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University of Pittsburgh Research Assistant and Technical Writer

World AIDS Day 2021 message from UNAIDS Executive Director Winnie Byanyima

Dear friends, 

Greetings on this World AIDS Day, and my solidarity with all around the world as we confront the impact of colliding pandemics.

This year, the world agreed on a bold plan that, if leaders fulfil it, will end AIDS by 2030. That’s so exciting.

But today we, as the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, issue a stark warning. AIDS remains a pandemic, the red light is flashing and only by moving fast to end the inequalities that drive the pandemic can we overcome it.

UNAIDS Executive Director Winnie Byanyima
UNAIDS Executive Director Winnie Byanyima

Where leaders are acting boldly and together, bringing together cutting-edge science, delivering services that meet all people’s needs, protecting human rights and sustaining adequate financing, AIDS-related deaths and new HIV infections are becoming rare.

But this is only the case in some places and for some people.

Without the inequality-fighting approach we need to end AIDS, the world would also struggle to end the COVID-19 pandemic and would remain unprepared for the pandemics of the future. That would be profoundly dangerous for us all.

Progress in AIDS, which was already off track, is now under even greater strain as the COVID-19 crisis continues to rage, disrupting HIV prevention and treatment services, schooling, violence prevention programmes and more.

On our current trajectory, we aren’t bending the curve fast enough and risk an AIDS pandemic lasting decades. We have to move faster on a set of concrete actions agreed by United Nations Member States to address the inequalities that are driving HIV.

Through fighting the AIDS pandemic, we have learned a lot about what we need more of for AIDS and for all pandemics.

We urgently need sufficient community-led and community-based infrastructure as part of a strong public health system, underpinned by robust civil society accountability.

We need policies to ensure fair and affordable access to science.

Every new technology should reach each and everyone who needs it without delay.

We need to protect our health workers and expand their numbers to meet our urgent needs.

We must protect human rights and build trust in health systems.

It is these that will ensure we close the inequality gaps and end AIDS. But they are too often applied unevenly, are underfunded and are underappreciated.

I salute the front-line communities that have pioneered the approaches shown to be most effective, that have driven the momentum for change and that are pushing leaders to be bold. I urge you: keep pushing.

World leaders must work together urgently to tackle these challenges head-on. I urge you: be courageous in matching words with deeds.

There is not a choice to be made between ending the AIDS pandemic that is raging today and preparing for the pandemics of tomorrow. The only successful approach will achieve both. As of now, we are not on track to achieve either.

If we take on the inequalities that hold back progress, we can deliver on the promise to end AIDS by 2030. It is in our hands.

Every minute that passes, we are losing a precious life to AIDS. We don’t have time.

End inequalities. End AIDS. End pandemics.

Thank you.

___

Watch the video below…

Two People With HIV Suppressed Virus After Stopping Treatment

From US News and World Report

In one patient, viral suppression lasted nearly three and a half years, with occasional rebounds in virus counts. The other patient had nearly complete HIV suppression for close to four years, but then had a big surge when he was infected with a different HIV strain, a situation called “superinfection.”

In the first patient, researchers found high levels of HIV-specific immune cells called CD8+ T cells that can kill virus-infected cells.

The second patient had a weaker CD8+ T cell response against HIV, but a very strong neutralizing antibody response until the sudden viral rebound.

graphic of H I V cell

Read the full article.

HIV Planning: Be a Part of the Conversation!

Join the Pennsylvania HIV Planning Group

Are you a resident of Pennsylvania who has been impacted by HIV/AIDS? Consider volunteering for the HIV Planning Group (HPG)! The HPG contributes to the development of the HIV Prevention and Care Plan, which implements ongoing activities to reduce HIV and improve the quality of life of people living with HIV.

Hands coming together while holding red, H I V ribbons

You can apply to the HPG at https://tinyurl.com/ApplyHPG . Applications will be accepted until December 10th, 2021.

You can find out more about the HPG at the HIV Prevention and Care Project’s Capacity Building and Planning page.

Tell Me About It: busting myths and celebrating progress

From aidsmap.com

Tell Me About It: HIV Conversations in the Community is a six-part podcast series of honest conversations, sharing accurate and trustworthy information about HIV and sexual and reproductive health in a friendly and open way.

Tell Me About it: Busting myths and celebrating progressIt’s a personal, engaging and honest look at what it really means to live with HIV today, and how that’s changed significantly over the years. Each episode shares developments in prevention and treatment that allow people living with HIV to live long and healthy lives free of fear, and shatters some of the most damaging myths about HIV and its impact on sex, life expectancy, starting a family, staying well, mental health and public attitudes.

It was inspired by the conversations that people living with HIV often find themselves having with those unaware of how HIV has changed in recent years: How did you get it? Aren’t you just a drain on NHS resources? Can I catch it off you? Will you die young?

Hosted by writer, researcher, international performance poet and TEDx speaker Bakita Kasadha, each episode is a conversation between people sharing their experiences of HIV. Most pair a person who is living with HIV and another person who does not have the virus.

Read the full article on aidsmap.com.

What to know about HIV and transgender men

From Medical News Today online…

Most scientific studies relating to HIV and transgender people focus on transgender women — research about HIV and transgender men is limited.

trans man holding trans flag

According to research from 2018, this is because HIV prevalence is thought to be higher among transgender women: approximately 25–31%, compared with 0–3% among transgender men.

Other research, from the University of California San Francisco, suggests that trans MSM have an increased risk of contracting HIV, including those who do sex work.

This research states that in one study, most trans MSM reported not consistently using a condom during receptive anal and frontal sex with non-trans male partners. Participants also reported low rates of HIV testing and a low perception of the risk.

Read the full article.

Study: Combining PrEP with U=U yields incredible results

From HIVplusmag.com

When people use a combination of HIV prevention methods, researchers found there was a significant drop in HIV transmission.

Published in the academic journal HIV Medicine, the study found that using several methods such as taking PrEP, early HIV diagnosis from frequent testing, and proper antiretroviral treatment decreased transmission by 80 percent.

The research was evaluated at 56 Dean Street, which is a sexual health clinic and part of Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust in London.

“We witnessed an 80% reduction in the number of HIV diagnoses between 2012 and 2017, following the introduction of a number of HIV prevention measures (PrEP introduction, early HIV diagnosis through frequent and facilitated access to HIV testing and timely ART used as treatment-as-prevention) were key to the success of this model,” lead author Nicolo Girometti, told Contagion. Girometti is also a consultant in HIV medicine at 56 Dean Street.

Read the full article.

Penn State and Pitt team up to create getmyHIVtest.com—free HIV test kits to anyone who resides in Pennsylvania, with a focus on minority/ethnic communities most at risk.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that some racial/ethnic groups are at higher risk for getting HIV than others.

CDC data shows that Black/African American communities account for a higher proportion of new HIV infections as compared to other races and ethnicities. In 2018, Black/African Americans accounted for 13% of the US population but 42% of new HIV diagnoses.

men smiling with arms around each otherSimilarly, in the same 2018 report, the CDC notes adult and adolescent Hispanics/Latinos made up 27% of the 37,968 new HIV diagnoses in the United States.

Why? Because these communities are impacted by demographic factors such as discrimination, stigma, and institutionalized health disparities—all of which affect their risk for HIV.

So what can we do?

People who know they’re infected can get into treatment and become HIV undetectable—which means the level of virus in the body is so low that it can’t be passed on to a sex partner. And people who know they’re not infected can take steps to prevent future infection by practicing safer sex (like using condoms) and taking the HIV prevention medication known as PrEP.

The first step, then, to preventing HIV is to get tested.

The good news is that anyone who resides in Pennsylvania can now get a free HIV self-test kit delivered in the mail.

Ora Quick test kit In early 2021, the Pennsylvania Expanded HIV Testing Initiative (at Penn State University) and the HIV Prevention and Care Project (at the University of Pittsburgh) began a joint program called getmyHIVtest.com.

“We created getmyHIVtest.com to make test kits available to anyone in the state who might be at risk for HIV,” explains Raymond Yeo, one of the project’s coordinators at the University of Pittsburgh. “Knowing your HIV status is key in the preventing HIV in our communities—especially those most at risk for new infections.”

The website, www.getmyHIVtest.com, provides easy-to-follow instructions and online form where PA residents can order their free kit, which typically arrives—in an unmarked package—within five to ten business days. Recipients of the kit are asked to provide basic demographic information and to take a follow up survey as a means to improve the program in the months ahead.

“This is a big development in the fight against HIV in Pennsylvania and we need all the input we can get,” added Yeo. “It’s unrealistic to think we can test everyone in the state so it’s important that we find ways to get our test kits into the hands of the people who need them the most.”

Questions and comments about the getmyHIVtest.com program can be sent to info@getmyHIVtest.com. To order your HIV self-test kit, go to www.getmyHIVtest.com.

CDC: People who are immunocompromised should get an additional dose of COVID-19 vaccine

From HIV.gov

C D C logoThe Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends people who are moderately to severely immunocompromised get an additional dose of the Moderna or Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine after the initial two doses. Widespread vaccination is a critical tool to help stop the pandemic.

This includes:

  • Recipients of organ or stem cell transplants
  • People with advanced or untreated HIV infection
  • Active recipients of treatment for cancer
  • People who are taking some medications that weaken the immune system
  • And others

HIV.gov spoke with Harold J. Phillips, Director of The White House Office of National AIDS Policy, about what people with HIV need know. “There are three key messages we need to share,” he said:

  • Everyone over 12 years of age, regardless of HIV status, get vaccinated
  • Those with advanced HIV disease and/or not on medications, get a third dose of the vaccine
  • Those in HIV care and treatment who are virally suppressed, talk with your health care provider about the need for an additional dose.

He concluded: “By working together and spreading the word, we can help keep everyone in our HIV community safe and healthy.”

New National Challenge to Reduce HIV-Related Stigma and Disparities

From POZ.com

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has launched The HIV Challenge, a national competition to engage communities to reduce HIV-related stigma and increase prevention and treatment among racial and ethnic minority people. The HIV Challenge is part of a new partnership between the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health (OASH) Office of Infectious Disease and HIV/AIDS Policy (OIDP) and the HHS Office of Minority Health (OMH).

 

Through this challenge, HHS is seeking innovative and effective approaches to increase the use of pre-exposure prophylaxis medication (PrEP) and antiretroviral therapy (ART) among people who are at increased risk for HIV or are people with HIV. The HIV Challenge is open to the public, and HHS will award a total of $760,000 to 15 winners over three phases. Phase 1 submissions are open from July 16, 2021, through September 23, 2021.

“HIV-related stigma is one of the reasons why prevention and treatment options, such as PrEP and ART, are underutilized,” said Assistant Secretary for Health, Rachel L. Levine, M.D. “The latest science shows that people living with HIV who take the proper medicine as prescribed and get and keep their HIV at an undetectable level do not transmit HIV to others.

Read the full article.

NIH Funding Opportunity for Delivering PrEP and STI Services to Stop HIV

From HIV.gov

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has issued a Request for Applications (RFA) for research on effective strategies for expanding the provision of HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) for people at increased risk of HIV by leveraging existing sexually transmitted infection (STI) programs.

N I H logoResearch supported by this initiative should be based on point of care HIV testing for all persons seeking STI services, followed by linkage to available antiretroviral therapy (ART) or PrEP, in addition to STI testing, treatment, and prevention services at designated STI clinical settings. HIV testing, PrEP, and ART should be linked with STI services in settings where they are needed and not currently co-located. Interventions should be included to (i) overcome stigma and discrimination, (ii) provide individualized services to optimize PrEP and ART uptake and retention, (iii) ensure ongoing access to ART, PrEP, and other prevention services, (iv) and provide quality STI services that meet current CDC recommendations (Recommendations for Providing Quality STD Clinical Services).

Find out more.