Tag Archives: gay

We really can beat HIV!

In October 2017, Public Health England reported an 18% drop in the numbers of people diagnosed with HIV in 2016 – this includes 18% fewer diagnoses among people of black African ethnicity compared to 2015.

This was the first time that we’ve had such a significant drop and it is was all down to a combination of things we can all do to make a difference.

New ways to stop the spread of HIV

The HIV epidemic started more than 30 years ago but recently there have been some big changes which we want to share with you and make sure everyone knows about. The number of HIV infections is starting to come down in some areas and this is down to a combined approach to stopping HIV. It’s no longer JUST about condoms, HIV treatment is now a part of our armoury against HIV – and part of protected sex.

Here’s how:

1) Treatment as Prevention (TasP)

If someone is on effective HIV treatment and has an ‘undetectable viral load’ they cannot pass on HIV. (The viral load is the amount of HIV measured in a blood test – most clinics in the UK classify undetectable as being below 20 copies/ml.)

We are saying this based on findings from the PARTNER study which looked at 888 gay and straight couples (and 58,000 sex acts) where one partner was HIV positive and on effective treatment and one was HIV negative. Results found that where the HIV positive partner had an undetectable viral load, there were no cases of HIV transmission whether they had anal or vaginal sex without a condom. It can take up to six months from starting treatment to become undetectable.

What this means: This is exciting news as it means treatment is a new way to stop the spread of HIV. Don’t forget though that sex without a condom still means you can get or pass on another sexually transmitted infection (STI) and can result in a pregnancy.

2) Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP)

PrEP is a course of HIV drugs taken by an HIV negative person who is at risk of getting HIV to lower their chance of becoming infected. When taken correctly, PrEP significantly reduces the chances of becoming HIV positive.

In England PrEP is not currently available on the NHS routinely, although 10,000 people will be taking it as part of the IMPACT trial, which started this autumn. In Scotland and Wales PrEP is available on the NHS.

What this means: If you are likely to be exposed to HIV, PrEP is another way to protect yourself.

3) Post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP)

PEP is a month-long course of HIV medication taken by an HIV negative person after possible exposure to reduce the chance of getting HIV. When started in time (within 72 hours, but within 24 hours is best) PEP can stop HIV infection after sex without a condom (or other exposure) with someone who is infectious – but it does not work every time.

What this means: PEP is the third way HIV treatment can be used to protect yourself, a doctor will assess whether you will be eligible or not depending on the risk taken.

Testing and treatment saves lives

In terms of stopping HIV this new information is monumental and the facts show that people power can dramatically reduce HIV transmissions. Regular testing means more people with HIV will be diagnosed and taking treatment – so they will be less likely to become ill and less likely to pass on HIV.

Despite the good news of a drop in HIV rates, 54% of newly diagnosed black African people were diagnosed late in 2016, which means they will have an increased risk of developing an AIDS-defining illness. The British HIV Association (BHIVA) recommends everyone with HIV starts treatment when they are diagnosed. This is because a study called START found that starting straight away significantly reduced people’s chances of developing AIDS-related illnesses.

So the problem we have is that although lots of us are being diagnosed and getting onto treatment in time, an even bigger proportion are finding out they have HIV at a point where their immune systems have been damaged. Regular testing is the linchpin of reducing late diagnoses and keeping people well.

Additionally, people are extremely infectious when they are first infected with HIV which is why early diagnosis is so important – if you are on effective treatment and have an undetectable viral load you cannot pass on HIV.

The Simple Science

HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus. It was identified in the early 1980s and belongs to a group of viruses called retroviruses.

HIV uses your CD4 cells to reproduce, destroying them in the process. These are important cells which co-ordinate your immune system to fight off illnesses and infections. As the number declines, you may not have enough to keep your immune system working properly. At the same time the amount of HIV in your body (the ‘viral load’) will usually increase.

Without treatment your immune system will not be able to work properly and protect you from ‘opportunistic infections’.

Effective treatment will mean your CD4 count increases and your viral load decreases – hopefully to ‘undetectable’ levels.

The viral load test shows how much HIV is in your body by measuring how many particles of HIV are in a blood sample. The results are given as the number of ‘copies’ of HIV per millilitre of blood – for example 200 copies/ml.

An ‘undetectable’ viral load does not mean there is no HIV present – HIV is still there but in levels too low for the laboratory test to pick up. Different laboratories may have different cut off points when classifying an undetectable viral load, however most clinics in the UK classify undetectable as being below 20 copies/ml.

Modern HIV treatment means that many people with HIV are living long, healthy lives and if you’re taking HIV medication and have an undetectable viral load you cannot pass on HIV.

Getting tested

Our Rapid HIV testing service is available Monday-Friday between 9am – 4pm.  You do not need an appointment.

The test is performed at our office on Regent Road, Leicester by qualified and experienced HIV testers.  The process usually takes around 20 minutes.

The test is free to ‘at risk groups’ and always confidential.  If you’re not at risk, we can refer you to an alternative service who will be able to provide you with a free HIV test.  You can still test with us for £20 or you may prefer a free Home Sampling kit or buy a Home Testing kit from BioSure for £29.95.  You can also find details of other testing services by clicking here.

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A gay man’s experience of using PEP (Emergency HIV medication)

In recent months I experienced something I never thought I’d have to deal with when I faced the possibility that I might have contracted HIV.

I have been sexually responsible for my entire adult life and have always been heavily influenced by warnings of the past regarding HIV and AIDS, however all it takes is one moment of passion to let your guard down and you can find yourself in a situation similar to mine which resulted in me taking the HIV emergency medication known as PEP. The days leading up to my 28-day treatment were possibly some of the scariest of my life. Experiencing this drug first hand and the people I encountered along the way brought on a variety of conflicting emotions and an understanding of sexual health I never thought I’d have to comprehend.

Story via Metro

What is PEP?

Post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) is a month-long course of medication which aims to prevent HIV infection after the virus has potentially entered a person’s body. The drug is used as an emergency measure on a person who may have been exposed to the virus, either through infection or sexual transmission. Although PEP is not 100% guaranteed to always work, the success rate is very high. It’s very important to make clear that PEP should not be considered an alternative to using condoms as prevention for contracting HIV. Using condoms is the most effective method of preventing HIV transmission as well as other sexually transmitted diseases.

The drug should also not be viewed as some form of a morning after pill either – PEP is a powerful drug and users like me risk side effects, not to mention the fact PEP isn’t taken on just one occasion like with morning after pills. I myself am lucky enough to have not experienced any side-effects of PEP, but the potential side-effects include prolonged headaches, diarrhoea, nausea and vomiting. If you experience any of these side effects you should not stop taking the medication as once stopped, PEP will not be effective. Contact your doctor to discuss any issues you may be encountering on the drug to get an informed decision on what to do next. Timing is also crucial when it comes to PEP. If the course of drugs has not started within 72 hours of potential infection, the drug will no longer be effective.

Why I took PEP

My reasoning for using this often misunderstood drug was down to one thing: paranoia. The partner I had engaged in potentially risky sexual activity with was someone I know to be practising safe sex, and although we weren’t in a relationship we were very open with one another about our fears of HIV risks in the gay community and HIV tests we had previously taken. Nonetheless, I couldn’t shake the feeling of ‘what if?’ after this particular sexual encounter.

After two days of endless overthinking, excessive Googling and sheer panic I decided to bite the bullet and visit my nearest sexual health clinic. On this particular evening the clinic stated upon my entrance that the session was for appointment-only patients – my heart sank as this was my final chance to obtain PEP before the 72 hour window had closed. However, after quietly asking if I could speak to a nurse in private I was humbled to learn how genuinely concerned and helpful the staff at the clinic were. I was ushered into a private room where I explained my situation and within five minutes the nurse had made space for me and I was on the waiting list.

After a short wait I was seen by the doctor who carefully took note of my situation, perfectly explained what PEP was and reassured me that coming to the clinic after potentially being exposed to HIV was the right thing to do. Hearing that my decision to take PEP was the right one was all I wanted to hear from a medical professional at that time. The doctor agreed with my sentiment that if you’re asking yourself ‘what if?’ then you should absolutely take no risks when it comes to HIV, because, ultimately, the only sexual health status you can be 100% sure of is your own. After taking a few blood samples and a quick HIV test, which is something I had done many times over the past few years, I was given my PEP medication.

The instructions were to take one tablet in the morning and two at night, taken exactly 12 hours apart at the same time every day. I was however only given a three day supply of the drug. The doctor informed me that this is normal practice and it’s up to the patient to pick up the remainder of their 28 day supply from their pharmacy. It is absolutely imperative that users of PEP plan ahead to make sure their supply of pills does not run out before retrieving the full medication.

The future

My experience with PEP, which I am currently still using until my 28 days are up, has been both fearful and insightful. In the short amount of time between considering starting a course of the drug and actually taking it I learned more about HIV and the treatments available than ever before. I also came to appreciate the services we have available in this country – if I wasn’t lucky enough to live in such a privileged part of the world who knows how I would be forced to handle a situation like this. Life after PEP will most likely enhance my sexual health paranoia, however I believe that being overly careful is always better than being slack when it comes to an issue such as this. Although I’m confident my treatment will be successful, I am currently still in my PEP bubble which involves a daily routine of taking pills with an alarm reminder at either end of my days. In the end, whether I actually needed the drug or not in the first place, it was most definitely worth it.

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President Trump’s next target: People living with HIV


A month into Donald Trump’s presidency, and the ways in which Trumpism is a threat to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender existence are almost too many to count. However, those most vulnerable to HIV will be hit the hardest.

The threat of actually losing health insurance due to the president’s promise to repeal the Affordable Care Act is making millions of Americans so terrified, even his own voters are increasingly warming up to Obamacare.

But the ACA’s death is still a real possibility, and it would take a particular toll on queer Americans. According to a Yahoo investigation: “Before the ACA was passed, only about 13% of people with HIV had private health insurance and 24% had no coverage at all.” Indeed, the ACA has been a lifesaver for many people living with HIV: its subsidies for private insurance and its robust expansion of Medicaid in many states have greatly increased their access to medical treatment. If you doubt the scale of the continuing epidemiological emergency, consider that only about half of African Americans with HIV have access to continuous medical treatment, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

One way the ACA has addressed the crises is by funding the prevention efforts of Aids service organizations. Beyond people living with HIV, this work is helping to keep the transmission of the virus from further harming the most vulnerable communities, such as transgender women of color, or the one in two black gay men the CDC predicts may become HIV-positive in his lifetime unless radical action is taken.

But if “silence equals death”, as the Act Up slogan says, then loud protest is needed to keep people living with HIV from losing access to medication.

Creating swaths of uninsured people living with HIV who will likely lose access to viral suppressing medication (which makes HIV almost impossible to transmit) will also increase the likelihood of transmission to others. We know that when people in prison who are HIV-positive are released with little medication, they often stop taking it altogether when they run out; their viral load then becomes very high and, research has shown, their sex partners are more susceptible to becoming HIV-positive. (And if Republicans failed to keep the Obamacare provisions which allow people with pre-existing conditions to buy insurance without discrimination, it would be even worse.)

Remember: when then Indiana governor Mike Pence presided over one of the worst HIV outbreaks in the history of the country in 2015, he first turned to prayer before then turning to Obamacare to ameliorate the outbreak (the latter worked).

But as vice-president, Politico reported this week: “Pence is helping to lead the Republican effort to dismantle the program that helped him halt the deadly outbreak in an impoverished swathe of Indiana.” Pence wants to end what he knows worked. His horrific HIV record, steeped in heterosexism, racism and Christian supremacy, is going to hurt people living with HIV, queer people, ethnic minorities and the poor the most.

Advocates of science were alarmed when the Environmental Protection Agency was told it could no longer talk to the public because, among other reasons, the EPA protects the public from environmental harm by giving information and guidance. Similarly, LGBT Americans should be very worried that the Trump administration seems to be dialing back on providing information on HIV/Aids and LGBT health to the public. The website for the White House office of Aids policy is now blank, and the office’s future is unclear. A CDC summit in the works to address LGBT youth health (meant to address pressing issues a CDC report exposed such as how “young gay and bisexual males have disproportionately high rates of HIV, syphilis, and other sexually transmitted diseases”) was infinitely postponed after Trump was elected.

In funding prevention programs, the ACA still remains an important channel of government information about HIV/Aids. But if it disappears, the loss may beespecially harmful in states which only teach “abstinence only” sex education.

As an LGBT community (and this applies to our supporters too), we cannot be focused simply on the Trump administration’s conservative stance on our civil rights. We must be vigilant about how HIV/Aids stands to harm the most vulnerable among us first, do all we can to protect the 1.2 million people in the US already living with HIV, and insist that the government keep the epidemic from getting even worse.

Article via US Politics @ The Guardian

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VIGIL TONIGHT! – Leicester Stands with Orlando!


Omar Mateen, a 27 year old man targeted and killed 50 people and injured a further 53 with an assault rifle on Sunday at a gay nightclub in Florida in America’s worst ever mass shooting.

Several LGBT leaders and groups across the UK have issued statements saying they stood in solidarity with the victims and a A vigil is planned for tonight at the Town Hall square in Leicester to show solidarity for our LGBTQ cousins in Orlando.


Please come – It doesn’t matter about your own sexuality, gender, faith, ethnicity. It’s about us all standing together to show solidarity.

It is scheduled from 6.30pm to will allow us all to stand hand-in-hand around the square in respectful silence.

A Facebook event has been set up if you’d like to register your attendance, and please share this post and the Facebook Please share the event. We look forward to seeing you there!

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We will lose the battle against #HIV without #LGBT decriminalisation!


We have made huge progress in the fight against HIV/Aids in the last few decades, but there are still significant challenges. Communities most affected by the virus – sex workers, transgender people, men who have sex with men (MSM), and gay men – still face stigma and discrimination. Global infection rates have not fallen as much for these people as they have for the general population.

Article via The Guardian
guardianlogoIn fact, MSM and gay men are 19 times more likely to be infected with HIV than the general population. HIV infection between MSM and gay men ranges from21% in Senegal, to 13.5% in Nigeria and 16% in Kenya.

Transgender women (people who are born as men but identify as women) carry the biggest burden of the virus, being 49 times more likely to contract HIV. UNAids understands this and has been encouraging the increased involvement of trans people in the fight against HIV.

Many will argue that risky behaviour is the main cause of the high rates of infection among the MSM, gay, trans and sex worker communities. While it is a factor, these people face so much stigma and discrimination that it can be challenging for them to access the healthcare they need.

When I was diagnosed with HIV in 2004, I was afraid to start treatment despite working in the field for more than three years. I was afraid because of the shame, the stigma and the discrimination. Even when I moved to the UK, I could feel the pressure of the stigma I carried with me from Nigeria. – 

In 2000, the International Aids Conference in Durban provided a turning point in the fight against HIV/Aids. Jeffrey Sachs, a world-renowned professor of economics and senior UN adviser, gave a moving call for the creation of a global fund for Aids. The following year, funding and political connections were secured and The Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria was formed. This single act of putting money in the mouth of the political dragon changed the landscape of the global HIV epidemic.

At that time, 28.6 million people were estimated to be living with HIV, yet just 690,000 (2%) of them were receiving treatment through anti-retroviral therapy (ART). By 2014, the number of people living with HIV had risen to almost 37 million, but nearly 15 million people (40%) had access to treatment. By mid-2015, 15.8 million people were receiving ART, meeting and exceeding the millennium development goal.

Now we know that we can treat and manage HIV, our biggest challenge in the fight against the virus is people’s reaction to those living with it. This must be addressed as the International Aids Conference returns to Durban in July.

The increasing criminalisation of LGBT people – especially in African countries – puts people’s lives at risk as they pursue sexual pleasure. Of the 52 countries in Africa, 35 criminalise same-sex relationships, with penalties ranging from five to 14 years’ imprisonment. Efforts to decriminalise LGBT people’s relationships and lives must be at the forefront of discussions in Durban. We do ourselves a disservice if we think the battle against HIV will be won without a global call for decriminalisation.

The continuous global criminalisation of sex work also needs to stop. Sex work is work is not just a slogan, it is the reality for men and women who sell sex, and they too need a safe work environment.

There must also be an increased focus on sensitive and humane care and support for people living with HIV inAfrica – this is the only way we will drive the epidemic down further.

Aids 2016 should also be the place where discussion around pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) for the most affected populations moves away from talking shop to action. We must not leave Durban without a proactive policy and a process of implementation for PrEP for the sex worker, trans , MSM and gay communities. It has been shown that if taken correctly, PrEP will work. Now is the time to take a bold step and provide access to those who need it, and follow in the footsteps of organisations such as Amsher and MSMGF, which work hard to make access to treatment a universal right.

As we prepare to return to Durban to discuss “Access equity rights now”, we need to commit to ending stigma and discrimination, including eliminating legalised discrimination. Until we do, HIV prevention and treatment will not be accessible or equitable for all.

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Mental health issues may increase HIV risk among gay, bisexual men


Gay and bisexual men are at increased risk of acquiring the virus that leads to AIDS if they have mental health problems, according to a new study.

What’s more, their risk of acquiring HIV increases with the number of mental health factors they report, researchers found.

Past studies have found that mental disorders, ranging from depression to substance abuse, are often seen among men with HIV, but “nothing about whether these factors predict HIV risk behaviors or becoming infected with HIV,” said study leader Matthew Mimiaga, from Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that some 1.1 million people in the U.S. are living with HIV. About one case in six is undiagnosed. While the CDC says only about 4 percent of U.S. males have sex with other men, they represent about two-thirds of the country’s new infections.

Additionally, it’s known that the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community also suffers from an increased burden of mental health problems.

When two health conditions tend to occur together in one population, researchers call them “syndemic.”

For the new study in the Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes, the researchers looked at how five conditions – depression, alcohol abuse, stimulant use, multi-drug abuse and exposure to childhood sexual violence – affect men’s risk of acquiring HIV.

They analyzed data on 4,295 men who reported having sex with men within the previous year. The participants were asked about depressive symptoms, heavy alcohol and drug use and childhood sexual abuse.

The participants did not have HIV when they entered the study between 1999 and 2001. They then completed a behavioral survey and HIV test every six months for four years.

Overall, 680 men completed the study. Those who reported the most mental health issues were the most likely to become HIV positive by the end of the study. They were also most likely to report unprotected anal sex and unprotected anal sex with a person who has HIV.

For example, compared to people without any of the five syndemic conditions, those with four or five had about a nine-fold increased risk of being infected with HIV by the end of the study.

The people with four or five mental disorders were also about three times more likely to have unprotected anal sex and about four times as likely to have unprotected anal sex with a person infected with HIV, compared to people without any mental health issues.

Mimiaga said that the next step is to look at how this information can be used to improve HIV prevention methods.

“We need to think about the fact that men who have sex with men in the U.S. have a high prevalence of these syndemic factors (which) for the most part get in the way of traditional HIV messaging or traditional HIV interventions,” he said. “These factors . . . are driving a lot of the risk and really need to be addressed in a comprehensive approach.”

Future research should also examine whether these mental disorders and behavioral risk factors create barriers to men getting treatment for HIV once they are infected, Mimiaga said.

SOURCE: bit.ly/1yhMU3C Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes, online.

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Gay blood: Ban by Edwin Poots ‘infected by apparent bias’

The gay blood ban, put in place during the 1980s AIDS threat, was lifted in England, Scotland and Wales in November 2011.

The gay blood ban, put in place during the 1980s AIDS threat, was lifted in England, Scotland and Wales in November 2011.

A former health minister’s ban on the donation of blood from gay men in Northern Ireland was “infected by apparent bias”, a court has ruled.

A judge also backed claims from lawyers for a gay man that Edwin Poots’ stance was influenced by Christian beliefs.

The High Court ruling strengthens a previous finding in October 2013that the ban was irrational.

Mr Poots, who is to appeal that ruling, was replaced as Stormont’s health minister last year.

The gay blood ban, put in place during the 1980s AIDS threat, was lifted in England, Scotland and Wales in November 2011.

The minister has consistently rejected claims that his position may have been influenced by his religious views

The minister has consistently rejected claims that his position may have been influenced by his religious views

It was replaced by new rules which allow donations from gay men who had not had sexual contact with another man for more than a year.

But Mr Poots maintained the prohibition in Northern Ireland on the basis of ensuring public safety.

The minister has consistently rejected claims that his position may have been influenced by religious views.

But lawyers for the gay man who brought the challenge, introduced remarks made by Mr Poots in the Northern Ireland Assembly.

The DUP MLA was recorded as saying: “There is a continual battering of Christian principles, and I have to say this – shame on the courts, for going down the route of constantly attacking Christian principles, Christian ethics and Christian morals, on which this society was based and which have given us a very good foundation.”

The judge cited a news article from 2001 in which Mr Poots spoke of the rights of those receiving donations to be told they were getting “clean blood” uncontaminated by the HIV virus.

He added: “The minister’s very troubling lack of candour and his attempt to conceal the fact that he had made a decision are plainly circumstances that are material to whether a fair-minded and informed observer would conclude that there was a real possibility of bias.”

via BBC News

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