Category Archives: Prevention

Sex and COVID-19

It may seem obvious that if a person is infected with COVID-19, they risk infecting others during sex. But people still have a lot of questions. Here’s an excerpt on the topic form the Mayo Clinic Website:

The virus spreads by respiratory droplets released when someone with the virus coughs, sneezes or talks. These droplets can be inhaled or land in the mouth or nose of a person nearby. Coming into contact with a person’s spit through kissing or other sexual activities could expose you to the virus. People who have COVID-19 could also spread respiratory droplets onto their skin and personal belongings. A sexual partner could get the virus by touching these surfaces and then touching his or her mouth, nose or eyes. In addition, the COVID-19 virus can spread through contact with feces. It’s possible that you could get the COVID-19 virus from sexual activities that expose you to fecal matter.

There is currently no evidence that the COVID-19 virus is transmitted through semen or vaginal fluids, but the virus has been detected in the semen of people who have or are recovering from the virus. Further research is needed to determine if the COVID-19 virus could be transmitted sexually.

Since some people who have COVID-19 show no symptoms, it’s important to keep distance between yourself and others if the COVID-19 virus is spreading in your community. This includes avoiding sexual contact with anybody who doesn’t live with you. If you or your partner isn’t feeling well or think you might have COVID-19, don’t kiss or have sex with each other until you’re both feeling better. Also, if you or your partner is at higher risk of serious illness with COVID-19 due to an existing chronic condition, you might want to avoid sex.

In case that wasn’t clear, The National Coalition of STD Directors (NCSD), in partnership with National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors (NASTAD), released a frequently asked questions resource regarding sex and COVID-19. In short, if you’re in the same room with someone who has the virus, you can get infected–sex or no sex.

If you have questions about getting tested, talk to your doctor or health care provider. You can also find testing in your area via a Google search. In Pennsylvania, call the Health Department at 1-877-PA-HEALTH (1-877-724-3258).

LGBT-friendly primary care improves STD screening rates

From medicalxpress.com

Bruce W. Furness, M.D., M.P.H., from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, and colleagues developed and evaluated a quality improvement initiative (Transforming Primary Care for LGBT People) to enhance the capacity of 10 federally qualified health centers (FQHCs; 123 clinical sites in nine states) to provide culturally affirming care.

The researchers found that FQHCs reported increases in culturally affirming practices, including collecting patient pronoun information (42.9 percent increase) and identifying LGBT patient liaisons (300.0 percent increase). Based on  and  (SOGI) from  among nine FQHCs, SOGI documentation increased from 13.5 to 50.8 percent of patients. Screening of LGBT patients increased from 22.3 to 34.6 percent for syphilis, from 25.3 to 44.1 percent for chlamydia and gonorrhea, and from 14.8 to 30.5 percent for HIV among the eight FQHCs reporting the number of LGBT patients.

“FQHCs participating in this initiative reported improved capacity to provide culturally affirming care and targeted screening for LGBT patients,” the authors write.

Read the full article on Medicalxpress.com.

Alternative PrEP injection, dosed every other month, beats daily PrEP pill

From thebodypro.com

Taken every 2 months, the long-acting injectable drug cabotegravir (CAB-LA) prevented more HIV infections than daily oral pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) with tenofovir/emtricitabine (TDF/FTC), according to newly announced results from a major Phase 3 study. The results were released originally in May due to the overwhelmingly positive data on CAB-LA for PrEP, but researchers presented their final data in early July at the 23rd International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2020).

The data show that the experimental drug is superior to the current standard-of-care PrEP regien, which may open the door for a new biomedical HIV prevention option aimed at those who would prefer a shot six times a year over taking a daily pill.

“The HPTN 083 results demonstrating the superiority of CAB to TDF/FTC have the potential to transform the landscape of HIV prevention for cisgender MSM and transgender women,” said HPTN 083 protocol chair Raphael J. Landovitz, M.D. “We know that some people have difficulty with or prefer not to take pills, and an injectable product such as long-acting CAB [cabotegravir] could be a very important option for them. We want to thank the study participants and research staff, as this study would not have been possible without their dedication and commitment.”

Read the full article.

STD rates likely skyrocketing in US as fewer people get tested during pandemic

From businessinsider.com

As clinics and health departments across the country have shuttered during the coronavirus pandemic, the nation’s roughly 2,200 disease detectives, the so-called “contact tracers” of infectious disease outbreaks, have been re-deployed to track where cases of COVID-19 — the disease caused by the novel coronavirus — are spreading, to try to stop those outbreaks in their tracks. It’s a necessary shift, but one that may have serious, long-term impacts for the country’s sexual health, and for President Trump’s year-and-a-half-old plan to “eliminate” HIV from the US by 2030.

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[…] According to a recent NCSD survey of HIV and STD disease tracers around the country, 83% are forgoing their usual field visits as a result of this pandemic. Two-thirds of the country’s clinics (66%) have also reported decreases in health screenings and testing due to COVID-19.

Read the article.

PrEP During COVID-19

From HIV.gov

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) understands that its partners in HIV prevention are facing unprecedented challenges and demands as we continue to battle the COVID-19 pandemic together.

While some clinics and HIV prevention providers have adapted to changing circumstances by offering expanded phone triage and telehealth services, other clinics that provide pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) services have had to reduce hours, eliminate or reallocate staff resources, or temporarily close.

CDC has developed guidance for providing PrEP when facility-based services and in-person patient-clinician contact is limited. For programs experiencing disruption in PrEP clinical services, CDC offers the following guidance for clinics to consider in the context of local resources and staff availability.

Continue reading

Jurisdictions Use HIV Self-Testing Programs to Improve Testing Uptake and Increase Diagnoses

From HIV.gov

More than 160,000 Americans with HIV are unaware they have the virus because they have not been tested and diagnosed. Yet we know that early diagnosis and treatment with ART are associated with better health outcomes for those with HIV. There are profound prevention benefits as well—a CDC analysis found that the nearly 15% of people with HIV whose infections are undiagnosed account for 38% of all HIV transmissions in the U.S. By finding ways to help more people get tested, we can prolong lives and prevent further transmissions.

That’s why HIV testing is a key strategy in Ending the HIV Epidemic: A Plan for America (EHE), the nation’s plan to reduce new HIV infections in the U.S. by 75% by 2025 and by 90% by 2030. The first of the Plan’s four strategies calls for diagnosing all people with HIV as early as possible after infection so they can begin care and treatment that can protect their health and prevent transmission of the virus to their partners.

Stakeholders across the country are exploring innovative ways to pursue this EHE strategy and seeking to make HIV testing more available to previously unreached populations, such as those who live far from the nearest testing site or who are concerned about confidentiality. One innovative model includes HIV self-testing programs, sometimes called “home HIV test giveaways.” These are programs in which city or state health departments advertise free self-test kits via the internet and/or dating apps, and distribute the kits by mail so that users can perform their own HIV tests in private.

Continue reading on HIV.gov.

Pandemic sparks concerns about surging STD, HIV rates

From the Hill

The pandemic that has upended life in the U.S. could lead to increased STD rates and setbacks in the fight against HIV as public health resources are shifted to the coronavirus response.

Access to STD and HIV testing and treatment services are dwindling as local health departments shuffle staff to respond to COVID-19 and clinics reduce hours or close altogether and cancel outreach programs.

“We are seeing a complete disruption to STD prevention here in the United States,” said David Harvey, executive director of the National Coalition of STD Directors (NCSD). “We expect to experience even higher STD rates as a result.”

Read the full article.

HHS Collaborates with National Pharmacies to Expand PrEP Access

From HIV.gov

Beginning April 1, 2020, patients enrolled in the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) Ready, Set, PrEP program will fill their prescription for pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) medication at no cost at their choice of Avita Pharmacy , CVS Health , Health Mart , Longs Pharmacy Solutions , Rite Aid , and Walgreens  locations or through mail.

ready set PrEP logoReady, Set, PrEP is a nationwide program led by HHS and an essential component of the Ending the HIV Epidemic Initiative. Ready, Set, PrEP provides PrEP medications to individuals who qualify, increasing access to PrEP medications, reducing new HIV infections, and bringing us one step closer to ending the HIV epidemic in the United States.

Recognizing the importance of expanded access to HIV PrEP medications, these pharmacies are donating their dispensing and mailing services at over 24,500 pharmacy locations nationwide. This represents about a third of all the pharmacies in the United States, with locations in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The donation provides a valuable service to those using PrEP and results in substantial cost savings to the federal government.

Read the full article.

National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day in Pennsylvania: ‘We’re making progress but…’

From the Pennsylvania Capital-Star

Black people make up 12 percent of Pennsylvania’s population of about 12.8 million people. But they accounted for 49 percent of HIV diagnoses in 2018 — and to Rep. Brian Sims that’s “racist as hell.”
“A racist system produces a racist result. You don’t need to look at the data to know that,” Sims, D-Philadelphia, said Wednesday, adding, “If medicine only reaches people who look like me, in a state that doesn’t look like me, we’re doing something wrong.”

Jeannine Peterson, CEO of Harrisburg’s Hamilton Health Center, speaks during a Capitol press conference on Wednesday, 2/5/2019 (Capital-Star photo by John L. Micek)

Sims, one of two openly gay House members, was one of several lawmakers and public health advocates who were on hand during a Capitol press conference Wednesday for the 21st annual observation of National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day in Pennsylvania.

Read the full article.

Prevention Point Pittsburgh providing needle exchange for 25 years

Prevention Point provides sterile syringes and other supplies to reduce spread of HIV and Hepatitis C.

Prevention Point logoPrevention Point Pittsburgh was founded in 1995 when James Crow and Caroline Acker, along with a handful of dedicated volunteers, began providing needle exchange services once a week in the Hill District to prevent the spread of injection-related blood-borne disease. In April 2002, PPP established a county-authorized needle exchange site in Oakland. Since that time, over 7,000 injection drug users have enrolled in our program for critical prevention services. PPP’s services are authorized by the Allegheny County Board of Health and The Allegheny County Council.

In addition to needle exchange services, PPP provides comprehensive case management services, assistance to drug treatment, individualized risk reduction counseling, health education, condom and bleach distribution, overdose prevention training with naloxone, and free HIV, Hepatitis C, and syphilis screening in collaboration with the Allies for Health + Wellbeing (formerly the Pittsburgh AIDS Task Force).

Find out more on their Facebook page. You can also open/download a  Needle Exchange Site Map for 2020.