#HIV

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  

 

PrEP Is Great But There's Something You Should Know

Pretty much everyone can agree in this day and age that the use of Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) is a good thing. 

Studies show that when taken daily PrEP can reduce the risk of HIV infection by 92 percent.

But - yes, there’s a but - PrEP doesn’t take the place of a condom when it comes to being protected from sexually transmitted diseases like Syphilis.

And there’s not much less sexy than syphilis. Symptoms can include a sore on your mouth, rectum or genitals, fatigue, itching, rash and more. And that’s the early stages. Late stage syphilis can lead to serious health issues like blindness, brain damage and harm to organs.

The disease is transmitted through semen, blood, and skin contact with open sores, unprotected anal and vaginal sex, or sharing needles.

This may be information you've seen before. But, according to NBC affiliate KMIR, there is currently a syphilis outbreak among gay men underway in Palm Springs, California. 

The rate of syphilis in Palm Springs is 185 cases per 100,000 people, which is more than 10 times the rate in California overall.

Marcella Herrera-Carpenter, the program coordinator for the Riverside University Health System, told KMIR the county is still sourcing the reason behind the outbreak, but they do know that men who practice sex with men make-up most of the cases. 

And we know there’s a large gay population in Palm Springs.

Dr. Christopher Foltz who works with the Desert AIDS Project says that men who are using PrEP should be doing it in conjunction with condoms.

He also stressed that men who feel they may be at risk should not be afraid to ask their doctors about syphilis and get tested for it.

One more thing you should know: IF you test positive for syphilis your local health department will have to be notified by law. And the health officials there will have to contact you for an interview to confirm that you got treatment for the infection and to ask who you believe may have passed the infection on to you.

I live in Las Vegas and this has happened to a friend of mine. When he got the call, he decided he was a little embarrassed and didn’t want to talk to a stranger about it. After several follow-up calls, the health official showed up at his door asking for the short interview. 

Now this is all an effort to contain the spread of syphilis, but it doesn’t sound like a fun chat to have.

So gentlemen, first and foremost, for very real health reasons, consider how you play - even if you’re on PrEP.

And, if you don’t want a knock on your door asking some pretty personal questions (“Do you know who exposed you to the infection? What is their name? What is their phone number?"), consider how you play - even if you’re on PrEP.

Will New HIV Drug Hong Kong Fight Virus Causing AIDS? Hong Kong Scientist Hope.

Scientist believe they have not only found a better weapon to treat people with AIDS but may have found a way to prevent people contracting HIV int he first place.  University of Hong Kong scientists are working with others have developed a new antibody drug that will help all infected and prevent further infections. 

The drug, named “BiIA-SG”, will be a long term treatment as opposed to the daily treatments people need to take currently. 

Testing the drug on mice showed that mice given the drug before being infected with HIV were protected from the virus for about a week, and when mice were infected with HIV before being treated, 42% were tested and came back as “undetectable” for at least four weeks after just one injection of antibodies.

Related Post: ​Study: Only 20 Percent Of HIV Transmission In China Is From Gay Sex

How does this relate to current options in preventing HIV/AIDS?

There is also Truvada, a pill that can prevent infection. It is a pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, that if taken daily, can lower the chances of getting HIV from sex by over 90 per cent and from injecting drugs by over 70 per cent, according to the US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention. 

In Hong Kong, the drug is offered through private clinics at a price of about HK$8,000 to HK$10,000 for one month’s supply, according to Aids Concern, an NGO.  - South China Morning Post

What is the next step in testing? They will need to wait for clearance to test on larger animals than mice, but the hope is to extend the effectiveness of the drug from a week to "weeks or even months.” 

The tests found that the drug was effective against 124 strains of HIV, including those that are commonly found in infected people from Hong Kong and mainland China.

According to government figures, 9,091 people in Hong Kong were diagnosed with HIV between 1984 – when the first case was reported – and last year. About 681 new cases were reported to the Centre for Health Protection last year. The cost of antiretroviral drugs for those in the city infected with the virus comes up to over HK$550 million a year, according to a press release issued by HKU on Thursday. - South China Morning Post

We hope their work is true and correct. 

 

h/t: www.scmp.com

What Does Conchita Wurst 'Coming Out' as HIV+ Mean in 2018?

Coming out can be one of the more stressful things in our lives to do.  Hey mom, dad, I'm one of the alphabet soup people... TQGQLIBA.   But some of us have to come out for a second time, but we are regulated to just three letters, HIV.

Last week, Conchita Wurst felt she needed to come out for a second time before someone else went public about her HIV status.  I wanted to share the Austrian drag queen's story and why she felt she was forced to reveal her HIV status.  She shared it was all because an ex-boyfriend threatened to tell all.

 

 

heute ist der tag gekommen, mich für den rest meines lebens von einem damoklesschwert zu befreien: ich bin seit vielen jahren hiv-positiv. das ist für die öffentlichkeit eigentlich irrelevant, aber ein ex-freund droht mir, mit dieser privaten information an die öffentlichkeit zu gehen, und ich gebe auch in zukunft niemandem das recht, mir angst zu machen und mein leben derart zu beeinflussen. seit ich die diagnose erhalten habe, bin ich in medizinischer behandlung, und seit vielen jahren unterbrechungsfrei unter der nachweisgrenze, damit also nicht in der lage, den virus weiter zu geben. ich wollte aus mehreren gründen bisher nicht damit an die öffentlichkeit gehen, nur zwei davon will ich hier nennen: der wichtigste war mir meine familie, die seit dem ersten tag bescheid weiss und mich bedingungslos unterstützt hat. ihnen hätte ich die aufmerksamkeit für den hiv-status ihres sohnes, enkels und bruders gerne erspart. genauso wissen meine freunde seit geraumer zeit bescheid und gehen in einer unbefangenheit damit um, die ich jeder und jedem betroffenen wünschen würde. zweitens ist es eine information, die meiner meinung nach hauptsächlich für diejenigen menschen von relevanz ist, mit denen sexueller kontakt infrage kommt. coming out ist besser als von dritten geoutet zu werden. ich hoffe, mut zu machen und einen weiteren schritt zu setzen gegen die stigmatisierung von menschen, die sich durch ihr eigenes verhalten oder aber unverschuldet mit hiv infiziert haben. an meine fans: die information über meinen hiv-status mag neu für euch sein – mein status ist es nicht! es geht mir gesundheitlich gut, und ich bin stärker, motivierter und befreiter denn je. danke für eure unterstützung!

A post shared by conchita (@conchitawurst) on

 

The Google translation of her post in German reads:

Today is the day to free me from the sword of Damocles for the rest of my life:
 
I have been hiv-positive for many years. this is actually irrelevant to the public, but an ex-boyfriend threatens me to go public with this private information, and I will not give anyone the right to frighten me and influence my life in the future.
Since I received the diagnosis, I am in medical treatment, and for many years without interruption under the detection limit, so that so not able to pass on the virus.
I did not want to go public with it for several reasons so far, I just want to mention two of them here: the most important one was my family, which has known and supported me unconditionally since day one. I would have gladly spared you the attention of the hiv status of your son, grandson and brother. Likewise, my friends have been aware of this for quite some time and are dealing with it in an unbiased way that I would wish to everyone and everyone concerned.
Secondly, it is an information that I believe is mainly relevant to those people with whom sexual contact is an option.

coming out is better than being outed by third. I hope to build up courage and take another step against the stigmatization of people who have become infected by hiv, either through their own behavior or through no fault of their own.

to my fans: the information about my hiv status may be new to you - my status is not! I'm well and well, and I'm stronger, more motivated and liberated than ever. Thank you for your support!

The 2014 Eurovision is not a newbie when it comes to being in the spotlight but she also seems like someone that is in control of her destiny.  She stated I “will not give anyone the right to frighten me or affect my life.” 

We all need to claim power over our own lives and not give it away to anyone or let anyone try to steer us down the wrong path.

Wurst further explained that she hoped her decision to go public helped “lessen the stigmatization of people who have become infected with HIV.”

One of my good friends just recently wanted to talk about coming out as gay to his family and then his coming out as HIV+.  He said that the second time he came out to his family was so much more emotional, worse, difficult.  Being gay, well, he knew he was not wrong with that, but being HIV+, he felt that he let his family down, that he did something wrong, that he was ashamed. It was a powerful conversation, but it was more so just me listening and thinking how hard it must have been compared to the "I'm GAY" speech.  He knows now that he does not have or hold onto any personal shame about being HIV+, but back when he came out, actually for both times, the world was quite different.

And it is people, well-known individuals like Conchita that with her actions, she is removing yet another layer of that stigma some people feel regarding AIDS/HIV.

No matter which three letters G-A-Y or H-I-V, we should not drop our heads.  No matter what LBTQQIAA label or category or none of the above, we need to retain our own power.

Thank you Conchita for being a powerful human being and showing us that we are in charge of our lives, we have the power over our own lives, and we have the power over HIV.


Have you had to come out twice?  Once for your sexuality and once involving your status?

Which one was more difficult?

We do have straight readers as well.  Have you as a straight person had to come out because of your HIV status?  What was that experience like?


h/t:  dnamagazine.com

Man Who Purposefully Spread HIV Sentenced To Life In Prison

The man who purposefully spread HIV is going to prison for life.

A British man named Darryl Rowe had been found guilty of five counts of Grievous bodily harm and five counts of attempted GBH. He infected at least five people and tried to infect at least ten within the time frame of October 2015 and January 2016. 

As if purposefully infecting gay men wasn’t enough, Rowe took pleasure in terrorizing them after the fact.

One victim alleged that Rowe sent crude and cruel text messages to him after they had sex like, “Maybe you have the fever cos I came inside you and I have HIV, lol. Whoops!”

When Rowe was convicted as guilty, many people celebrated.

The Chief Exectuive of the National AIDs Trust said:

“People living with HIV should not be avoided, feared or discriminated against, even when it comes to sex and dating.”

“Well over 100,000 people are living with HIV in the UK, and the vast majority of them cannot pass on the virus to others due to effective medication – this is something most people don’t realize, unfortunately.”

“The Rowe case is the first of its kind in the UK, and is an exceptionally rare thing to encounter. To intentionally transmit HIV is a deplorable crime, one could only commit by avoiding one’s own crucial treatment. Our thoughts are with the victims in this case.”

Also, Detective Inspector Andy Wolstenholme said:

“It will bring some closure to the victims who have been very strong and supportive through the investigation.”

He added: “The victims have demonstrated real strength of character in speaking out about this, and because of this strength and the hard work of the detectives, staff and partners working on the case, a dangerous man, who betrayed the trust of many men, will now be imprisoned.”

h/t: GayStarNews

A Little Respect: Recognizing the Contributions of the Undetectable Community

HIV criminalization laws in the United States are outdated and archaic.  In 33 states, an HIV positive individual could be prosecuted and convicted of a felony for having unprotected sex with a partner if they do not disclose their status.  Even if undetectable and adhering to their treatment regimen the courts rarely require proof of intent to transmit HIV to another person.  HIV positive individuals are treated like criminals and their voices are rarely given credence. Hundreds of Americans were prosecuted last year under these laws.  In most cases, disclosure cannot be proven either way. It is a tale of ‘he said, she said’; more accurately, ‘he said, he said’. Just an accusation is enough to charge anyone who is HIV positive.  Simply put, it is a witch hunt.

Engaging in bareback sex is an act of personal responsibility.  Sole culpability should not be placed on an HIV positive partner.  Condomless sex is a choice made by all sex partners and each should be fully aware of their own sexual health risks.  One cannot assume they are negative for HIV if not regularly tested and practicing treatment as prevention. Placing blind trust in anyone who claims to be negative is a poor decision that substantially increases the risk of acquiring HIV.  It is a decision based on personal choice and no partner can take full responsibility.  Have lawmakers forgotten that HIV isn’t the only sexually transmitted infection?  Are we ignoring the fact that HPV, syphilis, hepatitis A, B, and C, meningitis, chlamydia, and gonorrhea are all transmitted in the same manner?  HIV criminalization laws are an injustice to all positive individuals and perpetuate the stigma of HIV automatically equating sexual predatory intent.  Take into consideration that situations involving drugs or alcohol only go to further show the importance of shared responsibility.

An unsettling trend within the LGBT community has began to emerge; the shaming of those who are openly HIV positive, but undetectable.  The CDC (Centers for Disease Control) recently confirmed, through years of study, that those who have an undetectable viral load are incapable of passing the virus, even through unprotected sex.  Undetectable equals untransmittable. Condom only advocacy has been pitted against PrEP; treatment as prevention, leaving undetectable individuals in the crossfire. 1 out of every 10 HIV positive individuals are not aware of their status and are responsible for 90 percent of new infections.  Creating needless and distracting controversy, within the community, over the insinuation that undetectable presents the risk is lazy advocacy and needs to stop. Painting PrEP users as promiscuous party boys is a sad and shameful reflection on the community.

Those on PrEP, and stick to the strict regimen of use, are leading the charge when it comes to lowering HIV transmission rates in the United States and they deserve credit.  From this point on; attention should focus on getting more individuals tested, providing accessible care, and encouraging others to look into treatment as prevention. Condom use is a crucial safe sex practice and should continue to be encouraged and promoted.  It cannot be the lone method. Victimizing those who are undetectable and bullying PrEP users is never justifiable forms of advocacy.

There is this wild assumption that all an HIV positive person has to do is take a pill and they instantly become undetectable.  The misconception is that once on antiretroviral medication the fight against HIV is over and lives are free of struggle. These beliefs could not be further from the truth.  Of those diagnosed positive in the United States, only around 40 percent have access to life saving medications and treatment. Battling insurance companies, stigmas, and issues like workplace discrimination can all impare treatment and adherence.  It’s bittersweet to come to the realization that not only is the undetectable community saving their own lives, but they are saving the lives of others as well. Their daily fight to remain undetectable prevents an epidemic from becoming an apocalypse.  They deserve compassion and respect for their unsung service to the health of all LGBT.

 

Grindr is sharing your HIV Status as well as other personal info!

According to extrapolated data from a research analysis, it has been revealed that Grindr is sharing your HIV status (among other sensitive data) with two other independent companies. This news has been independently verified by BuzzFeed News and confirmed by cybersecurity experts who analyzed data captured by the Norwegian nonprofit SINTEF.  

Apptimize and Localyptics, the two companies in question, seek to help other mobile companies including Grindr optimize their apps. It’s been confirmed they receive private and personal information from Grindr profiles such as HIV statuses, “last tested dates,” and more.

According to Antoine Pultier, a researcher at SINTEF, the nonprofit that first identified the data breach, specific users and their HIV status could be identified because HIV information is sent together with other user data such as GPS location, phone ID, and email. Pultier specified that the HIV data on Grindr is linked with other information and it may be due to incompetence from some developers that happened to send along all information including private and personal data.

The app, which offers free ads for HIV-testing sites and debuted an optional feature that would remind users to get tested every few months, is now being called into question for how seriously it takes its users data.

SINTEF’s analysis also showed that Grindr was sharing additional user information like their precise GPS position, “Tribe” (meaning what gay subculture they identify with), sexuality, relationship status, ethnicity, and phone ID to other data collectors and advertising agencies. Some of which was sometimes shared via “plain text,” which can be easily hacked from outside sources.

“It allows anybody who is running the network or who can monitor the network – such as a hacker or a criminal with a little bit of tech knowledge, or your ISP or your government – to see what your location is,” Cooper Quintin, a senior staff technologist and security researcher at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, told BuzzFeed News.

“When you combine this with an app like Grindr that is primarily aimed at people who may be at risk – especially depending on the country they live in or depending on how homophobic the local populace is – this is an especially bad practice that can put their user safety at risk,” Quintin added.

Under the app’s HIV status category, users can select from a variety of statuses, which include whether the user is positive, positive and on HIV treatment, negative or negative and on PrEP. The app also links to a sexual health FAQ about HIV and how to get PrEP in your local area.  

Following the disclosure of HIV status, questions are now being raised about Grindr’s privacy policy, which states:

“You may also have the option to provide information concerning health characteristics, such as your HIV status, or Last Tested Date. Remember that if you choose to include information in your profile, and make your profile public, that information will also become public.”

However, despite this, the average person may not comprehend or fully consider what they’ve agreed to when signing up. A few experts are now arguing that Grindr should be more specific in its user agreements about how its using their data.

“What the law regards as informed consent is in almost all instances uninformed consent,” Ben Wizner, director of the ACLU Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project, told BuzzFeed News. “I hope that one small silver lining here will be that users and citizens will realize that there are enormous loopholes in the privacy regime and that personal information is bought and sold freely on a global market.”

 

h/t: BuzzFeed

Are there more risks to PrEP we don't know about?

A man in King County, Washington has been diagnosed HIV after having been on PrEP (Truvada) for months prior to his positive test. An extremely rare case in individuals who take Truvada for prevention, the drug has proven to be resistant to the infection.

PrEP can lower risk of HIV transmission by 90%, if taken properly—although this is skewed with numbers as low as 86% and as high as 99%. Needless to say, like many drugs, it is not 100% effective.

According to Outbreak News Today, Matthew Golden, MD, who is Director of Public Health’s STD/HIV program said the patient likely became HIV infected while taking PrEP.

This is the fourth incident in which patients on PrEP have been diagnosed with HIV.

While it was reported that approximately 136,000 Americans were taking Truvada as of 2017, this number falls short of the CDC’s recommendation for 1.2 million gay and bisexual men (1 out of 4) to be on PrEP.

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