Dallas rate of new HIV infections higher than national average

New statistics released by CDC examine infection rates in MSM in 21 major metro areas

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer taffet@dallasvoice.com

In September, the Centers for Disease Control issued new HIV statistics for men who have sex with men in 21 metropolitan areas.

They tested 8,153 men and found HIV prevalence was 28 percent among blacks, 18 percent among Hispanics and 16 percent among whites. In Dallas, 461 men participated in the study.

The statistics were worse for Dallas than the 21 cities as a whole. Nationally, 19 percent of those tested were positive. In Dallas, 26 percent were positive. About 44 percent of those who tested positive in the full survey were previously unaware of their status. In Dallas, 54 percent were previously unaware.

In Houston, the same percentage tested positive as in Dallas, but only 23 percent were previously unaware of their status.

Only Philadelphia, Detroit and San Juan had higher percentages of participants than Dallas who did not previously know their status. Each of those cities scored more than 70 percent unaware. Only Baltimore and New York City revealed a higher percentage of new HIV infections than Dallas or Houston.

The study found that HIV prevalence dropped with higher education levels and with higher income levels.

Positive testing increased with age but those in their 30s were most likely to be unaware of their status.

For more on the report go online to cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm5937a2.htm?s_cid=mm5937a2_w

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 08, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas

Flu shots available in Oak Lawn

The flu vaccine is available in Oak Lawn

Flu shots are available.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, this year’s vaccine includes protection for swine flu (H1N1) and two other influenza viruses (H3N2 virus and an influenza B virus). It is an inactivated vaccine (containing killed virus), which means you cannot get the flu from the shot. However, side effects include soreness, redness or swelling where the shot is given, low-grade fever and aches.

Although the vaccine is recommended for everyone, two groups the CDC says should get protected are:

  1. People 50 years of age and older
  2. People of any age with certain chronic medical conditions (which includes people with HIV)

Those who should not get the vaccine:

  • People who have a severe allergy to chicken eggs.
  • People who have had a severe reaction to an influenza vaccination.
  • People who developed Guillain-Barre syndrome within six weeks of getting an influenza vaccine.
  • Children less than 6 months of age (influenza vaccine is not approved for this age group)
  • People who have a moderate-to-severe illness with a fever (they should wait until they recover to get vaccinated.)

This year the shots are widely available and are offered at both doctors’ offices and retail locations. (Last year, Oak Lawn area doctors were reporting trouble in obtaining the vaccine).

Among Oak Lawn retailers offering the vaccine:

Walgreens

3802 Cedar Springs Road at Oak Lawn: Walk-ins welcome. Available 24 hours a day.

3418 McKinney Ave. at Lemmon: Walk-ins welcome. Easiest when the most pharmacists are on duty from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

CVS

Go to website to find when flu clinics taking walk-ins are available at any store.

4207 Lemmon Ave. at Douglas: Best to call to make sure pharmacist is available. 214-528-0328. She will be in Mon. Oct. 4 from 3 p.m.-10 p.m.; Tues. Oct. 5 from 8 a.m.-3 p.m.

5659 Lemmon Ave. at Inwood: Call anytime to schedule appointment. 214-252-0121.

—  David Taffet

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

AIDS Arms gets CDC grant to expand prison outreach

Program includes HIV education efforts in Texas prisons, peer counseling efforts and safer sex packets for those just leaving prison

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer taffet@dallasvoice.com

PREVENTION BEHIND BARS
PREVENTION BEHIND BARS | HIV educators with AIDS Arms have trained more than 800 peer counselors who have worked with more than 65,000 other inmates in Texas prisons.

The Centers for Disease Control has awarded AIDS Arms a $1.6 million five-year grant to expand its outreach to the Texas prison population.

AIDS Arms’ Free World Bound Program has worked with the Texas prison system for eight years. According to the agency’s executive director, Raeline Nobles, AIDS Arms has 10 staff members who work with 116 prisons across the state.

“The grant expands the prison and prison reentry program,” said Nobles.

The program begins in the state’s prisons with risk reduction education and helps HIV-positive prisoners with reentry into the community.

She said that wardens identify good candidates for the program. Then AIDS Arms staff provides a 40-hour training program on how to avoid HIV, TB, STDs and other diseases rampant in the prison populations.

Those prisoners become certified peer educators and are sent back to work with other prisoners to teach risk reduction. The peer counselors have two re-trainings a year.

Over the years, AIDS Arms has trained 800 people who have worked with 65,000 other prisoners, Nobles said.

The agency also does prerelease planning up to six months before an HIV-positive prisoner leaves prison. Counselors make sure prisoners, who are released with just 10 days worth of medications, know where to get their meds. They arrange housing, medical appointments at Peabody Clinic, counseling, family reunification planning and further risk-reduction training.

“And when they’re released and land at the Greyhound station downtown, we meet them with a bag of stuff — condoms, HIV wellness info, toiletries — to get them through the next few days,” Nobles said.

Nobles said her staff members are not the only ones meeting these people at the bus station. Dealers selling drugs and prostitutes offering sex, among others, are there to meet the prisoners. She said about half of the former prisoners they meet downtown welcome the help from the AIDS Arms caseworkers.

“We’ve got to get to them first,” she said.

The CDC grant specifically targets HIV intervention for both negative, at-risk populations and HIV-positive prisoners. With it, AIDS Arms will be able to increase its Free World Bound staff by two, Nobles said.

Nobles said the program began when AIDS Arm staffers noticed people recently released from prison who were coming to AIDS Arms and were extremely sick.

“There was no treatment in prison for years,” she said.

Getting them back to any health baseline was extremely difficult, she said.

“To change that, we had to get to these folks years before they were released,” Nobles said.

Three of the employees of the agency are former prisoners who began as peer educators in prison before their release. Nobles said they hired them for a number of reasons.

“We wanted to show our clients solid role models,” she said. “We will never fully understand, but these three have fully integrated into the community. They take their meds, go to doctors’ appointments, and have cars, homes. They’re extremely effective.”

Nobles said the prison intervention should help with risk reduction in the gay community as well.

Without intervention, she said, “Within 48 hours of release, those prisoners will have unprotected sex with two people.”
Nobles said her agency’s own anecdotal evidence backs up the statistics from CDC.

“We’ve got to get to them first,” she said, stressing the importance of handing them the bag that includes the condoms. She said that many did get the message about prevention, but buying condoms right after getting off the bus from prison wasn’t a priority.

Nobles said a final portion of the prison program was getting people into job training and getting them to work.

She said AIDS Arms partners with a number of other organizations that specialize in finding employment for recently released felons.

While the unemployment rate among released prisoners is much higher, the rate for AIDS Arms clients hovers between 15 and 17 percent, Nobles said.

Texas has the second largest HIV positive prison population in the United States. Each month about 30 HIV-positive prisoners are released to the Dallas County.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 13, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas