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This website and accompanying blogs may contain content only suitable for adults.

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Category: Physical Health

4
Aug

What’s The First Thing I Need To Know Before Starting PrEP?

You should know your status!

Before starting PrEP

You must be HIV-1 negative and stay HIV-1 negative before starting a PrEP. That is why you must:

  • Get tested to be sure you are HIV-1 negative. It is important that you also get tested at least every 3 months as recommended by your healthcare provider while on PrEP.
  • Not be on PrEP to reduce the risk of getting HIV unless you are confirmed to be HIV-1 negative.
  • Have no symptoms like feeling weak or tired, fever, sweating a lot (especially at night), rash, vomiting, diarrhea, joint or muscle aches, headache, sore throat, or enlarged lymph nodes in your neck or groin.
  • Be prepared to commit to adopting safer sex practices, such as correct use of condoms, limiting your sexual partners, knowing the HIV status of your sexual partners, and regular testing for HIV-1 (at least every 3 months) and other sexually transmitted infections, such as syphilis and gonorrhea.
  • make sure you understand the risks and benefits of taking a PrEP indication, such as Truvada, and you have spoken with your healthcare provider about questions and concerns.

Related posts: (Re) Introducing PrEP

Source: Important Safety Information About TRUVADA for a Pre-exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) Indication For Uninfected Individuals (Gilead Health Sciences, Inc.)
28
Jul

(Re) Introducing PrEP

By now, you should have heard of PrEP (Pre Exposure Prophylaxis). It’s the drug that significantly reduces someone’s risk of HIV. But like most people, you probably have a lot of questions about it.

 

Back when we had the “Ask Our Experts” section, Dr. Joe responded to a general inquiry about the drug. See “Ask Our Expert: A Pill To Prevent Getting HIV?” At the time, there were still a lot of debate surrounding it, some ethical, some practical. There are more information about the drug available today.

 

A few weeks ago,  the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved a drug treatment that will help in the preventing HIV infection in uninfected people. We recently spoke to a representative from Gilead Science Inc., maker of Truvada, to fill us in on what we need to know about PrEP, including how effective it is and how it should be used.

 

Who should be on PrEP?

Truvada, which is the name of the drug, is approved for healthy, uninfected people who are at high risk of contracting HIV through sex. These include sex workers and people with partners who are HIV-positive or engage in high-risk behaviors. What are high risk-behaviors?

 

 

HIV-Risk-Spectrum-Infographics

See if PrEP is right for you! Take the PrEP Quiz here!

 

How effective is the drug in preventing HIV?

In one study, healthy gay and bisexual men who took Truvada daily and were counseled about safe sex practices lowered their risk of becoming infected by up to 42%. In another study involving heterosexual couples in which one partner was HIV-positive, the uninfected partner had a 75% lower risk of contracting HIV if they took Truvada.

 

Does Truvada cure AIDS?


No. The drug can treat people who are infected with HIV by lowering the amount of virus in their bodies and slowing down the progression of the disease. In healthy, uninfected people, the drug can thwart HIV’s ability to take hold in healthy cells and start an infection, by blocking the activity of an enzyme that the virus needs to replicate.

 

Here’s how I see it: Much like your car has seat belts, air bags, anti-lock breaks, etc.- that all together reduces your fatality risk from car accidents. PrEP is an additional tool, along with routine testing, using condoms, conversations with your partner(s) etc., in preventing HIV infection. 

 

 

More Questions?

PrEP Questions

We are working on putting together a guide to PrEP, similar to our Gay Man’s Guide To HIV & STD Testing.  Be sure to check back within the next few weeks.

 

In the meantime, if you have any questions about PrEP, including referrals to providers and drug assistance programs, feel free to contact us, or ask about it during your routine HIV & STD screening.

 

Schedule your appointment online. Use our test scheduler on our website. 

 

11
Nov

Fact Sheet: Undetectable Viral Load

By Emily Claymore, San Francisco AIDS Foundation (as posted on BETABlog.org)

 

The term “undetectable viral load” pops up everywhere from lab reports and medical journals to social media and dating apps.

 

Here are some key terms and concepts to help HIV-positive and HIV-negative folks understand and explore what “undetectable” means.

 

Key Terms

  • HIV. HIV is the virus that causes AIDS. HIV hijacks cells in your immune system and uses them to replicate (make more copies of itself), destroying those cells in the process.
  • Viral load. Viral load refers to how many copies of HIV are present in a milliliter sample of blood. Viral load testing is a way to estimate how much HIV is in the blood. It is used to monitor immune function and see how well HIV treatment is working.
  • Antiretroviral therapy (ART). ART involves taking medications to keep the virus from replicating in an HIV-positive person’s cells. These drugs thereby decrease viral load.
  • Undetectable viral load. When copies of HIV cannot be detected by standard viral load tests, an HIV-positive person is said to have an “undetectable viral load.” For most tests used clinically today, this means fewer than 50 copies of HIV per milliliter of blood (<50 copies/mL). Reaching an undetectable viral load is a key goal of ART.
  • PrEP. Short for “pre-exposure prophylaxis,” PrEP is an HIV prevention strategy in which HIV-negative people take an oral pill once a day to reduce their risk of HIV infection.

Being Undetectable: Good News

  • You can live a healthier and longer life. Using ART to reach an undetectable viral load means that there is less HIV in your body. Less HIV means less damage to your immune system, allowing you to stay healthier and live longer.
  • You can reduce HIV transmission risk. Studies have shown that HIV-positive people who use ART can reduce the likelihood of transmitting the virus to their HIV-negative partners by as much as 9296%. More people on effective treatment and with their virus in check means more HIV infections are prevented—an approach called “treatment as prevention.”

A Few Words of Caution

  • “Undetectable” does not mean “cured.” An undetectable viral load means that so few copies of the virus are present in the blood that today’s monitoring tests are unable to detect them. Even with an undetectable viral load, however, an HIV-positive person still has the virus.
  • It’s not impossible to transmit HIV. Your viral load can fluctuate between monitoring tests. This can happen for no known reason, or when you have a sexually transmitted infection like chlamydia or gonorrhea, or when ART doses are missed. During these viral load “blips,” the chance of transmitting the virus may be higher. Also, viral load tests only monitor the amount of HIV in the blood, not in semen or vaginal fluid. We do not yet know how much virus needs to be present in body fluids for transmission to be possible.
  • Findings are largely from heterosexual couples. The studies that established ART treatment as effective at reducing HIV transmission by 9296% focused almost exclusively on heterosexual couples. More research is needed to assess whether suppressed viral load has identical benefits for gay and bisexual men and people who inject drugs.
  • New HIV infections continue to increase among gay and bisexual men. Despite the availability of ART and high levels of viral suppression, HIV incidence (the rate of new infections) is rising among gay and bisexual men, for reasons that researchers are investigating.
  • While suppressing the virus to undetectable levels has clear benefits for both HIV-positive and HIV-negative people, treatment as prevention is just one strategy for preventing new HIV infections. Other essential tools for HIV prevention include condoms and lube, sterile syringes for people who inject drugs or hormones, PrEP for HIV-negative individuals, regular HIV testing, self-education about HIV and sexual health, and open communication with sex partners.
31
Aug

Possible Exposure to HIV?

Do you believe you’ve been exposed to HIV within the last 36 hours?  Click the link below to find out more about PEP, or post-exposure prophylaxis.   Mistakes happen and it’s important to know your options!  While the site lists resources in the NYC area, emergency rooms and health providers here in central Iowa can offer PEP, too.    Also, get your PEP questions answered by Dr. Joe, Project HIM’s medical expert.  Go to our “contact” page to send a message.

Pep 411

14
Jan

Sero-discordant Coupling: Looking after each other in Pos-Neg relationships

A Serodiscordant (sero-discordant) or magnetic relationship is one in which one partner is HIV positive and the other is HIV negative. This contrasts with seroconcordant relationships in which both partners are of the same HIV status (i.e. both are HIV positive or both are HIV negative).

 

Serodiscordant couples face numerous issues not faced by seroconcordant couples, including facing a decision as to what level of sexual activity is comfortable for them, knowing that practicing safer sex reduces but does not eliminate the risk of transmission to the HIV negative partner. There are also potential psychological issues arising out of taking care of a sick partner, and survivor guilt. Financial strains may also be more accentuated as one partner becomes ill and potentially less able or unable to work.

 

Research involving serodiscordant couples has offered insights into how the virus is passed and how individuals who are HIV positive may be able to reduce the risk of passing the virus to their partner.

Here are some of the most recent information and resources regarding sero-discordant coupling.

 

SeroDisco2

 

Is safe sex for gay men in serodiscordant relationships more than just condoms? (pdf)

 

There are no stupid questions say, Nurse Pam (pdf)

6
Sep

Putting The At Home HIV Test Kit To The Test

There has been a lot of talk about at-home testing lately. In fact, a few people who have been newly diagnosed as HIV positive have found out their initial result through an in-home test. Now, I have been tested several times, both for personal reasons and also because I seem to be the guinea pig whenever we have someone new who is learning the procedure, but I have never taken the at-home variety. I figured I would see what all the fuss is about and see how the process went.

 

Come along with me… won’t you?

Come along with me… won’t you?

First off, there are a couple different ways of acquiring the test. You can go into a pharmacy and request one (they are usually behind the counter) or buy one on the internet. The price is pretty comparable, so it’s really about preference or accessibility. Not everyone is going to have the ability to waltz into a gay-friendly pharmacy and feel empowered enough to purchase one.  Unfortunately, the Wal-Mart pharmacy in BFE rural Iowa miiiiiight not carry them. And even if they do, a lot of people in those communities might not be comfortable asking for one.

 

visit: www.oraquick.com for more information

visit: www.oraquick.com for more information

 

For purposes of this article, I went ahead and ordered a test online. It came in a discreet package and arrived within a couple days. I settled in and got to business. The plastic case it came in was very official and the instructions were pretty user-friendly. Granted, I test people for HIV as part of my job, but even if I had never done it before I feel that I would have been just fine. Luckily, it was an oral swab test (if you couldn’t already tell by the product name, OraQuick) so that user error is reduced. At the office, we poke people’s fingers and take a small drop of blood for our antibody test. That works great in a clinic setting, but I can’t imagine that the average person would be too thrilled to puncture their own finger. I mean, I would probably pass out if I had to.

Warning!

 The oral swab means it’s sanitary, safe, easy, and the lack of blood means that the risk of HIV-infected fluid isn’t present. And like I said, the instructions were easy to understand. But even though I “knew” my status going into this process (I had been tested very recently) it’s still a nerve-racking experience. As anyone who has gone to a doctor or clinic or AIDS organization for testing knows, even when you think you “know” it makes you sweat a little. So, being by myself during this process was a little intense. What if I messed up? What if I’m positive?

 

Instructions on how to read your test results.

The OraQuick company gives detailed instructions on what to do if your result is reactive, but how would it feel if you found out you were positive while you were home alone in your bathroom like me?

OraQuick provides a toll-free support hotline if you are to test positive.

I know I’m a little biased, but I think if I tested positive I would want someone with me. Someone who could explain the process and next steps to me. Someone who could hold my hand or give me a hug or be there if I needed anything. And while having access to an in-home test is beneficial for those who don’t have access to testing resources, face stigma in their community, or don’t have open-minded doctors, I feel that when given the option, I would rather get a test with a real human being. I know a lot of you have used in-home tests before and it might work well with your lifestyle and schedule. So share your thoughts and experiences, would you?

 

To schedule a free and confidential HIV and STD test, visit our “Get Tested” page on our website. 

28
Feb

Sex without condoms? You can still reduce your risk!

Condoms are a highly effective way to avoid HIV infection and are the best protection from STDs.
If your condom use is inconsistent or nonexistent, here are some tips to reduce your risk of getting HIV:

Know your status – Get tested regularly for HIV and STDs—even if you don’t have symptoms because most STDs don’t have any symptoms.

Guys with STDs are 5 times more likely to get HIV. (BTW rates of syphilis have increased over 400% in Polk County from 2011 to 2012!)

If you have unprotected sex partners and don’t know their HIV status or they’re HIV-positive*, get tested more frequently than once a year. Click here to assess how often you should test.

Project HIM offers FREE HIV testing, as well as Chlamydia & Gonorrhea screenings. We also provide referral services for other STD screenings, such as Syphilis. Go to our Free Testing page to schedule an appointment.

Discuss HIV status: yours and your partners’ – We understand that having THAT conversation isn’t fun. But it’s important! Some guys have found that telling their status empowers others to do the same. However you choose to do it, discuss your status with partners BEFORE things get too hot & heavy!

Remember, you’re not at risk for HIV if you and your partner(s) are all HIV-negative or if you and your partner(s) are all HIV-positive.

Bottoming puts you at greater risk for HIV than topping – The membrane inside your anus is sensitive and easily torn (the tears may be microscopic). During anal sex, it’s easier for HIV and other STDs (if present) to be transmitted because of this. If you are the bottom, take precautions to keep yourself safer.

See the tips below and check out BarebackHealth.Net  And if you’re taking loads, it increases your risk for HIV. If you are the bottom and your partner ejaculates inside you, it puts you at more of a risk if you don’t know their status or they’re HIV-positive*.

By not taking loads or taking precautions if you do (see next tip), it will help to decrease the risk of getting a HIV/STDs.

Medications such as PrEP and PEP can reduce risk for HIV. – PrEP is a single pill called Truvada taken once daily before potential exposure to HIV in order to prevent HIV infection in people who are at high risk of getting HIV.

Read this previous Ask Our Experts entry.

Check out these resources to learn more —and consider talking to your health care provider to see if this is an option for you.

Love May Have Another Protector

My Life on PreP – Positive Frontiers 

My PreP Experience

Is Taking PrEP the Right Choice for You?

PEP (or Post-exposure Prophylaxis) taking anti-HIV drugs as soon as possible after potential exposure to HIV in order to reduce the chance of becoming HIV-positive. It consists of taking antiretroviral medications (HIV meds) for 28 days.

To be effective, it must be started within 72 hours of potential exposure to HIV. Click here or check out PEP411.com for more information about PEP.

*Along with PreP and PEP, there is Treatment as Prevention.

HIV-positive partners can greatly reduce their risk of passing on HIV to their sexual partners by regularly taking HIV medication.

Learn more here: HIV Treatment As Prevention or Positive Frontiers.

31
Aug

A Pill To Prevent Getting HIV?

I’ve heard about a pill you can take to keep from getting HIV. How do I get a prescription like that?

Good, you heard about TRUVADA, the pill recently recommended for daily use to prevent HIV infection. This pill is a combination of the two HIV drugs emtricitabine and tenofovir and the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) is now considering its final approval for prevention of HIV in those at high risk for getting HIV. Two recent studies showed the risk of getting HIV was cut 42% in healthy gay and bisexual men who also had counseling and used condoms and another study showed that the rate of HIV in heterosexual couples where one was HIV positive was cut by 75%. These studies showed that DAILY use of the drug was very important as those taking the drug less regularly had higher rates of infection.

So is it as simple as taking a pill a day? Not really.

There has been a lot of debate, like will it actually increase the rates of HIV because people may take more risks? Who’s going to pay for it? Will money spent on this take money away from treating those with HIV? How do we get people to take it daily? How do we convince people to keep using condoms? What about women who don’t seem to have as good a response to this medicine? What about side effects from the medication and drug interactions?

In spite of all the controversy, TRUVADA is a new and possibly very important tool to fight HIV, which can be added onto what you are already doing (condoms, safer sex activities), but remember it does NOT prevent HIV 100% of the time, it can be very expensive ($900.00 a month), may not be covered by insurance and needs to be taken daily.

If you are at risk for getting HIV, it is important for you to talk this over with your doctor or other health care provider, as only the two of you can decide if this is the right thing for you. Do it soon!

31
Aug

I’m In a Relationship: We Don’t Use Condoms!

Many of us have accepted condoms as part of our sex life when we’re having casual sex outside of relationships, but it’s not unusual for guys who usually use condoms to stop using them when they get serious in a relationship.

 

Whether the relationship is monogamous or not, some guys feel that they’re willing to accept the risk of not using condoms with the person they’re in a relationship with, especially if they have an agreement about what kind of sex happens outside of the relationship. This is sometimes called ‘negotiated safety’.
When you agree to give up condoms, you’re also giving up some control over managing your own risk. That requires having a lot of trust in your partner.

 

Here are some things to keep in mind if you’re considering negotiated safety.

  • Talk about it first. A decision to drop condom use in your relationship requires open and honest talk about what kind of relationship each partner truly wants, and discussion about each other’s HIV status, now and in the future.
  • Condomless sex is not an expectation in any relationship, regardless of length, seriousness or commitment. Don’t feel pressured into giving up condoms if you don’t want to.
  • Don’t feel pressured into a type of relationship you don’t want either. Don’t pressure your partner into a relationship he doesn’t want, whether it’s monogamous or non-monogamous. Be aware what an abusive relationship looks like, and that most people in abusive relationships deny it. Click Here for more information.
  • Make your agreement with your partner clear and practical in terms of what kind of sex is allowed and with whom, and what consequences there will be that are realistic for both partners.
  • Get tested for HIV and other STIs. Be sure you’re making this decision based on the most up-to-date information. Keep getting tested on a regular basis.
  • Know all the risks. Maybe your agreement includes condom use with others only when you’re fucking. That reduces your risk for HIV, but you’re still at risk for other STIs that can be transmitted through oral sex.
  • Be prepared to start using condoms again. You might break your agreement with your partner. You might do something risky. You might have sex with others even though you agreed not to. In this situation, you’ll need to find a way to tell him so you can both re-negotiate your safety. So talk to your partner about what you’ll do if either one of you slips up, or suspects that he has an STI.
  • Breaking an agreement doesn’t mean the relationship is over. Be willing to extend the same understanding to your partner that you would expect extended to yourself. If your partner tells you that he has broken your agreement, it could be because he cares about you and doesn’t want to put you at risk.
  • You might not know what your partner is actually doing. Sometimes we make assumptions that our partners are monogamous or non-monogamous. Sometimes we break agreements. Sometimes he won’t tell you. Are you willing to accept the risk?

Gay and bi guys have pioneered new ways of thinking about sexual and romantic relationships. Whether a guy wants to be monogamous or non-monogamous, neither is a reflection of his commitment to his relationship. Some guys find it difficult to sustain monogamous relationships over the long-term, so opening up the relationship to other sexual partners can be a way for them to preserve the relationship.

 

Source:  The Sex You Want

8
Feb

Pride Yoga

Namaste!

Pride Yoga

 

Stretch your body, mind, and spirit in an accepting, judgment-free environment. Through our partnership with Glaza Studio, we are pleased to offer Pride Yoga. 

This class will incorporate yoga-inspired stretching and peace of mind through breath-work and intentions of gratitude and acceptance of oneself. Each class will begin with intentions and relaxing breath-work. We will continue with intentions as we stretch the body and work to gain strength and flexibility. This class is suitable for all skill levels-including beginners.

Wear comfortable clothing and be prepared to open your heart. 

Sundays, starting March 10th. 12pm – 1pm

Glaza Studio, 502 E. Locust

$5 Drop-in or $35 for an 8-week pass.

Click here to download the registration form.

Project HIM assumes no liability, claims, demands, actions and causes of action whatsoever arising out of or related to any loss, damage, or injury, including death, sustained while participating in this class.