Category Archives: Health Alerts

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.”

Health Alert: Pennsylvania reports highest rate of syphilis in 20 years

From outbreaknewstoday.com

Pennsylvania state health officials are reporting increased amounts of sexually transmitted infections, in particular syphilis, prompting officials to encourage the public to take steps to decrease their risk.

decretive imagePregnant women should be screened at first and third trimester because of the sharp increase in the number of babies born with the disease in the United States. Nationally, cases of congenital syphilis increased by 185 percent between 2014 and 2018. In 2019, five congenital syphilis cases were reported in the state of Pennsylvania, following seven cases reported in 2018. These reported cases of congenital syphilis in the state represented the highest number of cases in more than 25 years.Early syphilis in Pennsylvania is currently at the highest rate in more than 20 years. Over the last five years, early syphilis reported in women of child-bearing age (women aged 15 to 44) increased 114 percent, from 78 cases in 2015 to 167 cases in 2019.

“Sexually transmitted diseases are serious diseases that impact many Pennsylvanians each year,” Acting Secretary Beam said. “It is essential that all residents are aware of the risks and dangers associated with STDs. Many of these diseases can be easily diagnosed and treated, which is why we encourage all residents to talk to their doctor about getting tested so we can further prevent diseases and keep our residents healthy.”

Read the full article.

People living with HIV can get COVID 19 vaccine now

A message from Rob Ghormoz, Secretary of Intergovernmental Affairs, Office of the Governor…

The Pennsylvania Department of Health today will announce two additional categories of eligible individuals to receive the COVID-19 vaccination as part of Phase 1A. Beginning today, all individuals 65 and older, and individuals ages 16-64 with certain medical conditions, as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that increase the risk of severe illness from the virus, are eligible for the COVID-19 vaccination. The Departments’ Updated Interim Vaccine Plan can be found here.

Those conditions are outlined by the CDC here and include: Cancer; Chronic kidney disease; COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease); Down Syndrome; Heart conditions such as heart failure, coronary artery disease, or cardiomyopathies; Immunocompromised state (weakened immune system) from solid organ transplant, blood or bone marrow transplant, immune deficiencies, HIV, use of corticosteroids, or use of other immune weakening medicines; Obesity; Severe Obesity; Pregnancy; Sickle cell disease; Smoking; and Type 2 diabetes mellitus.

If you are part of a group that is eligible for vaccination, you can use the Pennsylvania Vaccine Provider Map to find a place to schedule your vaccine. Contact the vaccine provider of your choice directly to schedule an appointment. This map will be updated as more locations receive vaccine. Although a provider may have received vaccine, there is no guarantee that they have open appointments as supply is still very limited. Check back frequently as the map will be updated multiple times per week.

How the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting another epidemic among teens: STDs | Expert Opinion

2020 marks the fifth consecutive year of increasing rates of gonorrhea, chlamydia and syphilis in the U.S.

From The Philadelphia Inquirer

While the eyes of the nation are on the coronavirus pandemic, another threat to public health has been steadily growing in the United States. We’ve been battling rising rates of sexually transmitted infections (STI) for the last several years. In fact, 2020 marks the fifth consecutive year of increasing rates of gonorrhea, chlamydia and syphilis in the U.S., due in part to significant funding cuts to more than 50% of the nation’s public health STI programs. And now the COVID-19 pandemic has placed an even greater burden on our strained public health system and supply chains, shifting focus from one major public health issue to another.virus and bacteria images

We can’t risk losing one critical resource that will be essential to ending the STI epidemic — the availability of free and confidential STI testing for adolescents. Prior to the pandemic, national public health efforts were scaling up to improve STI and HIV testing, and quickly link youth to prevention services.  Rapid identification and treatment of STIs not only has public health benefits in terms of lowering transmission, but when left untreated, STIs increase the risk of infertility, severe pelvic infection, chronic pelvic pain, ectopic pregnancy and HIV transmission.

While accounting for 25% of the population, adolescents and young adults comprise over 50% of STIs in the U.S. each year. Black, Latinx, and LGBT youth face the greatest burden of infections and risk of complications. Fortunately, significant advances have been made over the last several decades to improve rates of STI and HIV testing among adolescents and young adults. The American Academy of Pediatrics now recommends HIV screening by the age of 16-18 years for all youth regardless of their sexual activity.

Read the full article.

Health Alert: Rates of new HIV infection still on the rise among specific groups

From the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

In 2018, 37,968 people received an HIV diagnosis in the United States (US) and dependent areas. From 2014 to 2018, HIV diagnoses decreased 7% among adults and adolescents. However, annual diagnoses have increased among some groups.

Gay and bisexual men are the population most affected by HIV, with Black/African American, Hispanic/Latino gay and bi men having the highest rates of new infections.

info graphic showing rates of H I V infection with highest rates of infection in 2018
click no image for enlarged view

The number of new HIV diagnoses was highest among people aged 25 to 34.

info graphic showing age range of new H I V infections
click on image for enlarged view

Source: CDC. Diagnoses of HIV infection in the United States and dependent areas, 2018 (updated)HIV Surveillance Report 2020;31.

Scaling up HIV Prevention Services in STD Specialty Clinics

From HIV.gov

Combined cases of syphilis, gonorrhea, and chlamydia reached an all-time high in the United States in 2018, reaching 2.4 million cases. This marked the fifth consecutive year of sharp increases in STDs. For more than a century, sexually transmitted disease (STD) clinics have provided critical prevention and care for these common infections. Today, data show that STD clinics serve a high volume of racial/ethnic minorities, gay and bisexual men, and transgender people, and that they have become a primary source of both STD and HIV prevention services for people without regular access to healthcare.

national network of STD clinical prevention training centers

As a result, STD clinics will play a vital role in the nation’s ambitious federal initiative Ending the HIV Epidemic: A Plan for America (EHE). However, these clinics are vastly under-resourced. An FY2020 investment from the HHS Minority HIV/AIDS Fund (MHAF) aims to address that by bolstering training and technical assistance (T/TA) efforts so STD specialty clinics can better provide HIV prevention services.

Leveraging the infrastructure and expertise already in place through this dynamic collaborative, the HHS MHAF investment will allow the NNPTCs to provide effective T/TA to enhance and scale up HIV prevention services, like pre-exposure prophylaxis (or PrEP) and post-exposure prophylaxis (or PEP) provision, in STD specialty clinics. Activities could include, for example, providing onsite or distance-based (web or phone) consultations, guidance to conduct clinic assessments, in-person site visits, and resources. These efforts will strengthen the clinical, laboratory infrastructure, and health delivery systems of STD specialty clinics serving a high proportion of racial/ethnic and sexual minorities in EHE jurisdictions.

Read the full article on HIV.gov.

Protect yourself from the Flu: Important info for people with HIV

From HIV.gov

Getting a flu vaccine during 2020-2021 is more important than ever because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. When you get vaccinated, you reduce your risk of getting sick with flu and possibly being hospitalized or dying from flu. This season, getting a flu vaccine has the added benefit of reducing the overall burden on the health care system and saving medical resources for care of COVID-19 patients.

People with HIV—especially those who have a very low CD4 cell count or who are not taking antiretroviral therapy—are at high risk for serious flu-related complications. For this reason, it is especially important that people with HIV get a flu shot annually. (The nasal spray flu vaccine is not recommended for people with HIV.)

In addition to getting a flu shot every year, people with HIV should take the same everyday preventive actions CDC recommends of everyone, including avoiding people who are sick, covering coughs, and washing hands often.

Read the full article on HIV.gov.

Health screening for gay men on PrEP falling behind recommended standards

From aidsmap.com

Levels of sexual health screening among gay men taking PrEP fall well below recommended levels, investigators from the United States report in the online edition of Clinical Infectious Diseases.  Rates of testing for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in the rectum and throat – which can be asymptomatic – were especially low, so too testing coverage in south-eastern US states which have an especially high burden of HIV and STI infections among gay and other men who have sex with men.

“Consistency of STI screening at PrEP care visits was lower than recommended, especially for rectal and pharyngeal infections that are mostly asymptomatic,” write the authors. “Our findings also highlight the regional variation in gaps between recommendations and PrEP clinical practice overall, and raise concerns about whether comprehensive PrEP care as currently practiced would be effective for STI control.”

Tenofovir-based PrEP is highly effective at preventing infection with HIV but the treatment provides no protection against STIs. Pre-existing research shows elevated STI rates among PrEP-using gay men, probably the result of increased surveillance and sexual risk behaviour. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) therefore recommends that gay men taking PrEP should have comprehensive check-ups for bacterial STIs every three to six months. These sexual health screens should include tests for chlamydia, gonorrhoea and syphilis, with swabs or samples taken from the urethra, throat and rectum.

Read the full article.

STD Testing Rates, Service Receipt Among HIV-Positive MSM Remain Low

From the American Journal of Managed Care

The CDC recommends regular testing for bacterial sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) among all sexually active gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men (MSM) because they have a higher risk of infection. Chief among these STDs are gonorrhea, chlamydia, syphilis, and hepatitis C virus (HCV). Those most at risk also should be receiving recommended STD counseling services.

decorative image“Having an STD (like gonorrhea) makes it easier to get HIV or give it to others, so it’s important that you get tested to protect your health and the health of your partner,” states the CDC.

Despite these guidelines, there has been a constant uptick in STDs over the past decade, particularly among HIV-positive MSM, even though they are receiving care for their HIV, according to the authors who investigated the receipt of STD testing and associated services among these individuals and published their results online today in Annals of Internal Medicine.

Read the full article.

Go to https://gettested.cdc.gov/ to find free local testing.

New Interim NIH Guidelines for people living with HIV regarding the COVID-19 pandemic

From the National Institutes of Health and Human Services

New guidelines have been set by the NIH in regards to persons living with HIV. This interim guidance reviews special considerations for persons with HIV and their health care providers in the United States regarding COVID-19. Information and data on COVID-19 are rapidly evolving. This guidance includes general information to consider. People with HIV who have COVID-19 have an excellent prognosis, and they should be clinically managed the same as persons in the general population with COVID-19, including when making medical care triage determinations.

Follow this link to read the new guidelines (https://aidsinfo.nih.gov/guidelines/html/8/covid-19-and-persons-with-hiv–interim-guidance-/0).

This interim guidance was prepared by the following working groups of the Office of AIDS Research Advisory Council:

  • HHS Panel on Antiretroviral Guidelines for Adults and Adolescents
  • HHS Panel on Antiretroviral Therapy and Medical Management of Children Living with HIV
  • HHS Panel on Treatment of Pregnant Women with HIV Infection and Prevention of Perinatal Transmission
  • HHS Panel on Guidelines for the Prevention and Treatment of Opportunistic Infections in Adults and Adolescents with HIV
  • HHS Panel on Opportunistic Infections in HIV-Exposed and HIV-Infected Children