40 Years Ago Today In The NY Times

Headline in the New York Times on July 3, 1981 - first mention of what would become the AIDS epidemic

Forty years ago today, the New York Times published its first report on a “rare cancer seen in 41 homosexuals” – the first mention of what would become the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

According to the author of the piece, Lawrence K. Altman, “gay” wasn’t yet approved by the Times‘ style manual.

The cancer was Kaposi’s sarcoma, and until then it had seldom been seen in otherwise healthy young men.

We all know what happened next…

(h/t Boy Culture)

Bianca Del Rio Spills The Tea On HIV

Drag diva Bianca Del Rio
Drag diva Bianca Del Rio
Drag diva Bianca Del Rio (screen capture)

British adult film star Kayden Gray recently launched a humorous, thought-provoking adult film, U Equals Fucking U.

The film aims to destigmatize HIV and support public health’s messaging of Undetectable Equals Untransmittable (U=U) – the concept that people living with HIV who achieve an undetectable viral load cannot sexually transmit the virus to others.

The movie co-stars adult film actor Bishop Black, and features comedian/Ru Paul’s Drag Race fan favorite Bianca Del Rio, who appears throughout the film with an upbeat, light-hearted approach to doling out the facts about HIV and U=U.

Porn stars Bishop Black and Kayden Gray
L-R Bishop Black and Kayden Gray in ‘U Equals Fucking U’

“A lot of people are behind U=U in theory,” says Kayden Gray in describing the film. “But when it comes to practice, people tip-toe around the idea and aren’t comfortable when it comes down to it.”

Jose Ramos, the founder of Impulse Group, doubles down against HIV-positive odiums stating that “having condomless sex while someone is undetectable eliminates the risk to being exposed to HIV.”

Ramos founded Impulse Group in Los Angeles in 2009 with the mission to help gay men make healthy lifestyle choices. What started in the city of West Hollywood as a local grassroots social movement has now become the only international volunteer gay group in the world, with 25 Impulse Chapters in 12 countries.

I can’t post the the adult film here, but for those interested click here to see Part One (available now), and Part Two available on February 17.

I can share with you Del Rio’s over-the-top and fun contribution to the film in this short clip “Bianca Del Rio spills the tea on HIV.”

Once-A-Month Injection Approved For HIV

The FDA has approved Cabenuva, a once-a-month injection to control HIV infection
(image via Depositphotos)

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved a long-acting once a month injection that can replace the daily pills now used to control HIV infection.

This is the first FDA-approved injectable, complete regimen for HIV-infected adults that is administered once a month.

Medical researchers expect the two-shot combo called Cabenuva will make it easier for HIV+ people to stay on schedule with their HIV medications.

Cabenuva consists of two drugs packaged together – rilpivirine and cabotegravir – but given as separate shots once a month. Cabenuva is administered as two intramuscular injections in the buttocks by a healthcare professional.

The drug makers are also testing the effectiveness of taking the injection every 8 weeks.

The FDA approved Cabenuva for use in adults who have had their disease well controlled by conventional HIV medicines and who have not exhibited signs of viral resistance to the two drugs in Cabenuva.

The FDA also approved Vocabria (a tablet form of cabotegravir), which should be taken in combination with oral rilpivirine for one month prior to starting treatment with Cabenuva to ensure the medications are well-tolerated before switching to the extended-release injectable formulation.

Dr. Steven Deeks, an HIV specialist at the University of California, told ABC News that a once-a-month treatment “will enhance quality of life” for those on HIV medications. “People don’t want those daily reminders that they’re HIV infected.”

Deeks also believes a monthly dose may be easier for some who have a difficult time staying on a daily schedule like those with mental illness or substance abuse issues.

In addition to treating those living with HIV, ViiV Healthcare (the maker of cabotegravir) hopes to make their drug available as PrEP for HIV prevention.

Two studies have shown an injection of cabotegravir every two months was more effective than taking Truvada on a daily basis.

Podcast: World AIDS Day 2020

World AIDS Day was the first-ever global health day, observed for the first time in 1988.

Held on the 1st day of December each year, it is an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV, show their support for people living with HIV, and to commemorate people who have died.

Being diagnosed with HIV today means something very different than it did 20 or 30 years ago. HIV is no longer a death sentence. However, people’s attitudes can make living with HIV really difficult.

Some things from the 1980s and 1990s are worth revisiting, but HIV stigma isn’t one of them. It’s time to end HIV stigma.

During this episode of The Randy Report, I take a look into the history of the day, how the world looks at the ongoing epidemic, and where we are today in terms of treatment.

What is on the horizon in terms of HIV treatment? Check out these links to find out more:

www.WorldAIDSDay.org

www.HelpStopTheVirus.com

And if you’re at a loss for what to do to be a part of this World AIDS Day, I suggest a donation to Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS which has been at the forefront of the epidemic since the mid-80s.

Take a listen, and feel free to share this show. Together we can make a difference.

Streaming Event: World AIDS Day 2020 – A National Conversation

Announcing the 2020 World AIDS Day National Conversation

Announcing the 2020 World AIDS Day National Conversation

2020 marks 40 years since the first cases of AIDS were reported in the United States, a pandemic that has led to nearly 700,000 lives lost and still no cure four decades later. This year, our nation struggles through another pandemic – the fight against Covid-19 – where the horrific loss of life has surpassed 250,000 in a matter of months.

World AIDS Day 2020 – A National Conversation will be presented virtually on December 1, 2020 beginning at 10 am PST at www.aidsmemorial.org or at www.youtube.com/aidsmemorial. The event is free to the public and will be available for viewing on the same websites after the initial broadcast for those who can’t join live.

Through a distinguished list of guest speakers, video storytelling, and musical tributes, the forum allows people to come together and honor the lives lost, the survivors, the activism and the heroes from over the span of four decades and two horrific pandemics.

Award-winning actor and long-time AIDS advocate, Judith Light, will host the day’s commemoration event that will feature Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and David D. Ho, M.D., Director of the Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center at Columbia University. They will be honored with the memorial’s National Leadership Recognition Award.

Mayors from cities that have been on the frontlines of both pandemics will lead a conversation on the impact the two pandemics have had on marginalized communities and how HIV/AIDS and Covid-19 have disproportionately affected communities of color and the systemic barriers that compound poor health outcomes.

Activists who have helped spark change and movements will lead a conversation about activism during both pandemics and the ongoing struggle for social justice.

During the event, the National AIDS Memorial will officially unveil the first-ever virtual exhibition of the AIDS Memorial Quilt on its website that features nearly 10,000 Quilt panels representing all 50 states and U.S. territories, using the power and beauty of the Quilt to help the nation heal during these difficult times.

The program will conclude with the traditional Reading of Names of newly engraved names at the memorial of loved ones lost to AIDS and those who loved them.

(via press release)

Lawsuit Alleges VA Docs Failed To Inform Veteran He Was HIV+ For 20 Years

A Navy veteran living in South Carolina has filed a lawsuit against the Veterans Administration claiming he tested positive for HIV over 20 years ago and his doctors never informed him of the diagnosis.

The lawsuit, filed in federal court this week, alleges the medical staff at the William Jennings Bryan Dorn VA center in Columbia, South Carolina, failed to tell him an HIV test taken in 1995 came back positive. If true, the failure allowed the virus to progress for 20 years.

The veteran is referred to as “John Doe” in the filing to protect his medical privacy.

According to the local Columbia newspaper The State, the lawsuit reads, “The VA had actual knowledge beginning in November 1995 that Mr. Doe was HIV positive and the standard of care required he be informed of the positive test and proper treatment begin in 1995.”

“In clear contravention of the standard of care, Mr. Doe was not informed of the positive HIV test until decades later,” continues the filing.

The patient’s medical records reportedly mention his HIV diagnosis in subsequent visits but there’s no apparent record of the patient being informed he was HIV-positive.

‘Doe’ only learned of his status while seeing a non-VA physician who mentioned the diagnosis in passing during a December 2015 examination.

The doctor wrote in his notes, “I looked at the patient and ask (sic) him who was his infectious disease doctor, and patient states (he) did not have one and (I) ask (sic) him if he knew that his HIV test was positive, and he stated (he) never was told it was positive.”

According to reports, the veteran didn’t begin receiving antiretroviral treatment until he was admitted to a non-VA hospital in New York in 2018 at which point he had developed full-blown AIDS.

The lawsuit, which requests an unspecified amount for punitive damages, claims the man’s health and immune system are permanently affected.

“The treatment he’s getting now is effective, but he’s had essentially 25 years of wear and tear for having no treatment,” said his lawyer, Chad McGowan, told Navy Times.

“He feels extremely guilty about the girlfriends he’s had over the last 25 years because he didn’t know,” McGowan added.

Had ‘Doe’ had been informed of his status in a timely manner, McGowan says his client “would not have suffered the losses he has suffered, and will continue to suffer in the future, and more likely than not, he would not have developed AIDS.”

The medical director of the Dorn VA facility declined to comment due to the pending litigation.

Study: PrEP Users See Decrease In Sex Addiction & Party Drug Use

(image via Depositphotos)

A new study reveals gay and bi men who use PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) report lower levels of sexual addiction (“sexual compulsivity”) and notably lower use of so-called ‘party drugs.’

Researchers at the largest STI clinic in Amsterdam tracked PrEP users over a three year period to assess how longtime use might impact mental health and addiction issues.

Those who took part in the study answered questions regarding levels of depression and/or anxiety, alcohol and drug use, and the levels (if any) they felt unable to control their sexual behavior.

While levels of alcohol use and depression remained statistically the same, PrEP users reported a significant decline (from 38 percent at baseline to 31 percent at last visit) in the use of two specific drugs: ecstasy (MDMA) and nitrates (poppers).

Sexual compulsivity also showed a notable decrease  – from 23 percent to 10 percent at last visit.

The term refers to sexual fantasies or behaviors that cause folks to act out in ways that can be damaging to multiple aspects of life like work, friendships, and personal health.

The researchers remarked that “the simultaneous decrease in drug use disorder and sexual compulsivity was unexpected.”

Gus Cairns of AIDSMAP writes: “They hypothesise that PrEP relieved its users of the anxiety of catching HIV and that, in turn, this made them feel more in charge of their sexual behaviour (so less compulsive) and less in need of drugs to counteract the inhibiting effect of anxiety.”

The researchers take care not to say that PrEP was specifically the cause of improvements in addiction and mental health. Rather, they note that just being a part of the study, and therefore paying attention to these indicators, probably impacted the participants’ outlook.

(Source: AIDSMAP)

News Round-Up: August 18, 2020

(image via Facebook)

Some news items you might have missed:

FOX13Now: A waiter at an Ogden restaurant is sharing his story after finding a bigoted message written on a cash tip that was left for him. Even though the transaction was all-electronic, the customers specifically asked for a pen. The $5 bill (above) was marked with the words, “Get out of America, Fag!”

Pink News: HIV activists are cheering that China has finally approved the drug Truvada for Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) which can prevent people from contracting HIV through condomless sex. According to the United Nations, 44 percent of new HIV infections in Asia and the Pacific region last year were in queer men.

YouTube: I loved this rundown of Top 20 Best Gay Romance Movies (with a happy ending). Lots of my favorite films here.

Out: A federal judge in Boise has temporarily blocked a controversial law in Idaho that banned trans athletes from participation in school sports. The bill, which Governor Brad Little signed into law this past March, allowed for internal and external verification of a disputed athlete’s reproductive system.

Washington Blade: A gay former assistant superintendent and contracting liaison for the Catholic Archdiocese of Washington has been charged with fraudulently obtaining more than $2.1 million in funds for personal use from two federal coronavirus relief programs. Kenneth P. Gaughan, 41, reportedly used the funds to purchase a $300,000 yacht, a $1.13 million townhouse in D.C., and a $46,000 luxury sports car.

Democratic National Convention: I meant to get around to sharing my thoughts on the first night of the convention, but…the day got away from me.

As the second night is about to begin, I have to share this one-two knockout punch from Night One – Michelle Obama’s pitch-perfect keynote speech, followed by Billy Porter and Stephen Stills performing the iconic anti-war protest song, “For What It’s Worth.” #Bam

FDA Approves Phase One Trials For Possible HIV Cure

(illustration of HIV cells)

The Food and Drug Administration has given the green light to Phase One trials of a possible HIV cure known as AGT103-T.

Plus Magazine reports:

It is made from blood cells and initiates a process that increases the body’s T cells, which fight HIV, and uses gene therapy to help those cells survive.

In preclinical studies in cell models, it has demonstrated “the ability to clear itself of HIV when challenged with the virus and HIV-infected human cells,” according to a press release from the company, based in Rockville, Md. American Gene Technologies researched the product in collaboration with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, a federal government agency.

The Phase I trial will investigate the safety of AGT103-T and measure some factors that indicate whether it’s effective. It is expected to begin in September.

While antiretroviral drugs can control HIV to the point that it’s undetectable, they are not a cure for the virus.