Is technology increasing the rate of STDs among certain populations?

by Laurie Saloman, MS

It’s known that men who have sex with men tend to have disproportionately high rates of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) compared with the general population, particularly African American and Latino men. A new study has discovered a link between the methods that these men use to find sexual partners and STD infection rates.   The study, conducted by scientists at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), was comprised of 853 African American and Latino men who lived in Chicago, Illinois, Kansas City, Missouri, and Fort Lauderdale, Florida, who indicated that they had engaged in sex with at least 1 man during the previous year. The men were recruited either online or through some form of community outreach. Questions included their HIV status, whether they identified as gay or bisexual, how many male partners they’d had in the previous 3 months, and whether they used the Internet (via computer) and mobile-phone applications (apps) to look for sex partners.

Read the full article.

Laurie Saloman, MS, is a health writer with more than 20 years of experience working for both consumer and physician-focused publications. She is a graduate of Brandeis University and the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.

Mental health care is key to ending AIDS

From Advocate.com

Research shows a strong correlation between mental health disorders and living with HIV or AIDS, a correlation that is often overlooked. According to the National Institutes of Health, people with HIV have an increased risk for developing mood, anxiety, and cognitive disorders and are twice as likely to live with depression as those who do not have HIV. A 2010 U.K. study showed that one-third of HIV-positive men who participated in the survey met the criteria for a post-traumatic stress disorder diagnosis.

For those living with HIV or AIDS, depression is more than just mental hell — it can be a silent killer. Studies show that if people living with HIV feel stigmatized or suffer from mental illness, they are less likely to take their medication properly, which not only puts their own health at risk by not suppressing the individuals’ viral load, but also raises the likelihood that they will pass HIV on to others. Individuals living with HIV and depression are also more likely to think about suicide or even attempt to take their own lives.

Despite what we know about the connection between mental health and HIV/AIDS, too few people living with HIV or AIDS, and those invested in their health and happiness, are getting the mental health support they need. That is why we are proud to announce the opening of the state-of-the-art GMHC Carl Jacobs Mental Health Clinic, which will allow us to incorporate innovative treatment and counseling into our service model. Services will be available to adult New Yorkers of all sexual orientations, gender identities, and income levels, regardless of HIV status.

Past traumas, stress, depression, reduced self-esteem, and other challenges can be grueling to deal with. We aim to offer holistic services that address not only our clients’ mental health issues, but their social, spiritual and health concerns as well. Meanwhile, the ability to reach more HIV-negative people with HIV-preventive interventions and mental health services will help us decrease new HIV infections.

Read the full article.

The new gay sexual revolution

From Advocate.com

Now there’s hope the younger generation may also experience worry-free sex lives — without the side effects of living with HIV. The use of the antiretroviral drug Truvada as pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP (it’s the only medication approved for HIV prevention), has been shown to reduce the chance of HIV transmission to near zero. Since the medication was first approved as PrEP in 2012, only two verified cases of transmission have been documented among those who adhere to the daily schedule (a third, according to HIV expert Howard Grossman, could not be confirmed). New, longer-lasting PrEP injectables should reach market in the next few years. Studies suggest that on-demand PrEP (such as taking it before and after sexual activity) may also be effective.

“This is a revolution!” Gary Cohan, MD, who prescribes PrEP, told us in 2016. “This should be above the fold in The New York Times and on the cover of Time magazine. A pill to prevent HIV?”

Read the full article on Advocate.com.

Gay men syphilis rates over 100x greater than straight men

From medpagetoday.com

The first state-specific analysis of syphilis among men who have sex with men (MSM) shows they have dramatically higher incidence than men whose only sexual partners are female, the CDC is reporting.

Data from 2015, analyzed with a new methodology, show that the incidence of primary and secondary syphilis among MSM was 309.0 cases per 100,000 people, compared with 2.9 per 100,000 among men who reported sex with women only, according to Alex de Voux, PhD, of the CDC’s epidemic intelligence service, and colleagues at the CDC and Emory University in Atlanta.

The disparity was even more marked when the rate among MSM was compared with the 1.8 cases per 100,000 population seen among women, the researchers reported in the April 7 issue of Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

County-by-county data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey included the number of households with a male head-of-household and a male partner, De Voux and colleagues reported, and that information could be used to estimate the MSM population per county.

For the syphilis analysis, the researchers used data from the 44 states that had information on the sex of partners in at least 70% of reported cases. Those states accounted for 83.4% of all 23,872 reported cases in 2015, De Voux and colleagues reported.

State-specific incidence rates among MSM ranged from 73.1 per 100,000 population in Alaska to 748.3 in North Carolina, the investigators found. Syphilis incidence among MSM was highest in the South and West and four of the five states with the highest rates among MSM — Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and New Mexico — were in the South.

The overall syphilis among MSM was 167.5 times the rate among women, with state-specific rate ratios ranging from 63.7 in Louisiana to 2,140.3 in Hawaii, De Voux and colleagues reported.

Interestingly, the highest overall syphilis rate in the U.S., seen in 1946, was 70.9 cases per 100,000 population — a rate exceeded by the lowest state-specific rate among MSM in 2015: the 73.1 cases per 100,000 observed in Alaska.

The researchers cautioned that the data are based on 44 states and might not reflect the nation as a whole. Similarly, the estimates rely on the American Community Survey data; under-reporting of same-sex households would skew the outcome.

As well, they noted, the analysis did not include cases in which the sex of partners was unknown and if MSM are less likely than other men to report the sex of their partners, the findings might under-estimate the rate of disease among MSM.

Finally, De Voux and colleagues cautioned, not all cases of syphilis are diagnosed and reported.

Editor’s note: To find free Syphilis testing near you, got to gettested.cdc.gov.

Campus environment tied to sexual assault risk for LGBT people

From Reuters.com

College students in the U.S. who say their campus is welcoming to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people are less likely to be victims of sexual assaults at school, a new study suggests.

The researchers found that students who perceived their campus as an inclusive environment for LGBT people were significantly less likely to be the victims of sexual assault. “I believe this study provides proof of concept for how environment may influence sexual assault violence,” said lead author Robert Coulter, a researcher at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health. Coulter and colleagues write in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence that sexual assault affects 2 to 15 percent of U.S. undergraduates.

In earlier research, they found that certain groups are more at risk of sexual assault than others. For example, women and transgender people in general are at greater risk of sexual assault than non-transgender men.

To see whether campus environment is tied to the risk of sexual assault, the researchers analyzed survey data collected in 2010 from 1,925 undergraduates who were LGBT or questioning their sexual orientation. Overall, 5.2 percent reported that they had been sexually assaulted on campus.

Read the full article.

AIDS United: Republicans’ American Health Care Act will “worsen treatment and care for people living with HIV”

Press release from AIDS United

AIDS United opposes the American Health Care Act as released by House Republicans on March 6th. The American Health Care Act would, if passed, strongly affect and potentially worsen treatment and care for people living with HIV and the provision of HIV prevention services for people at risk for infection. AIDS United works toward an end to the HIV epidemic by reaching outcomes described in the National HIV/AIDS Strategy and the many state-specific efforts to curb and finally end the epidemic. These outcomes include reducing HIV incidence, increasing access to care and improving health outcomes for people living with HIV, and reducing HIV-related health disparities.

The American Health Care Act undermines these goals. The replacement of premium subsidies with refundable tax credits will hurt the ability of low income people, including people living with HIV, to afford up-front payment of health plan premiums. Under this system thousands of people will lose coverage. These people will then be subject to a 30 percent penalty in their future cost of coverage because of continuous coverage requirements. These same requirements will hurt people who lose their jobs and will also make it more difficult for people to change jobs or move across the country. The bill also places a higher cost burden on older Americans by allowing higher premium as people age. This will result in much higher costs and lower access to care for lower income people. Finally, the bill effectively repeals Medicaid expansion in under three years at the end of 2019. Such a repeal will result in a loss of health coverage for millions of Americans, including people living with HIV and other chronic conditions.

Read the full press release.

Professor Matt G. Mutchler examines HIV prevention with focus on communication among young Black gay and bisexual men

From csudhnews.com

Professor of sociology Matt G. Mutchler’s research over the past 20 years into HIV prevention and treatment issues, especially within the African American community, has garnered him more than 15 external research awards and respect as an expert in the field. In addition to serving as a faculty member at California State University, Dominguez Hills, he is currently a visiting professor with the Center for AIDS Prevention and Study at University of California, San Francisco, and director of community-based research with AIDS Project Los Angeles.

Mutchler’s more recent work addresses sexual communication among African-American gay and bisexual males and their close friends, and other sexual health issues related to gay men. He also investigates HIV treatment adherence programs.

Mutchler brings his expertise in community-based research to the CSUDH’s Urban Community Research Center (UCRC), where he serves as director. The multi-disciplinary, sociology-based applied research center focuses on the needs, problems and solutions that arise in urban areas. The center also offers CSUDH students hand-on research experience as they collaborate with CSUDH faculty, and a number of governmental, community-based, and university/research institutions, such as AIDS Project Los Angeles (APLA), Charles R. Drew University, Spectrum, REACH LA, and the RAND Corporation.

Mutchler recently shared insights about his studies and findings, the challenges and rewards of conducting his research within the African American community, and his latest work.

Read the interview with Professor Mutchler on csudhnews.com.