Study: 28% Of Millennials Avoid Hugging HIV+ People

The results of a new study by pharmaceutical giant Merck and the Prevention Access Campaign finds many young people today know little about HIV.

Survey findings revealed the 1,596 respondents – who either identified as Generation Z (18-22) or millennials (23-36) – are woefully uninformed about HIV and its transmission.

From the study:

• 41% of Gen Z respondents were either somewhat informed or not at all informed about HIV, compared to 23% of millennials

• While 67% said they were most concerned about HIV compared to other STIs, 54% did not report using condoms or PrEP.

  28% of HIV-negative millennials said they have avoided hugging or interacting with HIV-positive people, even though the virus cannot be transmitted through casual contact

• 76% of those living with HIV said they were hesitant to share their status for fear of being judged

• 90% of those living with HIV said they avoided sharing their status for fear of losing friends or family

Bruce Richman, executive director of the Prevention Access Campaign said in a statement, ”Despite scientific advances and decades of HIV advocacy and education, the findings highlight a disturbing trend: young adults overwhelmingly are not being informed effectively about the basics of HIV.” 

“These findings are a call to action that the crisis in the United States is far from over,” added Richman. “It’s time to elevate a real conversation about HIV and sexual health among America’s young people, and roll out innovative and engaging initiatives to educate and fight HIV stigma.”

As a result of the survey, Merck and Prevention Access Campaign have launched a new project called Owning HIV: Young Adults and the Fight Ahead aimed at educating young Americans about HIV and elevating the urgency around the issue.

Red Cross Asks FDA To Lower Blood Donation Restrictions For Gay/Bi Men

France has lifted its ban on blood donations by gay and/or bisexual men which has been in place since the early days of the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

A young man donates blood (image via Depositphotos)

The American Red Cross has issued a statement urging the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to reduce the restrictions for gay and bisexual men to give blood.

The Red Cross is asking the FDA to “consider reducing its deferral time for men who have sex with men (MSM) from twelve to three months.”

Currently, gay and bisexual men are prohibited from donating blood if they have had sexual contact with another man within the past 12 months. That policy, begun in December 2015, replaced a decades-old regulation banning MSM and transgender women from donating blood at all.

The Red Cross calls its suggested revision of current policy a “scientifically-based interim step” while further options are evaluated. The statement notes a 3-month policy would be consistent with other leading countries like Great Britain and Canada.

The health organization also recommends “expanded use of new technologies to work toward the elimination of donor eligibility questions that would no longer be necessary.”

Underscoring a commitment to “ensure that every blood recipient receives safe, lifesaving blood,” the statement declares that donating blood “should not be determined by methods that are based upon sexual orientation.”

“We are committed to working toward achieving this goal,” adds the Red Cross.

In a statement to NewNowNext, the FDA characterized the current 12-month ban as “a behavior-based policy, not one based upon sexual orientation.”

The FDA’s statement goes on to note that the 2015 policy change was prompted, in part, by reviewing studies in blood donors which “showed that a history of male-to-male sexual contact was associated with a 62-fold increased risk for being HIV positive, whereas the increase in risk for a history of multiple sexual partners of the opposite sex in the last year was 2.3-fold.”

The FDA added, “While acknowledging at the time that the change to a 12-month deferral was less than hoped for by some, the FDA considered this to be a first step in the process of evaluating and progressing its blood donor deferral policies for all donors.”

I’ve been asked in the past what would happen if a gay man who is undetectable were to donate blood?

I’m not a doctor, but some thoughts:

The first thing that comes to mind is when you donate you’re asked if you’ve had sex with a man in the past 12 months. If you say yes, they won’t let you donate.

If you fib, the blood will be tested and could be found to have HIV antibodies. You might be contacted by health officials to inquire if you were aware you’re positive.

“Undetectable” is generally defined as less than 40 copies per ml, while under 200 copies per ml is considered “viral suppression.”

According to the CDC, “a person with HIV who takes HIV medicine as prescribed and gets and stays virally suppressed or undetectable can stay healthy and has effectively no risk of sexually transmitting HIV to HIV-negative partners.”

During sex, only small amounts of blood and semen are exchanged which is why U=U.

But in blood transfusions, a lot of blood is being transferred. So I would imagine it’s possible some amount of virus – however tiny –  could be transferred.

The issue I have with the FDA’s blood policy is sexually active HIV-negative gay men can’t donate, but a woman who might have unprotected sex with several partners can.

It’s about the stigma attached that the current policy furthers.

Plus, all donated blood is tested for a multitude of possible issues. So, I don’t see why a sexually active gay man who is HIV negative couldn’t be allowed to donate.

For more information about the current blood donation policy in the U.S., check out this Q&A on the FDA’s official site.

(source: Red Cross, NewNowNext)

Gareth Thomas & Prince Harry Will Team Up To Combat HIV Stigma

After coming out as HIV-positive this weekend via a video message on Twitter, rugby legend Gareth Thomas has received an outpouring of support from not only fans but the royal family.

In the video, Thomas shared that had been diagnosed with HIV some years ago but was coming out now after an unnamed tabloid threatened to ‘blackmail’ him about his status.

The 45-year-old athlete feared “people would treat me like a leper because of a lack of knowledge,” he told the Sunday Mirror. The rugby icon said by coming out as HIV-positive, he hopes to educate others and break the stigma associated with being positive.

He’s already received encouragement from both Princes Harry and William, who shared their support via social media.

On the Instagram account for SussexRoyal, Prince Harry shared Thomas’ HIV message and praised the athlete for his strength, resiliency, and courage.

“Gareth, you are an absolute legend!,” read the post which was signed ‘H’ for Harry. “In sharing your story of being HIV+, you are saving lives and shattering stigma, by showing you can be strong and resilient while living with HIV. We should all be appalled by the way you were forced to speak your truth, it is yours and yours alone to share on your terms and I and millions stand with you.”

Prince William responded on the KensingtonRoyal Instagram account with the message, “Courageous as ever – legend on the pitch and legend off it. You have our support Gareth.” The missive was signed ‘W’ for Prince William.

The former Celebrity Big Brother star has now announced that he will collaborate with Prince Harry to address the stigma associated with HIV.

“Like me, Prince Harry wants to break the stigma around HIV and he has already done a lot of great work,” Thomas told the Sunday Mirror. “We are planning to work together now.”

He added, “To do something with him will be really powerful.”

Prince Harry’s mother, Princess Diana, was a trailblazer during the early days of the HIV epidemic promoting awareness on the condition. She was credited with changing people’s attitudes about the disease when she was photographed shaking hands with a patient during a visit to the UK’s first AIDS clinic.

“Quite often I look at that photo of Diana at the clinic next to those frail-looking men and then I look at a photo of myself out on my bike and it motivates me because I can see how things have changed and advanced,” Thomas told the Mirror.

He added, “It also makes me realise how lucky I am because I see what it was like for them and I know 30 years ago that could have been me.”

Thomas also shared he’s received calls from other UK luminaries like Elton John.

The rugby star said he had to pull off the road when he got the call from the music legend.

“He said, ‘What you are doing is a brilliant thing,’” said Thomas. “It’s really brave of you. I’ll support you all the way.”

Others expressing their support include actress Samantha Womack and Andy Bell, lead singer of Erasure.

Demonstrating the strength of his health (Thomas shared in his message that his viral load is undetectable), the ITV sportscaster followed his coming out by participating in an Iron Man event in Tenby just hours after his announcement.

He finished the grueling athletic event in 12 hours, 18 minutes and 29 seconds, coming in 413th out of 2,039 participants.

(lead images via GarethThomasOfficial and SussexRoyal Instagram accounts)

Podcast: Buttigieg’s Big Bucks; Former Mr. Leather Europe Aids African Refugee; Church Steps Up For LGBTQ Teen Prom

In this week’s podcast:

• Mayor Pete Buttigieg announces largest campaign donations of any Democratic candidate for the second quarter

• A former Mr. Leather Europe comes to the aid of an African lesbian refugee as she starts a new life in Manchester. To help Shadia, click here.

• A local church stepped up after haters shut down an LGBTQ teen prom

• A new study shows there’s still a LOT of stigma to overcome regarding HIV

All that and more in this episode of The Randy Report

You can also listen to The Randy Report podcast (for free!):

• On Soundcloud here

• On iTunes here

• On Spotify here

• On iHeartRadio here

• On Stitcher here

For portability, its useful to know all of those outlets have apps you can install on your phone – for free!

Thanks for listening, folks!

Pro-Wrestler Anthony Bowens On Coming Out: Bisexual Stigma Was A Big Surprise

(photo via Instagram)

Hunky pro wrestler Anthony Bowen prepped himself for some sort of backlash from the wrestling world when he came out as bisexual earlier this year.

He’s since called the support and good will he experienced coming out as “overwhelming.”

“I was getting messages from literally around the world thanking me,” Bowens recalled, “Saying I was an inspiration.”

What he didn’t expect was to find himself in a debate that questions bisexuality in general.

As he read posts and comments across social media, he was surprised to discover the stigma that questions whether bisexuality is just a cover for gays who aren’t ready to come out completely.

“I thought there would be more negativity around the stigma of [a pro wrestler] being part of the LGBT community, but the negativity came more from people getting in arguments over bisexuality,” he recently shared on the Party Foul Radio podcast with Pollo and Pearl.

“You can date a dude or marry a dude and be with him the rest of your life, and that doesn’t change the attraction. The stimulation doesn’t change,” he said. “That’s the reason why it’s LGBTQ—lesbian, bisexual…The LGBTQ community comes in all shapes and sizes.”

A post shared by Anthony Bowens (@bowens_official) on Aug 2, 2017 at 3:41pm PDT

I'm smiling but those pieces of wood really hurt my feet lol. Photo Cred: Stephen DanielloA post shared by Anthony Bowens (@bowens_official) on Aug 27, 2017 at 9:59am PDT

A post shared by Anthony Bowens (@bowens_official) on Aug 1, 2017 at 5:07pm PDT

(h/t NewNowNext)

Dr. Frank Spinelli: The Stigma/Fears Faced During Height Of HIV/AIDS Epidemic

As part of observance of World AIDS Day today, Dr. Frank Spinelli, HIV/AIDS specialist, reminds us of the stigma and fears many gay men felt in the 1980s/90s during the early years of the epidemic.

This mindset still continues today even though there are anti-retroviral drugs which can make an HIV+ diagnosis manageable for many. That stigma keeps a lot of folks from getting tested, which is the important first step to getting the syndrome under control.

(h/t Queerty)