Tag Archives: HIV

Congress Revamps Housing Program To Benefit Areas Where HIV Is Spreading

In a bipartisan push, Congress has restructured a federal program that provides housing assistance for people living with HIV to funnel more money into areas struggling to control the outbreak.

While legislators and housing advocates say the adjustments will better target regions with high rates of the virus, these changes are likely to mean less money for some of the large cities that confronted the early effects of the epidemic.

To help with the transition, Congress increased funding for the Housing Opportunities for Persons With AIDS (HOPWA) program about 6 percent this year. In the past, this money was distributed across the country based on a jurisdiction’s cumulative number of cases (including people who had died).

Now under the 2017 funding, finalized by Congress in May, HOPWA has awarded $320.4 million to qualifying states and local jurisdictions to be apportioned primarily based on their share of the total number of people living with the virus. The number of cases required to qualify for funding also changed from 1,500 cumulative AIDS cases to 2,000 living cases of HIV/AIDS.

No jurisdiction will receive less HOPWA money than in 2016, but about 25 cities and counties are getting a smaller piece of the pie than before. The top five seeing their percentage of funding drop are, in order, New York City, Atlanta, Miami, Washington, D.C., and Houston.

“As the formula is fully implemented, without additional funds those jurisdictions will lose out,” said Opal Jones, vice president of the National AIDS Housing Coalition, a housing advocacy group in favor of the formula change. “It’s a great start. It’s just not enough.”

The program, which began in 1992, provides financial assistance to help participants pay for rent, mortgage and utility costs. HOPWA also offers competitive grants to jurisdictions and organizations, but that allotment accounts for only about 10 percent of its budget and is not included in the $320.4 million.

Shelter represents one of the most important factors in determining an individual’s success in HIV treatment. According to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, which administers the HOPWA program, housing instability is linked to delayed testing and gaps in care. The department estimates roughly half of the individuals living with HIV in the U.S. will experience a housing crisis in their lifetime.

“I think we can’t underestimate the power that home has in improving the health in somebody with a chronic condition,” said Russell Bennett, executive director of the National AIDS Housing Coalition.

Shyronn Jones, 39, has struggled financially since she was diagnosed with HIV. She was once a homeowner in New York, but when she moved to Atlanta several years ago, the only housing she could afford was an apartment in a crime-ridden pocket of the city. She was having trouble getting medical care, her white blood cell count dipped to dangerously low levels, and her mental health deteriorated.

But then, a housing assistance organization connected Jones to HOPWA, which helped her to move into a better neighborhood with a nearby grocery store, post office and park, where her daughter can play.

“I had a lot riding on HOPWA,” she said. “HOPWA just saved me.”

Seeking to soften the impact of the formula change, the law increased appropriations this year so that each jurisdiction would see at least a small rise in funding. Over time, areas with higher rates of HIV transmission, such as the South, will continue seeing increases. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated 44 percent of all individuals living with HIV in the country reside in the South, even though only 37 percent of the U.S. population live in the region.

The extra $20 million allocation nationwide this year translated to double-digit percentage increases for more than 100 out of the 140 participating jurisdictions. Smaller cities such as Greenville, S.C., and Syracuse, N.Y., saw their funding jump by nearly 14 percent. Notably, some larger metropolitan hubs such as Portland, Ore., and Chicago also saw similar growth in their grants.

But efforts to funnel money into current HIV epicenters without additional funding could mean cuts for large metropolitan areas such as Atlanta and New York. To mitigate potential losses, the program’s statute stipulates that over the next five years, a grantee cannot lose more than 5 percent or gain more than 10 percent of its share of the previous year’s total HOPWA formula funds.

“We’ll see some losses in funding [for some areas] over the years,” said Rita Flegel, director of the Office of HIV/AIDS Housing. “And then money will be distributed more evenly among people living with HIV.”

Rep. David Price (D-N.C.), who was one of the co-sponsors of the bill that reformulated the funding, said the phase-in coupled with the boost in funding helped assuage fears of cutbacks among lawmakers from areas with a legacy of large numbers of HIV cases.

“People of all sorts of political persuasions supported this because this was a question of fairness,” he said. Yet, “it was very clear that we needed to increase the size of the pie to make this proposition less difficult.”

One of the cities that could lose out is the nation’s capital. Nearly 13,000 residents, or nearly 2 percent of the population, live with HIV in Washington, D.C., according to the city’s health department.

HOPWA has not been able to keep up with demand of the area’s residents and the city discontinued its waiting list last year with more than 1,200 individuals, according to Michael Kharfen, the senior deputy director of the city’s HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis, STD, and TB Administration. The area is expected to receive $11.2 million, a 1 percent increase from last year’s funding.

But the nation’s capital is not unique in its struggle to keep up with the demand. According to the latest data from HUD, 138,427 HIV-affected households across the country were in need of housing assistance.

Jones, of Atlanta, now resides in a three-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment in a neighborhood she dreamed of while growing up in New York City.

Her white blood cell count has doubled since her move, she said, and her mental state has improved. Jones, who is a policy fellow for the HIV advocacy organization Positive Women’s Network USA and runs a business that advises HIV patients on resources, is grateful to HOPWA for the assistance. But she said she hopes to become self-sufficient and help others dealing with situations similar to those she once faced.

“That’s what I’m striving for,” she said.

Kaiser Health News (KHN) is a national health policy news service. It is an editorially independent program of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

Snopes update: Pope tablecloth trick edition

snopesCheck out this week’s update from Snopes, the website that keeps the internet honest by looking into rumors, pop legends and deliberate misinformation.

If you look at no other post, look at the one on Ben Carson and the alleged Popeye’s robbery. He is either shameless or mentally unbalanced. And do read the page about Armstrong Williams, his spokesperson. Another huckster.

Now, on to Snopes.

NEWS: Did Dr. Ben Carson say that he has  no idea how gravity works while asserting that climate change is a  hoax ?

FACT CHECK: Did Dr. Ben Carson say that  anatomically, a Muslim’s brain is wired differently than ours ?

FACT CHECK: Does an image show a photograph of Umpqua shooter Chris Harper-Mercer altered by CNN to make him appear white?

FACT CHECK: Was Umpqua Community College a  gun-free zone when nine people were fatally shot there in October 2015?

FACT CHECK: Did a 14-year-old girl become pregnant after receiving a flu shot?

FACT CHECK: Is an image contrasting radically different gun laws and homicide rates in Honduras and Switzerland accurate?

FACT CHECK: Are workplaces banning ham, sausages, and other pork foods because Muslims are offended by them?

Pope Tablecloth jefferly.com snopes
The Pope and a tablecloth: low comedy?

FACT CHECK: Does a photograph depict a school art project titled  candlelight  that yielded unexpectedly suggestive paintings?

FACT CHECK: Does the same crying woman appear in photographs taken at the scenes of massacres in Sandy Hook, Aurora, Boston, and Oregon?

FACT CHECK: Does a photograph capture Albert Einstein playing an electric guitar?

FACT CHECK: Was a man named Dontray Mills convicted of trafficking guns but pardoned by President Obama?

FACT CHECK: Does a video show a shark swimming down a flooded street after heavy rains in West Ocean City, Maryland?

FACT CHECK: Did a man spit in the face of a young Marine holding the door open for him because the American people no longer support the military?

FACT CHECK: Are Donald Trump’s  Make America Great Again  caps manufactured in China?

FACT CHECK: Does Facebook consider military emblems inappropriate and delete them from Facebook pages?

FACT CHECK: Did animals die during flooding at a PetSmart location in South Carolina after employees left them to drown?

FACT CHECK: Has ESPN issued a gag order preventing coaches and players from thanking God on television?

FACT CHECK: Does the United States have the third-highest rate of homicides worldwide, but drops dramatically in the rankings if four major cities are excluded from the stats?

FACT CHECK: Did a study prove that Republicans (primarily supporters of Donald Trump) have weaker grammatical skills than Democrats?

FACT CHECK: Did Mexican drug lord Joaquin  El Chapo  Guzman put a $100 million bounty on Donald Trump s head?

FACT CHECK: Have McDonald s restaurants in Colorado turned their Play Place areas into marijuana-friendly smoking zones?

FACT CHECK: Did a Georgia teen contract HIV while getting a sew-in hair weave?

FACT CHECK: Was Pope Francis filmed performing a tablecloth trick during his visit to the United States?

NEWS: Residents of a condominium complex in Des Plaines, Illinois claimed hot dogs injected with rat poison were scattered on their lawn.

FACT CHECK: Did Muslim refugees outside Macedonia refuse assistance from the Red Cross because the aid packages were marked with the Christian cross symbol? 

FACT CHECK: Did President Obama sign a bill barring the media from naming mass shooting suspects?

FACT CHECK: Was a school shooter in Pearl, Mississippi, stopped by an assistant principal with a gun?

FACT CHECK: Does the smell of a rare mushroom cause women to have spontaneous orgasms?

NEWS: Some pundits are skeptical of Ben Carson’s account of experiencing an armed robbery at a Popeye s restaurant.

FACT CHECK: Did a mandatory gun ownership law in Kennesaw, Georgia, cause the town s crime rate to plummet?

FACT CHECK: Did President Obama open FEMA’s  first  concentration camp in Wilcox, Arizona with plans to detain conservatives? 

So much nuttiness this week. I can’t take it all in.

mushroom orgasm Snopes women spontaneous jefferly.com
I’ll have one order of mushrooms to eat here and 20 to go, please.

Study: Truvada PrEP effective at stopping HIV infections


At first, many were skeptical toward the notion of giving HIV uninfected gay men a drug that would, in the minds of some, give them the green light to have unsafe sex.

Then more rational heads prevailed with this simple question: If the ultimate goal of HIV prevention campaigns was to prevent new HIV infections, wasn’t a drug that prevented new infections the magic bullet for which the HIV prevention community had been waiting?

Not only could such a drug, if effective, prevent many people from becoming infected in the first place, but it would also also prevent the many infections that followed through their sexual contacts and their sexual contacts’ sex partners. The pyramid effect that had been driving much of the epidemic could be slowed or halted starting with the people taking the drug.

If it worked.

We are beginning to have answers.

Truvada, a daily pill that holds the hope of drastically reducing or eliminating the risk of contracting HIV, appears to be living up to its promise:

In the first real-world study of the prescription drug, Kaiser researchers found no new HIV infections among the more than 650 people they followed over nearly three years, beginning just after the drug was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2012.

A clinical trial leading up to the FDA approval had shown that Truvada, made by Foster City’s Gilead Sciences, nearly eliminated the risk of getting infected by the AIDS virus. But no evaluations of the drug, also known as PrEP, for pre-exposure prophylaxis, had been published outside the tightly regulated clinical trial setting.In the new study, participants were sexually active. Many did not use condoms for prevention, and half of them were diagnosed with other sexually transmitted diseases within a year of starting the study. But no new HIV infections turned up, researchers said.

“This is really compelling data that shows that PrEP works in a real-world setting,” said Dr. Jonathan Volk, a San Francisco Kaiser physician and epidemiologist and lead author of the study, which was published Wednesday in the medical journal Clinical Infectious Diseases.

Truvada, which contains the antiviral drugs emtricitabine and tenofovir, was originally created as an anti-retroviral drug used to treat HIV, but it has been shown to reduce the risk of HIV infection in people who are at high risk by up to 92 percent when taken consistently, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Still, the drug, which costs Kaiser patients about $50 a month, is not without controversy. PrEP was criticized early on by health providers and other advocates over concerns that the drug would encourage unsafe sex because of a false sense of security. In fact, the Kaiser study did find a significant decrease in condom use among the participants.

One of the loudest critics has been Michael Weinstein, president of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation in Los Angeles, who has publicly called Truvada a “party drug.”

While PrEP may be an option for high-risk individuals who don’t use condoms, he said last month, it should not be used as community-wide public health intervention strategy.

But the CDC and public health advocates disagree.

Let us be thankful that Weinstein (a media gadfly who has been accused of grandstanding to further his still murky, ill-definable goals) was not the person to make the decision to approve the drug for PrEP. 

When I have spoken with audiences about the issue of unsafe sex and HIV, someone nearly always asked during the Q&A afterward, “Why don’t you just tell people to stop having sex or never have unsafe sex?”

I always pointed out society’s experience with syphilis as a useful example of what is wrong with the Just Say No To Sex approach. 

It is thought by some that syphilis was first introduced to the New World by Christopher Columbus and his crew, although it most certainly has been around much, much longer than that.

Prior to the first effective treatment being discovered in 1910, it was often debilitating and could be fatal once it moved into the tertiary phase of infection. It caused horrible disfigurement and drove many people insane. It was one nasty bug.

The U.S. military in World War I knew all about syphilis and its dangers, as did many members of the public, and military leaders worried about the effects of syphilis on troops. Many of them would contract the disease during their tour of duty. 

The military tried everything to stop troop infections, including scare campaign advertisements warning the troops of certain doom if they contracted the disease.

Their efforts had little effect. Why?

Military efforts to stop sexually transmitted diseases in U.S. troops were dismal failures.

There are so many answers to that question I could fill this post with theories as to why people still have unsafe sex when it is dangerous to do so.

Sex in the heat of the moment. The search for intimacy. Lack of planning.

But one of the chief reasons has been: it will never happen to me. You play the odds and worry about the consequences later when you are in bed thinking about it and trying to sleep.

It’s human nature. It’s one of the reasons why people still begin to smoke cigarettes despite the dangers.

So if we bring this back around to our original topic of HIV we can ask this question: If medicine suddenly developed a pill that people who smoke could take to prevent nearly all cases of pulmonary and heart disease, can you imagine the looks you would give the person who objected to making the drug widely available because it might encourage cigarette smoking?

That person would be laughed out of the room, and lung cancer is not even transmitted person-to-person like HIV. But because PrEP involves sex and sex makes people feel uncomfortable or causes them to abandon rational thought processes, we end up with irrational people who would try to stop medicine from doing one of its jobs: to prevent disease.

There are possible problems with PrEP, including drug resistance if not taken properly and side effects for some from both short- and long-term use.

But for the time being, if these study results hold up, it is the most promising thing available.

Source: HIV-preventing drug holds up under study – SFGate

Syphilis once wreaked havoc on many who contracted it, including disfigurement and insanity.