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‘We need a real response to HIV’: NDP urge coverage for drug treatment


Matt Numer, right, assistant professor of health promotion at Dalhousie University, calls on the provincial government to provide universal access to PrEP, a medication that can prevent transmission of HIV, at a news conference at Province House on Wednesday. NDP MLA Tammy Martin and Kirk Furlotte, regional manager for the Community-Based Research Centre, also spoke at the news conference. - Ryan Taplin
Matt Numer, right, assistant professor of health promotion at Dalhousie University, calls on the provincial government to provide universal access to PrEP, a medication that can prevent transmission of HIV, at a news conference at Province House on Wednesday. NDP MLA Tammy Martin and Kirk Furlotte, regional manager for the Community-Based Research Centre, also spoke at the news conference. – Ryan Taplin

 

A significant rise in new cases of HIV infection in Nova Scotia has the New Democrats and health-care advocates urging the Liberal government to provide universal access to a drug they say can eradicate the virus.

“We believe anyone who needs this medication should be able to access it free of charge,” Tammy Martin, the MLA for Cape Breton Centre and the New Democrat health spokeswoman, said at a Province House news conference Wednesday to advocate for pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) medication.

“Places where PrEP is covered see major improvements and reductions in the number of new HIV cases.”

Universal coverage for PrEP, an HIV prevention strategy that uses daily antiretroviral drugs to protect HIV-negative people from infection, is provided in British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan. Those at risk of exposure to HIV take a PrEP pill daily that can reduce the potential of infection by as much as 99 per cent, said Kirk Furlotte, regional manager of Community-Based Research Centre.

In recent years, there had been 15 to 17 new cases of HIV reported annually in the province. Furlotte said as of this week, there have been 25 new cases in 2018.

“Universal access to PrEP can be a simple straightforward solution,” Furlotte said.

Matt Numer, an assistant professor in the School of Health and Human Performance at Dalhousie University and chairman of the PrEP Action Committee, said it is time for government to do something.

“As chair of the PrEP Action Committee and as a gay man myself, I and everyone in our community has witnessed the devastating impacts of HIV,” Numer said. “As of right now, we have all the tools necessary to eradicate new HIV infections. The PrEP Action Committee called on government in June of this year to make PrEP accessible to everyone. Instead of acting in the most fiscally responsible and health-conscious manner, the government did as little as possible by listing it on the Pharmacare program. We are continuing to see a spike in new cases.”

Human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV, attacks the immune system that helps fight off illness. Once the virus gets inside a person’s body, that carrier may not look or feel sick for years but can still infect others. Over time, the immune system grows weaker and those infected become sick with different illnesses. At that stage, the disease has progressed to Acquired ImmunoDeficiency Syndrome, or AIDS.

The virus infects people by getting inside blood cells. At risk of contracting the virus are those who have the blood, semen, vaginal fluids, or breast milk of someone who is infected enter their body through the mouth, vagina, anus, penis or breaks in the skin. Men having sex with men and people injecting drugs are most commonly identified as risk factors and Dr. Trevor Arnason, the medical health officer for Halifax, said in July that those two factors applied to almost all of the 16 new cases reported in the province up to that time.

As Health Minister Randy Delorey prepared to take part in a flag raising event Thursday to mark HIV/AIDS Awareness Week in the province and World AIDS Day, department spokeswoman Tracy Barron said in an email Wednesday that government does cover PrEP under the Pharmacare program. She said the department is “consulting with community groups to better understand their concerns with this coverage and ways to improve access.”

Martin said it would only cost $250 for the generic PrEP medication for one individual each month, or $3,000 each year. She said 500 would be the extremely high end of an estimated number of people in the province who would apply for access to PrEP, which would amount to a $1.5-million annual investment from government. That $1.5-million investment is about the same as the lifetime cost for one person infected with HIV, she said.

“We need a real response to HIV in this province,” Numer said. “PrEP coverage will save taxpayers money, prevent life-altering illnesses and reduce strain on our already burdened health system. The government of Nova Scotia has known for over a year about the cost savings but it has still not made the decisions necessary to make them happen.”

He said the number of new HIV cases is unacceptable.

“We have the technology to stop HIV. A real response to the HIV outbreak is universal access to PrEP for those who need it. Covering PrEP will save money, reduce health disparities among marginalized populations and reduce devastating impacts of HIV infection.”

The added costs across the province this year to treat the newly infected cases will be approximately $6 million, Numer said.

“A program to cover PrEP would likely cost about $1.5 million at maximum. We implore the government to act.”

A significant rise in new cases of HIV infection in Nova Scotia has the New Democrats and health-care advocates urging the Liberal government to provide universal access to a drug they say can eradicate the virus.

“We believe anyone who needs this medication should be able to access it free of charge,” Wendy Martin, the MLA for Cape Breton Centre and the New Democrat health spokeswoman, said at a Province House news conference Wednesday to advocate for pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) medication.

“Places where PrEP is covered see major improvements and reductions in the number of new HIV cases.”

Universal coverage for PrEP, an HIV prevention strategy that uses daily antiretroviral drugs to protect HIV-negative people from infection, is provided in British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan. Those at risk of exposure to HIV take a PrEP pill daily that can reduce the potential of infection by as much as 99 per cent, said Kirk Furlotte, regional manager of Community-Based Research Centre.

In recent years, there had been 15 to 17 new cases of HIV reported annually in the province. Furlotte said as of this week, there have been 25 new cases in 2018.

“Universal access to PrEP can be a simple straightforward solution,” Furlotte said.

Matt Numer, an assistant professor in the School of Health and Human Performance at Dalhousie University and chairman of the PrEP Action Committee, said it is time for government to do something.

“As chair of the PrEP Action Committee and as a gay man myself, I and everyone in our community has witnessed the devastating impacts of HIV,” Numer said. “As of right now, we have all the tools necessary to eradicate new HIV infections. The PrEP Action Committee called on government in June of this year to make PrEP accessible to everyone. Instead of acting in the most fiscally responsible and health-conscious manner, the government did as little as possible by listing it on the Pharmacare program. We are continuing to see a spike in new cases.”

Human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV, attacks the immune system that helps fight off illness. Once the virus gets inside a person’s body, that carrier may not look or feel sick for years but can still infect others. Over time, the immune system grows weaker and those infected become sick with different illnesses. At that stage, the disease has progressed to Acquired ImmunoDeficiency Syndrome, or AIDS.

The virus infects people by getting inside blood cells. At risk of contracting the virus are those who have the blood, semen, vaginal fluids, or breast milk of someone who is infected enter their body through the mouth, vagina, anus, penis or breaks in the skin. Men having sex with men and people injecting drugs are most commonly identified as risk factors and Dr. Trevor Arnason, the medical health officer for Halifax, said in July that those two factors applied to almost all of the 16 new cases reported in the province up to that time.

As Health Minister Randy Delorey prepared to take part in a flag raising event Thursday to mark HIV/AIDS Awareness Week in the province and World AIDS Day, department spokeswoman Tracy Barron said in an email Wednesday that government does cover PrEP under the Pharmacare program. She said the department is “consulting with community groups to better understand their concerns with this coverage and ways to improve access.”

Martin said it would only cost $250 for the generic PrEP medication for one individual each month, or $3,000 each year. She said 500 would be the extremely high end of an estimated number of people in the province who would apply for access to PrEP, which would amount to a $1.5-million annual investment from government. That $1.5-million investment is about the same as the lifetime cost for one person infected with HIV, she said.

“We need a real response to HIV in this province,” Numer said. “PrEP coverage will save taxpayers money, prevent life-altering illnesses and reduce strain on our already burdened health system. The government of Nova Scotia has known for over a year about the cost savings but it has still not made the decisions necessary to make them happen.”

He said the number of new HIV cases is unacceptable.

“We have the technology to stop HIV. A real response to the HIV outbreak is universal access to PrEP for those who need it. Covering PrEP will save money, reduce health disparities among marginalized populations and reduce devastating impacts of HIV infection.”

The added costs across the province this year to treat the newly infected cases will be approximately $6 million, Numer said.

“A program to cover PrEP would likely cost about $1.5 million at maximum. We implore the government to act.”

Source: https://www.thechronicleherald.ca/news/local/we-need-a-real-response-to-hiv-ndp-urge-coverage-for-drug-treatment-263648/

Red Scarf Campaign used as AIDS awareness initiative

Ron Proudfoot, volunteer at AIDS Vancouver Island, shows off the many red scarves available at the Courtenay office. Photo submitted

December 1, 2018, will be the 30th anniversary of World AIDS Day.

This year’s theme is ‘Know your status.’

2018 also marks the 20th anniversary of National Aboriginal AIDS Awareness Week in Canada.

Research proves that early detection is the key to successful treatment, but in Canada 25 per cent of the people living with HIV are unaware they have the virus. In addition, many people who have the virus don’t have access to proper medical care and struggle to maintain the regular treatments necessary for survival. In Canada, Aboriginal people remain disproportionately affected by HIV. It is estimated that Aboriginal people make up 12.2 per cent of new HIV infections and 8.9 per cent of those living with HIV in Canada.

This year, as part of Global AIDS Awareness Week and national Aboriginal AIDS Awareness Week, AIDS Vancouver Island is participating in the Red Scarf Campaign. Red Scarf is a movement bringing community together to raise awareness and knowledge about the positive advances in HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention. Red Scarf stands against stigma to improve the lives of those living with, affected by and at risk for HIV/AIDS in the community. Red scarves will be hung in public spaces in downtown Courtenay for people to observe and take home.

Like the red ribbon, every red scarf is a symbol of awareness and support.

Anyone can join the movement by:

• Making/wearing a red scarf

• Take a selfie of themselves wearing a red scarf and posting it to AVI Twitter/Facebook

• Picking up a scarf tied to various objects throughout the city

• Donating in direct support of clients of AIDS Vancouver Island

• Getting yourself tested.

AVI Courtenay will be hosting a testing event on Dec. 3 from 9:30 a.m. – noon at 355 Sixth St. The event will offer free onsite HIV testing, education and treatment information. There will be snacks, games and prizes.

Source: https://www.comoxvalleyrecord.com/home/red-scarf-campaign-used-as-aids-awareness-initiative/

Keshia Chanté Helps Casey House Open the Doors to Healing House, The World’s First HIV+ Spa

TORONTONovember 29, 2018 /PRNewswire/ —

95 million North Americans Believe HIV/AIDS is Contracted through Skin-to-Skin Touch

Juno Award winner and activist Keshia Chanté receives first-ever healing touch massage from one of the 15 HIV+ Healers participating in Healing House, the world’s first pop-up HIV+ spa in Toronto, Canada opening today.

According to the Casey House Smash Stigma Survey, almost half (48%) of North Americans would not be willing to share skin-to-skin touch with someone who has HIV/AIDS. Keshia Chanté is encouraging Canadians to join her in the fight to eradicate the stigma faced by 1.8 million people worldwide.

This spa aims to raise awareness about the misconceptions around HIV/AIDS that fuel stigma. Even after 40 years of education there are strong misunderstandings, fears and shame associated with HIV/AIDS. Over half of Canadians think they could likely contract HIV/AIDS from at least one of the following: kissing, skin-to-skin contact or drinking from the same glass of water, and 140 million Americans think they are likely to contract HIV/AIDS from kissing alone. These are perceptions that persist today and are factually incorrect.

“The reality is that, there is a huge lack of public knowledge,” said Keshia Chanté. “I am proud to be part of such an important program and I will be getting the services offered to show people that you cannot contract HIV/AIDS through skin-to-skin touch. I encourage my fellow Torontonians to come down and book a service as well. Until we end stigma associated with HIV/AIDS, I will be talking about it.”

The 15 HIV+ individuals participating in Healing House have been trained by Melissa Doldron, RMT for the Toronto Blue Jays on how to provide healing touch services like hand, neck and shoulder massages that will educate people about the power of touch. All services are free of charge and program partners include Province Apothecary and MAC Cosmetics.

Healing House launches with a media-only day on November 29. Doors open to the public on November 30 from 12:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. and on December 1, World AIDS Day from 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. To book an appointment, you can visit: https://www.smashstigma.ca. You can also visit https://www.caseyhouse.com to donate and help support ground-breaking care based in Toronto.

“Today, we challenge the ongoing stigma associated with HIV/AIDS, a stigma that has no place in our minds or the conversation. We challenge words like blame and shame, and we challenge the false notion that skin-to-skin touch cannot be shared with someone who is HIV+,” said Joanne Simons, CEO of Casey House. “We are proud to be a global leader in HIV/AIDS care, challenging stigma and boldly advocating on behalf of our clients to demand the dignity they deserve.”

What: Healing House, an HIV+ Pop Up Spa Where: 128 Peter Street, Toronto, ON M5V 2G7 When: November 29: 9:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. (VIP and Media Launch only) November 30: 12:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. December 1: 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Follow along here: #smashstigma Casey House Healers, CEO of Casey House Joanne Simons, Keshia Chanté and Photo Opp: Melissa Doldron, RMT
For high res photography of the participating HIV+ healers, a :15 campaign video, and additional survey findings, please visit: https://bit.ly/2PHO2hk.

About Casey House:
Casey House is Canada’s first and only stand-alone hospital for people living with HIV/AIDS. Through our innovative and comprehensive approach to health care, we remain one of the few places where people with HIV/AIDS can seek care without judgement. We are more than a place that saves lives, we are a place that speaks up, shines understanding through compassion, and empowers our clients to get better.

Although many people who live with HIV can manage their disease effectively with a support network and access to treatment, Casey Houseclients are not part of that majority and fall into the category of the 40% of people in Ontario not on treatment. They are vulnerable, seeking safety and in need of nourishment. Casey House will continue to provide unequivocal compassion to clients in need, providing them with a holistic approach to their care and treatment. This facility is possible due to the commitment and generosity of government, individuals, foundations and corporations that believe it is our collective responsibility to take care of all members of our community.

Survey Methodology:
A survey of 1,581 Canadians residents was completed online between October 19-22, 2018 using Leger’s online panel, LegerWeb. A probability sample of the same size would yield a margin of error of +/- 2.46%, 19 times out of 20.

A survey of 1,501 Americans was completed online between November 1-16, 2018, using Leger’s online panel, LegerWeb. A probability sample of the same size would yield a margin of error of +/-2.5%, 19 times out of 20.

Source: https://markets.businessinsider.com/news/stocks/keshia-chant%C3%A9-helps-casey-house-open-the-doors-to-healing-house-the-world-s-first-hiv-spa-1027766374

Save us from the rented sex dolls, Interior Health

Image Credit: Wisconsinart / Dreamstime.com

 

YOU WOULDN’T USE a second hand condom, would you?

Even if it had been cleaned for hours with top-of-the-line germ-killers and disinfectants?

Of course not.

That’s disgusting enough to the point of being completely nauseating.

Then why would anyone rent a previously-used sex doll?

Like a condom, one of these objects is made for a single user.

Yet here we are, with a sex doll rental business opening up in Kamloops.

Say what you will about the social implications of this issue, either positive or negative.

Disregard for a moment the idea of someone preferring to spend $350 on a doll rather than trying to foster an actual relationship with another human being, and what that says about our increasingly isolated culture.

Set aside what this says about encouraging those with violent sexual tendencies to exercise them on an inanimate object rather than an unsuspecting person.

The most serious implications of this new business are health-related.

While the owner of the business, Kristen Dickson, has assured anyone asking that there is a comprehensive cleaning and sterilization process between uses, her assurances are simply not good enough for the community.

LISTEN: 98.3 CIFM’s Jeremy McParland chats with Kristen Dickson, Owner of House of Dolls

Dickson says Interior Health has left her responsible to come up with her own regime, as it has no regulations surrounding the sanitizing of the dolls.

It absolutely should.

In this case, a business owner asking her customers to trust her with their health is just not good enough.

Interior Health has a different definition of the word ‘dirty’.

There should be stringent regulations and regular visits by trained inspectors to ensure there is no chance of any bacteria or infections being spread from one customer to the next.

If restaurants and salons and day care facilities are made to adhere to strict health and safety practices — under enforcement by Interior Health — a similar matrix is warranted here.

On its surface, when it comes to someone renting an inanimate object for intimate purposes, there is no harm to the wider community.

Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau once famously stated, “There’s no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation.”

You do you.

But it is within Interior Health’s mandate to protect public health and safety.

To add on to Trudeau’s words, there is no place for what was in one person’s bedroom in the bedroom of anyone else.

Author: James Peters

Source: https://www.cfjctoday.com/column/646455/save-us-rented-sex-dolls-interior-health

Government of Canada announces support to help reduce HIV and hepatitis C in gay, bisexual, transgender, Two-Spirit and queer men in Canada

Today, ahead of World AIDS Day on December 1, the Honourable Ginette Petitpas Taylor, Minister of Health, announced a significant investment to support community-based initiatives to prevent infections among gay, bisexual, transgender, Two-Spirit and queer (GBT2Q) men in Canada.

Through the HIV and Hepatitis C Community Action Fund, the Government of Canada is providing $7.1 million over five years to the Advance Community Alliance—a pan-Canadian community alliance for GBT2Q men’s health—to implement innovative approaches to improve access to STBBI prevention, testing and treatment for this population. The interventions will include new models for testing, along with interventions to increase access to services, and to promote new effective HIV prevention options.

The Advance Community Alliance includes the following community-based organizations:

  1. MAX Ottawa;
  2. AIDS Committee of Toronto;
  3. Health Initiative for Men Society (Vancouver);
  4. Community-Based Research Centre for Gay Men’s Health (Vancouver); and
  5. REZO (Montreal).

Quotes

“New knowledge and innovations in prevention, testing and treatment provide even more tools to prevent HIV and other sexually transmitted and blood-borne infections. This significant investment will help enhance access to these tools, and enable community-led prevention efforts among gay, bisexual, transgender, Two-Spirit and queer men across Canada.”

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

“Though preventable and treatable, sexually transmitted and blood-borne infections (STBBIs) are serious and continue to pose a public health risk for Canadians. These infections disproportionately impact Canadians who also experience health inequities, including gay, bisexual, transgender, Two-Spirit and queer men. Investing in community-led interventions are critical if we are to slow the spread of STBBIs in Canada.”

Dr. Theresa Tam
Chief Public Health Officer of Canada

“I applaud the work of the Advance Community Alliance, an invaluable resource devoted to equitable and effective access to health services. The Government’s commitment to doing more for those living with sexually transmitted infections along with evidence-based, community-led initiatives are key to breaking down stigma and reducing the spread of HIV.”

Randy Boissonnault, M.P.
Special Advisor to the Prime Minister on LGBTQ2 issues

“Gay, bisexual, trans, Two-Spirit, and queer men in Canada remain heavily impacted by HIV and other sexually transmitted and blood-borne infections, as well as mental health issues including depression, problematic substance use and suicide. Developing evidence-based, community-led interventions with stakeholders across the health care system is critical to reducing barriers to essential services for our communities, including HIV testing and treatment, pre-exposure prophylaxis and mental health programs.”

Michael Kwag
Advance Community Alliance Director

Quick Facts

  • The Public Health Agency of Canada is investing $7.1 million to support this initiative. This is part of the Agency’s investment of $132 million over five years through the Community Action Fund. This funding will support community-based initiatives that have the potential to make the greatest impact in slowing the spread of STBBI, including HIV and hepatitis C.
  • Gay and bisexual men, Indigenous peoples, people who use or inject drugs, and people living in or recently released from correctional facilities are some of the groups most affected by HIV and other STBBI. The Community Action Fund aims to reduce new infections among these at-risk populations.

Source: https://www.newswire.ca/news-releases/government-of-canada-announces-support-to-help-reduce-hiv-and-hepatitis-c-in-gay-bisexual-transgender-two-spirit-and-queer-men-in-canada-701545391.html

MP reveals he is HIV positive in move to tackle stigma

Lloyd Russell-Moyle’s personal Commons speech highlights advances in treating condition

 No one should feel less able to thrive because of HIV status, says Labour MP – video

The Labour MP Lloyd Russell-Moyle has used a debate in the Commons to announce he is HIV positive, making a personal speech he said was intended to tackle the stigma still associated with the condition.

The first parliamentarian to make such an announcement in the Commons, and the second MP to announce they are HIV positive, Russell-Moyle said he was diagnosed 10 years ago, when he was 22, and that medical advances meant he could live an entirely unaffected life.

“I wanted to be able to stand here in this place and say to those who are living with HIV that their status does not define them,” Russell-Moyle, the MP for Brighton Kemptown since 2017, said in a speech that drew tributes from many other MPs.

“We can be whoever we want to be, and to those who have not been tested, maybe because of fear, I say to you: it is better to live in knowledge than to die in fear.”

At the end of his speech, MPs in the Commons stood and clapped, even though applause is officially not permitted in the chamber.

The former Labour minister Chris Smith who was the UK’s first openly gay MP when he entered the Commons in 1983, announced he was HIV positive a few months before leaving parliament in 2005.

Speaking in an adjournment debate to discuss the upcoming 30th World Aids Day, Russell-Moyle said the anniversary “gives us pause to reflect how far we have come, and to remember those we have lost”.

He continued: “But such events are also deeply personal to me. Next year I will be marking an anniversary of my own – 10 years since I became HIV positive. It has been a long journey, from the fear of acceptance and today, hopefully, advocacy, knowing that my treatment keeps me healthy and protects any partner that I may have.”

The MP described learning the news: “You get that call from the clinic and they just say: ‘You need to come in.’ They don’t tell you the details, and you know immediately that something is going to be wrong.

“In that NHS room, with the cream carpets and the plastic seating that we all know, they tell you. And it hits you like a wall.”

He added: “You walk out feeling totally numb, with a million things going through your mind, and at the same time a sense of absolute nothingness.”

Russell-Moyle said he decided to speak out after meeting people at an awards ceremony in Brighton who run a group for HIV positive people, and to increase awareness of the condition and how it can be managed.

Medical advances in treating HIV were “one of the greatest success stories of recent times”, he said, adding: “I have a perfectly healthy life. So my announcement here today should go totally unnoticed.”

Among the MPs to respond was Jeremy Corbyn. The Labour leader paid tribute to Russell-Moyle, and said more should be done globally for HIV.

“We need to send a message out from this House of Commons: this country has changed its attitudes, we have done a great deal medically to help people, we need to ensure that the rest of the world understands that we can do the same for every other country in the world,” Corbyn said. “We have to close our minds to prejudice and open our minds up to human rights and justice for people all across the globe.”

In a later statement, Corbyn said: “Lloyd has shown enormous courage today. I know the whole Labour party is proud of him.”

Ian Green, the chief executive of the Terrence Higgins Trust, said: “We’re extremely grateful to Lloyd, and his decision to use his platform to help us work toward zero HIV stigma and zero HIV transmissions in the UK.”

Source: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/nov/29/mp-reveals-he-is-hiv-positive-in-attempt-to-tackle-stigma

Task Force Says People at High Risk of Getting HIV Need Easy Access to PrEP

If the draft recommendation is approved, insurers will have to cover the medication without charging copays or deductibles.

In a move that’s expected to expand insurance coverage for an HIV prevention pill, an advisory panel of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recently said that doctors should encourage patients who are at high risk of contracting HIV to take Truvada (also known as PrEP). The panel noted that an estimated 1.1 million people in the U.S. are currently living with HIV. James Krellenstein, a founding member of the Prevention of HIV Action Group at ACT UP/New York, tells Stat that the agency’s recommendation is huge. “If the recommendation is adopted, all insurance companies are going to be required to cover PrEP and they won’t be able to charge any cost sharing,” says Krellenstein, referring to copays and deductibles.

CDC officials hope that adoption of the proposal will allow PrEP to fulfill its therapeutic potential in that not everyone can afford the medication. It costs $1,675, which represents a 45% increase in cost in six years. Gilead, which makes the drug, maintains that cost has not been a barrier, citing a CDC study saying that less than 1% of people who can benefit from the pill need financial assistance.

The USPSTF “found convincing evidence that PrEP is of substantial benefit in decreasing the risk of HIV infection in persons at high risk of HIV infection, either via sexual acquisition or through injection drug use,” the draft recommendation states. “The USPSTF also found convincing evidence that adherence to PrEP is highly correlated with its efficacy in preventing the acquisition of HIV infection.”

The USPSTF will accept public comment on the draft recommendation until December 26. The recommendation says that certain behaviors put people at high risk of HIV. It said that “receptive anal intercourse without a condom and needle-sharing injection drug use carry the highest risk, while insertive anal intercourse, receptive penile-vaginal intercourse, and insertive penile-vaginal intercourse carry lower but not negligible risks of acquiring HIV from a partner or source who is seropositive for HIV.”

 

Source: https://www.managedcaremag.com/dailynews/20181127/task-force-says-people-high-risk-getting-hiv-need-easy-access-prep

 

Canada’s hidden HIV epidemic

Most HIV-positive people can’t transmit the virus, so why are there still more than 2,000 new infections in this country every year?

Guest editorial: Laurie Edmiston says Canada is falling behind other countries in HIV prevention. Credit: Courtesy Laurie Edmiston

 

Earlier this year at the International AIDS Conference in Amsterdam, I witnessed a profound historic moment. Dr Alison Rodger, a leading HIV researcher in the United Kingdom, presented the final results from an eight-year study of couples with one HIV-positive and one HIV-negative partner. Over that time period, she reported, there were zero cases of HIV transmission from one partner to the other, thanks to the prevention benefits of modern medications.

The evidence has been mounting for years. Several large clinical trials have confirmed that HIV treatment can suppress the virus so successfully that sexual transmission doesn’t occur.

Three-quarters of Canadians diagnosed with HIV have already achieved this level of viral suppression, and with more access to treatment and care, this number could grow even higher. Since so many Canadians living with HIV have achieved viral suppression through diagnosis and treatment, the majority can’t pass the virus on to their sexual partners.

So why are there still more than 2,000 new infections in Canada every year? Research tells us that most HIV transmissions originate from people who think they are HIV-negative but have recently contracted the virus — the undiagnosed. They may have never been tested or they may have been infected since their last test. And there are a few reasons why most HIV transmissions originate among this group of people.

First, when someone acquires HIV, the virus is circulating through the body at its highest levels, making them more likely to pass it on. Second, a person who is aware they are HIV-positive is more likely to take measures to prevent passing it on to their partners. And finally, we now know that an HIV-positive person on effective treatment does not transmit the virus sexually.

More than 9,000 Canadians are estimated to be living with undiagnosed HIV, and this is where most new infections originate. To effectively respond to this hidden HIV epidemic, we must focus our efforts on expanding access to testing, particularly among the populations hardest hit by the epidemic. Gay and bisexual men continue to make up the majority of new HIV infections in Canada, with 53 percent in 2016. While awareness of HIV and diagnosis rates tend to be higher among gay and bisexual men compared to their heterosexual peers, barriers remain to accessing HIV testing.

Many people have never been tested for HIV, or don’t test as often as they should. Sometimes this is because they don’t perceive themselves to be at risk, sometimes it is because of the stigma around HIV, and sometimes it is because testing services are difficult to access, due to geography, hours of operation or the service capacity of testing clinics.

Some places in Canada and abroad have shown us how we can do better. In British Columbia, an online service allows people to order routine HIV tests and submit samples directly to a lab, bypassing clinic lineups. In Saskatchewan, routine HIV testing is offered for all teenagers and adults every five years through both primary and emergency health care. Dried blood spot testing has been introduced in some First Nations communities to overcome some of the barriers to drawing blood and transporting samples from rural and remote locations. In the United Kingdom, free HIV self-testing kits can be delivered to your mailbox, and many regions and countries have employed community educators to offer HIV tests to their peers, free of stigma and judgment. These initiatives have only been possible with the support and funding of governments committed to ending their respective HIV epidemics.

These are replicable solutions. Yet at a national level, Canada is falling behind other countries. This has meant slow progress in reaching the undiagnosed — and a greater likelihood of new infections continuing unabated.

This World AIDS Day, I urge governments and leaders to take their calls for awareness one step further and turn them into action. Let’s do more than encourage testing. Let’s make it possible.

 

Canada’s hidden HIV epidemic

Education key to changing HIV perception

The findings by New Zealand AIDS Foundation (NZAF) and Positive Women showed:

  • 88% of Kiwis would be uncomfortable having a sexual relationship with someone living with HIV.
  • 46% were uncomfortable letting a child play with another child living with HIV.
  • 38% would be uncomfortable having a flatmate living with HIV.

NZAF CE Jason Myers says people liviing with HIV (PLHIV) are often already internalising a lot of stigma around sex and relationships which can result in feeling isolated and like they aren’t able to love.

“These can be changed with a bit of education,” he says.

Myers says HIV can only be transmitted via unprotected sexual intercourse, sharing needles, breastfeeding or direct blood to blood contact

“This demolishes arguments against letting children play as they should be free to at the local playground.”

“Transmissions between wounds are extremely rare and both parties would need to be bleeding profusely for transmission to occur- a very unlikely playtime occurrence.”

Myers also says there is no risk in sharing a living space with a person living with HIV.

“Like anyone living with a condition that requires daily medication – advances in science mean PLHIV are empowered to live fulfilling and social lives.”

NZAF say stigma is a major barrier to seeking treatment, testing and support services that can have negative health outcomes for PLHIV and can contribute to transmission rates.

However with the help of the public, HIV transmission in New Zealand could end by 2025.

Other information from NZAF:

  • If a person is being treated with anti-retroviral medications and achieves an undetectable viral load (very low viral count in their blood – below the threshold of detection for standard HIV tests) for more than six months, there is effectively no risk of HIV transmission in condomless sex.
  • As an HIV negative person, pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) medication has been proven to stop HIV transmission during condomless sex.
  • Condoms prevent the transmission of HIV and STIs.
  • HIV cannot be transmitted by sharing a drinking glass.
  • HIV cannot be transmitted by any skin contact – hugging is never going to be a risk.
  • HIV cannot be transmitted by kissing.
  • Sharing a meal prepared by someone living with HIV poses no risk- the virus is not transmitted via saliva and any trace amounts of infected blood or semen would be destroyed by exposure to air, cooking processes and stomach acid.

Author:  Mānia Clarke

Source: https://www.maoritelevision.com/news/regional/education-key-changing-hiv-perception

Stigma impairs cognition in men living with HIV

Reducing stigma may address cognitive impairment in this population


A new study has drawn a direct link between the amount of stigma men with HIV report experiencing and their scores on cognitive tests, measuring abilities such as memory and attention.

The study, by researchers from the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital (The Neuro), McGill University, and the McGill University Health Centre tested 512 older Caucasian men living with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), drawn from clinics across Canada and part of the Positive Brain Health Now cohort.

The participants filled out a questionnaire asking how much stigma they experience. Their answers were related to their results in cognitive testing and mental health questionnaires.

Researchers found that HIV-related stigma had direct effects on cognitive test performance and anxiety. There was also a direct but weaker link between stigma and depression. Through its effects on cognition, stigma was found to reduce participation in social activities and impair function in everyday life.

This study is the first to draw a direct connection between stigma and cognitive performance in people with HIV. The mechanisms through which stigma affects cognition are unclear, but might range from the impact of chronic stress on the brain, to psychological effects such as internalized negative beliefs.

AIDS has become a chronic illness. With effective anti-retroviral therapy patients’ life expectancy has risen and many are or will soon become seniors. It is important to understand how the virus and related factors such as stigma affect patients later in life. This finding opens the door to new treatment approaches for cognitive impairment in this population, and provides yet another reason to address stigma in HIV.

“Our research shows that the neurological impact of HIV goes beyond pure biology,” says Dr. Lesley Fellows, a researcher at The Neuro and the study’s senior author. “The psychological and social environment in which the patient lives also plays a role. This study underscores the need for interventions that reduce social stigma and support resilience against its toxic effects on brain health.”

The study was published in the Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes on Nov. 13, 2018. The research was made possible with funding from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), and the CIHR Canadian HIV Trials Network. It involves an interdisciplinary team of researchers and HIV community representatives in Montreal, Toronto, Hamilton and Vancouver.

Source: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/11/181127110956.htm