How Pittsburgh is at the forefront of HIV awareness, prevention, and care

From the Pittsburgh City Paper…

On World AIDS Day in 2015, AIDS Free Pittsburgh launched as a collective initiative of healthcare institutions and community-based organizations to support those living with HIV/AIDS, and those in high-risk communities. Following the example of San Francisco and New York, the organization set three goals: to increase access to PrEP, to routinize and destigmatize HIV testing, and to put in place a rapid linkage to care for those diagnosed.

One of the major successes of these efforts has been the increased information about and access to PrEP. Dr. Ken Ho, chair of the PrEP subcommittee of AIDS Free Pittsburgh, says, “We’ve developed multiple programs to make PrEP more accessible in Pittsburgh.” He goes on, “My hope is that our efforts will translate to a continued decline in HIV infections.” These efforts have included putting together PrEP toolkits for providers, hosting informational happy hours for pharmacists, and multi-pronged advertising and media campaigns to chip away at the stigma associated with HIV.

Read the full article.

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

From thetimesonline.com

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/info@alliespgh.org.

 

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

From Metro.us

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 patf.org/prep 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 https://www.maaetc.org/events/view/8202.

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 HydzikAM@upmc.edu.

$1 million renovation and expansion of the Pittsburgh AIDS Task Force

From the Pittsburgh Trib Review

A recently completed $1 million renovation and expansion of the Pittsburgh AIDS Task Force in East Liberty has made Sean DeYoung’s vision a reality.

The project, which took about a year to complete and included a medical clinic expansion, is a step toward PATF’s goal to transition to a fully integrated medical and social-service care organization for people with HIV.

“I’m a social worker, and that’s where the social work field is moving,” said DeYoung, the AIDS Task Force CEO who came aboard last year. “Research has shown that people who can receive all of their medical and social services in one place are much more likely to get the comprehensive level of care they need.”

The population served by PATF has unique challenges in addition to living with HIV/AIDS, DeYoung said.

“Ninety-eight percent of our client base is below the poverty line,” he said, “so they may also face housing challenges and job challenges, which is a huge problem. If you’re worried about getting evicted or not having a place to stay, you’re not going to be worried about taking your medication like you’re supposed to or coming to see your doctor when you need to.”

The renovated PATF center, unveiled at a ribbon-cutting last Tuesday, offers a food pantry, an on-site pharmacy, legal aid, programs for medical case management and federal housing assistance. It also offers an adherence program designed to help patients who struggle to remember to take their medications through personalized texts or phone calls.

Read the full article on the Trib Review online.

Carnegie Mellon University recruiting HIV-negative individuals at risk of getting HIV

carnegiemellonuniversity_wordmarkSocial scientists at Carnegie Mellon University are recruiting HIV-negative individuals who are at risk of contracting HIV for one-hour interviews about their daily lives, their view on their personal HIV risk, and their thoughts about the costs, risks and benefits of taking PrEP.

You are eligible to participate if you:

Are HIV negative and between the ages of 18-60, AND;

* Have had sex without a condom in the last 6 months, OR
* Have been diagnosed with a sexually transmitted infection within the last 6 months, OR
* Use a needle to inject drugs

All participants will receive $50 cash.

This study is sponsored by the Center for Inclusion Health at Allegheny Health Network

For more information or to schedule an interview, contact: 

The PrEP Study
Phone: 412-336-8993
Email:CMUPrEPstudy@gmail.com

‘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.

Pennsylvania still experiencing alarming increase in new syphilis infections

As of May 2016, Pennsylvania is still experiencing an alarming increase in syphilis cases, primarily among men who have sex with men (MSM). Over the last 5 years, Pennsylvania has experienced a 90% increase in syphilis infections. Most were men under the age of 30.

Syphilis is a sexually transmitted infection. If it goes untreated, it can lead to serious health problems including paralysis, blindness, and dementia. In the late stages, the disease can damage internal organs and can result in death.  In its early stages, syphilis is 100% curable with simple antibiotics.

Syphilis can be transmitted through oral sex and although condoms can help prevent infection, they’re not an absolute guarantee against it.  

You can get syphilis and not have any symptoms, so the only way to know you’re infected is to get a simple blood test. As a result of the increase in syphilis cases, the Pennsylvania Department of Health recommends that all sexually active MSM get a routine syphilis test every 6 months. Several locations around the state have free syphilis testing, click on this link to find testing near you: hivtest.cdc.gov.

To find out more about Syphilis, go to www.cdc.gov/std/syphilis/stdfact-syphilis.htm

You can also email medical help at the University of Pittsburgh’s Graduate School of Public Health by sending a message to rgy2@pitt.edu.

30th anniversary celebration of PATF honors Dr. Tony Silvestre

Hundreds gathered at the WQED studios in Oakland on Thursday, April 14th at a fundraiser to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Pittsburgh AIDS Task Force. The evening’s honoree, Dr. Anthony Silvestre received the prestigious Kerry Stoner Award in recognition of his extraordinary efforts in the fight against HIV and AIDS.

Tony Silvestre, PhD - Professor at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health

Tony Silvestre, PhD – Professor at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health

Dr. Silvestre became an integral part of the Pitt Men’s Study—a groundbreaking research project at the University of Pittsburgh’s Graduate School of Public Health—in the early days of the AIDS epidemic. Silvestre, known for his experience in community organization, recruited 4,000 participants from the greater Pittsburgh area—the vast majority of whom would spend the next 33 years donating blood and answering in-depth sexual health questions as a means to understand and therefore combat the disease. The Pitt Men’s Study played a key role in research that not only helped determine how the virus was spread, but also the effectiveness of modern anti-viral medications (also known as HAART).

In addition to the Kerry Stoner Award, Silvestre also received a citation honoring his achievements in combating HIV/AIDS statewide from the Pennsylvania House of Representatives.

“People don’t realize that this disease is still tragically affecting many—with young black gay kids at a rate as high as in some developing nations. Those who are marginalized by race, age and sexual orientation are not on anyone’s agenda and, as a result, are often left out of the health care system,” Silvestre commented at the event. “That’s why we need organizations like PATF and the Pitt Men’s Study.”

For most of his adult life, Silvestre was central to the LGBTQ community in Southwestern Pennsylvania, lending his skills and experience to effect positive change for marginalized communities. In addition to his efforts with the Pitt Men’s Study, he worked to establish a Center for LGBT Health Research within the Graduate School of Public Health and is currently the co-director of the HIV Prevention and Care Project—an organization also within the University that provides technical assistance to the Pennsylvania Department of Health in creating a state-wide response to the AIDS epidemic.

The Kerry Stoner Award is presented annually to honor a person who has, through a longtime dedication to Pittsburgh AIDS Task Force’s mission, shown commitment to Kerry Stoner’s legacy and vision. Stoner, a tireless HIV/AIDS activist who died of complications from AIDS in 1993, was a founder and the first Executive Director of the PATF.

The PATF 30the anniversary event raised over $100,000 in support of people living with HIV/AIDS and in support of the PATF HIV prevention programs.

 

Social apps responsible for increase in STDs?

From the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

About two years ago, Harold Wiesenfeld, medical director of Allegheny County’s sexually transmitted disease and HIV program, started hearing something from some of his patients that troubled him.

“They were volunteering that many of their partners were unknown because they met them through dating apps and it was anonymous,” he said. Apps like Tinder, OkCupid and Grindr that allow people to scroll through dozens or even hundreds of photos of possible potential dates in a given area within a matter of minutes.

Social apps cause rise in STDsMost troubling, though, was that many of those patients in his private obstetrics and gynecology practice at Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC believed they had contracted their STD from those anonymous partners they met on a dating app.

This occurred as Allegheny County was seeing a sharp and steady rise in cases of Gonorrhea (up 28 percent) and Chlamydia (up 35 percent) from 2006 to 2014 that concerned and worried health officials. Of even bigger concern is the rapid increase in just a few years of Syphilis, which is up 150 percent since 2009. Cases in that time jumped from 27 to 68 for the disease that can have long-term health concerns, particularly for women who want to get pregnant, and their fetus if they are pregnant.

It has become a big enough issue in Allegheny County, that in the last year, Dr. Wiesenfeld has made asking about the dating apps a standard question for his patients.

“Across the country we are in what we consider an STD epidemic, especially with Syphilis and its health implications,” Dr. Wiesenfeld said.

While some of the increase might be attributed to better screening and testing for the diseases, “many of us STD researchers are concerned with the popularity of these apps in facilitating more casual sexual encounters,” he said.

Read the full article.

Defaced sign won’t deter medical practice from its mission

From the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

A few profane words, scrawled on a sign outside her North Side office Friday afternoon, served as a cruel reminder to Stacy Lane that hate and ignorance still exist.

Dr. Lane, who specializes in care to the LGBT community, said the homophobic and profane graffiti saddened her. But she has a message that is more important and will connect with more people, she said.

“We all need to treat each other with dignity and respect,” she said, standing along the defaced sign for the Central Wellness Outreach Center on Anderson Street. “I think if you spend time with people, one-on-one, it changes your perspective. We all have the same struggles, we all want to be successful, we all want to have our bills paid, we all want to find love. Sometimes that love is a little different, that’s all. If they just took time to meet someone that was different from them, they’d change their mind.”

Dr. Lane opened her practice in the Timber Court building Aug. 3 and has already treated more than 800 patients , most of them members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

“We do hormone therapy for people that are transgender,” she said. “We have a very nonjudgmental approach, and that’s really important to us. We treat people who are active in their addictions. We treat people who are sex workers or prostitutes for STDs. And we try to engage people that are marginalized in the health care system, that don’t necessarily fit into the big-box health care. We do needle exchanges, and we try to make it a very accessible health care program.”

This was the first incident of vandalism at the facility, which filed a police report about the vandalism. Dr. Lane said the neighborhood has been welcoming and supportive of her practice.

The blade sign, which is placed outside the building each morning and taken inside each night, depicts a person reaching over a rainbow toward the stars. It’s value is about $200, Dr. Lane said.

“Unfortunately, many people that I serve are used to being victimized and marginalized,” she said. “They’re used to having to deal with this on some low level regularly in their lives. That saddens me deeply, that this happened in my space. We intentionally try to make a space that’s welcoming, where this doesn’t happen.”

Dr. Lane said the only change she anticipates in the wake of the incident is the purchase of four more signs — to show that her work will go on.

“I think that awareness that these kind of things still go on is important for Pittsburgh, as a city and us as a community, to realize,” she said. “There are people still out there that hate for no good reason.

“Many people have felt marginalized at some point in their lives, probably including the people that write these type of messages. I would encourage all people to take a good look at themselves and their lives and their families. I would think that most of us would be hard-pressed to have a family that doesn’t have someone that doesn’t necessarily fit into the box that the rest of us fit into.

“We have to remember that we don’t have to like each other. We don’t have to agree with each other’s opinions. But we do have to treat each other with dignity and respect.”

 

Dept of Health launches program providing coverage for uninsured with Hep C and HIV

 
Harrisburg, PA – Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Dr. Karen Murphy and Secretary of Aging Teresa Osborne announced today the Special Pharmaceutical Benefits Program (SPBP) is implementing a pilot program offering no cost coverage of hepatitis C antiviral medications for individuals with a dual diagnosis of HIV and hepatitis C. This pilot program will be a collaboration between the Department of Health (DOH) and the Department of Aging (PDA).
 
“Protecting Pennsylvania’s more vulnerable residents is one of the Wolf Administration’s primary objectives,” said Secretary Murphy. “Providing drug coverage for individuals suffering from hepatitis C or HIV who couldn’t otherwise afford the proper medical treatments is a part of our goal to ensure that every resident of the commonwealth has the ability to access needed medication.” 
 
The $13 million, six-month program will be made available to hundreds of low-income Pennsylvanians with both hepatitis C and HIV and is funded through additional pharmaceutical liability recoveries made by the Department of Aging’s Pharmaceutical Assistance Contract for the Elderly program (PACE), which offers low-cost prescription medication to qualified residents, age 65 and older.
 
“The opportunity to partner with the Department of Health on this pilot program  is an exciting opportunity to leverage 30-plus years of experience administering an effective prescription drug program with the Wolf Administration’s steadfast commitment to support the health of and improve the quality of life for all Pennsylvanians,” said Secretary of Aging Teresa Osborne. 
 
The SPBP is Pennsylvania’s AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP), which is funded by a federal grant through the Health Resources and Services Administration Ryan White HIV/AIDS Part B Program. The SPBP plays a vital role in providing access to medications for people living with HIV, including those with hepatitis C co-infection. The program serves low to moderate income individuals who are underinsured or uninsured and have a diagnosis of HIV. In addition to HIV viral load suppression, maintaining optimal overall health is equally vital to the management of HIV disease and increases the quality of life for commonwealth citizens.
 
Individuals eligible for or enrolled in other prescription plans must utilize those benefits prior to SPBP. For a full list of the medications, the approval criteria, request form and additional details, please go to the SPBP website at:www.health.pa.gov/spbpFor more information about the PACE program, call 1-800-225-7223.

Ring in the New Year by getting the health care you need (and deserve)

Health Care Provider List 2016

If you’re looking for LGBTQ-friendly health care in Western PA, you can now download the Western PA GLBTQ Health Directory for 2016. The listing was compiled by the Pitt Men’s Study at the University of Pittsburgh, the Gay and Lesbian Community Center, Persad Center and the Pittsburgh AIDS Task Force. The list includes mental health professionals, HIV testing and medical care, primary care doctors and dentists. The 2016 list is an expansion on past lists and includes care providers in southwestern PA.

Additional health information can be found on our Health and Wellness and HIV Care and Health Resource pages

University of Pittsburgh’s Dr. Ken Ho talks about PrEP

Dr. Ken Ho at Pitt

Dr. Ken Ho at Pitt

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are working to inform patients and health care providers of a new, anti-viral pill that they estimate can drastically reduce the risk of infection.  Here to tell us more about this treatment and discuss why it hasn’t been adopted by clinicians in the region are Dr. Ken Ho, an HIV specialist at the University of Pittsburgh and Jason Herring, director of programs and communications at the Pittsburgh AIDS Task Force.

Listen to the broadcast on Essential Pittsburgh 90.5 WESA, Pittsburgh’s NPR station.

University of Pittsburgh launching study to determine ways to promote health among aging gay and bisexual men

From NewsMedical.net

Dr Ron Stall at the University of Pittsburgh Grad School of Public Health

Dr Ron Stall at the University of Pittsburgh Grad School of Public Health

As the U.S. reaches an important milestone this year in the fight against HIV with more than half the people living with the virus older than age 50, the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health is launching a study to determine ways to promote health among aging gay and bisexual men, who make up about two-thirds of the people aging with HIV.

In an effort to create strategies for use in public health outreach nationwide, the research team will be taking an innovative approach to the study by looking for protective factors – called “resiliencies” – that are helping keep some men with HIV healthy and could be extended to other men, rather than simply fixing health problems as they arise. This research is funded with a three-year, $2.1 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

“We celebrate that medications now exist to enable people with HIV to live well into old age,” said study principal investigator Ron Stall, Ph.D., M.P.H., director of the Center for LGBT Health Research at Pitt Public Health. “But we also need to recognize that the health complications that come with aging – both mental and physical – are compounded when you’re living with HIV. It is critical that we develop research-based programs to support HIV-positive people as they age.”

Read the full article.

Health Alert for men who have sex with men

syphilis rising among gay and bi menPennsylvania (and the Pittsburgh area in particular) is still experiencing an alarming increase in syphilis cases, primarily among men who have sex with men (MSM). Over the last 5 years, Pennsylvania’s MSM community has experienced an 85% increase in syphilis infections. MSM represented approximately 65% of all new syphilis cases reported in the state.

Syphilis is a sexually transmitted infection. If it goes untreated, it can lead to serious health problems including paralysis, blindness, and dementia.   In the late stages, the disease can damage internal organs and can result in death.  In its early stages, syphilis is 100% curable with simple antibiotics.

You can get syphilis and not have any symptoms, so the only way to know you’re infected is to get a simple blood test.

As a result of the increase in syphilis cases, the Pennsylvania Department of Health recommends that all sexually active MSM get a routine syphilis test every 6 months. Several locations around the state have free syphilis testing, click on this link to find testing near you: hivtest.cdc.gov.

To find out more about Syphilis, go to the CDC’s Website.