Health Alert: Beaver County has “notable increases” in new HIV and gonorrhea diagnoses


The PA Department of Health is reporting an increase in HIV and gonorrhea diagnoses in Beaver County.

However, a lack of willingness to test — combined with the potential spread of the diseases through illegal drug use — raises more questions than answers.

From 2017 through this year so far, the number of new HIV cases has increased “nearly threefold” in county residents compared to the average number of new diagnoses in previous years, according to a Pennsylvania Department of Health advisory issued earlier this month to local medical offices. The increases in HIV infection were predominantly identified in males with the risk factor of men who have sex with men. According to the state health department, four cases of HIV diagnoses were made in 2013, five in 2014 and three in 2015. Zero cases were reported in 2016, but the count may be incomplete because of reporting delays. The state has not yet shared the exact number of new diagnoses for 2017.

Individuals identified with new HIV infections also had a high rate of co-infection with other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), such as syphilis and gonorrhea.

In nearby Allegheny County, 119 new HIV diagnoses were made in 2013, followed by 128 in 2014, 142 in 2015 and 127 in 2016. In Lawrence County, there were three new cases in 2013, five in 2014, five in 2015 and zero in 2016. The latter also may be incomplete because of reporting delays.

Read the full article.

Allentown’s LGBT youth find sense of self through Project Silk

From Allentown’s Morning Call

Teenage life is brimming with insecurity, awkwardness and anxiety no matter who you are or who you love. But studies show that this already prickly period is several times more difficult for young people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. The struggles can go beyond typical teenage angst, and can lead to depression, suicide, home insecurity and drug and alcohol abuse.

Shyan Ortiz, 21, speaks about the impact of the Bradbury Sullivan LGBT Center’s youth program.

The risks for LGBT youth are real. Though they only make up 4 to 10 percent of the population, researchers estimate as many as 40 percent of homeless youth identify as LGBT. According to the American Psychological Association, young LGBT people have greater barriers to health services and therefore experience higher risks for alcohol and drug abuse, HIV and suicide.

“This is a population that is underserved, marginalized and stigmatized,” said Randell Sell, an associate professor at Drexel University’s Dorn School of Public Health. “Anything that provides access to care and a space like this for these young people is a huge leap forward.”

Project Silk is modeled after a similar program that started at the University of Pittsburgh. The aim was to target vulnerable groups at risk for HIV and find an effective way of providing testing and paths to treatment and other services. The Allentown program was made possible through a $210,000 grant from the University of Pittsburgh’s HIV Prevention and Care Project to replicate the program elsewhere in Pennsylvania.

The program turns what could be a clinical, impersonal service into something familiar and safe. Ketterer said it gives young people a place to belong before introducing services and resources that provide emotional and physical support.

The center has had visits by 115 individuals, Ketterer said. Of those, 70 visited three or more times, said Andrew Palomo, director of research and evaluations at Valley Youth House. The program has administered 50 HIV tests. Youth using the program also have the chance to earn smartphones and other technology by volunteering for work around the center or taking leadership positions.

Read the full article on The Morning Call.

Allies for Health + Wellbeing launches “I am an Ally” campaign with the support of Mayor Peduto and many prominent Pittsburghers

The campaign is designed to help raise the community’s awareness that what was the Pittsburgh AIDS Task Force is now Allies for Health + Wellbeing and that Allies provides integrated medical and behavioral health care, as well as supportive human services and community-based education for all those living with or at risk of HIV, viral hepatitis and sexually transmitted infections.

The “I am an Ally.” campaign will feature images on the back of Port Authority buses leaving the East Liberty garage starting February 1, 2018, and in other media outlets through April.

Allies of Allies for Health + Wellbeing featured in the campaign include:

  • Allies Board Member Linda Bucci and her husband, Chairman of MARC USA Tony Bucci
  • Medical Director of the Pitt Men’s Study, UPMC infectious disease doctor and Allies Board Member, Ken Ho, MD, MPH
  • Director of the Allegheny Health Department, Karen Hacker, MD MPH
  • Friends of Allies Richard Parsakian, Dr. Larry Leahy, John Van de Grift, Nancy Simpronio and Chuck Culbertson.
  • Allies for Health + Wellbeing LGBQTIA community advocates J Daniel Barlow and Dandy Hayes.

Join the Allies campaign by contacting Allies for Health + Wellbeing at 412-345-7456/


Mobile hookup apps account for Philly’s STD spike among gay men: Report


new report from the Philadelphia Department of Health says mobile so-called hookup apps are contributing to a spike in reported cases of sexually transmitted diseases among gay men. Statistics show those mobile app meetups among men that led to sex doubled from 2015 to 2016, according to the city.

Meanwhile, internet and in-person meetups among men that later led to sex declined through 2016. The report, titled “The resurgence of syphilis among men who have sex with men,” directly links the new cases to the rise of so-called hookup apps like Grindr.

Mobile app users who contracted syphilis made up some two-thirds of the city’s syphilis cases — representing almost the entire increase above prior infection rates, the report concludes. “These apps present a challenge for identifying and treating sexual partners of syphilis cases because the interaction is often anonymous and cannot be re-traced,” according to the report. “Between 2005 and 2016, infectious syphilis diagnoses more than quadrupled, from 208 to 925” in Philadelphia, it stated.

Read the full article.

New HIV testing, treatment and prevention clinic opens in Washington

From the Observer Reporter in Washington County…

An HIV/AIDS medical clinic is operating in Washington, focusing not only on assisting people who are HIV positive, but testing for the virus and preventing those at high risk from contracting it.

Central Outreach Wellness Center South opened three months ago at 95 Leonard Ave., Washington. It is in Suite 203 in an office building adjacent to Washington Hospital, but it is not affiliated with the facility. For now, the center is open Wednesdays and Thursdays, or by appointment. Walk-ins are accepted.

Initial screenings for and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases is conducted at the clinic, and is covered by the state Department of Health. Central Outreach is filling a need in the Washington area, which did not have an STD clinic since one closed more than a year ago.

Nurse practitioner Carol Priest of Arden is running the office. She is assisted by Braden Bash, who has been trained as a physician assistant and is waiting to take his boards.

Nurse practitioner Carol Priest and physician assistant trainee Braden Bash oversee operations at Central Outreach Wellness Center South

“We hope to be open Monday through Friday by summer,” Priest said.

Stacy Lane, a physician and Washington & Jefferson College graduate, opened the clinic by appointment only in December. It is a “satellite” of the Central Outreach Wellness Center she launched two years ago – and still operates – on Pittsburgh’s North Shore, near the Andy Warhol Museum. She said there was an urgent need for the Washington facility.

“We noticed there were more than 50 people driving from West Virginia to the North Shore, and that wasn’t counting Washington and Canonsburg folks,” Lane said.

“There were no STD options in that area. There was a huge deficit.”

That deficit was underscored by the drug crisis that engulfed the region in recent times. “HIV can be transmitted by drug use,” Priest said.

A major weapon being used to combat HIV, Priest said, is a pill called PrEP, which stands for pre-exposure prophylaxis and has the brand name Truvada. It was used as a treatment for HIV, but is now used as a preventative for people who have been diagnosed as HIV negative and others who are at high risk of getting the virus. “These are people who use (intravenous) drugs and share needles, gay men not using condoms,” Lane said.

PrEP, according to results, has been a huge success.

“Of 200,000 people who were HIV negative and are on that pill, there have been only three cases of HIV,” Lane said.

Lane specializes in infectious diseases and was motivated to do so years ago. An uncle died from AIDS while she was in high school and pondering a medical career.

Read the full article.

Pittsburgh AIDS Task Force adds PrEP to its efforts in fighting HIV

From the Pittsburgh AIDS Task Force

As part of our new medical services, PATF is excited to now offer Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP), a powerful new tool in the fight to halt the spread of HIV! PrEP involves taking a daily medication, called Truvada, and is over 90 percent effective at reducing the risk of HIV transmission for HIV-negative individuals.
logoExpanding access to PrEP is a main component of the national HIV strategy, which has a goal of eliminating new HIV infections. Despite best efforts at HIV prevention, including encouraging condom use, the number of new HIV infections per year in Pittsburgh and the surrounding area has remained stable in the last few years. PrEP empowers individuals with a critical new method to help prevent HIV and is an especially important tool for those who are disproportionately affected by the virus including men who have sex with men and transgender women.
While any medical doctor is able to prescribe PrEP, many are unaware of the regimen or are uncomfortable prescribing it. Furthermore, many individuals may not be comfortable discussing HIV risk factors, like sexual practice or drug use, with primary care physicians. We’re proud to now be part of a small group of clinics and practitioners in Pittsburgh who regularly offer PrEP and who provide a stigma-free zone to discuss HIV risk factors openly and honestly.
PATF’s PrEP for Wellness program takes a holistic approach to sexual health care. Individuals who enroll in the program come into PATF every three months for HIV and STI testing and have a clinical check up every six months. Trained Health Advocates lead clients through the process, answer questions, and help devise strategies to adhere to the medication.
Individuals in our PrEP program are also able to use PATF’s pharmacy, which delivers medications directly to clients at their home or location of their choosing. Though side effects from Truvada are rare and are generally very mild, pharmacy staff is available on-call to answer any questions related to the medication, drug interactions or side effects.
Most insurance covers PrEP, and our pharmacy is specially trained to help with drug assistance programs, including those that cover co-pays and deductibles. Assistance is also available for those without insurance.
For more information on our PrEP for Wellness program, visit or call 412-248-0550.

MidAtlantic AIDS Education and Training Center hosts World AIDS Day 2016 conference

nov_labg_worldaidsday2WHAT: To observe the 28th World AIDS Day, The MidAtlantic AIDS Education and Training Center (MAAETC), based at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health, will collaborate with UPMC and local HIV/AIDS clinics to host an all-day educational event. The World AIDS Day 2016 conference will bring together experts in the field of HIV to enable physicians, nurses and other HIV care providers to improve care. Experts will discuss prevention including PreP, aging and HIV, antiretroviral treatment, and substance use and HIV. To learn more or register, visit

WHY: Despite advances in HIV treatment, there continues to be an increase in HIV infections. This necessitates routine testing for everyone, to identify and link persons with HIV to care so that they can live longer lives. New treatment is available to prevent HIV infection, and concerns and issues are emerging among persons aging with HIV infection.
WHO: Introductions by Corey O’Connor, councilman, City of Pittsburgh, and Donald S. Burke, M.D., Dean, Pitt Public Health. Speakers include Rachel Levine, M.D., physician general, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Harold Wiesenfeld, M.D., M.P.H., Allegheny County Health Department, and Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC, Donna Gallagher, Ph.D., M.S.N., ANP-BC, F.A.A.N., New England AIDS Education and Training Center, Ken Ho, M.D., M.P.H., medical director, Pitt Men’s Study, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Antoine Douaihy, M.D., medical director, Addiction Medicine, University of Pittsburgh Department of Psychiatry
WHEN: 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 1
WHEREUniversity Club, 123 University Place, Pittsburgh, 15260
Note to Media: To cover this event, contact Allison Hydzik at 412-647-9975 or