CDC Announces Gonorrhea Diagnoses Have Doubled Since 2013

At the National STD Prevention Conference in Washington yesterday, the Center for Disease Control released preliminary figures showing, for the fourth straight year, sexually transmitted diseases are on the rise.

In fact, 2017 saw a record 2.3 million cases of STDs in the United States.

The CDC described the increase as “steep” and “sustained” between 2013 and 2017.

At the top of the list was Chlamydia, accounting for a whopping 1.7 million diagnoses.

Additionally, Gonorrhea has jumped 67% and syphilis increased 76% in the four year time period. The CDC notes that 70% of those cases are among gay/bisexual men.

Guys - are you paying attention?

Dr. Jonathan Mermin, director of the CDC’s national STD agency, warned “We are sliding backward.”

“It is evident the systems that identify, treat, and ultimately prevent STDs are strained to near-breaking point,” he added.

Of great concern is gonorrhea’s increasing resistance to antibiotics.

For years, folks have felt that solving a gonorrhea infection could be as simple as a quick treatment with antibiotics. But medical experts say gonorrhea is becoming resistant to even the last remaining antibiotic used to treat the disease, ceftriaxone.

“We expect gonorrhea will eventually wear down our last highly effective antibiotic, and additional treatment options are urgently needed,’ said Dr Gail Bolan, director of CDC’s Division of STD Prevention.

David Harvey, executive director of the National Coalition of STD Directors, blames the steep rise in STDs on cutbacks in federal resources describing the STD prevention engine as “running on fumes.”

Some folks look to a rise in the use of PrEP (Pre-exposure Prophylaxis) as partly to blame for the increase in STD diagnoses.

A recent analysis of studies shows that while men on PrEP definitely see drop in HIV studies, chlamydia and syphilis increased by nearly 25% in first six months on PrEP.

But back in June, Matthew Hodson of Gay Star News opined that PrEP alone isn’t to blame. He named check dating apps, increases in chemsex, and even changing social attitudes towards sex.

What do you think is causing the steep rise in STDs, readers?

Less condoms? More PrEP? Perhaps dating apps? Or recreational drugs?

Sound off in the comments.

Reminder - the CDC recommends all sexually active gay and bisexual men to check in with their doctors regarding sexual health at least once a year. And get tested for STDs every 3-6 months if you’re playing with multiple partners.

(h/t Bloomberg.com)

Insurance Companies Are Rejecting Gay Men Because They're Using Truvada

American gay men are being denied certain types of insurance because they are taking PrEP.

The New York Times reports that a Boston urologist, who’s gay and was taking Truvada, was rejected for lifetime disability insurance. This urologist then applied with a different company and was accepted… after he stopped taking Truvada.

This seems to be a growing problem in the world of insurance as several American gay men have reported being denied life, disability, or long-term care insurance because of their drug regimen.

It seems that many insurance companies have a bias against pre-exposure prophylaxis or PrEP, which is used to prevent acquiring HIV.

Scott Schoettes, the HIV Project Director for Lambda Legal in Chicago, spoke to CNBC, and said this problem has been around for a few years now. When PrEP became more widely used in the U.S., insurance companies became wary of it.

“It popped for them because if someone is taking Truvada, they were taking it because it is used for HIV-positive status,” Schoettes said.

While PrEP is a drug available to everyone engaged in sex, and was even recently approved for use by teens, its gay men who are being singled out by insurance companies.

While several states have laws banning health insurance discrimination based on sexual orientation, the vast difference in policy between insurance companies makes it hard to call out all companies on this act.

That said, New York and California are both investigating the situation. California’s insurance commissioner, Dave Jones, said in a statement that these denials could count as illegal discrimination under California law.

As for what victims of these policies can do, Schoettes says they should contact organizations like GLBTQ Legal Advocates and Defenders (GLAD) or Lambda Legal in order to come up with a defensive strategy.

After all, “It’s a serious anti-public-health problem,” says Schoettes.

“People should step forward and raise their voices,” Schoettes said. “The insurers think they are getting at some kind of risk factor that they should be able to take into account, but they are not. They are punishing people who are actually reducing their risk.”

h/t: CNBC

New Campaign Wants Men To "Lose The Shame" When It Comes To Sex

Check out this sexy new PSA from medsEXPERT Pharmacy based in Toronto, Canada.

Featuring a handsome young urbanite named “Bradley,” the short vid follows his adventures before and after picking up his prescription for PrEP.

Taken on a regular basis, PrEP (Pre-exposure prophylaxis), also marketed as under medication name Truvada, can reduce the risk of HIV infection by over 90%.

It certainly seems to set Bradley free.

Produced by Bulldog Productions and featuring Sofi Tukker’s “Awoo,” busy-boy Bradley’s social calendar gets turbo-charged once he's in the PrEP swing of things.

“There is still a lot of stigma out there around the sex gay men have, it’s not always easy to find friendly or knowledgeable doctors and healthcare providers for LGBTQ+ folks,” Micheal Fanous, the owner and pharmacist at medsEXPERT told INMagazine. “Through this campaign, medsEXPERT wants to acknowledge the sex that men have and for all of us to be proud of who we are.”

The video ends with this message: “Don’t hate the player or the game itself. Take pride in your health!" 

Oh - "And never apologize for who you are.”

For more info about PrEP, click over to the CDC's site. Watch the sexy video below.

FDA Approves PrEP For Teens

In 2012, HIV medication Truvada was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use by adults as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) against HIV.

The results have been excellent to say the least as studies show the use of PrEP reduces the chances of HIV exposure by over 90%.

Now, the FDA has expanded the approval of Truvada as PrEP to include adolescents. The new approval will now include teens at risk for HIV who weigh at least 77 pounds.

The decision was based on the ATN113 study, which enrolled 78 high-risk adolescents ages 15 to 17.

Over the course of 48 weeks, the participants checked in on a monthly basis for the first three months, and then moved to clinic visits every three months. 

Adherence to taking the drug on a daily basis was fairly high during the first three months. But once the study moved to checking in only every three months, researchers found the teens were more likely to skip a dose. 

That drop off in adherence led to the conclusion that teens may need monthly monitoring in order to achieve the best results on PrEP.

The side effects reported among the adolescents were similar to those observed in adults on Truvada, the most common being weight loss, headaches and abdominal pains.

In a press release from Gilead Sciences, which manufactures Truvada, Sybil Hosek, PhD, clinical psychologist at the Cook County Health and Hospital System’s Stroger Hospital in Chicago and lead investigator of the study wrote, “Study ATN113 has demonstrated that Truvada for PrEP is a well-tolerated prevention option for adolescents who are vulnerable to HIV.”

“In addition to traditional risk-reduction strategies, health care providers and community advocates are now equipped with another tool to help address the incidence of HIV in younger at-risk populations,” she added.

(h/t Poz)

PrEP Is Great But There's Something You Should Know

Pretty much everyone can agree in this day and age that the use of Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) is a good thing. 

Studies show that when taken daily PrEP can reduce the risk of HIV infection by 92 percent.

But - yes, there’s a but - PrEP doesn’t take the place of a condom when it comes to being protected from sexually transmitted diseases like Syphilis.

And there’s not much less sexy than syphilis. Symptoms can include a sore on your mouth, rectum or genitals, fatigue, itching, rash and more. And that’s the early stages. Late stage syphilis can lead to serious health issues like blindness, brain damage and harm to organs.

The disease is transmitted through semen, blood, and skin contact with open sores, unprotected anal and vaginal sex, or sharing needles.

This may be information you've seen before. But, according to NBC affiliate KMIR, there is currently a syphilis outbreak among gay men underway in Palm Springs, California. 

The rate of syphilis in Palm Springs is 185 cases per 100,000 people, which is more than 10 times the rate in California overall.

Marcella Herrera-Carpenter, the program coordinator for the Riverside University Health System, told KMIR the county is still sourcing the reason behind the outbreak, but they do know that men who practice sex with men make-up most of the cases. 

And we know there’s a large gay population in Palm Springs.

Dr. Christopher Foltz who works with the Desert AIDS Project says that men who are using PrEP should be doing it in conjunction with condoms.

He also stressed that men who feel they may be at risk should not be afraid to ask their doctors about syphilis and get tested for it.

One more thing you should know: IF you test positive for syphilis your local health department will have to be notified by law. And the health officials there will have to contact you for an interview to confirm that you got treatment for the infection and to ask who you believe may have passed the infection on to you.

I live in Las Vegas and this has happened to a friend of mine. When he got the call, he decided he was a little embarrassed and didn’t want to talk to a stranger about it. After several follow-up calls, the health official showed up at his door asking for the short interview. 

Now this is all an effort to contain the spread of syphilis, but it doesn’t sound like a fun chat to have.

So gentlemen, first and foremost, for very real health reasons, consider how you play - even if you’re on PrEP.

And, if you don’t want a knock on your door asking some pretty personal questions (“Do you know who exposed you to the infection? What is their name? What is their phone number?"), consider how you play - even if you’re on PrEP.

Are there more risks to PrEP we don't know about?

A man in King County, Washington has been diagnosed HIV after having been on PrEP (Truvada) for months prior to his positive test. An extremely rare case in individuals who take Truvada for prevention, the drug has proven to be resistant to the infection.

PrEP can lower risk of HIV transmission by 90%, if taken properly—although this is skewed with numbers as low as 86% and as high as 99%. Needless to say, like many drugs, it is not 100% effective.

According to Outbreak News Today, Matthew Golden, MD, who is Director of Public Health’s STD/HIV program said the patient likely became HIV infected while taking PrEP.

This is the fourth incident in which patients on PrEP have been diagnosed with HIV.

While it was reported that approximately 136,000 Americans were taking Truvada as of 2017, this number falls short of the CDC’s recommendation for 1.2 million gay and bisexual men (1 out of 4) to be on PrEP.

PrEP Use Is On The Rise In the US... Except For One State

PrEP is becoming more and more accessible here in the United States of America, but one state is lagging behind the rest.

An expansion of ADISVu, an interactive map that tracks HIV prevalence, new diagnoses, and mortality, has revealed that the state of Georgia is getting left behind by the rest of America.

New data was released on ADISVu and shows a 880 percent increase in PrEP since 2012 with 73 percent increasing each year.

Patrick Sullivan, the head scientist for AIDSVu and a professor at Emory University, commented on the numbers by saying they’re impressive.

"This is so important because PrEP really is a key part in prevention campaigns. For the first time, there are numbers available state by state to give us a sense of how things are going with PrEP across the country," Sullivan added.

Unfortunately, however, Georgia is not doing as well as the rest of the country.

Georgia is ranked fifth in the list of US states with the highest number new of HIV diagnoses.

"Georgia routinely ranks in the top of new HIV diagnoses. Certainly, we'd like to see Georgia have one of the highest rates of PrEP uptake given that it has one of the highest numbers of new diagnoses. There is a lot of opportunity for an increase in PrEP use given Georgia's epidemic," Sullivan said.

On top of that, Georgia is not alone. Most Southern states have the highest number of new HIV diagnoses and the lowest proportional use of PrEP.

Because of that, researchers like Sullivan and some politicians are working to find a solution.

In January, Representative Park Cannon, one of the four openly gay lawmakers in Georgia’s House of Reps, introduced House Bill 755. If passed, that bill would create medical services and PrEP accessibility for people at high risk of HIV contraction. Unfortunately, the bill has stalled on the House floor.

That said, Sullivan appreciates the effort.

"When health departments are engaged in those states, when they have health department web pages talk about their programs for PrEP, those are areas we look to. Those are certainly state that are above the averages in their regions – for sure," Sullivan said.