FDA Approves at Home HIV Testing

Image

It’s important for people of every community and identification to get tested for HIV. Testing can really be a nerve wracking experience – getting tested with a friend or in a space you trust can give a huge sense of security.

After decades of study the FDA has made a ruling that makes that community experience less likely to happen. There are some benefits to approving the at home HIV test but I disagree with their decision. When a person goes to a safe space in their community to get tested there is less of a chance for them to commit an act of self harm or take other drastic measures if their test comes back positive. When someone uses an at home test the responsibility is on them to call the HIV Hotline to confirm their results and connect to counseling and care. It’s hard to ensure people will even follow through  a referral for a confirmatory test.

These tests leave dramatically more room for error than traditional methods. Clinical trials found 8% of those who are truly HIV+ will not receive a positive result when using the at home HIV test. Getting an accurate answer means so much – I believe this 8% rate is too great a risk to allow these tests on the market.

The price for at home testing is prohibitive. Each test can cost between $40 and $60. To me that’s ridiculous – seeing as there are so many places to go and get tested for free. The cost of this test is nothing but a convenience fee. So the next time you are getting ready to take an HIV test I hope that my personal views can open your eyes to making the right decision for your health. Whether you buy an at home test or go in to get tested, the important thing is that your getting tested.

Find a free HIV test near you: http://hivtest.cdc.gov/

– STEFHANNIE J CALHOUN

Male Birth Control that may also kill HIV?

risug_mechanism

risug_mechanism

Male Birth Control that can also kill HIV?

More often than not, the responsibility of preventing pregnancy falls on female-bodied individuals – birth control pills, the patch, IUDs, insertive condoms, etc. But what about guys who want to take responsibility too? Or women for whom a lot of the standard options don’t work?

Enter a new option: for years, researchers in India have been looking at a technique called RISUGTM (reversible inhibition of sperm under guidance). Basically, a doctor injects a gel into the vas deferens, which are the tubes that the sperm flows through on the way to ejaculation. The gel hardens as it coats the walls of the tubes, and tears apart the sperm as they pass by so that they can’t cause pregnancy. It’s a non-surgical procedure that can last for twenty or more years, and is easily reversible by injecting a solution that dissolves the gel. Within a few months of reversal, fertility should return to normal.

But it doesn’t stop there – now researchers are talking about ways to make the gel also prevent transmission of HIV. There are different

Penis Anatomy

Penis Anatomy

ideas about how it would work – like inactivating HIV in sperm or having the gel release drugs that would kill the HIV downstream (because some components of semen don’t pass through the vas deferens – they come from the seminal vesicles, prostate and bulbourethral glands).

Of course, it’s still in trials so we won’t be seeing it on the market any time soon, but if it works this could be huge! Not only would it be another option for preventing pregnancy, but it would also provide a new way for serodiscordant couples to prevent transmission of HIV to the negative partner.

What do you think? Would you try it? Would you trust your partner if they said they’d had it done?

Sources: http://www.newmalecontraception.org/risug.htm

http://www.medical-hypotheses.com/article/S0306-9877%2805%2900096-4/abstract

Male-Sperm

Male-Sperm

What does the Asian Pacific Islander National HIV/AIDS Awareness Day mean to me?

What does the Asian Pacific Islander National HIV/AIDS Awareness Day mean to me?

I have never heard of the Banyan Tree Project nor National Asian & Pacific Islander HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, which falls next month on May 19. Each year A&PI Awareness day is sponsored by Banyan Tree Project. National Asian Pacific Islander HIV/AIDS Awareness Day goal is too highlight the negative stigma, lack of communication and general awareness of HIV/AIDS in the API community. The theme for 2012 is “Saving face can’t make you safe. Talk about HIV–for me, for you, for everyone.” An idea that is very important to highlight in our community.
Growing up as a Queer Chinese Asian American; I have seen the hush, hush of just talking about the queer community. It’s something you don’t acknowledge nor talk about subject. Heck, I didn’t even know that there are community groups out there dedicating themselves to informing and educating the Asian Pacific Islander Queer community. Over the years, I have to learn to embrace myself, my community and all those that are a part of it. It was recently that I became even deeper part of the queer community and making myself part of the local API group, Asian Pacific Islander Pride, which had made me aware locally of the Asian Pacific Islander community and events. This is step one of many steps in my life to make myself a more engaging part of the API community. I’m proud for simply reaching out and help to increase awareness, decrease negative stereotypes and providing information that helps keep people informed.
Just like the other National HIV/AIDS Awareness Days, it is very important to embrace awareness into the ethnic groups of all backgrounds as those are the ones who generally are looked over and forgotten. I am glad that we, the Queer Asian community, are standing up and putting a voice to bring education and awareness to help make HIV/AIDS less of an impact while ending the stigma of being Queer in API community. The motto this year is for you to make our issue, your issue. Go and simply Speak Up! Get yourself involved in an organization, like Asian Pacific Pride, that you feel strongly with. It’s all starts with YOU.
What does A&PI HIV/AIDS Awareness Day mean to you?

How Breast Milk Can Transmit HIV and Why We Should Inform Women

As one of the last fluids we think about when we think about HIV, I thought it might be helpful for us to learn a little more about the 4th fluid that transmits HIV. Since blood, semen and vaginal secretions have gotten all the attention, why not take a moment and learn a little more about how breast milk can transmit HIV.

What a brief review of the research shows:

  • Infant feeding is estimated to be responsible for anywhere from 5-20% of mother to child transmission. If a child is born HIV-negative to a positive mother who is not on antiretroviral treatment, the risk associated with prolonged breastfeeding is estimated at 10-20%.
  • HIV RNA is found in breast milk and the risk of transmission is directly related to the viral load in the mother’s milk.  Some mothers may have a specific gene (SDF1 3’A allele) that causes increased viral replication in breast milk and therefore increases transmission risk.
  • Although breastfeeding from an HIV-positive mother poses a risk of HIV transmission to the infant, there is also evidence that it provides better health outcomes for the child than formula feeding (protective against other infectious diseases)
  • The World Health Organization promotes alternative (formula feeding) only when it is  “affordable, feasible, acceptable, sustainable and safe.” When ARVs are widely available and breastfeeding is a social norm, they recommend that HIV-positive mothers breastfeed until 12 months of age.
  • Women who are on antiretroviral treatment while breastfeeding have a lower risk of transmitting HIV to their infant. (about 3.5% in one study in Kenya)
  • Exclusive breastfeeding has been associated with a reduced risk of late HIV transmission as compared to mixed feeding. Mixed feeding practices (breast milk plus other liquids or solids) and prolonged breastfeeding (more than 6 months) are associated with increased risk of mother-to-child transmission of HIV.
  • Exclusive breastfeeding is hard. Barriers include low milk production, lack of control over the feeding situation, and both perceived and enacted stigma.
  • Infants can develop resistance to HIV medications independent their mother’s resistance – that is, the mother is not necessarily passing on a resistant virus, but if the infant becomes infected while breastfeeding and the mother is on ARV, the infant is being exposed to small amounts of the drugs through breast milk and may therefore develop resistance to them.

The more we can inform women about the risks and benefits associated with breastfeeding, as well as things that can reduce the risk, the better able they will be to make the best decision for themselves and their infants.

Some of the articles/abstracts, if you want to read more in-depth:

WHO Guidelines:

A systematic review of a number of publications on HIV and breastfeeding:

How genetics may impact transmission rates:

Drug resistance:

Large Breastfeeding study in Kenya:

Difficulties of exclusive breastfeeding:

Viral load:

If anyone is still reading,

To kill HIV in breast milk, flash-heating breast milk can inactivate HIV without destroying too many of the vitamins or immunoglobulin in the milk that make it beneficial to the baby. The WHO recommends it as an option to reduce vertical HIV transmission in resource-poor regions. Of course, to do this the mother has to express the milk first, then heat it, then feed it via bottle – so it’s kind of a compromise between breastfeeding, which could transmit HIV, and bottle feeding formula, which has other nutritional/gastrointestinal risks.

What do you think? How has this changed how you think about HIV? Has it changed any of your thoughts?

The role of “men” in preventing HPV related cervical cancer!

(Photo Credit Gardasil)

This blog was originally posted on CHATpdx.org as a program of CHATpdx For more information check out: Our Facebook Page

In the US, it’s estimated that a majority (75%-80%) of men and women will be infected with the Human Papillomavirus (HPV). With about 6 million new cases of genital HPV every year (there are over 30 genital HPV types) and a majority of these (about 74%) of them occurring in 15-24 year olds, the need for effective prevention programs directed to youth is crucial. The new HPV vaccines protect against the two types of HPV that cause a majority of cervical cancer and genital warts cases.  These vaccines, however, are only effective if they are taken BEFORE someone is infected with HPV. HPV often has no signs or symptoms and partners engaging in sex (or any other kind of genital contact) may be transmitting HPV without even knowing they have it. Recently the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommended HPV vaccination for girls 11-26 and have stated that Gardasil can also be given to boys ages 9-26. In women HPV can cause serious health problems including genital warts, cervical cancer, vaginal cancer and vulvar cancer. These cancers can cause death or infertility in women. Men on the other hand usually only develop genital warts. While this is a small percentage of men that could develop HPV-related cancer of the anus or penis, it is much less common.

Subsequently, I believe that men have a pretty important role to play in the prevention of HPV. Likelihood of developing cervical cancer is greatly reduced if the vaccine is used. Unfortunately, it is too common for women (particularly women of color) to have barriers to screening services or accessing this vaccine because of the stigma around accessing sexual health services. This reality makes it even more important for men to seek the vaccine and to encourage the women in their lives (particularly the ones they are having sex with) to also receive the vaccine. I have encouraged many of the women in my life to get the vaccine whether or not they have been sexually active or think they are at risk. Men have the same responsibility to help prevent HPV even if they do not suffer the same consequences as women.  As allies, men can play an important role in helping to reduce HPV transmission. It’s time that men stand in solidarity with our friends, sisters and mothers by encouraging them to seek pap smears as part of a well-women’s annual checkup as well as the HPV vaccine.

(Photo Credit http://www.gardasil.com/hpv)

Speaking of mothers, my own mama had such a hard time talking about her own health growing up. I remember her waiting for us to leave for school before she would call our neighbor to talk about a yeast infection she once had. This kind of taboo, to not even want to say the word “Vagina” like it was some sort of dirty word only reinforced my ideas as a kid that we weren’t supposed to talk about our bits and pieces. I was lucky to even get a pack of condoms on my nightstand when she thought I was having sex with a note that said “no seas guey” (don’t be dumb). Growing up in an undocumented Latino family we never dreamed of going to the hospital unless our arm had actually fallen off, yet alone to receive preventative care. Our fear of getting deported was much worse than the fear of cervical cancer. Growing up I’ve had to learn to talk about sex and sexual health in a way that resonates with my mother and with my siblings. At times it can be hard, but for the women in my family, I knew it would be the only way I could convince them to talk to a doctor and get the care they needed. They may roll their eyes or not want to talk about it, but I care about the health of the vaginas in my family, just like all men should care about the vaginas in theirs.

What do you see as the role of men and boys? How can you advocate for the health of women in your life?

-Ernesto

edominguez@cascadeaids.org

Save A Life, It May Be Your Own: An NLAAD Blog

By Ariel Cerrud, youth blogger for Amplifyyourvoice.org

On October 15th, the last day of Hispanic Heritage Month, I alongside my many peer activists, educators and friends recognized the National Latino AIDS Awareness Day (NLAAD).

Organized by the Latino AIDS Commission in 2003, “NLAAD has been established as a national community mobilization and social marketing campaign that unites the Hispanic/Latino community in efforts to raise HIV awareness, promotion of HIV testing, prevention and education; in addition to other critical health issues such as Viral Hepatitis, Sexually Transmitted Infections and Tuberculosis…”

This year’s theme, Save a Life, It May be your Own. Get Tested for HIV, challenges us to educate ourselves about our own status and get tested, recognizing that regular and consistent testing is perhaps the best tool to combat this disease.

Every 9 ½ minutes, a person in these United States is infected with HIV… every 9 ½ minutes! All of us who work in this field recognize that more and more these days, the faces of those infected are that of our people, young Latinos and Latinas like me.

In the shadow of the day to come, I stopped and thought about what got me started in this field and why I continue to do what I do today.

In 2004, I had the privilege of attending the 11th Annual Ryan White National Youth Conference on HIV/AIDS held here in Portland, Oregon. The conference was a gathering of over 600 young activists, educators, students, and health professionals. In essence, RWNYC was a gathering of anyone and everyone who worked around, was interested in, or impacted by the issues of HIV/AIDS in young people.

For me, this was the first time I had ever attended an event of this type. Quite honestly, going to this conference was a bit outside my comfort zone! I don’t recall if it being my first time was what made me nervous or whether simply because I went to it alone, at the last minute request of a mentor. What I do remember, quite vividly, was sitting in the opening session of the conference, meeting and talking with a young man who was in attendance.

This young man was so charming with quite the lively personality. He was Latino, he spoke Spanish and he was young so we pretty much hit it off during that entire session. I remember conversing with him during the whole hour long plenary. He made it, being there…comfortable, he made it…relatable to me.

Towards the end of the plenary, there came a point where folks had a chance to introduce themselves and share a bit about his story. This young man got up and shared a bit about himself.

To this day, I honestly don’t remember what his name was or any other details about him for that matter. All I remember was one thing; him getting up to that microphone and saying four simple words: “I am HIV positive.”

For a young closeted boy like me who grew up in a small suburban neighborhood of Portland, HIV/AIDS was probably one of the last things on my mind. Looking back at it, this young guy, a guy I simply talked to for an hour at an opening plenary of a conference, probably changed all that!

Attending the RWNYC and meeting that young guy represented a fundamental shift for me personally. Attending that conference was the hook that started my work as a peer educator and activist in the field of HIV/AIDS. Getting to spend those days there made me realize just how prevalent HIV/AIDS is, how impactful it is on communities I am a part of: my Latino community, my young people community, my LGBTQ community just to name a few.  The conference got me to see and understand the many issues and problems that impact those affected by this disease including stigma, misinformation and fear.

More importantly though, getting to meet this young man who in many ways was just like me, was life changing. In many ways I saw myself in him. We match every perceivable demographic yet our lives were very different in one way: our statuses .  Getting to meet him and know him humanized HIV/AIDS. Getting to hear his story and know who he was allowed me to see how real and significant HIV/AIDS is in our community and in our lives.

It has been six years since I attended that conference and in a way I am saddened to see these numbers of infections and the number of folks affected by this illness continue to rise. More worrisome is the notion that within our communities this illness is still not talked about nor understood. I am very lucky to be afforded the opportunity to travel around the country and speak about this very illness and the faces of those in the forefront of this battle give me inspiration to continue.

Young, powerful activists of color are leading the fight for education and understanding of HIV.  Young people are leading the battle by speaking out in their communities, encouraging others, and forging allies all in the goal of ending this struggle. Adolescents with HIV/AIDS, Allied Advocates, HIV/AIDS Activism, Prevention and Support; all of these things are on the rise and are tools in the battle against HIV/AIDS.

The National Latino AIDS Awareness day  is designed to shed light into these issues and so many more. NLAAD is designed to be the spark for someone else like me, as a young boy, to get involved in this struggle and finally bring it to an end. So, with that said, every October 15 (and every day for that matter), take a moment or two  and share this message with someone you care about. Take a moment or two and talk about HIV/AIDS, educate, inform, and pass the message along!

-Ariel

What is CHATpdx?

Curbing HIV/AIDS Transmission (CHAT) is a collaboration between organizations and individuals working to curb HIV and AIDS transmission among young people through peer education and outreach, HIV testing, youth services and social media.

Funded through the Department of Health and Human Service – Office of Minority Health (OMH). Our work is carried out by a number of organizaitons including Cascade AIDS Project, Outside In, and the African American AIDS Action Awareness Alliance (A6).

What we do and what YOU can do:

  • CHATpdx (room) – These HIV testing/youth nights at Pivot (209 SW 4th Ave) occur every 2nd and 4th Mondays from 3 – 7pm (check the calendar).  Open for all youth 24 and under.  These nights include games, peer education, wii, snacks, and more.  Do you want your peer educators to “sponsor” a testing night? Contact Annika.
  • Print out a coupon and flyer
  • CHATpdx Facebook fan page – “Like” our page and get the latest CHATpdx news and events.  If you have an event relevant for youth 24 and under, send us the information, and we will post it. Contact Ernesto.
  • CHATpdx is on Twitter as well!  www.twitter.com/CHATpdx
  • CHATpdx has a blog on WordPress to engage and empower young people. Make sure to come back often to get the latest news and information.
  • Outreach testing events – do you have an event that will reach youth 24 and under?  Do you want HIV testing there?  Let CHATpdx know if you do, and we will see if we can make it work! Contact Annika.
  • For more information please email: Ernesto @  Edominguez@cascadeaids.org or call us at 503.278.3871