How The Sequester Hits Montana

Here’s the link to the effects of the sequester for Montana.
One of the great “benefits” being the inability to pay for 117,000 HIV tests- now free for any Montana resident. And there’s more besides.

http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/docs/sequester-factsheets/Montana.pdf

Study: Access to HIV Services for Gay Men Worldwide Stunted By Homophobia

Global study finds homophobia, comfort with service provider, and community engagement make significant impact on access to condoms, lubricant, HIV testing, and HIV treatment

A large-scale study of gay men and other men who have sex with men (MSM), conducted by the Global Forum on MSM & HIV (MSMGF), indicates that only one third of MSM can easily access condoms, lubricant, HIV testing, and HIV treatment. Combining a multi-lingual online survey and focus group discussions, the study suggests that structural barriers like homophobia play a significant role in blocking access to HIV services for MSM, while greater comfort with service providers and community engagement are associated with higher levels of service access.

The MSMGF’s study aimed to identify barriers and facilitators that affect access to HIV services for MSM. The online survey conducted this summer included 5779 men from 165 countries.  In addition, the MSMGF collaborated with African Men for Sexual Health and Rights (AMSHeR) to conduct focus group discussions with a total of 71 MSM across five cities in South Africa, Kenya, and Nigeria.

Of men who participated in the online survey, only 35% reported that condoms were easily accessible, 21% reported easy access to lubricant, 36% reported easy access to HIV testing, and 42% reported easy access to HIV treatment. Levels of access differed across low-, lower-middle-, upper-middle- and high-income countries, with reduced access to services more commonly reported in lower-income countries.

Percent of MSM reporting that condoms, lubricant, HIV testing, and HIV treatment
are easily accessible
(organized by country income level using World Bank country income classifications)

“Such poor levels of access at the global level are unacceptable,” said Dr. George Ayala, Executive Director of the MSMGF. “The differences in access by country income level are especially important to note as the Global Fund moves into a new funding model where countries are grouped into bands by income level. Even in upper-middle-income countries, MSM still have extremely low access to services. Without targeted funding to MSM and other key populations, the new funding model may continue to deteriorate levels of access for the groups most affected by HIV.”

The MSMGF research team also conducted analyses to identify barriers (factors associated with lower access) and facilitators (factors associated with higher access) that impact the ability of MSM to obtain condoms, lubricant, HIV testing, and HIV treatment.

Adjusting for country income, greater access to condoms, lubricants and HIV testing were associated with less homophobia, greater comfort with health providers, and more community engagement. Among participants living with HIV, higher access to HIV treatment was associated with less homophobia and greater comfort with service providers.  Greater access to lubricants and greater access to HIV testing were also associated with less outness (the degree to which others know of one’s sexual orientation) and fewer negative consequences as a result of being out, respectively.

“As we collectively forge ahead into the new territory of treatment-based prevention, it is clear that many of the old challenges remain,” said Noah Metheny, Director of Policy at the MSMGF. “Addressing structural barriers remains essential to realizing the potential of HIV interventions for MSM, and it becomes more important with each new prevention and treatment option that is made available. Investments in the development of new interventions must be accompanied by efforts to increase access.”

The quantitative data from the online survey was supplemented with qualitative data from focus group discussions, helping to place barriers and facilitators in the broader context of the sexual health and lived experiences of MSM. Focus group discussion participants identified barriers and facilitators that were highly consistent with those found in the online survey, and many participants explained the ways that structural barriers at the policy, cultural, and institutional levels cascade down through the community and individual levels to block access to services for MSM.

Focus group discussion participants described how structural barriers like stigma, discrimination, and criminalization force MSM to hide their sexual behavior from health care providers, employers, landlords, teachers, and family members in order to protect themselves and maintain a minimum livelihood. The inability of MSM to reveal their sexual behavior to health care providers was linked to misdiagnosis, delayed diagnosis, and delayed treatment, leading to poor health prognosis and higher risk of transmitting HIV and other sexually transmitted infections to partners.

Conversely, focus group discussion participants explained that the negative consequences of structural barriers were moderated by the existence of safe spaces to meet other MSM, safe spaces to receive services, access to competent mental health care, and access to comprehensive health care. Participants described MSM-led community based organizations as safe spaces where they could celebrate their true selves, receive respectful and knowledgeable health care, and in some cases receive mental health services.

“The study’s findings underscore the urgent need to improve access to essential HIV services for gay men and other MSM worldwide,” said Dr. Ayala. “Interventions must both disrupt the negative effects of barriers and bolster the protective effects of facilitators. Study participants clearly indicated that community engagement and community-based organizations are central to moderating barriers and facilitating service access. Successfully addressing HIV among MSM will require a real effort to address structural barriers, and the findings from this study suggest that investing in MSM-led community-based organizations may be the best way to do that.”

Agreed. MSM-led community-based organizations must continue to work tirelessly to eliminate fear, shame, stigma and ignorance. They are all still very much with us.

And they’re killing us.

Related articles

Clinicians Asked To Screen All Patients For HIV

The US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) strongly recommends that clinicians screen all people aged 15 to 65 years for HIV infection, according to a draft recommendation statement posted online November 20. The statement also recommends HIV screening for all pregnant women, including those who present at the time of labor, and for younger adolescents and older adults who are at increased risk.

“The draft recommendation reflects new evidence that demonstrates the benefits of both screening for and earlier treatment of HIV,” task force member Douglas K. Owens, MD, said in a USPSTF news release. “Because HIV infection usually does not cause symptoms in the early stages, people need to be screened to learn if they are infected. People who are feeling well and learn they are infected with HIV can begin treatment earlier, reduce their chances of developing AIDS and live longer and healthier lives.”

Although US prevalence of HIV infection is nearly 1.2 million and annual incidence is about 50,000, nearly one quarter of those infected are unaware that they are HIV-positive. Since the first reports of AIDS in 1981, more than 1.1 million people have been diagnosed with AIDS and nearly 595,000 have died from it.

Combined antiretroviral therapy (ART) has been shown to reduce the likelihood of HIV transmission, and earlier initiation of treatment lowers the risk for AIDS-related complications.

In issuing this recommendation, the task force hopes to improve and maintain the health of persons who are already infected with HIV, to delay the onset of AIDS, and to lower the risk for HIV transmission.

Why HIV Testing and Treatment Are Still Issues

A key concept for anyone considering the success of anti-HIV treatment in improving the health of individuals and in preventing onward transmission in their communities is the ‘treatment cascade’ or ‘care continuum’. This shows how, at every stage, patients are not retained in the healthcare system or are unable to access the medical care they need.

(Source)

HIV Home Test A “Double Edged Sword”

Kudos to Great Falls Tribune Reporter Michael Beall for writing about the newly approved Rapid HIV Home Test- and asking Montanans in the field what they think about it.

Greg Smith, the executive director of AIDS Outreach in Bozeman, said he and others have mixed feelings about the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s decision to approve the first over-the-counter HIV test kits.

English: Logo of the U.S. Food and Drug Admini...

English: Logo of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (2006) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“I think it’s great that people will have access to testing,” said Smith, who was diagnosed with HIV in 2007. “But my concern is that they wouldn’t have the support that we offer in community-based testing situations.”

The OraQuick test is similar to the OraSure tests health clinics use and detects the presence of HIV in saliva. It returns results within 20 to 40 minutes.

The test is as simple as swabbing the upper and lower gums and inserting the test stick into a solution.

But Smith said the home test is a double-edged sword.

“On one hand, information is great, but on the other we need to provide that information so that it’s received well,” he said. “We want that support there.”

Trisha Gardner, City County Health Department community health education specialist, said reviews of the test are overwhelmingly positive, but she’s concerned because those who take the tests at home and test positive won’t have someone there to help them know what to do next. At the same time, she knows how important testing is to stopping the spread of the disease.

“You can’t do anything to control the spread of it if you don’t know you have it,” Gardner said. “People will be more likely to (get tested) because they don’t have to go in anywhere. They don’t have to be seen.”

Full story here.

Reminder: AIDS Is Alive And Well In Montana

Kim McGeehan wrote an article for the Bozeman Magpie about HIV in Montana- and shared some of my story along the way. Excerpt:

English: HIV-1 particles assembling at the sur...

English: HIV-1 particles assembling at the surface of an infected macrophage. Français : Des particules de HIV-1 s’assemblant à la surface d’un macrophage infecté. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“I wasn’t diagnosed because I was scared. Now, I have memory issues and damage to my joints. HIV attacks soft tissues in the body—gums, brain, liver—even if you don’t have outward symptoms, the virus can still be doing damage,” Smith says. “At first, there were no treatments. Now there is a lot we can do. We can stop it or slow it down. You can live a healthy life. If you are on your meds and have a low viral load, your risk of transmitting the disease can be as low as 4%.”

That isn’t permission to take behavioral risks, but information that should encourage people to take advantage of the services offered by AIDS Outreach. Those services include fast, free, anonymous HIV tests, an HIV-positive support group, educational literature, and condoms condoms condoms.

Americans will soon be able to purchase an over-the-counter, rapid-response HIV test, but Smith worries that dealing with a positive result alone will be challenging for folks: “Denial is such a strong force in the human psyche. I remember it in myself. I’m worried that someone might test positive and not tell anyone, not get counseling or medical care.”

Read the rest:

http://www.bozeman-magpie.com/perspective-full-article.php?article_id=502

Clergy Can Fight HIV On Faith-friendly Terms

An excellent article from Science Daily:

In the United States, where blacks bear a disproportionate burden of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, black religious institutions could help turn the tide. In a new study in PLoS ONE based on dozens of interviews and focus groups with 38 of Philadelphia’s most influential black clergy, physicians and public health researchers find that traditional barriers to preaching about HIV prevention could give way to faith-friendly messages about getting tested and staying on treatment.

The public health community has long struggled with how best to reduce HIV infection rates among black Americans, which is seven times that of whites. In a new paper in the journal PLoS ONE, a team of physicians and public health researchers report that African-American clergy say they are ready to join the fight against the disease by focusing on HIV testing, treatment, and social justice, a strategy that is compatible with religious teaching.

“We in public health have done a poor job of engaging African-American community leaders and particularly black clergy members in HIV prevention,” said Amy Nunn, lead author of the study and assistant professor of medicine in the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University. “There is a common misperception that African American churches are unwilling to address the AIDS epidemic. This paper highlights some of the historical barriers to effectively engaging African American clergy in HIV prevention and provides recommendations from clergy for how to move forward.”

The paper analyzes and distills dozens of interviews and focus group data among 38 African-Amereican pastors and imams in Philadelphia, where racial disparities in HIV infection are especially stark. Seven in 10 new infections in the city are among black residents. With uniquely deep influence in their communities, nearly all of the 27 male and 11 female clergy said they could and would preach and promote HIV testing and treatment.

That message, delivered by clergy or other influential figures, would provide a needed complement to decades of public health efforts that have emphasized risk behaviors, Nunn said. Research published and widely reported last year, for example, suggests that testing and then maintaining people on treatment could dramatically reduce new infections because treatment can give people a 96-percent lower chance of transmitting HIV.

“For decades, we’ve focused many HIV prevention efforts on reducing risky behavior,” said Nunn, who is also based at The Miriam Hospital. “Focusing on HIV testing and treatment should be the backbone of HIV prevention strategies and efforts to reduce racial disparities in HIV infection. Making HIV testing routine is the gateway to getting more individuals on treatment. African American clergy have an important role to play in routinizing HIV testing.”

The barriers clergy members face

Many religious leaders acknowledged that they’ve struggled with how best to combat the epidemic, particularly with challenges related to discussing human sexuality in church or mosque, according to the analysis in the paper.

“One time my pastor spoke to young people about sex, mentioning using protection,” the paper quotes a clergy member as saying in one example. “I was sitting in the clergy row; you could feel the heat! I was surprised he said that. Comments from the clergy highlighted they were opposed to that. It’s a tightrope walk.”

Many clergy members also said they face significant barriers to preaching about risk behaviors without still emphasizing abstinence.

“It’s my duty as a preacher to tell people to abstain,” one pastor told the research team, “but if they’re still having sex and they’re getting HIV, there has to be another way to handle this.”

What clergy can do

Many clergy members suggested couching the HIV/AIDS epidemic in social justice rather than behavioral terms, Nunn said. They also recommended focusing on HIV testing as an important means to help stem the spread of the disease and reduce the stigma.

“We need to standardize testing,” one pastor told the researchers. “One thing that we could do immediately is to encourage our congregations — everybody — to get tested. … We’re not dealing with risk factors. And we’re all going to get tested once a year. That’s the one thing that we could do that doesn’t get into our doctrine about sexuality.”

In general, many of the religious leaders said they could encourage discussion of HIV not only in main worship services, but also in ministries and community outreach activities.

FULL ARTICLE HERE