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LASS AGM 2017

We are pleased to invite you to LASS’ 30th Annual General Meeting on 26th October 2017. We will be celebrating the past 30 years of achievement and looking ahead to the future and new horizons.

The meeting will take place at 18:30 in the Lounge at the LGBT Centre 15 Wellington St, Leicester LE1 6HH (Map / Directions). The formal business will be followed by a presentation on LASS’ first thirty years and the opportunity to chat to LASS’ staff and trustees.

Coffee & tea and nibbles will be available from 18:00 and we invite you to stay for a drink and birthday cake afterwards.

Please RSVP to Sylvia at reception@lass.org.uk or please call us on 0116 255 9995.

We look forward to welcoming you.

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Swine flu information for people living with HIV.

The dreaded flu season is upon us and you’re probably aware that flu vaccines are available, and offered for free to certain groups on the NHS.  Here’s some information, relative to people who are living with HIV.

!! IMPORTANT. The following information should not be interpreted as medical advice.  We are simply presenting facts and you should always speak with your doctor or medical team when discussing a change or supplementing your health care.

While a bad cold can include aching limbs, headaches and general exhaustion too, the difference with flu is it’s more severe, you’ll probably struggle to get out of bed and there’s often a fever as well.

How Serious is the flu when you’re HIV positive?

If you’re in overall good health, you’ll usually recover naturally from flu after a week or so and some sensible rest; pain-killers, plenty of fluids and keeping warm all help. However, flu can be very serious for those less able to fight off or cope with the virus.

Complications can arise, including a worsening of any pre-existing health conditions such as asthma and diabetes, and flu also leads to a number of deaths each year, particularly in the elderly. HIV infection reduces CD4 levels and function which means the bodies of individuals with a low CD4 count have to work harder to fight the flu. However, even with HIV, the human immune system can still fight the swine flu virus to a degree. Data so far does not show that people living with HIV are at a higher risk of catching swine flu virus than the rest of the population.

That being said, if you are infected (with the flu), Swine flu illness may develop at a higher rate amongst people living with HIV with a CD4 count of less than 250 cells/mm3 and not on antiretroviral therapy. Patients with CD4 count of less than 250 cells/mm3 need to contact their HIV department to start anti HIV treatment as soon as possible.

Should People Living with HIV receive the Swine flu (H1N1) vaccination ?

“No one likes getting the flu, but while most people (including people living with HIV) are able to shake it off, people living with HIV are considered to be an at-risk group and are eligible for a free annual flu vaccination.

The influenza vaccine (flu jab) protects against different strains of flu. Unlike a cold, flu can have serious symptoms such as fever and painful limbs. It can lead to complications These can include chest infections such as bronchitis or pneumonia.

It is recommended that people Living with HIV receive the flu vaccination, as they may be at higher risk of developing serious flu and related complications. Flu vaccination should be repeated every year, as the strain of seasonal influenza infecting people changes every year.

People living with with HIV should receive the flu shot rather than the nasal spray. The shot does not contain live flu virus whereas the nasal spray contains flu virus that is alive but weakened. It is not recommended that HIV-infected people (particularly those with CD4 (T-cell) counts <250 cells/mm3) receive the nasal spray, since people with vulnerable immune systems may have a higher risk of complications from the nasal spray. You cannot get the flu from the flu shot.

You should tell your doctor if you are allergic to eggs or have had a bad reaction to other vaccinations in the past before you receive the flu shot.

Pneumococcal vaccination

People living with HIV are also recommended to have a pneumococcal vaccination (known as a ‘pneumo jab’). This will protect you against infections such as pneumonia, meningitis and septicaemia.

You may only need one vaccination or it might need to be repeated after five years. You will be able to get the vaccination from your GP, so you could have it at the same time as your flu jab.  If your GP doesn’t know about your HIV status please speak to someone at your HIV clinic about where to get vaccinated.

I had a vaccination last year, do I really need another one?

Yes – because flu viruses are constantly mutating, so new vaccines are developed each season.  With many illnesses, one jab will keep you immunised for the rest of your life.  Unfortunately, just like HIV, the flu virus is very clever and constantly changes to build up a resistance to the vaccines we produce.

That’s why you need to have a new flu jab every year and stay one step ahead.

It’s also important to be aware that there are lots of flu viruses, and while the vaccines are the best form of protection currently available, they won’t provide 100% protection against flu, so you’d still need to seek medical advice if you experienced symptoms at any point.

It’s best to try at get it done at the start of the season if possible.

Can I catch flu from a flu jab?

No – technically, this isn’t possible, as there are no ‘active viruses’ in the vaccine when administered intravenously.  The NHS points out that you may experience some mild aches and a mild fever for a couple of days afterwards, but serious side-effects are deemed very rare. As with everything we come into contact with, allergic reactions can occur. If you did experience any warning signs, seek urgent medical advice.

What about interactions/side effects between antiretroviral agents & anti-novel H1N1 drugs?

There are two agents active against novel H1N1 virus; tamiflu® (taken as tablets) and relenza® (administered via inhalers). There is little data available on the interaction between anti HIV treatment and these agents. It is likely that protease inhibitors (kaletra, atazanavir, darunavir) may interact with tamiflu® and increase the rate of side effects associated with tamiflu®.

The current advice is to take the drugs and inform your doctor if you developed any side effects. The most significant side effects include neurological and those reducing kidney function. Relenza® is believed to be safe with anti HIV treatment regimes.

What should I do before receiving my vaccination?

The information presented here is not medical advice nor should it be interpreted as medical advice.  You should always speak with your doctor or medical team when discussing a change or supplementing your health care.

What can I do to protect myself from Swine Flu?

Make good hygiene a habit for yourself and your children by following the information below:

  • If you are not currently on HIV treatment, speak with your doctor, particularly if your CD4 count is low (around 250 cells/mm3)
  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water (Especially after using public transport or being in public spaces).
  • Use a paper towel to dry your hands and if you use cloth towels, wash them daily
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth with your hands. Virus spread this way
  • Cover your mouth and nose with tissue when coughing or sneezing
  • Dispose of used tissue in the bin
  • Cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve if you don’t have a tissue
  • Wash your hands after coughing or sneezing
  • Clean hard surfaces, like door handles frequently using normal cleaning products
  • Stay at home if you are sick
  • Stop smoking, smoking suppresses the natural immunity in your lungs
  • Eat a balanced diet; including plenty of vegetables, fruits and whole grain products. Also include low fat diary products, lean meats, poultry, fish and beans
  • Drink lots of water
  • Reduce your salt, sugar and alcohol intake
  • Avoid contact with sick people
  • Take your anti-retroviral drugs fully and regularly

In addition to providing this information when ‘flu season’ hits, we ask our staff and volunteers to receive a vaccination.  We do this to prevent ourselves from catching the flu, so there is less chance for our clients and service users to catch it from us.

Want more information?

Visit the NHS choices page on the Flu Jab for more infomration: http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/vaccinations/pages/flu-influenza-vaccine.aspx

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We have the ability to end HIV in our lifetime!

Image by NIAID (CC BY 2.0)

London’s largest sexual health clinic, Dean Street is on track to record a huge drop in new HIV cases for a second successive year. In light of this, Dean Street has set itself a target of zero new infections after  witnessing a two-thirds fall in the number of new diagnoses since 2015.

So what’s happened? – PrEP has happened.  PrEP is a HIV prevention, once a day pill which you take regularly, or semi regular (depending on your circumstances).  For more information on PrEP please visit Prepster or The Terrence Higgins Trust

The reduction in new HIV diagnosis attributed to intensive testing of high-risk gay men, quick access to antiretroviral therapy and trials of PrEP which will be offered free on the NHS to 10,000 people from next month.

Dean Street diagnosed 136 people with HIV between January and July, putting it on course for a total of 233 by the end of the year.  If achieved, this would be the second successive fall in excess of 40 per cent, down from 679 in 2015 and 393 last year, when clinicians first raised the possibility of defeating HIV.

Dean Street’s figures are notable as it is also the largest HIV clinic in Europe and typically accounts for one in nine of all new cases in the UK.

Lead clinician Dr Alan McOwan said the latest figures were “great but not good enough” and told the Standard: “It’s a very exciting time. Everyone is so motivated to make this work. In 2015 we were diagnosing about 60 to 70 people positive a month. It dropped dramatically last year, and it’s still dropping. Over the last few months it’s between 15 to 20 people a month.”

Public Health England figures show that the total number of HIV diagnoses in London has fallen steadily from more than 3,000 in 2006 to 2,603 in 2015. It has risen within the highest-risk group of “men who have sex with men”, who now account for more than half the cases. One in seven gay and bisexual men in the capital has HIV.

Figures published earlier this summer for London’s five busiest clinics, including Dean Street and Mortimer Market, also in Soho, showed a 32 per cent fall in new HIV cases, from 880 to 595, in the year to last September.

Dr McOwan said the initial fall in infections diagnosed at Dean Street since 2015 had been concentrated among “very well-informed, assertive people” who bought PrEP online and followed medical advice.

The clinic’s Plan Zero initiative, unveiled this week, will provide tailored advice online to “harder to reach” gay and bisexual men on how to reduce the risk of contracting HIV, and preventing onward transmission. “Shockingly, there are still groups of people who have very, very little awareness of even the basics of HIV,” Dr McOwan said. Participants are asked to answer five questions about their lifestyle, adapting the answers depending on whether they are HIV positive or negative, have sex with multiple partners, use condoms, or take PrEP.

“We finally have the tools to end HIV,” Dr McOwan said. “Plan Zero brings them together into one package. We will beat HIV if we all act together.”

Dean Street, part of the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS trust, will be among the first London clinics to offer PrEP before it becomes available country-wide by next April.

The drug, previously available to about 1,000 gay men via the Proud clinical trial, cuts the risk of contracting HIV from unprotected sex by about 86 per cent.

NHS England decided to make it available under a £10 million three-year trial after being told by the Court of Appeal last year that funding PrEP fell within the health service’s remit. The trial will be the biggest of its kind in the world.

It is not yet known how Leicester & Leicestershire will be involved in the trial.

The introduction of anti-retroviral therapy two decades ago was credited with transforming HIV from a fatal infection into a chronic manageable condition. However, there were 594 deaths of people with HIV in the UK last year.

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Gallery

Photographs from Leicester Pride 2017

This gallery contains 77 photos.

Originally posted on tjrfoto:
Leicester Pride is attended by more 10,000 people each year with more than 2,000 taking part in the parade through the city, starting at The Curve and ending at Victoria Park.  Leicester Pride celebrates equality and diversity…

New Integrated Sexual Health Services, we need your opinion!

We invite you to consult and provide your opinion on ‘integrated sexual health services’. This includes contraceptive services and prevention, HIV & STI testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infections. These services can be used by people no matter where they live. (Please note, this survey does not include the HIV Treatment and care services which are provided by University Hospitals of Leicester).

We would like your views to help determine what the new services should offer and how they will work. In addition we also want to highlight future sexual health services available in Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland and how people will be able to access them.

We need to understand how people might be affected by any proposed changes to how we run our sexual health services. This is why we are asking members of the public, services users, staff and partner organisations to comment on the proposed changes.

The proposed changes will be described in more detail in each section of this consultation. A summary of the proposed changes is also available on the first summary page of the questionnaire.

To give your views, please follow the link to the online survey and please feel free to share this survey with your friends and networks.
https://consultations.leicester.gov.uk/communications/sexual-health-services-review/

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Welcome to Caro Hart – Chief Executive of LASS

It is strange coming into a new organisation; new people, new ways of doing things. At the Michael Wood Centre, however, I felt immediately at home.

This was partly because of the way I was recruited; once I had passed the interview with the Trustees, I was invited to the annual LASS and Well for Living planning day. I met staff, trustees, service users and people from other organisations that work closely with LASS and Well for Living. All of them were scoring me on how well I did in the discussions and exercises. Scary stuff! But even then, I saw how welcoming everyone was and how much everyone cared about delivering excellent services to the community.

Going into a new place you always wonder if you’ll fit in. I think it will be a good match as my background is in charity management, including running a Citizens Advice Bureau. I have worked with older peoples’ charities, been Chair of a Healthwatch Stakeholder Panel, worked for an environmental charity and lead a charity working with international students (useful in this neck of the woods!).

For the last few years, I have been running my own community interest company, working with small to medium sized voluntary sector and community groups helping them to get volunteers, funding and other resources and to manage and govern themselves effectively. All of this is going to come in very handy at LASS and Well for Living.

Originally from Hertfordshire, I have lived and worked at various points around the UK. I now live on the Leicestershire-Rutland Border and I am fast growing to appreciate the vibrancy of the City and the beauty of the countryside. I might even land up a Tigers supporter!

Jenny, the outgoing CEO, and the teams at both LASS and Well for Living have made me feel so welcome. I hope that we can have a long a fruitful relationship.

 

Jenny Hand – LASS CEO due to retire from LASS next week.

w-jenny

Jenny Hand LASS CEO since 2008

Jenny Hand has been the CEO at LASS, Leicestershire’s HIV specialist charity for almost 10 years and will retire in June this year . With Jenny at the helm, LASS has moved forward with the changes in HIV medication and support, advice, information, prevention and awareness needs. In 2013 LASS was recognised best 10 health charities in the country with a £30,000 Impact Award from GSK with the Kings Fund. LASS continues to benefit from being a member of the Impact Award alumni attending Kings Fund training with other Award winners and taking part in research and reviews.

LASS was among the first charities in the Country to introduce free instant result HIV community testing, demonstrating huge savings for the health service through enabling people to know their HIV status and be referred for appropriate support and medical treatment through a fast track arrangement.

LASS also set up a social enterprise – trading as Well for Living and through this has worked in partnership with other small local HIV services in the region to provide enhanced awareness and prevention services. Most recently the regional partnership has delivered a public health England funded innovation project promoting HIV testing in the workplace. A full report on this pioneering work is due to be released this spring. Jenny says ‘the findings are very encouraging not only for HIV but for other workplace health awareness developments.’

Patrick Bowe, Chair of the trustees at LASS, is immensely proud of the work achieved at LASS over the past 10 years and while he would have hoped Jenny might stay for a few more years sees this as an opportunity for LASS to recruit a new CEO  who will be able to lead both LASS and Well for Living into the future.  ‘LASS will enter its 30th year in June and there is still a huge amount of work to do before people living with HIV can live without stigma and discrimination and to ensure late diagnosis is prevented. The CEO’s role will be critical in taking forward the organisation.’

Jenny is looking forward to continuing some part time work focussing on partnerships and in supporting organisations through bid writing.  She will have more time with her family and for holidays and travel.  She enjoys playing cello in local orchestras, walking, and playing bridge.  You may even find her volunteering in the local community when she retires.

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