CDC: HIV Cases Decline for Black Women, Increase for Gay Men

Some disturbing news. From Reuters:

The CDC reported that the number of new cases of HIV among black women declined 21 percent between 2008 and 2010, while the incidence of HIV among young gay and bisexual men rose by 22 percent in the same time frame. The rate of HIV infections among black women remains 20 times higher than the number of new cases in white women, and HIV-infected black women account for 70 percent of HIV incidence among all women. Men who have sex with men comprised almost two-thirds of all new HIV infections in 2010.

Joseph Prejean, chief of the Behavioral and Clinical Surveillance Branch in CDC’s Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention, attributed the decline in new HIV cases among black women to HIV testing and the success of HIV

Drugs

Drugs (Photo credit: Images_of_Money)

awareness campaigns. “Treatment advances” for AIDS may have caused young men to underestimate their risk and the health threat posed by HIV”, said Prejean. Although anti-retroviral treatment prolongs life, HIV-infected individuals can expect to take medicine for the rest of their lives, at an estimated lifetime cost of $400,000. (emphasis mine)

Young black men who have sex with men have the highest HIV incidence of any population group within the United States. An earlier CDC report stated that 26 percent of new HIV cases occurred among young people age 13 to 24. Half of HIV-infected young people do not know their HIV status, reported CDC Director Thomas Frieden, MD.

Read the full article here.

Gay Men’s Wives, Homophobia and HIV

(click for source)

Discrimination and homophobia are often more prevalent in rural areas. Outreach workers in Montana know that there are certainly barriers for men to being tested for HIV. One of the most significant is the fear of being harshly judged, labelled and dismissed. It’s one of the reasons some gay/bi men get married to women and start families- they want to be ‘normal’- even though they already are. The sense of shame and guilt can be overpowering- and it’s adding fuel to the fire as far as HIV is concerned.

Rural outreach workers have known this for years- it may be one of the reasons that HIV is spreading so rapidly in the south. It’s almost certainly one of the reasons that HIV is spreading in the African American population. But we haven’t paid much attention- at least scientifically- to this issue. Now it looks as if science is actually catching up to reality. From The Sobering Truth About HIV Among MSM by Gregory Trotter, Chicago AIDS Foundation blog (July 25):

The idea of “turning the tide” against the AIDS epidemic will prove to be no more than a slogan if more is not done to address the growing number of gay/bisexual men infected with HIV worldwide, experts said today.

Speaking at an afternoon press conference today, a panel of experts presented new research – recently published in a series in the medical journal, The Lancet – that confronted the reality of HIV prevalence among MSM (men who have sex with me).  The series concluded that, in addition to medical and scientific advances, more must be done to eradicate the cultural and societal impediments of homophobia and discrimination. Until that happens, ending the AIDS epidemic is unlikely, said Chris Beyrer, a professor at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. (emphasis mine)

We routinely encounter discrimination in dealing with MSM in Montana- some of whom do not openly identify as gay. In fact, some are married- with children- and do not plan on leaving their families. But they’re having sex with other men- and some are not using condoms with their wives. “If I did, she’d know I was having sex with someone else,” one client told me.

The fear of being exposed for these men is great. One man told me, “I can’t afford to be seen as gay. It would kill me- it would kill my wife.”  Shame from society, churches and social groups abut being gay have forced men to create false lives. But they haven’t stopped sexual behavior. This type of internalized shame is not uncommon here- and the wives of these men could be put at risk as a result.

Shame, homophobia and discrimination are fueling the epidemic- so are apathy and denial (see my essay Gay Men Are Flunking The Test). Part of me wonders when we’re going to start seeing a rise in HIV infection among rural women- the wives of gay/bi men. Back to Mr Trotter:

On average, MSM are 19 times more likely to be infected with HIV than the general population in low- and middle-class countries, according to Dr. Kevin Fenton, director of the National Center for HIV/AIDS.

Many African countries do not accurately report numbers of MSM and some do not even acknowledge they have MSM among their population, said Paul Semugoma,  Uganda physician who serves on the steering committee for the Global Forum on MSM &HIV (MSMGF).

Homophobia is rampant in such countries, he said.

“If we don’t start solving these impediments for MSM, we’re not going to do much about the epidemic,” Semugoma said.

In a recent study in Jamaica, 82% of Jamaicans self-identified as homophobic, largely out of fear of HIV prevalence among gay/bi men, said Maurice Tomlinson, legal advisor on marginalized groups for AIDS-Free World, an international advocacy group.

Such homophobia has engendered a climate where gay men are afraid to buy condoms for themselves, Tomlinson said. Their female friends often buy condoms for them, he said, but refuse to buy lube, as that would imply a female “deficiency.”

And so many gay/bisexual Jamaicans use petroleum jelly, saliva or even hairspray as a lubricant, he said.

“In those cases, it would be better if they used nothing at all,” Tomlinson said.

To learn more about how HIV affects MSM throughout the world and possible solutions to problem, read the full series in The Lancet titled HIV in Men Who Have Sex with Men.”

Impact of Affordable Care Act On HIV/STD Prevention

Wondering about the Supreme Court’s decision on HIV/STD prevention and care? Some help from The National Coalition Of STD Directors:

Sexually transmitted disease

As you consider the impact of today’s Supreme Court ruling on the Affordable Care Act on different populations, I would like to share with you the impact of today’s ruling on our fight to prevent and treat sexually transmitted diseases.

Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) remain a major epidemic in the United States.  Each year, there are approximately 19 million new cases of STDs, approximately half of which go undiagnosed and untreated[i], giving the  United States the highest STD rate in the industrialized world.[ii]

STDs cost the U.S. health care system $17 billion every year—and cost individuals even more in immediate and life-long health consequences, including infertility, higher risk of acquiring HIV, and certain cancers.[iii]

  • Young people will continue to have expanded coverage under their parent’s insurance.  Young people bear a disproportionate burden of STDs—those aged 15-25 make up half of the STDs contracted annually, but make up only one-fourth of the sexually active population.
  • Private insurance will continue to have to cover prevention services with no cost out-of pocket costs to patients.  Many of those who visit STD clinics are low-income and would not be able to receive prevention sexual health services without coverage by insurance.  While there is still work to be done for certain at-risk populations, such as men who have sex with men, expanded STD testing and  STI counseling will be covered by insurance under this expansion of preventative care in the law and it is a great start.
  •  The continued need for safety-net service providers is underscored.  With the narrowing of the Medicaid expansion provisions, the very real possibility exists that many low-income individuals will not have access to affordable health care coverage.  Patients at STD clinics are young, minority, and poor—populations that are bear a much higher burden of STD disease—and may be left without coverage in a state that may choose not to expand their Medicaid coverage.

HIV-specifics from Lambda Legal:

“This is a victory for all Americans, but in particular, the Court’s decision today will save the lives of many people living with HIV – as long as states do the right thing. The Affordable Care Act will finally allow people living with HIV to access medical advancements made years ago but that have so far remained out of reach of many. With continuing prevention education, early detection, and quality care for everyone living with HIV, we have the power to stem the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

“But this is not a complete victory, because today’s decision allows states to opt out of the Medicaid expansion that would provide insurance coverage for many low-income people who cannot otherwise afford it. Our continuing challenge will be to make sure that states opt to expand Medicaid so that more low-income people, and particularly those with HIV, can get the health care they urgently need.”

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Study: Incarceration Increases Risk Of STI’s, HIV Infection

Something nobody ever seems to want to talk about: sex, prison and STD’s.

The study’s objective was to assess the link between incarceration and sexually transmitted infection, including HIV, from a social network perspective.

Data collected from a social network study in Brooklyn (n=343) were measured for associations between incarceration and infection with herpes simplex virus-2, chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis or HIV and sex with an infected partner, adjusting for characteristics of respondents and their sex partners.

“Infection with an STI or HIV was associated with incarceration of less than one year (adjusted prevalence ratio=1.33; 95 percent confidence interval=1.01, 1.76) and one year or longer (adjusted PR=1.37; 95 percent CI=1.08, 1.74). Sex in the past three months with an infected partner was associated with sex in the past three months with one partner (adjusted PR=1.42; 95 percent CI=1.12, 1.79) and with two or more partners (adjusted PR=1.85; 95 percent CI=1.43, 2.38) who had ever been incarcerated,” the results found.

There is a need for STI and HIV treatment and prevention for current and former prisoners, concluded the authors. The results provide preliminary evidence to indicate that incarceration may influence HIV and other STIs, “possibly because incarceration increases the risk of sex with infected partners.”

I love it when science follows common sense. Well, at least informed common sense…

CDC: More Teenage Boys Using Condoms

Birth control- it’s not just for girls anymore.
A study by the CDC indicates boys are taking a more proactive role in accountability when it comes to sex. Excerpt:

More teenagers are using a condom — by itself or along with a partner’s hormonal contraceptive — according to a new teen sex survey from the CDC.

The survey shows sexual activity and contraceptive use among U.S. teenagers have remained relatively stable over the last decade. But condoms gained among teenage boys as the preferred method.

Also, the teen birth rate has resumed a gradual decline that was briefly interrupted in 2005-2007.

“The slight increase from 2005 to 2007 generated concern that progress over the past two decades in reducing teen pregnancies could have stalled,” researcher Gladys Martinez, PhD, of the CDC’s division of vital statistics, and colleagues write in their report. “However, data for 2008 and 2009 show that the teen birth rate again declined from the rate in 2007.”

The study showed the teen birth rate for girls aged 15-19 was 39.1 births per 1,000 females in 2009. That’s 37% lower than its peak of 61.8 per 1,000 in 1991. Researchers say that is a historic low for the U.S., but still higher than many other developed countries, including Canada.

And that means that STD/HIV rates will be affected- for the better.

On a side note, I believe the surge in birth rates to be the direct result of Bush era abstinence-only education- something Denny Rehberg wants to bring back.

Sigh.

But a surge in personal responsibility on the part of people with penises? Applause.

Study: Simple Changes To Dating Sites Could Lower STD’s, HIV

Simple Changes to Dating Websites Could Decrease Spread of HIV and Sexually Transmitted Diseases

A study released today recommends eight ways to reduce transmission of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) among men who meet male sex partners online.

Owners of popular dating and “hook-up” websites and users of those websites, along with HIV and STD program directors, agreed that a few simple measures could have a major impact on the spread of sexually transmitted diseases.

Among the online measures supported by a majority of those surveyed:

• Including “safe sex” as a profile option and allowing users to search for partners by such characteristics
• Providing directories of STD testing locations
• Sending automatic reminders to get an HIV/STD test at regular intervals chosen by users
• Having chat-rooms and other areas for HIV+ men looking for other HIV+ men
• Providing e-cards to notify partners of a potential exposure to STDs
• Posting videos that show men discussing safe sex, HIV status, and related issues
• Providing access to sexual health experts

“Finding sex and love online is here to stay,” said Dan Wohlfeiler, one of the study’s authors working with the California HIV/STD Prevention Training Center for this project. “This shows how we can work with the website owners to turn the internet into a force for the health of their users.”

In California, gay and bisexual men who were diagnosed with syphilis or gonorrhea most frequently reported the Internet as where they met sex partners.

More than 3000 users, 82 state and local HIV and STD Program directors and 18 owners of dating and “hook-up “ websites completed the survey.

Jen Hecht, Education Director at STOP AIDS Project and co-author, said “Since all three groups agree these strategies are important, can be done, and would be used, we need to be getting them online now.”

The study also found a number of strategies with less support. Website owners expressed skepticism about health department staff going online to notify users that they might have been exposed to an STD. In contrast, a majority of HIV and STD prevention directors and users thought this strategy was important. The authors are planning follow-up meetings with owners to further understand their concerns.“We have rising rates of STDs among gay and bisexual men and turning that around means everyone needs to take responsibility for their sexual health,” said Bill Smith, Executive Director of the National Coalition of STD Directors (NCSD). “This study shows how public health professionals, as well the users and owners of sex seeking websites, can band together to make a real difference in securing the sexual health of gay men.”

The study, entitled “How Can We Improve HIV and STD Prevention Online for MSM” funded by amfAR, the Foundation for AIDS Research, was co-authored by H. Fisher Raymond and Willi McFarland at the San Francisco Department of Public Health. The results have been posted today at http://www.stopaids.org/online.