Building Healthy Online Communities (BHOC) works with dating aps to reduce online stigma and hate from within

From the BHOC report

While gay, bi, and trans people have long been subjected to discrimination, stigma and hate speech from outside our communities, the way we treat one another can also cause harm. Too often, people within the queer community hurt others because of their race, gender identity, age, body size, disability, or because they’re living with HIV. This was true long before the internet, social networks, and apps provided the means to fuel harmful behavior. People take advantage of the anonymity the internet provides to say things they would never say in person. Too often, dating app and site users do the same. “No fats,” “No femmes,” “Clean only” – these words and their derogatory implications are all too prevalent on sites.

two men walking while looking at their cell phones

This kind of hate speech can cause not only psychological harm but can also facilitate HIV risk.Yale Researchers, John Pachankis and Charles Burton, found that for some gay and bi men,being repeatedly rejected by other gay and bi men online, and having a lower ‘status’ in thesexual marketplace–like not having a gym-toned body or masculine gender expression–isassociated with greater risk taking and symptoms of depression and anxiety. Building HealthyOnline Communities (BHOC), a consortium of national and local HIV and STD preventionagencies working with the owners of dating sites and app owners to support their users’ sexualhealth, decided to take action to reduce stigma for gay, bi, and trans app and site users.

BHOC reached out to app and site owners and found that there was widespread support among them to look for ways to make the experience better for everyone. Adam4Adam, Daddyhunt,dudesnude, Grindr, GROWLr, Jack’d, Manhunt, POZ Personals, and SCRUFF all joined in, andthrough advertising and messaging recruited more than 5,500 users to share ideas on whatapps and sites could do to help reduce online stigma. This was the first time that apps and siteshave come together to address an industry-wide issue.  

Read the full report

Living with HIV

From U.S. News and World Report

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 1.1 million people in the United States are living with HIV. In 2017, 38,739 people received an HIV diagnosis, and when they first heard the word “positive,” many were thrust into feelings of anger, sadness, denial and fear.

“There are some people who suspect they are HIV-positive but go a very long time without testing, and then there are other people who test for whatever reason and turn out positive,” says Mallory Johnson, a clinical psychologist and professor at the University of California–San Francisco School of Medicine and co-director of the NIH-funded Center for AIDS Prevention Studies. “Those tend to be the extremes of the experience.” Disbelief and shock, Johnson says, are the most common responses.

Of those living with the virus in the U.S., about 14%, or 1 in 7, are unaware of their infection. HIV weakens the immune system by destroying cells meant to combat infection and disease; AIDS is the final stage of the infection, when the immune system has been severely damaged. Not all HIV-positive individuals will develop AIDS – antiretroviral therapies and other medications now allow people with the virus to live long, healthy lives.

Still, receiving a chronic diagnosis like HIV is likely to produce emotional distress. Here’s a look at the toll such a diagnosis takes, as well as how patients can tend to their psychological health.

Learning he was “undetectable” was a game changer

In 2012, Bruce Richman received news about his health that would set him on an unexpected path.

His doctor explained to him that he was “undetectable,” meaning that by adhering to his HIV antiretroviral therapy, the viral load in his blood was so low that it could no longer be detected.

Bruce Richman, founder of Prevention Access Campaign, is working to change the way the world views people living with HIV

This was a game changer for him. The news meant that Richman, who first found out he had HIV in 2003, would be unable to pass the virus on to any sexual partner.

“I found out nine years after my diagnosis that I can’t transmit the disease. My doctor told me and, here I am, a privileged white guy with a support system. I’m privileged with this information, and I started looking around and saw that nothing confirmed it was true,” Richman told Healthline. “I started doing research. There was no information out there to the general public that was clear and inclusive and accepted that this was true.”

Richman’s realization that this information, which could benefit thousands upon thousands of people living with HIV, rested mainly within medical circles — accessible to those with connections and privilege — awakened something within him.

Continue reading on Healthline.com.

Thoughts of self-harm still and epidemic among gay youth

From the San Diego Gay and Lesbian News

There were 34,000 respondents in what is being called the “largest survey of LGBT youth mental health ever conducted and provides a critical understanding of the experiences impacting their lives.”

According to the Washington Blade, here are some of the findings:

• 39 percent of LGBT youth seriously considered attempting suicide in the past 12 months with more than half of transgender and non-binary youth having seriously considered it.

• 71 percent of LGBT youth reported feeling sad or hopeless for at least two weeks in the past year

• Less than half of LGBT respondents were out to an adult at school with youth less likely to disclose their gender identity than sexual orientation.

If you or someone you know is feeling hopeless or suicidal, contact The Trevor Project’s TrevorLifeline 24/7/365 at 1-866-488-7386. Counseling is also available 24/7/365 via chat everyday atTheTrevorProject.org/help or by texting 678-678.

Documentary 5B shows the real heroes of the AIDS epidemic

From People.com

This was a time when people weren’t even touching patients with HIV,” says Priyanka Chopra, a prominent supporter of the film on behalf of the AIDS charity RED, which will receive 30 percent of all box office proceeds. “They would lay in their soiled bedsheets for days where nobody would come and even enter their room to feed them. At that time, these nurses chose to not think about whether they would live or die and actually the nobility of the profession is what you see in this movie.”

The film, which received a four-minute standing ovation at the Cannes Film Festival last month, features the nurses of ward 5B at San Francisco General Hospital who didn’t allow societal ignorance, prejudice and fear curtail their drive to administer compassionate health care to patients who had otherwise been cast aside. These were patients who most health care professionals wouldn’t touch without wearing gloves, even a hazmat suit.

Read the full article.

 

AIDS Education Month: Philadelphia FIGHT looks to raise awareness, combat the virus

From kywnewsradio.radio.com

June is AIDS Education Month, and Philadelphia FIGHT has organized a number of events designed to prevent HIV and get folks tested. “People are not going in to get treatment. People still lack access to care,” said Tashina Okorie the director of community health training alliance for Philadelphia FIGHT. She says, while many believe that the AIDS epidemic is over, there is a lack of education and a plethora of stigma.

So the goal of AIDS Education Month, Okorie says, is to dispel myths and provide details on testing, prevention and access to health care. “Access to prep and access to just medication, so you can take care of your health,” she said.

On Tuesday, hundreds will attend the HIV Prevention and Education Summit at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, which will feature dozens of workshops. “Around HIV prevention, around hepatitis C treatment, around behavioral health matters,” she explained. Later in the month there’s a community cookout and workshop on how to teach others about HIV.

Read the full article.

Internet-based intervention effective in the treatment of depression in people living with HIV

From aidsmap.com

An online self-help intervention is effective in the treatment of mild to moderate depressive symptoms in people with HIV, according to a randomized clinical trial conducted in the Netherlands and published in the September issue of The Lancet HIV.

The trial compared the outcomes in a group who received the online self-help intervention and a control group. The internet-based intervention, available in Dutch and English, consisted of a cognitive behavioral therapy program called “Living Positive with HIV” and developed from a self-help booklet that had previously proved effective in decreasing depressive symptoms. Participants also received minimal telephone coaching by a Masters student in psychology. The control group received the telephone coaching and could access the online intervention after the trial was completed.

Sanne van Leunen and colleagues randomly assigned 188 eligible participants to the intervention (97) or the control group (91) in 2015. Depression was assessed at baseline, Month 2, Month 5 and Month 8 (the control group did not take the last assessment).

As detailed below, results show that more participants in the intervention group than in the control group demonstrated significant change in their symptoms and that this effect was maintained for six months. Anxiety symptoms were also decreased. No adverse events were reported, the rate of satisfaction with the intervention was high, and most participants reported that they would recommend “Living Positive with HIV” to others.

Young people dying as stigma, misunderstanding prevent HIV treatment

From Canada’s CBC News

When Saskatoon man Ian Longman found out he had HIV, it was two years before he sought treatment. He thought the diagnosis meant certain death, and he didn’t know treatment was an option.

“I just started hating myself and hating other people and hating what they were saying about me and stuff like that,” said Longman.

“Because I heard that you die from it so I thought that I was dying.”

In the months leading up to his hospitalization, he’d been shunned by his loved ones, who didn’t know that HIV could only be transmitted by sharing certain bodily fluids and not, for example, by sharing a cup.

Lack of education, understanding

It’s a lack of awareness that Sanctum executive director Katelyn Roberts said is common in Saskatchewan, a province in which doctors are calling the spread of HIV an “epidemic.”

“We have people in Saskatchewan who are in their 20s and they’re dying,” she said.

“And they’re not dying because of the HIV per se, they’re dying because they haven’t engaged in health care and by the time we catch them and we get them into the appropriate setting, it’s too late.”

Read the full article.

Three reasons why language is important in media coverage of HIV

From the HRC… (by Diego Mora Bello, HRC Global Fellow)

Stigma and discrimination continue to be common barriers for people living with HIV. Fortunately, the media can play an important role in helping to remove these and other barriers. In my own survey of Latin American news articles mentioning HIV and AIDS, and in meeting with media professionals and advocates, I found that Latin American Media has room to improve its use of correct and destigmatizing language when talking about people living with HIV. Covering HIV both correctly and responsibly is important, because doing so is an essential part of raising awareness, debunking common myths, and giving voice to an already marginalized group of people.

The importance of using correct and responsible language in journalistic coverage of HIV inspired me to research this topic and share my findings. The ultimate goal of HIV in the Media is to report on this subject in a scientifically accurate and responsible way that inspires others to follow suit.

Based on my research, here are the top three reasons why language is important when covering HIV and AIDS in the media.

Read the full article on the HRC Website.

Let’s stop shaming black men

From the Advocate.com

Last February, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a report predicting that, if things don’t change, one out of every two gay or bi black men will become HIV-positive in their lifetime. This statistic has been repeated endlessly, usually in connection with reasons why HIV rates are higher among African-American men who have sex with men. To be fair, there are a wide range of factors that play a part in raising HIV risks, including poverty, drug use, childhood sexual assault, and depression.

“We cannot separate the high infection rates among black gay men from several ills that continue to plague our society,” Greg Millet wrote for The Advocate in 2015. “Discrimination, poverty, stigma, and lack of access to health care all affect health care utilization for black gay men. As a result, a substantial proportion of black gay men remain undiagnosed, and others who are diagnosed and without the financial means to access medications will remain virally unsuppressed.”

Many of these factors also impact heterosexual black men, so what’s at the root of the disproportionate HIV rates for their queer brothers? One prevalent argument is that — because of excessive homophobia in the black community — black gay and bisexual men have low self-esteem. That lower self-esteem leads them to be more promiscuous, engage in riskier sexual behaviors, and even use drugs; which explains why HIV rates among black men who have sex with men is so high. Makes sense? Problem is, it’s also wrong.

Read the full article on Advocate.com.

NASTAD: People living with HIV on antiretroviral therapy (ART) do not transmit the virus

From LGBTweekley.com

nastad-300x195WASHINGTON, D.C. – NASTAD (National Alliance of State & Territorial AIDS Directors), a leading non-partisan non-profit association that represents public health officials who administer HIV and hepatitis programs in the U.S. and around the world, published a new statement affirming that durably virally suppressed people living with HIV on antiretroviral therapy (ART) do not sexually transmit the virus. The statement accelerates NASTAD’s longstanding work to end HIV and promote policies and public health practice grounded in science.

”The science is clear that people living with HIV with a sustained undetectable viral load do not transmit the virus to others. What’s also clear is that we have the tools to end the HIV epidemic and HIV-related stigma and make new infections a thing of the past. Today, we tackle a major part of this work by raising awareness about the latest science of HIV transmission risk,” remarked NASTAD Executive Director Murray Penner.

Read the full article.

New campaign seeks to eliminate HIV / AIDS stigma among Latinos

From PR Newswire

“Some Hispanics may avoid seeking testing, counseling, or treatment if infected because of immigration status, stigma, or fear of discrimination. Additionally, traditional gender roles, cultural norms, homophobia, transphobia and other stigma related to substance abuse and mental health are challenging,” stated Guillermo Chacon, President of the Latino Commission on AIDS and Founder of the Hispanic Health Network.

oneconversation_campaignmaterials_pandora_500x500_eng_staticThough Hispanics are only 17 percent of the population, they make more than 23 percent of new HIV diagnoses each year. In 2013, Hispanics had the second highest rate of new HIV diagnoses compared to other races/ethnicities.

It’s time for younger generations to get involved to stop HIV/AIDS. La Red Hispana is addressing the issue by working with its media affiliates nationwide — with an audience of 11 million people — to provide accessibility to resources via radio, digital and social media. We can stop HIV, one conversation a time.

“We are convinced that information is a powerful weapon to dispel fears of HIV. As Latinos join the conversation about HIV, it becomes more natural to talk about a topic that was taboo for the community before,” said Alison Rodden, CEO of Hispanic Communications Network- La Red Hispana.

Among the organizations joining HCN’s effort include AIDS Project East Bay, Latino Commission on AIDS, National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors, National Minorities AIDS Council, AIDS.gov and Health Initiative of the America part ofUniversity of California at Berkeley.

Pinyon Foundation and HCN are members of the Partnering and Communicating Together to Act Against AIDS (PACT) initiative- a five-year partnership between CDC and organizations representing those affected by HIV/ AIDS.

For more information about the campaign, visit LaRedHispana.org/detengamosvih

 

Web series explores what it means to be undetectable

From the Huffington Post

A new web series from Todd Flaherty is elevating the conversation surrounding what it means to have an undetectable HIV-positive status and helping to break down stigma for those living with HIV.

what is undetectableAccording to Tyler Curry, creator of The Needle Prick Project, “an HIV-positive person can achieve undetectable levels after undergoing antiretroviral therapy (ART). A level of a person’s HIV viral load is what causes them to be more or less likely to transmit the disease. An undetectable viral load reduces the likelihood of transmission by 96 percent.”

Many people, queer and straight alike, are still uneducated about what exactly undetectable means. Flaherty’s new web series, appropriately titled “Undetectable,” follows a fictional gay man after he finds out about his own HIV diagnosis and his subsequent journey.

The Huffington Post chatted with Flaherty this week about his new project.

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.”

 

‘Undetectable’ a new identity for gay men diagnosed with HIV

From aidsmap.com….
status: UNDETECTABLE

Achieving an undetectable viral load is a key milestone in the period after diagnosis with HIV, qualitative interviews with Canadian gay men suggest. Men incorporated knowledge of their own undetectable status into their identities as HIV-positive gay men and their sexual decision making, according to a study published in the August issue of AIDS Education and Prevention. Being undetectable helped many men feel ‘responsible’ and ‘normal’.

The findings come from in-depth, qualitative interviews with 25 gay men diagnosed with HIV in British Columbia, Canada between 2009 and 2012. All had acquired HIV less than a year before their diagnosis and half had been diagnosed with acute (very recent) infection. Up to four interviews were done, in order to see how experiences changed during the year after diagnosis.

Interviewees typically reported a period of sexual abstinence immediately after being diagnosed with HIV. During this period of adjustment, many men had no sex drive. Avoiding HIV transmission was a major concern for many, including this man:

“First of all, I killed my sex life. I was like, you know, I don’t want to infect anyone, I don’t want to take the risk and I don’t want to disclose, so the way of not doing is just not having sex.”

When participants did start to have sex again, they found themselves in an altered sexual landscape, facing new scenarios, challenges and possibilities. Faced with the difficulty of talking about having HIV with new partners, some sought out other HIV-positive men. Others avoided anal sex, even with condoms.

Learning that one’s viral load was undetectable could open up new possibilities:

“I didn’t play around when I was not sure… if I was undetectable or not. I didn’t play. They [sexual partners] would be open to it, but I didn’t want… Personally I didn’t feel comfortable, so I didn’t play until I was undetectable.”

Read the full article.

HIV risk among young gay, bi men tied to societal issues

From Reuters Health

Participants were recruited from the New York City area between 2009 and 2011 and were 18 or 19 when they entered the study. At that point they were all HIV-negative. Over the next three years, 43 participants became infected with HIV. About a third of black, Hispanic and mixed or other race participants became HIV-positive during the study, compared to about 7 percent of white participants. People who described themselves as being in low to average social and economic groups were more likely to become HIV-positive than those in higher socioeconomic groups.

Also, the authors found, young age at first sexual experience with another male was tied to an increased risk of becoming HIV-positive, compared to a first encounter at an older age. “The bigger point here is that it’s just too simplistic to (blame) everything on race,” Halkitis said. “We’re trying to get at the reason that’s happening. This paper starts to point to it.”

The researchers point out that social and economic status is closely tied to race in the U.S. People with lower social and economic status likely live in areas with more poverty, less access to healthcare and more untreated sexually transmitted infections (STI), they write. They also point out that young gay and bisexual men may not be properly educated about STIs, and their heterosexual parents may not be equipped to educate on those topics.

“I think that one way we can begin to address this issue is through comprehensive sexual health education,” said Jason Coleman, an expert on HIV and STI prevention at the University of Nebraska-Omaha.

Read the full article.

Backlash to New York City’s fear-based HIV prevention campaign

From aidsmeds.com

The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s recent fear-based HIV prevention campaign may have led to unintended consequences by stigmatizing young black and Latino men who have sex with men (MSM). Publishing their findings in Health Affairs, researchers analyzed the 2010 “It’s Never Just HIV” campaign, which used fearful, horror-movie-like imagery and messaging to highlight health problems tied to HIV or its treatment, such as osteoporosis, dementia and anal cancer.

“Relying on fear is risky business,” the authors write in the paper. The health department came to appreciate that its analysis of the campaign’s success could not be governed simply by HIV rates among the target population. Rather, the department needed to consider the campaign’s social and political impact. Not only was there a huge amount of controversy among people in the HIV community, but according to certain criticisms, people at risk of HIV and those living with the virus may have suffered stigma as a result of the campaign.

New York City has since moved away from fear-based HIV prevention campaigns. For example, “Be HIV Sure,” which launched on World AIDS Day 2014, encourages HIV testing as part of sexual intimacy.

To read a press release on the study, click here.