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

Clinton, Sanders respond to 2016 presidential HIV/AIDS questionnaire

Bernie Sanders and Hillary ClintonIn February, a coalition of more than 50 AIDS and HIV service organizations, including AIDS Arms and Houston’s Legacy Community Health, sent a survey to presidential candidates from both parties to assess their stances on HIV/AIDS policies and initiatives. Candidates were question on their positions on HIV stigmatization laws, research funding and needle exchange policies.

Of the five candidates still in the race, only the two Democrats — former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders — have responded.

In general both support policies supported by HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention advocates. But when it comes down to the nuts and bolts of policy, Clinton shines.

On the issue of ending HIV criminalization laws, here’s Clinton’s take:

As President, I will work with advocates, HIV and AIDS organizations, and Congress to review and reform outdated and stigmatizing HIV criminalization laws — and I will call on states to do the sameI will continue to aggressively enforce the Americans with Disabilities Act and other civil rights laws to fight HIV-related discrimination. And I will ensure that my Administration releases the latest facts about HIV transmission and risk behaviors to counter unnecessary laws and work to educate prosecutors about the latest science of HIV to reduce unnecessary charges against people with HIV that are not scientifically valid. 

Here’s Sanders’ take:

We should continue and expand the policies that are working. The United States has clearly come a long way in its attitudes towards sexual orientation, gender identity, and health status, but there is still a long way to go. We must ensure that health providers, social services, law enforcement, and all other entities have proper resources and training to handle the varying needs of the community they serve. Schools must be giving students age-appropriate, comprehensive sex education. I echo the Strategy’s recommendation that all Americans should have access to scientifically-accurate information regarding HIV infection. For starters, I would direct FDA to update its blood donation policy. The recent update was a step in the right direction, but a blanket one-year ban is still not supported by science. I have joined other Members in asking FDA to implement a risk-based policy for all donors.

Click here to read Clinton’s complete response. Click here to read Sanders’ complete response.

For what it’s worth, the coalition is still happy to receive responses from remaining GOP candidates Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, businessman Donald Trump and Ohio Gov. John Kasich. In absence of a response, however, the coalition reviewed campaign literature, speeches or other positions of the candidates but found no information directly related to HIV/AIDS issues addressed in the survey.

—  James Russell

New study: PrEP could prevent 168,000 new HIV infections

CDC HIV impactThe Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new research on Wednesday, Feb. 24, showing that reaching the National HIV/AIDS Strategy targets for HIV testing and treatment and expanding the use of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) could prevent 185,000 new HIV infections in the U.S. by 2020, a 70 percent reduction in new infections.

The study estimates that, between 2015 and 2020:

Reaching the nation’s goal of ensuring 90 percent of people living with HIV are diagnosed, and 80 percent of people diagnosed achieve viral suppression could prevent 168,000 new HIV infections

By also increasing the use of PrEP, a daily anti-HIV pill, among people who are uninfected but at high risk, an additional 17,000 infections could be prevented

If HIV testing and treatment remained the same, expanded use of PrEP among high-risk populations alone could prevent more than 48,000 new infections.

—  David Taffet

Syringe Access Fund announces $2.6 million in grants

Screen shot 2016-02-16 at 4.26.11 PMOfficials with the Syringe Access Fund announced today (Tuesday, Feb. 16), that the agency in January awarded 58 grants, totaling $2.6 million over the next two years, that are focused on policy and implementation support for syringe exchange programs.

Two of the grants are going to Texas agencies: Austin Harm Reduction Coalition in San Marcos and Border AIDS Partnership in El Paso.

According to statistics provided by the Syringe Access Fund, infected needles result in 3,000-5,000 new cases of HIV and approximately 10,000 new cases of hepatitis C each year in the U.S. Scientific evidence has shown that syringe exchange programs significantly reduce transmission of HIV, hepatitis C and other blood-borne illnesses without promoting drug use, the Syringe Access Fund officials say.

The grants come about a month after President Obama signed new legislation removing the federal ban on needle exchange programs. That legislation, which the president signed in December, was passed in the wake of the largest HIV outbreak in Indiana’s history last year, in which more than 188 people were newly infected, mainly through injecting drugs with dirty needles.

CDC officials have estimated the lifetime treatment costs associated with the Scott County outbreak may exceed $100 million.

The Syringe Access Fund, the largest private grant-making collaborative supporting syringe exchange programs, was founded in 2004 and is supported by the Elton John AIDS Foundation, (the now closed) Irene Diamond Fund, Levi Strauss Foundation, Open Society Foundations and AIDS United. Syringe Access Fund has distributed nearly $18 million through 347 grants to 161 organizations in 32 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.

—  Tammye Nash

amfAR GRAPHICS: HIV among gay black men

After our story Good news, bad news: HIV diagnoses decreasing among African-Americans, but black gay men still 3 times more likely to be infected as white gay men ran, amfAR sent us these graphics depicting the severity of HIV infection among gay black men. HIV disproportionately affects this community across the south.

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—  David Taffet

Good news, bad news

HIV diagnoses decreasing among African-Americans, but black gay men still 3 times more likely to be infected as white gay men

Greg-Millet

Greg Millett

 

DAVID TAFFET  |  Senior Staff Writer

HIV diagnoses among African-Americans have been decreasing over the past 10 years.

That’s the good news.

The bad news is that statistics show African-American gay men are still three times as likely to be infected with HIV as gay white men, according to Greg Millett, an epidemiologist and researcher who currently serves as director of public policy for amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research. But in that same time period diagnoses among gay African-American men increased by 87 percent.

One in four new infections in the U.S. is among gay African-American men.

While gay men make up only a few percent of the African-American population, 53 percent of new diagnoses are among gay black men.

And, Millett said, while black men are more likely to be tested than white men, black men are also more likely to be infected and not know it.

Statistics show that a greater percentage of African-American men who have been diagnosed as HIV-positive are not in care, compared to white men diagnosed with HIV. Millett cited a number of reasons for that, including a general mistrust of medical professionals in the African-American community dating back to the Tuskegee syphilis experiment conducted by the U.S. government from 1932 to 1972.

Men of color are more likely than white men to believe HIV was a virus manufactured to kill gay men and therefore don’t trust medication given to suppress that virus, he said.

In addition, a greater percentage of African-Americans with HIV are homeless, compared to other HIV-positive populations. “Housing is a huge indicator,” Millett said. “People in stable housing are more likely to take their medications.”

HIV criminalization laws, which don’t follow any public health recommendations and are disproportionately used against men of color often “dissuade testing,” Millett continued, therefore delaying or completely preventing treatment.

Millet also said Medicaid expansion is a huge tool in treatment of the disease. Southern states with large black populations disproportionately refused to add to their rosters of Medicaid recipients. Without that coverage, fewer low-income people receive the medical care they need with an HIV infection.
Among white gay men, 34 percent who are HIV-positive are virally suppressed with existing treatments.

Among African-American gay men, only 16 percent are virally suppressed. While a disparity in efficacy of some of the earlier drugs may have been a problem, Millett said, there’s no disparity with current medications.

“It’s an access issue,” he declared.

Abounding Prosperity Associate Director Tamara Stephney said compared to national figures, Texas is actually doing quite well. She said the most important statistic to her, locally speaking, is linkage to care.

Of the 2,000 people AP tests per year, the positivity rate is 4 to 7 percent. Of those testing positive, 85 percent remain in care.

Separate statistics aren’t kept nationally or on a state level for trans women with HIV, but Stephney said of their 40 trans clients, all remain in care.

As of 2014, 80,000 people are living with HIV in Texas — 63,000 men and 17,000 women. Of those, 16,146 live in Dallas County.

There were 887 new HIV diagnoses in Dallas County in 2014, the latest year from which information is available. Of those new cases, 652 were among gay men. Almost half of the total new diagnoses were among black men. The county didn’t release statistics that combined race and sexual orientation.

Within five years, researchers are optimistic about finding a cure that will knock out the virus altogether.

AmfAR recently committed $100 million to finding a cure by 2020. Millett said a grant of $20 million to University of California San Francisco would establish the first Institute for Cure Research.

He said the push for a cure was propelled by new medical leads that weren’t there just a few years ago and amfAR’s new financial stability that allowed it to raise the money for what it hopes will be a final push for the cure.

……………………..

For National Black HIV Awareness Day,
Abounding Prosperity will hold a testing and fish fry event from 2-5 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 6 at
Abounding Prosperity, 2311 MLK Blvd.

“Know Your Status Dallas”
will provide HIV testing and information 10 a.m.-2 p.m. on Feb 6 at the Southwest Center Mall

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 5, 2016.

—  David Taffet