Tag Archives: STI

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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Teens Don’t Know HIV Is a Sexually Transmitted Disease

teenage silhouettes

A new study published by the MAC AIDS Fund shows a third of teens don’t know HIV is a sexually transmitted disease. Have the lessons of generations past been lost?

That’s the conclusion reading the results of a new survey put out by the MAC AIDS Fund (PDF). The online survey of about 1,000 teenagers was conducted this year by the communications firm Kelton, and does reveal some worrisome data about their attitudes and level of information about HIV and AIDS. Given its funding source, it makes sense that those facts would be the focus of the report. But taken as a whole, the results indicate that adolescents have a pretty good understanding of what choices are most likely to worsen their health over time.

The most startling and worrisome finding (helpfully highlighted by Vox) is that roughly a third of the respondents did not identify HIV as a sexually transmitted infection (STI). If a true reflection of teenagers’ knowledge of how HIV is spread, that number is troubling indeed. A 2002 study of youth at an urban clinic found that, despite spotty knowledge about STIs as a whole, HIV was identified as such by 91 percent, a larger number than identified any of the others. While a difference in study populations may account for some of that discrepancy between the two surveys, a drop to 67 percent in the span of a dozen years would be a precipitous decline in informedness.

Unfortunately, it’s difficult to know how much credence to give those findings. Unlike studies that typically appear in peer-reviewed journals, there is little information provided by Kelton in the report regarding the survey methods. While it’s certainly possible that teenagers have become drastically less informed about HIV than they should be, it’s hard to put aside skepticism about how solid those numbers are without seeing how the survey was worded.

Taking the numbers at face value, the survey finds that 88 percent of teenagers don’t perceive themselves to be at risk for lifetime HIV infection. In contrast, they are concerned about the risks of developing cancer (38 percent), diabetes (33 percent), heart disease (28 percent) and obesity (22 percent). Comparing the prevalence of HIV infection to mortality and obesity rates in the United States, those attitudes are actually pretty sensible. While 50,000 new HIV infections a year are far too many, on balance adolescents are at far more risk of developing those other health problems.

The survey reports that less than a third of respondents rated having unprotected sex as the most risky health behavior they could be engaging in. However, that’s still more than those who rated smoking or drinking (28 percent) or eating unhealthy foods (20 percent) as the riskiest. Without seeing the study’s methods, it’s impossible to know what those numbers really mean. Were respondents only given one choice or asked to rank several? Just because a teenager thinks drinking is the most risky thing she could be doing (which, given the effects of drinking on mortality, isn’t a crazy answer) doesn’t mean she perceives unprotected sex as being risk-free.

For an organization like the MAC AIDS Fund, it makes sense to look at the survey results and respond with alarm. Its focus is on HIV and AIDS, and the report certainly indicates that there is work to be done in communicating to youth about preventing infection. But when viewed as part of a bigger picture, it shows that teenagers have a good idea of what their long-term health risks truly are. Coupled with data showing decreased risk behavior among adolescents as compared to older generations, it’s actually rather encouraging.

What is truly discouraging are the numbers regarding new HIV infections among men who have sex with men (MSM), the group comprising the largest number of new diagnoses by far. Among MSM aged 13-24 years rates of new infections have actually risen over the past decade, while the overall rate of new diagnoses has dropped by 30 percent.  While medications like Truvada can be used to lower the risk of infection for those engaged in high-risk behaviors, that doesn’t mean attention to lowering those risks isn’t important.

Though reading of the report is that most teens have a good idea about the health risks they actually face, it remains important to inform adolescents about their risk of infection with HIV. The survey report contains no information about the respondents’ demographics beyond their ages, so it’s impossible to know how many fall into higher-risk groups. For those who do, giving them the information they need to lower that risk remains just as important as ever.

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Call for better education on HIV after survey


There’s a call for teenagers to be given clearer education about HIV.

A third of 12 to 17-year-olds wrongly think they can’t catch HIV through unprotected sex.  A panel of nearly 1,000 were surveyed by the charity the MAC Aids Fund between May and June.

Figures from the survey also suggest nearly 90% of teenagers believe they are not at risk of contracting HIV in their lifetime.  When asked if they had ever spoken about the topic, 42% of the panel said they hadn’t.

37% per cent of respondents thought smoking or drinking alcohol would be a greater risk to their health compared to 27% who thought having unprotected sex could be detrimental.

The Departments for Education in England, Scotland and Wales say students must learn about sexually transmitted infections like HIV.  The government has said “As part of the new science GCSE, pupils will also be taught about sexually transmitted infections, which will include HIV for the first time.”

According to Public Health England, in the 10 years to 2012 the number of gay men aged between 15 and 24 who were newly diagnosed with the virus more than doubled from 198 to 443.  The number of cases of men and women in this age group has dropped slightly from 508 to 505.

Their latest figures out in June suggest this age group also had the highest rate of sexually transmitted disease, with the number of new cases on the rise.

Alex Sparrowhawk found out he was HIV positive when he was 24 after having unprotected sex.  He told BBC Newsbeat: “I was aware of HIV, and knew it was a virus and how to catch it.  “But I didn’t think it would happen to someone like me. I presumed it would happen to other people.

It wasn’t something I ever thought of.

He explained that after having unprotected sex he “had a constant cough and the GP couldn’t give me answers so I went to get HIV tested”. Alex said he “couldn’t take it in” when he found out he had the virus.

He added: “I was quite numb. I didn’t understand what it would mean to me.

“There have been times I’ve not felt my best mentally, when I’ve thought ‘Is this really happening to me?’ “I can’t change the past, so I don’t regret it in that sense.

“At the end of the day I just think I was unlucky. But that’s just why I just want to raise awareness because that’s what’s going to happen to someone else.”

Alex, who has set up a blog detailing his experiences, said he didn’t learn about HIV or Aids in school and warned: “What you need to know is HIV is just a virus – it doesn’t care if you are gay or straight, black or white, male or female. It can affect anyone.”

Story via BBC Newsbeat

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Knowing, a short film by John Saint-Denis.

From Impulse Group and The Advisorie, comes this artistic and educational short, a sexy portrayal of a couple taking the next step in their relationship, and the influence that knowledge, communication and compassion has on their deeper connection.

Why not know? Why not ask? Why not tell?

Impulse Group teamed up with Tastemaker, John Saint-Denis of the Advisorie Group, Producer, Chris Rallo; and Director, Nino Mancuso; known for their artistic digital short films that bring story to life. This short highlights the journey from a break-up to knowing one’s HIV status to communicating that status. And of course, love and compassion prevail. ♥

Parker, played by Kyle Heinen, finds that love in his unlikely nerdy co-worker, Billy, played by Namir Nasir.

Additional cast includes: Tim Lee, Daniel Del Valle, John Saint-Denis, Eli Davis, Daniel Gradias and Jessica Piersee.   YouTube heartthrob, Eli Lieb of Los Angeles donated his haunting cover of Rihanna’s ‘Stay’ to the film.

What do you think to the movie?

If you’re thinking now about having a HIV test, you should know it’s National HIV Test week from Friday so you’ve got an excuse to visit and take a test.  You can visit LASS for a free confidential HIV test (You’ll get the results straight away)!  Drop in to 53 Regent Road, Leicester, LE1 6YF (Map) or call us on 0116 2559995 if you fancy a chat!

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Drop In Sexually Transmitted Diseases In England

For the first time in over a decade there has been a drop in the number of new sexually transmitted infections in England, figures show.

The Health Protection Agency says although the reduction is small – only 1% down from the 424,782 cases diagnosed in 2009 – it is significant and a step in the right direction.

It says increased screening for diseases like chlamydia has helped.
For the first time rates of this disease show no rise and remain stable.
There were 189,612 newly diagnosed cases of chlamydia last year.

At the same time, 2.2 million chlamydia tests were carried out in England among young people aged 15 to 24, an increase of 196,500 from the previous year.
Diagnoses of genital warts went down by 3% to 75,615 new diagnoses in 2010 and syphilis was down 8% to 2,624.

But other sex diseases continued to rise. Gonorrhoea went up by 3% from 15,978diagnoses in 2009 to 16,531 in 2010 and genital herpes increased by 8% from 27,564 to 29,703.

STI trends
•    Chlamydia stabilised at 189,612 in 2010
•    Genital warts down 3% to 75,615 in 2010
•    Syphilis down 8% to 2,624 in 2010
•    Gonorrhoea up 3% to 16,531 in 2010
•    Genital herpes up 8% to 29,703 in 2010

Young people under the age of 25 remain the group experiencing the highest rates of STIs overall.

Dr Gwenda Hughes, head of the HPA’s STI section, says the encouraging decreases “do not mean we can rest on our laurels.  It is particularly encouraging to see a decline in some STIs among young people. However, these latest figures show that the impact of STI diagnoses is still unacceptably high in this group. ”

“Studies suggest that those who become infected may be more likely to have unsafe sex or lack the skills and confidence to negotiate safer sex.
“Prevention efforts, such as greater STI screening coverage and easier access to sexual health services, should be sustained and continue to focus on groups at highest risk.”

To reduce the risk of STIs, experts advise using a condom when having sex with a new partner and continuing to do so until both parties have been screened.
And sexually active under-25-year-olds should be tested for chlamydia every year, or sooner if they change their partner.

Commenting on the study, Terrence Higgins Trust’s Chief Executive, Sir Nick Partridge, said: “The decreases in STIs that we saw in 2010 are small, but very significant.  We’re finally beginning to see a slowing down in the rates of infections, particularly among young people, showing that the time and money that has been put into sexual health, and in particular chlamydia screening, in recent years is starting to pay off.”

“We are at a vital tipping point but, with the national sexual health strategy of the last ten years now expired, Government leadership and local investment are crucial.  Over four hundred thousand people were treated for an STI in England last year. We need to provide accessible, targeted and community based sexual health services and prevention campaigns if we are to maintain the momentum in bringing these figures down.”

Original Article By Michelle Roberts Health reporter, BBC News

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New Gonorrhoea Strain Resists Drugs

Doctors have found a new ‘superbug’ form of gonorrhoea’ that is resistant to a range of antibiotics, it has been announced. Several newspapers have reported on the first case of the strain, which was recently discovered in a Japanese woman. Testing has shown that the strain has resistance against a range of antibiotic drugs, including those commonly used to cure the sexually transmitted infection (STI).

The strain, called H041, was investigated by a Swedish research team lead by Dr Magnus Unemo from the Swedish Institute for Infectious Disease Control. Dr Unemo reportedly told the Daily Mirror that “the drug resistant strain could spread around the world in 10 years”. Researchers are now trying to understand why this strain is resistant to existing treatments and how to stop it from spreading.

Details of the new strain are being presented at a conference of the International Society for Sexually Transmitted Disease Research. Further research into H041 is sure to follow. While UK strains can currently be treated, this news highlights the importance of practising safer sex, such as using condoms. While antibiotics currently provide an effective treatment for gonorrhoea infections, condoms are effective at preventing new infections in the first place.

What exactly is gonorrhoea?

Gonorrhoea is a sexually transmitted infection caused by a bacteria called Neisseria gonorrhoeae. The bacteria can cause unpleasant discharge from the penis and vagina. It can be passed on to others through sexual contact and sharing sex toys (if not washed or not covered with a new condom each time). The bacteria can also live in other areas of the body, including inside the cells of the cervix, the urethra (the tube where urine comes out), the rectum, the throat and, very occasionally, the eyes.

Symptoms of gonorrhoea will usually show up within two weeks of being infected, although sometimes they will not show up until months after a person has become infected. However, about 10% of infected men and 50% of infected women have no obvious symptoms, meaning it may go untreated for some time.

Women may have an unusual discharge from the vagina that may be green or yellow in colour, as well as pain when passing urine. Other symptoms for women may include pain or tenderness in the lower abdominal area and bleeding between periods, although these are less common. Men may have a discharge from the penis which may be green, yellow or white in colour. They may also have pain on passing urine, inflammation of the foreskin or (in a small proportion of cases) pain and tenderness of the testicles or prostate gland.

How would gonorrhoea normally be treated?

Gonorrhoea is unlikely to go away without treatment, and it is better to treat the condition as early as possible. Gonorrhoea is treated with a single dose of antibiotics, based on the local reported susceptibility of the organism and the site of infection. Usually one of the following antibiotics are tried:


These are taken either in pill form or by an injection. Azithromycin and sometimes ciprofloxacin are used if the organism is sensitive. Other antibiotics such as penicillin and tetracycline are not used as strains of gonorrhoea have become resistant to these.

What is different about this new strain?

Testing of the new H041 strain has revealed that it is resistant to ceftriaxone, one of the three preferred antibiotic treatments. Analysis at the Swedish Reference library for Pathogenic Neisseria also found it to be resistant to all other types of cephalosporins (a class of antibiotic that includes Cefixime), as well as the majority of 30 antimicrobials tested. The researchers were able to show that the new bacteria strain possessed a new gene variant that enabled it to be resistant to cephalosporins.

There have been no reported cases of this strain of gonorrhoea in the UK, but the Health Protection Agency has an ongoing surveillance programme to detect cases of antibiotic resistant gonorrhoea should they arise in the UK. This surveillance programme regularly examines samples from a number of genito-urinary medicine (GUM) clinics to monitor how well the samples from attendees respond to different antibiotics.

How is this new strain treated?

Currently, it is not known how best to treat this new strain, although The Independent reported that the Japanese case was cured after a second course of the same antibiotic. It is possible that alternative combinations of drugs and higher doses of current antibiotics may cure infections with the strain. Data in the conference abstract stated that laboratory testing had found that H041 was 4-8 times more resistant to ceftriaxone than other strains of this bacteria.

The researchers say that it is crucial to monitor the spread of antibiotic-resistant gonorrhoea. Ultimately, new drugs will need to be developed to treat it. As with all strains of gonorrhoea and STIs, prevention is better than cure, and it is important to take steps such as using a condom when having sex in order to reduce the transmission of infections.

Does this mean I can’t be treated if I catch it?

Dr David Livermore, director of the antibiotic resistance monitoring laboratory at the Health Protection Agency in the UK, has said that the cephalosporin antibiotics used are still effective for treating gonorrhoea.

However, it is important to prevent this new strain from Japan from spreading further. Careful use of condoms with new sexual partners is important to prevent the spread of all types of gonorrhoea. As the infection can be symptomless the only way to know if you have gonorrhoea is to be tested. Testing is straightforward for both men and women: men are usually tested using a urine sample, whereas women are tested using a swab from the cervix. Testing can either be performed by a person’s GP or they can attend a sexual health clinic, also known as a genito-urinary medicine (GUM), clinic. When visiting a GUM clinic, a person’s details will not be passed on to their GP unless they request it.

Via NHS Choices

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