Red Ribbons And Mosquitos

Yesterday, a friend sent me the following:

“Today I saw this headline:

West Nile Outbreak Largest Ever, 41 dead

and it made me think of this:

Rare Cancer Seen In 41 Homosexuals

…and wondering about what makes a disease a crisis versus a judgment. The number of victims was the same.”

Indeed.

And to further the irony, the famous speech given by Mary Fisher to the Republican National Convention in 1992- 11 years after the rise of “gay cancer” was highlighted in a feature by the New York Times today:

TWENTY years ago this month, Mary Fisher took the stage of the Republican National Convention at the Houston Astrodome and delivered a 13-minute prime-time speech that was seen by many as a sharp rebuke of her party’s negligence in the face of the growing AIDS epidemic.

Mary Fisher in 1992 made what is considered one of the best American speeches of the 20th century.

Ms. Fisher, a mother of two young children who had worked in Gerald Ford’s White House, addressed the delegates as someone who was H.I.V. positive herself. “Tonight, I represent an AIDS community whose members have been reluctantly drafted from every segment of American society,” she said. “I am one with a black infant struggling with tubes in a Philadelphia hospital.” She added, “I am one with the lonely gay man sheltering a flickering candle from the cold wind of his family’s rejection.”

It was a speech that was both surprising and poignant. Few, including Ms. Fisher herself, expected that she would survive a disease that had already killed more than 150,000 Americans by the summer of 1992.

But Mary Fisher is still alive — and still taking issue with her political party.

As she should. The discrimination and loathing that prevented government intervention is still with us. It’s made itself known in issues of women’s health, gender inequity, transgender rights and the House defense of DOMA.

However, West Nile will probably not become the epidemic that AIDS did. Because mosquitos don’t discriminate.

They bite everyone.

 

HIV Gay/Bi Men’s Health Retreat

When:  September 14 – 16, 2012

Where:  Helena, MT

Cost:  FREE

Registration Deadline:  September 7, 2012

• Experienced facilitators and educators • Great workshops on accessing resources  • Safe and confidential space

To Register, CLICK HERE, or if you have Questions, call:

FDH & Associates ● 406.829.8075 Or email: fdh@mtgayhealth.org

HIV In Prison

FYI:

  • More than 2 million people are incarcerated in jails and prisons in the United States.
  • People who are incarcerated are at increased risk for acquiring and transmitting HIV.
  • The correctional setting is often the first place incarcerated men and women are diagnosed with HIV and provided treatment.

People who are incarcerated are at increased risk for acquiring and transmitting HIV and other infections. Correctional health, public health, and community-based organizations need to improve HIV prevention and care for incarcerated populations through 1) routine HIV screening and voluntary HIV testing within prisons and jails and 2) other effective prevention strategies, including those that address inmates’ transition back into the community. Correctional institutions can be important partners in preventing and treating HIV to protect and improve inmate and community health.

More here.

Gay Men Are Flunking The Test

Also published on Bilerico.com

Yesterday, I posted an article about  a press release by the Journal Of The American Medical Association:

“…all adult patients, regardless of CD4 cell count, should be offered antiretroviral therapy (ART), according to an article in the July 25 issue of JAMA, a theme issue on HIV/AIDS. Other new recommendations include changes in therapeutic options and modifications in the timing and choice of ART for patients with an opportunistic illness such as tuberculosis.”

This follows the “treatment as prevention” model, based on the scientific research that people with HIV on antiretroviral therapy- with an undetectable viral load- are 96% less likely to pass on the virus.
us-statistics-2.jpgThis seems to be very good news. If you have HIV, you should find out early, get on meds and you’ll have a better chance of living a longer healthier life.

So what’s the problem? The problem is twofold:

  1. People at risk aren’t being tested: 20-25% of all HIV-infected people don’t know they have it.
  2. People at risk are still not being tested: Gay and Bisexual men of all races are the most severely affected by HIV

That’s not a typo- they’re basically the same reason, but there’s a difference. Any guesses?

Hint: It’s probably why most gay men won’t even read this article.

20-25% of all people with HIV don’t know they have it. Why not?

Here’s my take: Denial is one of the strongest mechanisms in the human psyche. It is fed by lack of information, by avoidance and by a strong desire for an alternative reality. If you’ve had unprotected sex, you’ve probably engaged in the process of denial. You’ve probably downplayed the risk, probably lied to yourself a little. You may have even gone over and over it in your mind, seizing every opportunity to deny the possibility of trouble.

“He looked okay”; “He didn’t seem sick”; “He pulled out”; “He would have told me if he had HIV”, etc, etc, and etc.

Well, we all know where that goes…. As individuals, we’re not facing facts. If we were, we’d be getting tested.

us-statistics-1.jpgGay and Bi men of all races are the most severely affected by HIV. Of course. We know that. Don’t we?

Again, denial applies. Gay and Bi men aren’t talking about HIV anymore. Our friends aren’t dying, so there’s no reason to be concerned. People with HIV aren’t out- aren’t well-known in our communities. Why? I was once told “You don’t need to harp about HIV all the time- it’s not that big of a deal.” Except that it is.

HIV has complicated my life in ways many people can’t believe. I am on catastrophic health insurance through the state- almost three times as expensive as my partner’s insurance. I get assistance for my meds- which cost about $25,000 a year- but (crazily), I can’t make more than $30,300 and still qualify for the program. I have joint pain, sleep issues, battles with depression, fatigue and a body that is aging at several times the normal rate– most probably due to inflammation- the hallmark of HIV disease. And yet, if I talk about this to friends or family, I’m seen as a whiner or someone trying unnecessarily to worry people I care about. It’s the “shut up- at least you’re not dying” defense. I know several HIV+ people who haven’t told anyone of their status, mostly because it’s “uncomfortable”.

No shit.

As a community, we’re not facing facts. If we were, we’d be talking to our friends about the importance of maintaining our health. We’d be talking about the hard reality of HIV.

But we’re not. Denial still holds sway, both individually and as a community. We’re lying to ourselves- we’re lying to each other- and infection rates stay the same.

We have a chance to change this trend. But only if everyone with HIV starts treatment, gets into care. This recommendation of the AMA may help with that. But it’s not up to doctors, nurses and social workers, it’s up to us.

We’re being tested, both as individuals and as a community. The problem is, we’re flunking.

Because we’re not showing up.

(Images source)

“All Adult HIV Patients Should Be Offered Antiretroviral Therapy”

From Science Daily:

Included in the 2012 International Antiviral Society-USA panel recommendations for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) patient care is that all adult patients, regardless of CD4 cell count, should be offered antiretroviral therapy (ART), according to an article in the July 25 issue of JAMA, a theme issue on HIV/AIDS. Other new recommendations include changes in therapeutic options and modifications in the timing and choice of ART for patients with an opportunistic illness such as tuberculosis.

Melanie A. Thompson, M.D., of the AIDS Research Consortium of Atlanta, presented the findings of the article at a JAMA media briefing at the International AIDS Conference.

Journal of the American Medical Association

Journal of the American Medical Association (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Since the first antiretroviral drug was approved 25 years ago, improvements in the potency, tolerability, simplicity, and availability of ART have resulted in dramatically reduced numbers of opportunistic diseases and deaths where ART is accessible,” according to background information in the article. “New trial data and drug regimens that have become available in the last 2 years warrant an update to guidelines for ART in HIV-infected adults in resource-rich settings.”

The benefit of suppressing the virus, in my opinion, is greater than the possible toxicity of medication and navigating possible side effects. We know that as long as HIV is in the body, unchecked, it’s doing damage. It’s more likely than possible that people who start antiretroviral therapy early will have less problems with secondary conditions (joint pain, arthritis, memory problems) as they progress in their lives. I think this is tremendous news.

Full Story Here.

Infographic: Ending The Drug War Will Help End AIDS

From Jag Davies, Drug Policy Alliance in today’s Huffington Post:

Throughout the world, research has consistently shown that drug criminalization forces people who use drugs away from public health services and into hidden environments where HIV risks become significantly elevated. Mass incarceration of nonviolent drug offenders also plays a major role in spreading the pandemic, as inhumane conditions and lack of HIV prevention or treatment measures in prison lead to HIV outbreaks and AIDS cases behind bars – and among families and communities once those imprisoned are released.

Yet in countries where addiction is treated as a health issue, the fight against HIV/AIDS is being won. New HIV infections in countries such as Australia, Germany and Switzerland have been virtually eliminated among people who use drugs, just as mother-to-child HIV transmission has been eliminated in countries that make medicines for pregnant women accessible.

In the United States, however, the federal government has resisted evidence-based HIV prevention strategies — costing us hundreds of thousands of lives and billions of dollars. Congress re-instated a longstanding ban last December that prohibits using federal funds for syringe access programs — a move that will cost thousands of more lives in years to come.

Money talks- just remind your politicians that the money they are not spending on “immorality” is costing the taxpayers 1000x the amount in the long run…

Guest Post: People Living with HIV Can Increase Physical Health and Quality of Life through Exercise

By Jim Rollince, GymSource

Adhering to a rigid exercise program can seem intimidating to a person who has been diagnosed with HIV.  Because this particular disease is so varied in how it affects each person who has it, people with HIV are often at various stages of physical health and emotional health.  Sometimes, the disease can seemingly lie dormant for years.  Other times, the disease can attack and leave a person feeling extremely ill, mentally depleted, and exhausted of nearly all energy.  Exercise is one way that a person who has HIV can fight back and take positive steps to regaining strength and increasing his or her overall health.

Increased Cardio Health Benefits Stem from Consistent Exercise Routines

It is well known that physical exercise can greatly improve cardio health.  In many situations, healthy hearts equal healthy bodies.  Many people are able to fight diseases through consistent exercise programs.  While beginning with a rigorous exercise program may not be feasible for an HIV patient who is fighting severe symptoms of the disease, beginning with a mild program and then steadily increasing it can result in wonderful improvements on the way the person feels each day.

Setting up home gym equipment is an ideal way to be prepared to exercise any time there is free time to do so.  If an HIV patient is working full time or part time, going to regular doctor visits, and taking care of other responsibilities, a home gym may be the best solution to find time to exercise.  Using a treadmill, an exercise bike, and an elliptical machine can result in tremendous health benefits and improved heart conditions.  Improving the heart and blood circulation throughout the body will make the person feel physically stronger and this can have a great and lasting impact on how well the person is physically able to cope with the disease.

Remain Committed to Regular Fitness Activities for Increased Health

The US National Library of Medicine provides an online medical journal that details numerous benefits that people who have been diagnosed with HIV or AIDS can gain from committing to regular exercise sessions.  Psychological benefits, increased circulation, easier breathing, and stronger muscles are all potential benefits a person can gain by committing to exercise on a regular basis.

Getting outside during nice weather and taking advantage of warm and pleasant weather to hike, swim, or go biking with friends is an ideal way to enjoy exercise and socialization at the same time.  When time is short, the individual can take advantage of fitness equipment at home to get in a few minutes of treadmill jogging or working out on an elliptical.  Every time a person engages in physical activity, the body will respond by increasing metabolism and potentially increasing levels of energy.

Infographic: HIV Epicenter, Southern U.S.

click to see larger (readable) version

Courtesy AIDS United

Chronicle Reports on HIV In Gallatin County

From Today’s Bozeman Daily Chronicle:

Map of Montana highlighting Gallatin County

Map of Montana highlighting Gallatin County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

While Missoula County is dealing with an outbreak of new cases of HIV, health officials say the situation is a lot different in Gallatin County.

Missoula County officials recently reported that the county saw 12 new documented cases of HIV in the last five months, enough to classify it as an outbreak.

However, in Gallatin County there have been only seven new cases reported in the last five years. There was one new case last year, two in 2010, three in 2009, none in 2008 and one in 2007.

“It’s nothing, thank goodness, at all like what Missoula has seen recently,” said Gallatin City-County Health Director Matt Kelley.

AIDS Outreach, a Bozeman nonprofit that offers services to people living with HIV and AIDS, estimated that about 80 people have reported living with HIV and AIDS in Gallatin County.

According to the Missoulian, all 12 new cases in Missoula involve adult men who contracted the virus through situations ranging from presumed monogamous relationships to anonymous sexual encounters.

A similar outbreak happened in Yellowstone County a year ago. Six new cases were reported in less than a month between March and April.

There still need to be a lot of people tested here, though. From what I know and understand, there are people at risk who are not getting tested or who are positive and not actively revealing their status to their partners- both gay and straight.

So get tested- and protect yourself. Asking HIV status and using condoms may keep you healthy for years to come. Not doing so may result in a lifetime of financial and social difficulty. Believe me, I know.

Testing, safe sex kits and information available at AIDS Outreach www.AIDSOutreachMT.org 

Full Chronicle story by Whitney Bermes is here.

ADAP Watch March 12, 2012

From our friends at NAPWA:

 

The President has called for The End of AIDS in America, and that means an end to ADAP waiting lists. Everyone who needs HIV antiretroviral medicines should be getting them, and we can reduce long-term health care costs by making sure they do.
This is an extraordinarily difficult political climate, though, so we don’t expect much movement on the waiting lists until after the elections. We’re grateful to the Administration for the new money that brought the counts down from 9,000-plus to just under 4,000, and we think it’s time for states like Virginia and Georgia to join the Administration and pay their fair share. Belly up to the bar, boys!
Here are the latest waiting list numbers from our friends at NASTAD. Let’s not forget that these are the visible waiting lists. Too many states have vanished PLWHA who used to qualify for ADAP assistance by setting income eligibility ceilings unreasonably low.