Abounding Prosperity receives $1.7 million grant

South Dallas prevention organization targets population hardest hit by new HIV infections

FUTURE MOVE? | Kirk Myers, CEO of Abounding Prosperity, says that his agency, now located in South Dallas across the street from the Peabody Health Center, will have to move to a bigger space to adequately house the extra staff he needs to operate the grant the agency just received from the CDC. (David Taffet/DallasVoice.

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

Abounding Prosperity, a South Dallas-based AIDS education organization, has been awarded a grant from the Centers for Disease Control, and is the only agency in the Dallas-Fort Worth area to be included in this round of CDC funding.

The money will be used to expand HIV prevention services for young gay and bisexual men of color, transgender youth of color and their partners, according to Kirk Myers, CEO of Abounding Prosperity.

Myers said that his organization was one of the few nationally that got fully funded. The five-year grant totals $1.7 million.

The CDC awarded prevention grants to 34 agencies around the country. This expands on an earlier program to reach the targeted populations with an increase of $10 million to $55 million nationally over five years, funding a larger number of community organizations.

“We will be trying to identify those people who are positive and unaware,” Myers said,“and help those people who are positive and know their status to become responsible for not reinfecting themselves or anyone else.

“We see ourselves as a prevention organization rather than a care organization,” he added.

Although three Dallas AIDS organizations applied for the grant money, Myers said he believes Abounding Prosperity was chosen because it targets African-American men who have sex with men (MSM) between the ages of 17 and 29, the group hardest hit with new infections in Dallas.

That includes many who are unemployed and underemployed.

To encourage testing and behavioral intervention, Myers suggested using incentives such as gift cards that might cover gas costs.

“Even though testing should be done routinely, you’re not worried about testing when you’re worried about your next meal,” Myers said.

In addition to testing, the focus will be on using evidence-based interventions designed to create behavior changes using techniques that have proven successful with gay men.

Myers said he will need to triple the size of his staff to nine and add more office space to operate the grant. He has already looked at two properties on MLK Boulevard near Abounding Prosperity’s current office.

Myers said that he would like to collaborate with Dallas County and other AIDS organizations’ programs to reach the most underserved populations.

He specifically mentioned Resource Center Dallas’ syphilis elimination program as an obvious partner.

“Syphilis is off the charts in Dallas,” Myers said. “And if you’re putting yourself at risk for syphilis, you’re putting yourself at risk for HIV.”

But, Myers said, his ultimate goal is to do the job of education and prevention so well that he can put Abounding Propserity out of business.

“I want to eradicate AIDS,” he said.

Ryan White funds

In addition, the Health Resources and Services Administration of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced $1.89 billion in grants to states for HIV/AIDS care and medications. Texas was awarded $85,856,474 in Ryan White money designated “supplemental part B.”

The state also received $786,424 in AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP) Emergency Relief Awards.

ADAP funding matches money spent by the state. Texas cut its ADAP funding, which may be a reason smaller states are receiving more money. Georgia and Louisiana each were awarded $3 million and Florida almost $7 million in emergency drug assistance money.

Dallas will receive $14,625,082 and Fort Worth $3,864,274 in Ryan White Part A funding. Dallas awards are administered for the region by the county. Other cities in Texas receiving these grants are Houston ($19.7 million), San Antonio and Austin ($4.4 million each).

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 30, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Big surprise: Bisexual men really do exist

Lots of folks — including many gay people — have long dismissed the idea of genuine bisexuality. Yes, most of us started out sampling from the hetero platter in high school before coming out as gay, but how much of that was social pressure and how much genuine arousal?

Well, a study, reported on by Healthy Living News, says that bisexual arousal really does exist. The study used a variety of controls to determine which men physically reacted to same-sex sex, disputing other studies which have suggested bisexuality, among men at least, is a myth.

Read the full story, which we’ve reprinted with permission, below.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Manhunt offers ‘Sex over 40′ resource

Manhunt users who are over 40 now have an additional resource from the site aside from the cruise-chat-connect option for which it’s come to be known. The site’s health resource Manhunt Cares announced today it’s new Sex Over 40 resource for “older gay and bisexual men.” The site teams up with Dr. Loren Olsen, author of Finally Out: Letting Go of Living Straight, in providing information to this demographic.

I’m rather fascinated by this announcement. I had no idea that hitting 40 “can be brutally intimidating” and I’m trying to correlate the idea of the sex toy study as the partial basis for this new resource. Anyway, their hearts are in the right place and since I’ll be part of this demographic soon, well, one more resource couldn’t hurt. Below is the full press release:

—  Rich Lopez

Getting tested at Level on July 16 will earn you a free ticket to the 4th annual Hip Hop for HIV show

Auntjuan Wiley

Although National HIV Testing Day has passed and we’ve already marked the 30th anniversary of AIDS, that’s no reason to drop attention from it.

HIV testing will take place at Level, 3903 Lemmon Ave., on Saturday, July 16 from 2-10 p.m.

Organizer Auntjuan Wiley said those who get tested will receive free tickets to the fourth annual Hip Hop for HIV concert. The concert — featuring T. Cash, Yung Nation, B Hamp, Dorrough, Doughski G, BMC Boyz and more — is set for Sunday, Aug. 21 at the Palladium Ballroom,

“Our young black MSMs are leading the charge when it comes to the infection rate in Dallas County and it’s time to step up and take responsibility of our own,” Wiley said.

A September 2010 report from the Centers for Disease Control showed HIV infection rates among black gay and bisexual men in Dallas are among the highest in the country. Wiley’s goal is to test 1,000 people on July 16 and he’s asking other individuals and groups to spread the word. Testing is open to everyone.

“Hip Hop for HIV is an innovative way to provide free testing, education and treatment services to the most impacted communities in a safe environment,” he said.

—  David Taffet

Study: Pill helps gay men avoid HIV infection

Experts call Truvada research ‘a major milestone’ but warn that condoms remain the ‘first line of defense’

MARILYNN MARCHIONE  |  Associated Press

MILWAUKEE — Scientists have an exciting breakthrough in the fight against AIDS. A pill already used to treat HIV infection turns out to be a powerful weapon in protecting healthy gay men from catching the virus, a global study found.

Daily doses of Truvada cut the risk of infection by 44 percent when given with condoms, counseling and other prevention services. Men who took their pills most faithfully had even more protection, up to 73 percent.

Researchers had feared the pills might give a false sense of security and make men less likely to use condoms or to limit their partners, but the opposite happened — risky sex declined.

The results are “a major advance” that can help curb the epidemic in gay men, said Dr. Kevin Fenton, AIDS prevention chief at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But he warned they may not apply to people exposed to HIV through male-female sex, drug use or other ways. Studies in those groups are under way now.

“This is a great day in the fight against AIDS … a major milestone,” said a statment from Mitchell Warren, head of the AIDS Vaccine Advocacy Coalition, a nonprofit group that works on HIV prevention.

Because Truvada is already on the market, the CDC is rushing to develop guidelines for doctors using it for HIV prevention, and urged people to wait until those are ready.

“It’s not time for gay and bisexual men to throw out their condoms,” Fenton said. The pill “should never be seen as a first line of defense against HIV.”

As a practical matter, price could limit use. The pills cost from $5,000 to $14,000 a year in the United States, but only 39 cents a day in some poor countries where they are sold in generic form.

Whether insurers or government health programs should pay for them is one of the tough issues to be sorted out, and cost-effectiveness analyses should help, said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

“This is an exciting finding,” but it “is only one study in one specific study population,” so its impact on others is unknown, Fauci said.

His institute sponsored the study with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Results were reported at a news conference Tuesday and published online by the New England Journal of Medicine.

It is the third AIDS prevention victory in about a year. In September 2009, scientists announced that a vaccine they are now trying to improve had protected one in 3 people from getting HIV in a study in Thailand. In July, research in South Africa showed that a vaginal gel spiked with an AIDS drug could cut nearly in half a woman’s chances of getting HIV from an infected partner.

Gay and bisexual men account for nearly half of the more than 1 million Americans living with HIV. Worldwide, more than 40 million people have the virus, and 7,500 new infections occur each day. Unlike in the U.S., only 5 to 10 percent of global cases involve sex between men.

“The condom is still the first line of defense,” because it also prevents other sexually spread diseases and unwanted pregnancies, said the study leader, Dr. Robert M. Grant of the Gladstone Institutes, a private foundation affliated with the University of California, San Francisco.

But many men don’t or won’t use condoms all the time, so researchers have been testing other prevention tools.

AIDS drugs already are used to prevent infection in health care workers accidentally exposed to HIV, and in babies whose pregnant mothers are on the medication. Taking these drugs before exposure to the virus may keep it from taking hold, just as taking malaria pills in advance can prevent that disease when someone is bitten by an infected mosquito.

The strategy showed great promise in monkey studies using tenofovir (brand name Viread) and emtricitabine, or FTC (Emtriva), sold in combination as Truvada by California-based Gilead Sciences Inc.

The company donated Truvada for the study, which involved about 2,500 men at high risk of HIV infection in Peru, Ecuador, Brazil, South Africa, Thailand and the United States (San Francisco and Boston). The foreign sites were chosen because of high rates of HIV infection and diverse populations.

More than 40 percent of participants had taken money for sex at least once. At the start of the study, they had 18 partners on average; that dropped to around 6 by the end.

The men were given either Truvada or dummy pills. All had monthly visits to get HIV testing, more pills and counseling. Every six months, they were tested for other sexually spread diseases and treated as needed.

After a median followup of just over a year, there were 64 HIV infections among the 1,248 men on dummy pills, and only 36 among the 1,251 on Truvada.

Among men who took their pills at least half the time, determined through interviews and pill counts, the risk of infection fell by 50 percent. For those who took pills on 90 percent or more days, risk fell 73 percent. Tests of drug levels in the blood confirmed that more consistent pill-taking gave better protection.

The treatment was safe. Side effects were similar in both groups except for nausea, which was more common in the drug group for the first month but not after that. Unintended weight loss also was more common in the drug group, but it occurred in very few. Further study is needed on possible long-term risks.

What’s next?

All participants will get a chance to take Truvada in an 18-month extension of the study. Researchers want to see whether men will take the pill more faithfully if they know it helps, and whether that provides better protection. About 20,000 people are enrolled in other studies testing Truvada or its component drugs around the world.

The government also will review all ongoing prevention studies, such as those of vaccines or anti-AIDS gels, and consider whether any people currently assigned to get dummy medicines should now get Truvada since it has proved effective in gay men.

Gilead also will discuss with public health and regulatory agencies the possibility and wisdom of seeking approval to market Truvada for prevention. The company has made no decision on that, said Dr. Howard Jaffe, president of Gilead Foundation, the company’s philanthropic arm. Doctors can prescribe it for this purpose now if patients are willing to pay for it, and some already do.

Some people have speculated that could expose Gilead to new liability concerns, if someone took the pill and then sued if it did not protect against infection.

“The potential for having an intervention like this that has never been broadly available before raises new questions. It is something we would have to discuss internally and externally,” Jaffe said.

Until the CDC’s detailed advice is available, the agency said gay and bisexual men should:

• Use condoms consistently and correctly.

• Get tested to know their HIV status and that of their partners, and get tested and treated for syphilis, gonorrhea and other infections that raise the risk of HIV.

• Get counseling to reduce drug use and risky sex.

• Reduce their number of sexual partners.

—  John Wright

CDC study shows ‘concentrated epidemic’ of HIV in gay, bisexual men

44% of 8,000 men in 21 cities didn’t know they had virus

MIKE STOBBE  |  AP Medical Writer

ATLANTA — One in five sexually active gay and bisexual men has the AIDS virus, and nearly half of those don’t know they are infected, a federal study of 21 U.S. cities shows.

Experts said the findings are similar to earlier research, but the study released Thursday, Sept. 23 is the largest to look at gay and bisexual U.S. men at high risk for HIV. More than 8,000 men were tested and interviewed, and 44 percent of those who had the virus didn’t know they had it.

Overall, less than half of 1 percent of Americans have the AIDS virus, according to a calculation by the Kaiser Family Foundation, a research and policy organization in Washington, D.C.

But gay and bisexual men continue to be infected at much higher rates, said Jennifer Kates, Kaiser’s director of global health and HIV policy.

“We don’t have a generalized epidemic in the United States. We have a concentrated epidemic among certain populations,” she said.

That’s why a new national AIDS strategy, unveiled by the White House in July, is emphasizing more of a government focus on men who have sex with men and others at the highest risk of getting infected, Kates said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends HIV testing at least once a year for all men who have sex with men and are sexually active, but research indicates more than half don’t get tested.

An earlier study in just five cities in 2004-05 found similar results.

The new study, conducted in 2008, included 16 additional cities. Researchers offered free testing to the men, interviewed them and paid around $25 for their participation.

Black men were more likely to have HIV, with 28 percent reportedly infected, compared to 18 percent of Hispanic men and 16 percent of white men.

Black men were also least likely to know they were infected — about 60 percent didn’t know they had HIV — compared 46 percent of Hispanic men and 26 percent of whites.

—  John Wright