The CDC Says Health Experts Need To Reach Out To Southern Gay Black Men

It’s been known for several years now that there’s a growing risk of HIV infection for men of color, and specifically black men, living in the U.S. South. That said, this silent epidemic is only now getting the attention it deserves through news coverage, documentary filming, and health alerts.

Now, the CDC is acknowledging this growing problem.

As reported by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a study on Thursday announcing the need to pay attention to black men and growing HIV infections among them.

“Although black (men who have sex with men, or MSM) received 6 percent of the HIV tests provided, they accounted for 36 percent of the new diagnoses in non–health care facilities,” the study found.

Plus, nearly two-thirds of black men diagnosed with HIV live in the South. The CDC wants health workers to find new ways to reach out to these men.

 “Black MSM in the southern United States are the group most affected by HIV, but only a small percentage of CDC tests in the southern United States are provided to this group,” the study added.

“Increasing awareness of HIV status through HIV testing, especially among black MSM in the southern United States, is essential for reducing the risk for transmission and addressing disparities.”

The study recommends testing outreach be made in nontraditional settings and in agencies that also provide health care.

One possible route that health experts could take is to use Northwestern University’s multimedia program, which not only educates LGBTQ men about safe-sex practices but also the realities of life with HIV.

Before this, the CDC started to have a shifty relationship with organizations that supported HIV/AIDS outreach work like AID Atlanta. Despite the CDC celebrating the program, they withdres their grant to AID Atlanta last year.

That said, the CDC recently saw a change in leadership in the spring. Robert Redfield, a lifelong AIDS public health researcher, took over and is directly working under Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar.

Hopefully, they can work together to find ways to reach out to LGBTQ black men in the South and chip away at the silent epidemic overtaking them.

h/t: the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

New Survey Shows Stigma Of HIV Remains High

A new survey shows 3 in 10 lesbian, gay or bisexual people (LGB) would ‘swipe left’ on a dating app to reject someone who is HIV positive even if those people are on effective treatment.

The research, conducted by YouGov for the UK-based Terrence Higgins Trust, showed 35% of respondents would reject someone who was openly HIV positive on dating apps like Tinder and Grindr.

Additionally, 31% admitted they didn’t know how they would react.

The deep dive into attitudes towards sex, relationships and HIV, reveals a disheartening level of bias caused in great part by a lack of understanding of HIV transmission.

Also from the survey:

• 43% said they would be uncomfortable kissing someone with HIV in spite of the fact that science has shown for decades HIV can’t be passed on through kissing

• 77% indicated they wouldn’t be comfortable having comdomless sex with someone HIV positive

• 55% said they don’t believe HIV positive people with undetectable viral loads can’t infect another person

The PARTNER study examined 58,000 instances of sex between an HIV positive person on effective treatment and a partner without HIV, and there were zero cases of HIV transmission.

Ian Green, chief executive at Terrence Higgins Trust, speaking to Pink News, said, “It’s truly devastating to hear that so many wouldn’t swipe right for or even kiss someone living with HIV who’s on effective treatment.

“We’ve known for three decades that HIV can’t be passed on through day-to-day contact and that includes kissing.”

Terrence Higgins Trust has launched their Can’t Pass It On campaign to promote the truth and science about HIV transmission and combat the stigma of HIV. The campaign gives people living with HIV a very easy way to inform and educate without having to get into specifics.

From the website: “By helping to spread the word and ensure that people know the facts about HIV and effective treatment, we hope to tackle stigma and remove the fear that often surrounds the virus.”

Here in the U.S., the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also agrees that undetectable = untransmittable.

Find out more about HIV transmission at www.tht.org.uk/cantpassiton

Bone and Muscle Frailty Twice As Common in Men Who Are HIV-Positive, Study Shows

Bone and muscle frailty is twice as common in middle-aged and elderly men living with HIV as HIV-negative men, says a report in the June issue journal AIDS. 

Conducted by the Multicenter AIDS Cohort Study, research involved 399 men, 200 HIV-negative and 199 HIV-positive. All men were between the ages of 50 and 69. All HIV-positive men were med compliant and had normal CD4 counts. 

The study showed prevalence of frailty in HIV-positive men versus in prevalence of frailty in HIV negative men at 16 percent and eight percent, respectively.

Many researchers have christened frailty “The Silent Epidemic.” It causes exhaustion, slow speed and physical weakness. It can greatly impact one’s ability to carry out everyday tasks. 

Risk factors don’t vary by HIV status, and they include abdominal obesity, loss of skeletal mass and osteoporosis. 

According to the study, frailty is seven times more prevalent in HIV-positive men with larger waistlines than those with smaller waistlines. Watching your weight, taking vitamin D tablets and eating mindfully are helpful in prevention and management.

Read more here: https://www.hivplusmag.com/treatment/2018/6/20/bone-and-muscle-frailty-twice-prevalent-men-living-hiv

Funny New Zealand Ad Tackles What It Means To Be HIV-Positive And Undetectable

Last year, the CDC officially announced that men who are HIV-positive and are undetectable are incapable of transmitting the disease to other people.

Since then, the term "undetectable = untransmittable" has popped up all over the internet and on multiple HIV-awareness campaigns.

That said, there’s still a toxic atmosphere around dating for men living with HIV. This was proven just a couple days ago when Instinct shared the story of one man who tweeted screenshots of the abuse and hate he gets on dating apps like Grindr.

In order to combat all that hate, an HIV awareness organization from New Zealand called the New Zealand AIDS foundation has worked to create a one minute advertisement sharing the undetectable = untransmittable fact.

In the video below, which is a part of the Ending HIV campaign, two men arrive at a home while riding the back of a taxi.

Before they exit the car, one man says he would like to talk. The other wonders what the conversation could be about and has an interesting response when he finds out its about HIV statuses.

Wonder what the other date says? You’ll have to check out the video below to find out.

h/t: GayStarNews

Elton John To Honor Princess Diana With Landmark HIV Lecture

Five-time Grammy Award-winner Elton John will deliver this year’s "Diana, Princess of Wales Lecture" on HIV this June in association with the Elton John AIDS Foundation.

The National AIDS Trust began the lecture series in 1999, in honor of Princess Diana who had passed away just two years earlier.

John shared a close bond with Diana as well as her deep commitment to ending HIV/AIDS.

On June 8, John will address an audience of health workers, politicians, civic leaders, celebrities, and people living with HIV/AIDS in London.In his speech, John is expected to call on governments to target the elimination of HIV/AIDS by the year 2030.

“I am delighted to be able to deliver this lecture and to remember the enormous contribution Diana, Princess of Wales made to this cause,” John says in a statement. “In the quarter century since the Elton John AIDS Foundation was established, the global AIDS fight has changed beyond recognition. Yet tolerance and courage has never been more important in the fight to create an AIDS-free generation and make the world a more accepting place for those living with HIV.”

“2018 is a critical time in the global HIV epidemic,” says NAT chief executive Deborah Gold. “We have all the tools we need to beat HIV, yet we lack the level of investment or political priority necessary to use them fully. We are delighted that Sir Elton John, who has enormous credibility in this battle, will be speaking on this subject.”

At 71-years-old, John is keeping a full-on, robust schedule after announcing his upcoming Farewell Yellow Brick Road Tour earlier this year. 

In addition to a massive world tour, the pop music legend is also busy working on a musical adaptation of hit movie, The Devil Wears Prada, and penning new tunes for the upcoming live-action film of his huge Broadway blockbuster, The Lion King.

"You Should Be Publicly Executed:" One HIV-Positive Man Shows The Horrors Of Hateful Grindr Comments

One man is showing the hate he receives regularly on Grindr for being HIV-positive.

Tom Hayes is the editor of the website Beyond Positive and often talks about the realities of living with HIV.

Hayes then went beyond the borders of his one website to address the topic. Hayes decided to share screenshots of abuse he receives on Grindr because of having HIV.

In the initial tweet that started the thread, Hayes wrote:

“One thing I hear again and again when talking to the media, or the negative general population, is that ‘HIV is sorted now isn’t it?’.”

“Medically? Treatments are simple, effective and stop onwards transmission.”

“Socially? HAH. NO. NOPE.”

From there, Hayes posted several screenshots of men saying things like, “You should be publicly executed,” and “Bet you wish you’d worn a rubber now slut.”

Take a look at some of the disgusting messages down below.

GayStarNews talked to Hayes about the tweets and living with HIV.

“Medically HIV is an incredible success story, it’s the fastest moving disease area in the world. We’ve gone from discovery of the virus to a single daily pill that stops you passing it on in just 30 years.”

“Sadly, society hasn’t moved at the same pace. People living with HIV still have to deal with stigma on a daily basis – be it from HIV negative peers, tattoo parlours or even the medical profession.”

“I wanted to share just a few of the messages I’ve received online to highlight the issue – and hopefully make people think twice before rejecting someone because of their HIV status.”

h/t: GayStarNews

Atlanta's Gay And Bisexual Black Men Talk Sexual Education And High HIV Infection Rates

Black men in America are in danger of many things. For those engaging in gay sex, there’s also the very real fear of contracting HIV.

This is especially true for Southern black men engaging in sex with other men. While many have the misconception that HIV/AIDs isn’t as prevalent in the US as it was in the 80s or 90s, the disease is in fact now mostly found in communities of color.

The Guardian reports that there’s a one in two chance of LGBTQ black men contracting the disease and that’s especially true if they live in primarily black communities like in Atlanta, Georgia.

In order to address and document this community and ongoing epidemic, the Guardian’s Leah Green traveled to Atlanta. There, she witnessed the largest gay and black community in America and talked to residents like 25-year-old Daryon McCurdy (seen above).

“I was feeling very sick” says Daryon McCurdy, “so I went to the doctor and they said, ‘Okay, you have gonorrhea and acute HIV.’ I was so shocked.”

Through the video below, get a glimpse into McCurdy’s life and witness conversations about sexual education, poverty, racism, stigmas around living with HIV, and more.

FDA Approves PrEP For Teens

In 2012, HIV medication Truvada was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use by adults as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) against HIV.

The results have been excellent to say the least as studies show the use of PrEP reduces the chances of HIV exposure by over 90%.

Now, the FDA has expanded the approval of Truvada as PrEP to include adolescents. The new approval will now include teens at risk for HIV who weigh at least 77 pounds.

The decision was based on the ATN113 study, which enrolled 78 high-risk adolescents ages 15 to 17.

Over the course of 48 weeks, the participants checked in on a monthly basis for the first three months, and then moved to clinic visits every three months. 

Adherence to taking the drug on a daily basis was fairly high during the first three months. But once the study moved to checking in only every three months, researchers found the teens were more likely to skip a dose. 

That drop off in adherence led to the conclusion that teens may need monthly monitoring in order to achieve the best results on PrEP.

The side effects reported among the adolescents were similar to those observed in adults on Truvada, the most common being weight loss, headaches and abdominal pains.

In a press release from Gilead Sciences, which manufactures Truvada, Sybil Hosek, PhD, clinical psychologist at the Cook County Health and Hospital System’s Stroger Hospital in Chicago and lead investigator of the study wrote, “Study ATN113 has demonstrated that Truvada for PrEP is a well-tolerated prevention option for adolescents who are vulnerable to HIV.”

“In addition to traditional risk-reduction strategies, health care providers and community advocates are now equipped with another tool to help address the incidence of HIV in younger at-risk populations,” she added.

(h/t Poz)

Multiple Gay Men Report Being Fired By The Peace Corps After Testing HIV-Positive

The Peace Corps are removing gay men from their services if they test positive for HIV.

Openly gay man Romany Tin was teaching English in Cambodia back in January. Tin, who had been excited to go to Cambodia due to his father being from the country, later found himself being forced to leave.

First, Tin felt himself getting sick. After going through some tests, Tin found out that he had contracted HIV.

As if that wasn’t scary enough, Tin soon found himself being flown back to Washington, D.C. After a month of treatment, his viral load became undetectable (and as science now tells us, to be undetectable is to be untransmittable).

That said, Tin soon found out that the Peace Corps had no intention of sending him back to his job at Cambodia.

"I told my Peace Corps health officer in D.C. that I wanted to go back to Cambodia. But she said, 'Sorry, I don't think you can, the Peace Corps doesn't allow HIV-positive volunteers to serve in Cambodia.' That's some B.S., I thought,” Tin told news source Them.

Then, Romany Tin learned he had to wait between three and six months to find out his next location assignment. Also, he would not be getting paid during that time.

But before he could get his next assignment, Tin was officially let go from the organization in March.

Sadly, this isn’t the first and last time that the Peace Corps has fired gay men for being contracted with HIV. Former Peace Corps volunteer Jeremiah Johnson was sent home from the Ukraine back in 2008 after he tested HIV-positive.

The ACLU took on Johnson’s case saying that these acts violated the Rehabilitation Act, which prohibits discrimination in Federal Agencies based on disability. The ACLU also says that the Peace Corps then agreed to stop instantly firing volunteers for testing as HIV-positive.

"When the Peace Corps ended my service after I tested positive for HIV in 2008, there was at least some solace when we got them to publicly commit to ending this discriminatory practice and adhere to federal law," says Johnson, who now works for the HIV, TB, and HCV think tank Treatment Action Group. "Seeing Romany face the exact same illegal injustice a decade later, when there is zero justification for medically separating a volunteer for a manageable condition that is simple to monitor and treat, is deeply infuriating."

In addition, another man, who wished to be identified as “M,” spoke to Buzzfeed and said that he too was forced to leave his host country in southeast Asia after being tested.

“We didn’t know what to do but cry,” M. said in reference to himself and Tin.

Another man, whose name also happened to be Jeremiah, also spoke to Buzzfeed. This Jeremiah tried to get PrEP when he first landed in Chernihiv. Unfortunately, he was denied the prescription, because his sexual behavior was not risky enough.

“I was sexually active and was going to a country where they had the highest prevalence of HIV infection in Europe,” Jeremiah said. “It was definitely something I felt I needed.”

That caused Jeremiah to go to a second doctor and lie on his form to make it seem like he was engaging in risky behavior. While he did get the prescription, he was told his postilion was a risk due to his risky sexual behavior.

While this Jeremiah never contracted HIV and left his host country of his own free will, his experience left him disgusted with the organization.

“I think LGBT health in the Peace Corps is almost nonexistent,” he said. “It just isn’t there.”

With more and more stories coming out of gay men being fired due to contracting HIV, HIV and LGBTQ activists are condemning the Peace Corps’s policies.

“We are concerned that the Peace Corps’ policy pertaining to volunteers diagnosed with HIV is arbitrary, not grounded in evidence, and being implemented without critical attention to the well-being of the volunteers,” said the Treatment Action Group in a letter to the Peace Corps on Tin’s behalf.

“In practice, these policies mean that volunteers who make the health-conscious decision to get tested for HIV — a practice the Peace Corps should encourage — are, in effect, punished if they test positive.”

We'll see if the Peace Corps changes its ways.

h/t: Them, Buzzfeed, LGBTQNation

Crystal Meth Use Accelerates HIV Even With Medication, Study Shows

Many have long assumed use of stimulants like crystal methamphetamine can accelerate HIV progression. Thanks to a new study published in the journal Brain, Behavior and Immunity there is scientific evidence to back that up. 

Adam Carrico, Ph. D., associate professor of Public Health Sciences and Psychology at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, was lead author on the study, "Recent Stimulant Use and Leukocyte Gene Expression in Methamphetamine Users with Treated HIV Infection."

"Stimulant use may accelerate HIV disease progression through biological and behavioral pathways," says Carrico. "But if we can identify the biological pathways, then we can develop new approaches to optimize the health of active stimulant users who are living with HIV."

The study was a collaboration between researchers at the University of California San Francisco, University of California Los Angeles, and New York University, and involved studying changes in gene expression of samples from 55 HIV-positive, meth-using men receiving effective anti-retroviral therapy.

"We found a differential expression of 32 genes and perturbation of 168 pathways in recent stimulant users, including genes previously associated with the HIV reservoir, immune activation, and inflammation," says Carrico. "Anti-retroviral therapy is often successful in suppressing HIV in the blood, however, the virus typically remains in reservoirs, such as the lymph nodes and inside some immune cells."

Carrico believes these findings could be helpful in finding a cure for the virus. “Maybe these pathways can help us to understand how we can ‘wake up’ the virus and pull it out of hiding; some of these pathways could become targets for potential biomedical treatments targeting the HIV reservoir,” he says.

"We are now testing behavioral interventions in San Francisco and Miami that are designed to reduce stimulant use in people living with HIV," Carrico says. "Hopefully, decreasing the use of stimulants like methamphetamine will allow for better control of the HIV viral load and could even directly improve the immune system."

For further information, check out this press release about the study:  https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2018-05/uomm-urf050418.php