Category Archives: Health Alerts

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.

man visiting doctor

“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.

Why are Hispanic/Latino Men 4 Times More Likely to Get HIV Than White Men?

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, the hope and promise for a healthier tomorrow might feel reminiscent of another virus — one that ravaged the LGBTQ community in the 1980s and beyond. But in the years since HIV transmission was at its height, has HIV/AIDS started to feel like a bygone disease despite a death toll that has soared over 32 million people worldwide? In the United States, it depends on who you ask. And if you’re part of the Latinx community, the answer is complicated.

Toward the end of 2019, The New York Times trumpeted a promising headline: “New York Says End of AIDS Epidemic Is Near.” The optimistic article sourced the Center for Disease Control (CDC)’s 2010-2016 findings, that rates of infection among gay and bisexual men have remained stable, and that, per Governor Andrew Cuomo, New York is on track to end the AIDS epidemic in the state by the end of 2020.

But while most demographics have experienced a trend-setting decrease in infection rates, the CDC noted that for Hispanic/Latino men, “the annual number of HIV infections in 2016, compared with 2010, increased,” and that during those years, the infection rates for this demographic were “4.3 times that for white males.”

With extensive and varied work, healthcare advocates and community leaders are spearheading efforts across the country to tackle HIV prevention and awareness for the Latinx community. But for many, it’s still an uphill battle.

“I will say I’m proud to be there for them,” says Danny Ochoa of his community. A gay man living with HIV, Ochoa is a Prevention Intervention Specialist in the Community Health Department at Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC). A leader in HIV/AIDS prevention, care and advocacy, GMHC’s mission has evolved since its 1982 founding to recognize the importance of inclusion and diversity and has now become a haven for the urban queer Latinx populations. This resource can be just as vital as hospitals and medical centers.

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.

The primary outcome of their study was to determine both deficiencies in bacterial STD testing and what risky behaviors result in these deficiencies among HIV-positive MSM—especially because having an STD increases the risk of transmitting HIV.

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

Second Open Letter on COVID-19 Focuses on Nondiscrimination, Data Collection and Economic Harm for LGBTQ Communities

On April 21, 2020, GLMA, Whitman-Walker Health, the National LGBT Cancer Network, the National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance, the New York Transgender Advocacy Group, and SAGE issued a second open letter to public health officials, healthcare institutions and government leaders on the impact of COVID-19 on LGBTQ communities. The letter, joined by 170 organizations, called for action to protect LGBTQ patients from discrimination and to include sexual orientation and gender identity in data collection efforts related to the pandemic. The letter also called for action to address the economic harm to LGBTQ communities from the pandemic.

To read the full second open letter and list of signatories, click here.

The letter released on April 21 is a follow-up to an open letter signed by more than 150 organizations issued by the six coordinating organizations on March 11, 2020. Information on the first letter is available here.

Important COVID-19 Resources:

Detectable Viral Load Tied to Uptick in Heart Disease Risk in Youth With HIV

From Poz.com

The association between viral load and cardiovascular disease risk has been under-investigated among young people with HIV.

Among young people living with HIV, having a detectable viral load is associated with a slight increase in the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Sitaji Gurung, MD, PhD, MPH, of Hunter College at the City University of New York, presented findings from a study of HIV-positive youth 14 to 26 years old at the 2020 Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections in Boston last month.

The study relied on electronic health records from the Adolescent Medicine Trials Network 154 Cascade Monitoring, which derives its data from clinics across the United States that care for adolescents with HIV.

Read the full article on Poz.com.

Facebook disables some misleading ads on HIV prevention drugs, responding to growing outcry

From the Washington Post

Facebook has quietly started removing some misleading ads about HIV prevention medication, responding to a deluge of activists, health experts and government regulators who said the tech giant had created the conditions for a public-health crisis.

Facebook logoThe ads at issue — purchased by pages affiliated with personal-injury lawyers and seen millions of times — linked drugs designed to stop the spread of HIV with severe bone and kidney damage. Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender advocates long have said such claims are “false,” pointing to multiple studies showing the class of medication, known as PrEP, is safe.

After initially declining to disable the ads, Facebook began on Friday retroactively labeling some of them as rule violations in its archive, limiting their visibility. The company’s third-party fact-checkers concluded the ads were misleading and lacked context, according to a copy of an email sent by those fact-checkers to LGBT groups that was shared with The Washington Post, which first reported on the matter earlier this month.

The change in course at Facebook drew praise from LGBT organizations that had worked since September to stop the spread of HIV misinformation on the social media platform. But many activists said they remain uneasy that it took so long to get Facebook’s attention in the first place — and worried the company’s policy on such ads in the future remains unclear.

“The removal of select ads is a strong first step given the findings of Facebook’s own fact-checking agency and the dozens of organizations that spoke out,” said Sarah Kate Ellis, the leader of GLAAD. She added the “time is now for Facebook to take action on other very similar ads which target at-risk community members with misleading and inaccurate claims about PrEP and HIV prevention.”

Facebook spokeswoman Devon Kearns confirmed that the company had taken action against some of the ads. “After a review, our independent fact-checking partners have determined some of the ads in question mislead people about the effects of Truvada,” she said, referring to the name of the drug. “As a result we have rejected these ads and they can no longer run on Facebook.”

Read the full article.

Health Alert: Get tested for HIV and other Sexually transmitted infections

According to a CDC report, HIV continues to have a disproportionate impact on racial and ethnic minorities, gay and bisexual men, and other men who have sex with men. Yet, 15% of men who are infected with HIV don’t know it.
several images depicting a variety of gay male couples
Also, according to CDC research, cases of gonorrhea, chlamydia and syphilis have risen for the fifth consecutive year.Some STIs (including HIV) can go unnoticed since symptoms can be mistaken for minor health problems like a cold or sore throat. Some may have no symptoms at all. The only way to know for sure if you’re infected is to get tested.
If you send us your zip code, we can help find local testing near you. Most are free. You can also ask us questions about basic sexual health, including PrEP. Send a message to m4mInformation@pitt.eduWe’re here to help

STDs at an all-time high in U.S.

From Healthline.com

New data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show 3 sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are on the rise in the United States — and have been for the past 5 years.

In 2018, the total number of syphilis, gonorrhea, and chlamydia cases reached an all-time high since the organization began tracking the infections back in 1991, according to the report the CDC published Tuesday.

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Over 1.7 million cases of chlamydia were reported last year, a 3 percent increase from 2017.

About 580,000 cases of gonorrhea were reported, which marks a 5 percent increase, along with a 14 percent spike in syphilis.

The rise in STDs has many health experts concerned, as it could have massive implications on public health.

Infertility rates could rise, and the infections could continue to contribute to a range of health issues, including strokes, meningitis, dementia, cardiovascular complications, and neurological conditions.

The mother-to-child transmission of STDs, specifically congenital syphilis, is also worrisome, as it puts the pregnancy at a higher risk for miscarriage, stillbirth, and even lifelong physical and neurological issues.

As the CDC states, it’s time to put a greater focus on the country’s STD epidemic and better manage the spread of these infections.

“You have to have a multifaceted approach to really deal with this problem, and of course they’d like to start with education — people have to understand that safe sex is still very important even in the age of antibiotics and antiretroviral drugs,” Dr. Dean Winslow, an infectious disease physician at Stanford Health Care, told Healthline.

See the full article on Healthline.com.

If you need to find local STD testing locations, go to gettested.cdc.gov.