Posts Tagged ‘African American


Follow Rae Lewis-Thornton

If you are on Twitter, it is a must that you follow Rae Lewis-Thorton.  She is beautiful, vivacious, HIV-positive and does not mind sharing her experience and wisdom with all of us. 

Check her out here:

Here is her bio from her website:

Emmy Award Winning AIDS Activist, Rae Lewis-Thornton was diagnosed with HIV at the age of 23. She rose to national acclaim when she told her compelling life story on the cover of Essence magazine. Despite living with HIV/AIDS for over 20 years, she travels the country using her life as an example that AIDS is a non-discriminatory disease. Her anticipated autobiography, Unprotected- A Memoir, will be release in 2009 by Hyperion Publishers.   

Rae Lewis-Thornton, Inc was founded by Rae Lewis-Thornton to focus on AIDS education.  Primarily destroying myths and stereotypes surrounding who can, and how one becomes infected with HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) know to cause AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome).  Through lectures, she focuses on: 

Prevention of HIV

Understanding HIV

Promoting Early Testing and Detection of HIV

Living with HIV/AIDS


HIV Poses a Community Risk for Blacks


Experts Say HIV Rates Are So High That Simply Curbing Risky Behavior Won’t Help

MedPage TodayStaff Writer

Feb. 19, 2010— 

SAN FRANCISCO — HIV prevalence is so great among African Americans that even those who avoid risky behaviors are at high risk, according to findings reported at the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections. 

Dr. Kimberly Smith, of Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, warned that focusing on drug use, homosexual behavior and multiple partners actually undermines efforts to counteract the dramatic disparities faced by blacks in regards to HIV prevalence and mortality. 

This is particularly true for heterosexuals, she told attendees of the conference. 

“The prevalence has come to a point now where&there’s basically no room for error,” she said at a press conference. This requires a shift in perspective for policy and prevention efforts, Smith said. 

“If we start to focus on this as a community challenge rather than focusing on individual risks, then that may move us in the right direction,” she said at a press conference. 

Black people account for only 12 percent of the U.S. population, but make up half of HIV cases in the country. 

Whereas the overall rate of HIV prevalence in America is under 1 percent, Smith called attention to a New England Journal of Medicine article published earlier this week that documented the rate in several U.S. cities with large black populations as comparable to and sometimes worse than the rate reported in sub-Saharan Africa. 

For example, the HIV rate is 3 percent in the largely black Washington D.C. population (over 6 percent among black men there) and reaches nearly 14 percent in men who have sex with men in New York City compared with a general-population prevalence of 7.8 percent in Kenya and 16.9 percent in South Africa. 

Stigmatizing groups with risky behaviors leaves the majority unaware of their risk, Smith noted. 

“Part of our challenge is that a lot of the black community has not perceived itself to be at risk based upon the evolution of how we understood risk of HIV in the United States,” she said at the press conference. 

The narrow initial perception as a “gay, white disease” persisted into the mid-90s, she said. 

By the time high-profile black HIV cases like that of Earvin “Magic” Johnson stirred awareness about risk, Smith said at the plenary session, “the horse was out of the barn, the cat was out of the bag, and HIV was running rampant in black community.” 

HIV mortality for African Americans shows the same dramatic gap as HIV rates compared with other race and ethnic groups in the U.S., with an eight-fold excess mortality risk for black men and 20-fold increased risk for black women. 

Many factors contribute to this, including late diagnosis, the fact that up to 20 percent of black HIV-infected persons never see an HIV provider for at least five years after diagnosis, poorer access to care and poorer response and adherence to treatment once initiated, Smith noted. 

Dr. Kevin Fenton agreed that social contexts drive these disparities. Fenton spoke about barriers to HIV prevention at a separate session at the conference. 

Only 16 percent of people living with HIV have private insurance and 62 percent are unemployed explained Fenton, who is director of the National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and Tuberculosis prevention at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta. 

“While we’ve made great strides in developing prevention interventions and targeting individual risk behavior, the bottom line is that behavioral change programs are not enough to get ahead of the curve,” Fenton said at a press conference. 

Without confronting the root causes, little will change, he cautioned. 


Sororities effort spotlights need for more HIV testing in the black community

 7:00AMHIV.jpgJerry Campbell / Special to the GazetteTesting doesn’t hurt: Ondraya Dixon, left, of Zeta Phi Beta sorority, and Danielle Royster, center, of the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority, volunteer to be tested publicly for HIV on Friday to encourage Kalamazoo residents and especially African-Americans to get tested. Jan de la Torre, a prevention specialist with the Community Aids Resource and Education Services center, right, hands alcohol swabs to the women.

 KALAMAZOO — The Community Aids Resource and Education Services center in Kalamazoo held a symbolic public HIV testing event Friday afternoon to encourage residents, especially those in the black community, to get tested.

The event was held in association with the graduate chapter of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority Inc. Participating were members of various historically African-American college-based sisterhoods.

Ondraya Dixon, 34, a member of the Zeta Phi Beta sorority, and Danielle Royster, 39, a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha, tried to show how easy getting tested is.
“I think when they see people they know at church and people they see at the grocery store getting tested, some of the stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS testing in the black community will start to disappear,” said Zenda Thompson, president of the alumni chapter of Sigma Gamma Rho.

Dixon said she jumped at the opportunity to participate after being shocked by statistics that showed the lack of testing in the black community.

“When I first saw the numbers about the black community, they were staggering,” Dixon said. “People seem to have a fear of knowing. They just want to live life to the fullest, when they can be impacted even if they’re being careful.”

Blacks make up only 13 percent of the population nationally but account for 49 percent of HIV/Aids cases. In Kalamazoo the discrepancy is even wider — blacks make up 14 percent of the population and account for 59 percent of HIV/AIDS cases.

Thompson, and Jon Delatorre, HIV/AIDS specialist for CARES cochaired the event.

“I met Jon last summer through our  Write A story Love Safe program,” Thompson said. “Jon said he wished he had us as a contact during last year’s black awareness campaign. It’s tough to reach that demographic when you don’t have anyone representing it.”

Delatorre and Thompson, with each other’s help have worked together with the sororities to produce a number of Youtube videos. The one-minute videos are aimed at educating the disproportionately affected black community about HIV/AIDS.
“This is the year we finally decided to make a big push in social media,” Delatorre said. “We’re hoping to reach more people through more outlets than before.”

Thompson agrees, but stresses the earlier someone is educated about the effects of HIV/AIDS and the measures of prevention that are available, the better the results will be.

“When people ask me what will work best I always bring it back to the children,” Thompson said. “Even if it is only my own two that I talk to, they will talk to others. And they will talk to more.”


Herpes Medication Does Not Reduce Risk of HIV Transmission, Study Finds

ScienceDaily (Jan. 25, 2010) — A five-year international multi-center clinical trial has found that acyclovir, a drug widely used as a safe and effective treatment taken twice daily to suppress herpes simplex virus-2 (HSV-2), which is the most common cause of genital herpes, does not reduce the risk of HIV transmission when taken by people infected with both HIV and HSV-2.

The results of the study are published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Up to 90% of people with HIV infection also have HSV-2 infection. Most people who are infected with HSV-2 do not know they have the virus because symptoms can be mild or absent. HSV-2 infection can cause recurrent sores and breaks in the skin of the genital region, which can be mild and often go unnoticed. HSV-2 infection also attracts immune cells called CD4 T-cells to the genital region, which HIV uses to establish or pass infection.

Multiple studies have shown that frequent genital herpes recurrences increase the amount of HIV in the blood and genital tract. The HIV virus is also shed from genital herpes ulcers and persons with such ulcers transmit HIV to others more efficiently. Five preliminary studies showed that it is possible to decrease the amount of HIV in the blood and genital tract through treatment to suppress HSV-2, but these studies did not measure whether this translated into a reduction in HIV transmission. Researchers had hoped that acyclovir’s ability to suppress the herpes virus, which causes symptomatic genital sores and breaks in the skin but also frequently is active without symptoms, could reduce the likelihood of sexual transmission of HIV from a person with HIV and HSV-2. The study is the first to determine whether twice daily use of acyclovir by individuals who are infected with both HSV-2 and HIV reduced the transmission of HIV to their sexual partners. The authors conclude that daily acyclovir therapy did not reduce the risk of transmission of HIV, in spite of the fact that acyclovir reduced plasma HIV RNA by a ¼ log and the occurrence of genital ulcers due to HSV-2 by 73%.

Led by the University of Washington in Seattle and funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Partners in Prevention HSV/HIV Transmission Study was conducted among 3,408 African HIV serodiscordant couples, in which one partner had HIV and the other did not. In all the couples, the partner who had HIV also had HSV-2 infection. The study took place at 14 sites in seven countries in eastern and southern Africa (Botswana, Kenya, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia). In sub-Saharan Africa, the majority of new HIV infections occur among heterosexual HIV discordant couples, many of whom are in stable partnerships and unaware that one partner has HIV and the other does not. Genital herpes is thought to be a factor in a substantial proportion of new HIV infections in Africa.

The study began recruitment in Nov. 2004 and ended follow-up of participants in Oct. 2008. Results were first announced in May 2009 and were presented at the International AIDS Society (IAS) meeting in Cape Town, South Africa, on July 22, 2009.

In the primary analysis of HIV transmissions determined by laboratory testing to have occurred within the couple and not acquired from an outside partner, there were 41 infections in the acyclovir arm and 43 in the placebo arm — not a significant difference. Of the partners who were infected with HIV, 68 % were women. Acyclovir suppressive treatment did show significant reductions in the frequency of genital ulcers (by 73%) and the average amount of HIV in the blood (by 0.25 log10 copies/milliliter, a reduction of 40%), compared to the placebo arm.

“As is often the case with large efficacy trials, you learn to expect surprises,” said Dr. Connie Celum, the leader of the study and a UW professor of Global Health and Medicine in the Division of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. “We found that, in spite of a significant reduction in plasma HIV levels and genital ulcer disease with acyclovir suppressive therapy, there was no reduction in HIV transmission. This was a disappointing finding, but a critical outcome of this study is the understanding that interventions must achieve a bigger reduction in HIV levels in order to reduce HIV transmission, especially among persons with high HIV levels. This will be important in informing future interventions to reduce HIV infectiousness.”

Celum said the study is a direct assessment of the impact of herpes suppression on HIV transmission and is the most direct way to see if it’s possible to make a person less infectious and less likely to transmit HIV to their partner. Although the primary outcome of reducing HIV transmission was not observed, Celum said the study achieved many significant mile¬stones that will help to inform HIV prevention research in a number of ways. Among these were HIV testing of approximately 55,000 couples of unknown HIV serostatus, screening of more than 6,500 HIV serodiscordant couples, and enroll¬ment of 3,408 couples in which the HIV- infected partner was dually infected with HSV-2 and not eligible for antiretroviral therapy, based on national guidelines. Adherence to twice daily acyclovir was high, with 88% of doses dispensed (the drug was not dispensed during pregnancy or if visits were missed), and 96% of dispensed doses taken, as measured by pill counts. Retention of study participants at 24 months of follow-up was 92% for HIV infected partners and 84% for HIV uninfected partners.

The Partners in Prevention HSV/HIV Transmission Study is the first clinical trial to directly test whether suppressing HSV-2 infection in HIV-infected persons could reduce rates of HIV transmission and HIV disease progression. The study was randomized, placebo-controlled and double-blinded, meaning that both participants and the care providers did not know which treatment the participants were receiving. Both the placebo and treatment groups received standard HIV prevention services, which included being supplied with condoms, treated for other sexually transmitted infections, and provided care for HIV infection. All participants received extensive counseling, both individually and as a couple, throughout the study period, on how to reduce the risk of HIV infection.

“This was an ambitious study, and I applaud our collaborators at the University of Washington, the investigators and study teams in Africa, the study participants, and the communities where the study was done, for their dedication over the past five years,” Celum said. “We will continue to learn from this study about risk factors for HIV transmission, which will bear fruit for both the HIV prevention and the vaccine fields for years to come.”


Proposed legislation to end written consent for HIV testing in Mass. sparks controversy

Two bills pending in the Massachusetts Senate that would eliminate informed, written consent before administering HIV tests continue to stir debate. Supporters say the proposed legislation would increase the chances of treating the virus in its early stages. Opponents, on the other hand, maintain written consent is crucial in building trust between doctor and patient.

The Centers for Disease Control issued a non-binding recommendation in 2006 that written consent for HIV testing is no longer needed. The CDC concluded general consent for medical care should be considered sufficient.

Only eight states currently still require written consent before a patient undergoes an HIV test. Besides Massachusetts, they are Alabama, Michigan, Nebraska, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Wisconsin.

The Massachusetts bills, sponsored by state Sens. Patricia Jehlen and Robert O’Leary, both Democrats, would replace written consent with requirements health care providers verbally discuss the test, outline treatment options if it comes back positive, recommend patients who test negative but remain at-risk undergo periodic testing in the future and advise them they have the right to decline the test.

O’Leary’s bill also would require the state’s Department of Public Health to undertake a study on how to best reach those who are at increased risk for contracting the HIV virus, but are not getting tested.

In making the case for eliminating written consent, Jehlen’s office reported 20 percent of Massachusetts residents with HIV/AIDS are unaware of their status because they have not been tested. It also
referenced the fact HIV testing rates at San Francisco General Hospital rose by 44 percent after administrators eliminated its written consent regulation. The number of positive test results increased by 67 percent.

The Boston Globe recently endorsed the proposed legislation in an editorial. And many healthcare providers and activist organizations support it. They include Gary Daffin, executive director of the Multicultural AIDS Coalition.

Fenway Health, a Boston-based provider that treats LGBTs and has been at the forefront of HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention since the early days of the epdemic, also maintains believes it is time to end what many believe is an outmoded policy.

“We’re very supportive of moving in this direction,” Fenway president Dr. Stephen Boswell told EDGE in a phone interview.”The goals of the CDC are to help identify as many of the people who are HIV positive in the country, but don’t know it, as possible. Study after study has shown that the current testing paradigm for HIV is interfering with making testing readily available in some of the sites where the largest number of people who are positive, but don’t know it, are going for care.”

But some Massachusetts LGBT and HIV/AIDS service organizations remain opposed the bill. Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders opposed it during a state house hearing last week. The AIDS Action Committee also remains opposed..

Bennett Klein, director of GLAD’s AIDS Law Project, testified before the Joint Committee on Public Health on Oct. 6 he feels written consent provides important protections to those HIV/AIDS. He further argued there is no evidence to suggest it is a barrier to people getting tested.

“Solving this problem requires a comprehensive public health solution, including determining how to reach populations, such as the homeless or immigrants, who may not make contact with the traditional healthcare system,” Klein told the panel. “If we could solve a difficult social and public health problem by simply getting rid of a piece of paper, we would be very lucky. But that is not the case.”

In a phone interview, Klein further contended the bills leave open the possibility some people will be tested without knowing it or without believing the test was voluntary and that they were in control of the situation.

“There are also larger repercussions in terms of the public response to the epidemic, such as creating a sound and trusting relationship between provider and patient, and patients being able to talk frankly about risk behaviors,” he explained. “This is particularly important in adherence to medication. If people are distrustful of the healthcare system, you are much less likely to ensure that there is a patient-provider relationship that can address those issues.”

The AAC told EDGE in a statement that while it welcomes efforts to eliminate barriers to HIV testing and supports the goals of the proposed legislation, it cannot endorse the bills as they currently are written.

The organization said it could support proposals that required documentation of verbal informed consent and imposed enforceable penalties for failure to document consent and for violations of patient confidentiality.

AIDS Action further called for a statute to require a funded study of the reasons people with HIV often enter treatment late and to propose solutions.

“Because written informed consent is perceived to be a barrier to testing in medical settings, moving to verbal consent with appropriate documentation and confidentiality protections can be an important first step toward increasing the number of HIV tests offered and ensuring routine HIV testing in medical settings,” the statement read.

The organization added it feels the full integration of routine HIV testing in medical practices will help reduce the stigma still associated with the virus because of its association with sex and drug habits.

“HIV/AIDS disproportionately impacts gay men and women of color,” AIDS Action said. “People at risk for HIV should not have to seek out extra services or special sources of care to be screened for a medical condition that disproportionately impacts them. HIV screening and testing should be available everywhere in the Commonwealth.”

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health has not taken a position on the legislation, but it noted in a statement it has long supported routine screening.

Among its initiatives are pilot routine screening projects in urban areas, a public information campaign promoting knowledge of HIV status and guidance to providers about how to reduce the administrative burden of obtaining consent under current law.

“We are invested in reducing barriers to HIV screening for both patients and providers while preserving the strict confidentiality of individual medical information,” Kevin Cranston, director of the agency’s Bureau of Infectious Disease, said.


Study Finds That Certain Cancers Are More Common In HIV-Infected Individuals


A recent study published in the Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes (JAIDS) found that the incidence of non-AIDS defining malignancies, such as anal and lung cancer, is increased for HIV-infected individuals.

“Non-AIDS defining illnesses” includes all forms of cancers except skin, lymphoma, cervical carcinoma, Kaposi’s sarcoma and some ill-defined cancers. These are considered AIDS defining and are known to be of higher prevalence in HIV-positive individuals.

In this study, it was found that HIV-infected patients also have a higher risk of developing certain non-AIDS defining illnesses.

The study was conducted on 33,420 HIV-infected and 66,840 HIV-uninfected patients for a period between 1997 and 2004. The incidence rate of cancerous malignancies was measured. Factors such as age, gender, and race were taken into account.

The results showed that HIV-infected individuals were 60 percent more likely to have anal, lung, Hodgkin’s lymphoma, melanoma, prostate, and liver cancer than non HIV-infected individuals.

One theory for the possible cause of this trend is that antiretroviral therapy that HIV-positive individuals undergo might increase their risk of developing those particular cancers. Another possibility is that HIV-infected individuals are more prone to traditional risk factors due to lifestyle or other situations.

Another theory is that HIV itself increases an individual’s chance of developing cancer inherently.

One weakness of the study is the lack of female participants; males represented about 98 percent of the study’s population.

This study has led to plans for further research on immune function in patients with or without cancer.

For more information, please see the original study in JAIDS (abstract) and the press release from Southwestern Medical Center.


‘Why Us? Left Behind and Dying’


By turns frightening and fascinating, compassionate and compelling, the tough-titled documentary “Why Us? Left Behind and Dying” is an all-too-essential look at the disproportionately high rate of HIV/AIDS in black America and sub-Saharan Africa. Claudia Pryor Malis’ candid, compactly informative film, showing for one week to qualify for much-deserved Oscar consideration, examines an extremely complex issue in a laudably accessible yet hard-hitting way.

Part feature film, part research project, “Why Us?” follows 20 curious, courageous inner-city teens from Pittsburgh’s academically challenged Westinghouse High School as they explore the history and profusion of HIV/AIDS throughout their community and culture. These kids pose probing questions about the disease to a series of school visitors, including straights, gays, intravenous drug users, HIV-positive locals (several of whom are separately profiled as well) and doctors and scientists from America and Africa. The students also take pains to open up directly to director Malis about their own safe — or unsafe — sex practices and fears about HIV/AIDS. Westinghouse alumna Tamira Noble, 20, nicely serves as the film’s narrator.

The intertwining explanations for the HIV/AIDS explosion among blacks — low self-esteem, distrust of science and the healthcare system, poverty, gender inequality, trouble squaring racial and sexual identities, a history of secrecy and shame, and even a possible genetic variation — are vividly presented here. But it’s a hard look at the black church’s ingrained homophobia and longtime reluctance to deal with HIV/AIDS that perhaps prove the most disturbing. As a more enlightened Baptist pastor chillingly says here of the epidemic, “This is real whether you accept it or not. You don’t lead a dead man to God.” Amen to that.

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