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Tag: PrEP

27
Jul

Here’s What’s Up: Week of July 27th

Happy Monday! Here’s what’s up at Project HIM this week.

  • I was told that today is National Creme Brulee Day. Anyone knows who makes the best one in town?
  • Don’t forget that our testing clinic is closed this Tuesday, July 28th.
  • We updated our Appointment Scheduler to include “PrEP Consultation” as an option in the Testing Type. This is a 30 minute appointment that could include an HIV test. Also, all individual appointments are now scheduled for 30 minutes, even for “Full Screening”, which includes an HIV test, Chlamydia, Gonorrhea, and Syphilis screening.
PrEP Consultation is now an option under Testing Type on the Project HIM appointment scheduler.

PrEP Consultation is now an option under Testing Type on the Project HIM appointment scheduler.

  • Speaking of PrEP, we are updating our PrEP page (projecthim.org/prep) to provide you with the most up-to-date  information about this form of HIV prevention.
  • We are also making some updates on our one-one-one counseling program, CLEAR. This includes updated information on our website, a new brochure and marketing materials. CLEAR is open to people living with HIV, as well as the partners of people living with HIV; regardless of gender, sex, or sexual orientation. Visit the CLEAR page for more information or to sign up.

Have a great week!

Got more to add? Add your comments bellow.

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. 

 

26
Jul

Communication – Overcoming Dating Barriers

iStock_000001341102Small“I just know that if it comes out positive I’m going to be alone and lonely for the rest of my life.”

 

As I looked at the young man across from me who spoke those words as he waited for the results of his HIV test, I realized how many times I’d heard that same sentiment – both from persons waiting for their results and from clients that found out their HIV+ status some time ago.  The fear of being lonely and alone is one that most individuals can relate to.  In the search for a relationship and working on improving a relationship, there are always barriers and issues to work on and through.  HIV is just one of those barriers.  But, you know what the most important thing about barriers is?  They can be overcome.

 

In all relationships, communication and knowing your partner are the key factors in overcoming barriers.  Talking about finances, decisions with children, education choices, health choices and all sorts of other life events and factors is immensely important and should be a part of all healthy relationships.

 

As antiretroviral medicines have increased in effectiveness over the years, HIV+ individuals are living long and healthy lives.  As health increases, so does the number of healthy serodiscordant relationships.  Serodiscordant relationships are those where one partner is HIV+ and the other is HIV-.  The term serodiscordant originates from the word “seroconversion”, which is the medical term for becoming HIV positive, and the word “discordant”, which means “at odds”.  These relationships have been able to survive for years with the HIV- person maintaining that status.  Individuals remaining adherent to medication and maintaining undetectable viral loads have a much, much lower chance of transmitting the virus to a partner.  So, when you’re getting involved with a partner who has disclosed their HIV+ status, ask them about their viral load.  Ask them about their medication adherence.  Those are the keys.  Ask.  Communicate.

 

In any relationship, there are many, many things to discuss.  Specifics to discuss in a relationship are as unique as each relationship itself; however, there are some commonalities in all relationships.  We all need to discuss our emotional health in a relationship – talk about our fears of loss and grief if something happens to one of the partners.  We all need to discuss sex – what are both partners comfortable with?  How do we keep safe?  Ask. Communicate.

 

Fears of being lonely and alone are natural and experienced my most individuals; fear of being lonely and alone solely because of your HIV status?  That’s the one that shouldn’t need to exist.  All individuals deserve respect and love and to find that person that makes them happy.  People fall in love with an individual, not a health status.  HIV is just that, a health status, a barrier that can be overcome.  Know your partner, communicate with your partner; those are the keys to any relationship.

 

Related post: Sero-discordant coupling: Looking after each other in a Pos-Neg relationships.

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!

30
Apr

Shortsighted

Ryan Bergby guest contributor: Ryan Berg.
When I met Charles, I’d recently moved back to Des Moines from New York City, a stop-off, I’d intended, on my way out west. I sat in a coffee shop getting some work done when my mind began to wander. I logged on to a smart phone social networking application designed for gay men, and received a message from Charles, a college freshman.
 
We exchanged pictures, made small talk, and before long he got to the point: He was eager to meet right away. He didn’t mince words about what he wanted.
I might have been drawn to his youthful longing. Maybe I was acting out because being back in Iowa felt suffocating to my sexuality, or maybe his boldness triggered my own desire. Whatever the reason, I met with him. And not only did we have sex; we had it without a condom. I knew better. Here was a person I’d been acquainted with for less than an hour. We’d exchanged little more than first names, and yet I still found myself jumping into risky territory.
I’d broken a rule of contemporary gay life. As long as I’ve been having sex, it’s been understood: Don’t endanger your sexual health. Everyone knows it’s a death wish.
 
But Charles seemed fine with our slip, almost encouraged it. There were moments during our rendezvous where I could have interjected, impressed upon him the inherent dangers of unprotected sex; I could have shaken us both from the irrational haze of our desire. I could have grabbed a condom.
I can’t blame my lapse in judgment on drugs, alcohol, or the shame of being in the closet. I’m educated about HIV/AIDS, having worked with queer youth in New York and volunteered for both the Gay Men’s Health Crisis and Housing Works. I get tested regularly, and have been scrupulous about maintaining my HIV negative status. I know the studies; have researched articles about the resurgent HIV epidemic, climbing syphilis rates, new drug-resistant strains of Chlamydia. So why would I chance my sexual health for this brief encounter with Charles?
 
Risk is a relative notion. Perhaps I qualified my safety by being in the Midwest where the numbers of HIV infections are lower. Or, because of Charles’ age, and my assumption that he hadn’t had many sexual partners, my risk was lessened. Whatever the calculation, I felt daring enough to engage in a way contrary to my knowledge of the subject.
 
The more I talked to young men on the smart phone application, both closeted and out, the more apparent it was to me that the younger generation of men who have sex with men in Iowa– like most places across the country– were willing, and often times preferred, to engage in unprotected sex.
 
When considering risk, public health professionals tend to focus on how rational or irrational a choice is based on the information available. Rarely is it considered how emotions, our sense of self, can alter our decisions. It’s easy to isolate a situation like Charles and mine, and examine it, define it as a momentary lapse of reason. How else could such careless behavior be explained? But new studies show that nearly 50% of gay men using hook up smart phone applications engage in unprotected sex regularly. Momentary lapses are becoming habitual, repeated behaviors.
 
I grew up watching AIDS patients wasting away on television, and listening to the cries for action by activists as they faced social indifference and political neglect. Witnessing the near-death frailty of once youthful men on TV frightened a whole generation soon to come out of the closet into being meticulous about sexual safety. Later, as anti-retroviral therapies became available, and the lives of those living with AIDS were prolonged, a belief seemed to permeate queer culture. Sex, it appeared, was losing its danger. Youth have become more brazen, often times ignoring a host of complications that come with living with AIDS. One young man I spoke with recently shrugged when I asked about his habitual unsafe sexual practices. He told me it wasn’t a big deal if he tested positive, it’s no longer a death sentence.
 
People are living with the disease, true, but people are dying too. Even when you’re able to pay for the medication, a litany of problems can arise. The drugs can having serious side-effects, particularly in advanced disease; if patients miss doses, drug resistance can develop; providing anti-retroviral treatment is costly and resource-intensive, and the majority of the world’s infected individuals can’t access treatment services; individuals who fail to use anti-retrovirals properly can develop multi-drug resistant strains which can be passed onto others.
 
Results from a recent review confirm that HIV-positive adults are at a higher risk for developing cancer than the general population. In particular, people with HIV are about four times more likely to develop cancer than people without HIV and are slightly more likely to develop cancer than people who have had an organ transplant.
AIDS education has seemed to wane from public discourse and prevention instruction seems sequestered to HIV testing sites. Remember the days when red ribbons were fastened to the lapels of a host of public figures, serving as a reminder of the epidemic?
 
Luckily, we might see the reappearance of such reminders this year. Films like the Academy Award nominated How to Survive a Plague, and Jim Hubbard’s United in Anger: A History of ACT UP, are bringing AIDS awareness back into focus.
 
Young men who have sex with men need to grapple with, and face the facts these films present.
 
Youth can be perilous without support and education. As men of a generation that remembers the devastation of the AIDS epidemic, there is a need to reach out to our younger counterparts. Gay male mentors are nearly nonexistent for young men. Most men, myself included, have allowed desires to dictate interactions with younger men. As a result, many like Charles get terribly lost before coming to a healthy, integrated sense of self. Now it’s time to step up, to present ourselves, and our knowledge, in hopes of making the lives of our youth a little less lonely and a lot safer.