STDs at an all-time high in the U.S.


Rates of sexually transmitted diseases in the United States continue to rise, and total combined cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis have reached the highest ever, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

std-at-all-time-high-in-usThe data, released today, shows that in 2015, there were more than 1.5 million cases of chlamydia reported, nearly 400,000 cases of gonorrhea, and nearly 24,000 cases of primary and secondary (P&S) syphilis – the most infectious stages of the disease.

“We have reached a decisive moment for the nation,” Dr. Jonathan Mermin, director of CDC’s National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention, said in a statement. “STD rates are rising, and many of the country’s systems for preventing STDs have eroded. We must mobilize, rebuild and expand services – or the human and economic burden will continue to grow.”

Researchers found that from 2014 to 2015, syphilis rates rose 19 percent, gonorrhea rates rose nearly 13 percent, and chlamydia increased by almost 6 percent.

These infections are normally curable with antibiotics – but there is growing concern about drug-resistant strains of gonorrhea that don’t respond to standard treatment.

In many cases, people with STDs continue to go undiagnosed and untreated, putting many at risk for severe health complications, including infertility, chronic pain and increased risk for HIV.

Young people and gay and bisexual men continue to be disproportionately affected by STDs. The data shows that Americans aged 15 to 24 accounted for nearly two-thirds of chlamydia diagnoses and half of gonorrhea diagnoses.

Gay and bisexual men accounted for the majority of new gonorrhea and syphilis cases.

The CDC also said it continues to see “troubling” increases in syphilis among newborns.

The syphilis rate among women increased by more than 27 percent from 2014 to 2015, while congenital syphilis – which occurs when the infection is transmitted from a pregnant woman to her baby – increased by 6 percent.

“The health outcomes of syphilis – miscarriage, stillbirth, blindness or stroke – can be devastating,” said Dr. Gail Bolan, director of CDC’s Division of STD Prevention. “The resurgence of congenital syphilis and the increasing impact of syphilis among gay and bisexual men makes it clear that many Americans are not getting the preventive services they need. Every pregnant woman should be tested for syphilis, and sexually active gay and bisexual men should be tested for syphilis at least once a year.”

To reverse this dangerous trend and stop the spread of STDs, the CDC says health care providers, state and local health departments, and the public all need to play a role.

“We should all learn to talk more openly about STDs – with our partners, parents, and providers,” Bolan said. “People who are sexually active should talk to their medical providers about getting tested and reducing their risk by using condoms or practicing mutual monogamy. It is critical that providers ask about their patients’ sexual history and ensure STD screening is a standard part of medical care.”

NIH awards $7.9 million to test mobile HIV prevention app for young gay and bi men

From the Rainbow Times

1The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has awarded a $7.9 million grant to the Columbia University School of Nursing to test an HIV prevention mobile app specifically developed for high-risk young men. In the five-year project, Columbia researchers will adapt and test a new mobile version of MyPEEPS, an existing HIV education intervention that covers topics including correct condom use, dealing with stigma and shame, and communicating effectively about safer sex. MyPEEPS Mobile will be a web-based version of the intervention that will be accessible by mobile and desktop devices and that will feature games, videos, and interactive scenarios. The app will be evaluated in a randomized controlled trial involving 700 racially and ethnically diverse 13- to 18-year-old men with HIV-negative or unknown status at four geographically diverse sites: Birmingham, Alabama; Chicago, Illinois; New York, New York; and Seattle, Washington.

“Our aim is to provide this population with information to make better health decisions,” says Rebecca Schnall, a co-principal investigator for the project. “Young, diverse MSM are the most at-risk for HIV infection, and there is a dearth of evidence-based interventions targeting this community. There is much evidence that mobile tech is a great way to connect with this generation. By meeting them where they are, we are hopeful about the intervention’s potential to decrease infections.”

‘His Health’ is a new platform helping doctors tackle implicit bias in treating Black gay men


While the threat of HIV/AIDS has decreased significantly thanks to advances in antiretroviral therapy, treatment as prevention, and pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), black men who have sex with men (MSM) are still affected at a disproportionate rate.

In February, the CDC released an eye-opening study which claimed at the current rate of infection, one in two black MSM will contract HIV in his lifetime.

4605712d88d88917ae31f918cee6fbaaOne of the reasons for the virus’s prevalence in the black community is a lack of quality healthcare. The National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors (NASTAD) is addressing this with a new online training platform, His Health aims to help doctors, nurses, and medical professionals unlearn racial bias and elevate the quality of healthcare for black MSM.

Recent research found that white healthcare providers harbored “implicit or “subconscious” bias to patients of color which led to their patients receiving inferior care. Furthermore, LGBT people can often face stigma or discrimination in access to healthcare as well as unique health challenges their providers are not always apt to deal with—for instance, one in three primary care physicians and nurses have never even heard of PrEP. And that’s certainly not helping the 60 percent of gay and bi men who don’t know that PrEP can help prevent the transmission of HIV.

According to a press release, His Health does the following:

– Provides accredited and expert-led continuing education courses that count towards the credits medical professionals already need to maintain their medical licensure.

– Offers portraits of innovative models of care including Project Silk—a CDC funded, Pittsburgh-based recreational safe space and sexual health center rooted in house ball culture—and Connecting Resources for Urban Sexual Health, a sexual health clinic created by and for LGBTQ youth of color.

– Gives easy access to evidence-based resources to support the delivery of high quality, culturally affirming healthcare services for black men who have sex with men.

“There is a lot of discussion right now about implicit bias and police brutality in the U.S.—but the truth is, this is a huge challenge for health care providers as well,” said Omoro Omoighe, Associate Director of Health Equity and Health Care Access at NASTAD.

“We know doctors and nurses desperately wish to offer culturally affirming healthcare that is stigma-free to black LGBT patients. With the advent of His Health, they now have the tools necessary to tackle implicit bias and feel more confident in their ability to uplift the standard of care for black gay men while maintaining their licensure to practice medicine.”

For more on His Health, click here.

Gonorrhea treatment showing signs of failing

From Project Q Atlanta

Federal health officials warned of new signs that gonorrhea is growing resistant to current treatments, a development more troubling for gay men who face a higher risk of the sexually transmitted disease than other populations.

Findings of a new study from Hawaii prompted the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention to raise a warning flag on Wednesday during its 2016 STD Prevention Conference in downtown Atlanta. The findings showed that the current treatment for gonorrhea – a shot of ceftriaxone and an oral dose of azithromycin – was losing its effectiveness in a cluster of infections in Hawaii.

That’s more troubling than data released in July that showed emerging drug resistance and limited treatment options for gay men at a time when infections among them are on the rise, federal officials said during a press conference Wednesday.

“It seems that in the battle between humans and pathogens, gonorrhea is a formidable opponent,” said Jonathan Mermin (photo), director of CDC’s National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD & Tuberculosis Prevention.

“We are seeing troubling signs that treatments are failing us. We may be running out of options for treating gonorrhea,” he added.

Gonorrhea is one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases in the country and it impacts gay men more severely than other populations. The CDC has said about 56 percent of gonorrhea cases in the U.S. are among men and of those, 48 percent are estimated to be gay men. Put another way, men who have sex men face a gonorrhea incidence 17 times greater that seen in heterosexual men and nearly 14 times that seen in women, based on the 2014 STD Surveillance Report.

Read the full article.

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

From the

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.

Free test kits can help guys on Grindr test more often

From the New York Times…

Grindr, the gay dating app, is an effective way to get gay black and Hispanic men to try home H.I.V. self-testing kits, according to a recent study.

Free test kits on GrindrThe small study was confined to Los Angeles, and fewer than 400 test kits were distributed, but the idea has broader potential. Grindr is used by at least five million men in 192 countries, according to its developer.

In the United States, young gay black and Hispanic men are the groups most likely to be infected with H.I.V. and the least likely to be tested for it, because they often lack health insurance and fear being rejected by their families.

In some other countries, gay men may be harassed, jailed or even executed.

The study used banner ads on Grindr to offer free test kits. Recipients received a kit in the mail, a voucher that could be redeemed for a kit at a pharmacy, or a code that would produce a kit from a vending machine in the parking lot of the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center.

The test requires no blood; a swab of the gums produces results in 20 minutes.

Of the 56 black and Hispanic men who requested kits and were willing to answer survey questions, 69 percent had not been tested in the last six months; medical experts recommend that gay men who do not always usecondoms get tested every three months.

Two men learned from the kits that they were infected.

Researchers at the medical schools of Indiana University and the University of California, Los Angeles, chose Grindr rather than other gay dating apps like Scruff and Jack’d “because it was the oldest and biggest,” said Dr. Jeffrey D. Klausner, an H.I.V. specialist at U.C.L.A.’s David Geffen School of Medicine and one of the authors of the paper published in Sexual Health.

The idea of using the app to encourage home testing is “ripe for expansion” to other cities, and possibly to other countries, Dr. Klausner said

HIV epidemic continues for gay men across the globe

From Johns Hopkins University

Across countries and income levels, gay men continue to see disproportionately high rates of HIV infection, according to a new study from Johns Hopkins University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health. Though overall HIV rates have flattened in recent years and a diagnosis is no longer the death sentence it was once considered, researchers are concerned that the epidemic persists globally among men who have sex with men.

“It’s a tragic situation and it’s painful that the history of AIDS is looking like its future, but that’s actually where we are,” says study leader Chris Beyrer, a Bloomberg School professor and president of the International AIDS Society. “But the first step in taking on a problem is recognizing and articulating it, and we’ve really done that here.”

The findings, to be published July 9 in The Lancet, follow up on a 2012 call to action from the same group of researchers. Back then, they laid out anambitious framework to curtail HIV epidemics in gay men, setting targets for policy reform, funding, and improvement in HIV prevention and treatment—including expanded access to pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, a pill that has proved highly effective in reducing transmission among this population.

Read the full article.