Planned Parenthood announced a multi-phase pilot program to build and expand its comprehensive HIV prevention and education efforts. Gilead Sciences, Inc, a research-based biopharmaceutical company, awarded the $900,000 grant to support and expand efforts of HIV prevention and education, including the integration of Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) awareness, at Planned Parenthood affiliate health centers across the country over the next 18 months. It is the first significant corporate grant of its kind awarded to Planned Parenthood, and will focus critical prevention efforts in communities hardest hit by the epidemic.
The grant work will be carried out in partnership with The Black AIDS Institute, the only national HIV/AIDS think tank in the United States focused exclusively on Black people.
“Planned Parenthood is thrilled to be launching this incredibly exciting project. Although this country has made progress toward greater health care equity, disparities in HIV rates remain a serious issue for too many people and too many communities,” said Dr. Raegan McDonald-Mosley, chief medical officer at Planned Parenthood Federation of America. “Rates of new HIV cases, along with barriers to treatment and health care access, continue to more greatly impact marginalized communities. With this grant, Planned Parenthood can implement life-saving awareness and care not otherwise funded at this scale. It furthers our mission to provide all people, especially those already facing barriers to accessing quality health care, with comprehensive and cutting-edge HIV prevention methods, including PrEP”.
PrEP is the medical practice of prescribing antiretroviral medication to prevent against HIV infection.
“The Black AIDS Institute is proud to partner with Planned Parenthood to expand comprehensive HIV prevention services to Black Women”, Phill Wilson, President and CEO of the Black AIDS Institute. “Given the disproportionate impact HIV is having on Black women and the new tools we have at our disposal, this is the right thing to do at the right time.”
The majority of the grant will directly support the efforts of Planned Parenthood affiliates to develop training and resources aimed at delivering a comprehensive program of HIV prevention, including PrEP and other methods, in health centers across the country. It will also go toward the creation of patient education materials to reach populations most at-risk for HIV, as well as capacity-building sustainable learning modules across affiliates.
“Scientific innovation has greatly improved our ability to address the HIV epidemic,” said Gregg Alton, Executive Vice President, Corporate and Medical Affairs for Gilead Sciences, Inc. “Alongside that innovation, diverse programs and partnerships are helping to ensure we can reach those most in need of treatment and prevention options. Prevention strategies, including PrEP and other methods, can have a meaningful impact on public health, offering an unparalleled opportunity to avert new infections and reduce long term costs to the healthcare system.”
Planned Parenthood provides high-quality, compassionate care in health centers across the country, including nearly 700,000 HIV tests each year. Planned Parenthood health centers are uniquely positioned to deliver HIV prevention services and education to disproportionately impacted communities, including Black women, Latinas, transgender people, young adults of all backgrounds, and men who have sex with men, especially people of color.
Dr. McDonald-Mosley added, “Training and resourcing more medical providers to provide HIV and PrEP education, with a particular focus on prevention in underserved communities, is a job for which Planned Parenthood is uniquely suited. For over 100 years, we’ve been fighting to ensure that people — no matter where they live — can access accurate, nonjudgmental preventive care and education so they can keep themselves and their families healthy.”
Despite the life-saving advances in highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) for treatment and prevention, HIV remains an urgent public health crisis, especially for certain marginalized communities who face barriers to affordable, quality health care. According to a 2014 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) surveillance report, women of color, particularly Black women, are disproportionately affected by HIV, accounting for the majority of the HIV infections, women living with HIV, and HIV-related deaths among women in the U.S.
“Over 40% of people living with HIV in the U.S are Black. Nearly 50% of new HIV infections in this country are Black. and 1 in 32 black women, 1 in 16 black men, and 1 and 2 Black Gay men will be diagnosed with HIV infection in their lifetime. Yet 85% of current PrEP users are white men. What’s wrong with this picture”, says Leisha McKinley Beach, technical assistance consultant, Black AIDS Institute.
While awareness of antiretroviral medication as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) among men who have sex with men (MSM) has risen significantly, women at risk for HIV still face several challenges in getting the services and information they need, including structural and cultural barriers such as poverty, HIV stigma, and a relative lack of access to healthcare professionals trained to offer comprehensive HIV prevention, including PrEP and other methods.
As part of our mission to help people live healthy lives, Planned Parenthood works every day in communities across the country and with partners around the world so that everyone — no matter who they are or where they live — can access accurate, high-quality, compassionate sexual and reproductive health care.
Study: Only 4% Gay & Bi Men Use PrEP
Only 4 percent of gay and bisexual men in the United States reported using pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP; this according to a new study recently published in PLOS ONE. The study also revealed that bisexual and non-urban men were less likely than gay men to use PrEP; while visiting an LGBT clinic and searching for information online on LGBT sources were associated with PrEP use.
PrEP is a pill taken daily that reduces the likelihood of being infected with HIV by over 99 percent and is recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for those at high risk of HIV/AIDS. Currently, Truvada, manufactured by Gilead, is the only form of PrEP approved by the Food & Drug Administration.
The study used data from the Generations Study using a national probability sample of 470 male participants from three age cohorts: 18-25, 34-41, and 52-59. Researchers examined HIV testing and use, familiarity, and attitudes toward PrEP among HIV-negative gay and bisexual men in the U.S. Participants completed the survey between March, 2016 and March, 2017.
ACCESS, FAMILIARITY & ATTITUDES
“The extremely low rate of PrEP use, while not surprising given barriers to access in various parts of the country, is disappointing,” said Professor Phillip Hammack of the University of California Santa Cruz’s Department of Psychology. Since it was approved for PrEP six years ago, the wholesale price for Truvada in the U.S. has risen 45 percent, with the list price for a 30-day supply close to $2,000.
Despite low usage, a majority of particpants — 60 percent — reported that they were familiar with PrEP, with the middle cohort, ages 34-41, reporting the highest familiarity at 79 percent. Attitudes toward PrEP were also positive among most men — 68 percent of all participants, with the younger cohort, ages 18-25, at 76 percent.
The study also showed that most men did not meet the CDC recommndations for annual HIV testing with more than 25 percent of men in the younger cohort, ages 18-25, and 8 percent of men over 25 never having been tested for HIV.
“I worry especially about younger men who didn’t grow up with the concerns of HIV that men of older generations did,” said Hammack. “The low rate of HIV testing probably reflects a degree of complacency and cultural amnesia about AIDS.”
“Our findings suggest that health education efforts are not adequately reaching sizable groups of men at risk for HIV infection,” says principal investigator Ilan H. Meyer of the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law. “It is alarming that high-risk populations of men who are sexually active with same-sex partners are not being tested or taking advantage of treatment advances to prevent the spread of HIV.”
The study suggests that “efforts to educate gay and bisexual men about HIV risk and prevention need to be reinvigorated and expanded to include non-gay-identified and non-urban men”.
The study was supported by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) of the National Institutes of Health.
RBJ Health Center Named Leader in LGBT Healthcare Equality
The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Foundation, the educational arm of the country’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) civil rights organization, has named Austin/Travis County Health and Human Service’s Sexually Transmitted Disease (STD) Clinic at the Rebekah Baines Johnson (RBJ) Health Center as a “Leader in LGBT Healthcare Equality”. The findings were part of HRC Foundation’s Healthcare Equality Index 2016, a unique annual survey that encourages equal care for LGBT Americans by evaluating inclusive policies and practices related to LGBT patients, visitors and employees.
The RBJ Health Center earned top marks in meeting non-discrimination and training criteria that demonstrate its commitment to equitable, inclusive care for LGBT patients, and their families, who can face significant challenges in securing the quality health care and respect they deserve. “This recognition acknowledges our commitment to create an inclusive and welcoming environment for every patient, customer, client and employee,” said Shannon Jones, Director-Austin/Travis County Health and Human Services.
The RBJ Health Center is one of a select group of 496 healthcare facilities nationwide to be named Leaders in LGBT Healthcare Equality. Facilities awarded this title meet key criteria, including patient and employee non-discrimination policies that specifically mention sexual orientation and gender identity, a guarantee of equal visitation for same-sex partners and parents and LGBT health education for key staff members.
The Healthcare Equality Index 2016 offers healthcare facilities unique and powerful resources designed to help provide equal care to a long-overlooked group of patients, as well as assistance in complying with regulatory requirements and access to high-quality staff training.
For more information about the Healthcare Equality Index 2016, or to download a free copy of the report, visit www.hrc.org/hei.
Travis County Confirms First Case of Zika Virus
Editor’s note: This story has been updated with comments from a Thursday afternoon news conference by the Austin/Travis County Health and Human Services Department.
Travis County health officials on Thursday confirmed the first case of the Zika virus in the county.
A man under the age of 50 contracted the illness while traveling in Colombia, according to the Austin/Travis County Health and Human Services Department.
On Tuesday, Dallas County officials confirmed the first sexually transmitted case of the virus. It also was the first confirmed case of a person contracting the virus within the continental United States.
Researchers have warned Zika could be linked with microcephaly, a condition causing children to be born with abnormally small brains and skulls. The World Health Organization on Monday called the virus a public health emergency, and the federal government has listed more than 20 Latin American countries, including Brazil, where public health officials say there have been roughly 4,000 reported cases of microcephaly since October and to which they are urging pregnant women not to travel.
The mosquito that carries the virus is endemic to Central Texas, but mosquito activity is low during the coldest months, according to Travis County health officials.
Jeffery Taylor, senior epidemiologist at the Austin/Travis County Public Health and Human Services Department, said at a Thursday news conference that 12 other people in the area who are ill and have recently traveled are also being tested for the virus.
While the Dallas County case is the only locally transmitted Zika virus infection, Taylor said mosquito movement will be closely monitored in the coming months.
“As temperatures get warmer in spring and summer, we’ll be monitoring what happens in Mexico, and if the virus appears to be moving northward, closer to Texas, the state health department will be monitoring whether we have cases in south Texas and the Rio Grande Valley,” he said. “If the outbreak evolves and affects Texas, I expect it will be south Texas first. But it’s already affecting Texas due to travelers.”
[gdlr_icon type=”icon-camera-retro” size=”16px” color=”#999999″]TOP IMAGE: Epidemiologist Senior Jeffery Taylor of Austin/Travis Country Health and Human Services speaks to the media follwing one Zika virus case confirmation in Austin on February 4, 2016. / photo credit: Shelby Tauber
[gdlr_notification icon=”icon-external-link” type=”color-background” background=”#ffcc20″ color=”#ffffff”]This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at http://www.texastribune.org/2016/02/04/travis-county-confirms-first-case-zika-virus/[/gdlr_notification]