Category Archives: Commentary

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.

Pride month includes HIV Long-Term Survivors Awareness Day

From the Human Rights Campaign

As we celebrate Pride Month, it is also important that we honor those in the LGBTQ community who are long-term survivors living with HIV. June 5 was chosen as HIV Long-Term Survivors Awareness Day to mark when the first case of AIDS was reported in the U.S. in 1981.

Long-time HIV survivor Elder Claude Bowen, M.Div

At the time, a person diagnosed with HIV or AIDS could expect to live only one to two years after that diagnosis. In the four decades since, more than 70 million people have been diagnosed with HIV worldwide and approximately 35 million people have died, according to the World Health Organization. People age 55 and older make up 26% of all Americans living with HIV, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In recent years, the LGBTQ community has benefited from biomedical interventions such as Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), a medication that prevents HIV when taken as prescribed. Yet, this medication is not always accessible to those most at risk for HIV, including Black and Latinx gay, bisexual and transgender people.

HRC spoke with three long-term survivors living with HIV to learn their stories.

See the interviews on the HRC Website.

HIV isn’t just a gay issue, it’s a ‘social justice issue’

From out.com...

Writer and activist George M. Johnson instructs us, on National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, on the role we all play in the search for a cure.

BY TRE’VELL ANDERSON

George M. Johnson

The late activist and writer Joseph Beam once deemed the act of a Black man loving another Black man a “revolutionary act.” I imagine that doing so, while also living unapologetically with HIV, is doubly insurgent. But that’s perhaps the only way to describe the life and work of George M. Johnson. A writer, activist, and soon-to-be author, he’s committed to the work of toppling the patriarchy, challenging anti-Blackness, and confronting homophobia, transphobia, and HIV stigma wherever he sees it.

With over 40,000 Twitter followers and a much larger community that reads his words at Teen Vogue,Entertainment Tonight, The RootEbony, and countless others, Johnson is outspoken and defiantly visible as a Black gay man living with HIV, with which he was diagnosed at 25. Now, he’s set on being the resource he wishes he had when he was younger for other folks who are or might become HIV positive.

On National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, Out spoke to Johnson about his activism, the state of HIV advocacy, and what those living with the virus and those not can do to combat stigma.

Read the full article/interview here.

Experts debate if HIV prevention pill contributes to rise in other STDs

Prevention program manager Adam Weaver talks about sexually transmitted diseases in the testing room at Palmetto Community Care in North Charleston

From postandcourier.com

The STD explosion has led to a debate over a possible connection since the introduction of the HIV prevention pill.

PrEP is not a cure for HIV, and it also is not 100 percent effective, but, taken as directed at the same time once a day, it comes pretty close — up to 99 percent successful in preventing HIV, according to Palmetto Community Care, formerly Lowcountry AIDS Services, in North Charleston.

The drumbeat of safe sex practices hasn’t changed among health officials. Abstinence, using condoms and being in a monogamous relationship are still the best ways to help prevent STD infections.

But the naked truth is people don’t always follow that advice.

“After they start taking PrEP, we don’t see a great shift in risk behavior,” said Aaron O’Brien with Roper Hospital’s Ryan White Wellness Center.

Aaron O’Brien, quality and development manager of Roper Hospital’s Ryan White Wellness Center.

He puts condom users into two groups: those who use them regularly and those who don’t, and, based on his talks with patients, that doesn’t change much once they start taking the pill.

Adam Weaver, prevention program manager at Palmetto Community Care, agrees with O’Brien.

“What we are finding is that the people we are putting on PrEP aren’t changing their condom use,” he said.

They also don’t believe PrEP’s introduction, in and of itself, contributed to the explosion in STDs.

They say it has more to do with better reporting since people taking PrEP must check in with their doctor or provider every three months or so for regular testing.

Read the full article.

Dr. Rabinowitz one of the first doctors in Pittsburgh to treat gay men and people with HIV

The Pitt Men’s Study extends its heartfelt sympathy and condolences to all those touched by the shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Squirrel Hill on October 27.  While all the deaths that day were tragic, the death of Dr. Jerry Rabinowitz is particularly significant to our volunteers and staff.  Dr. Rabinowitz was one of the first doctors in Pittsburgh to welcome both gay men and people with HIV into his practice, a safe space and source of compassionate and accepting care for many of our volunteers for three decades.  Long-time staffer Bill Buchanan remembers, “Every time volunteers completed releases to send their results to Dr. Rabinowitz – and that happened a lot – they would express their deep respect and admiration for him.  I never heard a bad word about him from anybody in thirty years.”  Jerry Rabinowitz was a pillar of the community, and he will be sorely missed.  Donations can be made in his memory to Dor Hadash, 5898 Wilkins Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15217.

 

 

 

How Truvada helped propel the evolution of LGBT health

From The Advocate online

In light of the progress we’ve made over the past decades, it’s tempting to think that we are only steps away from a cure and that our previous advances will protect younger LGBTQ people for generations. While it’s empowering to feel confident in our current position, it is essential that we remember that all of this is fragile. According to a recent statistic from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, HIV and AIDS remain persistent problems globally. We’ve come a long way in preventing and treating HIV, but there is still much more to accomplish. Annual HIV infections and diagnoses are declining in the U.S., but progress has been uneven, and annual infections and diagnoses have increased among some groups. The declines can thankfully be attributed to targeted HIV prevention efforts, such as Truvada.

Read the full article.

Why don’t more Americans use PrEP?

From the New York Times

Truvada was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2012. But over six years later, the United States is failing miserably in expanding its use. Less than 10 percent of the 1.2 million Americans who might benefit from PrEP are actually getting it. The major reason is quite clear: pricing. With a list price over $20,000 a year, Truvada, the only PrEP drug available in the United States, is simply too expensive to become the public health tool it should be.

[…] The disparities in PrEP access are astounding: Its use in black and Hispanic populations is a small fraction of that among whites. In the South, where a majority of H.I.V. infections occur, use is half what it is in the Northeast. Women use PrEP at drastically lower rates than men, and while there’s no national data on PrEP and transgender Americans, it’s almost certainly underused. The issue of PrEP access has become an issue of privilege.

The ability of PrEP to greatly reduce new H.I.V. infections is no longer in question. In New South Wales, Australia, a program providing free access to PrEP led to a drop in H.I.V. diagnoses in the most vulnerable communities by a third in just six months, one of the fastest declines recorded since the global AIDS crisis began.

Read the full article on New York Times online.