Tag Archives: gay

President Trump’s next target: People living with HIV

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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!

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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.

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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!

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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

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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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UK Government to consider study to allow gay, monogamous couples to donate blood

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The British Government is considering whether to conduct a study into whether gay or bisexual men in monogamous, same-sex relationships should still have to wait 12 months after having sex to donate blood.

Michael Fabricant, the Conservative MP for Lichfield, introduced a Private Member’s Bill last year calling for the gay blood ban to be removed.

Just before Christmas, Mr Fabricant met with Public Health Minister Jane Ellison, and members of the Scientific Advisory Committee on the Safety of Blood, Tissues, and Organs (SaBTO), to discuss the possibility of a study into whether men in monogamous, same-sex relationships, could be exempt from the 12-month deferral period men who have sex with men (MSM) are currently subject to.

PinkNews has seen copies of correspondence between a highly-respected, award-winning NHS haematologist and Mr Fabricant. The doctor asked to remain anonymous, but called for more research to be done.

He wrote to Mr Fabricant: “I am a practicing haematologist, and therefore transfusion matters form a substantial part of my daily NHS work. The National Blood Service is an incredible, world leading, pioneering and hugely impressive organisation, for which I have enormous respect. It has made the UK probably the safest country in the world in which to receive a blood transfusion. It has moved with new challenges, threats and scientific developments and its training and guidelines are unrivalled internationally. However the matter of excluding gay men from transfusion, and the bizarre compromise of insisting on abstinence for a year prior to any donation, is prejudicial, illogical and reinforces a social stigma that has in other areas been reduced enormously, such as an area for which I understand you have campaigned – gay marriage.”

He continued to say that he had written to the chair of the European Committee on Blood Transfustion, and to the UK Blood Transfusion Services’ Joint Professional Advisory Committee, but that he received no response addressing the concerns.

Jane Ellison responded to Mr Fabricant: “As was agreed at the meeting, I will write to Public Health England regarding the possibility of designing a study to see if it is possible to set blood donor deferral criteria specifically for a sub-population at a different level to the current 12 month deferral for all MSM. We also discussed the forthcoming NHSBT blood donor survey, the results of which are expected to be published early next year and which may provide additional useful information to reflect upon.

“I would emphasise, as I did when I met with you on 1 December, that this is not based on sexual orientation but sexual behaviour… “

Mr Fabricant told PinkNews; “At the meeting with the Minister and the SaBTO who advise the Blood Transfusion Service, it became clear that their decisions are based on understandable caution but lack authoritative data. No research has been done on the incidence of HIV or Hepatitis infection amongst gay couples in a monogamous relationship. I am now calling on the Department of Health to commission this research as a matter of urgency. It is in the interests of recipients of blood as well as the need to prevent unwarranted discrimination, as there is a shortage of donors, that this be undertaken without further delay.

“Research currently underway – referred to by the minister in her letter – will not be available until April or May and, in any event, only applies to the general cohort of gay or bisexual men or as the Department of Health quaintly put it: Men who have sex with Men, MSM.  It does not include research on gay men in a monogamous relationship.

“I was particularly annoyed by SaBTO officials who when confronted by me asking how might it be clinically possible for monogamous gay couples to become infected, they replied asking how can either partner be trusted to tell the truth of their sexual behaviour to Transfusion officials? When I responded saying that the same might be said of straight blood donors, no reply was forthcoming. There is clearly a mind-set driven by understandable caution and public safety on the one hand, and downright prejudice on the other. This is particularly relevant now that we’ve had a number of years of Civil Partnerships and more recently same-sex marriage.

“It clearly makes no scientific or medical sense for a promiscuous straight man to be a blood donor while a monogamous loving gay couple may not.”

Ed Miliband last week called for a review of the blood ban, which stops sexually active gay and bisexual men from giving blood.

Last month, the FDA in the US announced that a permanent ban on MSM donating blood should end, in favour of a 12-month deferral system similar to England, Wales and Scotland.

Northern Ireland maintains a permanent ban on MSM blood donation, as the DUP consistently block all attempts to reform the measure.

via PinkNews

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The NHS urgently needs to make PrEP available

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Two European studies of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), PROUD1 and IPERGAY2, reported early results in October 2014. Both studies showed that PrEP was so effective at preventing HIV transmission that everyone in these studies has now been offered PrEP. The comparison arms, which respectively offered delayed PrEP or a placebo, have been closed.

In light of this news, together with data on continued high rates of new infections3, the NHS urgently needs to make PrEP available.

Although an NHS England process to evaluate PrEP is underway, any decision to provide PrEP will probably not be implemented until early 2017, which is too long to wait. We are calling for earlier access to PrEP. The NHS must speed up its evaluation process and make PrEP available as soon as possible. Furthermore, we call for interim arrangements to be agreed now for provision of PrEP to those at the highest risk of acquiring HIV.

What is PrEP?

PrEP stands for Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis. It involves a person who doesn’t have HIV taking pills regularly to reduce their risk of HIV infection. Several studies show that PrEP works.

PrEP is currently only available in the UK to people enrolled in the PROUD study,4 but has been available in the US since 2012.

Why do we need PrEP?

There are now over 100,000 people living with HIV in the UK. 5 We need to improve HIV prevention.

Tens of thousands of HIV transmissions have been prevented by condom use.6  However many people do not use condoms all of the time and each year there are thousands of new infections. PrEP has the potential to prevent new infections among some of those at greatest risk of acquiring HIV.

Condom use will remain a core strategy in HIV prevention. PrEP gives people who already find it difficult to consistently use condoms an additional way to protect their health.

Due to the high rate of HIV infections, there is a particular need for the NHS to make PrEP available to gay men. However it should be available to all people who are at high risk of acquiring HIV.

How effective is PrEP?

Research suggests that PrEP is as effective as condoms in preventing HIV transmission, as long as the pills are taken regularly, as directed. Evidence from a large international study suggests that gay men who maintained at least four doses a week had 96% fewer infections.7 8 Preliminary results from separate studies of PrEP in the UK9 and France10 both show that PrEP substantially reduces infections among gay men. Full results are expected early in 2015. PrEP has also proven effective for heterosexual couples in which one partner is HIV positive and not on HIV treatment.11

PrEP does not prevent other sexually transmitted infections or pregnancy. It allows someone to protect their own health, irrespective of whether their partner uses a condom. Because it is taken several hours before sex, it does not rely on decision-making at the time of sex.

Why take HIV treatment to avoid taking HIV treatment?

People living with HIV need to take lifelong treatment. PrEP consists of fewer drugs and people only need to take it during periods when they are at risk of HIV. Many people find that their sexual behaviour changes over time, for example when they begin or end a relationship.

Does PrEP have side-effects?

Any medicine can have side-effects, so taking PrEP is a serious decision. The drugs in PrEP have been used as part of HIV treatment for many years. This has shown that they have a low risk of serious side-effects. Most people taking PrEP don’t report side-effects. Some people have stomach problems, headaches and tiredness during the first month but these usually go away. People taking PrEP have regular check-ups at a clinic.

Does PrEP mean people take more risks?

The full results of the PROUD study will help us understand the impact of PrEP on condom use among gay men in the UK. But other studies of PrEP have consistently reported that being on PrEP did not result in people adopting riskier behaviours. 12 13  14 Instead it gives people who already find it difficult to consistently use condoms a way to protect their health.

                                                        

References

  1. http://www.proud.mrc.ac.uk/PDF/PROUD%20Statement%20161014.pdf
  2. http://www.aidsmap.com/SecondEuropeanPrEPstudyclosesplaceboarmearlyduetohigheffectiveness/page/2917367/
  3. Public Health England. HIV in the United Kingdom: 2014 Report. London: Public Health England. November 2014.
  4. For more information, http://www.proud.mrc.ac.uk
  5. Public Health England. HIV in the United Kingdom: 2014 London: Public Health England. November 2014.
  6. Phillips AN et al. Increased HIV Incidence in Men Who Have Sex with Men Despite High Levels of ARTInduced Viral Suppression: Analysis of an Extensively Documented Epidemic. PLoS ONE 8(2): e55312. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0055312.
  7. Grant RM et al. Preexposure Chemoprophylaxis for HIV Prevention in Men Who Have Sex with Men. New England Journal of Medicine 363:2587-2599, 2010.
  8. Anderson PL et al. Emtricitabinetenofovir concentrations and preexposure prophylaxis efficacy in men who have sex with men. Science Translational Medicine 4: 151ra125, 2012.
  9. http://www.proud.mrc.ac.uk/PDF/PROUD%20Statement%20161014.pdf
  10. http://www.aidsmap.com/SecondEuropeanPrEPstudyclosesplaceboarmearlyduetohigheffectiveness/page/2917367/
  11. Baeten JM et al. Antiretroviral Prophylaxis for HIV Prevention in Heterosexual Men and Women. New England Journal of Medicine 367: 399-410, 2012.
  12. Marcus JL et al. No Evidence of Sexual Risk Compensation in the iPrEx Trial of Daily Oral HIV Preexposure PLoS ONE 8: e81997, 2013.
  13. Mugwanya KK et al. Sexual behaviour of heterosexual men and women receiving antiretroviral preexposure prophylaxis for HIV prevention: a longitudinal analysis. Lancet Infectious Diseases 13: 1021–28, 2013. 14 Grant RM et al. Uptake of preexposure prophylaxis, sexual practices, and HIV incidence in men and transgender women who have sex with men: a cohort study. Lancet Infectious Diseases 14: 820-829, 2014.

Via NAM

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