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Celebration to remember ‘big heart’ of The Elbow Room co-founder

What was the secret behind the 42-year relationship of life partners Patrice Savoie and Bryan Searle?

Always remembering to say they loved each other.

“We faced a lot of obstacles in our business and personal life,” Savoie said.

“We always learned to say that we loved each other. We might still be mad but we never went to bed without saying: ‘I love you.’”

“It doesn’t mean your relationship is perfect. If you know there is a lot of love in your heart for that person, then I think that person is worth fighting for.”

Since 1983, Savoie and Searle have operated The Elbow Room, the popular breakfast and brunch café located on Davie in downtown Vancouver.

In December, Searle died in St. Paul’s Hospital after a long battle with cancer. He was 86.

Searle’s many friends in Metro Vancouver and around the world are gathering on Saturday, March 17, for a celebration of his life.

Over the years, The Elbow Room has become one of Vancouver’s top destinations for breakfast and brunch. The appeal isn’t restricted to the omelettes and bacon and eggs. It’s also because of the sassy attitude that starts with Savoie himself.

“Bryan always said I was a frustrated drag queen and the Elbow Room was my stage,” Savoie said.

The couple met in 1975, six years after federal laws on homosexuality had been changed for consenting adults over the age of 21. At the time, both Savoie, an elementary school teacher, and Searle, an insurance claims manager, still had to worry about losing their jobs for being gay.

Savoie remembers going in the back entrance of gay bars to make sure no one would see him going in the front.

“You were constantly looking at your back,” he said. “You were afraid of losing your job. It was so different.”

They met in a very gay location: a bathhouse in downtown Toronto. Savoie was there because a friend had ditched him earlier in the evening.

Early in the morning of Nov. 12, after Remembrance Day, Savoie was in a sauna on Bloor Street. A man wearing a suit and obviously drunk came in. Savoie thought the man was so handsome, he parked himself outside his room so no one would go in while he slept off the booze. When he woke up, Savoie went in. The man was Searle.

Savoie admits the attraction was sexual at first. But then their relationship changed.

“We started growing with each other and caring for each other,” Savoie said in an interview in the condo the couple shared.

“Each year we got stronger and stronger in our relationship.”

In 1980, the couple moved west when Searle’s company transferred him to Vancouver. About three years later, the couple bought May’s Room, a 12-seat café at 720 Jervis.

They renamed it The Elbow Room when a friend said everyone had to sit so close together their elbows touched. Savoie worked as waiter. Searle, who always wanted to own a restaurant, continued working at the insurance company that was a few blocks away. It was close enough so he could head over at lunch to help by washing dishes and cooking.

Savoie didn’t start sassing customers right away. It came out of a sense of frustration.

One busy day, the café was full of customers. Savoie was juggling getting coffee, taking orders and writing up bills.

A table of four told him that breakfast was great. They didn’t need anything more, they said, other than the cheque.

“I hear behind me: ‘Excuse me, we changed our minds. Can we have more coffee, please?’ from the table of four that said they were finished. The coffee was sitting there.”

That’s when Savoie lost it.

“For some reason, I said: ‘Excuse me, I was just at your (….) table. I asked you if there was anything else you wanted. You told me no, just the cheque. You can see the coffee there. Can’t you get your arse up to get it?’”

No one at the table got up to get the extra coffee. Instead, they paid and walked out.

And then Savoie said something totally unexpected happened. The other customers liked his outburst. They told him that he did what every waiter and waitress always wanted to do but couldn’t because they’d get fired. But since Savoie was one of the bosses, he could get away with it.

“That’s how it came about,” said Savoie, 67.

To this day, customers are served their first cup of coffee. If they want a second, they get it themselves.

If someone says they’re not used to self-serve coffee, Savoie responds by saying “I’m not used to being a servant, either.”

While Searle didn’t have the same kind of outgoing personality, people loved him, Savoie said.

“The minute people met him, they knew he would be a fun person. Yes, he had a lot of wine and a lot of coffee and brandy, and when he was smoking, a lot of cigarettes, but that was a form of socializing for him.”

Since the late 1980s, The Elbow Room has raised more than $100,000 for A Loving Spoonful, which provides meals to people living with HIV/AIDS in Metro Vancouver.

“Bryan had a big heart,” Savoie said. “Not just with me but with everybody.”

Over the years, the restaurant has become part of the city’s urban fabric. Last year, The Elbow Room: The Musical played at The Cultch.

For eight months before Searle died, Savoie didn’t work at the restaurant because he was taking care of his partner. Savoie is back at work but only as host on Saturdays and Sundays.

All 140 seats at Saturday’s celebration of life for Searle are reserved. The event will include MCs dressed as drag queens, a DJ and a bar. If people go longer than three minutes with their testimonials, they’ll be ‘vacuumed’: it’s a joke that refers to the couple’s reputation as ‘clean freaks’ who once were known for turning on the vacuum to clean their condo the moment guests left.

The Elbow Room will be closed Saturday for the celebration.

“I know there will be a lot of tears,” Savoie said, fighting back tears.

“I want this to be a happy affair.”



Author: Kevin Griffin

Government of Canada announces support to help reduce HIV in Labrador

HIV/AIDS remains a persistent health issue in Canada and around the world. In Canada, an estimated 65,000 people are living with HIV and AIDS and there are approximately 2,500 new HIV infections every year. Canada has made great progress in addressing HIV/AIDS in the last three decades; however, there is still work to do to reach the goal of eliminating AIDS as a global public health threat by 2030.

Today, on behalf of the Honourable Ginette Petitpas Taylor, Minister of Health, Yvonne Jones, Member of Parliament for Labrador and Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs, announced an investment of $375,176 over three years from the HIV and Hepatitis C Community Action Fund for the Labrador Friendship Centre. The funding will support the Sexual Health Information Exchange Labrador District project to implement culturally appropriate community-based interventions to reduce sexually transmitted and blood-borne infections (STBBI). For example, an art-based approach will be used as an effective method of promoting the prevention of STBBI among indigenous youth. These approaches will complement the development of multi-lingual educational materials that will be disseminated to at-risk populations in the community.

This funding is part of the $132 million the Public Health Agency of Canada is investing through the Community Action Fund over five years to support the work of organizations in addressing HIV and other STBBI.


“Our government is committed to eliminating HIV and AIDS as global public health threats. The important research and community-based projects like the ones put in place by the Labrador Friendship Centre reflect our renewed focus on supporting evidence-based prevention, reducing stigma and discrimination, and increasing access to testing and treatment for HIV and other sexually transmitted and blood-borne infections.”

The Honourable Ginette Petitpas Taylor, P.C., M.P.
Minister of Health

“Our Government is proud to support the important work being done by the Labrador Friendship Centre. We will continue to collaborate with our partners to support evidence-based prevention, reduce stigma and discrimination, and increase access to testing and treatment for HIV and other sexually transmitted and blood-borne infections.”

Yvonne Jones
Member of Parliament for Labrador and Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs

Quick Facts

  • The Community Action Fund is focused on supporting community-based initiatives that have the potential to make the greatest impact in slowing the spread of HIV and hepatitis C.
  • The HIV and Hepatitis C Community Action Fund is providing funding for 84 projects involving 122 organizations across Canada for up to five years. This represents an investment of $26.4 million annually. Through targeted prevention interventions focused on priority populations in Canada, these projects will help to prevent HIV, hepatitis C and other sexually transmitted and blood-borne infections.
  • Based on available data in Canada, an estimated 80% of HIV-infected people have been diagnosed, 76% of those diagnosed are on treatment, and 89% of those on treatment have suppressed viral loads.
  • Indigenous communities, the LGBTQ community, and intravenous drug users are some of the groups most at-risk of HIV, and the CAF programs aim to address the needs of these groups.
  • With increased access to antiretroviral treatment, people living with HIV today can live fuller and healthier lives.


Author: Public Health Agency of Canada

Yep, I’m HIV-Positive And Happy

When I first began writing about the HIV-positive experience, my life was filled with a barrage of sex, dating, and controversial conversations around stigma, shame, and disclosure. Whether the topic was related to physical health, love, or self-esteem, the conversation centered on whether or not you could still achieve your dreams as a newly HIV-positive person. But even though I was confident I could, I still wasn’t sure I would.

Before my diagnosis, I was 28 years old and trying to get a foothold on my career. I was single, insecure, and a little aimless, with a pretty strong affinity for getting attention from all the wrong guys. I knew I wanted to be a writer and to use my education in some way that would benefit my community, but I couldn’t seem to get past the distractions of going to the gym, flirting at pool parties, and ordering one drink too many.

Truth be told, I was a confident mess — but still confident, which seemed like an achievement in its own right for a newly HIV-positive person. It certainly was the reason poz people felt compelled to send me heartfelt messages, asking for ways to improve the seemingly desperate place they were in. I kept my journey an open book so we could figure out how to navigate this so-called life with HIV together.

At 30, all I wanted was a career that I actually gave a damn about, a man who kept my interest after the butterflies died, and a home that was stable — with furniture I didn’t need to assemble myself. It doesn’t sound like much, but for someone who had moved once or twice a year and was on unemployment at the time, it was a total fantasy. I stayed hopeful, kept writing with confidence, and tried not to dwell on the negative.

For the next few years, I kept my nose down and put in the work. I wrote as I learned and I learned as I wrote, exploring every possible topic an HIV-positive person could encounter when it came to sex and dating.

At some point, I found a boyfriend but tried not to let it obscure my perspective. Eventually, my career took form and I could afford to shop at places like Crate and Barrel and Pottery Barn, but I assumed it was a temporary high point and I would fuck it all up soon enough. We bought our first house, but who knew how long that would last. Then we bought our second house, got engaged, and shit just got weird. As an HIV-positive sex and dating columnist, I didn’t recognize my surroundings, nor did I have any inspiration for new stories.

Then it hit me: Am I HIV-positive, happy — and irrelevant?

It’s true. Nobody wants to read sex and dating advice from someone who goes to bed at 9 on a Friday night so they can get to the dog park in the morning before the “rush.” It’s a surreal feeling when you finally take a moment to look around and realize you actually achieved your goals in one degree or another. It’s the best example I could ever give for how important confidence is when it comes to living with HIV. Even when I was a mess trying to figure out who I was as an HIV-positive man, I always believed I deserved everything I wanted before my diagnosis.

What now? Now that sex, dating, and disclosure are topics better addressed by someone with a more exciting bedroom than mine, I have a completely new host of issues related to HIV.

Now comes navigating the adoption process and preparing for questions about my health. Now comes deciding how to disclose my HIV status to a caseworker in the hopes that he or she is knowledgeable about what it means to be HIV-positive today. Now comes making sure I stay healthy to achieve every other dream I had without letting my status get in the way.

To be clear, I fully acknowledge the privileges that granted me such graces in my journey. The HIV spectrum is dramatically inequitable and filled with obstacles I didn’t have to face. However, if and when we as a community work to remove these obstacles and disparities, HIV in itself does not have to limit anyone from the life they want.

As I continue to step into unknown territory, I will continue to document how HIV plays an impact on the life I am working to build. It might not be as sexy or sensational as it once was, but I guess that was always the goal. Careful what you wish for, young chaps, because I could be seeing you at the dog park at the crack of dawn with a baby in tow before you know it. And I’ll be happier for it.



Author: Tyler Curry

Released inmates with HIV stay virally suppressed through peer navigation

Peer navigation helped HIV-positive inmates achieve sustained viral suppression after they were released from jail, according to results from a randomized clinical trial.

In the trial, William E. Cunningham, MD, MPH, professor of medicine and public health at the University of California, Los Angeles, and colleagues linked HIV-infected men and transgender women to lay peers who were trained to counsel them on the HIV care continuum, including how to link or re-engage and remain in care and how to adhere to ART upon their release.

The study was conducted among patients who were recently released from Los Angeles County jail, the largest jail system in the United States. The results were published in JAMA Internal Medicine.

The peer navigation intervention prevented declines in viral suppression after 12 months, whereas a control group of patients who received standard transitional case management saw a decline in viral suppression. Cunningham and colleagues said it was the first time an intervention was shown to sustain viral suppression over 12 months in a randomized trial.

“No prior interventions to our knowledge have shown a sustained level of viral suppression after jail release among people living with HIV reentering the community,” they wrote.

According to the researchers, around 14% of people with HIV pass through the U.S. correctional system each year, and HIV is three to five times more prevalent in incarcerated people than in the general population. Inmates with HIV in the U.S. have access to care while incarcerated and often achieve viral suppression, but retention in care can be poor upon release and many do not remain virally suppressed, Cunningham and colleagues said.

The researchers noted two studies showing poor outcomes in recently released inmates with HIV: an observational study in Texas in which just 30% filled ART prescriptions 60 days after release, and a randomized clinical trial in Texas and North Carolina that showed how an intervention involving, among other things, giving study participants cell phones to receive reminders about medication, failed to improve viral suppression 6 months after release.

For the Linking Inmates to Care in LA (LINK LA) trial, Cunningham and colleagues enrolled 356 eligible participants and randomly assigned them to either peer navigation or standard transitional case management. Peer navigators “were selected for having experiences in common with incarcerated people living with HIV (such as prior incarceration, being a patient retained in HIV care, and/or prior substance abuse recovery),” Cunningham and colleagues wrote. They initiated relationships with participants while they were still incarcerated.

The primary outcome of the study was viral suppression — a viral load under 75 copies/mL. According to the researchers, 250 participants completed the study. Among those in peer navigation, 49.6% were virally suppressed at 12 months compared with 36% in the control group, an unadjusted difference of 13.6% (95% CI, 1.34%-25.9%; = .03). The calculated adjusted difference was 22% (95% CI, 3%-41%; = .02)

In a related commentary, Lisa R. Metsch, PhD, professor of sociomedical sciences, Tracy Pugh, MHS, graduate research assistant — both at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health — and Grant Colfax, MD, director of Marin Health and Human Services in California, called the study “an important and welcome advance in elucidating what it takes to improve HIV outcomes in populations where other interventions have largely failed.”

“In the United States, there are few behavioral interventions proven to support clinically meaningful and sustained virologic suppression, and still fewer that demonstrate reduced mortality or increased quality of life,” they wrote.

“The efficacy of the intervention in preventing declines in viral suppression after release from jail [is] both statistically and clinically significant. Indeed, the number needed to treat to realize the benefit of the intervention is seven, a favorable result compared with other biomedical and behavioral interventions. Unfortunately, the authors do not provide a cost analysis, and adopting, scaling and sustaining a 12-session intervention may be a challenge for public health programs.” – by Gerard Gallagher


Author: Cunningham WE, et al. JAMA Intern Med. 2018;doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2018.0150.
Metsch LR, et al. JAMA Intern Med. 2018;doi.10.1001/jamainternmed.2018.0096.

Rare Case of HIV Contraction on PrEP Reported in King County

King County Public Health reports that a local man taking Truvada, the pre-exposure prophylaxis (also known as PrEP) that prevents the contraction of HIV, has tested positive for the disease.

Contracting HIV while correctly taking PrEP is extremely rare, according to Public Health, which says that there have been just four cases of PrEP failure noted in the medical literature out of the hundreds of thousands of people taking the drug, including over 6,500 people in King County.

“PrEP is very effective,” says Matthew Golden, director of Public Health’s STD/HIV program in a blog post. “If taken consistently, it reduces the risk of acquiring HIV through sex by over 90%, and perhaps by over 95%. It is also more than 70% effective in preventing HIV infections transmitted through sharing injection equipment. So while it is very effective, like many drugs, it is not 100% effective.”

PrEP works by blocking the HIV virus, and unlike antibiotics, resistance isn’t a public health concern, says Jared Baeten, a professor and researcher at the University of Washington who has led studies on PrEP.

“If someone doesn’t have HIV and they’re having PrEP, they don’t develop any resistance because there is no virus in them,” Baeten says. “It’s really different than antibiotic resistance.”

In King County, the case of a man who contracted HIV while on PrEP was reported to Public Health by a medical provider. Public Health and the patient have both contacted known sexual partners who may have been exposed to HIV. PrEP does not protect people from contracting other STIs like syphilis, gonorrhea, herpes, chlamydia, and HPV, and rates of gonorrhea and syphilis are rapidly climbing in King County and around the country. Still, when it comes to preventing the spread of HIV, “PrEP works extraordinarily well,” says Baeten. “The most important thing is to take it consistently and get tested.”



Author: Katie Herzog

Why women with HIV are persistently invisible – and how we can challenge it

The night before International Women’s Day, I volunteered behind the bar at “A Catwalk for Power, Resistance and Hope”, a fabulous fashion show for women with HIV organised by ACT UP London Women (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power), and Positively UK, an organisation that runs peer-led support groups for people with HIV.

After a poetry reading by the incredibly talented writer and motivational speaker Bakita, these women led the call and response chants, derived from the anti-apartheid movement, of “THE POWER! – IS OURS!” and “AMANDLA! – NGAWETHU!” in front of a packed-out house at London’s Brixton East. Then the main show began: 25 women with HIV strutted their stuff on the runway with confidence, humour and pride.

In her introduction, Silvia Petretti, an AIDS activist and deputy CEO of Positively UK, described how this fashion show was a huge step for women with HIV. “Openness about HIV can lead to being harshly rejected, and even being at the receiving end of violence,” she said. Positively UK was founded in 1987 (then called “Positively Women”) by two women with AIDS who had noticed the paucity of services for women with HIV, most of which were responding to the devastating impacts of AIDS on the gay community.

Petretti continued with some illuminating facts on women with HIV. 18m women across the world have HIV, making them the largest global demographic. In the UK, women with HIV make up 31% of all cases, the second largest group, “although you rarely hear about us”, and 80% of those women are black or from other ethnic minorities.

She also spoke about how women with HIV are disproportionately burdened by poverty, the impact of austerity and welfare cuts, racism and migrant hostility; and highlighted the links between HIV and violence against women. One study conducted by Homerton Hospital, Hackney, found a 52% prevalence of intimate partner violence among women with HIV. This, Petretti stressed, is “more than double that of the general population”.

In defiance of these devastating statistics, the event contested any status of “victimhood” for women with HIV, showing instead their incredible power and presence as they walked the catwalk. One wore a red shawl with “I AM HERE” inscribed on the back. Another shimmied and goose-stepped her way down the runway with a cheeky smile on her face, the whole room laughing with her. They were all totally in control, the audience whooping and cheering as the show continued. It was an absolute privilege to be there, to witness such a beautiful celebration of empowerment and the joy of living.

Unrecognised, unheard, unseen

Especially so because I have spent the last four years researching the invisibility of women with HIV/AIDS as part of my PhD, in which I examine the art of the American AIDS crisis. In particular, I looked at two exhibitions on women with AIDS, Until That Last Breath: Women With AIDS, a selection of photographs by the photographer Ann P Meredith, and Overlooked/Underplayed: Videos on Women and AIDS by various artists. Both exhibitions were held at New York’s New Museum of Contemporary Art in spring 1989, and both are missing from many accounts of the history of art responding to HIV/AIDS.

This artistic invisibility parallels a medical invisibility. AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome), is diagnosed by the presence of HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) in the blood, a T-cell count of less than 200, and the presence of two opportunistic infections.

But it was not until 1993 that AIDS, as defined by the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC), included opportunistic infections specific to womens’ bodies. This meant that prior to the change, some women with AIDS could not be diagnosed as such, rendering them medically and socially invisible. As described in Jim Hubbard and Sarah Schulman’s film United in Anger: A History of ACT UP, this change in 1993 came after four years of activist campaigning by ACT UP and other community groups, which eventually forced the CDC’s hand. Women with HIV and their queer allies alike fought hard for these basic rights.

In Sue O’Sullivan and Kate Thomson’s book recounting the founding of Positively UK, researcher Emily Scharf writes:

Why are women invisible? When we begin to ask this question, we see through the ‘spotlight’ of HIV all the problems that exist in our societies worldwide, including the familiar ones for women. HIV highlights all the issues around womens’ positions in society: often poorer; less access to health care for themselves; little support in their roles as carers for others; and in less powerful positions to negotiate relationships, including the sexual aspects of relationships, most specifically safer sex.

The invisibility of women with HIV is the result of a complex interplay of violence and discrimination.

At the catwalk event, there were polite requests stuck around the walls asking that the audience not take any photographs to protect the privacy of the women, many of whom had not disclosed their status to anyone outside their support group. The history of HIV/AIDS is a history of violence, and in today’s world, violence against women is persistent and widespread, perpetuating stigma which silences and disempowers women with HIV.

Speaking up

Catwalk for Power was all about empowerment and pride. It was the product of months of workshops at Positively UK with ACT UP Women, where women with HIV talked about their experiences, wrote poetry, learned about the history of HIV/AIDS activism, “stitched and bitched” as they made their costumes all the while discussing, arguing, laughing together.

The anti-apartheid activist Steven Beko once said: “The most powerful tool in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed.” Petretti told me how in her view, this sums up what events like the catwalk show can achieve for women with HIV:

It has enabled us to shift our awareness and embody the fact that we are agents of change, we can overcome stigma, and create a world that treats us with justice and respect, and it starts with us feeling confident and demanding it.

Prior to the event, which was choreographed with the help of the incredible runway coach Madam Storm, the group had made a set of masks that they were planning to wear on the runway, to cover their faces at the moment when they would be openly seen as women with HIV.

At the end of the show, the pile of masks was still there on a table backstage, untouched. They had all walked out without them.



Author: Theo Gordon

Too much online support can be harmful for HIV patients

 For individuals living with HIV, online communities provide the support system they need to engage in positive self-care, which is critical in managing the virus and its ill effects.

However, as new University at Buffalo School of Management research finds, beyond a certain threshold, online support can become overwhelming for HIV patients, leading to negative health behaviors.

“Despite advancements in research and treatment, HIV is still a devastating diagnosis and a highly stigmatized disease,” says senior author Rajiv Kishore, PhD, associate professor of management science and systems in the UB School of Management. “Many patients feel isolated and uncomfortable revealing their diagnosis, even to close friends and family. Without that support system, many HIV patients turn to social media and online forms for emotional reassurance and health-related information.”

Forthcoming in the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association, the study analyzed more than 30,000 discussion threads from an online community for people living with or affected by HIV/AIDS from May 2006 to March 2017, representing about 15,500 users and 330,000 individual posts.

Using text mining and linguistic analysis methods, the researchers measured the emotional support or information the posts provided, from both objective sources and personal experience, as well as the level of self-care patients expressed in response. The researchers collaborated with three HIV health specialists to ensure their methods were valid.

“Initially, we found that as an individual receives more words of encouragement and health information, their self-care improves,” Kishore says. “They develop comforting relationships and better understand the virus and how to manage it, which encourages them to engage in positive self-care behaviors.”

Above a certain level, however, too much social support negatively affects HIV patients’ self-care behaviors, the study found.

“Self-care is about having control, feeling like you can make a difference in your own health,” Kishore says. “Many people perceive excessive emotional support as forced optimism and may become stressed and lose hope as a result. Similarly, patients who receive too much information may become overwhelmed and give up on reading material that’s necessary for understanding and implementing appropriate health behaviors.

“In both cases, we find patients cope by disengaging from productive self-care,” Kishore says.

Next, the researchers plan to replicate their study with other stigmatized and nonstigmatized chronic diseases.

Kishore’s co-authors on the study were UB School of Management doctoral students Xunyi Wang and Srikanth Parameswaran, along with Darshan Mahendra Bagul, a master’s student in the UB Computer Science and Engineering Department.


Author: Matthew Biddle

HIV-Positive Patients Six Times More Likely to Have Schizophrenia

A recent study has found that patients with HIV are six times more likely to have schizophrenia compared with those who do not have the virus.

The study, led by research coordinator Kalysha Closson, MSc, was presented at the 25th Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI) found a distinct association between the mental disorder and HIV — a relationship sparsely analyzed before.

Researchers from the British Columbia Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS in Vancouver, conducted a population-based retrospective cohort study that estimated schizophrenia prevalence and mortality outcomes in individuals living with HIV, as well as a 10% random sample of individuals in British Columbia, from 1998 to 2013.

For the study, the research team assessed schizophrenia prevalence using physician and hospital-based administrative data, as well as International Classification of Disease 9/10 codes.

The survival time by HIV-status was accessed by a Kaplan-Meier plot, and age and sex-adjusted mortality rates were calculated with the 2016 Canada population used as reference. Researchers examined the association between HIV and all-cause mortality among patients with schizophrenia using logistic regression.

The researchers found that of the 515,913 British Columbia residents from 1998 to 2013 observed in the study, 13,412 (2.6%) were individuals living with HIV. Furthermore, schizophrenia was diagnosed in 6.3% of that population — significantly higher than the diagnosis rate in the non-HIV population (1.1%; < 0.001).

Among those who had both HIV and schizophrenia, the population was mostly male (75%), residing within an urban setting (91%), with a history of injection drug use (75%), and was at least once on anti-psychotic medication (49%; <0.001). The population of patients with schizophrenia, who were not HIV-positive, reported lesser rates of injection drug use (20%) and use of antipsychotic medication (39%).

Through the Kaplan-Meier plot, researchers indicated that time from schizophrenia diagnoses to death was significantly short for those with HIV compared to those without the virus (< 0.001). Controlling for sex, baseline age, and injection drug age, HIV status was significantly associated with mortality in patients with schizophrenia (aOR= 2.31; 95% CI; 1.84-2.89).

The results indicate 2 reactions, according to Closson: that patients with schizophrenia who do not have HIV need to be better monitored for the virus, and that patients with both conditions need better care and psychiatric access.

“We found that with this group — because they had the highest mortality — having access to psychiatric care or psychiatric meds, as well as accessing a psychiatrist, was associated with reduced odds of mortality,” Closson said.

Patients are usually treated for conditions in regard to the condition’s specialty, according to Closson. Very few “one-stop shops” exist for patients who are suffering from both virus and mental condition.

More holistic services need to be put in place, Closson said, to ensure these patients have continued care and lessened mortality risk.




High-Risk HIV, Sexual Behavior Among Youth in Criminal Justice System Reduced by PHAT Life Intervention

A proactive interventional approach titled PHAT (Preventing HIV/AIDS Among Teens) Life, comprised of videos, games, role-playing and skill-building educational exercises, is effective for teaching high-risk teens in the juvenile justice system about HIV/AIDS and for reducing the risk for high-risk sexual behavior, according to study findings from the School of Public Health at the University of Illinois at Chicago.1

PHAT Life is one of the first interventions to successfully reduce sexual risk among juvenile offenders on probation, a population at exceptionally high risk for poor health outcomes,” Geri R. Donenberg, PhD, lead study author and Professor in the Departments of Medicine and Psychology at the University of Illinois at Chicago, told MD Magazine. 

According to Donenberg, findings from this study indicate that the importance of PHAT Life, in addition to other evidence-based interventions, should be “delivered and sustained in juvenile justice settings to alter these teens’ negative trajectories.”

In this study, researchers enrolled a total of 163 male and female adolescents (aged 13–17 years) who were recently arrested and placed on probation. The majority of participants were African American (90%), and over half were male (66%). Investigators compared participants’ sexual behavior at baseline with behavior reported at 6-month follow-up.

Participants were randomized to PHAT Life (n= 163) or a similar health promotion program (n= 147). At 6 months, participants randomized to PHAT Life who engaged in highest baseline sexual behavior risk (composite or multiple partners and irregular condom use) reported a significantly lower risk level (no sex or 1 partner plus regular condom use) compared with high-risk participants in the control group (odds ratio [OR] = 4.28, 95% CI [1.37, 13.38], SE = 0.58, P =.01).

Additionally, sexually active participants assigned to PHAT Life and engaged in sexual activity prior to the age of 12 years reported significantly fewer sexual partners than controls at 6-month follow-up (partial eta squared= .32, P= .002).

The short follow-up period of 6 months was a likely limitation of this study, and the self-reported nature of the results may have led to social desirability bias. Despite these limitations, the researchers demonstrated that an educational program may be feasible and effective in at-risk teens for reducing high-risk sexual behavior, ultimately decreasing the chances of HIV/AIDS.

“The 17-year research-to-practice gap is unacceptable, and future study is needed to determine how best to disseminate programs like PHAT Life to ensure that they are self-sustaining,” according to Donenberg.

Although the current findings are promising, implementation of this program in the juvenile criminal justice system is needed to see real-world results.

“Several of the strategies used in PHAT Life could be adapted for the clinical setting and doctor’s office visit. Clinicians have the added advantage of the doctor-patient relationship to address some of the key predictors of risk behavior and help teenagers plan for prevention,” explained Donenberg. “As an example, PHAT Life helps youth identify their unique risk-related triggers, namely people, places, moods and situations that promote unhealthy behavior, and then develop personalized plans to manage these triggers. This approach could be adopted and implemented during the medical visit.”



Author: Brandon May

3 things to know about sex, HIV and gay health

Preventing and treating HIV has developed fast in the last few years – and we’re now a long way from the times when being ‘safe’ only referred to ‘wrapping it up’. There are now lots more options for having great, carefree sex while still having control over your sexual health.

So in this new world of HIV prevention, has what it means to be ‘positive’, ‘negative’ or ‘practicing safer sex’ got lost in translation?

We’re here to break down the jargon with this quick and easy, no-nonsense guide to gay health, sex and HIV. Let’s get started:


The word ‘undetectable’ describes people who are living with HIV, but whose treatment is so effective that HIV doesn’t affect their health and can’t be passed on. The level of virus has been reduced so much that it can’t even be detected in HIV tests!

To know that you are undetectable you need to have your viral load tested regularly. But so long as you get the ‘A-OK’ from your doctor there’s no way to pass on HIV through sex, even if you don’t use a condom. You don’t necessarily stay undetectable indefinitely though, so getting checked regularly is a must.

“On PrEP” 

PrEP (or pre-exposure prophylaxis, if you want to be fancy) is a pill that if taken as prescribed can eliminate the risk of getting HIV! So if you’re negative but on PrEP, you’ve got HIV covered!

Just remember though that it doesn’t protect you from other STIs, so it’s important to go for regular check-ups if you’re not using condoms.

Sadly, PrEP isn’t available everywhere, so talk to your healthcare provider to see if it is an option for you, or go online to sites such as if you want to look into buying the drug yourself. But if you do buy it on your own, make sure you can still get support and monitoring from health professionals.

 “HIV negative”

Being HIV-negative means that someone doesn’t have the virus, but importantly you can only be sure that you are HIV-negative if you have tested since your last risky sex.

Nowadays, there are even new ways to self-test for HIV, so that you don’t even have to leave the house.

In short, what all this means is that, whether you are HIV-positive or HIV-negative, there are now more ways than ever to have fun, carefree sex with whoever you want, without worrying about HIV.