/Shafiyah Khan

About Shafiyah Khan

This author has not yet filled in any details.
So far Shafiyah Khan has created 2116 blog entries.

Global 2020 HIV targets are off-track

An Avert spotlight on the HIV response – we reflect on the most important take-homes from the UNAIDS 2019 Global Report.

young man at school in Zambia

Earlier this month, UNAIDS launched their annual global report on the state of the HIV epidemic. The publication, Communities at the Centre, highlights civil society’s important role in galvanising the HIV response from the start of the HIV epidemic, while acknowledging waning progress towards global targets.

Reflecting on the key messages in the report, there is much to be proud of. But as 2020 nears, it’s clear that without further action and resources, we will miss key global targets for eliminating HIV as a public health threat by 2030.

As HIV treatment scales up, deaths are declining

Record-breaking numbers of people are now accessing antiretroviral treatment and becoming virally suppressed, resulting in a 33% decline in the number of people dying from an AIDS-related illness compared to 2010. Furthermore, four out of five people living with HIV are now aware of their status. But as of 2018 only 23.3 million people living with HIV had been reached with lifesaving treatment, so extra efforts are needed to reach 30 million by 2030.

Reductions in new HIV infections are stalling

As 2020 approaches, UNAIDS notes that reductions in the number of people newly infected with HIV are declining. Progress is too slow to reach the goal of only 500,000 people newly infected with HIV by 2020, a reduction of 75% from 2010. The annual number of new infections (all ages) fell from 2.1 million in 2010 to 1.7 million in 2018, a 16% reduction that leaves the world far off the 2020 target.

Children have been failed

The Start Free, Stay Free, AIDS Free initiative aimed to reach 1.6 million children living with HIV with treatment while reducing annual infections to less than 40,000 by 2018. Yet data included in this report reveals 160,000 children aged 0–14 years became newly infected with HIV in 2018 and only 940,000 were accessing treatment.

Despite these ambitious targets being missed, new infections have fallen significantly from 240,000 children in 2010, thanks in part to the fact that 82% of pregnant women living with HIV are accessing medicines for prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT).

Combination prevention targets continue to lag behind

In 2018, 4 million men took up voluntary male medical circumcision (VMMC), but an additional 16 million men need to be reached to achieve the 25 million target by 2020. In 12 priority countries in 2018, 84% of circumcisions were among adolescent boys and young men aged 10-24.

What’s more, condom distribution, promotion and use have stalled in many countries. In 27 sub-Saharan African countries, condom use at last high-risk sex among men was just 58.6%, while targets call for 90% condom use.

Access to pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) is increasing, with 300,000 people taking it at least once in 2018, the biggest number of whom were in the USA (130,000). There is still much to understand about how to market and increase demand for this intervention, particularly among young women and key affected populations in sub-Saharan Africa. In 2018, Kenya reached 30,000 people with PrEP.

Only a handful of countries offer sufficient numbers of harm reduction services to adequately reach populations of people who inject drugs and their networks. Only three high-income countries – Austria, Luxembourg and Norway – reported UN-recommended levels of coverage for these programmes, and these countries account for less than 1% of the global population of people who inject drugs.

Digital programmes have promise

The report acknowledged the promise of online interventions in reaching young people and key affected populations with outreach services, including sex workers, men who have sex with men, transgender people and people who use drugs. These populations face barriers relating to consent, stigma, discrimination and violence, which drive them away from traditional services. Social media platforms and other digital interventions can help navigate, offering opportunities for people to connect and congregate online, sharing information and experiences to support better health.

Punitive laws, discrimination and lack of reporting overburden key populations

Key populations continue to be unfairly burdened by HIV. This group and their sexual partners accounted for over half (54%) of new HIV infections globally in 2018. Gay men accounted for 17% of all new HIV infections, followed by people who inject drugs (12%) and sex workers (6%). Less than half were reached with any combination prevention service.

Regionally, these discrepancies are even more pronounced. In Eastern Europe and Central Asia, people who inject drugs accounted for 41% of new HIV infections; 27% of infections in the Middle East and North Africa and 13% of new infections in Asia and the Pacific.

Gay men accounted for more than half of new HIV infections in North America and Western Europe, 40% of new infections in Latin America and 30% of infections in Asia and the Pacific.

Eastern & southern Africa excels, but elsewhere progress stalls

Across eastern and southern Africa, where 54% of people living with HIV reside, HIV incidence and AIDS-related deaths fell by 28% and 44% (respectively) between 2010 and 2018. Although young women (aged 15–24 years) continue to account for 26% of new HIV infections, there are signs of progress in this group thanks to work across this region. Globally, new HIV infections were reduced by 25% between 2010 and 2018 among girls aged 15-24.

In contrast, AIDS-related deaths have risen in eastern Europe and central Asia and the Middle East and North Africa over the eight year period, by 5% and 9% respectively. The annual number of HIV infections has increased in three regions: eastern Europe and central Asia (29% increase), Middle East and North Africa (10% increase) and Latin America (7% increase).

A widening resource gap

For the first time, resources available for the AIDS response have declined. In 2018 US$19 billion was made available compared to US$19.6 billion in 2017.

Where resources have been mobilised and funds raised, massive gains have been made in key areas of the HIV response. For example, in East and Southern Africa, expenditures per person living with HIV reached the region’s 2020 resource needs estimates, which has enabled many of the countries to close gaps in targets for HIV incidence and reductions of AIDS-related deaths. Conversely, in West and Central Africa, just 48% of the resource needs have been mobilised, limiting gains here.

UNAIDS interim Executive Director Gunilla Carlsson said in her forward in the report, “We have the knowledge and tools we need to end AIDS. We cannot change the virus, but we can change inequalities, power imbalances, marginalization, taboos, and stigma and discrimination. We can change behaviours and societies. The change we need requires strong collective efforts by both governments and communities.”

“Success is being achieved where policies and programmes focus on people, not diseases—policies and programmes that are designed with communities and that respond to the ways that people live their lives. With access to knowledge, rights and power, communities are empowered to drive change, to reduce the impact of HIV and to accelerate better health for all.”



Nonprofit president put on probation for pocketing funds meant for HIV/AIDS-specific housing

Steven F. Harvin, 54, of New Haven, was sentenced on Friday to three years of probation, the first 60 days of which he will serve in home confinement, for embezzling funds from a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) program.

Harvin served as president of Zezzo House, a nonprofit that provides housing to individuals and families with health challenges, from August 2015 to September 2016. Under his leadership, Zezzo House received funds from the Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS (“HOPWA”) program that HUD grants to local communities, states and nonprofit organizations for projects that benefit low-income persons living with HIV/AIDS and their families.

Between January and August 2016, Zezzo House received $70,722 in HOPWA fundsCourt documents show that Harvin embezzled some of these funds through cash withdrawals, spent some of the funds on ineligible Zezzo House expenses and he failed to account for the use of other funds.

Zezzo House also receives Section 8 funding and, during this time period, Harvin diverted funds from rent checks from Section 8 tenants to his personal use.

In total, it is believed Harvin misappropriated approximately $32,854 in HOPWA and Section 8 funds.

In addition to three years of probation, Harvin was also ordered to perform 50 hours of community service.


Author: Pat Tomlinson


Where to Donate to LGBTQ2+ Groups in Vancouver

Image by Vision Event Photography


Recuperating from the Vancouver Pride Festival and feeling generous? Vancouver’s LGBTQ2+ community has a diverse range of groups, foundations, not-for-profits and charitable organizations devoted to education, fundraising and providing services for needs specific to our community. Many were created and evolved out of necessity, to address issues and provide services for people and situations that were not being addressed, or fully funded publicly.

Grass roots efforts, some of which started in the early 1980’s have evolved into registered professional foundations and organizations, which provide ongoing special services and produce a series of colourful fundraising events that highlight Vancouver’s LGBTQ2+ social calendar, year-round.

Following is a list of prominent organizations in Vancouver, with links to find out more about their operations, and to make direct donations in support of their efforts.

Rainbow Refugee Society

This Vancouver-based community group provides support to LGBTQ2+ and HIV+ refugee claimants in BC and other municipalities across Canada. As a registered not-for-profit and charity, they also work with government to create awareness of LGBTQ2+ refugees, and to secure sponsorship. Volunteer driven society with regularly scheduled meetings at Qmunity.

Signature Events: Annual event on International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, as well as A Night in Damascus fundraiser.

Foundation of Hope

Starting with a small group who co-sponsored two gay Syrian refugees, the Rainbow Foundation of Hope is now a registered charity with a board of directors that provides financial aid to other charities supporting LGBTQ2+ refugees and asylum seekers. Participate in STRUT, their annual flagship fundraiser, or donate online to support their efforts.

Signature event: STRUT Walkathon

A Loving Spoonful

In 1989, after witnessing a once-successful lawyer who lost his job due to his HIV status eating out of a dumpster, founder Easter Armas began to provide meals and support for those living with HIV/AIDS. Twenty years on, A Loving Spoonful has served over 100,000 meals and relies on donations, as well as a successful series of signature events to supplement its programs

Signature events: Dining Out for Life, Candy Grams, Project Empty Bowl, World AIDS Day Luncheon

Dr. Peter AIDS Foundation

A legacy of Dr. Peter Jepson-Young, who documented his journey with HIV/AIDS on a CBC television series before his death in 1992, The Dr. Peter AIDS Foundation is a world-renowned leader that raises funds to support HIV day health care programs, as well as a live-in resident care program at the Dr. Peter Centre, which opened in Vancouver’s West End in 1993.

Signature events: Passions, Pride Cocktail Kickoff, World AIDS Day, Art For Life

Friends For Life

The Vancouver Friends for Life Society began in 1993 as wellness centre in Vancouver’s West End, providing holistic and wellness programs for people and their families living with life-challenging illnesses, including HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis C and cancer. Attending their weekly Bingo For Life with Carlotta Gurl at Mary’s On Davie is a great way to help them raise funds, or you can donate directly online.

Signature events: Bingo For Life, Art For Life

AIDS Vancouver

Canada’s first HIV/AIDS service organization began in 1983 in response to the growing AIDS epidemic at the time. Over thirty years later, AIDS Vancouver continues to be a world leader in HIV prevention, education, and provides a wide range of services and programs that include an HIV Help Line, a Supplemental Grocery Program, Financial Assistance Fund, and more.

Signature events: National HIV Testing Day, Red Ribbon Gala, AIDS Candlelight Memorial, World AIDS Day Red Ribbon Awards

Positive Living BC

Positive Living BC is a registered non-profit Society and a membership based organization that is unique in that it is run and directed by people living with HIV/AIDS. A wide range of services, programs and resources aim to empower and support its members to face everyday challenges, and to live healthy and productive lives. Associate membership is also available.

Signature events: AccolAIDS, RED, AIDS Walk Vancouver, Red Ribbon Breakfast

McLaren Housing Society of BC

The first of its kind in Canada, McLaren Housing began in 1987 to provide housing for five individuals living with HIV/AIDS in Vancouver. Today it provides housing, housing assistance and support for hundreds of low income and homeless people and families living with HIV/AIDS in British Columbia. Attending their annual McLaren Sparkles event is a great way to contribute.

Signature events: McLaren Sparkles

Out In Schools

Out in Schools Fall Gala | Image by

An initiative of Out On Screen, who also run the Vancouver Queer Film Festival, Out in Schools has been helping to provide outreach, education and changes of mind about homophobia, transphobia and bullying in Vancouver’s school districts since 2004. Using film and onsite workshops, Out In Schools has reached the majority of school districts in BC, with a goal to reach them all by the end of 2019.

Signature events: Out in Schools Fall Gala


Qmunity is considered Vancouver’s LGBTQ2+ community centre. This non-profit organization is centrally located in Davie Village overlooking the rainbow crosswalks, and provides a wide range of services, including counselling, programs, workshops, resources, as well as a safe space for youth, support and social groups. Volunteers are appreciated.

Signature Event: International Day Against Homophobia,Transphobia,and Biphobia Breakfast

In addition to signature events and donations, these organizations also rely heavily on a large number of volunteers to reach their goals, and to deliver their much-needed services and programs. Donating time is highly valued and gives back a great sense of community in return.

Angus Praught is president of Travel Marketing, a Vancouver-based company featuring LGBTQ2+ welcoming destinations and businesses, in the Vancouver region, Canada, and beyond.

Sign up for the Out In Vancouver newsletter if you are interested in hearing about more non-heteronormative and diverse news, events, and culture that are part of Vancouver–and to be notified on the latest contests.


By Angus Praught


Where to Donate to LGBTQ2+ Groups in Vancouver

A Chlamydia Vaccine Was Tested In A Small Trial

Joe Raedle/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Even though they’re extremely common, getting an STI can be a painful experience, and can potentially lead to complications if left untreated. Condoms, dental dams, antibiotics, and other methods are useful in preventing and treating infections, but they’re not 100% reliable. That’s why preventing an infection in the first place is the gold standard — and a new trial for a chlamydia vaccine shows promise in doing just that. If made commercially available, this vaccine could prevent millions of cases of genital chlamydia, according to a new study published in the Lancet.

This potential vaccine is a big deal. An estimated 2.86 million cases of chlamydia occur in the U.S. every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). And the World Health Organization (WHO) says that globally, about 127 million caseswere diagnosed in 2016.


According to the Mayo Clinic, some signs and symptoms of chlamydia are painful urination, lower abdominal pain, vaginal/penile discharge, painful vaginal sexual intercourse, bleeding between periods and after sex, rectal pain/discharge, and testicular pain. However, the CDC says most people with chlamydia don’t experience any symptoms, or symptoms may not appear for several weeks after exposure. So people may unknowingly pass it to sexual partners or delay seeking treatment, which has serious health consequences.

The Mayo Clinic says that delayed treatment can lead to a high risk of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, pelvic inflammatory disease, infection near the testicles (epididymitis), infections in newborns (chlamydia can “pass through the vaginal canal to your during delivery, causing pneumonia or a serious eye infection”), and infertility. Condoms help prevent chlamydia infections, but they’re not 100% effective, especially when being they’re not being used correctly. And the UK’s National Health Service says that 95% of people will be cured of chlamydia if they take their antibiotics correctly. That’s a significant number, but again, not 100%.

Rocketclips, Inc./Shutterstock


This vaccine could help people on a massive scale. In the trial, 35 healthy women (ages 19 to 45) received doses of one of two experimental chlamydia vaccines, while five received a placebo. It’s important to note that the women were not actually diagnosed with chlamydia. The purpose of this first trial was to determine how safe the vaccines were, and whether they could “trigger the production of antibodies necessary to fight off the bacteria that causes the illness,” according to TIME.

The participants had only mild side effects, like injection-site pain. Both vaccines led to higher levels of vaginal antibodies, which are necessary to prevent chlamydia. This suggests that the vaccine may be successful. Now, the next step is to test the vaccine against actual cases of chlamydia. If those rounds of testing are successful, the vaccine could become commercially available in some countries within five to seven years, Lancet study co-author Robin Shattock, a professor of mucosal infection and immunity at Imperial College London, told TIME. However, he pointedout that the vaccine will become available to “less developed” countries later.

Even if this vaccine gets made available commercially, however, stigma around STIs might prevent it from being made available to everyone. Like the human papillomavirus (HPV) — which is the most commonly transmitted STI in the U.S., according to the CDC — chlamydia is attached to a lot of sex-negative stereotypes. But anyone can get chlamydia, HPV, or any other STI, regardless of who they are or who they’ve had sex with. In fact, even people who haven’t had penetrative sex can get an STI.

But the stigma persists. A study published in the Open AIDS Journal showed fear of judgement keeps some young people from STI testing. In a study of 300 young people aged aged 15-24, nearly one-third put off seeking medical attention for more than seven days, and 95% of them believed “my partner would blame me if I had an STD.”

Ashley Batz/Bustle

Because of stigma and lack of access to resources, some groups are at an increased risk for developing the infection. Black people experience chlamydia at rates 5.6 times higher than non-Hispanic white people, according to the CDC. And inLos Angeles County, health officials are examining how systemic racism and lack of education contributes to STI rates in marginalized ethnic and racial communities.

According to the CDC, nearly two-thirds of all new chlamydia infections occur among young people (15-24 years). And an estimated 1 in 20 sexually active young women (14-24 years) has the infection. Part of this may rest with parents and doctors being reluctant to educate young people — especially girls — about STI prevention. For this reason, Shattock expects the vaccine will be marketed as a “fertility vaccine,” not an STI vaccine, since infertility is one of the risks of delayed treatment. “In the same way that HPV is a sexually transmitted infection, but people are motivated to get vaccinated because they want protection from cancer, we would anticipate that this would be positioned as a fertility vaccine,” he told TIME.

I can personally attest to the fact that there is a stigma for STI vaccines. My mother wrestled with whether or not to allow me to have the HPV vaccine as a pre-teen, because she feared it would make me promiscuous. Concerns about teens’ and marginalized peoples’ ability to access these vaccines suggests that it’s time for legislators and health care providers to help teens gain more autonomy over their own health decisions and fund education, affordable healthcare, and STI testing.

If marketing the vaccine as a fertility vaccine helps more teens and adolescents access it, then I’m all for it. However, it is disheartening to see that access to the vaccine might have to be connected to fertility. Loss of fertility is a serious side effect of chlamydia, but this emphasis can stigmatize sexuality.

The possibility of a vaccine for chlamydia is incredibly exciting, because of its potential to help so many people. However, it’s important to be mindful of how stigma and systemic inequities might affect some groups’ ability to access the vaccine, if it were to become commercially available. Everyone deserves to be healthy.



Coming of age: N.W.T. elders host gender-inclusive rite of passage camp

Gender-fluid youth ‘very happy’ to participate in important cultural ceremony

Ari Cardinal Lennie, 12, who identifies as gender-fluid and pansexual, participated in a rite of passage at a camp on the land outside of Fort Providence last weekend. These rites traditionally enforce gender norms, a practice that does not accommodate all youth. (Submitted by Sarah Wright Cardinal)


A special rites of passage camp tailored for LGBTQ, gender-fluid and two-spirit youth transitioning into adulthood was held in Fort Providence last weekend.

For Ari Cardinal Lennie, 12, who identifies as gender-fluid and pansexual, the camp was a chance to participate in an important cultural ceremony in a way that made them feel safe and accepted by their community.

“I’m very happy that there was a rites of passage camp that was good for me instead of just learning the female teachings because, I mean, I need to know both,” said Cardinal Lennie. “It makes me feel safe with all the people. It makes me be able to trust more people.”

Cardinal Lennie was the primary attendee at the camp, with other youth attending throughout the four-day ceremony.

Coming-of-age rites are Dene tradition

Dene rites of passage are important for youth managing their way through puberty, as they establish their identities and move into adulthood, says Beverley Bagnall Hope, who helped lead the camp with her husband Frank Hope. The ceremonies tend to differ for boys and girls, with boys focusing on hunting and other on-the-land activities, while girls are taught about mindfulness, cleanliness and essential skills such as sewing.

Ari Cardinal Lennie, left, and mom Sarah Wright Cardinal are navigating through what it means to be and raise a gender-fluid youth while honouring their Cree and Dene heritage. (Submitted by Sarah Wright Cardinal)

“In all First Nations or Indigenous communities, rites of passage was something that was commonplace,” said Bagnall Hope. “That was a time where young people moved into their womanhood and into their manhood. And today, as we recognize, into who they are as a person regardless of their gender.”


Every individual deserves the right to know who they are– Beverley Bagnall Hope

When first approached about holding a rites of passage ceremony for youth who identify as LGBTQ, gender-fluid or two-spirit, Bagnall Hope said she didn’t hesitate.

“I didn’t even question it,” she said. “When I was approached my heart said, ‘Absolutely.’ Every child, every person, every individual deserves the right to know who they are and to know their authentic self in a cultural and a meaningful way.”

A learning process for all

Beverley and Frank consulted with their mentors and elders, who gave their blessings and reminded them to let the youth lead the way through the process.

“For myself also, it’s been something of a learning process because, if you remember that there has been an interruption of that natural transmission of traditional knowledge and values and principles that were handed down to us … by the residential schools,” said Frank Hope.

“So particularly those rites of passage, there’s a lot of unlearning and re-learning and being aware of a lot of these values and principles that we’ve lost and picked up again.

“This youth has also been our teacher,” he said. “We facilitated the process but this is also a learning process for us too — a continual learning process. And yeah, it’s been just a really beautiful experience.”

Rites of passage to mark the transition through puberty into adulthood are commonplace in many indigenous cultures, including Cree and Dene. Camp facilitator Frank Hope says he and other traditional knowledge holders continue to re-learn these practices in the aftermath of colonization. (Submitted by Sarah Wright Cardinal )

Cardinal Lennie says they have always felt outside of the gender norm, but chalked it up to, “Oh, I’m just a tomboy, whatever.” During a trip up north to stay with an aunt before their 11th birthday, they discovered a lot of things about themselves and the language to describe who they are.

“When I came home, I told my mom, ‘I identify as gender fluid. I’d like you to use my pronouns they and them,'” they said.

“It’s been really powerful and I’ve had to really think about what I understand as our teachings,” said Ari’s mom, Sarah Wright Cardinal. “I had to really think about why we go about things in certain ways, how colonization and the church has influenced how we how we do things. So, I’ve been challenged to really rethink gender and sexuality. I’m very proud of our kids.”

Author: Laura Busch


AIDS researchers launching trial of HIV self-tests at sexual health clinics across Canada

TORONTO—Researchers are launching a study on HIV self-testing kits with the aim of gaining federal approval for the first such device in Canada.

Dr. Sean Rourke, a scientist with the Centre for Urban Health Solutions at St. Michael’s Hospital, said the clinical trial will begin in Toronto on Wednesday before expanding across the country in coming weeks.

The neuropsychologist said data will be collected on 1,000 people who will take the one-minute, finger-prick blood test at sexual health clinics in several provinces.

Rourke said he’s hopeful the study’s findings will persuade Health Canada to approve the first HIV self-test for use as early as 2020.

Rourke, who serves on the board of the Canadian Foundation for AIDS Research, said the number of new HIV cases in Canada has increased in recent years, in contrast to the downward trend seen in other G7 countries.

As of 2016, there were more than 63,000 Canadians living with HIV, one in seven of whom were unaware of their condition, according to estimates released by the Public Health Agency of Canada last year.

Rourke said diagnosing the roughly 9,000 Canadians who don’t know they have HIV is critical to helping them access life-extending treatments and preventing further transmission of the disease.

The World Health Organization has recommended countries implement self-testing strategies as a way to reduce the number of people living with undiagnosed HIV.

According to WHO, dozens of countries, including France, Germany, the U.K. and the U.S., have adopted self-testing regulations. And Rourke hopes this study will be the “last step” in adding Canada to that list.

A spokeswoman for Health Canada said in an email that the department has not received any applications for a medical device licence for at-home HIV test kits, despite reaching out to industry members to provide regulatory guidance.

And absent federal approval, it appears Canadians are finding other ways to access this technology.

Anna Maddison, senior media relations adviser for Health Canada, said the department is aware of unlicensed kits being purchased by Canadians online and across the border, and has taken steps to mitigate the health risk.

Late last year, the agency gave researchers at St. Michael’s the green light to lead a clinical trial on an HIV self-test manufactured by Richmond, B.C.-based bioLytical Laboratories, the spokeswoman said.

According to the diagnostics company, the test is more than 99 per cent accurate when compared to traditional HIV detection methods.

Rourke said the question he and other researchers will be looking at is whether people can use the devices properly.

He said the study will examine participants’ ability to follow the instructions for the test, which involves drawing a drop of blood and mixing it with solutions, and understand their results. Some will also be asked to interpret mock tests to see if they can identify clear negatives and positives as well as results that are more ambiguous.

In addition to two sexual health clinics in Toronto, data will be collected from facilities in Montreal, Saskatoon, Winnipeg and Victoria.

Rourke said some of the clinics in the trial were selected because they cater to populations considered to be at higher risk for HIV, including men who have sex with men, injection drug users, Indigenous populations and immigrants from countries where the virus is prevalent.

Jane Greer, director of the Hassle Free Clinic in Toronto, where the study will kick off next week, said health workers have been administering similar rapid HIV tests on patients for about 15 years.

But despite the calls of medical professionals and activists, Greer said point-of-care technology still isn’t available in many communities in Canada, in part due to what she sees as a lack of effort from some provinces.

She hopes business interests will propel HIV self-tests to become as commonplace in pharmacies as take-home pregnancy tests.

“I just hope that the trials go well and the (self-testing) device is approved and can be made available in a meaningful way,” said Greer.

Len Tooley, evaluation and advancement director at Vancouver’s Community Based Research Centre, said the technology could remove many of the barriers people face to getting tested for HIV, including lack of access to a health-care provider, travel and wait times and concerns about confidentiality.

Tooley said many people who are at risk for HIV are subject to forms of social marginalization that can sow distrust in the medical system, and self-tests could help empower outreach workers to deliver care in their communities.

Some have raised questions about whether people who use HIV self-tests will seek out followup treatment, but Tooley said those concerns are rooted in assumptions that people with HIV don’t care about their own health.

Get more of the Star in your inbox
Never miss the latest news from the Star. Sign up for our newsletters to get today’s top stories, your favourite columnists and lots more in your inbox

Sign Up Now

“Any challenges that exist with self-testing probably also exist with service-provider-based testing as well,” he said. “The key point really is around whether people have access to their own health information. And that’s really what HIV self-testing allows in a way that we haven’t had a chance to see yet.”



Portland center gets $1.4 million to help Mainers living with HIV/AIDS

The renewal of a federal grant ensures money for the Frannie Peabody Center for another 3 years.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development renewed the Frannie Peabody Center’s grant of $1,406,578 over three years, which will help fund its work of housing and assisting people living with HIV/AIDS.

The center has received the grant for the same amount since 2006, but the federal money has become more crucial, according to Katie Rutherford, director of programs at the center. The center provides tenant-based rental assistance to 41 households annually, along with supportive services to at least 110 households annually throughout Maine.

Rutherford said some of the biggest challenges the organization faces are an extremely low vacancy rate in affordable housing and the rising cost of living. The funds will be used to offset the cost of living for individuals.

“Even with some units that meet the fair market rent restrictions set by Housing and Urban Development, we see a growing number of requirements such as first and last month’s rent, security deposit, application fee, and credit check,” Rutherford wrote in an email to the Press Herald. “Many financial resources are not able to cover the totality of requirements, making it extremely difficult for people to achieve stable housing – a crucial component of overall health.”

In addition to housing services, the center provides HIV prevention, behavioral health and case management services to over 400 people a year. It also administers over 500 HIV tests annually.

The center is one of 25 HIV/AIDS housing and assistance programs across the U.S. to receive the funding and is the only grant recipient in Maine. In a news release, HUD says the funding will assist more than 2,054 low-income persons living with HIV/AIDS and their families.

Rutherford said the grant will be used to help all people with HIV/AIDS in Maine.

The center receives additional funding from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Maine Office of Maine Care Services, United Way of Greater Portland and York County.



Exercise Tied to Improved Depression in People With HIV

However, a recent literature review did not find a link between such exercise and improved inflammation.

Among people with HIV, engaging in aerobic exercise is associated with mitigated depression but not with improvements in a particular marker of inflammation, according to a recent systematic review and meta-analysis, the National AIDS Treatment Advocacy Project (NATAP) reports.

Presenting findings at the 10th International AIDS Society Conference on HIV Science (IAS 2019) in Mexico City, researchers from Obafemi Awolowo University Teaching Hospital in Nigeria, the University of Nigeria and McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, analyzed data from six studies that provided findings about the impact of aerobic exercise on depressive symptoms or levels of high-sensitivity C-reactive protein (hsCRP) in the serum—a biomarker of inflammation.

These studies included 261 HIV-positive adult participants between them, 41% of whom were women. Just two of the papers were deemed to be of high quality.

In the two studies providing data on hsCRP, there was no association between aerobic exercise and lower inflammation.

In the meta-analysis of the four studies that provided depression-related data, aerobic exercise was associated with a decline in depression scores. The exercise programs analyzed involved three to five sessions per week lasting 24 to 60 minutes in which participants sustained 55% to 75% of their age-predicted maximal heart rate, 60% to 80% of their maximal oxygen uptake or 50% to 80% of their heart rate reserve.

The study authors said aerobic exercise’s impact on inflammation demands further, high-quality studies, including those that focus not just on CRP, as there are other inflammatory biomarkers that can be assessed.

A 2016 randomized study of a 12-week resistance training program did find that it reduced CRP.

To read the study abstract, click here.

To read the NATAP report, click here.


By Benjamin Ryan


My boyfriend’s undetectable. Do I need to use PrEP?

DEAR EMEN8: I’ve been with my amazing boyfriend for many months now and we’re both feeling like we’re ready to ditch the condoms. The thing is, he’s HIV positive and undetectable. He’s suggested I go on PrEP. Do I need to? — UNSURE ABOUT CHOICES, SOMEWHERE IN AUSTRALIA

DEAR UNSURE: You’re certainly not alone — you pose a great question we’ve thought a lot about too. There are a few things to consider and discuss with your partner, so we’ve broken these down in the hope it will give you some insight into deciding what’s best for you both based on your circumstances.

About undetectable viral load

We love that you and your boyfriend are looking to be even more intimate with each other while also thinking about your sexual health. It’s also great that you both know he’s undetectable. Although we’re curious if you know what being undetectable means?

Here’s the deal: if your boyfriend is living with HIV and is using HIV treatment to maintain an undetectable viral load, there’s no risk of him transmitting HIV to you — even if you’re not on PrEP and you don’t use condoms.

“How he manages his HIV treatment is something you both might want to talk about.”

We also recognise that using HIV treatment medication regularly is an important factor for him to stay undetectable. Maintaining a regular treatment regime isn’t just beneficial for your wonderful sex life together — it’s essential for him to stay healthy. How he manages his HIV treatment is something you both might want to talk about.

About PrEP

It’s great you’ve mentioned PrEP. It’s been getting a lot of attention lately, especially since it’s now available on the PBS. If you do decide PrEP is right for you, this will help make it affordable and convenient to access wherever you’re based in Australia.

And just in case you didn’t know, PrEP is a daily pill that’s highly effective at keeping you HIV negative. Using PrEP involves taking one pill a day and checking in with a GP every three months for routine HIV and STI tests.

Regardless of your partner’s HIV status, PrEP can do an excellent job keeping you protected against HIV, although it doesn’t protect against STIs.

Who else is involved?

At Emen8 we know monogamy is one type of relationship and there are plenty of others that sometimes involve sex with other people. We love the diversity of these relationships, but it’s up to you guys to agree on what you’ll be doing in yours. If there’s a chance that either or both of you might have sex with other people, it’s worth talking about first.

“If there’s a chance that either or both of you might have sex with other people, it’s worth talking about first.”

Having sex with other people could mean there’s a chance of acquiring STIs outside of your relationship — even when condoms are used every time. Going for regular sexual health tests is important for both of you to help identify and treat any infections early.

How does your boyfriend feel?

Isn’t it wonderful when our loved ones support us and look out for us? If your boyfriend’s suggested you use PrEP even though he’s undetectable, it sounds like he might be really keen to make sure you stay as protected as possible. You might want to consider discussing why he’s suggested PrEP. It might provide some insights into how he’s feeling and what’s important to him.

We don’t know for sure what your boyfriend’s concerns are, but there’s a chance he might have faced some challenging experiences of HIV stigma, affecting the way he feels about himself and sexual safety. If he cherishes you, the thought of you being at risk could be upsetting — and the thought of him being the cause of that risk perhaps even more so.

“Learning to let go of any anxiety and feeling confident to try new things might not happen overnight.”

What’s valuable for you to both know is that while your boyfriend maintains an undetectable viral load, you don’t need PrEP to keep your body safe. He’s already ensuring you’re not at risk from HIV as a result of his treatment helping him to stay undetectable. But we also recognise feelings and emotions sometimes make it tricky to have immediate faith in medical science while we warm to new notions of what safe sex means to each of us.

Although the science and the way we understand the benefits of HIV treatment have progressed rapidly, attitudes towards HIV haven’t advanced quite as fast for everyone. Coming to terms with the fact that your boyfriend won’t pass the virus on to you — even without condoms — might take a little while for both of you to get used to. Learning to let go of any anxiety and feeling confident to try new things might not happen overnight. Being informed as well as patient, caring and supportive of each other will help get you there. We know of plenty of other couples who have.

Sharing the responsibility for your safety

Although you don’t need PrEP to keep your body safe, that shouldn’t stop you from choosing it if you decide that’s what you want. What’s good to know is you can always choose to start PrEP and see how you go. PrEP doesn’t have to be forever; you can decide to stop at any time after consulting with your GP.

In some ways, choosing PrEP might mean you’d be managing HIV in a similar way to your boyfriend. You’d both use safe and effective antiretroviral medication every day, even though one of you lives with HIV and the other one doesn’t. Just remember he isn’t afforded the same opportunity to stop taking his medication without seriously impacting his health. If your boyfriend feels he’s carried the burden of responsibility for protecting you against HIV, PrEP might offer an opportunity for you to share that responsibility with him.

“PrEP doesn’t have to be forever; you can decide to stop at any time after consulting with your GP.”

We hope you can see there are a few important things to consider when making the decision to not use condoms in your relationship. But don’t forget, condoms have and will continue to play a huge part in helping to prevent HIV and STI transmissions for many people. We don’t expect them to disappear from shops or bedrooms any time soon. If anything about your situation changes, you can always consider reintroducing them.

However your shared journey towards connection, pleasure and intimacy develops; what’s wonderful is the opportunity to embark on it together. Learning to navigate through any anxiety presents an opportunity to strengthen bonds; giving each other permission to not worry is a valuable compass for keeping you on track.

Most of all, we really hope that knowing your boyfriend can’t pass on HIV to you, while he’s maintaining an undetectable viral load, whether you use PrEP or not is reassuring and nurturing for you both. With knowledge like that, perhaps we can all look forward to building even more loving relationships with each other.



‘Queer Eye’ style guru Carson Kressley talks LGBT media, raising funds for HIV/AIDS outreach in Indy

Before he hosts the Damien Center’s annual Grande Masquerade on Oct. 19, IndyStar caught up with “Queer Eye” star Carson Kressley to discuss the changes in how LGBT stories are told in media.

Carson Kressley doesn’t care about being on-brand.

In the nearly 20 years since “Queer Eye” premiered on Bravo, the fashion savant has been busy, but never bored.

He’s got a creative design contest show in the works that he has to stay tight-lipped about because it’s “not yet signed, sealed, delivered.” He recently wrapped filming a season of “RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars,” a competition reality show he’s judged since 2015. He’s working on a show house for the Round Top Antiques Fair in Texas.

And when he’s not working, he’s showing American Saddlebred horses or raising awareness for philanthropies serving the LGBT community.

Homelessness in Indy: For transgender homeless, shelters can be risky. Here’s how the Damien Center is trying to help.

No, you can’t drive there: What you should know about Red Line lanes

On a phone call from Los Angeles on a recent Tuesday morning, Kressley told IndyStar that he doesn’t care about whether a project fits in with his other work. If it’s creative and sounds exciting, he said, he’s game.

“I call it the William Shatner School of Showbiz,” he said, “where you just say yes to a lot of different things and see where it takes you.”

This fall, Kressley will make his way to Indianapolis to emcee the Damien Center’s 32nd annual Grande Masquerade. Opened in 1987, the Damien Center provides preventative, supportive and medical services to those affected by HIV/AIDS.

IndyStar caught up with Kressley before the event to discuss LGBT representation, how the media landscape has changed and why he’s looking forward to his trip to the Circle City.

The following interview has been edited for length and clarity.

What have been some of the most significant changes you’ve seen in how the media portrays the LGBT community?

“I can only speak from my own experience, my own perspective. But, you know, I remember growing up as a little gay kid in Allentown, Pennsylvania, and knowing that there was something very different about me, but not really having anybody … that I could really relate to as a role model, and say ‘Oh, this person’s like me, and they’re successful, and they’re happy and they’re doing great, so I can be successful and happy and do great.’ … The first person I remember who had such an impact on me was Pedro Zamora, who was on “The Real World.” And he was so open and honest about his sexuality and his HIV, and I just thought, ‘Wow, this guy’s so brave and so cool,’ and was really the first open and out gay person on TV that I really related to and responded to him.


So, that for me, was kind of that first exposure. I think that, you know, obviously shows like “Queer Eye” and “Will & Grace” helped keep that momentum moving forward, and the “Queer Eye” reboot now is doing tremendous things to expose the positive things that queer people are doing in society to a world stage. And I think it’s been moving ahead steadily since the early days, but there’s still so much work to be done. There’s still places where homophobia is rampant, there’s still places where, countries where same-sex marriage isn’t legal, there’s countries where being gay is illegal. We still have work to be done here and also globally to help people understand that gay rights are really human rights and we’re all more the same than we are different.”

In the first episode of Netflix’s “Queer Eye” reboot, Tan France says: “The original show was fighting for tolerance. Our fight is for acceptance.” Are there still stories that are begging to be told in that journey from tolerance to acceptance? 

“Of course. I think the power of the media and being out on television, on whatever platform you’re on, is that it allows people to see you at a human level, and say, ‘Oh my gosh, this person happens to be gay or lesbian or bisexual or transgender’ …  but it allows those people to identify with them on a one-on-one human level and see, ‘Well, they’re not scary, and they’re very similar to me and they’re going through the same things I’m going through,’ and they just happen to be gay or lesbian or bisexual or transgender. It engages people and creates allies, which I think our original show did in an almost subversive way, because we didn’t have a political agenda — we were just literally trying to get people out of khakis and get rid of their mullets.”

Since “Queer Eye” premiered, what do you consider to be your biggest accomplishment?

“People would go for the obvious, like having an Emmy, or professional accolades, but honestly, for me, the best thing — and the original ‘Queer Eye’ was such a blessing for me in many ways — but the highlight for me, and it still happens to this day, is meeting a young person who will come up and say ‘I grew up gay in a very conservative community and I didn’t know anybody who was gay, I didn’t have any role models until I saw you on TV, and my family also saw you on TV and liked you and we laughed together, and it made it easier for me to come out to them and made my life better.'”

When you’re not working, you’re often volunteering or fundraising for various charities. What causes are important to you and why?

“I am very interested in supporting LGBTQ youth. Having grown up gay in a small community in the 1970s and the 1980s, I understand firsthand how isolating that can be and how alone you feel and how you feel like maybe there’s something flawed with you. Anything I can do to help young kids realize that they’re perfectly perfect just the way they are and that there’s a community out there that will love and support them even if sometimes their own community does not. That’s really important to me. I’ve been lucky enough to work with the True Colors Fund … and we work to eradicate homelessness, especially within the LGBT sector. And I also grew up during the AIDS era, so of course that’s something that has been part of my world and something that I’ve been very aware of, and that’s why I’m coming to Indianapolis for the gala at the Damien Center. And that’s something I’ve always been passionate about, you know, HIV and AIDS, educating people about it, and also de-stigmatizing. And also remembering that it’s still something to be aware of, something to fight for for this community, to raise money for, to not only find a cure, but also to support people living with HIV and AIDS.”

As someone with a national platform, is it important to you to attend local-level events like the Damien Center’s Grande Masquerade?

“I’ve had a great life, and I feel like when you’re blessed in so many ways like I’ve been, it just is what you do with that, you give back and do what you can to help people who maybe have not had such a great go. And I think everything starts on the local level. I think it’s really important — big, giant national charities are great, wonderful, they do amazing work. But I think local, smaller charities are the ones that need maybe the extra exposure and maybe a little extra push that having a celebrity either there or raising awareness or raising money, it’s more beneficial to smaller, more local-level organizations.”

What have you learned through your work with these organizations?

“I’m always inspired by people who do so much for the organizations across the country. They give literally their heart and soul, and it’s very inspiring to see that. When you attend one of them or you work with one of these groups, you see their leadership and their volunteers, you think, ‘My goodness, I should be doing more.’ And it inspires you to become a little more active in causes that are important to you. At the end of the day, it’s an inspiring kind of process that fuels my own passion.”

Any tips for folks who are prepping their outfits for this year’s Italian-themed masquerade?

“It’s a black-tie gala, so you could really just get away with something that’s men-in-black-tie or women-in-an-evening-gown and then the most fabulous masks that should be one-of-a-kind and sparkly and glittery. And I’m sure there are places where you can, online, buy these kind of Italian carnevale masks, but then I would encourage people to personalize them and bejewel them and bedazzle them and go crazy.”