Category Archives: HIV

PA Universities provide free HIV self-test kits to communities most at risk

According to a 2020 CDC report, out of more than 30,000 new cases of HIV infection in the United States, Black and Latinx populations bear the brunt of being most at risk, accounting for two-thirds (20,000) of the new infections. The reason (the CDC also reports) is due to institutionalized health disparities among those groups. In other words, Black and Latinx people face higher levels of discrimination when seeking health care.

multiple people gathered together representing a variety of races and ethnicities

To help address the issue, the HIV Prevention and Care Project at the University of Pittsburgh, in partnership with the Pennsylvania Expanded HIV Testing Initiative at Penn State University created a state-wide program that allows residents of Pennsylvania to obtain a free HIV self-test kit through the mail.

Knowing your HIV status is the first step in preventing the spread of the virus. People who test positive can obtain treatment that keeps the virus in check, and therefore makes it next to impossible to spread to others.

To obtain a free HIV self-test kit, go to www.getmyHIVtest.com. Taking care of your health is part of taking care of your community.

To find out more about the free HIV test kit program, and find other HIV/STI testing resources, you can go to the HIV Prevention and Care Project Website at https://hivpreventionandcareproject.com/resources/. If you still have questions, send an email to info@getmyHIVtest.com.

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.

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.

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.

March 10 is National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

An open letter from Deron C. Burton, MD, Acting Director, National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention…

March 10 is National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (NWGHAAD), sponsored by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Office on Women’s Health. As we continue our work toward ending America’s HIV epidemic, we acknowledge the challenges the COVID-19 pandemic has presented. For some women, the impact of COVID-19 has made it more difficult to access HIV services. On NWGHAAD, join us in making sure all women have continued access to HIV testing (including self-testing), prevention, and treatment and care. Together, we can prevent new HIV infections and help women with HIV stay healthy.

In recent years, we have seen progress toward reducing HIV diagnoses among women in the United States and dependent areas. From 2014 to 2018, HIV diagnoses decreased 7% among women overall, including a 10% decline among Black/African American women. While these numbers are encouraging, there is still much work to do to address gender and race-related disparities. In 2018, more than 7,000 women received an HIV diagnosis. Black/African American women made up 57% (4,097) of those diagnoses, followed by White women (21%; 1,491) and Hispanic/Latina women (18%; 1,269). Making the most of the full toolkit of HIV prevention and treatment strategies can raise awareness and help to prevent new HIV infections among women.

Many women without HIV can benefit from proven prevention options such as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) and the related support services associated with these interventions. Women with HIV should be offered treatment and the appropriate services that help people with HIV get in care, stay in care, and adhere to antiretroviral therapy (ART) so that they become virally suppressed to protect their health and the health of their sexual partners. Condoms provide additional protection for women regardless of status to prevent HIV, sexually transmitted diseases, and unplanned pregnancy. Despite the promise of these tools to help end the HIV epidemic, they only work when the people who need them most can access them. Recent CDC data reveal that only 7% of women who could benefit from PrEP were prescribed PrEP. We must continue to help women get the tools they need to protect their health, including addressing structural barriers such as systemic racism that perpetuate health disparities.

As part of the HHS Ending the HIV Epidemic: A Plan for America initiative, CDC and other federal agencies are working together to prevent new HIV infections by ensuring everyone has access to HIV prevention options, such as PrEP. To address cost barriers, HHS launched Ready, Set, PrEP, a nationwide program that makes PrEP medications available at no cost to people who don’t have insurance that covers prescription drugs. The program also addresses transportation barriers by giving people a choice to have their PrEP medications sent directly to their home or health care provider. For women who don’t qualify for the Ready, Set, PrEP program, Gilead’s Advancing Access Program and other state PrEP assistance programs are available.

To raise awareness about the many HIV prevention options for women, we encourage you to download and use materials from CDC’s Let’s Stop HIV Together campaign. The new materials broaden our portfolio and build on the existing HIV prevention, testing, treatment, and stigma resources. You can also watch our new webisode, “Hey Friend: Let’s Talk Sexual Health,” which features Black women discussing sexual health. On NWGHAAD, keep the conversation going by sharing social media content from our digital toolkit using the #StopHIVTogether and #NWGHAAD hashtags.

Thank you for your continued commitment to HIV prevention during this challenging time. By ensuring women have equal access to quality HIV prevention and care services, we can achieve health equity and end the HIV epidemic.

***

Note that in Pennsylvania, people can order a free HIV self-test kit through the mail. Go to www.getmyHIVtest.com for more information.

Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day on Tuesday, March 9

Please join Human Services Center Corporation in honoring National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day on Tuesday, March 9 at 5:00PM via Zoom. We will discuss women’s sexual health, women and HIV, and healthy living with HIV. RSVP here. If you have questions, please contact agodollei@hscc-mvpc.org or 412-436-9537.  

CDC report: new rates of hiv infection still on the rise among specific at-risk populations in the u.s.

From the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

In 2018, 37,968 people received an HIV diagnosis in the United States (US) and dependent areas. From 2014 to 2018, HIV diagnoses decreased 7% among adults and adolescents. However, annual diagnoses have increased among some groups.

click on image for larger view
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Gay and bisexual men are the population most affected by HIV, with Black/African American, Hispanic/Latino gay and bi men having the highest rates of new infections.

The number of new HIV diagnoses was highest among people aged 25 to 34.

info graphic showing rates of H I V infection in the u. S. according to age
click on image for enlarged view

Source: CDC. Diagnoses of HIV infection in the United States and dependent areas, 2018 (updated)HIV Surveillance Report 2020;31.

STD RATES LIKELY SKYROCKETING IN US AS FEWER PEOPLE GET TESTED DURING PANDEMIC

As clinics and health departments across the country have shuttered during the coronavirus pandemic, the nation’s roughly 2,200 disease detectives, the so-called “contact tracers” of infectious disease outbreaks, have been re-deployed to track where cases of COVID-19 — the disease caused by the novel coronavirus — are spreading, to try to stop those outbreaks in their tracks. It’s a necessary shift, but one that may have serious, long-term impacts for the country’s sexual health, and for President Trump’s year-and-a-half-old plan to “eliminate” HIV from the US by 2030.decorative image

click to find nearby HIV and STD testing

 

[…] According to a recent NCSD survey of HIV and STD disease tracers around the country, 83% are forgoing their usual field visits as a result of this pandemic. Two-thirds of the country’s clinics (66%) have also reported decreases in health screenings and testing due to COVID-19.

Read the article.