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Individuals with HIV Age 14 Years Faster, According to Study

A diagnosis of HIV is no longer the death sentence it used to be; we’ve come a long way. However, there is a new study that was published in PLOS One that shows that although HIV positive individuals are typically living longer, they may be aging more quickly than expected. The study shows that those with HIV are at a greater risk of age-related diseases including kidney disease, frailty, osteoporosis, neurocognitive disease and some cancers.

Researchers are not pointing to the medications used to treat HIV as being the reason for faster aging; they think it’s HIV itself and that it speeds the process by 14 years.  Scientists from the Multi-Center AIDS Cohort Study and the UCLA AIDS Institute and Center for AIDS Research looked at whether HIV induced epigenetic changes that are age-related, meaning those changes to the DNA that do not change the genetic code, lead to changes in expression of genes. These types of transitions are triggered by the aging process itself or environmental factors.

Individuals with HIV Age 14 Years Faster, According to Study

One of the study’s senior authors, Beth Jamieson, professor of medicine in the division of hematology/oncology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, director of the UCLA Flow Cytometry Core said, “While we were surprised by the number of epigenetic changes that were significantly associated with both aging and HIV-infection, we were most surprised that the data suggests HIV-infection can accelerate aging-related epigenetic changes by 13.7 to 14.7 years.”  There is published data and anecdotal evidence that lines up with this number. It suggests that treated HIV positive adults may develop age-related diseases, about a decade sooner than those who are uninfected.

The study looked at 96 samples of white blood cells from both young and old HIV patients before they began Antiretroviral Therapy (ART). DNA was then extracted and looked at for changes. When studied, there was a lot of overlap when the pattern of changes was compared to the pattern connected with aging. After extrapolating the biological ages of the HIV positive patients, researchers found that the patients were 14 years older than their actual age on both a cellular and physiological level.

Researchers say that this data suggests that HIV speeds up some aspects of the aging process, and there are common mechanisms found in both HIV-related aging and general aging. They consider the results of the study to be an important start in the attempt to find therapeutic approaches to mitigate the effects of HIV and aging.

Gay Men “Serosort” to Prevent Contracting HIV

One study in Seattle showed that approximately 40 % of men who are HIV negative make sure to only have sex with others who share their serostatus in order to attempt to prevent contracting the virus. A similar German study found that 10 percent of HIV positive gay men believe they are noninfectious if they have a viral load that is undetectable. Both studies’s results were presented at the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI) in Boston.

In Seattle, two different questionnaires that included 1902 gay men accessing an HIV/ STI clinic between February and August of 2013,  were conducted by researchers.  The first one asked questions about their recent sexual behavior.  For example, the HIV status of their partners, what role they played during sex, whether they use condoms, and other topics were brought up. The second questionnaire asked about what they did to reduce their risk of HIV.

Both questionnaires were completed by a total of 964 people, including 835 (87%) who were HIV negative and 129 (13%) who were HIV positive. Forty-two percent of HIV negative men were strict serosorters; they reported to only have sex with other HIV negative men (with or without a condom). Thirty-nine percent of these men said this was a deliberate strategy. A total of 6.5% practiced condom serosorting, which means they only  reported  having sex without a condom with other HIV negative men. 5.2% said this was deliberate. Lastly, 7.1 % were seropositioning, which means they only had condomless sex if they were the top, no matter their partner’s HIV status; 6.5% said this was a strategy.

Gay Men "Serosort" to Prevent Contracting HIV

Thirty-two percent of HIV positive men were strict serosorters, 25% of them doing this deliberately. Eleven percent engaged in condom serosorting and 10% in seropositioning.

In the German study presented at CROI, researchers asked 269 gay men who were HIV positive about whether they thought they could infect somebody if they had a viral load that was undetectable.  Ten percent of this group thought they were noninfectious, with a fully suppressed virus and they held this belief when making choices about sex.  Of these viral sorters, 57.5 %  reported condomless sex,  compared with 36% of men who were not viral sorters. Nineteen percent of the viral sorters said that recently they told someone about their status, while 22 % had not discussed HIV recently at all.  On these two counts, the respective figures for the rest of the men were 42% and 44%.

6 Major Reasons We Need to Rethink HIV Prevention

Many HIV prevention campaigns rely on appealing to our emotions, but are not taking a good look at the HIV research and information available. Read on to see why we should rethink HIV prevention.

60 Percent of young people with HIV do not know their status
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 60 percent of young individuals have no idea that they have HIV. Some men and women who are HIV negative think that it is too big of a risk to be with someone who discloses that they are HIV positive, yet they might go on to have sex with someone who believes they’re HIV negative, but hasn’t been tested to verify. Those undiagnosed carry a higher viral load than those who are aware of their status and on treatment.

91 percent of new HIV transmission happen by those who are not diagnosed or haven’t been treated
This statistic comes from a new study released by JAMA Internal Medicine. In 2009, there were more than 1.1 million people living with HIV; of these people 207,600 were undiagnosed and 519,414 knew they were HIV positive, but were not receiving medical care. In comparison to those who were undiagnosed, those who knew about their status, yet not receiving medical care were 19 percent less likely to transmit the virus.

6 Major Reasons We Need to Rethink HIV Prevention

Those who are HIV positive and receiving antiretroviral therapy (ART) who have achieved an undetectable viral load are 96 percent less likely to spread HIV
There hasn’t been a reported case of anyone living with the virus with an undetectable viral load who has transmitted the virus.

Truvada has been shown to reduce HIV transmission by 96 – 99 percent, when used daily
One new study also shows when PrEP is used as needed (a user taking Truvada 2-24 hours before sex and one pill 24 and 48 hours after) has shown to be 86 percent effective in preventing HIV. With all that’s available–TasP, PrEP and condom use, there seems to be much less of a reason to fear sex with someone with someone of opposite HIV status. Be open and honest with your partner.

Three out of 10 in the US have their virus under control
The care continuum, which is also known as the HIV treatment cascade, showed that even though 86 percent of people living with HIV were diagnosed, only 30 percent of them had  an undetectable viral load. The majority of those living with HIV know they have it, but are either too scared or unable to do what is needed to control it.

You can expect to live an additional 51 years if you’re newly diagnosed in your 20’s
That is, if you enter proper treatment. This is roughly the same number of years as a person without HIV would live. Many need only take one pill each day to manage HIV. Of course, there are mental and emotional health issues to treat as well.

What is Cisgender Privilege?

First, it’s helpful to know what the term “cisgender” means. This means that a person’s gender matches the sex they were assigned at birth and then a person’s gender matches the gender by which others perceive them. The term has been around for over 20 years and is used a lot in educational settings, particularly when discussing gender identity and expression in trans and queer communities.

Cisgender privilege shows how gender/sex alignment means being free from having to think about or address things that those who are not cisgender do quite frequently.

What is Cisgender Privilege?

The following are some examples of privileges you might have if you are cisgender:

  • You are not misgendered. People refer to you by the correct pronouns every day.
  • People do not ask you nosy questions about you are genitalia, what type of medical procedures you’ve had, and your real gender is not in question, or connected with the genitalia another assumes you have.
  • You are able to get into sex segregated facilities such as bathrooms and events that are in alignment with your gender identity without being questioned, refused, or at risk of harassment or even physical violence.
  • When you search for employment, housing, banks, go to vote or receive medical treatment, you don’t have to worry about your gender or what others perceive your gender to be.
  • In the unfortunate event that you are a victim of physical and/or sexual assault, you don’t have to fear being blamed because of your gender expression or identity and you don’t have to fear that the attacker will be allowed a reduced sentence due to what is called “trans panic defense.” Some in the law profession still believe this argument is viable and that it partially excuses violent assault or even homicide.

Cisgender privilege is incredibly wide-ranging. It’s a lot for the non-privileged person to have to deal with on a daily basis and leaves little else for them to think about. This includes those who were incorrectly sex-assigned at birth and those who make a choice to present as a different gender, as they are distinct from each other.

Don’t be mistaken, many gay, bisexual, and lesbian folks have cisgender privilege. For example, it’s very possible for a gay man to be gender-conforming. The fact he presents physically as a man means that he won’t be challenged when attempting to use male designated facilities or attend events for men. On the other hand, if a heterosexual man was sex-assigned female at birth, he may face his life being challenged or harassed for not being “man enough.”

If you recognize yourself as cisgender, perhaps you’ll understand privileges you’ve previously taken for granted and try to help those you know who are gender non-conforming or transgender.

Sexual Safety During Pregnancy Possible for Lesbians Too

Worrying about the safety of sexual activity is not something limited to heterosexual couples. Many lesbian couples worry, too.  Thankfully, there’s generally no reason to avoid intimacy when you’re expecting. However, there may be certain activities your doctor will advise you to avoid if you are considered a high-risk pregnancy.

Pregnant lesbians may find the topic of sex to be a touchy subject. During pregnancy some women experience heightened senses and an increased libido, while others lack sexual desire completely. Some have partners who are afraid of injuring the baby and, as a result, put any sexual feelings on the back burner.  It’s important to keep in mind, though, that most pregnant women want to be intimate and many want to participate in sexual activity.

Even if genital sex is not desired, there are other ways to go about creating intimacy such as massage, kissing, and touching.  The majority of types of lesbian sexual activity, including light penetration, is safe for most pregnant women. However, it’s important to stay away from certain activities such as rough S&M, deep thrusting, or fisting. Do not continue any sexual activity that triggers any discomfort. Avoiding sex toys such as vibrators, dildos and strap-ons are suggested since there’s difficulty in knowing where they’re touching exactly.

Sexual Safety During Pregnancy Possible for Lesbians Too

During pregnancy, it’s important to take time for yourselves.  Otherwise, you’ll find that you won’t naturally have that emotional energy. Take time to get together with friends and family. This is especially important if you’re a single pregnant woman, finding that you’re isolated from most of the lesbian community during this time. Perhaps you’ll even find it worth considering to give yourself a spa day.

And, if you are in a partnership, include your loved one for the spa day. You needn’t even visit a spa. Stay home, give each other massages, have a special dinner together, and even a gigantic dessert. Why not? At least once in awhile.

This is not an easy time for couples, in general, but it can still have more ups than downs. You can both keep your relationship fresh, especially when remembering that you’re going to have to take it more slowly than usual. You might have actual sex less, but find that you’ll become more intimate with your partner in ways that you never imagined.

MSM Remain Most Affected by HIV

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has confirmed through new research that gay and bisexual men are still the most affected by HIV, as the rate of infection has gone up in the past few years.

Two studies were presented by the CDC at the annual Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI). The studies dealt with HIV and its impact on men who have sex with men (MSM) and the impact on groups within the MSM community.

According to the CDC, each year MSM account for two thirds of newly diagnosed cases of HIV. Despite the fact that overall, the number of HIV diagnoses went down between 2003 and 2012, certain areas of the US saw an increase in numbers, particularly in the MSM population, between 2008 and 2012. Data analyzed by the CDC from the National HIV Surveillance System (NHSS) shows that these Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSA) are usually cities with populations over 500,000, such as New York, Washington D.C., Miami and Dallas.

The overall rate of HIV diagnoses decreased on an average of 3.7 percent, out of the 105 MSAs that were analyzed. There was a notable decrease in nearly two-thirds of MSAs. But, the HIV rate among MSM in these MSAs increased by over 10 percent, between 2003 and 2007. The rate evened out and decreased between 2008 and 2012, yet the rate was less than that of the national average. Between 2008 and 2012, HIV rates for MSM only declined 2.2 percent.

MSM Remain Most Affected by HIV

During that last four year period, MSM between 13-24 had an HIV diagnosis rate increase by 15 percent, while older generations saw unchanged rates.

A separate study looked at more than just age as a separate factor–it included an examination of the correlation between MSM, their ethnicity, and diagnosis rate. Results showed that African American men were diagnosed at a higher rate than others. There is an overwhelming disparity between both HIV infection rate and awareness between white and African American MSM.

Despite the fact that African American MSM did not report a higher rate of sex without a condom, it was shown that they were less aware of their infections and those under 40 were “significantly more likely to be HIV-positive compared to all other racial/ethnic groups”.

It’s obvious that this data from the CDC shows where HIV prevention needs to focus: younger MSM, particularly African American MSM. This is a day and age where sexual health information is incredibly accessible, especially with Internet resources available.

Condoms are the number one way to prevent HIV transmission during sex. Plus, now that Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP)/Truvada is available from many health plans, it’s important to speak with a doctor about your possibilities. It’s also vital to be tested for your status regularly. If you do test positive, you’ll want to take medication as soon as possible to make the best quality of life with HIV that is possible.

 

Common Anxieties New Intergenerational Gay Couples Experience

Intergenerational couples face anxieties related to their age differences and prejudices from the outside that can make it exceptionally difficult for their relationships to grow. By taking the obvious anxieties (sometimes they’re not apparent to either partner) and tackling them head on, differences can be deemed worthy of addressing or irreconcilable. Read on to learn of some of the top anxieties some gay intergenerational couples face.

Perception
When intergenerational couples are first beginning their relationship, they’re often concerned about the perception of others. A lot of anxieties for the couple dictate their approach to the relationship. Significant negative impacts may result from outside societal pressure.

Opportunism
Both partners in a relationship may suspect that they’re being taken advantage of in some way. For example, does the younger one in the relationship just use the older partner for their money? Or, is the older partner using the younger partner for sex, or as “arm candy”? It’s important to have this discussion with your partner before assuming opportunism is the case because it can be very hurtful if that assumption is incorrect. Of course, if it’s true, it’s a legitimate reason to call it quits.

Common Anxieties New Intergenerational Gay Couples Experience

Sexual performance
This is more often an anxiety experienced by the older partner.  As men age, their sexual function often decreases and they focus on those problems. They might have concerns with performance and how their younger partner will judge them. It’s also the case that the younger man might fear they’re not experienced enough for their older partner.

Autonomy
This is more of a problem for the younger partner in a relationship. The older partner is quite often more established financially and professionally. And, they have usually been out of the closet for a longer period of time; more secure with their sexuality. At the same time, the older partner may fear that they’re holding back their younger partner when it comes to to their development and sexual experiences.

Rejection
This happens in many relationships that are new– the fear of rejection. All of the anxieties we have feed into this fear. Is the younger man experienced or educated as much as the older man? On the other hand,  is the older man fit enough, with sufficient energy to keep up with his younger partner?  If there’s any concern, these are important questions to explore with your partner; they can be confronted and dealt with…and the relationship can flourish.

10 Topics for Lesbians to Discuss with their Doctor

The Gay and Lesbian Medical Association’s (GLMA) healthcare providers have identified the following issues as the most commonly of concern for lesbians.

Breast Cancer
Lesbians are less likely to receive screening exams, but more likely to have risks for breast cancer. This means they are at risk for not being diagnosed when the disease is most curable.

Depression/Anxiety
Due to discrimination, many lesbians may experience chronic stress, especially when they need to hide their orientation or have lost important emotional support because of it. This can cause anxiety and depression.

Heart health
Heart disease is the number one cause of death for women. Obesity and smoking are the biggest risk factors for heart disease among lesbians. It’s important for all lesbians to receive medical exams each year for cholesterol problems, high blood pressure, and diabetes. Tips can be provided about smoking cessation, weight control and increasing physical activity.

10 Topics for Lesbians to Discuss with their Doctor

Gynecological Cancer
Compared to heterosexual women, lesbians have higher risks of certain types gynecological cancers. In order to find cancers early and have the best chance for a cure, it’s important to have regular Pap tests and pelvic exams.

Fitness
According to research, lesbians are more likely to be obese or overweight. Obesity is associated with higher rates of cancers, heart disease and premature death. It is important for lesbians to have supportive and competent advice about living a healthy lifestyle, which includes exercise and diet.

Tobacco
Smoking has been associated with higher rates of heart disease, emphysema and cancers which are three major causes of death among women. Research shows that lesbians use tobacco more than heterosexual women do.

Alcohol
Heavy drinking and binge drinking are more common among lesbians compared to other women. While one drink a day may be good for the heart, more than that can raise your risk of cancer, liver disease and other health problems.

Substance Abuse
Perhaps due to stress from sexism, homophobia and/or discrimination, lesbians may use drugs more frequently than heterosexual women. They need support and help finding healthy ways to reduce stress and cope.

Intimate Partner Violence
Health care providers fail to ask lesbians about intimate partner violence as much as they ask heterosexual women. Lesbians sometimes experience domestic partner violence and need to be questioned and have access to counseling and shelters, if needed.

Sexual Health
It’s important for lesbians to be screened for STDs by a healthcare provider, just as heterosexual women would be. They can get the same infections as any other woman, are able to give each other STDs by skin-to-skin contact, vaginal fluids, mucous membrane contact and menstrual blood.

Bugchasing Becoming a Dangerous Trend

A well-known sexual act within the gay male population is, for many, a perplexing and scary idea.

It is considered extreme sexual taboo by those who engage in it.  It’s called “bug chasing”, which means one intentionally seeks to have sex with those infected with HIV (known as a “Gift giver”).  They seek to receive the “gift” of HIV.  Bug chasing is becoming more popular globally and, even though a minority seek this, the effects of it are felt by many more.

Bug chasing is associated with unprotected sex (barebacking), but extends to something much more dark.  HIV is no longer the death sentence it used to be, but it’s still not something most can come close to imagining they would want.  It would mean a lifetime of taking medications, visiting hospitals, getting blood drawn and very likely getting AIDS and dying.  Why would anyone choose this?

Bugchasing Becoming a Dangerous Trend

There are different reasons people claim to chase the “bug”.  Some say that they are self-harming and have suicidal ideations.  The most popular reason is that they are trying to avoid a lifetime of fear that revolves around possibly contracting HIV.

Even with protection, there’s still a chance to contract HIV.  To avoid this, some gay men take on the philosophy that avoiding this life of paranoia with regard to contracting HIV can be eased by “beating it to the chase”.

After all, they believe they’ll probably get it anyway, so why not have some control over the situation and not have to worry about catching it afterwards?  It’s a sad and unfortunate way to believe you must live.  After all, the majority of gay men do not abstain from sex and still live without contracting HIV. They are healthy and happy.

Other gay men who are “bug chasers” claim that they are turned on by the fact that they might become infected.  This dangerous, risk-taking chase excites them.  If one wants to get their bug-chasing needs met they can seek out a ‘conversion party’ that often involves those with and without HIV participating in unprotected sex with anyone.  The HIV status of all of the attendees are unknown, so you’d leave the party with your own status a mystery.  Internet apps are also tools that can be used to meet with people who want to chase the “bug” or give the “gift”.

It’s impossible, even after being given explanations, for many to wrap their heads around this phenomenon.   An obvious question that might arise is: Once you’ve been given the gift, do you still want it?

LGBTQ Teens Engaged in Sex Work for Survival

There’s a difference between sex work that is legal and that which is criminalized, as far as protection and health-regulation goes, but it’s all work. People are doing this work for many different reasons, very rarely because they want to. It can be incredibly dangerous.

What appears to be a study that is the first of its kind, was released by an Urban Institute report on survival sex and LGBTQ youth in NYC. The study took interviews from 300 participants between 13 and 21 years of age and was done in collaboration with the organization Streetwise and Safe. The study was conducted with participants speaking to their peers, which likely made it much more effective.

This approach seems to have been a good move, resulting in straightforward and complex responses from LGBTQ teens who have taken part in survival sex. To say they choose to do this is misleading and damaging–it’s for survival; they’ve often run out of options. The main reason LGBTQ teens turn to survival sex is homelessness. As many as 50 percent of youth who are homeless or runaway, trade sex for money to care for themselves or for shelter. Forty-eight percent of transgender people who engage in sex work report that they’re homeless.

A 2007 study of LGBTQ teens in New York showed that transgender teens were eight times more likely to have traded sex for shelter than heterosexual teens and that LGBTQ youth in general were seven times more likely. More than half of the respondents of the study said they used the money from survival sex to buy food first.

LGBTQ Teens Engaged in Sex Work for Survival

Often, LGBTQ youth are introduced to this way of survival by a friend. Meredith Dank, a senior research associate at the Urban Institute believes these are relationships and circumstances too fraught to be labeled as “good” or “bad”. These teens have little control over meeting their own needs for survival and don’t have support systems, so they turn to each other as family and protection. Dank said, “They’ll say, ‘I needed a parent and I didn’t have them.’ Peers are serving that role of support they really need.”

The community ties these teens have built make it difficult for them to leave survival sex, even when they are presented with other employment opportunities. And, almost all of the youth interviewed in the study said they wanted to be able to support themselves differently. They reported they did not want to be engaged in survival sex, not even in a year and that, “They wanted a job. This wasn’t a job to them, it was just how they were surviving.”

Dank says, “What we knew was mostly anecdotal, and now we have data to share. LGBT youth are having these experiences all over the country. Whoever is passing the laws about this, we need them to know all of this.”

The end of the report includes a list of recommendations that is intended to reach social service agencies serving LGBTQ youth beyond NYC.