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HIV/AIDS Blog Central

Gary Bell

Transition to Hope

Thank You, Mr. Sterling
May 16, 2014

Strange title, eh? After all, why would I thank someone attributed to insensitive racial comments about African Americans in 2014? With an African American president, thousands of African Americans now listed among the elite, but elusive, top 1% (over a dozen of whom, by the way, actually work for Mr Sterling) don't we now live in, as many idealistic pundits and scholars call it, a 'post racial' society? Well, this blog is not intended to thank him for reminding us that racism is alive and well. I am thanking Donald Sterling for getting HIV back in the news.

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Ignorance Is Bliss (Not!)
May 2, 2014

As someone working in the field of HIV/AIDS, I have had many conversations about the topic with people ranging from politicians to middle school students. However, I will never forget the recent conversation that I had with a long-term (25+ years) survivor who shared how he could manage the symptoms, the side effects of the medication and even accepting that he may not live as long as he planned; but it was the stigma that he struggled with the most. So why, at the ripe old age of 32, does the stigma of HIV/AIDS remain so devastating?

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Were Michael Douglas' Comments About HPV Helpful?
June 18, 2013

Megastar actor/director Michael Douglas recently caused a stir when he implied that his stage 4 throat cancer was caused by the Human Papillomavirus (HPV), which he believe he contracted through oral sex. He went on to say that cunnilingus was also the "best cure for it." As I have written previously, one tract of HPV (HPV16) is known to be linked to oral cancer, manifesting itself in the back regions of the throat and mouth.

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HPV Vaccination -- A Wasted Resource for African Americans?
May 16, 2013

The United States has no reporting system for Human Papillomavirus (HPV) infections. Infections and the development of warts appear to be common throughout life. In general, genital HPV infection is considered to have become dramatically more frequent over the past several decades. In the United States, young adults aged 15-24 years account for approximately one half of new HPV infections each year. The highest rate of infection is among young females aged 20-24 years. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that there are 6 million new incidents a year in the United States (in 2008) and an estimated prevalence of more than 20 million.

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The Opioid Solution and HIV: From the Frying Pan Into the Fire
February 1, 2013

A nightmare for some and a godsend for others, some people become addicted to opioids because opioids have become their recreational drug of choice, while others become addicted because their pain symptoms are so severe that they have no choice. Either way, a problem has arisen which threatens social stability in whole communities, especially in North America, and makes authorities unsure which way to turn.

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Compulsory Sexual Education
December 24, 2012

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recently released its report on Sexually Transmitted Diseases for 2011. Sadly, there are few surprises. With a total of 1,412,791 cases, Chlamydia trachomatis infection remains the STD leader. This figure is the largest number of cases ever reported to CDC for any condition and represents an increase of 8.0% compared with the rate in 2010. The national gonorrhea rate increased as well after over a decade of fluctuation and/or decline. However, the greatest concern about the "clap," as we used to call it, is its increasing resistance to the medications commonly used to treat it, cephalosporins and azithromycin.

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World AIDS Day 2012
December 3, 2012

Saturday was the 25th commemoration of World AIDS Day. The theme this year was "Getting to Zero: Zero new HIV infections, zero deaths from AIDS-related illness and zero discrimination." While these may sound like lofty goals, the last year has shown some real progress.

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Preventing HIV Transmission With Youth Infected at Birth
November 13, 2012

As we reach a certain age, many of us long for the vitality of youth without, of course, the consequences for our youthful indiscretions. It is a time of learning and discovery. For many, it is also a time for sexual exploration. Adolescents in 2012 have lived their entire lives with the HIV epidemic. They may have learned about it in health class, read about it on the Internet, or perhaps learned that someone close to them has been infected. Now, imagine that at age 15 or 16 you are told that you are HIV positive, not because you became infected through risky behavior, but because you have had it all of your life. More troubling: what if you have been sexually active before you found out?

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Chagas Disease: A New Health Disparity
June 19, 2012

Ever heard of chagas disease? Well, you're not alone. There may be as many as 10 million people, including an estimated 1 million in the United States, who have it.

Chagas is a disease cause by a parasite; Trypanosoma cruzi, which lives inside a certain insect native to Central and South America. This insect, the Triatomabug, thrives in tropical areas, especially poor housing conditions where they come out and infect their victims at night.

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What Does an Undetectable Viral Load REALLY Mean?
April 11, 2012

There are many well documented benefits to reducing the viral load of an HIV+ individual to an undetectable level. Unfortunately, there also remains a some haziness about the term "undetectable." In actuality, it is somewhat of a misnomer. For someone to truly have undetectable HIV would mean that the battery of sophisticated tests available could not find any virus in a person's body. Thus far there is only one case of an HIV+ individual, an American living at the time in Germany who received a bone marrow transplant from a donor who had a genetic resistance to the virus, who seems to have cleared HIV entirely from one's system. An undetectable viral load means that the HIV virus in one's blood has been suppressed to the point where either the HIV RNA is not present in your blood at the time of testing or that the level of HIV RNA is below the threshold needed for detection. Another factor is the sensitivity of the specific test that is utilized.

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Transition to Hope

This year marks Bell's 14th as the executive director of the Philadelphia-based BEBASHI (Blacks Educating Blacks About Sexual Health), founded in 1985 as the nation's first AIDS organization serving African Americans with HIV. Bell has been widely praised, not only for increasing funding and accountability at a time when HIV donations have plummeted, but also for launching such innovative programs as a women's initiative, prison-discharge planning, and, most recently, a diabetes intervention.

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