"The most surprising question people ask me: 'Do I think I am going to die?'" says Chicago-based YouTube hotness, HIV/AIDS activist and celebrated vlogger Ken Like Barbie in an emotional new video. Watch and listen to his honest reply AFTER THE JUMP ...
Making this year's list: The Food and Drug Administration has approved the antiretroviral medication Truvada to reduce the risk of HIV infection in uninfected individuals. That biomedical prevention strategy is known as pre-exposure prophylaxis or PrEP.
Truvada becomes the first medication ever to be approved for HIV prevention in adults, marking a major milestone in the 30-plus years of the global epidemic. But many questions remain around adherence, risk, access .. as well as the outrageous $14,000 annual price tag. Meanwhile, there are promising developments in the decades-long quest for an HIV vaccine.
Sheryl Lee Ralph lost many friends and colleagues to the epidemic during its darkest days of the 1980s. That's when the singer and actress was co-starring on Broadway in the original production of the iconic musical Dreamgirls. "I saw my friends literally drop dead," said the singer, actress and activist. "It was awful because I saw them die under stigma, shame and silence. I saw people who could’ve helped turn their backs on [them] and act as if they didn’t know any [people with] AIDS. That’s when I made up my mind to [that] we have got to do better."
This year marked Ms. Ralph's 23rd Annual "Divas Simply Singing", the all-star gala HIV/AIDS benefit concert. This event included Kelly Price, Martha Wash, gospel and dance music artist B Slade (formerly Tonex) and the ridiculously talented Jenifer Lewis. The latest episode of the webseries No More Down Low explores The Quilt's history and Ms. Ralph's activism AFTER THE JUMP ...
Today is the 25th World AIDS Day, which is a global day of reflection and activism to raise awareness to the devastating HIV/AIDS epidemic.
After more than 30 years of the crisis, about 35 million people are living with HIV/AIDS, according to the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS or UNAIDS. In the United States, about 1.1 million people are positive and nearly 50,000 people contract the virus each year—with African Americans and Latinos disproportionately affected. Men who have sex with men—especially African American, Caribbean, Latino and African men—are experiencing the highest increases in new infections both at home and across the globe.
"Due to a confluence of factors, young gay men are often left out of research, policy and programs that are designed for adult gay men, he general pool of youth, or the overall population." reports TheBody.com, the world's largest HIV/AIDS news and resource portal. "What is the current state of the global epidemic among young gay men and how do we address it?"
TheBody.com has created a clever infographic on the global MSM epidemic. Click to enlarge.
Light posting this week. I'm traveling to Dallas and returning to Chicago for two important conferences on gay men's health.
Catching a flight to Dallas this afternoon for a 2-day trip to the 2013 NASTAD National Stigma Summit on Black and Latino Gay Men’s Health. The conference is sponsored by the National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors and will bring together health departments, funders, policy makers, advocate and stakeholders "for a dynamic dialogue centered on stigma that impacts Black and Latino gay men’s health." I've been asked to moderate a session stigma and bias against Black and Latino gay/bisexual men in the media.
There is also a Twitter Town Hall on Thursday evening at 630P/CT. Follow @NASTAD and use the hashtag #HIVstigma.
Germany has become the first European nation to allow babies born with intersex characteristics to be officially registered as neither male nor female. The new law became effective November 1, reports Al Jazeera.
Experts estimate one in 1,500 to 2,000 births in Germany result in a baby of indeterminate gender or both male and female gender features. Under new legislation, the field for gender can be left blank on birth certificates, effectively creating a category for indeterminate sex in the public record.
Germany will soon also allow the gender field on passports be filled with an "X" instead of "M" or "F." The new German law is intended to remove pressure on parents to quickly make a decision about controversial sex assignment surgeries for newborns, but some rights advocates said it does not go far enough.
German intersex activists and some policy makers say the new law does not go far enough, adds Der Spiegel.
Lucie Veith, chair of the German Association of Intersex People ... fears the law
may have downsides, like if children are "forced out of the closet" in
schools and left vulnerable to discrimination. Her organization is also
calling for the German government to take the reform even further. They
want to ban doctors and parents from surgically assigning children their
sex at birth. Veith says such operations are mostly medically
Many intersex adults experienced painful and traumatic treatments in their childhood, and controversial medical interventions are still common. After a vaginoplasty, or the surgical construction of a vagina, for example, dilators have to be inserted on a regular basis for the rest of the person's life to prevent the vaginal walls from collapsing. "I've heard from many who experienced that as a kind of routine sexual invasion," Veith says.
Germany follows the lead of several nations in Asia and Oceania, according to the BBC.
Australians have had the option of selecting "x" as their gender - meaning indeterminate, unspecified or intersex - on passport applications since 2011. A similar option was introduced for New Zealanders in 2012.
In South Asia, Bangladesh has offered an "other" gender category on passport applications since 2011. Nepal began recognising a third gender on its census forms in 2007 while Pakistan made it an option on national identity cards in 2011. India added a third gender category to voter lists in 2009.
It remains unclear what impact the new legislation will have on marriage and partnership laws. Unlike the neighboring nations of Belgium, France and the Netherlands, same-sex marriage is limited by law to "one man, one woman" in Germany. Civil partnerships are reserved for same-sex couples.
BARCELONA: After more than 30 years into the HIV/AIDS pandemic, a vaccine remains elusive—and much needed. Globally, about 35 million people are living with HIV, according to the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS or UNAIDS. In the United States, about 1.1 million people are HIV positive, and
nearly 50,000 people contract the virus each year—with African Americans
and Latinos disproportionately affected. Men who have sex with men—especially those of color—have among the highest infection rates across the globe.
AIDS Vaccine 2013 was the first public presentation of the research by
Oregon Health and Science University's Louis J. Picker, MD, originally published
in the journal Nature. Picker's study demonstrated that vaccinated
monkeys can clear simian immunodeficiency virus—SIV, the monkey
equivalent of HIV—from their bodies. Picker's research team used an
aggressive strain of the simian virus, called SIVmac239 and described as
"up to 100 times more deadly than HIV." The vaccine was effective in nine of the 16 monkeys in the study.
Picker's research team fused SIV genes to the cytomegalovirus (CMV),
which is from the herpes virus family. The immune system responded to
the infection by doing what it normally does—releasing new white blood
cells called CD8 "hunter-killer cells" that kill cells infected with
SIV. These CD8s are normally primed to target the virus, but in this
case, according to The New York Times,
they operated in "an atypical state of mid-activation" and persisted in
tissue while "eliminating their targets quietly without triggering
inflammation or even a mild fever."
This new vaccine strategy could be a "breakthrough" because HIV is
"particularly Machiavellian," said Picker. The virus constantly mutates
and hides from the body's immune system—which is why vaccine research
has so far proved largely ineffective.
AIDS Vaccine 2013 Barcelona has been described as the "world's
leading scientific meeting on HIV vaccine research" and was attended by more
than 1,000 leading researchers, funders and policy makers.
AIDS Vaccine 2013 Barcelona and the international media fellowship were sponsored the Global HIV Vaccine Enterprise—the international consortium that has pooled resources to "speed the development of a safe and effective HIV vaccine."
The Enterprise includes the USA, Thailand and South African
governments, the European Union, the Bill & Melinda Gates
Foundation, UNAIDS, World
Health Organization, the Centers for Disease Controls and Prevention,
GlaxoSmithKline, the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative, Merck,
Novartis, USAID, Sanofi Pasteur, the largest company in the world
devoted to vaccine development.
I'll be appearing this afternoon on Philadelphia's WURD 900AM at 430ET on The Nick Taliafero Show. We'll discuss the exciting breakthrough in HIV/AIDS vaccine research at AIDS Vaccine 2013 Barcelona—how it would work, how long it would take to develop and how much it would cost.
The researchers separated inactive, or "quiescent," CD4 T-cells from healthy adults and then put them in an environment with cocaine. Researchers then infected the cells with HIV. They compared the rate and mechanism of the HIV infection in the cocaine-affected cells to CD4 T-cells that were exposed to HIV, but not the drug. After three days, they discovered that cocaine made it easier for T-cells to be infected with HIV.
John Wherry, deputy editor of the Journal of Leukocyte Biology, said to Medscape that other studies have linked cocaine with a higher risk of contracting HIV. This study was unique because it was able to find a specific cell type that is typically not infected by HIV and show how cocaine weakened it.
"Patients with histories of substance of abuse, particularly cocaine, may need to be watched a little bit more carefully (because) their overall decline in CD4 cell counts might happen either faster or might happen in a way that actually predisposes to the development of AIDS at perhaps a higher CD4 count than others," Wherry said.
The findings are limited by the fact that the research was not conducted
in humans and also because typical cocaine users partake of the drug
over a more extended period of time than three days. Among their plans
for future research is an investigation into whether cocaine leads to a
higher viral reservoir.
It's also worth noting that cocaine and other drug/alcohol use typically lowers a persons inhibitions and makes them much more likely to practice unsafe sex. If this new research is proven true, the combination of the lowered inhibitions and weakened immune system/faster viral delivery could fuel many seroconversions. To be continued ...