Archive for October 2013

“Speak Out: Let’s Bring HIV Out of the Closet”

October 29, 2013

 

From the Website Edge in Boston…

The signs are hard to miss. Exit a Muni train at the Castro station, and the wall-sized posters are greeting you as the doors slide open. The message – it is time to start talking about HIV and AIDS. Or, as Vincent Fuqua, program coordinator for the San Francisco Department of Public Health put it, “find our voice again.”

“As long as people are still becoming infected with HIV, as long as people are still HIV-positive,” Fuqua said, “it’s still a part of us.”

The Department of Public Health, along with the national Greater Than AIDS initiative and the Kaiser Family Foundation, recently introduced Speak Out: Let’s Bring HIV Out of the Closet, a social marketing campaign aimed at encouraging men not only to get tested for HIV regularly, but also to speak openly about their status and the disease in general, as a way to remove some of the stigma within the community associated with being HIV-positive.

“We understand that there’s been a lot of strides in the gay community, which is incredible. The thing is, though, HIV is still a big part of our community as well. So we wanted to make sure people don’t forget that,” Fuqua said.

The campaign was introduced October 10 at Blush Wine Bar in the Castro. It will extend to other cities next year.

Continue reading here.

The next generation of HIV/AIDS awareness

October 21, 2013
by Dr. Perry Halkitis
Saturday Oct 19, 2013

In the early days of the AIDS epidemic, treatment options were limited at best. Most who were living with HIV/AIDS, the majority of whom were gay men, attempted to find and use treatments that would save their lives and control the virus from causing further physical deterioration. Sadly, most Americans were blind to the efforts of the AIDS generation, yet a discourse around these efforts is beginning to enter the mainstream consciousness of our society. David France has beautifully captured the efforts of ACT UP, the leading activist group that fought bravely for the development of treatments, in his 2013 Oscar-nominated documentary, “How to Survive a Plague.” In a new film to be released at the end of this year, Hollywood actor Matthew McConaughey portrays Ron Woodroof, an electrician from Dallas who worked with underground pharmacies to smuggle alternative treatments for himself and other afflicted with AIDS in what became known as the “Dallas Buyers Club.” It is within this backdrop that thousands of gay men of all races and ethnicities first found out that they were living with HIV in the United States. Until 1985, when the virus was identified, most who were infected lived in fear and apprehension, and were often very progressed in their disease by the time they were diagnosed. As a result, life expectancy was extremely short after diagnosis. For most who had developed full-blown AIDS, and in the absence of any effective treatments, life expectancy was a matter of years.

Close to 30 years later, the landscape of the epidemic has changed dramatically. Testing for HIV is now as simple as a rapid oral antibody test that can be administered at home with a kit one purchases from pharmacy. A vast array of effective antiretroviral treatments helps to keep the virus at bay. In fact, a young gay man who is diagnosed shortly after infection, and who uptakes a treatments regimen to which he consistently adheres, can by all calculation have a close to normal life expectancy. Yet despite these medical advances, HIV remains a stigmatized disease and some 200,000 Americans are living with the virus undiagnosed. The perpetuation of the AIDS epidemic among a new generation of young gay men is anathema, made all the worse by the fact that a subset of these men remain undiagnosed and that among those diagnosed only some 20 percent adhere to their treatments such that their virus is reduced to undetectable levels.

Read the full article on edgeonthenet.com

First-ever couples HIV testing service in the U.S. for men who have sex with men

October 17, 2013

NEW YORK, NY–(Marketwired – Oct 17, 2013) – Today, Emory University’s Rollins School of Public Health announced that it is transitioning management of a valuable, new HIV training program to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Brought to life with funding from the MAC AIDS Fund and modeled after a successful HIV testing program in Africa, the training prepares local HIV/AIDS organizations and health departments to deliver the first-ever couples HIV testing and counseling service in the United States for gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men. The new service — called “Testing Together” — enables male couples to learn their HIV status together and develop a customized HIV prevention and care strategy at no charge in most locations. After the transition, CDC will roll out the training — which has been successfully piloted in several major U.S. cities — to organizations across the country.

“Most HIV prevention programs focus on individuals or groups of gay men when, in fact, most new HIV infections come from main partners in a relationship. Our ‘Testing Together’ program is the first HIV testing service geared specifically toward meeting the needs of male couples,” said Patrick Sullivan, DVM, PhD and Professor at Emory University’s Rollins School of Public Health. “We’re happy that our collaboration with CDC is bringing this program to more HIV organizations in major cities throughout the nation. Bringing this service to scale for male couples was made possible by the generous support of the MAC AIDS Fund.”

In 2009, Sullivan and his colleagues at CDC conducted research that estimated one-to two-thirds of new HIV infections came from main partners among gay couples. Follow-up research, supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and conducted by Emory University, found that a significant number of men in longer-term relationships were unaware of their partner’s HIV status. In fact, many gay men in relationships believed that they were less at risk for HIV and were therefore less likely to have been recently tested for HIV. NIH-supported research showed that providing HIV testing for male couples was promising, but bringing this new service to men beyond the initial study in Atlanta would be a challenge.

To encourage awareness and combat a growing rate of new HIV infections among gay men in the United States, Emory engaged the MAC AIDS Fund in March 2011 to provide startup funding to pilot the innovative “Testing Together” program in Atlanta, Chicago, Boston, San Diego and Seattle. Designed to prevent new infections and improve linkage to care, the program trains HIV community-support organizations in testing and counseling skills specifically for gay couples, including ways to cope with an HIV-positive status, maintain safer behaviors between partners and help navigate treatment when one or both partners is found to be HIV-positive.

Read more

Health issues for gay men: Prevention first

October 16, 2013

From the Mayoclinic.com

Understand important health issues for gay men — from sexually transmitted infections to depression — and get tips for taking charge of your health. Men who have sex with men are at increased risk of contracting HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, as well as other sexually transmitted infections, including gonorrhea, chlamydia and syphilis.

To protect yourself from sexually transmitted infections:

  • Get tested and have your partner tested. Don’t have unprotected sex unless you’re certain you and your partner aren’t infected with HIV or other sexually transmitted infections. Testing is important because many people don’t know they’re infected, and others might not be honest about their health.
  • Use a condom or other protection. Use a new latex or polyurethane condom every time you have sex — especially during anal sex, but ideally during oral sex as well. Use only water-based lubricants, not petroleum jelly, hand lotion, cold cream or oils. Oil-based lubricants can weaken latex condoms and cause them to break. Don’t share sex toys, and keep them safe by protecting them with a condom and cleaning them before and after every use.
  • Be monogamous. Another reliable way to avoid sexually transmitted infections is to stay in a long-term mutually monogamous relationship with a partner who isn’t infected.
  • Consider the drug Truvada. In July 2012, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the use of the drug Truvada to reduce the risk of sexually transmitted HIV infection in those who are at high risk. Truvada is also used as an HIV treatment along with other medications.

Tackle depression:

Gay men and men who have sex with men might be at higher risk of depression and anxiety. In addition, youth who identify themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender might have a higher risk of depression and attempted suicide. Contributing factors could include social alienation, discrimination, rejection by loved ones, abuse and violence. The problem might be more severe for men who try to hide their sexual orientation and those who lack social support.

Left untreated, depression can lead to risky sexual behavior and a downward spiral of emotional, behavioral, health, and even legal and financial problems. If you think you might be depressed, talk to your doctor or seek help from a mental health provider. If you’re reluctant to seek treatment, confide in a trusted friend or loved one. Sharing your feelings might be the first step toward getting treatment.

Address body image concerns:

Gay men are more likely to experience body image problems and eating disorders, such as anorexia and bulimia nervosa, than are their straight counterparts. One potential explanation is that gay men identify with the cultural value placed on an ideal — yet often unattainable — body image. Gay men might also be more likely to view their bodies as sexual objects, which can lead to dissatisfaction and poor body image. If you’re struggling with body image concerns or an eating disorder, get help. Talk to your doctor or a mental health provider about treatment options.

 

LGBT groups assist with “Obamacare”

October 3, 2013

From the Washington Blade

At least seven D.C.-based LGBT or LGBT-friendly organizations sprang into action on Tuesday to help members of the LGBT community and people with HIV choose a health insurance plan under the controversial U.S. Affordable Care Act that’s better known as “Obamacare.” Similar to reports surfacing from across the country, officials from the local groups said some of their clients encountered computer glitches on the website for D.C. Health Link, the city’s online health insurance marketplace or “exchange” on its first day of operations on Tuesday.

But all of the officials contacted by the Blade said they were optimistic that the exchange program in D.C. and those in neighboring Maryland and Virginia would soon be operating smoothly and would be an important resource for LGBT people looking for health insurance. “I’m excited about it,” said Ron Simmons, executive director of the D.C.-based Us Helping Us, an HIV services organization that reaches out to black gay men. “We have so many clients who don’t have health insurance,” Simmons said. “If you are HIV positive you need a certain type of insurance, and we are ready to help people choose the best policy suited for their needs.”

Read the full article on the Washington Blade.