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Archive for January, 2008

Gay Porn Pig Removes Bareback Content

Posted by pozlife on January 24, 2008

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TORONTO — Gay adult website Gay-Porn-Pig.com has announced that it will remove more than 500 links to bareback content, as well as all video and paysite reviews featuring bareback titles or content. It also will strip several dozen blog posts related to bareback activities.

“The gay online porn community needs a stronger voice to teach younger gay men how to protect themselves without sacrificing hot sex,” Gay Porn Pig owner and operator Michael Kealy said. “Gay youth needs to get this message before it’s too late.”

Noting that HIV/AIDS is still a serious issue for the gay community at large, Kealy quoted a recent New York Times report that said studies in New York show that HIV diagnoses in the population of men who have sex with men under the age of 30 have been steadily climbing since 2001.

“We’ve become complacent,” Kealy explained. “The success of anti-retro viral drugs has caused many to think that the epidemic is over. But a whole generation of young gay men have never seen first-hand the effects of HIV/AIDS on our community. And these same men are getting the message through bareback porn that fucking without condoms is OK.”

In terms of responsibility to the gay community, Kealy feels that a strong message of safe sex being sensual and acceptable needs to be sent to the younger generation of gay men.

Kealy said his decision also was influenced by the influx of bareback adult videos that seemed to compete directly with condom-only movies produced by mainline gay studios like Channel 1 Releasing, Titan Men, Hot House and Raging Stallion.

“I’m saddened that many of us are putting profits ahead of caring for our community. And I can no longer do it,” he added.

Titan Media vice president and condom-only advocate Keith Webb supported Kealy in his decision.

“I am very, very proud of Michael and hope others in the gay adult community have the same courage to stand up and do the right thing,” Webb said. “This is a shining example of a gay man putting the health and interests of his community above his own personal self-interests. It’s time for those of us in the gay adult community to stand up and say we’ve had enough.”

Gay Porn Pig has been in operation since late 2005. The gay porn portal offers a links directory, free galleries, paysite reviews, gay sex video reviews, porn star bios and a blog.

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CDC Disputes Study On Staph Infection Among Gays

Posted by pozlife on January 24, 2008

012308c
by 365Gay.com Newscenter Staff

Posted: January 23, 2008 – 1:30 pm ET

(Atlanta, Georgia) The Centers for Disease Control is disputing the results of a study that claims a drug-resistant bacteria, MRSA, is now being found primarily among gay men in major cities.

The study which appears in the online version of the journal Annals of Internal Medicine was released last week. (story)

The researchers examined records from outpatient clinics and found that methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA, is showing up in large numbers among men who have sex with men in New York, San Francisco, Boston and Los Angeles.

In San Francisco the bacteria was found to be 13 times more likely in gay patients than other people in the city.

The researchers said the bacteria appears to be spread through sexual contact.

But in a statement the CDC says that sex and sexuality appear to have nothing to do with transmission.

"It is important to note that the groups of MSM in which these isolates have been described are not representative of all MSM, so conclusions can not be drawn about the prevalence of these strains among all MSM," the CDC statement said.

"The groups studied in this report may share other characteristics or behaviors that facilitate spread of MRSA, such as frequent skin-to-skin contact … There is no evidence at this time to suggest that it MRSA is a sexually-transmitted infection in the classical sense."

The statement also provided ways of ensuring that MRSA is not passed on.

These include keeping hands clean, keeping any open wounds bandaged, and not sharing utensils.

The study also has been criticized by LGBT rights groups who said that the researchers were attempting to portray the disease the way HIV/AIDS was at the onset – as the "gay cancer".

Henry Chambers, one of the study’s authors and a professor of medicine at UCSF, said he regretted that the study has been made a political issue.

"We deplore negative targeting of specific populations in association with MRSA infections or other public health concerns …[We were] "looking at this from a scientific point of view and not projecting any political impact."

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High Arctic STD Rate Raises Fears Of Greater HIV In Far North

Posted by pozlife on January 24, 2008

012308a01
by The Canadian Press

Posted: January 23, 2008 – 5:00 pm ET

(Toronto, Ontario) New research suggests that some sexually transmitted diseases are spreading much more quickly in the Arctic than in southern Canada.

The findings raise concerns about both the health effects of the diseases and what their transmission might hint about HIV rates in the North.

“It’s definitely been going up in the North and it’s rather alarming at how fast,’’ Dionne Gesink Law, a co-author of the paper published in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases, said Monday.

The paper compared instances of chlamydia and gonorrhea in Canada’s three northern territories with southern Canada, Alaska and Greenland between 2003 and 2006.

Canada ranked in the middle in terms of rates of infection, although Gesink Law said that might have been affected by different reporting practices in different countries. The relative openness in talking about sex in Denmark, which controls Greenland, might account for the higher rate of both diseases there, for instance.

But the study also shows that rates of gonorrhea and chlamydia infection are about eight times higher in Canada’s three territories than in its provinces.

And although the rate of gonorrhea infection has decreased slightly in the North, the incidence of chlamydia is growing far faster than in the south. The infection rate increased eight per cent over those years in the provinces and 18 per cent in the territories.

“Our main concern with chlamydia and gonorrhea is that they cause pelvic inflammatory disease and infertility in women,’’ said Gesink Law, a University of Toronto researcher.

“When you look at who’s actually infected, it’s young people and particularly young women. They’re carrying the burden.’’

Those diseases also lead to increased risk of HIV infection, Gesink Law said, and the high rate of transmission suggests that safer sexual practices aren’t being used.

“They obviously have sexual practices that are putting them at risk for (sexually transmitted diseases). If (HIV) was to come into the community it could spread quickly.’’

The same sexual precautions, such as the use of a condom, that would protect against gonorrhea would also protect against HIV.

Four people are known to be living with the virus in Nunavut, said Jeanette Doucet of Pauktuutit, the national Inuit women’s organization. But that number is probably misleading and little is known about the disease’s presence in the Arctic, she said.

Only pregnant women are tested for sexually transmitted diseases, she said.

“You only know as much as you’re testing for,’’ Doucet said. “It’s possible and even probable that people aren’t being tested. We know that safer sex practices are not happening.’’

The social stigma of any kind of sexual disease in small, isolated Arctic communities is a powerful disincentive to get tested, she added.

“The social isolation that would happen for people who test positive is enough to drive them away.’’

Gesink Law said the answer could be to help communities develop their own monitoring and education programs for sexually transmitted diseases.

“They will have a much better sense of what’s actually going on and what the factors are that are contributing to the transmissions. It’s much more effective if they can work on this together with us, as much as they need us.

“They know what the community will actually listen to.’’

Such efforts are already underway in Alaska and Greenland.

A meeting is scheduled in Anchorage next April between officials from Canada and the United States to discuss the issue.

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Entry forbidden

Posted by pozlife on January 24, 2008

q Entry forbidden (TRAVEL RESTRICTIONS) (TRAVEL BAN)
Jan 7, 2008

Dear Doctor Robert I’m a 32 year old Brazilian hiv positiv male living in London. After 5 years in the UK I must say that I really admire their aproach to us positive people. We’re treated by their government like anybody else if no better. I’ve traveled all over Europe and have never had a problem regarding my hiv status. I’d love to go to New York though, but I find it so hard because of your rules towards positive people. My question is: Why is the mainstream of hiv activism in America so silent about this matter? Why don’t you people raise your voices to make sure that your next presitent fights against such totalitarian law. How come a people that think of themselves as the kingdom of freedom and an example to the world can accept it? I shall never see New York unless I hide my meds like a terrorist hides his bomb. How come you hiv positive people from America can so easily go on holiday to any other corners of the world? Thanks for your answer. Helio

a Response from Dr. Frascino
frascin

Hello Helib,

I can assure you mainstream HIV activism in the U.S. has been far from quiet about the completely idiotic ban on HIV-positive visitors to the U.S. In fact, since the ban was put in place, we have refused to host international World AIDS Conferences here. The problem is our current science-phobic, common-sense-deficient administration. See below. We are all gleefully counting down the days left before we can kick Dubya out of the White House. I’m quite confident once Obama moves in, rational thought, common sense and morality will be restored to the Office of the Presidency and the travel ban will be lifted.

Dr. Bob

New Rules for HIV positive people travelling to the United States Dec 10, 2007

Hey Dr. Bob,

I heard the Bush Administration finally got around to changing the ban on HIV positive travelers wanting to come to the Unioted States. Is this too good to be true???

Toby

Response from Dr. Frascino

Hello,

Dubya strikes again! Or should that be strikes out again?!?!

The new rules for HIV-positive folks wishing to enter the U.S. are even worse than the old rules!

People with HIV have been banned from entering the U.S. since 1987, but waivers are sometimes given for short visits. Dubya promised to "streamline" the process for getting these exceptions on World AIDS Day last year! So, one year later we have Homeland Security, which had handled the waivers on a case-by-case basis in the past, drawing up new rules that can be followed by consulates. The new rules are no better than the old ones and, in some ways, make visiting the U.S. even more difficult. Dubya, in typical fashion, is also trying to ram the new rules through without the usual time for public comment and consideration.

Basically the ban remains in place. The new rules apply only for exceptions to the ban. I should point out scientists have long ago concluded the ban is unwarranted and does absolutely nothing to protect Americans’ health. Only a dozen other countries bar HIV-positive visitors. They are Armenia, Brunei, China, Iraq, Libya, Moldova, Oman, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Korea and Sudan. This is not exactly a stellar list when it comes to human rights! The ban stems from stigma and ignorance. (Hence the good fit with Dubya, eh?)

Current waivers to the ban have been very difficult to get and are issued rather capriciously. Under the old rules, the possibility of transmission and the danger to public health had to be minimal and no local, state or federal government agency could incur costs from the visit. The new system makes it more difficult to enter the U.S. by requiring more documents. The old system required very few papers, but under the new "streamlined" plan, visitors must document very private information about their health to bureaucrats. As an example, the new system would require the potential visitor to carry medications they might need for the entire stay. Someone who doesn’t take any medications would have to get a doctor to certify to Homeland Security that meds aren’t needed. Waivers would now also require that the visit be a maximum of 30 days and that applicants prove they are aware of their condition and under medical care. Plus they would have to prove they have health insurance that is accepted in the United States! Needless to say, these requirements are unjust, illogical and stigmatizing!

The new rules do call for waivers to be granted faster, but only if applicants agree to give up certain rights and opportunities they might have had under the old system. The quicker turnaround is expected because consular offices would be able to process the applications directly and the process avoids the abyss of the Homeland Security office. Basically what HIV-positive travelers would have to give up is the opportunity to change their visa status while here in the U.S., to seek legal permanent residency, to apply for a job and, in some cases, to conduct business while in the U.S. They also would no longer be able to seek asylum.

Dubya and his cronies are once again being disingenuous by claiming to make things easier for people living with HIV, but in reality compelling them to forfeit their rights.

So, is it January 20, 2009 yet???

Dr. Bob

Is still banned to get in USA with HAART? (TRAVEL RESTRICTIONS, ENTERING THE USA) Nov 7, 2007

Hi there, Id like to know if there has been any kind of improvement in order to let people using HAART to get into the country of freedom (USA I mean… 😦 ) I need urgently to get there for job reasons but Ive been succesfully on the same combo for 8 years and I am extremely annoyed of the idea of put that in risk.. could i get my haart recipe and buy the combo in usa being from abroad? Thanks in advance Antonio

Response from Dr. Frascino

Hello Antonio,

Unfortunately no, Bush had promised to lift the ban, but apparently hasn’t gotten around to it yet. Don’t hold your breath. There may well be no action on this until he is run out of office and firmly ensconced in the history books as America’s worst president. After all, to lift the ban would require common sense, compassion and an appreciation of scientific fact. Dubya has a severe deficiency of all three. At this point your only option would be to apply for a waiver.

I’ll reprint some information from the archives below addressing this issue.

Dr. Bob

Travel to the US Sep 14, 2007

Hi,

I am ravelling to the US for 1 week next month and am wondering if the HIV waiver is in place or not – should I take a treatment break, declare my status or simply risk bringing in my meds for the week without declaring.

I’m not willing to post my med in beforehand as many here in Australia recommend – just too difficult.

David

Response from Dr. Frascino

Hi David,

I do not recommend you take a treatment break. Just pack your meds in your carryon. You shouldn’t have any difficulties. Bush vowed to lift the travel ban on World AIDS Day 2006. Whether he actually did so is another story. (See below.) But, I’ve not heard of anyone being turned away for quite some time.

Bon voyage!

Dr. Bob

Advocates take on U.S. HIV ’travel ban’ NEWS Published 04/19/2007 by Bob Roehr

The U.S. "travel ban" on HIV-positive foreign visitors and immigrants is a vestige of the darkest days of the epidemic. It may be drastically modified or even eliminated completely if the organizers of an April 12 forum in Washington, D.C., have their way.

U.S. authorities always have had the power to bar foreigners who pose a public health threat from entering the country. That was interpreted to exclude a HIV-positive Dutch visitor traveling to speak in the U.S. in 1989. It sparked a protest at the International AIDS Conference in San Francisco in 1990 and the conference vowed not to return until U.S. policy changes. The World Health Organization has called the policy a violation of human rights.

But Congress codified the policy into law in 1993, despite objections from then-Secretary of Health and Human Services Louis Sullivan. It specifically prohibited foreigners from becoming immigrants or even obtaining a visa to visit the U.S. if they are HIV-positive. However, the provision may be waived on an individual basis if it is deemed to be in the best interest of the U.S. to do so. Blanket waivers have been issued for specific events such as the Gay Games in Chicago.

Attending the International AIDS Conference in Toronto last summer "brought home in a very powerful and real way that it is forbidden to have such a thing on U.S. soil," said J. Stephen Morrison, executive director of the Center for Strategic and International Studies. He said the U.S. policy "is misaligned with current realities and evolving U.S. interests;" and that it is time to consider a change.

Phillip Nieburg, co-author of a report that lays out the history of the policy and how it might be changed, said that the knowledge base around HIV has grown since 1993 and it is clear that HIV is not an easily spread contagious disease. There is no public health justification for the law, he said.

Helene Gayle has been a leading expert on HIV prevention at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Gates Foundation, and is now president of CARE, a large international charity working in the developing world.

She said the law is not consistent with the international leadership role on HIV that the U.S. has demonstrated with PEPFAR, the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief.

"It is just one more thing where we are out of line and inconsistent with what we are trying to do," she said.

Critics of the waiver process for short-term visitors say that many persons do not know that they are HIV-positive when they apply for a visa. For those who do know, disclosing that to a State Department official runs the risk that the official or local support staff might disclose that medically confidential information. In many countries, that can lead to stigma and discrimination within the society. Furthermore, the application fee for the waiver can be prohibitive for persons with low incomes.

The Bush administration acknowledges the privacy concerns and on World AIDS Day, December 1, 2006, President Bush surprised AIDS advocates by quietly announcing that he would issue an executive order addressing those concerns.

Rising from the audience last week, Tom Walsh, with the Office of the U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator at the Department of State, told the forum, "The process is under way, it is complex, and I wish there was more that I could say." Others have said that delay is due to trying to work within the confines of the law so as not to require new legislation.

Supporters of the current law fear that people who are HIV-positive who enter the country either as immigrants or on short-term visas will stay and add to the burden of already stressed AIDS services. They can point to what happened after the International AIDS Conference in Toronto last summer; more than 150 HIV-positive attendees chose to remain in Canada and seek asylum. The claimants said they feared discrimination or worse in their own countries. The cost of drugs alone for those people would run about $1 million a year in the U.S.

Nieburg called that argument inherently discriminatory, given that other costly chronic health problems are not singled out for a blanket ban but are handled on a case-by-case basis.

"Moving Beyond the U.S. Government Policy of Inadmissibility of HIV-Infected Noncitizens" is available at http://www.csis.org/media/csis/pubs/movingbeyondinadmissibility.pdf.

Entering the US Jun 4, 2006

Am I correct in saying that you can’t enter the US period if you have AIDS or just immigrate to the US because I recently entered the US through SFO international on business for 3 days and I have HIV, not AIDS though since am on meds.

Response from Dr. Frascino

Hello,

I’ve addressed travel restrictions several times in this forum. I’ll repost a recent question from the archives below.

Dr. Bob

Living with HIV May 14, 2006

Dear Dr. Bob,

I am from Brazil, 26 years old and a handsome gay man. Your words are always very inspiring for me. I got HIV around three years ago, when a condom failed with me. The beginning was not easy… after 1 year my cd4 was around 200 but I was healthy. I started to take my meds since 05.05.05. It was very boring the side effects of efavirenz+lamivudine+azt, but now it is not anymore. However my cd4 is still around 240, however, the cd4 percentage has climbed from ca. 20 to 30 %. I am indetectable since Aug ’05. I never forgot any pill. Is these number ok? My doctor and me are planning to move on kaletra (once a day). Do you think it should be a better option? I am finishing my phd and would like to go to USA for a post-doc. Is it possible for me enter in The States being poz? How is the medical care? I am worried because I have full and free assistance in Brazil. Again, thank you very much for your very kind words at this site. Best regards,

Bob

Response from Dr. Frascino:

Hello Bob,

Your current HAART regimen appears to have given you a good virological response (decreased viral load to undetectable levels), but only a suboptimal immunological response (minimal increase in absolute CD4 count from 200 to 240). I believe a switch from the non-nucleoside (efavirenz) to a protease inhibitor (Kaletra) is definitely worth a try.

Traveling to the US while being "virally enhanced" can be challenging! Despite absolute consensus among all experts that HIV travel bans are completely unnecessary (read this PDF file for more information), the U.S. still shuts its borders to visitors with HIV. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) sometimes grants a waiver for HIV-positive visa applicants, but usually it’s for those wanting to stay 30 days or less.

There is no actual HIV-testing procedure at the airport, but travelers carrying HIV-related literature or HIV medications can be turned over to an immigration official for further investigation. If a determination is made by the immigration officer that the traveler is HIV positive and traveling without the proper HIV-waiver clearance, he or she can legally be barred from entry into the U.S. ( I find this policy shameful!) Before making definitive plans, I suggest you consult with an immigration practitioner who is familiar with the HIV-travel restrictions. (You can call AIDS Law Project at 215-587-9377 for a consultation.) I’m hopeful that once we have a regime change here and Bush and his anti-science cronies are finally removed form office, common sense and science will once again reign and we’ll be able to change some of these nonsensical laws.

Dr. Bob

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Study: 14% Of Teens Gay Or Questioning

Posted by pozlife on January 23, 2008

012208tby The Canadian Press

Posted: January 22, 2008 – 2:00 pm ET

(Toronto, Ontario) Most teens are responsible when it comes to sexuality, but lack of knowledge about sexually transmitted infections and their consequences is a concern, says a new study.

The research, published in the January issue of Pediatrics and Child Health, found that 27 per cent of teens were sexually active at a mean age of 15 years.

The last time that they had sex, 76 per cent had used a condom, according to the findings.

“They don’t know about many of the STIs that are common and they don’t know about the consequences of the STIs,’’ author Dr. Jean-Yves Frappier, head of the Adolescent Medicine Division at Sainte-Justine University Health Centre, said Monday in an interview from Montreal.

Five per cent of the sexually active teens said they had been diagnosed with an STI.

The teens surveyed overestimated the prevalence of HIV compared to other sexually transmitted infections, Frappier said.

“They don’t know about chlamydia, which is much much more common,’’ he said.

“Very few teens will be HIV positive but a certain percentage will be chlamydia positive in their teens. And that, they don’t mention it.’’

Sixty-nine per cent of teens surveyed could not find information they were looking for about sex, and 62 per cent reported obstacles in getting information.

Online interviews were conducted in October 2005 by Ipsos Reid with 1,171 Canadian teenagers aged 14 to 17. As well, 1,139 mothers of teenagers were interviewed, but these weren’t the mothers of the teens who were surveyed. The results are considered accurate to within 2.9 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

Frappier said parents have a responsibility to make information on sex and sexually transmitted infections available to their teens.

But that doesn’t mean they have to deliver a lecture on STIs 101 at the breakfast table, he said.

Rather, they should give brochures, point out interesting websites and newspaper articles that provide information, and make an effort to find out how much their child has learned at school.

And quite often, he noted, information from parents about sex has to be repeated if the child isn’t ready to hear it. The kids don’t necessarily want to know about technical issues, but rather have questions about dating, violence in relationships, how to say `no’ and how to know when they’re ready.

“Teens are not at the same level at the same time,’’ Frappier said.

“A 13-year-old can be ready to hear the information and another one can be miles away from that. He’s not interested.’’

The study found that at age 17, 45 per cent of those surveyed were sexually active, Frappier said.

Among those who were not sexually active, 71 per cent of the girls said they weren’t ready, compared to 54 per cent of the boys.

About half of those who weren’t sexually active _ both boys and girls _ said they hadn’t found the right person.

Twenty-nine per cent of the girls said they wanted to wait until marriage, compared to 13 per cent of the boys.

In terms of role models, 75 per cent of the mothers surveyed believed that their teenagers’ friends were significant role models when it came to sexuality, and 50 per cent mentioned entertainment celebrities.

But in fact, 45 per cent of teens regarded their parents as their role models, ahead of friends (32 per cent) and celebrities (15 per cent).

In addition, the study found 86 per cent of girls said they were attracted to boys only, while 87 per cent of boys said they were attracted to girls only.

Frappier said it’s normal at that age for a certain percentage to have questions about their sexual orientation. He noted the minority responses would include those of teens identifying themselves as gay, as well as those who might have had a one-time attraction to someone of the same sex.

“It’s more discussed so teens are more willing to admit on paper or on computer that it’s their situation,’’ he said.

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Antibiotic Resistant Strain of MRSA Emerging in Gay Population

Posted by pozlife on January 19, 2008

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SAN FRANCISCO — An antibiotic-resistant strain of staph infection called methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is being transmitted in populations of gay men through sexual contact, a research study said on Monday.

The study, conducted by the University of California, San Francisco, saw significant increases in infection among the gay populations of San Francisco and Boston, with sexually active gay men in San Francisco 13 times more likely to be infected than the general population.

The study was published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

MRSA, which appears on the skin as raised red dots very similar to a pimple, when left untreated, can result in serious abscesses that continue to spread unless medicated with intravenous antibiotics.

The bacteria are spread through skin contact with potentially deep tissue infection occurring when an abrasion or cut is exposed. It also can be transmitted from surface exposure to towels, gym equipment and other objects that come in contact with skin.

Without treatment, the bacteria can be potentially deadly especially to individuals with compromised immune systems. According to a report published in the October issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, 19,000 people died of MRSA in the U.S., in 2005.

“Once this reaches the general population, it will be truly unstoppable,” researcher at the University of California, San Francisco Binh Diep said. “That’s why we’re trying to spread the message of prevention.”

The best way to prevent infection, according to Diep, is to use soap and water to wash exposed areas, like hands or genitals.

Adult Industry Healthcare founder Sharon Mitchell told XBIZ that information about MRSA can be found on the organization’s website, and that the infection has had somewhat of an effect on the performing population since 2001.

“This MRSA problem is not new,” Mitchell said. “We have extensive information on it that’s up on our site. Catch it early, keep your hands off it and get in here — when it gets the size of a spider bite, it’s time to get in here. Anything that’s looking like a pimple that won’t go away, that’s hanging around for more than a week and starting to get darker and hard — keep your hands off it and come in here.”

According to Mitchell, the clinic sees an average of 15 cases of MRSA a month, but has not seen any increases in infections recently.

“We started seeing it in the gay population,” Mitchell said. “The gay guys that were coming in were getting it in the bathhouses because it’s one of the few antibiotic resistant strains that can live in hot water. Once that started happening, it started creeping into the straight industry.”

One adult producer that preferred to not be identified said he is taking extra on-set precautions including making sure multiple bottles of hand sanitizer are available on-set and also that talent showers thoroughly before and after the end of each scene and breaks. He is also requesting that talent not share towels or baby wipes.

On Tuesday, right-wing organization Americans for the Truth About Homosexuality blasted the gay population for what the group perceives as a health threat with origins in the gay community that could potentially threaten the general populace.

However, an estimated 30 percent of the entire population carries the bacteria for staph infection chronically and infections in hospital settings, nursing homes, among children and those with weakened immune systems are not uncommon.

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AIDS Experts Ponder Shifting Money To Other Health Issues

Posted by pozlife on January 18, 2008

011808hby The Associated Press

Posted: January 18, 2008 – 11:00 am ET

(London) In the two decades since AIDS began sweeping the globe, it has often been labeled as the biggest threat to international health.

But with revised numbers downsizing the pandemic published last year _ along with an admission that AIDS peaked in the late 1990s _ some AIDS experts are now wondering if it might be wise to shift some of the billions of dollars of AIDS money to basic health problems like clean water, family planning or diarrhea.

“If we look at the data objectively, we are spending too much on AIDS,’’ said Dr. Malcolm Potts, an AIDS expert at the University of California in Berkeley, who once worked with prostitutes on the front lines of the epidemic in Ghana.

Problems like malnutrition, pneumonia and malaria kill more children in Africa than AIDS.

“We are programmed to react quickly to small children with AIDS in distress,’’ Potts said. “Unfortunately, we don’t have that same reaction when looking at statistics that tell us what we should be spending on.’’

The world invests about US$8 billion to US$10 billion into AIDS every year, more than 100 times what it spends on clean water projects in developing countries. Yet more than 2 billion people do not have access to adequate sanitation, and about 1 billion lack clean water.

In a recent series in The Lancet, experts wrote that more than one-third of child deaths and 11 per cent of the total disease burden worldwide are due to mothers and children not getting enough to eat _ or not getting enough nutritional food.

“We have a system in public health where the loudest voice gets the most money,’’ said Dr. Richard Horton, editor of The Lancet. “AIDS has grossly distorted our limited budget.’’

But some AIDS experts argue that cutting back on fighting HIV would be dangerous.

“We cannot let the pendulum swing back to a time when we didn’t spend a lot on AIDS,’’ said Dr. Kevin De Cock, director of the AIDS department at the World Health Organization. “We now have millions of people on treatment and we can’t just stop that.’’

Still, De Cock once worked on AIDS projects in Kenya, his office just above a large slum.

“It did feel a bit peculiar to be investing so much money into anti-retrovirals while the people there were dealing with huge problems like water and sanitation,’’ De Cock said.

Part of the issue is advocacy. From celebrity ambassadors to red ribbons, other diseases have been left by the wayside.

“No one is beating the drum for basic health problems,’’ said Daniel Halperin, an AIDS expert at the Harvard University’s School of Public Health.

Aside from southern Africa, most of the continent has relatively low rates of HIV, and much higher rates of easily treatable diseases like diarrhea and respiratory illnesses. Yet much of the money from the West, especially from the United States, goes into AIDS.

President George W. Bush has requested another US$30 billion for the next five years for AIDS, mostly to be spent in Africa, and the leading Democratic candidates have proposed that figure be bumped up to US$50 billion.

In comparison, the President’s Malaria Initiative, launched in 2005, aims to reduce malaria deaths by half in 15 African countries. Its five-year budget is an estimated US$1.2 billion.

Halperin recently wrote a commentary on the imbalance in AIDS spending versus other public health problems, published in the New York Times, and said he was astounded by the response. Most of the responses were positive, he said, with many AIDS experts agreeing it was time to re-examine spending.

Most AIDS officials say the solution is to boost the budget for all of public health.

“Why does the public health budget have to be so limited?’’ asked Tom Coates, a professor of global AIDS research at the University of California in Los Angeles. “Let’s not drag AIDS care and prevention down to the level of every other disease, but let’s bring everything else up to the level of AIDS.’’

That may be wishful thinking.

“At the end of the day, there are limits to how big the public health pie can be,’’ Halperin said. “And meanwhile, there are important trade-offs to consider.’’

African doctors say that AIDS money has created parallel health systems, where AIDS patients may get free drugs, but people with other diseases are often forced to pay out of pocket.

Since the discovery of anti-retrovirals to fight HIV in the 1990s, AIDS has virtually become a chronic, treatable disease in the West. But the disease has not been conquered so easily in Africa. Not only are the anti-AIDS drugs too expensive for most patients, but major problems in the health system need to be fixed first.

“It’s hard to get Western donors to listen,’’ said Dr. Richard Wamai, a Kenyan doctor at Harvard University’s School of Public Health. Wamai said that some African health infrastructures are so weak they cannot absorb the donations, meaning that AIDS drugs are sometimes left sitting in warehouses because governments cannot distribute them.

Still, “trying to redirect AIDS money will take a long time,’’ Wamai said. “It’s a bit like trying to stop an ocean liner.’’

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HIV/AIDS Deaths Decline In NYC

Posted by pozlife on January 12, 2008

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by 365Gay.com Newscenter Staff

Posted: January 9, 2008 – 1:00 pm ET

(New York City) Deaths in New York City from HIV/AIDS fell by nearly 15 percent in 2006 the city health department said Wednesday.

In a report on morbidity the city said that along with HIV/AIDS there also was drop in the number of deaths from diabetes, chronic lung disease and kidney failure. The only leading killer that increased significantly was substance use.

Heart disease and cancer remained the city’s biggest killers, claiming 21,844 lives and 13,116 lives, respectively. The figures come from the latest Annual Summary of Vital Statistics, the definitive registry of births and deaths in New York City.

HIV/AIDS deaths dropped from 1,419 in 2005 to 1,209 in 2006. The decline was reflected in both sexes and all ethnic groups.

"Numbers this low have not been seen since 1984, when New York City recorded 952 deaths from AIDS," the health department report said.

Researchers attribute the continuing decline to several factors, including a lower infection rate among injecting drug users – partly due to syringe exchange programs- increased health services for injecting drug users, a declining population of injecting drug users, expanded HIV testing and referral to care, and slower disease progression among people receiving antiretroviral therapy.

Nevertheless, the report said, HIV mortality is still concentrated among NYC’s minority populations, with roughly 34 percent of HIV deaths occurring among black men and 21 percent among black women. Eleven percent of HIV deaths occur among white men and 3 percent among white women.

The report also showed that, based on 2005 data, life expectancy in NYC is growing. Women’s life expectancy rose by 2.5 months, reaching a record 81.3 years. Male life expectancy held steady at 75.7 years in 2005, while overall life expectancy increased from 78.6 years to 78.7 years.

"New Yorkers are living longer, healthier lives," said Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, New York City Heath Commissioner, "but too many New Yorkers are still dying from preventable causes. The leading causes of premature death can be prevented by quitting smoking, controlling blood pressure and cholesterol, reducing risky sex and using condoms to avoid HIV, and living free of alcohol and drug dependence. We are working with community groups and health providers to help all New Yorkers achieve better health."

New HIV diagnoses have recently increased among young men who have sex with men, but the trend has yet to affect mortality rates, the report noted.

Last fall the health department released preliminary data showing that HIV is on the rise among young men who have sex with men, particularly among young blacks and Hispanics. (story)

New HIV diagnoses among MSM under age 30 increased by 33 percent from 2001 through 2006 – from 374 in 2001 to almost 500 in 2006.

New diagnoses have doubled among MSM ages 13 to19, while declining by 22 percent among older MSM.

The under-30 group now accounts for 44% of all new diagnoses among MSM in New York City, up from 31% in 2001.

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Controversial SF Health Plan Gets Reprieve

Posted by pozlife on January 12, 2008

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by The Associated Press

Posted: January 10, 2008 – 1:00 pm ET

(San Francisco, California) A city program that provides health care to the uninsured and is partly funded by businesses can continue at least until a lawsuit challenging the program is resolved, a federal appeals court ruled.

A lower court in December struck down key provisions of the program, dubbed Healthy San Francisco, which requires companies with at least 20 workers to provide health coverage or pay the city a fee to help offset the program’s estimated $200 million price tag.

The Golden Gate Restaurant Association, a powerful lobby, sued the city, arguing that the mandatory contributions the city sought placed a costly burden on members already struggling to make a profit.

But a three-judge panel for the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said Wednesday it appeared the program would ultimately prevail.

"There may be better ways to provide health care than to require private employers to foot the bill," Judge William Fletcher wrote in a unanimous ruling. But he wrote that it wasn’t up to the court to "evaluate the wisdom" of the plan, only its legality.

Fletcher wrote that the city and the labor unions that joined San Francisco in defending the lawsuit "have a probability, even a strong likelihood of success."

City officials hope the program, the first of its kind in the nation, will eventually cover about 80,000 people. Mayor Gavin Newsom said that nearly 8,000 people have already signed up and that the city hopes to enlist about 40,000 more people by the end of the year.

The "ruling is an important victory for uninsured San Franciscans," Newsom said Wednesday.

U.S. District Court Judge Jeffrey White in December knocked out the business fee when he agreed with the restaurant owners and ruled that the program violated federal law.

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Habits Can Lead to 14 Extra Years

Posted by pozlife on January 12, 2008

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by Maria Cheng, the Associated Press

To get an extra 14 years of life, don’t smoke, eat lots of fruits and vegetables, exercise regularly and drink alcohol in moderation. That’s the finding of a study that tracked about 20,000 people in the United Kingdom.

Kay-Tee Khaw of the University of Cambridge and colleagues calculated that people who adopted these four healthy habits lived an average of 14 years longer than those who didn’t.

"We’ve known for a long time that these behaviors are good things to do, but we’ve never seen these additive benefits before," said Susan Jebb, head of Nutrition and Health at Britain’s Medical Research Council, which helped pay for the study.

"Just doing one of these behaviors helps, but every step you make to improve your health seems to have an added benefit," said Jebb, who was not involved in the study.

The benefits were also seen regardless of whether or not people were fat and what social class they came from. The findings were published online Monday in the Public Library of Science Medicine journal.

The study included healthy adults aged 45 to 79. Participants filled in a health questionnaire between 1993 and 1997 and nurses conducted a medical exam at a clinic. Participants scored a point each for not smoking, regular physical activity, eating five servings of fruits and vegetables a day and moderate alcohol intake.

Until 2006, the researchers tracked deaths from all causes, including cardiovascular disease, cancer and respiratory diseases. People who scored four points were four times less likely to die than those who scored zero, the research showed.

Khaw said that the study should convince people that improving their health does not always require extreme changes to their lifestyles.

"We didn’t ask these people to do anything exceptional," Khaw said. "We measured normal behaviors that were entirely feasible within people’s normal, everyday lives."

Public health experts said they hoped the study would inspire governments to help people adopt these changes.

"This research is an important piece of work which emphasizes how modifying just a few risk factors can add years to your life," said Dr. Tim Armstrong, a physical activity expert at the World Health Organization.

But because the study only observed people rather than testing specific changes, experts said that it would be impossible to conclude that people who suddenly adopted these healthy behaviors would automatically gain 14 years.

"We can’t say that any one person could gain 14 years by doing these things," said Armstrong. "The 14 years is an average across the population of what’s theoretically possible."

But experts worry that the new findings may still not be enough to persuade people to change their unhealthy ways.

"Most people know that things like a good diet matter and that smoking is not good for you," Jebb said. "We need to work on providing people with much more practical support to help them change."

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