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USCA: 2017 “See You in DC!”

 

 

 

 

 

Dear Eric,
This is the final communication prior to seeing everyone at the United States Conference on AIDS. The 2017 meeting has already surpassed the registration numbers from both the 2015 and 2016 conferences. In other words, there will be lots of people. Please be patient and use your time standing in line to meet your colleagues from across the country.

If this is your first time attending USCA, you may be surprised by the diversity of attendees. Typically, 60% of the participants are people of color, 55% are women, 30% are people living with HIV, 75% of the men attending are gay men, and there is a significant delegation from the trans community. USCA strives to have representatives from all 50 states and the territories. In other words, this is a community conference that reflects the full scope of the epidemic. If you’ve never been to USCA, you will quickly see the difference from other conferences. We are proud to offer a safe space for people to be themselves without judgement or discrimination. The 2017 meeting will be a USCA Family Reunion and our family values are built upon diversity, inclusion, and acceptance.

It’s been a challenging time in Washington. I believe that is why this year’s meeting is so important. People are fearful about the future. Between healthcare reform and the possibility of cuts to the federal HIV budget, attendees are seeking answers and community. While we may not have all of the answers, we will definitely have community. This year’s USCA is structured to not only train, but also to remind us why we do the important work that must be done. For many of us, this movement is more than just a job; it’s our life and the lives of our communities. In a world that can be very mean to people who are different, USCA celebrates our strange and wonderful family.

Latest Conference Information
To get the latest information on the meeting, download our smartphone app. It is a virtual portal of session descriptions, social media engagement, and logistic updates you will need to make the most of your conference experience.

Houston & SE Texas
USCA will have a moment during the Opening Plenary to stand-up for Houston and SE Texas. Six weeks after Katrina, NMAC brought a group of donors to New Orleans to see the devastation. As soon as Houston is ready, we intend to work collaboratively with other national organizations to support people living with HIV and HIV services in the region.

Recently, I received an email from Deondre Moore who lives in Houston and I wanted to share a small portion:

“USCA, for me, will hopefully be a time to heal and where I can refocus and get back on track. More importantly, during USCA it will be my first time seeing my mother since before the storm, and I cannot wait.”

After Katrina, we brought a small group of HIV leaders from New Orleans to DC to begin the planning process of moving forward. I remember how grateful they were for the meeting because it was the first time they could take a hot shower. This is another tragedy that we must and will overcome.

Hashtag
Use the hashtag #2017USCA. We’re not looking for stories about NMAC. We want you to tell the stories of people you meet at USCA, people who have committed their lives to ending the epidemic. Help expand the discussion about HIV on social media. Remember to post your photos!

Travel
Most people will arrive at either National Airport or Union Station. The quickest way to the hotel is via metro. The closest Metro stop to the Marriott is Convention Center on the GREEN and YELLOW lines. The Yellow line goes directly to the airport.

Hotel
The 2017 host hotel is the Marriott Marquis, 901 Mass. Ave NW. All of the workshops and plenary sessions and the exhibit hall are here. Unfortunately, the Marriott along with three other conference hotels are sold-out at the conference rate.

 

Registration
Registration starts on Wednesday, September 6th at 4 PM. It will be on the mezzanine level of the Marriott. To be greener and to save money, USCA only prints a “limited” number of program books. However, the full content can only be found online. The conference will have free Wi-Fi so remember to bring your laptop or smartphone.

Other Events
When putting your schedule together for the meeting, think about adding the Opening Reception, Film Screening, and the House Ball by Casa Ruby to your things to do. These are great ways to network with fellow attendees and celebrate the diversity of our movement.

The Opening Reception is on Wednesday, September 6th from 6 PM to 8 PM. It is at the Library of Congress in the James Madison Memorial Building, 101 Independence Ave. SE. The closest subway stop is the Capitol South metro located on the Orange and Blue lines. Congresswoman Maxine Water, Congresswoman Barbara Lee, and Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen will be our special guests.

There will be a special screening of Nothing Without Us: The Women Who Will End AIDS on Friday, September 8th at 7 PM in Shaw (meeting level 3 of the Marriott). This 70-minute film reveals that no plan to end the HIV epidemic will be complete until it addresses the complex realities of all women’s lives.

Finally, there is a House Ball produced by Casa Ruby on Saturday, September 7th. The Ball starts at 8 PM in the Marquis Ballroom at the Marriott. It is free for conference attendees, although there is a $25 cover for everyone else. All funds raised go to benefit Casa Ruby. This is a special opportunity to experience the culture and glamour of DC’s trans community.

Thank you for being part of my strange and wonderful family. I look forward to seeing you in DC.

 

Yours in the struggle,

Paul Kawata

 

A Special Note from USCA Media Sponsor FHI 360
Hello USCA Partners,
We are excited to be partnering with FHI 360 again this year to provide you and USCA conference attendees a curated live coverage of experience through their Crowd360 web platform. Through Crowd360, FHI 360 will leverage the 2017 USCA social content being shared over multiple platforms (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Blogs, Conference Mobil App, etc.) and curate it into three different delivery vehicles. As in the past, these vehicles include:

2017 USCA Hub – The home for digital content being shared at 2017 USCA.
2017 USCA Daily Delivery – A HTML-based recap of the digital content and conversations taking place the previous day.
2017 USCA Live Social Blog – A crowd-sourced live blog created from live coverage being shared on social media (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Conference Mobile App, etc.).

2018 United States Conference on AIDS

 

 

June 12th has been designated as Orlando United Day.  On this day, we remember the 49 angels who were killed at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando. This was a deliberate attack on the LGBT community that must never be forgotten.

To show our support for Orlando and the LGBT community, NMAC is pleased to announce that we will hold the 2018 United States Conference on AIDS in Orlando on September 6-9, 2018.  Please save the date.

The 2018 meeting will highlight the contributions made by the LGBT community to our efforts in ending the epidemic.  Our community has suffered so many losses and we must stand together.

The 49 beautiful portraits in this e-newsletter were created by 49 different artists across the country.  Each portrait portrays someone who was killed in the Pulse shootings.  They are all on exhibit at the Terrace Gallery at Orlando City Hall from May 1 – June 14, 2017.

Yours in the struggle,

Board & Staff of NMAC
Stronger Together!

Resilience



By Fernando De Hoyos · NMAC Treatment Coordinator

Every year we come together on this day to honor the lives and struggles of Long-Term Survivors of HIV and AIDS. For me, everyone who was old enough to remember the early days of the epidemic is a long-term survivor regardless of HIV status. Countless allies living without the virus have been side by side with us along this journey. It was a time like no other in US history. June 5th was chosen because on this day, in 1981, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) first announced the “mysterious cancer” that was killing gay men around the country. Therefore, this day is a national day of remembrance and sharing our stories of resilience and survival, to document them for posterity.

I have told my story many times, so I want to talk about this year’s theme: “Resilience”. As a long-term survivor, I know resilience very well. Resilience is the ability to cope with adversity and to adapt well to tragedies, traumas, threats or severe stress. Being resilient does not mean not feeling discomfort, emotional pain, or difficulty in adversity. However, people living with HIV are usually able to overcome their diagnosis and adapt well over time. Resilience involves a series of behaviors and ways of thinking that anyone can learn and develop. I believe resilient people have three main characteristics: Know how to accept reality as it is; Have a deep belief that life makes sense; And have an unwavering ability to adapt to almost anything, often making the best out of it.

Resilient people usually possess a good dosage of realistic optimism. A positive vision of the future without being carried away by unreality or fantasies. Our perceptions and thoughts influence the way we deal with stress and adversity. We don’t run away from problems but face them head on and seek creative and innovative solutions. It involves seeing problems as challenges that we can overcome and not as terrible threats. Challenges are opportunities for learning and growing. I think blessings sometimes come in ugly packages, but what is inside could be the gift of a lifetime. “We are shaped by our thoughts; we become what we think.”– Buddha.

Which takes me to Gratefulness. Gratitude is a major contributor to resilience. When we focus on what we have, we realize that what we might be missing is not as important. It allows us to focus on life from a place of abundance versus a place of deficit. Gratitude improves physical and psychological health. Studies have shown that people living with HIV who practice gratefulness are more likely to take care of their heath, exercise and have good medication adherence. Developing an attitude of gratitude is one of the simplest ways to improve quality of life and sense of wellbeing.

Life is a blessing, with all the good and the not so good. The notion that whatever our journey might be, is unique and wonderful as it is. This is what makes life worth living. We just must be present to enjoy it, and the present moment is a gift, that’s why is called The Present. Please join us in raising awareness about HIV Long-Term Survivors contributions and accomplishments, as well as needs, issues, and journeys.

Yours in the Struggle,

Upcoming PMBSGN Support Group Meeting

April2017AvenueCSGflyer1

Top 10 Questions About Living With HIV

 

By

Joel Gallant, MD, MPH

 

1. What’s my prognosis?

Your prognosis is excellent, especially if you’re diagnosed early, get started on medications right away, and take your medication daily. Under those circumstances, your life expectancy can be the same as it would have been without HIV. Even people who are diagnosed or treated after their immune system has been weakened can still do very well on treatment. The keys to a long and healthy life with HIV are getting good medical care and adhering to therapy.

2. How does HIV make you sick?

Untreated HIV infection causes a steady decline in CD4 cells, a type of white blood cell that protects you against certain infections and cancers. As the CD4 count falls, your risk of these complications increases. “Opportunistic infections” (OIs) are infections that don’t happen to people with healthy immune systems, but can occur in people with low CD4 counts (usually less than 200 cells/mm3). And a weakened immune system (“immunosuppression”) isn’t the only problem caused by HIV. Even at high CD4 counts, HIV infection causes chronic inflammation and activation of the immune system, which may increase the risk of some long-term complications such as heart attack, dementia, osteoporosis, and cancers. Fortunately, HIV treatment restores CD4 cells and reduces inflammation and immune activation, preventing most complications.

3. What are the most important lab tests to follow?

The CD4 count measures the health of your immune system. It predicts your risk of complications and determines the urgency of treatment. A count above 500 cells/mm3 is normal. If your count is below 200 cells/mm3, you’re at risk of developing OIs and are considered to have AIDS. The viral load measures the amount of virus in the blood. It’s the best measure of how well treatment is working. Effective treatment should reduce the viral load to undetectable levels (usually less than 20 copies/mL) within a few months, and that’s where it should stay.There are many other recommended lab tests that assess your general health and monitor the effects of treatment. Most people with HIV get lab work every 3-6 months.

4. How do I prevent OIs and cancers?

The best way to prevent these complications is to keep your CD4 count high and your viral load undetectable on treatment. But if you’ve just been diagnosed and your CD4 count is low, your doctor may put you on OI “prophylaxis”: medications to prevent common OIs. Prophylaxis is usually temporary; it can be stopped after you’ve responded to treatment.

There are no medications to prevent cancer, but it’s important to get the recommended screening tests. For colon cancer, breast cancer, and prostate cancer, the recommendations are the same as for HIV-negative people. Cervical and anal cancer, caused by human papillomavirus (HPV), can be more aggressive in people with HIV, and the screening recommendations (using cervical and anal Pap smears) are different. Young people should get the HPV vaccine to prevent infection with this cancer-causing virus.

5. How do I avoiding infecting someone else?

Maintaining an undetectable viral load on treatment is the best form of prevention. People with undetectable viral loads don’t transmit HIV infection. Of course you don’t get your viral load measured every day, so you may want to take additional precautions, especially if you’re recently started treatment or if your viral load hasn’t been suppressed for very long. Wearing condoms provides added protection, especially for the highest risk activities (anal or vaginal intercourse with the HIV-positive partner “on top”). HIV-negative partners can also choose to take pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), taking a medication called Truvada daily to prevent infection

 

6. What else should I be doing to protect my health?

 

Since you’re unlikely to die of AIDS, your goal should be to live a long, healthy life and then die of old age. For the most part, that means the same thing for you as it would for anyone else: exercise regularly, don’t smoke, eat a healthy diet, avoid drug use and excessive alcohol consumption, and get the recommended vaccinations and screening tests. There are a few recommendations that are different for people with HIV, but for the most part, a healthy lifestyle is a healthy lifestyle. There are no special diets you need to follow if you have HIV, and unless your CD4 count is low, there are no foods that having HIV requires you to avoid. In most communities, drinking tap water is fine. If you eat a healthy diet, you don’t need to take vitamins or supplements; the one exception might be vitamin D, a vitamin that most people seem to be deficient in these days. Since people with HIV are at greater risk of osteoporosis, maintaining normal vitamin D levels is probably a good idea. Ask your doctor before taking other vitamins and supplements, as some can interact with HIV medications

 

7.  Are my medications toxic?

 

Many of the earlier HIV medications were difficult, sometimes causing side effects such as nausea, diarrhea, anemia, fatigue and toxicities (damage to the body) like liver problems, high cholesterol, diabetes, heart disease, and/or body shape changes. Fortunately, that’s not the case with the medications we use today, which is one of the reasons why we now recommend treatment for everyone. If they occur at all, side effects are usually mild and temporary. There are few long-term toxicities, and they’re no longer inevitable.

 

Still, it’s important to be monitored regularly while you’re on treatment, both to make sure it’s working and to make sure it’s not causing problems. When side effects or toxicity occur, you can easily switch medications provided your viral load is suppressed. Stopping therapy is never a good idea. It allows your viral load to rebound, your CD4 count to fall, and can lead to drug resistance. If you don’t like the regimen you’re on, don’t stop it; talk to your provider about making a change.

 

8.  Will my virus become resistant to my medications?

 

Not if you take them. Resistance occurs when the virus mutates in a way that allows it to replicate (reproduce) despite the presence of drugs. The virus can’t mutate unless it’s replicating, and it can’t do that if it’s constantly suppressed by therapy. If you stop taking your medications or miss multiple doses, the virus can replicate. If there is still some drug in your blood, virus with mutations that make it resistant to those drugs can be selected and become the predominant strain. When that happens, you’ll need a resistance test to find out which drugs will still be effective, and then you’ll need to change your regimen.

 

It’s possible to be infected by a virus that’s already resistant to drugs, which is why a baseline resistance test is now recommended for everyone at the time of diagnosis. When transmitted resistance is present, it’s important to customize your drug regimen based on the test results, ensuring that you’ll be on a fully active drug combination.

 

9. Can I still have children?

 

Yes, you can. If you’re a woman with HIV, taking medications during pregnancy will prevent transmission to the baby, as long as your viral load is undetectable at the time of delivery. If you’re a man, your HIV infection doesn’t directly affect the infant, who can only be infected by the mother. Your priority should be not infecting your partner if she’s HIV-negative. It’s critical that you have an undetectable viral load on treatment before you try to conceive. Some women with HIV-positive partners may also choose to take pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) for added protection.

 

10.  When will there be a cure?

 

Curing HIV will be a challenge. Until very recently, there was no cure for any viral disease. They either ran their course and resolved on their own (the common cold), were preventable by vaccination (measles), or stayed with you for life (herpes). Now that we can cure hepatitis C, that rule has been broken, but HIV is far more complicated because of “latency”: the DNA of the virus gets inserted into human DNA in cells that live for a very long time. As a result, cure is not a matter of killing virus or of stopping replication, which we can do now, but of eliminating all viral DNA from latently infected cells. Scientists are looking at ways to do that by “activating” (waking up) the latent cells, by genetically modifying those cells so they can’t be infected, or by removing the inserted viral DNA from the human DNA. We will probably achieve a cure someday, but I don’t think it’s just around the corner.

 

In the meantime, we’ve made truly remarkable progress with treatment. There aren’t many chronic diseases that we can treat so effectively with a single, well-tolerated pill per day. When a cure comes, it probably won’t be as simple or non-toxic as treatment, and it might even be less of a sure thing. It wouldn’t surprise me if some people chose to stick with lifelong therapy over cure… but I hope I’m wrong.

HIV Infection Numbers Drop For First Time in Decades, But Not Everyone Benefits

 

For the first time since the mid-1990s, the official estimate of annual HIV infections, or incidence, in the United States has decreased notably. According to a study released by the Centers for Disease Control earlier this week, HIV incidence dropped 18% in recent years, going from an estimated 45,700 infections in 2008 to 37,600 in 2014. This reduction in new HIV infections—the first official one in nearly two decades—is a welcome development at a time when good news in health care is becoming hard to come by with the specter of Affordable Care Act repeal looming in Congress.

The study’s findings had their share of troubling aspects as well. The undeniable progress that was made in the fight against HIV infection in America in recent years was not distributed evenly. The largest amounts of reductions in HIV incidence over the 6-year period covered by the study came from heterosexuals and people who inject drugs, who saw their new HIV infections decline by 36% and 56% respectively. Slightly smaller decreases were also seen among certain age groups of gay and bisexual men, with a 26% drop for gay and bisexual men between the ages of 35 and 44, and an 18% drop for gay and bisexual men between the ages of 13 and 24.

Unfortunately there were several populations who saw their new HIV infections remain stable or increase over the course of the study. The HIV incidence among black gay and bisexual men stayed at the still alarmingly high number of 10,100 new infections at the beginning and end of the 6-year period, while there were increases among Latino gay and bisexual men, and gay and bisexual men between the ages of 25 and 34. Latino gay and bisexual men saw a 20% increase in HIV incidence between 2008 and 2014 while gay and bisexual men between the ages of 25 and 34 experienced a 35% increase in HIV incidence over the same period. Similarly, the South continued to be overrepresented in terms of HIV incidence, as the 37% of the US population that lives in the South accounted for 50% of new HIV infections in 2014.

There is reason for cautious celebration in the results of this study, as any significant decrease in new HIV infections should be lauded. But, with the rise in HIV incidence for portions of the population and a health care system currently in flux, it’s important that we recognize that even more vigilant prevention efforts are needed in the future if we are to maintain and improve upon this progress.

Posted By: AIDS United, Policy Department – Friday, February 17, 2017
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