#HIV

Trump Directive Halts HIV Cure Research, Pleases Religious Right

Scientists are upset with the Trump administration after members shut down research that could potentially lead to a cure for HIV, according to LGBTQ Nation.

A scientist that was responsible for supplying mice that have been modified with fetal tissue to labs that are attempting to find a cure for HIV was informed that the Department of Health and Human services has told researchers to discontinue acquiring fetal tissue. He write that this directive would stop all HIV research in the United States.

The ban on using fetal tissue is something that the Trump administration announced last year and it is now coming unto effect. This will affect many researchers in the biomedical field, as a good number use mice modified with fetal tissue, as the tissue creates an immune system in mice that is similar to that of a human's. 

Republicans in Congress have attempted to put this ban in place for years in order to placate their religious followers as well as their anti-abortion ones. Anti-abortion individuals have also been trying to get this ban in place for years. 

Warner Greene, director of the Gladstone Center for HIV Cure research, said that the research center was ready to proceed with the HIV cure experiments when what he describes as a "bombshell" was dropped upon them. Greene was scheduled to collaborate with another research facility in Montana when this decision came into effect.

Mice are one of the few animals who can also be infected with the HIV virus which makes them perfect for testing for HIV cures. Researchers at the Gladstone Center were planning on testing a potentially viable antibody that would prevent HIV from developing reservoirs, which are cells that are infected with HIV but do not produce the virus. Currently, there are no medications that affect the virus. 

Greene commented that the mice and the antibody were ready to shipped to the Montana facility when this decision came about and that it would take a year to get back to where he was research-wise if he were to be greenlit to continue the experiment. Jermone Zack, a medical researcher who studies HIV at UCLA, said that his lab will have to be shut down because everything he does in the lab involves humanized mice.

In addition to this decision, the Department of Health and Humans Services announced earlier in the year that they announced the creation of the Conscience and Religious Freedom Division, which is a subgroup of the HHS that is responsible for handling complaints from medical professionals who do not want to perform abortions or treat transgender patients.

If this trend continues, it will become increasingly more difficult for LGBTQ people to receive quality medical care.

Let's hope it won't come to that. 


h/t: LGBTQ Nation

Discharged Cadet Shows Honor and Pride While Fighting US Military's Ban On HIV+ Soldiers

Imagine that your life's dream was almost obtained, but then you were casted out for something you thought would never happen.

Cadet Kevin Deese was discharged from the United States Navy after a routine blood test found that he was HIV-positive.  The 2014 blood test was one month before Deese was to take part in the U.S. Naval Academy's May graduation. Officials told Deese that he would be allowed to graduate but he would not be commissioned.

In an interview with TheBody.com, Deese shared:

So April Fool's Day 2014, I'm eating lunch in the dining hall with my best friend, and a lieutenant I didn't know comes over and ushers me to the commandant's office, which is like the dean of students. "It's not a good reason that you're here," the commandant says, and I start to panic. What did I do? Was I in trouble? I had no idea why. Then he tells me that I tested positive for HIV and my heart just dropped. It was not something I thought I had been at risk for. Then he says that I will not be commissioning as an officer along with my classmates. It was a double whammy -- so much stigma and shame, everything I had worked for and that the Naval Academy had paid to educate me for. So I spoke with the chaplain and the brigade medical officer. "We're not going to abandon you," they said. But really no one had my back. It was presented as very cut-and-dry with no possibility to get a waiver, no process. One of the commandants had prepared talking points for me and had scrawled "not a death sentence" on a Post-It note

We could not imagine the pressure and stress of going through with the graduation and then needing to tell all why you were not continuing with your military career and on top of that, telling them that you were HIV+. 

In a recent Facebook Post, Deese wrote:

I’m a little scared but determined to take additional action by putting out to the world that I am an HIV-positive gay man who’s here for people who don’t feel they can or should be out as being positive – and who’s not here for your HIV stigma, society.

NowThis worked with Deese to put together this video of his story. 

AS stated in the video, Deese, who is gay, has joined an ongoing legal battle to remove this outdated policy. 

  • 1985 - 1st Screening of Military Applicants for HIV screening applicants for HIV in 1985.
     
  • 1991 - Under George H.W.Bush, the Military Banned HIV-Positive Applicants
     
  • 2018 - "Deploy, Or Get Out" - Trump's New Policy requires Military to discharge any service member who cannot be deployed for at least 12 months. People living with HIV are automatically disqualified from deployment. 

Best of luck Kevin in your suit against the Government. Your courage is noted, appreciated, and envied. It takes a strong individual to rise above not one but two life changing occurrences all at the same time. 

We know it has been hard and will be hard. Deese recently shared the following on his Facebook page. 

Content warning: Quotes from people with a lot of ignorance and not a lot of compassion. Could be hard for people living with or affected by HIV to read.
.
.
.
"I wouldn't want to be near you at the mall let alone on the field while bleeding to death"
"They dont want your hiv blood on everything your putting others at risk"
"What I don't like about this guy is he's willing to put other people's lives and health at risk. Very selfish!"
"Your a liability"
"Why does he feel so entitled?"
"Get over it."

Thank you to NowThis for sharing my story. I wasn't sure what to expect when I agreed to do this. Maybe reading the comments was a mistake, but it at least confirmed what we've always known: we have a long way to go in educating people on HIV in general (treatment as prevention, transmission risks, etc.) - and obviously specifically in the military context (i.e. people living with HIV currently serve in the military, there are many jobs in the Navy that don't involve getting shot at, etc.).

I'd be lying if I said the personal attacks aren't hard to read, but it makes a world of difference knowing the support I have behind me. Thank you to anyone who's ever voiced their support; it means more than you can know.

But enough about me...happy World AIDS Day to all; may we take a moment to remember all those who died and those who still die today because they cannot access treatment.


h/t: thegavoice.com, thebody.com, Kevin Deese's Facebook Page

Village In India Draining Lake Dry After Finding HIV+ Woman Dead In Main Drinking Water Supply

Villagers of Morab village in Dharwad district of Karnataka are refusing to drink water from a lake that supplies their only drinking water. What is causing this action? It all stared after they found the body of an HIV-positive woman in the lake on November 29th.  She had committed suicide by jumping in the lake last week. After finding the body, the word and the belief spread quickly that the water has been contaminated, causing locals to panic.

 

The water is apparently one of the few if not THE source of drinking water for residents of Morab.  Unable to put people at ease that the water was not contaminated, authorities took to draining the 36-acre lake, which is about the size of 25 football fields.  The plan is to drain the lake/reservoir/drinking water and refill it with water from the Malaprabha canal, which is now the only source of drinking water and about 3 kilometers away.

“This is unfortunate. We have been telling people not to panic as HIV does not spread through water. But the people are not convinced and they have started draining out the lake,” said Dharwad district health officer Dr Rajendra Doddamani. The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) spreads only through body fluids. Outside the human body, the virus cannot survive beyond minutes in air or water. - timesofindia,indiatimes.com

Other health workers state that most do not know that the virus dies when the HIV+ person dies and would only last seconds in the water. The concern and desire to drain the lake is out of fear rather than stigma, ignorance over knowledge. stemming from lack of awareness.

Twenty siphon tubes with four motors tare being use to pump out the water.

Pradeep Hanikere, another villager, said the daily hardship was preferable to drinking water from the lake. “Do the officials drink bottled water if they find dirt or a speck in it? If they can’t, then how can they force us to drink water from the lake where we found the body of a woman,” he said.

Another villager pointed out, “We would have consumed the water if it was the body of a normal person, but the woman died of HIV. There is no other way. The authorities must drain out water and fill it with fresh water to save the lives of villagers.” - timesofindia,indiatimes.com

h/t: timesofindia,indiatimes.com

Black Gay Men 16 Times More Likely To Contract HIV Despite Less Risky Sexual Behavior

A new study released by Northwestern University investigates HIV rates within the intersection of gay and black men.

The study, which was recently published in the Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes, was conducted on 1015 black MSM (men who have sex with other men) between the ages of 16 and 29 and live in Chicago. These men were asked about their drug use, social/sexual behavior, and their psychological states.

The data found that young black men are 16 times more likely to contract HIV than their young white gay peers. Specifically, the rate of HIV infections is 32% and the rate of rectal sexually transmitted infections is 26.5%. This is despite the fact that young black men report lower rates of sexual risk behaviors, fewer sexual partners, and more lifelong HIV testing.

"We have known from prior studies that this paradox exists—black young men who have sex with men engage in fewer risk behaviors but have a much higher rate of HIV diagnosis," said senior study author Brian Mustanski, PhD, who teaches at Northwestern’s Feinberg School of Medicine and is also the director of the Northwestern Institute for Sexual and Gender Minority Health and Wellbeing. "Our study illuminates how HIV disparities emerge from complex social and sexual networks and inequalities in access to medical care for those who are HIV positive."

This new data comes at a time when health experts are focusing on the HIV rates within the black community. Many health experts want young black men to get HIV tests more regularly. But with this new study saying HIV rates are high despite regular testing, that earlier advice may not work.

The researchers at Northwestern University suggest that the real problem lies within social networks.

“Overall, young black MSM do not report higher rates of HIV risk behaviors like condomless sex," study coauthor Ethan Morgan, PhD, remarked. "But aspects of their social networks align with increased HIV risk. By learning more about young black MSM's social networks, we can better understand what drives such persistent racial disparities in HIV—and close that gap."

"Their social and sexual networks are more dense and interconnected, which from an infectious disease standpoint makes infections transmitted more efficiently through the group," Dr. Mustanski added. "That, coupled with the higher HIV prevalence in the population, means any sexual act has a higher chance of HIV transmission."

Eric McCormack: 'Will & Grace' To Tackle An Important Health Issue For Gay Men

Will and Grace will address blood donation and the fight for gay men to participate.

Eric McCormack, who plays Will Truman on the show, recently shared that the series will address these issue in a future episode, according to the Ottawa Citizen.

“We get into the idea that a gay man giving his blood is still an uphill battle,” McCormack said after filming the episode.

“There is a law in place that a gay man has to be, and state that, he is celibate for a year and a straight person does not have to do that. So that’s an issue that we’re getting into that doesn’t get much airplay.”

McCormack says that the episode will probably air in a few months, and his character will deliver “some tremendous, serious speeches” to address this ongoing issue.

The law in the US currently states that men who have sex with other men (MSM) must wait a full 12 months after their last sexual encounter to donate blood.

Many men have protested this law in the past year. This includes celebrity Lance Bass and activists who used their own blood to print t-shirts and donate the proceeds to health centers that provide services to LGBTQ people in New York.

h/t: Ottawa Citizen

HIV Diagnoses Are Rising In Eastern Europe Says The World Health Organization

Eastern Europe is experiencing a rise in HIV diagnoses.

A new report by the World Health Organization says that the HIV epidemic is not over yet, and states that numbers are increasing in certain regions.

This report was published in time for the 30th World AIDS Day, and focuses on Europe. The report signifies how far we’ve come with the fight against the disease and notes how much farther we have yet to go.

The results most noted how the eastern part of Europe has seen the highest number of HIV diagnoses ever. 130,000 new diagnoses were recorded in the year of 2017.

That said, it’s not all bad news as the WHO also noted how the increase is not very steep. Plus, the European Union and European Economic Area countries are seeing a decline in rates by 20% since 2015.

Despite this, the WHO’s concerns are focused on the East of Europe.

“It’s hard to talk about good news in the face of another year of unacceptably high numbers of people infected with HIV. While efforts to prevent new HIV infections are gradually showing signs of progress, we are not on course to meet the 90–90–90 targets by the 2020 deadline. My call to governments, ministers of health and decision-makers is bold: scale up your response now,” says Dr Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO Regional Director for Europe. “To support people living with HIV and protect those at higher risk of infection, we need to fast track action by tailoring interventions. This means investing wisely in prevention, testing and treatment particularly in key populations to end the AIDS epidemic as we promised.”

Other findings from this new report include:

  • Men are suffering disproportionately from HIV across the entire Region: 70% of new HIV diagnoses are in men.
  • In 2017, over 25 000 people were diagnosed with HIV in 30 of the 31 countries of the EU/EEA.
  • The overall decline in the EU/EEA resulted primarily from a 20% drop in new diagnoses among men who have sex with men between 2015 and 2017, which remains the predominant mode of HIV transmission (38% in 2017) in this part of Europe.

In reaction to these results, the World Health Organization urges national governments to work on improving accessibility and awareness of HIV testing. Their argument is that knowing statuses is one of the most important, and the very first, steps in ending HIV.

“A lot of progress has been made, but there is still much more we must do,” said Vytenis Andriukaitis, the European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety. “We need to capitalize on the full potential of our joint and sustained actions, as well as increased collaboration with our partners across borders if we want to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal of eliminating HIV – in Europe and worldwide – by 2030.”

To read the full report from the World Health Organization, click this link here.

British MP Comes Out As HIV+ In Advance Of World AIDS Day

During a debate today in the House of Commons, Labour MP Lloyd Russell-Moyle courageously came out as HIV positive, making a personal appeal in advance of World AIDS Day to tackle the stigma still associated with HIV/AIDS.

Russell-Moyle becomes the first lawmaker to announce his HIV status in the Commons, and only the second MP to share their HIV+ status with the public.

According to The Guardian, the 32-year-old parliamentarian shared that he was first diagnosed with HIV ten years ago, and thanks to advances in HIV treatments he is able to live entirely unaffected by HIV.

“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.

With the world observing the 30th anniversary of World AIDS Day on Saturday, Russell-Moyle said the day “gives us pause to reflect how far we have come, and to remember those we have lost.”

“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,” he continued. “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.”

“I have a perfectly healthy life,” he added. “So my announcement here today should go totally unnoticed.”

“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.”

As he finished his speech, his fellow Labour members stood to applaud him even though applause is normally prohibited in the chamber. However, as you can see in the video below, the half dozen Tories in the chamber sat silent.

 

 

Russell-Moyle later tweeted:

Former Labour minister Chris Smith, elected to the Commons in 1983 and the first openly gay MP, announced he was HIV+ shortly before leaving Parliament in 2005.

Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the Labour Party, later honored Russell-Moyle saying, “Lloyd has shown enormous courage today. I know the whole Labour party is proud of him.”

(h/t The Guardian)

MTV's Staying Alive Gala a Major Success in the Fight Against HIV

The streets of New York were lit up on Tuesday night with several stars including Alicia Keys, Jack Antanoff and more who all came out to support MTV’s Staying Alive Foundation at their inspirational gala inside Guastavino’s in New York City.

Celebrating their 20th year, the event recognized the foundation’s two decades of campaigning around HIV and sexual/reproductive health and rights, and empowering young people in the global fight to end HIV.

“Twenty years ago, MTV Staying Alive stood up and said, we will protect the next generation by investing in them; we will give them the power to use their voices, their experiences; to influence their own universes,” said organization founder and executive director Georgina Arnold.

Among those spotlighted at the event were MTV Staying Alive grantees Tyler Spencer and Shirley Oruco.  Spencer founded the Grassroots Project, a Washington, D.C. based organization that uses sports as a way to teach children about HIV. Oruco, who is from Nairobi, Kenya, founded Partners in Action, an organization that works to empower young people to make better, safer choices by educating them about all facets of their sexual health.  Both grantees exemplify the organization’s work in providing funding to promising young activists working to make a difference in the fight against HIV/AIDS.

Alicia, who has been a huge HIV and AIDS activist by being the co-founder and Global ambassador of Keep a Child Alive, which provides medicine, orphan care, and social support to families with HIV and AIDS in Africa and India, shared with guests while on stage that her own AIDS activism was inspired by a trip she took to South Africa on behalf of MTV Staying Alive in 2002.  

“That trip to Cape Town literally changed my life!,” she shared. “It was my first big important trip to Africa and the first time I was confronted with the scope of the AIDS pandemic, and the young faces and voices in the fight against it. I was truly and profoundly affected. It totally changed the course of my life in the most important and powerful way.”

Auctioneer Harry Santa-Olalla got the fundraising off to an energetic start, shattering the foundation’s $100,000 goal for the evening, amidst jokes and good humored-jabs.  Among the evening’s experiential opportunities up for grabs, the MTV ‘Golden Ticket’ VIP Package including tickets to both the MTV VMAs and MTV Movie & TV Awards, fetched the highest bid, selling for a cool $50,000.

The show ended with a performance by Bleachers frontman Jack Antanoff who played a four-song acoustic set that included a fan favorite track called “I Wanna Get Better”.

For more information on MTV's Staying Alive Foundation, click here.

Gay Models In Thailand Joined The "Taking It" Challenge To Raise HIV-Awareness

Two of Thailand’s gay celebrities are trying to get men to get tested for HIV.

According to HIV community network APCOM, a third of gay men in Thailand’s capital city of Bangkok are HIV-positive. On top of that, less than 50 percent of gay men across all of Asia know their HIV status.

In order to help raise awareness about HIV-testing, and just in time for World AIDS Day on December 1st, two gay celebrities are making viral videos.

Specifically, model Tu Jirat (Full name: Tudtu Jirat Watcharapornthanarat) and model/Mr. Gay World Thailand contestant Popeye (Full Name: Nathaphob Jongjitklang) have shined a spotlight on a new video challenge.

This viral video challenge called the “Taking It” campaign is set up similarly to the Ice Bucket Challenge that created awareness for ALS, or motor neuron disease, a few years back.

The two celebs have pledged to get tested before the first of December and have challenged their friends to do the same. They’ve also asked viewers to check out HIV-awareness program/site Test BKK for more information.

 

 

“Did you know that HIV testing is not that scary?” wrote Tu Jirat on his Facebook post according to GayStarNews.

Meanwhile, Popeye stated that he’s “taking care of himself” and wants others to do the same.

 

 

Despite these two celebrities shining a light on this new campaign and challenge, it’s creation wasn't their idea.

The "Taking It" campaign was created by APCOM and funded by the Elton John AIDS Foundation. These organizations hope that the message of getting tested and knowing your status will spread not only in Thailand but in other countries like the Philippines and Indonesia.

“It’s a simple message but a lot of young gay men in Asia aren’t aware of HIV or don’t go for HIV tests” said Midnight Poonkasetwattana, the Executive Director of APCOM.

So, will you “Take it” before December and join the “Taking It” campaign?

h/t: GayStarNews, APCOM

Daryll Rowe, The Man Who Spread HIV To Grindr Users, Was Officially Sentenced

The man who purposefully spread HIV has officially been sentenced to jail for life.

27-year-old Daryll Rowe has become the first man in Scotland to be found guilty of intentionally spreading HIV after meeting men on the gay dating app Grindr, says Edinburgh News.

This past Wednesday, Rowe was given a life sentence with a minimum term of 12 years by the Birghton Crown Court.

At the sentencing, Judge Christine Henson QC said that Rowe’s crimes were a “determined hateful campaign of sly violence.”

“You are the first individual to be sentenced for Section 18 offences in the context of infecting others with HIV,” she continued.

 “With the full knowledge of the risk you posed to others and the legal implications of engaging in risky sexual practices, you embarked on a deliberate campaign to infect other men with the HIV virus.”

“Unfortunately for five of the men you met, your campaign was successful.”

She didn’t stop there though, as the judge added: “They describe living with a life sentence as a result of your cruel and senseless acts.”

“Many of those men were young men in their 20s at the time they had the misfortune to meet you.”

She then closed by saying to Rowe, “You will potentially remain a danger to others for the rest of your life.”

Former hairdresser Daryll Rowe first hit our radars in September of last year when he was identified in the middle of his court battle.

Rowe had been diagnosed with HIV in April of 2015 and then started to meet men on Grindr to have sex with them. With each encounter, he insisted on having unprotected sex while claiming that he was HIV negative. If any of the men refused, he tampered with condoms.

After many of these encounters, Rowe would send taunting text messages saying things like, “I have HIV. Lol. Whoops!”

Eventually, Rowe was caught for his ongoing crimes and was put on trial. It was then that Rowe was charged with five counts of causing grievous bodily harm with intent and five counts of attempting to cause harm.

During the trial process, Rowe shared the belief that he had already been cured of HIV by drinking his own urine and taking natural remedies like oregano and coconut.

During the court hearings, the jury also heard many testimonies from the victims who all expressed great remorse and regret after meeting Daryll Rowe.

One victim shared a testimony saying, “Darryl has destroyed my life. I would rather he had murdered me than left me to live my life like this.”

That said, it was imperative to the court that the stigma around HIV not be enflamed by this case. Felicity Gerry QC noted how the virus is no longer the great danger it was in the 80s and 90s.

“This is not a terminal illness. Those who live with HIV have good and high life expectancies," she said.

Again, Daryll Rowe is now off to prison to serve at least 12 years but most likely a life sentence.

h/t: The Scotsman/Edinburgh News

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