Health Alert – Rates of STD infection still at record high

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recently been reporting a record increase in cases of syphilis, chlamydia and gonorrhea—after these diseases had been on the decline for several previous years. HIV infections continue to increase as well, especially among men who have sex with men (MSM).  Even worse, catching both HIV and one or more STDs can lead to particularly rapid and damaging health outcomes.

As a result, health experts across the country (including here at the Pitt Men’s Study) recommend that all sexually active men get a full screening for STD, especially HIV, Gonorrhea, Chlamydia, and Syphilis.

To find testing near you, go to the CDC’s testing locator and enter your zip code to find local free testing. The best way to protect your health is to get tested.

New app helps HIV-positive youth remember medication

From the Minnesota Daily

With widespread accessibility of mobile technology, researchers hope a new app may support the wellbeing of HIV-positive youth.

A study funded by the National Institutes for Health drew together faculty from across the country, including some from the University of Minnesota, to develop an app – called “Youth Thrive”. The app for mobile devices reminds HIV-positive youth to take their medications.

phone-app-for-hiv-pos-youthThe five-year study is in its earliest stages, and the team will spend the next year developing the app and getting feedback from youth before they launch it at the end of 2017, said Keith Horvath, community health and epidemiology professor at the University.

While the project officially started in July, Horvath said it took a few months to get moving. He said the NIH funded two other centers to research technology’s impact on slowing HIV’s spread.

The idea for the app stemmed from an earlier program for adult men living with HIV, he said.

The original app is already in the field and lets users talk to each other and access specific information about their situation. It also sends text message reminders to take medications.

“All of the studies use technology since we’re really a technology-based center,” Horvath said. “We’re trying to figure out how can we really leverage technologies for youth either who are living with HIV in the case of my study or youth who are at high risk for HIV.”

Read the full article online.

CDC sending out an SOS over soaring rates of STDs

From the New York Daily News

Every year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) releases an annual report of a national overview of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).

The report for 2015 was not encouraging at all. In fact, it was quite discouraging as such STDs as chlamydia and gonorrhea were at an all-time high, including higher rates of syphilis.

Sexually transmitted diseases are typically not discussed in polite conversation. But the less they are talked about, the more of a hidden epidemic they are becoming.

We need to realize that anyone who has sex — oral, anal or vaginal intercourse and genital touching — can get an STD. It doesn’t matter whether you are straight, married, single or gay, everyone is at risk.

Read the full article.

National organizations publish new guide on LGBTQ health advocacy priorities

From LGBT Weekly

The National LGBTQ Task Force Action Fund and the National Coalition for LGBT Health have published a new guide on health issues important to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) people. Released in advance of the 2016 presidential election, the “10 Key LGBTQ Health Advocacy Priorities Guide” is intended to educate voters on LGBTQ health priorities the two organizations will continue to focus on during the next administration.

“This new guide is like no other as it outlines critical healthcare issues through an intersectional approach. It takes into consideration the realities that make up the everyday lives of LGBTQ people, such as racial injustice, economic injustice, gender inequality, and immigration status,” said Candace Bond-Theriault, Policy Counsel for Reproductive Rights, Health and Justice at the National LGBTQ Task Force Action Fund.“We believe that in order to improve the lives and health of all LGBTQ people, a clear understating that these issues overlap is necessary.”

The guide lists the following ten key areas as priorities: advocating for reproductive health, rights and justice; creating an AIDS-free generation, promoting HIV harm reduction, and increasing access to pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP); expanding public education and treatment for sexually transmitted infections (STI) and sexually transmitted diseases (STD); supporting LGBTQ youth experiencing homelessness; improving transgender healthcare; addressing religious exemptions and nondiscrimination laws; promoting LGBTQ cultural competency; improving access to mental health; expanding access to affordable health care; and ending violence against LGBTQ people. The guide is available online on the National LGBTQ Task Force Action Fund and the National Coalition for LGBT Health’s Web sites.

“We collectively identified, prioritized and defined the issues that effect the LGBT community so that this information can be helpful in looking at how elected officials address these issues,” said Brian Hujdich, Executive Director of the National Coalition for LGBT Health. “The guide empowers LGBTQ individuals to have an impact on the health and wellbeing of our community

through voting and having their voices heard on Election Day this November 8th.”

Both organizations will host workshops, trainings, and informational sessions on these priority health advocacy issues during the 2017 Creating Change Conference Jan. 18-22 and SYNChronicity 2017: the National Conference on HIV, HCV, and LGBT Health, set for April 24-25.

STDs at an all-time high in the U.S.

From CBSnews.com

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

From OUT.com

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, HisHealth.org. 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.