New Study Confirms (Again) Undetectable HIV Viral Load Can’t Be Transmitted

(stock photo via Depositphotos)

A new medical study in Europe adds to the growing body of evidence that people on antiretroviral HIV medications with an undetectable viral load cannot transmit the virus to sexual partners.

The eight year study of almost 1,000 gay male serodiscordant couples (one partner HIV positive, one partner HIV negative) found no cases of HIV transmission. None of the couples used condoms during sex.

Alison Rodger, a professor at University College London who helped lead the study, said in a statement, “Our findings provide conclusive evidence for gay men that the risk of HIV transmission with suppressive ART (antiretroviral treatment) is zero.”

The summary of the study read, in part, “Our findings support the message of the U=U (undetectable equals untransmittable) campaign, and the benefits of early testing and treatment for HIV.”

The focus of the study, which followed participants from July 2010 to September 2017, was to assess the risk of HIV transmission between serodiscordant gay male couples who do not use condoms.

The report, published in the medical journal The Lancet, did show 15 men (of the 972 couples who took part in the research) became HIV+ during the 8 year study. But genetic testing revealed their infections were due to HIV strains from other sexual partners.

An earlier phase of the study followed serodiscordant heterosexual couples, which also showed no transmission of the HIV virus between partners.

Reuters reports that since the worldwide epidemic began in the early 1980s, over 77 million people have become HIV+, and nearly half (35.4 million) have died from resulting AIDS.

Thanks to the success of antiretroviral treatment, the annual number of deaths from AIDS has been falling. But, medical professionals are concerned that the rate of new infections has remained high with nearly 1.8 million new diagnoses each year.

(Source: Lancet, Reuters)

Research Shows 4.5% Of Americans Identify As LGBT But…?

The Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law has done a deep dive into statistics previously released by the Gallup Daily Tracking poll and found that an estimated 4.5 percent of Americans identify as LGBT.

Back in 1977, when the U.S. National Gay Task Force was invited to meet with President Jimmy Carter’s representatives at the White House, founder/scientist/director Bruce Voeller of the NGTF declared that 10 percent of the population is gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender.

Voeller based his estimate on the work of noted ‘sexologist’ Alfred Kinsey in the 1940s and 1950s.

But now, the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law has done a deep dive into statistics previously released by the Gallup Daily Tracking poll and found that an estimated 4.5 percent of Americans identify as LGBT.

Estimating there are approximately 11.3 million adult LGBTs living in the U.S., the data shows that the highest concentration of LGBT people – 9.8% – live in Washington, D.C.

(image via Williams Institute)

The rest of the top ten states (Oregon, Nevada, Massachusetts, California, Washington, Vermont, New York, Maine and New Hampshire) range from 5.6 percent to 4.9 percent in concentration.

North Dakota appears to have the smallest percentage of LGBTs with only 2.7 percent.

In terms of socioeconomic indicators, the respondents who identified as LGBT say they are:

• Slightly more likely to be unemployed (9% versus 5% non-LGBT)
• Slightly more likely to be uninsured (15% versus 12% non-LGBT)
• Admit to being ‘food insecure’ more than non-LGBT (27% versus 15%)
• More likely to have household income below $240,000 (25% versus 18% non-LGBT)

Fifty-eight percent of the LGBT respondents were female, while 42 percent were male.

Fifty-six percent of self-identified LGBTS were under the age of 35, while only 23 percent were 50 or older.

Kerith Conron, research director at the Williams Institute told Reuters, “Younger people are more likely to actually live as LGBT and to identify that way because they are growing up in a time when it’s more acceptable to acknowledge those feelings and to act on them.”

Addressing the overall lower percentage of LGBTs than previously assumed, Conron added a caveat:

“In surveys that are more anonymous and private, closer to 10 percent of respondents say they have some level of same-sex attraction even if they stop short of identifying themselves as gay, lesbian or bisexual.”

To find out more info regarding your state, click over to the Williams Institute’s website here where you can find an interactive map showing population percentages, percentage of LGBT parents and more.

Scientists: “Meddling” Kids Skew Studies By Trolling As LGBTQ

Scientists and researchers who study LGBTQ youth are finding a new (annoying) phenomenon: meddling kids who think it’s funny to troll giving exaggerated responses to surveys while identifying as LGBTQ, especially regarding eating habits or substance use.

Those ‘funny’ answers end up skewing data in regard to health issues and more.

From The Daily Beast:

NYU economics professor Joseph R. Cimpian, whose new study in the American Journal of Public Health explores this emerging problem, said that he was tipped off to its potential scale when he noticed how frequently the ostensibly gay kids on one survey reported being blind—way beyond what would be expected.

“What we found is that ‘gay’ kids are way more likely to be blind and to be deaf and to have three or more children of their own and all sorts of things,” he told The Daily Beast. “When you look at these data, you think, ‘This is ridiculous!’”

There was only one conclusion: “Clearly the kids are messing with us.”

Reliably Taking HIV Cocktail Can Make Transmission Virtually Zero

Ground-breaking research findings were announced yesterday at the eighth International AIDS Society Conference in Vancouver, Canada, which show reliable adherence to HIV cocktails can disable the HIV virus to the point of no transmission during sexual activity.

The landmark study, financed with more than $100 million in federal research grants, confirmed initial results reported in 2011 and demonstrated that AIDS medications known as antiretroviral therapy, or ART, can suppress the virus for years. The virus can reemerge if the patient stops taking the medicine, but as long as it’s suppressed, the virus essentially is harmless and most patients can lead normal, healthy lives.

“If people are taking their pills reliably and they’re taking them for some period of time, the probability of transmission in this study is actually zero,” Cohen said by phone from Vancouver. “Let me say it another way: We never saw a case of HIV transmission in a person who is stably suppressed on ART.”

Technically speaking, if everyone with HIV could be on ART, there would be the possibility to eradicate the disease.

Researchers made it clear, however, that they continue to endorse the use of condoms. Most of those infected with HIV in the United States (estimated at 1.2 million) are not on medication addressing the virus. Only about 37% of folks with HIV are currently on antiretroviral therapy.

Promising new strategy for curing HIV – Radioimmunotherapy

Via press release from the Radiological Society of North America:

Researchers have used radioimmunotherapy (RIT) to destroy remaining human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-infected cells in the blood samples of patients treated with antiretroviral therapy, offering the promise of a strategy for curing HIV infection.

Highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) has transformed the outlook for patients infected with HIV by suppressing the replication of the virus in the body. However, despite the success of HAART in effectively reducing the burden of HIV, scientists believe reservoirs of latently infected cells persist in the body, preventing the possibility of a permanent cure.

In her study, Dr. Dadachova and a team of researchers administered RIT to blood samples from 15 HIV patients treated with HAART at the Einstein-Montefiore Center for AIDS Research.

RIT, which has historically been employed to treat cancer, uses monoclonal antibodies—cloned cells that are recruited by the immune system to identify and neutralize antigens. Antigens are foreign objects like bacteria and viruses that stimulate an immune response in the body. The antibody, designed to recognize and bind to a specific cell antigen, is paired with a radioactive isotope. When injected into the patient’s bloodstream, the laboratory-developed antibody travels to the target cell where the radiation is then delivered.

“In RIT, the antibodies bind to the infected cells and kill them by radiation,” Dr. Dadachova said. “When HAART and RIT are used together, they kill the virus and the infected cells, respectively.”

You can read the full report here.

Secret of HIV’s natural born killers

From Raw Story: Scientists on Sunday said they had found a key piece in the puzzle as
to why a tiny minority of individuals infected with HIV have a natural
ability to fight off the deadly AIDS virus.

In a study they said holds promise for an HIV vaccine, researchers
from four countries reported the secret lies not in the number of
infection-killing cells a person has, but in how well they work.

Only about one person in 300 has the ability to control the human
immunodeficiency virus (HIV) without drugs, using a strain of “killer”
cells called cytotoxic T lymphocyte (CTL) cells, previous research has
found.

Taking that discovery further, scientists from the United States,
Canada, Japan and Germany reported that the strain has molecules called
receptors that are better able to identify HIV-infected white blood
cells for attack.

The study looked at 10 infected people, of whom five took
antiretroviral drugs to keep HIV under control while five were so-called
elite controllers who remained naturally healthy.

HIV kills a type of white blood cell called CD4, leaving people with
AIDS wide open to other, opportunistic and potentially deadly
infections.

“What we found was that the way the killer cells are able to see infected cells and engage them was different,” said Walker.

“It is not just that you need a killer cell, what you need is a
killer cell with a (T cell) receptor that is particularly good at
recognising the infected cell. This gives us a way to understand what it
is that makes a really good killer cell.”

Walker said attempts at creating vaccines had so far failed because
the T cell receptors they generated were not the efficient type.

“The next step is to determine what it is about those receptors that is endowing them with that ability,” said Walker.