Category Archives: Research

Despite ART, Immune System Ages Faster Among People Living With HIV, Study Finds

From thebodypro.com

Today’s powerful antiretroviral therapy (ART) helps fight back HIV infection and restore normal immune function. However, clinical evidence suggests that people with HIV who are virologically suppressed still have higher rates of comorbid viral infections than the general population.

Now, a new study in the Journal of Infectious Diseases suggests that ART does not restore the immune system completely back to normal. Instead, people with HIV may experience “immune amnesia,” in which the immune system slowly loses its capacity to recognize and fight off viral infections introduced during childhood or through a vaccine.

“Even with therapy, there’s something not quite fixed about the immune system,” said lead author Michael Augenbraun, M.D., FACP, FIDSA, who is vice chair of the Department of Medicine and director of the Division of Infectious Diseases at SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University and Kings County Hospital Center.

In the study, Augenbraun and his colleagues compared immune response among a group of 50 HIV-negative women and a group of 50 HIV-positive women on ART with low viral load. Each of these women had been vaccinated against smallpox during childhood, so they should all theoretically have similar levels of lingering protection against the smallpox virus.

Read the full article.

Trust and stigma affect gay couples’ choices on PrEP and PEP

From aidsmap.com

Both relationship-specific and structural factors influence whether coupled gay men living in New York City choose to use pre- and post-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP/PEP) for HIV prevention. Some men – particularly those in monogamous relationships – felt that discussing PrEP and PEP in the context of a relationship could threaten the relationship by raising issues of trust, while others felt that it had the potential to enhance sexual health and satisfaction.

Stigma from the gay community and healthcare providers around promiscuity also presented barriers to PrEP uptake. This qualitative research was conducted by Stephen Bosco, Dr Tyrel Starks and colleagues at City University New York and published in the Journal of Homosexuality.

Gay and bisexual men accounted for 66% of all new HIV diagnoses in the US in 2017. It is estimated that 35-68% of these infections happen within the context of a long-term relationship. This indicates that coupled gay men have the potential to benefit significantly from biomedical prevention strategies, such as PrEP (taken on an ongoing basis) and PEP (taken shortly after a suspected infection). However, only 7% of the potential 1.1 million gay and bisexual men who could benefit from PrEP were prescribed it in 2016. Black and minority men in the US remain most at-risk for HIV infection, while also having the lowest rates of PrEP uptake.

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Unsung heroes: Pittsburgh men, decades-long study impact HIV/AIDS research

From the Triblive.com

As they have for more than three decades, the Pitt Men’s Study leaders gathered with about four dozen men and women. They remembered those who have died and gave thanks for the 1,743 men who have participated in the nation’s longest-running HIV/AIDS research project.

World AIDS Day observance at the Heinz Memorial Chapel—an event sponsored by the Pitt Men’s Study

Charles Rinaldo, a Ph.D. scientist who has led the effort since the virus surfaced here in 1981, walked solemnly down the center aisle with a group of clergy.

“So here we are again to honor our participants,” the soft-spoken Rinaldo said, welcoming the sparse group. “For 35 years now, you have supported our study for HIV/AIDS. … We can’t thank you enough. Without you, there is no study.”

Every six months, year after year, participants have trekked to Oakland to offer blood and bodily fluids. Their alms have become the foundation of hundreds of research projects.

The Pitt study, conducted in the halls of the university where Jonas Salk developed the world’s first polio vaccine, began before the affliction that has killed an estimated 32 million people worldwide even had a name: human immunodeficiency virus. Or simply, HIV.
Neither the virus nor its final, deadly stage — acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, or AIDS — dominates the news and national fears as they did decades ago. Yet around the world, about 38 million people remain infected. Many are living longer lives thanks to lifesaving, though expensive, medical treatments. But there is no cure — yet.
Worldwide, an estimated 1.7 million people became infected with HIV last year. Another 770,000 died from AIDS-related illnesses.

In the United States, just more than 1 million people are believed to be living with HIV. Although the number of new infections has declined dramatically, nearly 40,000 in the U.S. still contract HIV every year. And about 16,000 people died from AIDS in the United States in 2016.

Because of that, work on the Pitt Men’s Study continues.

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Studies firmly establish “undetectable equals untransmittable”

From NIH.gov

Extensive evidence from HIV prevention research studies has firmly established that “Undetectable Equals Untransmittable,” or U=U. This means that people living with HIV who achieve and maintain an undetectable viral load — the amount of virus in their blood — by taking antiretroviral therapy (ART) as prescribed do not sexually transmit HIV to others. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates this strategy is 100% effective against the sexual transmission of HIV.

Now, a new study of nearly 112,000 men who have sex with men in the United States has found increasing acceptance of the U=U message in this population. Overall, 54% of HIV-negative participants and 84% of participants with HIV correctly identified U=U as accurate. The study was supported by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health. Study results were published online in the Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes.

“U=U has been validated repeatedly by numerous studies as a safe and effective means of preventing the sexual transmission of HIV,” said Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., NIAID Director. “The increased understanding and acceptance of U=U is encouraging because HIV treatment as prevention is a foundation of efforts to end the epidemic in the United States and around the world. This public health message has the power to reduce stigma, protect the health of people living with HIV and prevent sexual transmission of HIV to others.”

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Only 13% of the gay community utilize LGBT-specific clinics and providers

From the Windy City Times

A new study from the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law (Utilization of LGBT-Specific clinics and providers across three cohorts of lesbian, gay, and bisexual people in the United Statesfound that only a minority ( 13% ) of LGB people have utilized LGBT-specific clinics and providers, but a majority ( 52% ) expressed an interest in utilizing them in the future.

Researchers examined a representative sample of LGB people in the United States from three age groups—young ( 18-25 ), middle ( 34-41 ) and older ( 52-59 )—to understand the factors that influenced past utilization of LGBT-specific clinics and providers and interest in using them in the future.

“The discrepancy between past utilization and interest in future use of LGBT-specific providers suggests there is a disconnect between the type of healthcare many LGB people would like to have and what they have access to,” said lead author Alexander J. Martos, former Research Analyst at the Williams Institute. “Younger, Black LGB people and those with lower incomes reported the greatest interest in LGBT community-based healthcare.”

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Scientists detect new strain of HIV

From CNN

For the first time in 19 years, a team of scientists has detected a new strain of HIV.

The strain is a part of the Group M version of HIV-1, the same family of virus subtypes to blame for the global HIV pandemic, according to Abbott Laboratories, which conducted the research along with the University of Missouri, Kansas City. The findings were published Wednesday in the Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes.

HIV/AIDS Fast Facts

HIV has several different subtypes or strains, and like other viruses, it has the ability to change and mutate over time. This is the first new Group M HIV strain identified since guidelines for classifying subtypes were established in 2000. It is important to know what strains of the virus are circulating to ensure that tests used to detect the disease are effective.

“It can be a real challenge for diagnostic tests,” Mary Rodgers, a co-author of the report and a principal scientist at Abbott, said. Her company tests more than 60% of the world’s blood supply, she said, and they have to look for new strains and track those in circulation so “we can accurately detect it, no matter where it happens to be in the world.”

Health Alert: New drug-resistant STI spreading among men who have sex with men

From Out Magazine

Researchers at the University of Washington have identified a worrisome new bacterial cluster that’s growing in prevalence among men who have sex with men and is resistant to antibiotics.

The drug-resistant strains were identified in Seattle and Montreal, although researchers believe they’re common worldwide. Known as Campylobacter coli, the bacteria cause severe abdominal pain, bloody diarrhea, and fever and are estimated to affect about 1.3 million people in the United States annually. The journal Clinical Infectious Disease published the finding this month.

While the infection usually passes after a few days, it can pose a more serious threat to those with compromised immune systems.

Men who have sex with men are more prone to infection due to sexual practices like anal sex and rimming, according to the researchers. Transmission occurs when fecal matter enters another person’s body, and while it isn’t limited to any one population, gay men are more likely to experience drug-resistant infections because they’re more likely to have recieved antibiotics for similar infections in the past.

“The international spread of related isolates among MSM populations has been shown before for Shigella [another enteric pathogen], so it makes sense to see it in Campylobacter as well,” wrote the study’s lead author, Dr. Alex Greninger. “The global emergence of multidrug-resistant enteric pathogens in MSM poses an urgent public health challenge that may require new approaches for surveillance and prevention.”

Read more on Out Magazine online.