Saturday, July 16, 2016

4 of the Top HIV News Stories for the Week Ending July 15, 2016

Despite Advances, HIV Epidemic Continues Among Gay Men Across the Globe 
Gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men continue to have disproportionately high burdens of HIV infection in countries of low, middle and high income around the world, a new study led by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health suggests. The findings, published July 9 in The Lancet, come four years after the same group of researchers issued a call to action, laying out an ambitious plan to curtail HIV epidemics in gay men, setting targets for policy reform, funding and improvement in effective HIV prevention and treatment services, including expanded access to pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) which has been highly effective in dramatically reducing transmission among this population. "While HIV rates have flattened overall in recent years, we're really concerned that the HIV epidemic is continuing among gay men and we're going in the wrong direction," says study leader Chris Beyrer, MD, MPH, the Desmond M. Tutu Professor of Public Health and Human Rights at the Bloomberg School and president of the International AIDS Society. "It's a tragic situation and it's painful that the history of AIDS is looking like its future, but that's actually where we are. But the first step in taking on a problem is recognizing and articulating it and we've really done that here." Beyrer will oversee the 21st annual International AIDS Conference from July 18 through 22 in Durban, South Africa where failure to meet the needs of gay men will be one of many topics. HIV is no longer the death sentence it once was and many are living long lives with the virus carefully controlled with antiretroviral treatment. But while new HIV infection rates are falling among heterosexual men and women in many countries, that is not the case with gay men. READ MORE

AIDS Epidemic No Longer a Public Health Issue in Australia, Scientists Say
The nation's top scientists have declared "the end of AIDS" as a public health issue, as Australia joins the ranks of a select few countries which have successfully beaten the epidemic. The number of Australians being diagnosed with AIDS each year is now so small, researchers from the Kirby and Peter Doherty institutes and the Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations have announced the age of the fatal syndrome over. AIDS cases in Australia have plummeted since the advent of anti-retroviral medication in the mid-1990s, which stops HIV from progressing to AIDS - where the immune system is so badly damaged it cannot fight off infection. At its peak in the early 1990s, about 1,000 Australians died from AIDS each year. However, Professor Andrew Grulich, head of the HIV Epidemiology and Prevention Program at the Kirby Institute, said the number was now so low, it was not even recorded. "These days we don't even monitor it, it's a transitory thing for most people; people have AIDS, then they go on treatment and they don't have AIDS anymore," he said. While the fight against HIV is still ongoing, Professor Grulich said the change to the incidence of AIDS had been "nothing short of miraculous". "It's pretty much dealt with as a public health issue," he said. "The only cases we see of AIDS these days are people undiagnosed with HIV and so they can't be treated." READ MORE

PrEP Saves Lives. Why Aren't More People Spreading the Word?

Support Landmark Bill to Increase Awareness of PrEP and PEP
To: Members of the California Legislature, California Gov. Jerry Brown

I urge you to support AB 2640, a bill to help stop the spread of HIV in California by boosting awareness of two highly effective HIV-prevention treatments, PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) and PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP).

PrEP is an HIV prevention strategy in which HIV-negative individuals take a daily medication to reduce their risk of becoming infected. PrEP has been shown to be up to 99% effective at preventing HIV transmission. PEP involves taking anti-HIV medications as soon as possible after a potential exposure to reduce the risk of becoming HIV-positive.

According to a 2015 survey of gay and bisexual men by the California HIV/AIDS Research Program, only 1 in 10 respondents had ever used PrEP and nearly 85% had never talked to their doctor about PrEP.

Alarmingly, awareness of PrEP and PEP is particularly low for those most at risk of HIV infection in California: Black and Latino men who are gay or bisexual. It is estimated that 1 in 2 Black gay men and 1 in 4 Latino gay men will be diagnosed with HIV in their lifetime if infection rates continue to rise.

AB 2640 is common sense legislation that would simply ensure that people who test negative for HIV will receive information about all the methods that reduce their risk of infection, including PrEP and PEP, from the healthcare provider who tests them.

We can only stop the spread of HIV if people know about all the tools that can protect them. That is why I ask you to support AB 2640, introduced by California Assembly Member Mike A. Gipson. 
READ MORE at Los Angeles LGBT Center

Prince Harry Takes HIV Test Live On Camera

Prince Harry has taken an HIV test live on social media to encourage people to get tested for the virus. The 31-year-old was tested at the Burrell Street centre, part of Guy’s and St Thomas’s hospital, in central London, and the procedure was broadcast live on the royal family’s Facebook page on Thursday. The centre, near the Tate Modern art gallery, covers the boroughs of Lambeth and Southwark which have some of the highest rates of sexually transmitted infections – including HIV – in England, according to Public Health England (PHE). Harry, who recently announced he would be highlighting the issue of HIV/Aids, underwent the simple finger-prick procedure, and within a minute his results were available, showing he had tested negative. With an estimated 11,000 people in the UK unaware that they have HIV, Harry took the step of being publicly tested to help tackle the stigma surrounding the disease.