Health and well being
Testing Times | Print |  E-mail
News - Health and well being
Written by By Keiran Rossteuscher   
Thursday, 21 March 2013 22:03


Thirty years after the first cases of HIV started to appear in Australia, the number of big news items about progress and development have started drying up.

There is always a lot of work and research going on but the pace and incremental steps taken rarely make for interesting media opportunities. Nor do these behind the scenes activities affect the day to day work of HIV organisations.

However, in the last weeks of 2012 there was an announcement of one of the biggest developments in Australia we have seen for some time – the approval for the use of rapid HIV testing in Australia by the Therapeutic Goods Administration.

The particular test that has been approved is the Alere DetermineTM HIV Combo test that uses a finger prick sample of blood applied to a small cardboard stick which provides a result in 20-30 minutes.

Due to its satisfactorily high accuracy, portability and cost-effectiveness, Point of Care or rapid testing is a standard method for screening for HIV in many parts of the world. Australia prides itself on a gold standard approach to screening for HIV and so this is the first of its kind to be allowed for use in Australia. Rapid HIV testing provides a result within 30 minutes while traditional formats for screening HIV can take up to a week for results. This speed and convenience makes rapid testing an ideal tool for use in not just clinical settings, but also community-based clinics such as the STRIP Outreach Clinics offered by the AIDS Action Council.

Rapid testing should not be seen as a replacement for current HIV screening methods but as an option available to some people. The details for the use of rapid testing are still being developed and as such the test is not currently available in the ACT even though it has been approved and other states that have had trials in recent years are starting to roll it out. It is likely that it will only be offered to those from high risk groups as the rate of false positives is too high in the general population.

Any test that proves positive will need to be followed up with more standard testing methods for absolute guarantee.  Over the last five years there has been an increasing body of research that says that the time it takes to get the results of an HIV test is one of the biggest hurdles to gay men getting tested regularly.

Forty-one per cent of participants in the 2011 Canberra Gay Community Periodic Survey indicated that they would test more frequently if they could access rapid testing in community settings.

With the release on World AIDS Day  (December 1) of the document Turning Political Will into Action, Australia reinforced its commitment to seeing a 50 per cent reduction in new HIV infections by 2015. The role that rapid HIV testing plays in this strategy is that we know that by identifying an HIV infection sooner, a person can make an informed decision with their doctors such as when to start using HIV medications and modify any risky activities that they may have been doing and take appropriate precautions. When a person effectively uses HIV medications we usually see a decline in their Viral Load, which is the amount of active HIV in their system. The lower the viral load, the less chance there is for HIV to be transmitted.

The AIDS Action Council is looking forward to the introduction of rapid testing but until then regular testing methods are still available. The STRIP outreach clinics will be running once more from 28 February – 23 March.

'Functional cure' may be close for AIDS | Print |  E-mail
News - Health and well being
Written by UK : Gay Star News | Joe Morgan   
Sunday, 17 March 2013 21:36

aids_virusFrench researchers have found early medical intervention for patients with HIV can keep them healthy even after stopping treatment.

HIV-positive patients who were treated early have stayed healthy even after stopping treatment, French researchers have revealed.

Their research shows early medical intervention may lead to a ‘functional cure’ for AIDs.

Published in the US journal PLoS Pathogens, only involved 14 adults, and were treated for their HIV with a range of anti-retroviral drugs within 10 weeks of infection.

All of them stopped treatment around three years afterwards on average.

Despite maintaining a low level of HIV in their cells, they kept viral loads under control for seven years and six months without drug treatment.

Christine Rouzioux, a professor at Paris Descartes University, said results showed the number of infected cells circulating in the blood of these patients kept falling even without treatment for many years.

‘Early treatment in these patients may have limited the establishment of viral reservoirs, the extent of viral mutations, and preserved immune responses. A combination of those may contribute to control infection in post-treatment controllers,’ she said.

‘The shrinking of viral reservoirs … closely matches the definition of 'functional' cure,’ she said.

A functional cure is when the virus is reduced to such low levels it is kept at bay even without continuing treatment. The virus is still detectable in the body.

Sir Nick Partridge, Chief Executive of UK-based sexual health charity Terrence Higgins Trust, said: ‘Using antiretroviral drugs at the early stages of infection to keep the virus at bay shows some promise.

‘However, much more research is needed to monitor these patients and explore whether the approach has wider applications among larger groups with a range of drug resistance profiles.

‘Treating HIV in this way relies on early intervention and serves to highlight the importance of routine testing to identify HIV infections as soon as possible.

Partridge added while the research may influence how we treat some people with HIV in the future, it remains the case that people must not cease their own treatment.

Last week, it was found a chemical in bee venom is able to kill HIV while leaving the surrounding cells unharmed.

And in Mississipi, a baby appeared to be cured of HIV after aggressive anti-retroviral drug treatment delivered within 30 hours of birth.

At the end of 2010, it was estimated 34 million people are living with HIV and AIDS worldwide.


LGBTI people ageing outrageously well | Print |  E-mail
News - Health and well being
Thursday, 14 March 2013 10:22

outrageous-ageing-logoA new website and survey are being launched to find out about ageing from the point of view of LGBTI people, and to help them sustain independent, healthy and active lives.

Part of the Outrageous Ageing LGBTI Elders’ Wellbeing project, the survey asks LGBTI people over 50 about what health issues most concern them, what information they need, what activities they’d like'to be involved in, and how they would like to connect with other people like themselves.

“What is so exciting about this project,” said project officer Sujay Kentlyn, “is that it’s positive. We get to move beyond identifying the needs and concerns of LGBTI people as they get older, an actually do something about them.

“Based on the responses to the survey, we will develop programs and activities that fit the needs, interests and lifestyles of LGBTI older people in five regions of NSW.

“We understand there will be important differences between the groups, between Trans women and gay men, for example, or between urban dykes and rural dykes.

“There may also be important regional variations – ageing in the Northern Rivers may look quite different to the Blue Mountains.”

LGBTI people over 50 who live in NSW are encouraged to participate, especially those who live outside Sydney.

“We particularly want to hear from Trans and Intersex people, irrespective of their sexuality, and from bisexual people,” Kentlyn said.

“Frequently these groups are not seen or heard, but they face important challenges with ageing, and this project is for everyone.

“We’re also very keen to make contact with LGBTI older people who aren’t connected to LGBTI communities.

“So it’s important for everyone to pass information about the survey on to individuals that they know.”

The survey, developed in connection with Southern Cross University, has been cleared by the University’s Ethics Committee, and all survey responses will be strictly confidential.

To take part in the survey, go to: Those without internet access can get a paper version of the survey with a reply-paid envelope by contacting Sujay Kentlyn on 0488 035 500.

The Outrageous Ageing LGBTI Elders’ Wellbeing Project is an initiative of Evergreen Life Care, a community-based, not-for-profit aged care service provider based in Gosford, and is funded by the Commonwealth Department of Health and Ageing.

Coming out has health benefits | Print |  E-mail
News - Health and well being
Written by Montreal Gazette   
Tuesday, 29 January 2013 23:31

Coming-OutMONTREAL — Contradicting the idea that the stigmatization of being gay or lesbian carries extra stress or health issues, a new neuroscience study from researchers at the Université de Montréal and McGill University shows sexual minorities who have come out are in better mental and physical health than heterosexuals or people whose sexual orientation is still a secret.

“Coming out is no longer a matter of popular debate but a matter of public health,” said lead author Robert-Paul Juster, a doctoral candidate in neuroscience at McGill who did the study for the Centre for Studies on Human Stress at Louis H. Lafontaine Hospital, which is affiliated with U de M. “The message is that to come out, you need to live in a society that has laws that are accepting of you. We can see this affects peoples’ health.”

One week after President Barack Obama’s historic reference to gay rights in his second inaugural address, Juster’s study shows the reality behind the political debates surrounding gay rights and gay marriage.

“Coming out might only be beneficial for health when there are tolerant social policies that facilitate the disclosure process,” he said, noting the gay population certainly is stigmatized, but is able to move beyond it when coming out — and ultimately gets a payoff with health benefits.

What distinguishes Juster’s study is that he didn’t just rely on people’s feelings about their mental health, but studied 20 biological markers to measure mental and physical health. Specifically, he looked at the stress hormone cortisol which, when strained, can contribute to wear and tear on multiple biological systems. This is known as allostatic load.

“Contrary to our expectations, gay and bisexual men had lower depressive symptoms and allostatic load levels than heterosexual men,” Juster said.

“Lesbians, gay men and bisexuals who were out to family and friends had lower levels of psychiatric symptoms and lower morning cortisol levels than those who were still in the closet.”

Juster said it was definitely surprising to find that gay and bisexual men were in better health than heterosexual men since people in minority groups generally suffer from poorer health than those in the majority. While this may require further study, he can think of two possible explanations: Gays who had come out had developed superior coping strategies and resilience due to that experience, and gay men tend to take better care of themselves through diet and exercise.

“We could see this by their lower triglycerides, lower body mass and lower levels of inflammation,” he explained.

The study, published in Psychosomatic Medicine, concludes “the role self-acceptance and disclosure have on positive health and well-being of sexual minorities have important implications. Internationally, societies must endeavour to facilitate self-acceptance among (lesbians, gays and bisexuals) by promoting tolerance, progressing policy and dispelling stigma.”

Read more:
Gay man denied PEP from hospital | Print |  E-mail
News - Health and well being
Written by Sydney Star Observer   
Tuesday, 22 January 2013 02:13

truvadaAnother gay man has come forward claiming he was unable to access HIV-preventative medication from his local health centre due to ignorance of proper procedure from medical staff.

Following the Star Observer’s report last week on a major hospital refusing to prescribe PEP medication to an at-risk gay man, a second man has claimed he was unable to access the medication from multiple regional health centres.

20-year old Orange man Joseph*, whose name has been changed, claims that on Saturday, June 23 last year he was unable to access PEP medication from Orange Base Hospital as medical staff were unsure what the medication was.

Joseph immediately attempted to make an appointment with a local sexual health clinic, but was not seen for three days. When Joseph finally gained access to the clinic, he was told their PEP medication was out of stock.

Read full Story on the SSO website.

Rapid HIV testing in Australia | Print |  E-mail
News - Health and well being
Wednesday, 19 December 2012 03:16

AIDS-Action-Council-LogoCanberra’s peak HIV organisation welcomes introduction of rapid HIV testing in Australia

The AIDS Action Council of the ACT (AAC) has welcomed news of the Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration’s (TGA) approval of the first rapid HIV screening tool, the Alere DetermineTM HIV Combo test, in Australia.

Point of Care, or rapid testing, is a standard method for screening for HIV in many parts of the world, but this is the first of its kind to be allowed for use in Australia. Rapid HIV testing provides a result within 30 minutes, while traditional formats for screening HIV can take up to a week for results. This makes it an ideal tool for use in not just clinical settings, but also community-based clinics such as the STRIP (Sexual Health Testing Referral and Information Project) Outreach Clinics offered by the AAC in partnership with Canberra Sexual Health Centre and Medicare Local ACT.

Dr Alan Verhagen, President of the AAC, says ‘this is an integral part of any successful response to the challenges we are facing with HIV in 2012’. With the release on the 1st of December, World AIDS Day, of the Australian Response to the United National Political Declaration on HIV/AIDS, Turning Political Will into Action, Australia is committed to seeing a 50% reduction in new HIV infections by 2015. ‘We know that by identifying an HIV infection sooner, a person can make an informed decision with their doctors such as when to start using HIV medications’.

Jan Weir, Executive Director of the AAC, has said that she is excited for the possibilities and how this will affect the work of the AAC. ‘We have a lot of work ahead of us to meet our commitments not only to the UN, but also to the communities that we work with. We have a new message, a new option, around HIV testing that we know was the last hurdle for some people, especially gay men, getting an HIV test’.

There are still more HIV screening tools being reviewed by the TGA and it is hoped over the coming years a variety of these will become available to increase the range of methods and locations that we can detect HIV infections.

In 2011, there were 1,137 people diagnosed with HIV in Australia. This was an 8% increase from 2010.

Word Aids Day 2012 | Print |  E-mail
News - Health and well being
Written by Robbie McWilliams   
Thursday, 29 November 2012 06:02


Can we look into the faces of our children and promise them a world free of AIDS?

The AIDS Action Council of the ACT (AAC) believes that we can, but only if we follow political commitment with action now. An AIDS free generation means that nobody in Australia will be born with HIV – the virus that causes AIDS – and that the risk of acquiring HIV will be substantially reduced as they grow older. For those that do acquire the virus, they will get treatment that will keep them healthy and prevent them from transmitting HIV to others.

In June 2011, the Australian Federal Government signed the United Nations Political Declaration on HIV/AIDS. As a signatory country, Australia is committed to a 50% reduction in sexual transmission of HIV and transmission of HIV amongst people who inject drugs by 2015. Australia has also committed to the elimination of mother to child transmission by the same time frame.

At the 2012 Washington International AIDS Conference, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton pointed the world toward achieving an AIDS-Free generation now. For the first time since the Human Immunodeficiency Virus was discovered 30 years ago, this is a truly realistic goal. This is made possible by the increased effectiveness of treatments, which substantially reduces the possibility of a person with HIV passing it on to others whilst also eliminating the chances of HIV progressing to AIDS. For Australia and the ACT, this means we must increase testing rates amongst those most vulnerable to HIV, such as men who have sex with men, and improving access to antiretroviral treatments.

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