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.

Men who have sex with men receive less HIV education

From MD Magazine

According to a recent study led by Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH), young men who have sex with men (MSM) are less likely to receive school-based HIV education than young men who have sex with women, leading to a higher risk of HIV infection.

Researchers aimed to evaluate HIV education and sexual risk behaviors among young men who have sex with men (YMSM) relative to men having sex with women (MSW) in order to identify the relationships between HIV education and YMSM sexual risk behaviors.

The study, published in LGBT Health, found that 84% of MSM reported learning about HIV in school compared to 90% of MSW.

“It’s striking that the young people who are at most risk of HIV are least likely to report HIV education in school,” Julia Raifman, ScD, SM, lead author, assistant professor, health law, policy and management, Boston University School of Public Health, said in the study.

Researchers used data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Youth Risk Behaviors Surveillance System that collected information on sex of sexual contacts and HIV education in 2011 and/or 2013. HIV education, number of sexual partners ever and in the past 3 months, and condom use at last sex were all assessed, controlling for age, race/ethnicity, state and year.

Read the full article.

Gay men’s stories of monogamy and non-monogamy: change, flexibility and tensions

From aidsmap.com

Many men, particularly younger men, implicitly expected monogamy to be the basis for long-term relationships. They felt it created stability, security, intimacy and trust. It was seen representing a more moral way of life than non-monogamy and promiscuity.

“We never discussed being completely exclusive: it was just a given that we would only see each other.” (Single, 21 years).

“Even though I’m gay I still believe in the whole stable family thing. So, I do want a husband and kids.” (Coupled, 22 years).

Nonetheless, men did not necessarily think that monogamy would last. It might be thought of as most important at the beginning of a relationship:

“I think it’s important to have monogamy for at least the first three years of your relationship because it creates emotional connections and a spiritual connection. And because in the first three years of your relationship, that’s all new and you don’t want to rip that out and have that strain put on the relationship.” (Single, 29 years).

Many men expected relationships to transition to non-monogamy over time. While some men explained this by talking about the ready availability of sex on the gay scene, others gave biological explanations:

“When you’ve got two hormonally driven men sometimes they just need an outlet if they don’t want to self-destruct.” (Single, 24 years).

The same man also said that social contact with other gay couples had led him to expect a non-monogamous relationship, even if he struggled with this expectation.

“Most people in relationships I know that have lasted are open so even though I don’t like it, I am aware that if I want a lasting relationship, there’s a good chance that’s the key to success.”

In contrast, other men aspired to non-monogamy. They might idealise older couples whose relationships were secure, successful and open:

“They’re deeply in love and they’ve got a home together. And they’re in a completely open relationship… That’s something I would like as well. It’d be nice to get to that point in time where insecurities have gone and you don’t worry about who’s sleeping with who, so long as you love the person you’re going home to… If [partner] and I do stay together long-term, that’s where I see our relationship going.” (Coupled, 28 years).

Read the full article.

“The Mess He Made” re-creates the ritual of an HIV test — and its aftermath

From the Huffington Post Queer Voices

Mainstream films like “Philadelphia” and “The Dallas Buyers Club” have undoubtedly raised awareness of HIV/AIDS issues ― to varying degrees of success ― in Hollywood. Still, Matthew Puccini felt he’d never seen the routine, yet often stressful, act of being tested for the virus accurately portrayed in film.

The New York-based writer-director channeled his personal experiences with getting tested for HIV into “The Mess He Made,” a new, harrowing short film which debuted at SXSW in March and has since been seen at the 2017 Palm Springs International ShortFest and other film festivals. The film, which can be viewed in full above, follows a gay man, Jude (played by Max Jenkins), as he waits anxiously for the results of an HIV test in the parking lot of a shopping mall in small town America.

Read the full article and watch the video here.

‘Double discrimination,’ loneliness contribute to bisexual health disparities, study says

From NBC News online

“Double discrimination” and loneliness put bisexual individuals at “higher risk for poor mental health outcomes,” according to a recent study out of American University. The study compared the mental health of bisexual men and women to that of gay men, lesbians and heterosexuals.

“Bisexual people face double discrimination in multiple settings — bisexual people are often invisible, rejected, invalidated [and] stigmatized in the heterosexual community as well as the traditional LGBTQ communities,” Ethan Mereish, an assistant professor at American University and the study’s lead author, told NBC News. “Given that isolation and discrimination, bi people might be experiencing increase factors that might make them more lonely or isolated.”

Previous research has shown that lesbian, gay and bisexual individuals broadly face higher rates of mental health issues than their straight counterparts. Yet there are mental health disparities that the bisexual community faces at higher rates than even gays and lesbians. That said, the American University study surveyed 503 bisexual adults ranging in age from 18 to 64 to hone in on their unique minority stressors and the effects they have on mental health.

“This study adds to the growing body of research confirming that bisexual people face unique mental health disparities [that are] closely related to stigma and discrimination [they face] from straight, gay and lesbian communities,” Heron Greenesmith, a senior policy analyst at LGBTQ advocacy organization Movement Advancement Project, said. “Internal stigma adds another barrier to bisexual people.”

Greenesmith, whose organization has compiled a number of studies and reports that point to the relatively poor health of the bisexual community, said this latest study makes it “even more clear that the bisexual community needs tailored mental health services.”

Read the full article.

PATF changes name to reflect exapanded services

From the Pittsburgh AIDS Task Force

As of September 26, 2017, Pittsburgh AIDS Task Force will be Allies for Health + Wellbeing! The name change follows a period of significant expansion for the agency and is in keeping with feedback given by current and potential clients. The new name also pays homage to the agency’s founders.

In 1985, the volunteers who formed the Pittsburgh AIDS Task Force were truly allies fighting against HIV/AIDS on a number of fronts. They fought for the dignity, rights and humanity of those were dying of AIDS. They fought against rampant discrimination and fear. These allies fought to prevent HIV transmission by disseminating accurate information to the community and by offering free anonymous screenings.

Today, we continue to be on the side of people living with HIV, working with them to maximize their health and quality of life. From primary medical care to housing, to a food pantry and, soon, onsite mental health services, Allies for Health + Wellbeing delivers integrated services with a holistic approach. We have also expanded services for those at risk of HIV, including Pre-exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP), treatment for sexually transmitted infections and viral hepatitis, as well as primary medical care.

With a new name comes a new logo and a whole new brand image. Our new brand image will be unveiled at a launch party on September 26th.

Panel creates health care standards for men who have sex with men

From the Washington Blade

The absence of a national standard of care for gay and bi men is partially to blame for higher rates of STDs and other health disparities a national panel of health professionals said this week according to the Clarion Ledger.

The panel, co-chaired by a University of Mississippi Medical Center professor, has created a standard of care for men who have sex with men to address STD prevention programs and other issues, the Ledger reports.

The panel’s sexual health standard of care for MSM includes:

  • A comprehensive sexual history; mental health assessments and referrals; counseling about condoms, lubrication, enemas and douches; and discussions about sexual satisfaction and pleasure.
  • A visual exam to check for signs of HPV, syphilis or other STDs.
  • Urethral swab or urine-based chlamydia and gonorrhea screening; rectal and pharyngeal chlamydia and gonorrheal screening.
  • Syphilis, HIV and hepatitis C screening every three to six months for sexually active MSM with multiple partners, and at least annually for other MSM.
  • Vaccines for human papillomavirus, or HPV, and Hepatitis A and B.
  • Pre- and post-exposure prophylaxis as indicated; expedited partner therapy for chlamydia or gonorrhea infection.

The panel’s recommendations go beyond federal guidelines and instead incorporate the collective experiences of the panel’s experts in sexual health. Their work took into consideration the social landscape for many MSM that can impact whether or not they walk into a clinic, the Ledger reports.