Category Archives: Research

Women’s Health: Facts about Birth Control, STIs and Condoms

From the Society of Behavioral Medicine

A Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI) is a bacterial or viral infection that is passed from one person to another through sexual contact (i.e., anal, vaginal, or oral). More than 25 STIs have been identified, affecting 20+ million men and women in the U.S. each year.

Anyone who is sexually active can get an STI, even without having penetrative sex (i.e., vaginal or anal sex). Some STIs, like herpes and HPV, are spread by skin-to-skin contact. Many STIs don’t show symptoms for a long time. Even without the presence of symptoms, they can still be harmful and passed between partners during sex (i.e., anal, vaginal, or oral).

woman holding condoms

STIs occur in all parts of the population.

Young adults between the ages of 15 to 24 account for nearly half of all new STIs infections each year.

Racial and ethnic minority groups are experiencing significant increases in STI rates. In 2017, the rate of reported cases of Chlamydia among Black females was five times the rate of White females and 6.6 times greater in Black males than White males.

STI rates have significantly increased within the LGBTQIA+ community. A 2018 CDC report states Gonorrhea diagnoses nearly doubled between 2013-2018 in gay and bisexual men, and men who have sex with men (MSM). Data from 2018 indicate that gay and bisexual men accounted for 54% of all syphilis cases.

People 60+ account for the largest increase of in-office STI treatment. Between 2014-2017, rates for Herpes simplex, Gonorrhea, Syphilis, Hepatitis B, Trichomoniasis, and Chlamydia rose 23% in this population.

Women who are pregnant can become infected with the same STDs as women who are not pregnant.

Fact: Oral contraceptives (birth control) cannot prevent an STI.

A common myth is that birth controls can prevent the spread of STIs. Two of the most common forms of birth controls are oral contraceptives and condoms. Many people may not use condoms because they are using another form of birth control, and feel they are safe from STIs.

Oral contraception is only effective in preventing pregnancy and cannot stop STIs from being passed between sexual partners.

Fact: Condoms can prevent an STI.

Correctly using male and female condoms can help prevent the spread of STIs and help prevent pregnancy. Dental dams, a barrier method for oral sex, can also help prevent STIs when used correctly. Most condoms and dental dams are made from latex or polyurethane, which may be preferable for individuals with a latex allergy.

Read the full article on Society of Behavioral Medicine.

How We See Ourselves in Our Fantasies, and What It Means

From Justin J. Lehmiller Ph.D., in Psychology Today…

man and woman having sexWhen you fantasize about sex, do you appear in your own fantasies? If so, do you appear as you do in real life, or do you change yourself in some way?

I studied the sexual fantasies of 4,175 Americans from all 50 states for my book Tell Me What You Want, and one of the many things I looked at was the way that we see ourselves. What I found was that many people change some aspect of themselves, such as their body, their genitals, or their personality. However, I found that different people change themselves in very different ways and that the types of changes people make seem to say something important about them. However, they also say something about our culture.

When I asked people whether or not they appear in their own fantasies at least some of the time, almost everyone (97.1 percent) said yes. Further, most people said they appear in their own fantasies most of the time.

Read the full article on Psychology Today

Self-obtained samples show similar performance as lab diagnostics for gonorrhea, chlamydia testing

From Helio.com...

Vaginal swab samples collected by patients performed similarly to lab-based molecular diagnostics for chlamydia and gonorrhea testing, therefore supporting the use of a new 30-minute point-of-case assay, according to findings published in JAMA Network Open.

Barbara Van Der Pol, PhD, MPH
Barbara Van Der Pol, PhD, MPH

“The new binx io CT/NG assay can facilitate a complete paradigm shift in how we offer testing for the two most commonly reported notifiable diseases in the United States — chlamydia and gonorrhea,” Barbara Van Der Pol, PhD, MPH, professor of medicine and public health at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and president of the American STD Association, told Healio. “Rates of infection with chlamydia and gonorrhea continue to rise, suggesting the need for additional tools in order to effectively reduce the burden of disease. Providers can now identify and treat infections (that are predominately asymptomatic) during a single office visit to prevent transmission and development of sequelea.”

[…] “Sample-first collection by clients seeking sexual health care (or who are eligible for routine screening according to the CDC guidelines) immediately upon arrival at the clinic can enable rapid, accurate results that allow the provider to offer both accurate treatment and appropriate counseling,” Van Der Pol said. “This is the first truly rapid molecular assay for chlamydia and gonorrhea. It is a breakthrough development.”

Read the full article.

DETECTABLE VIRAL LOAD TIED TO UPTICK IN HEART DISEASE RISK IN YOUTH WITH HIV

decorative imageAmong young people living with HIV, having a detectable viral load is associated with a slight increase in the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Sitaji Gurung, MD, PhD, MPH, of Hunter College at the City University of New York, presented findings from a study of HIV-positive youth 14 to 26 years old at the 2020 Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections in Boston last month.

The study relied on electronic health records from the Adolescent Medicine Trials Network 154 Cascade Monitoring, which derives its data from clinics across the United States that care for adolescents with HIV.

Read the full article on Poz.com.

Poll: U.S. Adults Lack STI Awareness

From US News and World Report

Despite cases of several sexually transmitted infections reaching a record level in the U.S., a large majority of people aren’t aware of how common they are among the nation’s adults, according to newly released survey results.

Avoiding an STD may be as simple as using a condom. Find out more from the CDC.

The poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation found that only 36% of those surveyed were aware that STIs such as gonorrhea, chlamydia, genital herpes, syphilis and human papillomavirus, or HPV, have become more common in recent years, with 38% responding that they “don’t know enough to say.” An even smaller share – 13% – knew that more than half of people in the U.S. will get an STI sometime during their life.

Those results came even as the poll also found that a slight majority (54%) of those surveyed said they personally knew someone – themselves included – who had ever contracted an STI such as gonorrhea, chlamydia or syphilis. Larger shares of women and younger adults said they personally knew someone who has had an STI, according to a KFF report on the survey.

Read the full article.

CDC: Youth engage in sexual risk behaviors that can result in unintended health outcomes

From the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

School health programs can help young people adopt lifelong attitudes and behaviors that support their health and well-being—including behaviors that can reduce their risk for HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).

Among U.S. high school students surveyed in 2017:

  • 40% had ever had sexual intercourse.
  • 10% had four or more sexual partners.
  • 7% had been physically forced to have sexual intercourse when they did not want to.
  • 30% had had sexual intercourse during the previous 3 months, and, of these 46% did not use a condom the last time they had sex.
  • 14% did not use any method to prevent pregnancy.
  • 19% had drunk alcohol or used drugs before last sexual intercourse.
  • Less than 10% of all students have ever been tested for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

According to the CDC, prevention programs in schools should provide health information that is basic, accurate, and directly contributes to health-promoting decisions and behaviors.

Find out more on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Website.

Most Americans have never been tested for HIV

From CNN

Most Americans have never been tested for HIV, the virus that attacks and weakens a person’s immune system.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is hoping to change that.
According to a new report, the agency found that fewer than 40% of people in the United States have been screened for HIV. It recommends that all people 13 to 64 be tested at least once.
Fifty jurisdictions across the country are responsible for more than half of all HIV diagnoses, yet only 35% of the people recommended for testing in those areas were screened in the previous year, the CDC says. And fewer than 30% of people across the country with the highest risk of acquiring HIV were tested in that period.
“Diagnosis and treatment are the first steps toward affording individuals living with HIV a normal life expectancy,” CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield said in a statement. “As we encourage those at risk for HIV to seek care, we need to meet them in their journey. This means clearing the path of stigma, finding more comfortable ways of delivering health services, as well as learning from individuals already in treatment so the journey becomes easier for others who follow.”
To find HIV testing near you, go the CDC testing locator. Most locations are free.

Researchers receive NIH grant to create low cost, rapid HIV test

From eurekalert.org

Currently, there is no reliable technology that can detect HIV during the early stages of the infection or measure viral rebound in antiretroviral therapy in treated patients in resource constrained point-of-care settings. There is therefore, an urgent need to develop a rapid, disposable, automated, and low-cost HIV viral load assay to increase timely access to HIV care and to improve treatment outcomes.

WASEEM ASGHAR, PH.D., PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR

That’s exactly what a researcher from Florida Atlantic University’s College of Engineering and Computer Science is developing. He has teamed up with a researcher from FAU’s Schmidt College of Medicine to combine their expertise in microchip fabrication, microfluidics, surface functionalization, lensless imaging, and biosensing to create a reliable, rapid and inexpensive device for viral load quantification at point-of-care settings with limited resources.

They have received a $377,971 grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to develop a disposable HIV-1 viral load microchip that can selectively capture HIV from whole blood/plasma. The technology is being developed to be highly sensitive to quantify clinically relevant viral load during acute phase and virus rebound as well as inexpensive (costing less than $1), and quick (results in less than 45 minutes). Moreover, this technology is highly stable, and does not require refrigeration or a regular electric supply to enable HIV viral load at point-of-care settings.

Read the full article.

Fighting HIV: Gaps in treatment, testing drive new infections

In a new report, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Monday highlighted the gaps in access to treatment and testing resources that exists within the HIV care continuum. Those gaps have led to a halt in recent years to the progress made over the past two decades in reducing HIV infections.

An estimated 15% of people with HIV don’t know they have the virus, and that population accounted for 38% of all new infection, according to the study. Those who know their HIV status but are not receiving care make up 20% of people living with the virus but account for 43% of new infections.

CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield said the epidemic could end over the next few years by expanding access to testing and consistent treatment.

The HIV Epidemic Among Black Americans Requires Action

From MD Magazine

A report on the state of HIV/AIDS in the African-American community highlighted an alarming health disparity gap—while Black Americans represent 12% of the population, they now account for close to 50% of the total reported HIV/AIDS cases in the US.

The paper, “HIV/AIDS and the African-American Community 2018: a Decade Call to Action,” was led by Cato T. Laurencin MD, PhD, Chief Executive Officer, Connecticut Institute for Clinical and Translational Science (CICATS), and director of the Institute for Regenerative Engineering.

Cato Laurencin MD, PhD

Laurencin and his co-authors call for a more assertive approach to the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the African-American community, noting that their call to action a decade ago has not successfully addressed the situation. In fact, some aspects have worsened: the number of African-American males diagnosed with HIV increased 29% from 2005 to 2016.

From 2005 to 2016, the number of cases of HIV/AIDS in Black women and female adolescents from heterosexual contact increased 75% from 2,392 to 4,189 and during the same time, there was a 76% increase in diagnoses of heterosexual Black men.

Read the full article.