HIV on to Antiretroviral Therapy (ART) ensure their long term health. But it also significantly reduces HIV transmission rates. This is because those with the virus suppressed in their body cannot pass it on.

The authors pointed to research that looked at over 77,000 examples of condomless sex between serodiscordant male couples. One half of the couple had HIV and the other did not. There was not a single transmission of the virus from the HIV positive person to the negative person.

Read the full article.

HIV infections among black gay men taking PrEP, probably due to poor adherence

From aidsmap.com

Awareness and use of HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) among black gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men (MSM) in the United States increased significantly between 2014 and 2017, according to research published in the 1 November edition of the Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes. The study also showed that PrEP was reaching individuals with high levels of sexual risk, sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and substance use, the very individuals most in need of this highly effective form of HIV prevention.

However, HIV prevalence was significantly higher among PrEP users compared to individuals who were not on PrEP. The investigators stress this does not show PrEP failure but is likely due to factors such as poor medication adherence and lack of engagement with healthcare providers.

“It is imperative to recognize that our findings reflect challenges to maintain proper usage of PrEP rather than biological failure of PrEP to protect against HIV,” write the authors. “HIV infections that have occurred among PrEP users are the result of suboptimal levels of drug concentrations because of challenges in adhering to PrEP medical regimens.”

Black MSM account for the largest proportion of new HIV infections in the US. If current epidemiological trends continue, 60% of black MSM will be HIV positive by the age of 40. Tackling the HIV epidemic among black MSM is therefore an urgent public health priority.

Read the full article.

HIV strikes Black gay men more, despite safer behaviors

Young black gay men are 16 times more likely to have HIV than whites, even though they have fewer partners, have less unsafe sex, and get tested for HIV more often, a new study shows.

“Our study illuminates how HIV disparities emerge from complex social and sexual networks and inequalities in access to medical care for those who are HIV-positive,” said senior study author Brian Mustanski. He is director of the Northwestern Institute for Sexual and Gender Minority Health and Wellbeing at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago.

“Their social and sexual networks are more dense and interconnected, which from an infectious disease standpoint makes infections transmitted more efficiently through the group,” Mustanski explained in a university news release.

“That, coupled with the higher HIV prevalence in the population, means any sexual act has a higher chance of HIV transmission,” he added.

If this trend continues, 1 out of every 2 black gay men will become infected with HIV at some point in life, compared to 1 in 5 Hispanic gay men and 1 in 11 white gay men, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In the study, researchers analyzed data from more than 1,000 gay men, aged 16 to 29, in Chicago.

Among their other findings: black gay men were less likely to have close relationships with their sexual partners, more likely to have hazardous marijuana use, and more likely to have experienced more stigma, trauma and childhood sexual abuse. White gay men were more likely to have alcohol problems.

The study was published Dec. 4 in the Journal of Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndromes.

For more information, check out the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Help combat HIV in Pennsylvania by volunteering your feedback to the Department of Health

The Pennsylvania Department of Health and the HIV Prevention and Care Project (HPCP) are looking for community members interested in HIV prevention, education, and treatment; We need people affected by HIV and AIDS to provide feedback regarding the state’s efforts in combating HIV/AIDS.

As part of the HIV Prevention and Care Plan, our goals include reducing new HIV infections, increasing access to care, improving health outcomes for people living with HIV, and reducing HIV-related disparities and health inequalities.

As a community member effected by HIV, your feedback regarding the plan will help provide a road map in meeting the goals set out by the State Department of Health and the National HIV/AIDS Strategy. Volunteering can involve reading a short paragraph and providing feedback or just completing a brief survey.

For more information, and to find out how to get involved, check out the most recent copy of the Pennsylvania HV Prevention and Care News Bulletin and click on the Join Our List button.

You can also contact Daniel Hinkson at dlh49@pitt.edu for more information about the HPCP, the Prevention and Care Plan, and how to volunteer.

Your voice can make a difference!

New CDC initiative educates providers about PrEP and PEP

From HIV.gov

CDC’s Act Against AIDS initiative recently launched Prescribe HIV Prevention, a new initiative for healthcare providers that focuses on HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP). The target audience includes primary care providers, infectious disease and HIV specialists, nurses, and public health practitioners.

PrEP is a way for people who are HIV-negative but at high risk for getting the virus to prevent HIV infection by taking a pill every day. PrEP is highly effective when taken as prescribed. PEP is the use of antiretroviral drugs after a single high-risk event to prevent HIV. It must be started within 72 hours of a possible exposure.

Prescribe HIV Prevention educates providers and patients about these biomedical prevention tools and encourages providers to consider PrEP and PEP for patients at high risk for HIV. It includes resources such as a guide for discussing sexual health with patients, brochures and posters to educate patients about PrEP and PEP, continuing medical education programs, and a medication guide for patients.

Health Alert: Post-Exposure Prophylaxis for HIV (not to be confused with PrEP)

From redorbit.com

Post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) involves taking of Anti-Retroviral Therapy (ART) drugs after potential exposure to HIV infection. This is an emergency HIV treatment usually received within 72 hours after the possible exposure. This should be confused as a cure for HIV but rather a form of preventing infection. It is, in fact, a short course of ARV drugs to stop the exposure to HIV from progressing into a life-threatening condition.

Some facts about PEP:

  • Taking PEP can result in an array of side effects including fatigue and nausea, but it is advisable not to stop taking the medication, instead consult your healthcare provider.
  • The emergency treatment should be started as soon as possible to guarantee its effectiveness. That means, it should be less 72 hours after exposure to the virus.
  • PEP is prescribed by your doctor to be taken daily at the same time for up to 4 weeks. This is according to the World Health Organization’s guideline on PEP use.

Read the full article.

Get more information about PEP from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Stop blaming PrEP for the increase in STI rates

From LGBTQ Nation

In an interview with the Los Angeles Blade about the new study, lead author Phillip Hammack, a professor at the University of California, Santa Cruz, debunked the notion.

“Our data don’t support the idea that we can attribute the rise in STIs to PrEP use, at least not in a direct manner. I personally don’t think that’s what’s happening,” said Hammack.

Instead, Hammack points at the rise of dating apps like Grindr, and a decrease in fear towards contracting HIV, as more likely causes.

“I would speculate it has more to do with a culture shift about sex,” said Hammack. “More people are having sex today. We’re in sort of a quiet sexual revolution when it comes to new identities, new labels, and sexual behavior.”

On the down side, the study also showed that only 4% of men who have sex with men are using PrEP. What’s more, many gay and bisexual men aged 18-25 aren’t getting annual HIV tests. 25% of men who have sex with men in that age range have never gotten an HIV test.

“I worry especially about younger men who didn’t grow up with the concerns of HIV that men of older generations did,” said Hammack in the William Institute press release on the study. “The low rate of HIV testing probably reflects a degree of complacency and cultural amnesia about AIDS.”

Read the full article.