Gay Health

New Antibody Attacks 99% of HIV Strains

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Scientists have created a new antibody that not only recognizes and fights 99% of HIV strains, but early tests are also showing its ability to prevent infection.

This new antibody is the work of both the US National Institutes of Health and the pharmaceutical company Sanofi.

Together, the two groups have released the results of a study they’ve been conducting with the antibody.

To understand the way the antibody works you have to first understand that the real problem for treating HIV is.

HIV is ever changing. HIV’s composition can change and mutate constantly and these varying HIV “strains” makes it hard to combat the disease. If you target one strain, there will be an insurmountable amount of varying strains still standing in its place.

That said, throughout the decades there have been cases of people naturally developing what’s called “broadly neutralizing antibodies” that are able to kill several different kinds of HIV strains.

Scientists from both the US National Institutes of Health and the company Sanofi have combined samples of these anitbodies into what they call the “tri-specific antibody” and have developed it to attack three critical parts of the virus.

Scientists and researchers around the globe are celebrating the discovery and praising those involved.

Dr. Gary Nabel / Image via Nih Record

Prof Linda-Gail Bekker, the president of the International Aids Society, told the BBC News:

 "This paper reports an exciting breakthrough.”

"These super-engineered antibodies seem to go beyond the natural and could have more applications than we have imagined to date.”

"It's early days yet, and as a scientist I look forward to seeing the first trials get off the ground in 2018.”

"As a doctor in Africa, I feel the urgency to confirm these findings in humans as soon as possible."

In addition, Dr Gary Nabel, the chief scientific officer for Sanofi, also spoke to BBC about the antibody, "They are more potent and have greater breadth than any single naturally occurring antibody that's been discovered."

"We're getting 99% coverage, and getting coverage at very low concentrations of the antibody," said Dr Nabel.

The bulk of the earlier study was administered on 24 monkeys, with none of the ones who received the tri-specific antibodies getting infected with HIV, but now that that study was a success clinical studies on humans can commence sometime next year.

Hong Kong Is Easing A Strict Health Rule For Gay Men

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The current ruling on health in Hong Kong can be pretty strict on gay men. For instance, if gay men want to donate blood, they can't.

Current health policy for the Red Cross’s blood transfusion service (or BTS) in Hong Kong has potential donors fill out health forms for criteria such as recent travel, medical conditions, and so on. If a male donor stated that he had sex with another man at all he would be permanently deferred from donating.

That said, that policy will no longer be in effect as of September 25.

The Hong Kong Red Cross has announced that from now on the rule will be that men who haven’t had sex with another man in the past 12 months can donate blood.

This decision to change was made after officials in the BTS studied practices from other countries such as France, England, Australia, and the US.

For years, those countries have allowed for men who haven’t had gay sex in 12 months to donate blood without adverse effects.

Lee Cheuk Kwong via The Croucher Foundation

Dr Lee Cheuk-kwong, the chief executive and medical director of the BTS, stated that the data they studied convinced them that the risk after lowering the time to 12 months was not great.

“Previous studies showed that those men would be more honest in answering health assessment questions [after the change of policy],” said Dr. Lee. “The risk could be further reduced.”

Aids Concern, a charity group, praised the new change and said it was “a step forward,” but they also were adamant that the limit needs to be shortened even further.

This is also a great step for gay men in Hong Kong in general. A survey in June pointed Hong Kong out as one of the least gay-friendly cities for gay men to live.

Discrimination and misunderstanding is still prevalent in the region, but perhaps this will be the start to a better future.

h/t: South China Morning Post

Survey Says: 65% of Gay & Bi Men Didn't Use A Condom Last Time They Had Sex

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The Gay men’s health charity GMFA recently released the latest issue in its FS magazine, and in it they released information from a survey about barebacking in the gay community.

The way they went about the survey was to ask 523 gay and bisexual men a series of questions such as when was the last time they had sex, when they were last tested, and what risky sex means to them.

The results of the survey found that:

  • 65% of respondents said that they did not use condoms the last time they had anal sex.
  • 8% of men in that earlier percentile said they or their partner were on HIV-prevention drug PrEP.
  • 14% of the 523 men surveyed said they had bareback sex with someone who is HIV-undetectable.
  • Meanwhile, 32% of the men did not know if their sexual partner is HIV-negative before having sex.
  • 11% of men who took part said they have bareback sex and did not worry about the risk.
  • While, 27% of respondents admitted to having a “risky sex life”.

 

In response to these results, Ian Howley, the Chief Executive of GMFA said:

“The results of the survey has shown that sex is complicated and there is no one size fits all safer sex strategy.

“First we need to define what is risky sex in this day and age.”

“Safer sex in 2017 is more complicated that it was twenty years ago when your only options were condoms or abstinence as a way to protect yourself from HIV and STIs.

“The advancement of treatment, the fact that gay men who are on HIV treatment and have an undetectable viral load so can’t pass on HIV, added to the increased number of gay men who are taking PrEP, means that gone are the days when sexual health education was just about telling people to use condoms.

“We now must do more to increase gay men’s knowledge about all the options open to them.”

“Of course condoms still play an important role in preventing other STIs and should still be a major part of a safer sex strategy, however, it’s not a one size fits all approach any more.

“We need to meet gay men where they are in their lives.

“We need to keep on pushing the message that there is more than one safer sex strategy.

“We need to increase people’s knowledge about PEP, PrEP and what HIV-undetectable actually means in the real world.”