Michigan's LGBT Newspaper, AIDS Service Organizations Launch New HIV Prevention and Testing Site
New Site, PrEP4ITNow.com, Features Videos of Michigan Residents Who Have Taken the HIV Test, a Call to Join the New "rEVOLUTION" Against HIV, and Detailed Information About New Discoveries Related to HIV Prevention
June 23, 2014
Drawing on a body of scientific literature which has assessed many of the prevention options available to the public -- from chemoprophylaxis to behavior interventions to condoms -- the site draws a direct connection between the necessity of HIV antibody testing and the fight against HIV. It is the first Michigan based website to outline how recent scientific discoveries about HIV transmission can be applied to a "rEVOLUTIONARY" change in the fight against HIV.
"Too often, today, when we talk about HIV we hear folks operating from an understand of HIV which is two decades old -- and completely wrong," says Todd Heywood, who developed the project for Between the Lines. "This fundamental misunderstanding of HIV is actually resulting in more people -- particularly men who have sex with men and transgender women -- becoming infected. Prevention has to include access to up-to-date, scientifically accurate information. We can no longer afford to pretend that current prevention and intervention messaging, based on out of date science, works."
Men who have sex with men and transgender women continue to be disproportionately impacted by HIV in the United States. A study released at the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Creating Change Conference in Atlanta in 2012 was a stunning eye-opened. Gregory Millett, of the CDC and assigned to the White House Office of National AIDS Policy, reported that the current cohort of 20-year-old men who have sex with men in the US have a 10 percent prevalence rate. Black MSM in the cohort have a prevalence rate of 20 percent. At current transmission rates, in 30 years, half of all MSM will be infected with HIV, and 70 percent of black MSM will be infected.
Adding to the crisis is the lack of knowledge of HIV status. In 2010, a CDC study found that 1 in 5 gay and bisexual men in 21 major U.S. cities (including Detroit) were infected with HIV. Of those infected, 44 percent did not know they were infected. Men under age 30 in the study were significantly less likely than those over age 30 to know they were infected.
Innovations in prevention options, however, have the potential to change the game with HIV. Last month, the CDC announced broad new clinical guidance for medical providers to prescribe pre-exposure prophylaxis, commonly known as PrEP. The studies behind the intervention show that when the anti-HIV drug Truvada is taken daily it is 99 percent effective in prevention HIV transmission for those who are HIV-negative. That's more effective than any other prevention option currently being used in the United States. In addition, for those who are HIV-positive, treatment with a combination of anti-HIV drugs can reduce the viral load in that person's blood to fewer than 28 viral particles per milliliter of blood. Studies show that suppressing the virus that much reduces the potential to transmit HIV by 96 percent. In fact, public health officials have not documented a single case of a person with an undetectable -- or suppressed -- viral load transmitting the virus to another person.
But health officials, activists and prevention experts agree, the first step in engaging this knew science is to know your HIV status. HIV testing takes about 20 minutes and is extremely accurate. The test includes a finger prick, and uses a drop of blood to detect antibodies to the HIV, the virus that can lead to AIDS.
"We know that people continue to become infected by HIV every day and the majority of those infections are coming from people who don't know that they are HIV-positive," says Kevin Gierman, prevention coordinator for Red Project in Grand Rapids. "With regular testing and increased awareness about a variety of prevention options, we can identify people with HIV and connect them to services, reduce infection rates, and help everyone to live healthier. By engaging in conversations about what risk and risk-reduction really looks like, we can fight stigma and make informed health decisions that will lead to healthier communities. PrEP4ITNow.com is a resource that we hope will both educate people and point them to local resources where they will be able to find answers and support. Join the rEVOLUTION!"
Susan Horowitz, editor and publisher of Between the Lines, says the decision to sponsor and promote the program was an easy one. "We made a commitment one year ago to make HIV an editorial priority," she says. "We told our readers then we were doing it, and we are continuing. We believe this is an essential tool and message for our readers. We are exceedingly excited to be joined by AIDS service organizations across the state, and believe that shows this message and website are, in fact, going to be important tools in the fight against HIV."
This article was provided by Between the Lines.
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