HIV Testing and Diagnoses Drop During COVID-19 Pandemic

HPCP gets a fair amount of comments on our social media platforms about why are there more ads for HIV testing in Pennsylvania. We’ve also been hearing a lot about unscientific, unfounded connections between COVID vaccines and HIV. The *real* connection to the need for more testing and COVID is that people stopped getting tested for HIV during the COVID crisis. Now HPCP is helping to make up for lost ground. As reported by Contagion Live, the pandemic disrupted testing among vulnerable populations (see below). As a result, HPCP, in partnership with Penn State University, is offering free HIV self-test kits to anyone who resides in Pennsylvania, you can find out more and get a FREE HIV self-test kit in the mail at www.getmyHIVtest.com.

From Contagion Live

The COVID-19 pandemic significantly disrupted HIV testing and new diagnoses among vulnerable populations, according to a Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Ora Quick test kit

 

CDC investigators analyzed data from national data collection systems in order to compare the numbers of HIV tests performed and HIV infections diagnosed in the US. in the years prior to (2019) and during (2020) the COVID-19 pandemic. The study authors noted that due to the pandemic, health care systems were disrupted including HIV testing and the redirection of some public health departments from sexual health services towards COVID-19 services.

Read the full article.

Health Alert – Cases of Monkeypox Reported in U.S. 

Cases of monkeypox have been identified in travelers from countries where the disease is considered an endemic. As a result, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a Health Advisory in the United States.

As of June 3rd, 21 cases in the U.S. have been confirmed or suspected, including one case in Pennsylvania. As per the State Department of Health, there is a possibility the disease may spread.

monkey pox virus illastration

Monkeypox symptoms involve a characteristic rash, preceded by a fever, swelling of the lymph nodes, and other non-specific symptoms such as malaise, headache, and muscle aches. In the most recent reported cases, symptoms included lesions in the genital and anal regions. Note that the disease may be confused with more commonly seen infections like syphilis, chancroid, and herpes. The average incubation period for symptom to develop is 5 to 21 days. 

Human-to-human transmission occurs through large respiratory droplets and by bodily fluids (like saliva and semen that can be transmission during sex) or coming in direct contact with a lesion. Respiratory droplets generally cannot travel more than a few feet, so prolonged face-to-face contact (like kissing) is more likely to spread the disease.

There is no specific treatment for monkeypox virus infection. However, the CDC reports that antivirals used to treat smallpox may prove beneficial. Monkeypox is generally mild and patients recover in a few weeks. The mortality rate is less than 1 percent in developed countries. There have been no deaths related to the monkeypox cases in the US so far.

There are FDA approved vaccines available to prevent monkeypox but these are not commercially available but are being made available to close contacts of known cases.

If you think you may be infected, contact your doctor’s office or local hospital first, for instructions. Going into your doctor’s office, or an emergency room, risks spreading the disease.

For more information about monkeypox, you can go to the CDC’s Health Advisory page. (https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/notices/alert/monkeypox) 

Combination Anti-HIV Antibody Infusions Suppress Virus for Sustained Period

From HIV.gov

National Institute of Health and Infectious Diseases logoIndividuals with HIV who began taking antiretroviral therapy (ART) in the early stages of infection achieved a lengthy period of HIV suppression without ART after receiving two broadly neutralizing anti-HIV antibodies (bNAbs), according to a small study published today in the journal Nature . The findings suggest that combination bNAb therapy might offer a future alternative to daily ART for people living with HIV. […]

The purpose of the study was to see if treatment with the bNAbs could suppress HIV in the absence of ART. None of the seven participants who received the bNAb treatment had to restart ART before 28 weeks post-infusion compared to six of the seven participants who received placebo.

Read the full press release on HIV.gov.

May 19th is National Asian & Pacific Islander HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

From HIV.gov

May 19th is National Asian & Pacific Islander HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. This observance, led by the San Francisco Community Health Center, raises awareness of the impact of HIV and AIDS, risk, and stigma surrounding HIV in the Asian Pacific Islander (API) community.

National Asian and Pacific Islander HIV Awareness Day logo

In recent years, annual HIV diagnoses have increased among some in the API community, such as API young adults and men who have sex with men. Knowing your status gives you powerful information so that you can take steps to lower your HIV risk and take charge of your health. Use the HIV Testing Sites & Care Services Locator to find a clinic near you or select from the self-testing options available.
In addition, the CDC Let’s Stop HIV Together campaign offers resources that promote testing and treatment for Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and other Pacific Islanders.

Read the full article on HIV.gov.

Editors note: People who reside in Pennsylvania can get a free HIV self-test kit through the mail. Go to www.getmyHIVtest.com to order yours today.

COVID 19 Impact: Cases of Gonorrhea, syphilis, and Congenital Syphilis Surpass 2019 Levels

From medical.net

Reported cases of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) in the United States decreased during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, but most resurged by the end of that year. Ultimately, reported cases of gonorrhea, syphilis, and congenital syphilis surpassed 2019 levels, while chlamydia declined, according to new data published today by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The data provide the clearest picture yet of COVID-19’s impact on the U.S. STD epidemic.

The newly released 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 2016. Early data indicate primary and secondary syphilis and congenital syphilis cases continued to increase in 2021 as well.
  • Reported cases of chlamydia declined 13% from 2019.

Chlamydia historically accounts for the largest proportion of reported STDs in the United States. The decline in reported chlamydia cases is likely due to decreased STD screening and underdiagnosis during the pandemic, rather than a reduction in new infections. This also contributed to an overall decrease in the number of reported STDs in 2020 (from 2.5 million reported cases in 2019 to 2.4 million in 2020).

Read the full article.

S.T.I.s Are on the Rise, Still

From the New York Times

Rates of many sexually transmitted infections continued to climb during the first year of the pandemic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a statement posted to its website on Tuesday. While overall there were 2.4 million infections recorded in 2020, down from a record high of 2.6 million in 2019, diagnosed cases of certain sexually transmitted diseases surged.

Cases of congenital syphilis, which occurs in newborns who contract the disease from their mothers, reached the highest numbers in 26 years, rising by 235 percent since 2016. Rates of primary and secondary syphilis rose by 7 percent from 2019 to 2020; gonorrhea cases rose by 10 percent in the same time period.

Read the full article on the New York Times Website.

April 10th is National Youth HIV & AIDS Awareness Day

From poz.com

Saturday, April 10, marks National Youth HIV & AIDS Awareness Day (NYHAAD) 2021. Traditionally, it’s a “day to educate the public about the impact of HIV and AIDS on young people,” according to the nonprofit Advocates for Youth, which spearheads NYHAAD.

The group adds, “The day also highlights the  HIV preventiontreatment and care campaigns of young people in the U.S.”

cheering latin and hispanic and african american and caucasian young adults

This year, the HIV awareness day also includes a call to action. Youth advocates want you to help them convince Congress to pass the REPEAL HIV Discrimination Act. “REPEAL” stands for: “Repeal Existing Policies that Encourage and Allow Legal” HIV Discrimination.

The REPEAL HIV Discrimination Act aims to modernize HIV crime laws, such as those that set harsh sentences for people with HIV who allegedly don’t disclose their status before sex—even if they’re undetectable and HIV was not transmitted. (To read a collection of POZ articles about such laws and efforts to change them, click #Criminalization.)

You can support Advocates for Youth’s call to action by filling out an online form that will generate a letter to send to members of Congress.

See the full article on POZ.

The “Let’s Stop HIV Together” campaign is recruiting community members

Lets Stop HIV togetherThe Let’s Stop HIV Together campaign is recruiting community members to be a part of audience-specific community listening session groups. These groups will provide an opportunity for the campaign to hear from community members impacted by HIV. The groups will discuss attitudes, values, and beliefs at the individual and community level related to HIV and how these might shape health behaviors.

The community listening session groups for this year are:

  • Transgender women
  • MSM
  • Older adults with HIV
  • Heterosexual, cisgender, Black men and women
  • Young Adults
  • Spanish speaking Hispanics/Latinos

Audience specific announcements are included here as attachments. If there are individuals in your network that may be interested in sharing their insights and experiences with the campaign, please pass on the appropriate announcement and encourage them to fill out the screening questionnaire. The deadline to apply is 11:59 PM EST on March 25, 2022.

The campaign is looking for a diverse group of people who are:

  • Over the age of 18
  • Fluent in English (ability to speak Spanish is a plus)
  • Living with HIV or HIV negative status
  • Comfortable sharing experiences with HIV and other related experiences
  • Available to participate in two virtual community discussions between late April and June 2022, each lasting approximately 2 hours. If you are selected, we will follow up to schedule specific dates and times.

Available to participate in two virtual community discussions between late April and June 2022, each lasting approximately 2 hours. If you are selected, we will follow up to schedule specific dates and times.

All participants will be compensated $150 per session (two sessions for a total of $300) for their participation. Some prep time may be requested, such as reviewing documents prior to the session.

If there are any questions related to the opportunity, please reach out to the recruitment coordinator Kevin Hernandez at khernandez@fhi360.org.

Highest rates of syphilis infection in 30 years says PA Health Department

The Pennsylvania Department of Health recently reported that during 2021, the state (outside of Philadelphia) experienced a 28% increase in early syphilis—going from 1,105 cases reported in 2020 to 1,418 cases reported in 2021. The latest numbers are the highest infection rates of early syphilis cases in more than 30 years.

Of the early syphilis cases reported in women, 90% were of child-bearing age—which presents a unique danger of congenital syphilis, where the infection can be passed on from mother to child during pregnancy.

As a result, health officials are strongly encouraging all sexually active men and women to get tested.

Syphilis is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) that can be spread through vaginal, oral or anal sex. Syphilis can also be spread during pregnancy to the unborn child, and by sharing intravenous needles. Syphilis is easily cured if caught in the early stages of infection but, because symptoms can be mild, it’s possible to have it and not know. Testing is the only way to verify infection.

Ask  your doctor about getting tested for syphilis. If you don’t have a doctor or prefer a nearby confidential clinic, enter your zip code at https://gettested.cdc.gov/ (to refine your search, select “syphilis testing” under “filter results”). Most testing clinics are free.

To find out more about syphilis, you can go to the CDC information page at https://www.cdc.gov/std/syphilis/default.htm.

 

 

 

Erie County Department of Health: Historic increase in new Syphilis infections

Erie County Department of Health is reporting a record-breaking increase in new Syphilis infections in the county — 41 cases in 2021. That’s an increase of 310% from the previous year. Most new infections were among people under the age of 30. Men accounted for 78% of the new infections and 22% were women. As a result, health officials are strongly encouraging all sexually active county residents to get tested.

Erie County Health Department building
Erie County Health Department (https://eriecountypa.gov/departments/health/)

Syphilis is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) that can be spread through vaginal, oral or anal sex. Syphilis can also be spread during pregnancy to the unborn child, and by sharing intravenous needles. Syphilis is easily cured if caught in the early stages of infection but, because symptoms can be mild, it’s possible to have it and not know. Testing is the only way to verify infection.

To find out where you can get free testing, enter your zip code at https://gettested.cdc.gov/ (under Filter Results, select “syphilis testing”). To find out more about syphilis, you can go to the CDC information page at https://www.cdc.gov/std/syphilis/default.htm.