Last call: Get involved in planning HIV prevention and care in Pennsylvania

The HIV Planning Group (HPG) is a group of volunteers who offer a range of HIV-related experience from around the state. There primary function is to develop the multi-year Comprehensive HIV Care Service Plan. The 5-year Plan provides guidance to the Department of Health, and other organizations in the state, in addressing HIV disease in the state. It covers a range of topics regarding prevention, testing, access to care, quality treatment, and helping people stay in care. You can access a pdf of the 2017-2021 plan here.

In addition, HPG members review the Department of Health’s applications for funding from The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Heath Resources and Services Administration (HRSA). They also provide input and recommendations to the Division of HIV/AIDS on other care and prevention related issues.

Applications for HPG membership can be found at StopHIV.com.

HPCP flyer

Intervention Groups May Help Lower HIV Risk Among Gay, Bisexual Youth

From the Pharmacy Times

Research published in AIDS and Behavior show that parents in an intervention group with gay or bisexual sons can employ effective communication tactics, specifically about condoms and HIV, and other parenting behaviors to help keep their children healthy.

The study is the first to show evidence of positive effects in a randomized controlled trial with the parents of gay or bisexual sons, according to the authors. They added that these results are important because approximately 80% of all HIV infections among teens are from the gay and bisexual population. There were very few previous public health interventions seeking to lower the HIV risk among this group, according to the study.

“By focusing on the parents, this study shows we might be able to reduce HIV risk among gay and bisexual male youth,” said David Huebner, professor of Prevention and Community Health at the Milken Institute School of Public Health at the George Washington University, in a press release. “Parents represent an untapped yet promising resource in preventing HIV infection and improving sexual health among this underserved population.”

Read the full article.

Pennsylvania governor signs law punishing HIV transmission with up to 10 years in prison

From LGBTQ Nation

Pennsylvania’s Gov. Tom Wolf (D) just signed a new law that makes it a felony to pass on a communicable disease when they “should have known” that they had it, the HIV Justice Network reported.

Opponents of the law worry it will be used to punish people with HIV or other STDs who unknowingly transmit it to sexual partners. Such HIV criminalization laws have disproportionately been used to target Black men and other men of color.

The law, known as HB 103, punishes people with up to 7 years in prison and $15,000 in fines for “expelling” saliva, blood, or another bodily fluid onto a police officer.

a man behind bars in prison

“As a person living with HIV who was born and raised in Pennsylvania, the passing of HB 103 serves as a reminder that as we get closer to ending the HIV epidemic, we have a long way to go to end HIV stigma and the criminalization of people living with HIV,” said Louie Ortiz-Fonseca, Director of LGBTQ Health & Rights with Advocates for Youth.

Read the full article.

 

Health Alert: If you’re sexually active, get a full screening for sexually transmitted infections

The CDC is reporting the number of new sexually transmitted infections continues to go up, with the highest number of STIs in the U.S. ever.

The newly released CDC 2020 STD Surveillance Report found that at the end of 2020:

  • Reported cases of gonorrhea and primary & secondary (P&S) syphilis were up 10% and 7%, respectively, compared to 2019.
  • Syphilis among newborns (i.e., congenital syphilis) also increased, with reported cases up nearly 15% from 2019, and 235% from 2016Early data indicate primary and secondary syphilis and congenital syphilis cases continued to increase in 2021 as well.

As a result, the CDC is recommending that anyone who is sexually active get a full screening for STIs. To find local testing clinics near you, go to https://gettested.cdc.gov/. Most clinics are free.

To find out how to prevent STIs, you can go to the CDC website at https://www.cdc.gov/std/prevention/default.htm.

Dr. Anthony Silvestre led the way on Pitt Men’s Study and AIDS Task Force

From the University Times

Anthony “Tony” Silvestre, whose work with the LGBT community was far ahead of its time and made the pioneering Pitt Men’s Study possible, died Sept. 1, 2022 at 75.

Doctor Silvestre on the cover of Out Magazine
Dr. Silvestre on the cover of Pittsburgh’s Out Magazine in May 1984

[…] His international advocacy and public health work began at Penn State (1971-76), continued with several Philadelphia organizations (1976-83) and brought him to Pitt in early 1984 until his retirement in 2018.

In 1976, he was the founding chairman of the Pennsylvania Governor’s Council on Sexual Minorities, likely the first such state organization in the country. He was U.S. liaison to the World Health Organization (1990-93) and a subject matter expert on HIV for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2002.

Through the years, he served on many expert and advisory panels for the Pennsylvania Department of Health and the Allegheny County Department of Health on HIV, alcohol and substance use among gender and sexual minorities, community marginalization and health education and outreach.

But he is perhaps best known in Pittsburgh for his role in forming and running the Pittsburgh AIDS Task Force (now Allies for Health and Wellbeing) in its early years. In the process, he supported more than a dozen other state and community groups promoting LGBTQIA-related and HIV-related health messaging for at-risk communities.

In conjunction with his research and teaching in the Department of Infectious Diseases and Microbiology, he founded the Pennsylvania Prevention Project (now the HIV Prevention and Care Project) there in 1993 to advance comprehensive HIV planning with impacted communities. He also helped create and direct the School of Public Health’s Center for LGBT Research, and was honored by Pitt with the Chancellor’s Distinguished Service Award.

He published more than 45 peer-reviewed articles, proceedings and book chapters, and created many state and federal professional reports and presentations as well, much of which can be found at Dickinson College.

Read the full article.

Doctors Haven’t Seen So Many Cases of This STD in 72 Years

From hivplugmag.com

Syphilis bottomed out in the U.S. in the late 1990s, with the CDC hoping to fully eradicate the disease. Only years later, syphilis rates would start rising; by 2021, more than 52,000 cases were reported.

Many factors could be at play, but officials believe the COVID pandemic is mostly at fault. Testing and treatment took a backseat during the worst days of the crisis in 2020, while many people now feel sexually unshackled with COVID vaccines available, lockdowns over, and mask mandates lifted. Some health officials are calling for public messaging about condoms. Monkeypox, which exploded this year and last, is also complicating efforts and eating up health funding from the government.

The CDC’s Leandro Mena, who made the announcement about STDs at a Monday speech, is calling for swift action. One of his ideas is widely available home-test kits for STDs, akin to the COVID tests common today. Mena also called for battling stigma — ostensibly through public relations, marketing, or public service announcements — and increased testing and treatment.

Read the full article. Find out more about the rise of STDs on the CDC Website. To find local STD testing, go to https://gettested.cdc.gov

Living with HIV and limited mobility

From POZ online

[…] An analysis of national 2017 data found that 45% of people living with HIV report some form of disability—and that mobility disabilities were the most common. Fully one in four people reported them. And that’s among all adults living with HIV. At middle age, men with HIV walked more slowly, and continued to decline faster, than their HIV-negative peers.

woman in wheel chair looking out from a large window

By their 50s, Black men living with HIV were nearly three times likelier than white folks with the virus to have a mobility disability. These racial disparities were seen only in people living with HIV, not among the HIV-negative population. And the proportion of people with mobility disabilities rose significantly as people reached 65 or older. For women living with HIV, mobility was lower than it was for men with the virus.

Slow walking, limited movement and difficulty standing from a sitting position are three of the criteria required for a diagnosis of frailty, a condition of aging that can make it harder for people to recover from episodic illnesses. The good news is that mobility aids can keep people moving, which is associated with better overall health as one ages.

Read the full article at poz.com.

Successes and challenges for people diagnosed with HIV

From POZ online

[…] The proportion of older people living with HIV has been increasing, and 55% of people included in this survey were over age 50. People ages 40 to 49 accounted for 19% of respondents, those ages 30 to 39 for 18% and those ages 18 to 29 for 8%.

This report confirms that HIV disproportionately affects Black and Latino Americans, underlining the importance of targeted care and outreach for these groups. In this analysis, 42% of people with diagnosed HIV were Black, 29% were white, 24% were Latino and 6% were another race or ethnicity. When accounting for their share of the total population, Black Americans are 3.4 times more likely, and Latinos are 1.3 times more likely, to be diagnosed with HIV.

one in ten experience homelessness. one in six experience food insecurity. four in ten live in households at or below the poverty level.

People with diagnosed HIV were more likely than the population at large to face socioeconomic challenges that can make it more difficult to maintain good health, including poverty, unemployment and homelessness.

Read the full article at poz.com.

Give us your feedback regarding HIV prevention and care in Pennsylvania

If you or someone you love has been affected by HIV, the PA Department of Health and the HIV Prevention and Care Project at the University of Pittsburgh need your input.

The Pennsylvania Department of Health, Division of HIV Disease is seeking input on the planned strategies and activities that will go into the 2022-2027 Integrated HIV Prevention and Care Plan.

This plan guides all activities related to HIV prevention and care in Pennsylvania. Feedback will help the Division of HIV Disease most effectively plan for the ongoing needs of all people served in Pennsylvania.

Go to this link to participate in the survey: https://pitt.co1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_er3ujTdKIIJC2x0
If you have any questions, send and email to stakeholders@stophiv.com.

Universities create special HIV testing initiative to provide free HIV self-test kits to PA residents

According to a 2020 CDC report, out of more than 30,000 new cases of HIV infection in the United States, Black and Latinx populations bear the brunt of being most at risk, accounting for two-thirds (20,000) of the new infections. The reason (the CDC also reports) is due to institutionalized health disparities among those groups. In other words, Black and Latinx people face higher levels of discrimination when seeking health care.

To help address the issue, the HIV Prevention and Care Project at the University of Pittsburgh, in partnership with the Pennsylvania Expanded HIV Testing Initiative at Penn State University created a state-wide program that allows residents of Pennsylvania to obtain a free HIV self-test kit through the mail.

Ora Quick test kit image
The free test kits use an oral swab and you get results in 20 minutes

Knowing your HIV status is the first step in preventing the spread of the virus. People who test positive can obtain treatment that keeps the virus in check, and therefore makes it next to impossible to spread to others.

To obtain a free HIV self-test kit, go to www.getmyHIVtest.com. Taking care of your health is part of taking care of your community.

To find out more about the free HIV test kit program, and find other HIV/STI testing resources, you can go to the HIV Prevention and Care Project Website at https://hivpreventionandcareproject.com/resources/. If you still have questions, send an email to info@getmyHIVtest.com.