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University of Pittsburgh Research Assistant and Technical Writer

May 19th is National Asian & Pacific Islander HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

From HIV.gov

May 19th is National Asian & Pacific Islander HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. This observance, led by the San Francisco Community Health Center, raises awareness of the impact of HIV and AIDS, risk, and stigma surrounding HIV in the Asian Pacific Islander (API) community.

In recent years, annual HIV diagnoses have increased among some in the API community, such as API young adults and men who have sex with men. Knowing your status gives you powerful information so that you can take steps to lower your HIV risk and take charge of your health. Use the HIV Testing Sites & Care Services Locator to find a clinic near you or select from the self-testing options available. In addition, the CDC Let’s Stop HIV Together campaign offers resources that promote testing and treatment for Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and other Pacific Islanders.

Read the full article on HIV.gov.

Note that anyone who resides in Pennsylvania can get a free HIV self-test kit from www.getmyHIVtest.comwww.getmyHIVtest.com. Knowing your status will protect you and your community.

Few Sexually Active Teens Getting Tested for Sexually Transmitted Diseases

From Everyday Health

Untreated sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) can have long-term health effects, including pelvic inflammatory disease, infertility, and cervical cancer, as well as an increased likelihood of contracting other STDs, including HIV. But in a study published April 11 in Pediatrics, only one in five sexually active high school students reported getting tested for STDs in the previous year.

Few teens getting tested for STIs, including HIV

“The prevalence of sexually active high school students getting tested for an STI in the past year is relatively low, despite national guidelines,” says a coauthor of the study, Nicole Liddon, PhD, a senior health scientist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). These findings are important, as they provide the first national estimates of annual STI testing among a representative sample of U.S. high school students, she adds.

Read the full article.

April 10th is National Youth HIV & AIDS Awareness Day

From poz.com

Saturday, April 10, marks National Youth HIV & AIDS Awareness Day (NYHAAD) 2021. Traditionally, it’s a “day to educate the public about the impact of HIV and AIDS on young people,” according to the nonprofit Advocates for Youth, which spearheads NYHAAD.

The group adds, “The day also highlights the  HIV preventiontreatment and care campaigns of young people in the U.S.”

cheering latin and hispanic and african american and caucasian young adults

This year, the HIV awareness day also includes a call to action. Youth advocates want you to help them convince Congress to pass the REPEAL HIV Discrimination Act. “REPEAL” stands for: “Repeal Existing Policies that Encourage and Allow Legal” HIV Discrimination.

The REPEAL HIV Discrimination Act aims to modernize HIV crime laws, such as those that set harsh sentences for people with HIV who allegedly don’t disclose their status before sex—even if they’re undetectable and HIV was not transmitted. (To read a collection of POZ articles about such laws and efforts to change them, click #Criminalization.)

You can support Advocates for Youth’s call to action by filling out an online form that will generate a letter to send to members of Congress.

See the full article on POZ.

No breakthrough HIV infections seen in women using injectable PrEP

From aidsmap.com

The publication follows hard on the heels of detailed efficacy results from the randomized and open-label phases of its companion study in gay and bisexual men and trans women, HPTN 083, which were announced during last month’s Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections.

A detailed analysis of HIV infections seen in HPTN 084, the study comparing the effectiveness of injectable versus oral HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) in cisgender women, has been published in the Journal of Infectious DiseasesHeadline findings were reported in November 2020 when the study was stopped early due to the clearly superior effectiveness of the injections.

The data shows that for cis women injected PrEP is more effective than oral PrEP, due to it being easier to adhere to, than the pills.

Read the full article on aidsmap.com.

HIV Self-Tests Reached High-Risk Populations

From medpagetoday.com

Direct-to-consumer HIV self-testing helped to reach underserved populations in areas at high risk for HIV infection, a researcher said.

In an ordering portal set up by the CDC, over 56,000 people placed an order for HIV self-tests, and according to a follow-up survey, about a quarter (26%) of those had never been tested for HIV, reported Pollyanna Chavez, PhD, of the CDC. […]

“We estimate about one in eight people with HIV do not know they have it,” Chavez said at a press conference at the virtual Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI). “One of the goals of ending the HIV epidemic … is to diagnose people as early as possible [and] HIV self-testing is a key innovation being used in pursuit of this goal.”

Read the full article here. People who reside in Pennsylvania can still order a free test kit at www.getmyHIVtest.com. The kit comes in the mail, in an unmarked package.

Syphilis in newborns is a tragic consequence of the growing STD epidemic

From the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Early prenatal care and STD testing are essential with each pregnancy to safeguard mothers and their babies from the dangers of syphilis. CDC recommends syphilis testing for all pregnant women the first time they see a healthcare provider about their pregnancy. Women who are vulnerable for acquiring or who live in high-prevalence areas should be tested again early in the third trimester and at delivery.

“There are tools available to prevent every case of congenital syphilis,” said Gail Bolan, M.D., director of CDC’s Division of STD Prevention. “Testing is simple and can help women to protect their babies from syphilis – a preventable disease that can have irreversible consequences.”

The national rise in congenital syphilis parallels increases in syphilis among women of reproductive age. From 2017 to 2018, syphilis cases increased 36 percent among women of childbearing age. Addressing rising syphilis incidence is critical to prevent congenital syphilis. Women can protect themselves by practicing safer sex, being tested for syphilis by a health care provider, and if infected, seeking treatment immediately and asking her partner to get tested and treated to avoid reinfection.

Read the full article on the CDC website.

To find local syphilis testing (most clinics are free) go to https://gettested.cdc.gov/

Penn State and Pitt team up to create getmyHIVtest.com—free HIV test kits to anyone who resides in Pennsylvania, with a focus on minority/ethnic communities most at risk.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that some racial/ethnic groups are at higher risk for getting HIV than others.  

CDC data shows that Black/African American communities account for a higher proportion of new HIV infections as compared to other races and ethnicities. In 2018, Black/African Americans accounted for 13% of the US population but 42% of new HIV diagnoses.

Similarly, in the same 2018 report, the CDC notes adult and adolescent Hispanics/Latinos made up 27% of the 37,968 new HIV diagnoses in the United States.

Why? Because these communities are impacted by demographic factors such as discrimination, stigma, and institutionalized health disparities—all of which affect their risk for HIV.

So what can we do?  

People who know they’re infected can get into treatment and become HIV undetectable—which means the level of virus in the body is so low that it can’t be passed on to a sex partner. And people who know they’re not infected can take steps to prevent future infection by practicing safer sex (like using condoms) and taking the HIV prevention medication known as PrEP.

The first step, then, to preventing HIV is to get tested.

The good news is that anyone who resides in Pennsylvania can now get a free HIV self-test kit delivered in the mail.

In early 2021, the Pennsylvania Expanded HIV Testing Initiative (at Penn State University) and the HIV Prevention and Care Project (at the University of Pittsburgh) began a joint program called getmyHIVtest.com.

“We created getmyHIVtest.com to make test kits available to anyone in the state who might be at risk for HIV,” explains Raymond Yeo, one of the project’s coordinators at the University of Pittsburgh. “Knowing your HIV status is key in the preventing HIV in our communities—especially those most at risk for new infections.” 

The website, www.getmyHIVtest.com, provides easy-to-follow instructions and online form where PA residents can order their free kit, which typically arrives—in an unmarked package—within five to ten business days. Recipients of the kit are asked to provide basic demographic information and to take a follow up survey as a means to improve the program in the months ahead.  

“This is a big development in the fight against HIV in Pennsylvania and we need all the input we can get,” added Yeo. “It’s unrealistic to think we can test everyone in the state so it’s important that we find ways to get our test kits into the hands of the people who need them the most.”  

Questions and comments about the getmyHIVtest.com program can be sent to info@getmyHIVtest.com. To order your HIV self-test kit, go to www.getmyHIVtest.com.

NEW CDC DATA SHOW NUMBER OF BABIES BORN WITH SYPHILIS NEARLY QUADRUPLED IN THE LAST 5 YEARS

From the National Coalition of STD Directors

CDC released its 2019 STD Surveillance Report showing that STD rates in the U.S. reached all-time highs for the sixth consecutive year. Even more concerning, the report found that a growing number of babies in the U.S. are dying as a result of syphilis passed from mother to child during pregnancy (congenital syphilis) – all because women are not receiving simple, CDC-recommended testing and treatment.

Congenital syphilis is entirely preventable, but according to CDC’s report, cases of congenital syphilis nearly quadrupled between 2015 and 2019. In 2019: 

• More than three-fourths (77%) of all cases were due to gaps in testing and treatment during the mother’s prenatal care – either when a mother was tested and diagnosed with syphilis but did not receive treatment, or when the mother did not receive a timely syphilis diagnosis during her pregnancy. 

• Nearly two-thirds (65%) of all babies born with congenital syphilis were Black or Hispanic, highlighting the stark disparities in testing and treatment.

This is entirely unacceptable given the dire ramifications of congenital syphilis. As we observe Black Maternal Health Week, we are calling for action to address this crisis and its disparate impact. Forty percent of babies born to women with untreated syphilis may be stillborn or die from infection as a newborn. Those that survive can suffer severe, life-long health consequences, including deformed bones, blindness, or deafness.

“Every single case of syphilis in a newborn baby is a heartbreaking symptom of our nation’s chronically underfunded public health system,” said NCSD Executive Director David Harvey. “Congenital syphilis is 100% preventable, and the failure to protect newborns from this disease reflects our failure to invest in public health and to care for our most vulnerable members of society. We can and must do better.”

Read the full CDC press release.

New syphilis infections at an all-time high in Pennsylvania

From outbreaknewstoday.com

Pennsylvania state health officials are reporting increased amounts of sexually transmitted infections, in particular syphilis, prompting officials to encourage the public to take steps to decrease their risk.

decretive image

Pregnant women should be screened at first and third trimester because of the sharp increase in the number of babies born with the disease in the United States. Nationally, cases of congenital syphilis increased by 185 percent between 2014 and 2018. In 2019, five congenital syphilis cases were reported in the state of Pennsylvania, following seven cases reported in 2018. These reported cases of congenital syphilis in the state represented the highest number of cases in more than 25 years.Early syphilis in Pennsylvania is currently at the highest rate in more than 20 years. Over the last five years, early syphilis reported in women of child-bearing age (women aged 15 to 44) increased 114 percent, from 78 cases in 2015 to 167 cases in 2019.

“Sexually transmitted diseases are serious diseases that impact many Pennsylvanians each year,” Acting Secretary Beam said. “It is essential that all residents are aware of the risks and dangers associated with STDs. Many of these diseases can be easily diagnosed and treated, which is why we encourage all residents to talk to their doctor about getting tested so we can further prevent diseases and keep our residents healthy.”

Read the full article.

To find local testing in your area, you can search by zip code at https://gettested.cdc.gov/. Most testing locations are free.