For their study published in the June 19 issue of AIDS, investigators used data from the European MSM Internet Survey (EMIS), a questionnaire that delved into gay and bisexual participants’ HIV-related knowledge, behaviors, and healthcare use.
Get a load of this: There are 721 people known to be HIV-positive or diagnosed with AIDS in Northeastern Pennsylvania. For Ken Zula, executive director of Wyoming Valley AIDS Council in Wilkes-Barre, the more alarming number is 6.06 percent. That’s the chunk of the population in Luzerne and Lackawanna counties infected with HIV or AIDS, he says.
The naked truth about how close to home the disease is to our area is perhaps more discomforting when adding that AIDS.gov reports 1 in 7 people infected with HIV don’t even know they have the illness. Knowing that, it’s basic math to apprehend thousands of people throughout NEPA could be walking around with HIV, unenlightened of their status. They’re clueless that they may be passing HIV to other people. They could pass HIV to you. Since National HIV Testing Week is June 21-27 in the United States, Weekender is encouraging NEPA to get tested and know their status. Getting tested is quick and painless.
The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Foundation, in collaboration with Whitman-Walker Heath (WWH), released an updated guide to practicing safer sex that includes essential tips to minimize the spread of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
The guide, “Safer Sex,” an updated version of the first edition released five years ago, is written for people of all sexual orientations and gender identities, covering topics ranging from basic facts about HIV and STIs, and the importance of practicing safer sex, to the role of new HIV prevention regimens including Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis, or “PrEP.”
The pocket-sized publication is the latest collaboration between the HRC Foundation and WWH, building on their shared commitment to securing the health and well-being of LGBT people in the nation’s capital and beyond.
“It’s a fact that many LGBT people don’t see themselves, or their relationships, discussed in mainstream sexual health resources,” said Jay Brown, the HRC Foundation’s Director of Research and Public Education. “With rates of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections on the rise among young people and in communities of color, HRC and Whitman-Walker remain committed to providing crucial health and wellness information in a way that is medically accurate, culturally competent, and judgement-free.”
Read more on the HRC Website.
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.