An open letter by Tyler Curry

Posted January 6, 2017 by administrator
Categories: Commentary, Community, Features, HIV care, Stigma

From Advocate.com

Before I sprouted out of the closet as a little gay sapling, my mother had never met a single homosexual person in her life. And in the suffocating Southern Christian confines of Texas, her limited perception was open to the most horrific creative interpretation. The nightmares of evil drag queens and insidious perverts quickly faded away, however, once her son told her that he liked boys.

The majority of gay men know how it feels to secretly live in the presence of someone who is blindly afraid of you, yet that blind fear is exactly what we inflict on HIV-positive men. It is because of this that I write an open letter to gay men young and old.

Your friend is living with HIV.

dear-gay-menx750It doesn’t matter who you are or where you hail from; if you are a man who kisses other men, someone you know is HIV-positive. Hopefully, this is already yesterday’s news because you live in a collective space where your friends are not afraid to discuss their love and sex lives, regardless of status. But if you care to argue that this is a false narrative, then you may be creating barriers for your HIV-positive friends without even knowing it. This isn’t just a hindrance to their mental health; it is also a risk to your own HIV-negative status. If you don’t acknowledge the reality that your friends may be living with HIV, you probably think that you’ve never slept with an HIV-positive person either.

In the first six months after my diagnosis, I was petrified to tell my best friend about my status. As much as I knew he wouldn’t judge me or toss our friendship aside, something he had previously said kept ringing in my ears:

“I would never date someone with HIV. I just don’t think I could get over it.”

A world where my best buddy would reject someone just like me was a world I could live without. Yet I tucked it inside and hid something from my friend to avoid any stigma from someone I loved. When I did tell him my status and the reason for my hesitation, he was immediately overcome with unquestionable support and complete remorse. And just as happens with anyone who made a judgment before getting to know someone, his benign HIV stigma has become undetectable.

Although most days I do feel like a rainbow unicorn, my story and my status are nothing unique. If you are a gay man, or any other person who knows more than a handful of gays, then you know a person with HIV. Instead of trying to figure out who it could be, think about how you would feel if one of your closest friends were judged, rejected, and ridiculed for his status.

Or worse: How do you feel if one of your friends is remaining silent because he feels you might judge and reject him as well?

HIV isn’t exclusive to the LGBT community, but it is the backbone of its legacy of tragedy and strength. Today, HIV doesn’t have to rob a person of anything in their life, but only if they are surrounded by an educated and loving community that understands a disease is not a characteristic or a flaw. It’s just another thing to overcome, and the LGBT community overcomes its struggles together.

Be a part of that community. Be a friend, a lover, and an ally to people with HIV.

The first large-scale clinical trial of a long-acting injectable drug for HIV prevention begins

Posted December 22, 2016 by administrator
Categories: Features, PrEP, Prevention, Research

From NewsMedical.net

injectable-prepThe first large-scale clinical trial of a long-acting injectable drug for HIV prevention began today. The study, sponsored by the National Institutes of Health, will examine whether a long-acting form of the investigational anti-HIV drug cabotegravir injected once every 8 weeks can safely protect men and transgender women from HIV infection at least as well as the anti-HIV medication Truvada taken daily as an oral tablet. If injectable cabotegravir is found to be effective for HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis, also known as PrEP, it may be easier for some people to adhere to than daily oral Truvada, the only licensed PrEP regimen. Truvada consists of the two anti-HIV drugs emtricitabine and tenofovir disoproxil fumarate.

“We urgently need more HIV prevention tools that fit easily into people’s lives,” said Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of NIH. “Although daily oral Truvada clearly works for HIV prevention, taking a daily pill while feeling healthy can be difficult for some people. If proven effective, injectable cabotegravir has the potential to become an acceptable, discreet and convenient alternative for HIV prevention.”

Read the full article.

App to help gay HIV pos youth

Posted December 12, 2016 by administrator
Categories: Features, HIV care, Research, Tech

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.

PATF to offer PrEP as part of new clinic services

Posted December 8, 2016 by administrator
Categories: Features, HIV care, PrEP, Prevention

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 www.patf.org or call 412-248-0550.

President Obama final AIDS Day message

Posted December 1, 2016 by administrator
Categories: Commentary, Features, Media, video

AIDS Free Pittsburgh releases HIV testing video featuring famous Pittsburghers to raise awareness of the importance of HIV testing

Posted November 30, 2016 by administrator
Categories: Community, Features, HIV care, Prevention

 To raise awareness of World AIDS Day on December 1st,  AIDS Free Pittsburgh (AFP), an initiative comprised of government agencies, healthcare institutions, and community-based organizations, has released a video featuring prominent Pittsburgh citizens being tested for HIV to support its mission to eliminate new AIDS diagnoses in Allegheny County and reduce new HIV infections by 75% by 2020.

You can also find the video here: http://aidsfreepittsburgh.org/hiv_testing.php#world-aids-day

The Pennsylvania Department of Health reports that there are 2,830 people living with HIV in Allegheny County. And Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that in the United States 1 in 8 Americans who are HIV-positive do not know their status. Testing helps reduce the transmission of HIV. Early diagnosis allows those infected to take steps to protect their partners from infection, and early treatment can lower viral load, and reduce the risk of transmitting HIV to others. And, for people who do not have HIV, testing is just as critical because this information can help link them with important prevention services so they can remain HIV-free.

The AFP World AIDS Day video features:

  • Facts on the climate of HIV infection in southwestern Pennsylvania
  • A trip to a health center to show the ease of HIV testing
  • Several prominent Pittsburghers promoting and/or being tested for HIV, including Mayor Bill Peduto, County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, Actress Tamara Tunie, Performer Alaska 5000, and Artist Vanessa German

AFP was officially launched on December 1, 2015 to support and improve the care of people living with HIV/AIDS, as well as those who are HIV-vulnerable. AFP does not provide services directly, but rather works to raise awareness and build collaboration among community stakeholders.

Learn more about AIDS Free Pittsburgh: www.aidsfreepittsburgh.org

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AIDSFreePittsburgh/?fref=ts.

Twitter: https://twitter.com/AIDSfreePgh

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCxBZzHykC3KKDYLAUdEfotQ

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

Posted November 30, 2016 by administrator
Categories: Community, Features, HIV care

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.