Category Archives: Research

HIV strikes Black gay men more, despite safer behaviors

“Our study illuminates how HIV disparities emerge from complex social and sexual networks and inequalities in access to medical care for those who are HIV-positive,” said senior study author Brian Mustanski. He is director of the Northwestern Institute for Sexual and Gender Minority Health and Wellbeing at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago.

“Their social and sexual networks are more dense and interconnected, which from an infectious disease standpoint makes infections transmitted more efficiently through the group,” Mustanski explained in a university news release.

“That, coupled with the higher HIV prevalence in the population, means any sexual act has a higher chance of HIV transmission,” he added.

If this trend continues, 1 out of every 2 black gay men will become infected with HIV at some point in life, compared to 1 in 5 Hispanic gay men and 1 in 11 white gay men, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In the study, researchers analyzed data from more than 1,000 gay men, aged 16 to 29, in Chicago.

Among their other findings: black gay men were less likely to have close relationships with their sexual partners, more likely to have hazardous marijuana use, and more likely to have experienced more stigma, trauma and childhood sexual abuse. White gay men were more likely to have alcohol problems.

The study was published Dec. 4 in the Journal of Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndromes.

For more information, check out the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The end of HIV transmission: A once-unthinkable dream becomes an openly discussed goal

From statnews.com

“We have the science to solve the AIDS epidemic,” Dr. Robert Redfield, the director of the CDC, himself a longtime HIV researcher and clinician, told STAT in a recent interview. “We’ve invested in it. Let’s put it into action.‘’

Other leaders in the HIV field have been musing about the idea, buoyed by the astonishing impact effective HIV medications have wrought, both on the lives of people infected with or at risk of contracting the virus, and on the trajectory of the epidemic.

“It’s certainly doable in the United States,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a researcher whose study focused on HIV from the earliest days of the AIDS epidemic.

Fauci and other health experts are quick to point out that the goal of stopping transmission entirely is largely theoretical. There will always be some new cases, and the barriers to providing treatment to existing cases remain significant. There are still just under 40,000 people in the U.S. each year contracting HIV. As Fauci put it: “We live in a real world, we don’t live in a theoretical world.”

But “if we implement all the tools that we have and if we can theoretically, conceptually, get everybody who’s HIV infected on antiretroviral drug so that they will not transmit the infection to anyone else, theoretically you could end the epidemic tomorrow by doing that,” he added.

Read the full article.

NIH study: combination antibody treatment for HIV

From Medicalxpress.com

A clinical trial testing infusions of combination antibodies in people living with HIV has begun at the National Institutes of Health. The early-phase clinical trial will evaluate whether periodic infusions of two highly potent, HIV-specific, broadly neutralizing antibodies (bNAbs)—3BNC117 and 10-1074—are safe in people living with HIV. The study also will gather preliminary data on how effectively the bNAb infusions, delivered together every two to four weeks, suppress HIV following discontinuation of antiretroviral therapy (ART).

Read the full article.

Today’s HIV meds are not linked to high blood pressure

From Poz Magazine online

The antiretrovirals (ARVs) in common usage today are not associated with an increased risk of high blood pressure, aidsmap reports.

Publishing their findings in HIV Medicine, researchers from the D:A:D study, a large, ongoing multi-cohort observational study of people with HIV, updated their 2005 paper in which they were unable to identify a clear link between ARVs and high blood pressure.

For this new analysis, the researchers analyzed data on 33,278 HIV-positive study participants who were in medical care for the virus in Europe, Australia and the United States between 1999 and 2013. They looked for a relationship between hypertension diagnoses and 18 ARVs as well as various other risk factors.

A high blood pressure diagnosis was defined as developing blood pressure of 140 over 90, receiving a blood pressure medication or both.

Three out of four of the participants were male, and 44 percent of the participants overall were men who likely contracted the virus through sex with another man. The median age upon entry into the study was 38 years old. About half of the study members were white and one in five had received an AIDS diagnosis. The median CD4 count was 429. Almost 40 percent had a fully suppressed viral load and 68 percent had received ARVs.

As for cardiovascular risk factors, 60 percent had a history of smoking, 16 percent had a body mass index (BMI) over 26 (between 25 and 29.5 indicates overweight), 18 percent had lipodystrophy (the irregular distribution of body fat associated with some of the earliest ARVs) 4 percent were on medication to lower their blood lipids and 2 percent had diabetes.

During a cumulative 223,000 years of follow-up, 7,636 members of the study (23 percent) developed high blood pressure, for a rate of 3.42 diagnoses per 100 cumulative years of follow-up.

When the researchers analyzed the data without adjusting for any non-ARV factors associated with high blood pressure, they found that all the HIV medications were linked to the condition except for Norvir (ritonavir)-boosted Prezista (darunavir) and Emtriva (emtricitabine).

Then the study authors adjusted for demographic risk factors for high blood pressure and found that the only ARVs still linked to the condition were Ziagen (abacavir), Viramune (nevirapine), Norvir and Norvir-boosted Crixivan (indinavir).

Finally, after the investigators adjusted the data to account for differences in metabolic risk factors, Ziagen and Norvir were no longer associated with high blood pressure. Each five years of exposure to Norvir-boosted Crixivan was associated with a 12 percent increase in the risk of high blood pressure, and Viramune was associated with an 8 percent increase per five years of exposure.

The most prominent risk factors for high blood pressure included being male, being older, being Black, engaging in injection drug use and having an AIDS diagnosis, diabetes, high blood lipids, lipodystrophy, obesity and impaired kidney function.

To read the aidsmap article, click here.

To read the study abstract, click here.

Neurological manifestations of HIV

Dr Faktorovich, Department of Neurology, Icahn School of Medicine, Mt Sinai, New York, NY

From Neurologytimes.com

Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is responsible for a wide spectrum of neurological manifestations, with etiologies ranging from inflammatory, infectious, neoplastic. and more. The development of antiretroviral therapy (ART) has dramatically increased life expectancy, however neurological complications remain a significant cause of long-term disability. Understanding and recognizing these conditions is crucial in effectively managing HIV.

Dr Svetlana Faktorovich, Department of Neurology, Icahn School of Medicine, explains the various forms of neurological manifestations of HIV in this Neurologytimes.com article.

Why STDs are on the rise in America

From the Economist online

Much of the increase in STDs has come from gay and bisexual men. Although a relatively small share of the population, they accounted for 81% of male syphilis cases in 2016, according to the Centres for Disease Control. As with heterosexuals, this seems to be because sex is now seen as less risky. That is due to the advent of PrEP, a prophylactic drug cocktail which gay men can take to nearly inoculate themselves from HIV. The reduced chances of catching HIV—along with the fact that a positive diagnosis is no longer a death sentence—seems to encourage men to drop their guard. A recent study of gay and bisexual men, published in the Lancet, a medical journal, found that as more began taking PrEP, rates of consistent condom usage dropped from 46% to 31%. Recent studies have shown that uptake of PrEP is strongly associated with increased rates of STD infection.

All this shows that changing sexual mores, and a reduced fear of the risks of unprotected sex, seem to be at fault—especially since the problem is not just limited to America. England experienced a 20% increase in syphilis diagnoses in 2017 and a 22% increase in those of gonorrhoea. Other countries in western Europe have seen ever worse outbreaks, sometimes exceeding 50%. Dwindling public spending on STD prevention—which in America has fallen by 40% in real terms since 2003—is not helping matters. Yet the chief methods of prevention, abstinence and condoms, are tried and true. Should these options seem too chaste or chaffing, then prospective partners ought to get an STD test (especially since most infections can be cleared up with a simple course of antibiotics). Verified testing is vital since verbal assurances, especially on the cusp of a liaison, can be misleading.

Read the full article.

New report from UN warns we have ‘miles to go’ in fight against HIV

From ABC News

Rates of HIV infection are on the rise in 50 countries with more than 1.8 million people becoming infected in 2017, a far cry from goals established for the near future, according to a new United Nations report.

The report, entitled “Miles to Go,” published earlier this week by the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS, says the pace of progress in saving lives and preventing new infections is “not matching the global ambition” of cutting the infection rate to 500,000 a year by 2020.

While the death rate from AIDS-related illnesses — 940,000 in 2017 — is the lowest this century, it is still nearly double the goal of reducing AIDS-related deaths to 500,000 or fewer by 2020, according to the report.

”New HIV infections are not falling fast enough,” Michel Sidibé, UNAIDS Executive Director, wrote in the report. “HIV prevention services are not being provided on an adequate scale and with sufficient intensity and are not reaching the people who need them the most.”

Read the full article and see the video here.