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'New York' Magazine looks at Prep, Sex and Fear

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New York Magazine has published a lengthy exploration into the current conversation surrounding Truvada, pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), and the gay male relationship to sex itself.

107091581truvadacropFor some, like Jacobs, the advent of this drug is nothing short of miraculous, freeing bodies and minds. For doctors, public-health officials, and politicians, it is a highly promising tool for stopping the spread of HIV. Other gay men worry that the very existence of such a drug is a kind of betrayal: of those who’ve died in the epidemic; of fealty to the condom, an object alternately evoking fear and resilience, hot sex and safe-sex fatigue; and of a mind-set of sexual prudence that has governed gay-male life since the early ’80s.

Tenofovir and emtricitabine, the two antiretrovirals that make up Truvada, are both featured on the World Health Organization’s List of Essential Medicines, a guide detailing drugs absolutely necessary for a fully functioning healthcare system. Earlier this week the WHO made public its support for the use of Truvada as PrEP, a decision met with equal amounts of support and vitriol. The divide, as Tim Murphy describes it in New York Magazine, is often generational in nature.

The idea of prep can be especially fraught for older gay men, particularly HIV-positive ones. Larry Kramer, now 79, in poor health and HIV-positive since the 1980s, has been the most prominent voice projecting contempt and bafflement: “Anybody who voluntarily takes an antiviral every day has got to have rocks in their heads. There’s something to me cowardly about taking Truvada instead of using a condom. You’re taking a drug that is poison to you, and it has lessened your energy to fight, to get involved, to do anything.”

Reasoning behind arguments against the use of Truvada as PrEP range from claims that the drug encourages high-risk behavior to worries that drug-resistant strains of HIV will flourish should users not take the drug properly. Many of the initial concerns about Truvada’s side effects have been proven false, but only time will provide a more well rounded picture of the drug’s effects on users in the long term.

Watch the New York Times’s Truvada explainer AFTER THE JUMP...

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World Health Organization Endorses PrEP For Men Having Sex With Men

For the first time ever the World Health Organization has thrown its support behind the use of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) by men who have sex with men (MSM) as an effective means of reducing the risk of contracting HIV.

WHOLogo“Modelling estimates that, globally, 20-25% reductions in HIV incidence among men who have sex with men could be achieved through pre-exposure prophylaxis,” The Organization said in a press release. “[This could avert] up to 1 million new infections among this group over 10 years.”

The WHO identified five “key populations” it believes are, collectively, the linchpin to curtailing the spread of HIV globally. MSM, people in prison, people who inject drugs, sex workers, and transgender people are in need of better access to more comprehensive health care measures, such as PrEP and more rapid HIV testing, according to the WHO:

“None of these people live in isolation,” says Dr Gottfried Hirnschall, Director of the HIV Department at WHO. “Sex workers and their clients have husbands, wives and partners. Some inject drugs. Many have children. Failure to provide services to the people who are at greatest risk of HIV jeopardizes further progress against the global epidemic and threatens the health and wellbeing of individuals, their families and the broader community.”

Read through the WHO’s new Consolidated Guidelines of HIV Prevention here  AFTER THE JUMP...

UPDATE: WHO sent out a clarification of its announcement:

WHO is aware of incorrect headlines and reporting linked to its recent recommendations on pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) for HIV.

WHO is not recommending that all men who have sex with men must take PrEP, but supporting it as an additional choice (see paragraph 5 of the WHO news release http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/releases/2014/key-populations-to-hiv/en/):

For the first time, WHO strongly recommends men who have sex with men consider taking antiretroviral medicines as an additional method of preventing HIV infection (pre-exposure prophylaxis) alongside the use of condoms.

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HIV Detected in Previously Cured 'Mississippi Baby'

In 2010 a baby girl born to an HIV-positive mother made headlines after seemingly being cured of the virus thanks to a swift treatment of antiretroviral therapy immediately following her birth. “The Mississippi Baby,” as she came to be known, was a triumph, giving the medical community insight into the potential future of treating infants born with HIV. Unfortunately the baby, according to her doctors, has come out of remission and is now showing detectable signs of the virus once again.

HIV_H9_T-cell_II"Certainly, this is a disappointing turn of events for this young child, the medical staff involved in the child's care, and the HIV/AIDS research community," said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. 

Following a strict regimen of antiretroviral treatment for 18 months, blood tests for the child came back with undetectable viral loads. In the months following, the child was taken off the intense medication, seemingly maintaining her HIV undetectable state.

"Scientifically, this development reminds us that we still have much more to learn about the intricacies of HIV infection and where the virus hides in the body.” Dr. Fauci elaborated.

The return of the virus in her blood, while heartbreaking, was not entirely unexpected. Unknowingly HIV-positive, the baby’s mother did not take proper medication while pregnant with her child. The fact the baby managed to remain seemingly HIV negative for so long without medication suggests that initial efforts to treat the virus were on the right track, but not perfected, according to her doctors. She has since been put back on antiretrovirals, with doctors hoping to maintain the virus once again.


Campaign Launched To Recognize Elizabeth Taylor's HIV/AIDS Work

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English television presenter and journalist Matthew Wright has said that Elizabeth Taylor should be honored for her campaigning work with HIV and AIDS.

Speaking to Gay Times, Wright describes the moment he met Taylor when she was in England to receive the BAFTA Academy Fellowship Award.  At the end of the night, Wright says that the actress asked him to promise that after she died he would make sure that she received an English Heritage blue plaque on the house in London where she was born.

Wright said that Taylor changed the world’s perceptions towards HIV and AIDS when she established the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation in 1991:

“At the time when she set up her charity, people thought you could catch HIV from standing too near to someone who was gay, and all other kinds of homophobic nonsense and ignorance. The fact that she was so iconic certainly had an impact. If someone like Elizabeth Taylor is going to embrace a cause – kind of like Princess Diana, actually, who also did fantastic work with HIV and AIDS – it’s going to change the way people think.”

When Taylor died in 2011, Wright was told by English Heritage that in order to qualify for a blue plaque, a recipient must be dead for a minimum of 20 years.

However, some London boroughs waive the requirement.  Human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell was honoured with a plaque outside his London home in 2010.

Wright has launched a petition to get Taylor recognized with a blue plaque.


Michael Johnson Feature Explores The Danger of HIV Scapegoating

Screenshot 2014-07-10 15.19.46Michael Johnson made international headlines earlier this year after being arrested for allegedly engaging in bareback sex with a number of partners and surreptitiously recording the encounters. Johnson, a 22 year old college student from Missouri, is HIV positive and is being accused of having withheld that information from his partners, a felony in Missouri.

Initial coverage of Johnson’s arrest focused heavily on the story of a predatory, HIV-positive man knowingly endangering the lives of unwitting men, but Buzzfeed’s lengthy dive into Johnson’s life and the circumstances surrounding his arrest paint a complex picture of racial politics, poz phobia, and the consequences of entire community’s sex-negativity.

Writes Steven Thrasher:

"Indeed, the community around Johnson — his sexual partners, many of his fellow students, and his university — turned a blind eye to HIV until it had the perfect scapegoat: a gay, hypersexual, black wrestler with learning disabilities who went by the nickname Tiger Mandingo."

Johnson, who has been diagnosed as dyslexia and is profoundly illiterate, was a student at Lindenwood University with a help of a wrestling scholarship. For Johnson, writes Thrasher, his body was both a vehicle to academic opportunity and a means for him to explore Missouri’s ball culture, competing in a number of pageants.

 

From his experiences wrestling and walking Johnson would come adopt a constructed identity, Tiger Mandingo, that in many ways lies at the heart of his story. Tiger Mandingo, a combined reference to a lucky t-shirt and the sex of pervasive cultural stereotypes concerning black male sexuality, came to be the monicker Johnson used across a number of his social media presences. Its ubiquitousness, Thrasher explains, very much influenced the narrative that followed Johnson’s arrest.

"[N]o one presents themselves exactly the same way on LinkedIn as they might on Grindr or Facebook. But there is perhaps no better word than “Mandingo” to encapsulate how black male sexuality, especially regarding interracial sex, has historically been criminal (and always been suspect) in America.

There’s a racial dynamic to who is prosecuted for exposing others to the virus and how they are sentenced, research shows. A study published in the journal AIDS and Behaviorlooked at 10 years of HIV prosecutions in Nashville. It found that “Persons who were black were more likely to be convicted of criminal HIV exposure related to a sexual interaction than persons who were white,” and that “individuals who were black received significantly longer sentences than those who were white.”

Rather than targeting the virtually non-existent HIV prevention programs in place at Lindenwood, the St. Charles Police Department's gross misconduct in handling the case, Thrasher explains, Johnson’s community seems concerned solely with demonizing him for his actions.


Smoking Overtakes HIV As Number One Health Risk To LGBT Community: VIDEO

Smokig overtakes HIV as number one health rick for LGBTI

The Office of the Surgeon General and Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) Office of Smoking and Health have launched a video about smoking disparities in LGBT communities.

CDC statistics show that 30.8% of the LGBTI population in the US use tobacco products compared to 20.5% of the population as a whole.

The US Network for LGBT Health Equity reports that while non-smokers with HIV can expect to have an average of 5.1 years taken from their lives, people who smoke and have HIV will on average die 12.3 years earlier, according to Pink News.

The Center for Disease Control will target LGBT smokers this month as part of its Tips From Former Smokers Campaign. The campaign video features Brian, a HIV positive man who smoked for 30 years before a smoking- and HIV-related stroke almost killed him.

Watch both of the videos, AFTER THE JUMP...

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