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HIV Testing During Dental Visits Could Become Effective New Way to Stop Virus's Spread

Dentist

The next big step in combating the spread of HIV could come from your dentist’s office. Testing and knowing one’s HIV status are crucial components to curtailing HIV, but oftentimes there exists a significant social stigma that comes with requesting a test from one’s primary physician. Dentists offices, according to University of Chicago Center for Health Administration Studies Faculty Chair Dr. Harold Pollack, provide the perfect setting for making HIV testing de rigueur. Unlike clinics geared towards sexual health, which can be few and far between depending on one’s community, dentists’ offices are widespread and more easily accessible.

In the same way that pharmacies offer tests for cholesterol, blood pressure, and vision, dentists offices could branch out their services offered. A visit to the dentist could begin with a quick swab one’s cheek and end with HIV test results without any blood work necessary.

“We don’t need anything from our primary-care physicians,” Pollack explained to Ozy. “We want nice-looking white teeth with no cavities.”

Generally speaking people visit the dentist more frequently than they do their doctors, according to Pollack’s research. He estimates that nearly 70% of high-risk individuals schedule annual dental appointments, whereas most people only go to the doctor when they are certain that something is wrong.

Dentists in Canada, Mexico, and South Korea have begun administering HIV screenings as a part of a regular checkup. In the U.S., the practice is not nearly as common, and not without significant hurdles. For all of their scarcity, HIV clinics are more than merely a place that will administer health screenings and medication. Clinic staff are trained to handle and  share kinds information that dentists don’t have to deal with very often. But Pollack is certain that HIV testing deserves to a feature of modern dentistry.

“In the U.S., we’ve done a bad job of carving oral health out, having separate insurance plans.” He insisted. “We need to have a mentality that really grasps that oral health is part of health.”


Performance Artist Mischa Badasyan Plans To Have Sex With A Different Guy Every Day for A Year

BadasyanMischa Badasyan plans to have sex with a different man every day for a year in the name of art. The Berlin-based human rights activist turned performance artist is using his body to shed light the intersection of loneliness and desire created by modern hookup culture. Using gay social apps like Grindr and a variety of websites built to connect guys looking for quick flings, Badasyan’s project, “Save The Date,”  wants to explore French philosopher Marc Augé’s concept of “non-places.”

"He was writing about non-places in the big cities; places like supermarkets, shopping malls, airports, motorways,” Badasyan explained to PolicyMic. “[H]e says that people lose their identity, there's no communication, people don't feel a belonging to somewhere and that causes the loneliness of people."

By having anonymous sex in public settings like cruising areas, Badasyan says, he himself will become like a non-place, and reconnect with an aspect of gay male culture that is unique to them:

“Straight people don't have these kind of applications, so many gay chats, in terms of cruising, sex clubs, sex bars, they don't have as many opportunities as gay people."

Sex positive support for Save the Date has been widespread, as Badasyan is using the project as an opportunity to spread the word about safe sex and proper condom use. Save the Date is slated to begin in September.

Watch a performance of Mischa Badasyan’s live action painting The Hole of Glory AFTER THE JUMP...

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Bill Mandating Condom Use On Porn Sets Voted Down in California

SuitupThe California Senate Committee On Appropriations has voted to dismiss AB 1576, legislation that would have modified California’s Labor Code to include protections for individuals working in  the adult film industry. Specifically, AB 1576 would have required adult film actors to wear condoms on set, a move that Assemblyman Isadore Hall III argues would have contributed to safer work environments.

“AB 1576 wouldn’t have changed existing law,” Hall intoned. “But it would have helped increase industry compliance in protecting its workers.”

While Hall remains committed to defending members of the adult film industry from the dangers of being exposed to STIs, opponents of AB 1576 have resolutely expressed their faith in the industry’s own methods of testing. The kinds of testing that AB 1576 called for, opponents asserted, veered precariously close to situations in which a performer’s HIV status could negatively impact their ability to work.

DukeExecutive director of the Free Speech Coalition Diane Duke [pictured right], which represents the adult film industry, insisted that AB 1576 was a slap in the face to the industry’s own stringent STI screening protocols.

“Out of this grows a stronger industry, one not intimidated by harassment campaigns like AB 1576. But the battle is not actually over, for we must always work to make sure our productions are safe and legal, that our performers have a strong voice in their own sexual health, and to keep a thriving industry in California.”

Measure B, similar legislation on a smaller scale, was passed in 2012, requiring all adult film actors performing in Los Angeles county to wear condoms during sex scenes. Following Measure B’s passing production of adult films has dropped by nearly 90% in L.A. county, as studios have decided to move their productions elsewhere.

“The state doesn’t need its own law and California doesn’t have the money to enforce it. I think it’s a waste of money for Californians.” said Dan Leal head of Immoral Productions, an adult film production studio in the L.A. county area.

Read the AIDS Healthcare Foundation motion summary, laying out the legal terms of their support for AB 1576 AFTER THE JUMP...

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Andrew Sullivan and Rich Juzwiak Continue Their Discussion on Gay Sex, Truvada: AUDIO

Rich

Andrew Sullivan sat down with Gawker's Rich Juzwiak to continue their discussion of Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) and to dissect the thought processes behind the often-taboo idea that people prefer sex sans condoms.

“People aren’t necessarily that articulate about it, they maybe don’t even understand that exactly,” Juzwiak explained, laying out a description of the intimacy sometimes associated bareback sex. “I’m not culturally a barebacker [but if] I have to do monogamy or something like it, my compensation is we’re not using condoms.”

Listen to Juzwiak’s discussion of PrEP’s place in modern gay culture with On The Media AFTER THE JUMP...

Juzwiak has been one of the internet’s most vocal and high-profile proponents of Truvada, a brand of PrEP that, when used properly, drastically reduces a person’s risk of contracting HIV. Despite protestations from those arguing that PrEP poses more harms than potential benefits, Juzwiak has made a cause out of  the controversial drug.

“If you don't contract HIV from bareback sex, was it unsafe?” He wrote earlier this spring. “What does it even matter? Just do better next time and take solace in the personal rules—somewhat informed, somewhat arbitrary—that you suspect are keeping you protected.”

Juzwiak’s assertion is a rather straightforward one: gay men are having sex without condoms, and they might as well be doing it with at least a modicum of preventative protection:

"But what hasn't harmed you in the past, if you're one of the luckily negative like I am, could still harm you when you do it in the future. Owning up to this fact is a crucial step in choosing to take Truvada, the antiretroviral drug cocktail of tenofovir and emtricitabine that's manufactured by Gilead."

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Decriminalization of Sex Work Among Top HIV-Prevention Strategies

The decriminalization of sex work is among one of the most important steps needed in order to curtail the spread of HIV, according to the findings of a group of HIV researchers recently published in The Lancet and presented at the 20th Annual International AIDS Conference. The need to focus on marginalized populations grows as mainstream populations gain increasing access to HIV-preventative measures and drugs to treat the virus, the research explains.

_DSC7194-LThe longer sex work remains illegal, said The Lancet’s editor-in-chief Richard Horton, the longer those involved in the profession will generally go without seeking the same kinds of treatments necessary to ensure their sexual safety.

“Why should we condemn and criminalise the exchange of money for sex,” He asked. “[E]specially if the severely adverse conditions we create for such exchange hurt women and men and often fatally so?”

In a series of seven studies delving into the role sex work plays in the proliferation of the HIV virus within a country, researchers expressed their concern for sex working individuals. Given the nature of their work, Horton explained, sex workers are at risk of becoming a group for reintroducing HIV back into the general population, in spite of public health initiatives.

Of particular importance, according to Johns Hopkins University epidemiologist Stefan Baral, are male sex workers, who are woefully misunderstood by most HIV-prevention programs.

"When you think of a sex worker, the most common picture that comes to mind is a female sex worker," he elaborated. "Often what’s happened is that people want to oversimplify and generalize the epidemic. [W]e end up in a dynamic where we know very little about male sex workers."

 


Researchers Eliminate HIV Virus In Human Cells

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Researchers at Temple University have successfully managed to eliminate HIV from infected human cell cultures according to a recently released study. Most current HIV treatments target the various means through which HIV integrates itself into healthy host cells in order replicate itself. The team at Temple, however, employed a form of advanced gene therapy in order to render HIV-infected cells completely HIV-free. From the team’s press release:

When deployed, a combination of a DNA-snipping enzyme called a nuclease and a targeting strand of RNA called a guide RNA (gRNA) hunt down the viral genome and excise the HIV-1 DNA. From there, the cell's gene repair machinery takes over, soldering the loose ends of the genome back together – resulting in virus-free cells.

Treatments capable of removing HIV from infected cells have long since been a goal for those within the HIV/AIDS research community. While antiretrovirals are able to suppress the viral loads in HIV positive people, interruptions in treatment give the virus the chance to proliferate, sometimes with dangerous consequences such as cardiomyopathy, kidney disease, and neurocognitive disorders.

"These problems are often exacerbated by the toxic drugs that must be taken to control the virus," explained Dr. Kamel Khalili. "Since HIV-1 is never cleared by the immune system, removal of the virus is required in order to cure the disease."

This development comes just days after a report published at the 20th International AIDS Conference announced that HIV infection rates in general have dropped here in the U.S. The one population observed to have experienced a rise in infection rates were gay and bisexual men.

Controlled tests with the gene therapy method have proven to be successful, but Khalili says that his team still faces a number of significant challenges before the treatment is ready for patient trials. In order to be completely effective the molecular agents responsible for disabling HIV’s replication process would have to be delivered to every cell in an infected individual’s body. Moreover, the strain of HIV that the treatment has proved effective against, HIV-1, is prone to mutation, further complicating the therapy’s effectiveness outside of controlled environments.

"We are working on a number of strategies so we can take the construct into preclinical studies," Khalili said. "We want to eradicate every single copy of HIV-1 from the patient. That will cure AIDS. I think this technology is the way we can do it."

Watch Temple University's video announcing the research breakthrough AFTER THE JUMP...

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