Connect with us

AIDS and HIV

HIV prevention efforts stall

Treatment not reaching those who would benefit most

Published

on

Jennifer Millar lives in a tent with her two dogs under a Hollywood freeway ramp. Millar says she keeps trash bags and hand sanitizer near her tent, and she regularly pours water mixed with hydrogen peroxide on the sidewalk. ‘I worry about all those diseases,’ says Millar. (Photo by Heidi de Marco for Kaiser Health News)

A report issued Feb. 27 by the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention disclosed that a decline in annual HIV infections has stopped and new infections have stabilized in recent years. However, the CDC report details that the rate of new infections coupled with decline in HIV infections in minority communities, especially among LGBTQ Black and Latino people, has plateaued negatively because effective HIV prevention and treatment are not adequately reaching those who could most benefit from them.

These gaps remain particularly troublesome in rural areas and in the South and some urban areas among those disproportionately affected populations. Homeless populations, specifically LGBTQ youth remain at the greatest risk.

Some urban areas are addressing the problem with intensified local efforts to prevent HIV.  Metroplexes such as New York and Washington, D.C., have developed and enacted plans to eliminate their local HIV epidemics — and they are seeing the results of those commitments. New HIV infections decreased about 23 percent in New York and about 40 percent in Washington, D.C., in a six-year period from 2010 to 2016. Los Angeles however, remains a different story.

The CDC estimates that from 2010 to 2016, annual HIV infections:

• Remained stable among gay and bisexual men, who continue to account for the largest portion (about 70 percent) of new infections. However, trends varied by race/ethnicity and age:

• By race/ethnicity, infections remained stable among black gay and bisexual men; increased 30 percent among Latino gay and bisexual men; and decreased 16 percent among white gay and bisexual men.

• By race/ethnicity and age, infections decreased more than 30 percent among black gay and bisexual males ages 13 to 24; remained stable among Latino gay and bisexual males ages 13 to 24; and increased about 65 percent among both black and Latino gay and bisexual males ages 25 to 34.

• Decreased about 17 percent among heterosexual men and women combined, including a 15 percent decrease among heterosexual African American women.

• Decreased 30 percent among people who inject drugs, but appear to have stabilized in more recent years.

Coupled with the stall in the HIV prevention and treatment is the growing population of homeless people in the United States and especially in California. A report issued in December 2018 by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in its annual report to Congress, found that nearly 553,000 Americans were homeless at the end of 2018, with nearly one-quarter residing in California.

The issues and challenges of homelessness, especially in Los Angeles, which impacts HIV prevention and treatment has been further exacerbated by an outbreak of diseases that were common during Medieval times and had been reduced in modern times.

This rise in those statistics garnered that attention of California’s Chief Executive. “Our homeless crisis is increasingly becoming a public-health crisis,” Governor Gavin Newsom said in his State of the State speech last month. “Typhus,” he said. “A medieval disease. In California. In 2019.”

The Governor also referenced recent outbreaks of hepatitis A in the greater San Diego metroplex as well as a surge in reported cases of syphilis in Sonoma County in Northern California.

At highest risk according to public health and policy experts are LGBTQ youth who are homeless.

A 2012 study by the Williams Institute at the University of California Los Angeles found that 94% of respondents from agencies who actively are working with LGBTQ youth, discovered that 30% of their clients identified as gay or lesbian, 9% identified as bisexual, and 1% as transgender (for a total LGBTQ population served of 40%). Additionally, more than 75% of responding agencies worked with transgender youth in the past year. Survey findings suggest that 30% of clients in housing programs targeting youth are LGBTQ.

There has not been a significant reduction in that overall population of 40% at risk LGBTQ youth since the study was commissioned and released seven years ago.

“The hygiene situation is just horrendous” for people living on the streets, says Glenn Lopez, a physician with St. John’s Well Child & Family Center, who treats homeless patients in Los Angeles County, told The Atlantic Magazine in a March 11 article.  “It becomes just like a Third World environment, where their human feces contaminate the areas where they are eating and sleeping.”

Those infectious diseases are not limited to homeless populations, Lopez warns: “Even someone who believes they are protected from these infections [is] not.”

A Los Angeles based social worker, who asked to remain unidentified, told the Blade that while St. John’s Well Child & Family Center as well as outreach efforts from other non-profits to include the LA LGBT Center and its satellite facilities are crucial, there is still not enough awareness of critical healthcare issues being fostered among the LGBTQ Homeless youth population. Adding to that issue the worker added, was that many of those youth are often involved in survival sex via escort/sex work. Many simply do not know of the healthcare options available unless they learn of those options via word of mouth or search out the clinical resources themselves.

This is especially true of Trans youth of colour who are at greater risk for not only sexually transmitted diseases to include HIV, but more often than not are ‘sleeping rough’ in one of the hundreds of encampments spread throughout the LA metroplex.

(Reporting by The Sacramento Bee, The Atlantic, and the staff of the Los Angeles Blade.)

Continue Reading
Advertisement

AIDS and HIV

Federal blood donation study recruiting gay, bi men

The study is aimed at assessing the individual risk of a gay or bisexual man transmitting HIV if they donate blood

Published

on

FDA headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland (Photo Credit: FDA/GSA)

SILVER SPRING, Md. – Washington D.C.’s Whitman-Walker Institute and the Los Angeles LGBT Center are among LGBTQ supportive organizations in eight U.S. cities working with the nation’s three largest blood donation centers on a study to find a way to significantly ease blood donation eligibility for men who have sex with men or MSM.

The study, which is funded by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, calls for recruiting a total of 2,000 gay and bisexual men in eight U.S. cities selected for the study to test the reliability of a detailed donor history questionnaire aimed at assessing the individual risk of a gay or bisexual man transmitting HIV if they donate blood.

A statement released by the study organizers says the questionnaire, which could be given to a gay or bisexual person showing up at a blood donation site, could be a replacement for the FDA’s current policy of banning men who have had sex with another man within the previous three months from donating blood.

In the early years of the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s, the FDA put in place a permanent ban on blood donations by men who have sex with men. In 2015, with advanced HIV testing and screening techniques readily available, the FDA lifted its permanent ban on MSM blood donations and replaced it with a 12-month restriction for sexual activity between MSM.

The FDA further reduced the time of sexual abstinence for MSM to three months in 2020.

LGBTQ rights organizations and others advocating for a change in the current FDA restriction point out that at a time when the nation is facing a severe shortage of blood donations due to the COVID pandemic, the three-month donation deferral requirement for MSM is preventing a large number of blood donations from men whose risk of HIV infection is low to nonexistent.

Under the FDA-funded and initiated study, the American Red Cross, Vitalant, and OneBlood — the nation’s three largest blood donation centers — have been conducting the questionnaire testing since the study was launched in March 2021.

“To gather the necessary data, the blood centers will partner with LGBTQ+ Centers in Washington, D.C., San Francisco, Orlando, New Orleans/Baton Rouge, Miami, Memphis, Los Angeles, and Atlanta,” the study organizers say in a statement on a website launched to help recruit volunteers for the study.

“The study will enroll a total of 2,000 gay and bisexual men (250 – 300 from each area) who meet the study eligibility criteria,” the statement says.

Among the criteria for being eligible, the statement says, is the person must be between 18 and 39 years old, have expressed an interest in donating blood, must have had sex with at least one other man in the three months before joining the study, and must agree to an HIV test. A negative test result is also required for acceptance into the study.

The study is officially named ADVANCE, which stands for Assessing Donor Variability And New Concepts in Eligibility.

“The ADVANCE study is a first step in providing data that will help the FDA determine if a donor history questionnaire based on individual risk would be as effective as time-based deferral, in reducing the risk of HIV in the blood supply,” the study organizers statement says.

“If the scientific evidence supports the use of the different questions, it could mean men who have sex with men who present to donate would be assessed based upon their own individual risk for HIV infection and not according to when their last sexual contact with another man occurred,” the statement continues. “The ADVANCE study is groundbreaking because it’s the first time a study is being conducted that could result in individual risk assessment for men who have sex with men to donate blood,” the statement says.

The Whitman-Walker Institute, which is among the community-based organizations involved in helping organize and conduct the study, is an arm of Whitman-Walker Health, the LGBTQ supportive D.C. health center.

Christopher Cannon, director of Research Operations for Whitman-Walker Institute, said that since the D.C.-based part of the study was launched early last year prior to the official announcement of the study on March 20, D.C. has surpassed the original city goal of recruiting 250 participants for the study.

“We are currently at 276 as of last Friday’s report,” Cannon told the Blade in a Jan. 13 interview. “And the current goal is now 300,” he said. “So, we’re hoping to push this over that goal line in the coming days and weeks.

Cannon said that like the community organizations involved in the study in other cities, Whitman-Walker Institute’s role has been focused on recruiting gay and bisexual men to participate in the study and to send them to the American Red Cross headquarters building at 430 17th St., N.W. near the White House. That site, which serves as a blood donation center, is also serving as the site where study participants are screened, interviewed, and presented with a detailed questionnaire.

“We promote the study within ,” Cannon said. “We promote it to our networks. We did social media promotions across the city.’

Although Whitman-Walker doesn’t have the final draft of the questionnaire being presented to study participants, Cannon said he has seen “bits and pieces” of it.  

“They ask very direct questions about the person’s sex life, sexual partners, sex acts, numbers of partners,” Cannon said. “There are questions about condom use, PrEP use, drug use. How recently have you had sex? Lots of related questions,” he said.

“It’s really about trying to figure out effectively which are the best questions,” according to Cannon. “The hope is by analyzing the questions and identifying maybe the best 10 to 12 questions that can be universally used…to get the best answers that identify the individuals that may have the highest risk,” he said. Doing that, he points, out can help determine which men who have sex with men should be eligible to safely donate blood.

A statement released by Whitman-Walker last March calls the study a “monumental research effort” that has the potential to lift the stigma imposed on gay and bisexual men whose ability to donate blood is currently based on their sexual orientation.

“The ADVANCE study is designed to understand if, by asking carefully crafted and research-informed research questions, blood collectors can screen potential blood donors for their individual HIV risk factors rather than applying a ban against sexually active gay and bisexual men,” the statement says.

“The goal is to move away from overly broad questions that exclude potential donors and spread stigmatizing messages about MSM and their HIV risks,” it says.

Cannon said that as of last week, study organizers had recruited a total of 879 study participants nationwide out of the goal of 2,000 participants needed to complete the study. He said issues related to the COVID pandemic created delays in the recruitment efforts, but study organizers were hopeful the study could be completed by this summer.

Information about participating in the study or learning more about it can be obtained at advancestudy.org.

Continue Reading

AIDS and HIV

Peacock will premiere HIV documentary on World AIDS Day

Drew, who was diagnosed with HIV in the late 1980’s when he was only 23 years old, was not paid for his participation in the trial

Published

on

Right to Try (2021) Peacock/NBCUniversal Television and Streaming

NEW YORK — NBCUniversal’s streaming service Peacock will premiere the documentary short “Right to Try,” which explores one man’s search to cure his HIV, Wednesday on World AIDS Day. 

The film, produced by Oscar-winning actress Octavia Spencer and directed by “The Late Late Show With James Corden” producer Zeberiah Newman, follows HIV survivor and activist Jeffrey Drew’s participation in an experimental vaccine trial. 

“We are thrilled our film ‘Right to Try’ will be seen on Peacock. Though Jeffrey Drew’s heroic journey is singular, his story is universal,” Spencer said in a statement, according to Variety. “This is an important film and with Peacock we have a wonderful partner to bring it to our audience.”

Val Boreland, EVP of content acquisitions at NBCUniversal Television and Streaming, added: “It is an honor to share Drew’s story with Peacock users and raise awareness around the important issue of HIV research. We know the impact of this documentary will be far-reaching.”

The documentary shows the side effects that Drew experienced during the early days of the trial. The coronavirus pandemic interrupted the study, as the doctor spearheading the experimental vaccine started working on the COVID-19 vaccine. 

Drew, who was diagnosed with HIV in the late 1980’s when he was only 23 years old, was not paid for his participation in the trial that a major pharmaceutical company did not fund. 

“There are people who are still getting infected and sick and dying,” he told Variety in a June interview. “I would love to see a generation that doesn’t have to think or worry about this anymore.”
“Right to Try” won the Audience Award for Documentary Short last summer at Outfest, an LGBTQ+ film festival in Los Angeles.

Continue Reading

AIDS and HIV

Los Angeles observes World AIDS Day with star-studded concert

Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles and Juan Pablo di Pace will also be performing at the ceremony

Published

on

LOS ANGELES — As World AIDS Day is recognized around the globe, Los Angeles will mark the day with a free concert with a star-studded line-up at The Forum hosted by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AFA) and a ceremony at The Wall Las Memorias (TWLA) AIDS Monument in Lincoln Park Wednesday.

In a press release, the AFA said Grammy award winners Jennifer Hudson and Christina Aguilera are set to perform in front of a sold-out crowd. Emmy-nominated comedian Randy Rainbow will host the event, which will take place from 8:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.

In addition to the entertainment, the AFA will honor Vermont’s U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders with a Lifetime Achievement Award and a special video presentation. The award will be accepted by his wife Jane Sanders.

“This year marks two significant milestones in the decades-long fight against HIV and AIDS: first, for the first recognition by the CDC of the virus that led to what is now known as AIDS (40 years ago, in June 1981), and second, the launch of AHF (35 years ago),” the release reads. 

TWLA’s ceremony will reveal an expanded footprint of the surrounding landscape of the country’s only publicly funded AIDS monument. The monument, created in 2004, will also add over 1,000 names of loved ones lost to AIDS to the 360-plus names already etched into it and unveil new artwork. 

TWLM Founder Richard Zaldivar, Los Angeles City Councilman Gil Cedillo and County Board of Supervisors Chair Hilda Solis are all expected to attend the event, which will start at 6:15 p.m. at 3600 N. Mission Road. According to NBC 4 Los Angeles, organizers also hope Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti will be in attendance. 

Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles and Juan Pablo di Pace will also be performing at the ceremony. 

World AIDS Day is observed every December 1 to raise awareness about AIDS and honor the people who have died of the disease. This year’s theme is “End inequities. End AIDS and End Pandemics.”

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Advertisement

Follow Us @LosAngelesBlade

Sign Up for Blade eBlasts

Popular