Positively Aware Online News Brief. Current HIV News and events
POSITIVELY AWARE 9/24/2012
HEADLINES THIS ISSUE:
National Gay Men’s HIV/AIDS Awareness Day
September 27 will be the fourth annual National Gay Men’s HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. The National Association of People with AIDS (NAPWA) is the lead organizer for this day.
Analysis Estimates Effective PrEP Dosing
According to a September 13 report in ScienceDaily, a research team, led by iPrEx study chair Robert M. Grant, MD, of the Gladstone Institute of Virology and Immunology, recently set out to determine what drug concentration in blood cells was associated with a 90% reduction in HIV infection risk, and how many Truvada doses per week would achieve that concentration.
The scientists examined data from the iPrEx study to determine the concentrations of tenofovir that were associated with different levels of protection from HIV acquisition. They focused on tenofovir because it is believed to be the most important component of Truvada for PrEP. The researchers also conducted a small study to determine the blood concentrations of tenofovir that resulted from taking a Truvada pill two, four, and seven days per week. Through their analyses, the scientists found that to achieve 90% HIV risk reduction, participants needed to take Truvada at least four days per week. The researchers also estimated that taking Truvada daily would lead to a 99% reduction in HIV infection risk.The authors caution that the findings of this study, which are relevant to MSM (the iPrEx study population), may not be applicable to other populations, such as heterosexuals. This is because the minimum protective drug concentration in the blood and the number of tablets per week required to achieve that concentration in target tissues may differ depending on the route and frequency of exposure to HIV.
HHS Guidelines Panel Weighs In on Use of Stribild
The HHS Panel on Antiretroviral Guidelines for Adults and Adolescents recommends Stribild (elvitegravir/cobicistat/tenofovir/emtricitabine) as an alternative regimen for antiretroviral treatment-naive patients. The fixed-dose combination product was recently approved by FDA. The Panel's statement on use of Stribild includes clinical trial and safety data on this single-tablet regimen.
The AIDS Institute Urges Congress and the President to Prevent Devastating Cuts
In a letter sent to Congressional leaders on September 19, The AIDS Institute outlined $538 million in automatic spending cuts to four federal programs that provide HIV/AIDS care and treatment, or which work to prevent future HIV infections. Unless Congress and the President come to an agreement on another option to deal with the deficit, these cuts will automatically occur on January 2, 2013 in a process known as sequestration agreed to by both parties and both chambers when the “Super Committee” could not come to an agreement on how to cut $1.2 trillion from the deficit.
“With 50,000 new infections each year and a record 1.1 million people living with HIV/AIDS, with only 25 percent of them with a suppressed viral load, our nation cannot afford to turn its back on addressing the domestic HIV/AIDS crisis,” wrote leaders of The AIDS Institute. “It is imperative that alternatives to sequestration be identified and agreed upon by the Congress and the President so that these drastic cuts will not automatically occur.”
Based on a calculation using FY12 spending levels: 1) funding for HIV prevention at the CDC would be cut by $64 million; 2) the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program, which provides care, treatment and support services to over half a million low-income people with HIV/AIDS would be cut by $196 million, including $77 million from the AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP); 3) AIDS research at the NIH, which benefits both domestic and global AIDS, would be cut by $251 million; and 4) the Housing Opportunities for People with AIDS (HOPWA) program would be cut by $27 million. The total of these first year cuts would be $538 million.
The cut to ADAP could translate into approximately 9,400 patients losing access to their medications, when currently, only 88 people are on waiting lists in six states.
In its letter, The AIDS Institute urged Congress “to find a balanced solution to our Nation’s fiscal situation. We understand there are serious budget concerns, but we also know that HIV/AIDS is an infectious disease that must be addressed by public health [policy] and our federal government must protect our Nation’s most vulnerable, including people living with HIV/AIDS.”
amfAR Announces Three Cure-Focused Research Grants
The Foundation for AIDS Research (amfAR) announced on September 14 the awarding of three new grants to research teams as part of the Foundation’s two-year-old amfAR Research Consortium on HIV Eradication (ARCHE).
“There was a lot of discussion at July’s International AIDS Conference about the importance of collaboration among researchers in the search for a cure for HIV/AIDS, and amfAR is proud to be one of the leading organizations funding this kind of important work,” said amfAR CEO Kevin Robert Frost. “It’s gratifying to know that the work we’re funding through ARCHE is both building on and contributing to our collective knowledge of how we might cure HIV, and that scientists working in different fields are coming up with creative ways to work together and make real progress.”
“In just two years, ARCHE has not only shaken up the AIDS research world by contributing vital findings to the field, but it has given us a deeper understanding of how and why some interventions work effectively,” said amfAR Vice President and Director of Research Dr. Rowena Johnston. “These three new projects follow up on recent findings, which will hopefully accelerate the search for a cure that can be applied widely and safely for the 34 million people who need one.”
Following up on a presentation he made at the International AIDS Conference, Dr. Timothy Henrich of Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston will use the case of the “Berlin patient”—the only person believed to have been cured of HIV infection—to examine the mechanisms involved in the patient’s treatment that contributed to eradicating HIV in his body. The Berlin patient was cured following treatment for his lymphoma, during which he received a stem-cell transplant with cells from a donor selected for the CCR5 delta32 mutation, and thus resistant to HIV infection. Two of Dr. Henrich’s HIV-positive patients, however, went through similar stem-cell treatments using a donor without the CCR5 mutation and now show no signs of HIV infection. Dr. Henrich aims to determine which elements of the Berlin patient’s treatment were critical to his cure—findings that may guide attempts at designing a cure that could be applied more widely.
Another ARCHE grant will go to Dr. Deborah Persaud of Johns Hopkins University and Dr. Katherine Luzuriaga of the University of Massachusetts, who hope to determine if it is possible to cure HIV infection with antiretroviral therapy (ART) alone in children in whom ART had been started soon after birth and continued for an average of 15 years. Following a presentation they made at an amfAR think tank in June about a group of five such children with no detectable HIV and who remain HIV-antibody negative, Drs. Persaud and Luzuriaga will use highly sophisticated tests to search for active and latent virus in their patients. amfAR has long funded research studies dedicated to eradicating HIV in children, having pioneered research that ultimately led to the use of ART to block mother-to-child transmission.
The third ARCHE study will continue to investigate the ability of disulfiram—a drug approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat alcoholism—to flush the virus out of latently HIV-infected cells. The study, conducted by third-time ARCHE grantee Dr. Steven Deeks of the University of California, San Francisco, and Dr. Julian Elliott of Monash University in Australia, will build on a smaller clinical study conducted by Dr. Deeks that suggested that the drug may reverse HIV latency in some subjects. The current study involves a larger number of subjects, more intensive and wide-ranging measurements of changes in latent HIV, and several doses of the drug.
BJS Report Cites Decline in HIV, AIDS-related Deaths in Prisons
AIDS-related deaths among all state and federal prisoners dropped from 24 deaths per 100,000 inmates in 2001 to five per 100,000 in 2010, according to a report issued September 13 by the Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS). In 2010, 72 inmates in state prisons and seven in federal prisons died from AIDS-related causes.
The rate of AIDS-related deaths among all state and federal prison inmates declined on average about 16% each year from 2001 through 2010. Among all inmates with HIV/AIDS, the AIDS-related death rate dropped on average about 13% each year, from 134 deaths per 10,000 inmates with HIV/AIDS in 2001 to 38 per 10,000 in 2010.
In 2010, the estimated rate of HIV/AIDS among state and federal prisoners dropped to 146 cases per 10,000 inmates from 194 cases per 10,000 in 2001. This was an average decline of about 3% each year, consistent with the decline across states with small, medium, and large prison inmate populations.
The number of male inmates in state or federal prisons who had HIV/AIDS declined from 19,027 at the end of 2009 to 18,337 at the end of 2010, while the number of females who had HIV/AIDS decreased from 1,853 to 1,756 over the one-year period.
The report, HIV in Prisons, 2001-2010 (NCJ 238877), related documents, and additional information about the Bureau of Justice Statistics’ statistical publications and programs can be found on the BJS website.
Activist Jack Mackenroth Launches Social Networking and Dating Site for HIV-Positive Men
“Positively Sexy Guys.” That’s the tag line that’s meant to attract a host of members to the Internet’s newest HIV-positive social networking site, Volttage.com. Its creation is meant to combat stigma and to create a database of information, support, and resources for gay men who are a part of the international HIV-positive community.
As a first-of-its kind social networking website, Volttage.com will offer gay men living with HIV a place to develop and foster friendships and relationships with other members, while also learning about HIV/AIDS, medical advances, and other relevant, up-to-date health and lifestyle information. Similar to other sites like it, Volttage.com offers the possibility for romantic encounters.
“Sex sells,” says Jack Mackenroth, who will appear on the site with other HIV-positive models. “But we are much more than a hookup site. We provide an alternative for HIV-positive men who often feel stigmatized and discriminated against on the other sites. As the site develops and grows, we will incorporate features like forums and blogs that will strengthen a sense of community and acceptance.”
Volttage.com is also different from other sites with sexual content because it does not ask members to divulge their HIV status though it is clear that the site is for HIV+ men and their supporters.
“We take the stance that everyone should assume their partner is HIV-positive and proceed accordingly,” explains Mackenroth. “Asking someone their status is rather pointless, as people may not know or even lie about it to avoid rejection. We encourage members to be out and proud but we understand that the stigma can be prohibitive so members control all of their own content. I hope that the sense of community will help members ‘come out’ about their status over time.”
With free profiles on Volttage.com, members will have the opportunity to communicate with like individuals. Volttage.com will include desktop and mobile versions of the site and use geo-location, to help members find similar individuals nearby. A staff physician, New York-based Dr. Frank Spinelli, will answer frequently asked health questions and update monthly blogs.
Terrence McNally's Corpus Christi is a retelling of the Jesus story, with Jesus as a gay man living in 1950s Corpus Christi, Texas. The show originally opened at the Manhattan Theatre Club in NYC in 1998 to intense protest and bomb threats. It was revived in 2006 and has since toured to sold-out audiences in Los Angeles, the Edinburgh Festival in Scotland, the International Dublin Gay Theatre Festival, off-Broadway at the Rattlestick Theatre and in less tolerant communities around the world.
McNally’s original intention in creating the piece was to promote inclusive love for all people. Exploring the challenging issues of civil rights, marriage equality, and separation of church and state, this production has become a vehicle of positive change for a community struggling to find its voice.
The Center on Halsted, philanthropist Michael Leppen, and the Windy City Times, will present the play, the documentary film based on the path the play has traveled, as well as a free town hall symposium on issues of religion-based bias and other issues relevant to the LGBT community on September 29 and 30.
Saturday, September 29-
Film Screening 2:00 pm, Play Performance 8:00 pm
*Free Town Hall Symposium with Special Community Leaders (TBA) 4:00pm
Sunday, September 30-
Film Screening 12:00 pm, Play Performance 2:00 pm
For more information and to purchase tickets, click here
Legislation WatchBy Sue Saltmarsh
Last week was a good week for LGBT rights. Let me just take a moment here to note the one-year anniversary of the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell on September 20.
Gay-rights advocates say that while the repeal of the law is largely settled, there are still gay rights fights being waged. There’s the House version of the defense authorization bill, which banned same-sex marriage ceremonies at military installations and a battle is also still being waged over same-sex spouses receiving military benefits.
General James Amos, the Marine commandant, was originally opposed to repealing the ban on openly gay service members. But he has since endorsed the implementation, saying last month that he was “very proud” of how well the Marines have carried out the repeal, and that he doesn’t hear about any problems with it now.
Marriage equality got two more co-sponsors in the House. H.R. 1116, the Respect for Marriage Act gained the support of Democrats Leonard Boswell of Iowa and North Carolina’s Melvin Watt.
And on September 19, Democrat Mike Bennet from Colorado introduced S. 3575, a bill to amend the Older Americans Act of 1965 to provide equal treatment of LGBT older individuals.