Second Open Letter on COVID-19 Focuses on Nondiscrimination, Data Collection and Economic Harm for LGBTQ Communities

On April 21, 2020, GLMA, Whitman-Walker Health, the National LGBT Cancer Network, the National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance, the New York Transgender Advocacy Group, and SAGE issued a second open letter to public health officials, healthcare institutions and government leaders on the impact of COVID-19 on LGBTQ communities. The letter, joined by 170 organizations, called for action to protect LGBTQ patients from discrimination and to include sexual orientation and gender identity in data collection efforts related to the pandemic. The letter also called for action to address the economic harm to LGBTQ communities from the pandemic.

To read the full second open letter and list of signatories, click here.

The letter released on April 21 is a follow-up to an open letter signed by more than 150 organizations issued by the six coordinating organizations on March 11, 2020. Information on the first letter is available here.

Important COVID-19 Resources:

Does HIV raise risk of coronavirus? Experts weigh in

From Yahoo News

Matthew, 30, keeps an emergency stockpile of his life-saving HIV medication at his home in Sacramento, California. He started building his stash shortly after he was diagnosed six years ago, on the recommendation of people he met through a forum for those living with HIV. Without his once-a-day pill, his viral load would increase and his general health would decline.

doctors working around a tableNow, over a month after the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus a global pandemic, Matthew hasn’t broken into his stash. But, like many of the 1.1 million HIV-positive people in the United States, he has questions about how the ongoing crisis could affect his access to medication and his chances of contracting the coronavirus, and whether his chronic immune condition could put him at a higher risk of complications due to COVID-19, the disease caused by coronavirus.

“Being positive, it puts it at the forefront of your mind,” Matthew, who requested that his last name not be used to protect his medical privacy, told NBC News. “You have to be present and aware.”

Read the article on Yahoo News.

Fauci: Gay people lifted stigma with ‘incredible courage’ in HIV/AIDS epidemic

From the Washington Blade….

Dr. Anthony Fauci said Tuesday the visibility LGBTQ people brought to themselves during the height of the HIV/AIDS epidemic helped change the tide for public perception.

Dr. Anthony Fauci at a White house press briefing on Carnivorous

Dr. Anthony Fauci at press briefing

Fauci made the remarks during the daily White House Coronavirus Task Force briefing when responding to COVID-19’s disproportionate impact on black Americans, saying the disease has “shed a light” on health disparities in the United States much like HIV/AIDS did with LGBTQ people.

“During that time, there was extraordinary stigma, particularly against the gay community,” Fauci said. “And it was only when the world realized how the gay community responded to this outbreak with incredible courage and dignity and strength and activism — I think that really changed some of the stigma against the gay community, very much so.”

Read the full article.

Depressive disorders are ‘under recognized and under treated’ in people with HIV/AIDS

From Eurekalert.com

People living with HIV/AIDS are at increased risk of depressive disorders. But all too often, these conditions go unrecognized or untreated, suggests a literature review in the May/June issue of Harvard Review of Psychiatry. The journal is published in the Lippincott portfolio by Wolters Kluwer.

Proper diagnosis and management are essential to reduce negative health effects of depression in patients with HIV/AIDS, according to the report by Gustavo C. Medeiros, MD, of University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas, and colleagues. Based on an analysis of 125 research publications, “We provide evidence-based recommendations to improve assessment and management of depressive disorders in seropositive persons,” the researchers write.

Read the full article.

Challenging HIV Stigma

Biomedical advances against HIV since the dawn of the epidemic have been nothing short of astonishing. An almost always fatal disease is now, for those with the privilege of access to treatment, a manageable chronic illness, treated with a single daily pill. A person who acquires HIV today has every reason to expect to live a normal life span.

Sean Strub
POZ Magazine’s founder, Sean Strub

Yet with such astonishing success in treatment, why is HIV stigma worse today than ever before? Why do so many long-term survivors, including many who were exceptionally open about their HIV-positive status for years, find they must now keep it a secret, sometimes going deeply into closets they thought they had left for good years ago?

Many people—especially those who do not have HIV—find these questions startling. That’s because they remember the days when one had to wear a spacesuit to visit a person with AIDS in a hospital or was afraid to eat in a restaurant with gay waiters or refused to touch a person they thought might have the virus.

Read the full article.

Canada Is the First to Approve Long-Acting HIV Regimen Cabenuva

From POZ online

HIV treatment has entered an exciting new era as Canada has become the first nation in the world to approve ViiV Healthcare’s monthly long-acting injectable antiretroviral (ARV) regimen Cabenuva (cabotegravir/rilpivirine)—the first complete regimen for treating the virus that does not require daily pills.

In late December, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) held up approval of the regimen, citing concerns over its manufacturing process. In turn, ViiV indicated it was working closely with the FDA to address those concerns and ultimately bring Cabenuva to market in the United States.

ViiV first applied for FDA approval of Cabenuva in April 2019.

Read the full article.

FAQs about HIV and COVID-19

An open letter from Eugene McCray, MD at the Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention, CDC…

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about HIV and coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). The new resource addresses concerns related to COVID-19 and HIV and highlights how people with HIV can protect their health.

COVID-19 is a respiratory infection that can spread from person to person. Symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, cough, and shortness of breath. While most people have mild symptoms, some people are at higher risk of getting very sick from COVID-19. People at higher risk include older adults and people with serious underlying medical conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and lung disease.

In the United States, nearly half of people with diagnosed HIV are aged 50 and older. People with HIV also have higher rates of chronic heart and lung disease. Like other respiratory infections among people with HIV, the risk of getting very sick is greatest in people with a low CD4 cell count and people not on HIV treatment. Encouraging people with HIV to stay on treatment and take preventative actions will play an essential role in protecting the health and well-being of those who are at higher risk of serious illness from COVID-19.

People who are taking medicine to treat (ART) or prevent (PrEP) HIV should stick to their treatment plan, continue taking their medicine consistently, and follow the advice of their health care provider. Some types of HIV medications are being evaluated in clinical trials to treat COVID-19, but there are no data available yet showing that these drugs treat COVID-19. People who develop symptoms that could be consistent with COVID-19 should talk to their health care provider about how to get evaluated. Please visit the COVID-19 website to learn more about how to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Furthermore, some of CDC’s recommendations to help people with HIV protect themselves from COVID-19 include:

  • Having at least a 30-day supply of HIV medicine available.
  • Avoiding close contact with people who are sick.
  • Practicing good hand washing.
  • Avoiding large crowds and gatherings.
  • Avoiding non-essential travel.
  • Following recommendations made by local public health officials.
  • Establishing a clinical care plan to communicate with health care providers online or by phone.

We encourage you to review the FAQs and share these resources with your colleagues, friends, and family.

While we remain committed to ending the HIV epidemic in the United States, the response to COVID-19 has been a top priority for many people across the world. Thank you for your unwavering commitment to supporting this vital response. Together, we can make sure our families, friends, and communities have the information and resources they need to stay healthy and protect themselves from COVID-19.

Sincerely,

/Eugene McCray/

Eugene McCray, MD
Director
Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention
National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
www.cdc.gov/hiv

HIV research pioneer involved in creation of COVID-19 test for UPMC

Press release from UPMC

UPMC has developed a test for the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 — the virus that causes COVID-19 — UPMC will use this test to diagnose select, symptomatic cases. The health system plans to rapidly increase capacity at its central laboratory and, if there is a need, could test hundreds of patients per week in the near future, filling a critical gap before other commercial tests come online.

“Developing this test for a never-before-seen virus in the midst of a pandemic was a tremendous challenge, even for our academic medical center with its long history of such developments,” said Alan Wells, M.D., D.M.Sc., medical director of the UPMC Clinical Laboratories and Thomas Gill III Professor of Pathology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. “But testing capabilities are absolutely essential to managing a pandemic. If the communities we serve see a surge in severe illnesses, we must be able to diagnose people quickly to give them the appropriate care while protecting our staff and the broader community.”

Additionally, UPMC will begin directing patients with symptoms consistent with COVID-19 to a specimen collection site in Pittsburgh’s South Side neighborhood. The site is not open to the general public. Patients must have a physician referral approved by UPMC’s infection prevention team and an appointment to have their specimen collected for testing by either UPMC or public health authorities.

UPMC will later open additional specimen collection facilities in Harrisburg, Erie, Williamsport and Altoona at an as-yet undetermined date after gaining experience with the South Side facility and after UPMC’s testing capacity increases. […]

The test was created by a virology team led by Tung Phan, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor of pathology at Pitt and assistant director of clinical microbiology at UPMC; Charles Rinaldo, Jr., Ph.D., chair and professor of the Pitt Graduate School of Public Health’s Department of Infectious Diseases and Microbiology and director of the UPMC Clinical Virology Laboratory; and Stephanie Mitchell, Ph.D., assistant professor of pathology at Pitt and director of clinical microbiology at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh. Implementation work was done by Arlene Bullotta, Barbara Harris and Kathy Greenawalt of the Section of Virology at UPMC Clinical Laboratories. “This was a tireless effort by a team dedicated to serving the needs of our patients,” said Wells.

Read the full article on UPMC.com.

LGBTQ Agenda: LGBT people may be at higher risk from COVID-19

From the Bay Area Reporter

More than 100 organizations sent an open letter to medical groups and the news media stating that LGBT people are at greater risk from the novel coronavirus due to other social and medical issues that affect the LGBT community.

Scout is the deputy director of the National LGBT Cancer Network.

Scout is the deputy director of the National LGBT Cancer Network.

Scout, who goes by one name, is a bisexual and trans man who is the deputy director of the National LGBT Cancer Network. That organization took the initiative on drafting the letter, which was released March 11, and gathering co-signers.

Local organizations that signed the letter include Equality California, Horizons Foundation, National Center for Lesbian Rights, the San Francisco LGBT Community Center, and the Transgender Law Center.

The letter highlights three issues that may put LGBTs at greater risk during the COVID-19 epidemic: higher tobacco use than among the general population, higher rates of cancer and HIV-infection, and instances of discrimination on account of sexual orientation and gender identity (COVID-19 is the respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus.)

“We’re really concerned because we know that whenever there’s a health issue, the pre-loaded issues in our community create an issue for us,” Scout, a Ph.D., said in a phone interview with the Bay Area Reporter March 16. “We have more social isolation, more smoking. But we know how to offset that. As coronavirus expands so fast, we wanted to let the public health community know we can take steps to avoid another health disparity.”

Read the full article on the Bay Area Reporter Website.

Pitt Men’s Study: Protect yourself and your community against COVID-19.

Covid 19 blood sampleThe Pitt Men’s Study would like to remind our volunteers and the community at large that protecting yourself from getting COVID-19 is not only a way to safeguard your own health but also important in protecting everyone you come in contact with.

The best way to prevent COVID-19 (coronavirus) infection is to follow the guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):

  • Wash your hands with soap and water, for 20 seconds
  • Hand sanitizer must contain at least 60% alcohol
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Put distance between yourself and others.
  • Stay home if you are not feeling well.
  • Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue
  • Throw used tissue in the trash
  • Immediately wash your hands or use hand sanitizer
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily
  • Wear a mask ONLY if you are sick or caring for someone who is sick

Remember, older adults and people with underlying chronic illness are at higher risk for serious complications from COVID-19 illness. Please call your healthcare provider if you have any of the following symptoms: Cough, fever, shortness of breath.

More information can be found on the CDC websites: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/about/prevention.html   and https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/specific-groups/high-risk-complications.html#Have-supplies-on-hand

For local, Health Department information go to: https://www.alleghenycounty.us/Health-Department/Resources/COVID-19/COVID-19.aspx