Anchia files PrEP information bill

State Rep. Rafael Anchia

State Rep. Rafael Anchia filed HB2006 to require that anyone who receives a negative HIV test result will be provided with information about PrEP — pre-exposure prophylaxis — to prevent transmission of HIV in the future.

Resource Center Communications and Advocacy Manager Rafael McDonnell called it a common sense bill that would help prevent the spread of HIV on a statewide basis. His agency and others that do HIV testing already regularly offer that information when providing HIV test results.

All that would be offered is information.

If they get a negative test result, is PrEP right for them as an HIV preventive tool?” McDonnell said.

No prescriptions would be offered. No referrals to a doctor or clinic prescribing PrEP would be required by the bill. Simply information.

McDonnell said he believes the reason PrEP hasn’t been as popular in Texas as elsewhere is simply a lack of information.

—  David Taffet

Parkland HIV Transitional Care Project reduces readmissions

The use of combination anti-viral drugs has led to successful treatment and care of those who have HIV and AIDS, to the point where many individuals are able to live relatively healthy lives with normal lifespans.

But that success depends greatly on strict adherence to a sometimes complex medication and follow-up care regimen, something that not all HIV patients can attain. In fact, hospitalized HIV patients are among those with the highest readmission rates, meaning they are readmitted into the hospital within 30 days of discharge. Healthcare experts say various medical and social factors account for that high rate.

An innovative project at Parkland Health & Hospital System that focuses on both the inpatient and outpatient care of HIV patients has led to significant reductions, as much as 40 percent, in the rate of readmissions. Parkland’s HIV Transitional Care Project, a three-year effort that began in fiscal year 2014, uses a multidisciplinary team of HIV specialists that includes physicians, mid-level providers such as nurse practitioners or physician assistants, transition nurses, pharmacists and social workers to care for and instruct inpatients to help them make the transition to outpatient care.

“HIV patients need to have specialty care and they need far more coordinated care, not just for medical issues but also social needs,” said Ank Nijhawan, MD, one of the HIV specialists involved with the Parkland project. Dr. Nijhawan also is an Assistant Professor of Internal Medicine at UT Southwestern Medical Center. “For HIV inpatients, that kind of care is vital. But some patients, for whatever reason, do not follow up with their medication or plan of care, and that leads to them being hospitalized again or even dying. We have patients, many in their 20s and 30s, who still die from this disease.”

According to John Raish, Parkland’s Vice President of Transformational Initiatives, the HIV Transitional Care Project is one of the system’s 1115 waiver projects that provide state funding for uncompensated care and for programs that increase healthcare access to underserved populations.

“We feel the HIV Project has been a great success and is a great example of why the 1115 Waiver programs are crucial for improving healthcare in Texas. We have actually far exceeded our goals in terms of number of patients served,” Raish said. “Realistically, we have reduced the number of HIV patients we would have expected to readmit by about 40 percent.”

The HIV Transitional Care Project is important, Dr. Nijhawan added, because of the great difference medicines can make in a patient’s life. Medication can often effectively lower a patient’s viral load (the amount of HIV in the blood) to levels that cannot be detected by most common testing. While the person is still infected with HIV, their risk of developing a serious opportunistic infection is greatly reduced.

Mamta Jain, MD, who also works on the Parkland HIV Project and is an Associate Professor of Internal Medicine at UT Southwestern, said readmissions had been high at Parkland because of the vulnerable populations that the hospital system treats. “Through this waiver project, Parkland was able to hire the dedicated staff who can make a difference in those HIV readmissions.”

Dr. Nijhawan previously worked on an HIV readmissions study that showed HIV patients had readmission rates of about 25 percent, higher than other diseases such as heart disease and pneumonia. The study, conducted in conjunction with the Parkland Center for Clinical Innovation (PCCI), was published in 2012 in the Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome.

The study confirmed that in addition to medical issues, such as the severity of opportunistic infections and access to medicines, social factors such as housing instability, lack of insurance, distance to healthcare facilities and poverty contributed to readmission rates.

As a result of the HIV Project, Dr. Nijhawan said, many HIV patients are enjoying a better quality of life.

“Many of our patients have spoken about the great improvements they’ve experienced. They’ve had fewer illnesses and are able to live more normal lives,” Dr. Nijhawan said.

—  David Taffet

Get ready for the PrEP Rally!

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Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis — PrEP for short — is a a daily regime of medicines for HIV-negative individuals who are at high risk of HIV infection intended to help them keep from becoming HIV-positive. It is, Resource Center Communications and Advocacy Manager Rafael McDonnell said, “one of the tools” that people can use to avoid HIV infection.

But it is, possibly, a greatly under-utilized tool, McDonnell said, maybe because people just aren’t familiar with it and how it works.

Resource Center‘s United Black Ellument and Team Friendly DFW, an organization focused on fighting the stigma that too often accompanies  an HIV-positive status, aim to change that. And they plan to start with the PrEP Rally set for Saturday, Oct. 15, from 2-5 p.m. at Resource Center, 5750 Cedar Springs Road.

Those who attend will learn what PrEP is, how it works, and if it is right for them, as medical professionals and community volunteers share their own PrEP stories and talk about Resource Center’s plan to launch its own PrEP clinic soon.

“We will be launching a PrEP clinic sometime later this fall or early next year,” McDonnell said, adding that center officials are already working to line-up the volunteer medical professionals necessary to operate the clinic.

“We need medical professionals to do the necessary blood work for those who come in, and to talk to people about PrEP and whether it’s right for them,” he explained.

“Right now, Tarrant County is the only public health clinic in the state of Texas that operates a PrEP clinic,” McDonnell continued. “We’d love to see Dallas County start a similar program here. It’s likely that a county PrEP clinic would reach people that the Resource Center couldn’t reach, and we’d reach people the county couldn’t reach.”

The PrEP Rally will include food and beverages for those attending, but McDonnell encouraged interested persons to RSVP quickly because seating is limited. Admission is free, but those who want to attend should register here to guarantee their seat.

For more information visit UBEDallas.org/PrEP16.

 

—  Tammye Nash

DVtv: Tiffany, Debbie Gibson light up 11th annual MetroBall

Debbie

Brad Pritchett and Israel Luna took DVtv to S4 on Friday night to talk to 80s pop princesses Debbie Gibson and Tiffany who performed at the 11th annual MetroBall, benefitting the Greg Dollgener Memorial AIDS Fund.

—  Tammye Nash

CNN series ‘The Eighties’ takes on the AIDS epidemic

Larry Kramer

LGBT and AIDS activist Larry Kramer was one of the loudest voices in the fight against AIDS and its stigma in the 1980s.

How old were you when the AIDS epidemic first hit?

How old were you when the New York Times printed that first story about gay men dying of some mysterious cancer? When they called it GRID — Gay-Related Immune Deficiency? When they realized it wasn’t just gay men getting sick and started calling it AIDS — Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome? When they finally discovered the human immunodeficiency virus — HIV — that causes AIDS?

How old were you when the men of our community were dying every day?

Truth is, a lot of people reading this weren’t even born yet back then. A lot more were just wee tots with no idea what was happening. For some, the 1980s are ancient history, not personal history, with no relevance to their day-to-day lives.

That lack of historical perspective may be why HIV infection rates are so high among young people.

Now CNN offers a chance to maybe fill in some of the historical gaps for the younger generation with a new episode of the cable channel’s original series The Eighties, “The Fight Against AIDS,” airing tomorrow (Thursday, June 2, 8 p.m. CST). The program “focuses on the pandemic that created a movement and defined a decade.”

According to a press release, this “mysterious and lethal illness developed into a pandemic with enormous political and cultural consequences. What started as a medical detective story grew into a societal nightmare as first dozens and eventually thousands of people all over the world contracted the lethal virus that came to be known as AIDS. It’s a story of ignorance and heartbreak, but also one of compassion, courage and dedication.”

Award-winning producers Tom Hanks and Gary Goetzman, in association with HBO producer Mark Herzog, present the series, The Eighties, which “explores the individuals and events that shaped a decade of exceptionalism and excess.” The program combines rarely-seen archival footage and interviews with journalists, historians, musicians and television artists to tell the story of the decade. Future episides will focus on the age of Reagan, the end of the Cold War, Wall Street corruption, the tech boom and the expansion of television and the evolving music scene.

—  Tammye Nash

New food pantry open

Food pantryThe new Resource Center Food Pantry is open at 2701 Reagan St. Volunteers stocked shelves on Sunday (May 1) to get the pantry ready to open today.

“Perishable goods should be available next week once refrigeration system is complete,” Resource Center posted on its Facebook page. So perishable items that need to be refrigerated such as eggs, meat or milk are not available yet.

The former food pantry location closed a month ago because the retail center on Denton Drive Cutoff that also included Elliott’s Hardware will be torn down to make way for a so-called “West Village-type” mixed-use development. Resource Center had hoped to keep the former location open until renovations at its new location were complete.

—  David Taffet

Oak Lawn Library supports National Transgender HIV Testing Day

Trans HIV Testing DayOak Lawn Library, 4100 Cedar Springs Road, is offering free HIV testing today (April 18) from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. to mark National Transgender HIV Testing Day. Free coffee will be available all morning and free hot dogs at noon.

No appointments are necessary.

The event is sponsored by Trans Pride Initiative, UT Southwestern and the Dallas Public Library.

 

 

—  David Taffet

Greg Louganis gets his Wheaties box

GLAt 56, Greg Louganis may be the oldest athlete ever to be on the front of a Wheaties box. But it has been a long time comin’.

Louganis, of course, was the model of physical perfection when he won four gold medals for diving at the Olympic Games. Notoriously, he also thwacked his skull on a diving board, slicing open his scalp and bleeding into the pool before his second dive, where he received perfect 10s in 1988. But as he revealed in his autobio Breaking the Surface in 1995, it was nerve-wracking at the time, because he has just earlier that year learned he was HIV-positive. No one knew, and Louganis himself didn’t expect to live long enough to be on a Wheaties box.

As it turned out, it wasn’t the disease, but the bigotry, that kept him from staring at you across your breakfast table.

It was a strange at the time he wasn’t so honored, because he was America’s sweetheart… except he was secretly gay. Apparently, General Mills figured it out, and told Louganis he wasn’t in keeping with their image of wholesomeness. But yesterday, a photo of Louganis from his prime was added to the lineup of athletes on the boxes. He is one of several “makeup” vintage boxes, including swimmer Janet Evans and hurdler Edwin Moses.

And it kind of makes sense. After all, the first athlete on a Wheaties box was a decathlete named Bruce Jenner. Now that Bruce is Caitlyn and a member of the execrable Kardashian Klan, a modest, settled gay-rights activist like Louganis seems like a church deacon in terms of wholesomeness… oh, wait, we know about those church deacons too…

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

AIDS Walk South Dallas steps off

The sixth AIDS Walk South Dallas stepped off at 10 a.m. this morning (March 26) from the MLK Jr. Community Center. Proceeds benefit the Afiya Center.

—  David Taffet

Researchers edit HIV genes out of immune cells

Kamel Khalili

Kamel Khalili, a lead researcher in the study.

Temple University researchers have successfully edited HIV cells out of a patient’s infected immune cells, according to study results published in Nature Scientific Reports.

The researchers used the gene editing tool known as CRISPR/Cas9 to clear out the entire HIV-1 genome from a patient’s infected immune cells in a petri dish, they said.

“Not only did this remove the viral DNA, it did so permanently. What’s more, because this microscopic genetic system remained within the cell, it staved off further infections when particles of HIV-1 tried to sneak their way back in from unedited cells,” according to Gizmodo.

While the virus was not removed, the “technique successfully lowered the viral load in the patient’s extracted cells.”

“[These findings] demonstrate the effectiveness of our gene editing system in eliminating HIV from the DNA of CD4 T-cells and, by introducing mutations into the viral genome, permanently inactivating its replication,” Temple geneticist Kamel Khalili said in a statement. “Further, they show that the system can protect cells from re-infection and that the technology is safe for the cells, with no toxic effects.”

—  James Russell