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University of Pittsburgh Research Assistant and Technical Writer

University of Pittsburgh: Scarcity of LGBTQ youth health research

From HealthNewsDigest.com

There is a dearth of scientifically investigated, evidence-based interventions to address substance use, mental health conditions and violence victimization in sexual and gender minority youth, according to a research review led by the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health, recently published in the journal Pediatrics.

After poring over thousands of research publications spanning nearly two decades, the scientists identified only nine studies that evaluated such interventions, and most of these used suboptimal study designs, thereby limiting the validity of the findings. None of the programs would be sufficient to mitigate the substantial inequities faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) youth, the scientists concluded.

“While this knowledge gap is distressing, I think we can look at it as an opportunity,” said lead author Robert W.S. Coulter, Ph.D., M.P.H., assistant professor in Pitt Public Health’s Department of Behavioral and Community Health Sciences. “Promising programs are being created by community-based organizations that are ripe for rigorous evaluation by scientists to determine if they are successfully improving health among LGBTQ youth and, if so, whether they can be replicated in other communities.”

Compared with their heterosexual peers, sexual minority youth have up to 623% higher odds of substance use in their lifetimes; up to 317% higher odds of mental health conditions, such as suicidality and depression; and up to 280% higher odds of violence victimization, such as being bullied at school, or sexually or physically abused. Due to these health inequities, the federal government has designated LGBTQ youth as a priority population for research focused on preventing, reducing and treating these health issues.

Read the full article.

Finding out 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.

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.

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

“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.

Use of HIV prevention pill rising among men who have sex with men

From Reuters Health

A growing proportion of American men who have sex with men know they can take a daily pill to avoid infection with HIV and more of them are using it, a U.S. study suggests.

HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) is highly protective against the virus that causes AIDS, but many people worldwide don’t get this pill because they aren’t aware of it, don’t think they need it, or because it’s unavailable or unaffordable. Efforts to raise awareness among one high-risk group – men who have sex with men – have been complicated because some of these men don’t identify as gay or bisexual and mistakenly think heterosexual people don’t need PrEP.

In 2014, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) launched an effort to get PrEP to all men who have sex with men who might benefit from the pill, not just gay and bisexual individuals. The current study looked at national health survey data to track changes in awareness and use of PrEP from 2014 to 2017 in 20 American cities.

Read the full article.

We won’t end the HIV epidemic until we help the most vulnerable

How do we reduce rates concentrated among black and Latino men who have sex with men? Or meet the needs of HIV-positive patients caught between insurance plans or places to live? To end the epidemic, we must start where we began — by focusing on those most affected, uniting advocacy efforts, pushing for a cross-sector response and focusing on the social determinants of health.

As someone who has spent the better part of my professional career as both an advocate and HIV public health expert, I’ve been reflecting on the decades-long fight for gay rights sparked by people who gathered together at Stonewall in 1969 to demand change for the LGBTQ+ community and put an end to years of discrimination. Not long after, the AIDS epidemic swept across the country, closely intertwining the movement for increased LGBTQ+ rights with the AIDS response. Gay rights groups were relentless in pushing for increased government attention and funding as thousands died from the disease. Activists organized “buyers clubs,” lobbied for faster FDA approval of promising drugs and countered the fear and discrimination people living with AIDS faced.

Read the full article.

Connection to care is effective in achieving viral suppression in at-risk populations

NIH press release

Gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men and transgender women with HIV, who are not in care, can be engaged in care when reached and connected with HIV treatment services, according to findings from a clinical trial supported by the National Institutes of Health. Nearly half of the study participants achieved and maintained viral suppression by one year, researchers reported today at the 10th IAS Conference on HIV Science (IAS 2019) in Mexico City.

Effective HIV treatment resulting in sustained viral suppression benefits the health of the person with HIV and also prevents sexual transmission of the virus to others. The clinical trial, called HPTN 078, assessed an HIV prevention strategy involving a peer-to-peer recruitment method to identify, recruit and link to HIV care men and transgender women with unsuppressed HIV in the United States. It also evaluated whether a case management intervention could help them achieve and maintain viral suppression.

Read more.

Quest for elusive HIV vaccine is poised for major test

From Bloomberg.com

Johnson & Johnson is preparing to test an experimental HIV vaccine in the U.S. and Europe in a move toward developing the first immunization against the deadly disease after decades of frustration.

Some 3,800 men who have sex with men will receive a regimen of shots in a study that’s planned to be launched later this year, Anthony Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said in an interview. The agency and the HIV Vaccine Trials Network of testing sites will collaborate with J&J’s Janssen unit on the effort.

Since cases first began to gain notice in the early 1980s, scientists have been searching fruitlessly for a vaccine against the virus that causes AIDS and kills close to 1 million people worldwide annually. Efforts are continuing with at least two other promising candidates in late-stage studies.

Most Americans not tested for HIV

From CNN

Most Americans have never been tested for HIV, the virus that attacks and weakens a person’s immune system.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is hoping to change that.

According to a new report, the agency found that fewer than 40% of people in the United States have been screened for HIV. It recommends that all people 13 to 64 be tested at least once.

Fifty jurisdictions across the country are responsible for more than half of all HIV diagnoses, yet only 35% of the people recommended for testing in those areas were screened in the previous year, the CDC says. And fewer than 30% of people across the country with the highest risk of acquiring HIV were tested in that period.
“Diagnosis and treatment are the first steps toward affording individuals living with HIV a normal life expectancy,” CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield said in a statement. “As we encourage those at risk for HIV to seek care, we need to meet them in their journey. This means clearing the path of stigma, finding more comfortable ways of delivering health services, as well as learning from individuals already in treatment so the journey becomes easier for others who follow.”

Read the full article.

 

To find HIV testing near you, go the CDC testing locator. Most locations are free.