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HPV vaccine urged for young men in Australia

Sydney Opera House, Australia, gay news, Washington Blade

Researchers in Australia suggest gay male teens are at a higher risk for HPV. (Photo by David Iliff; courtesy Wikimedia Commons. License: CC-BY-SA 3.0)

SYDNEY, Australia — A new study by sexual health researchers in Australia suggests gay male teenagers are at increased risk of contracting the cancer-causing human papillomavirus (HPV), prompting renewed calls for other countries to adopt Australia’s state-funded vaccine program for boys, the Star Observer, an Australian LGBT news agency, reports.

Researchers examined 200 men who have sex with men (MSM) aged 16-20, one of the first studies in the world to focus on HPV rates in males of this age group. While it is often linked to cervical cancer among women, MSM were also at risk, with HPV in the anus linked to anal cancer.

Significantly, results of this study indicated MSM in this age group were more likely to have anal HPV if they have had more partners and receptive anal sex, the Star Observer reported.

In part because it is a sexually transmitted infection, HPV vaccination has been a controversial issue worldwide, with proposed programs in the U.S. leading to accusations by some religious organizations that it would lead to promiscuity among pre-teen girls.

While the current study has attracted international attention, the rollout of a government- funded HPV vaccination program for both girls and boys in Australia over the past year has met little resistance, and is being hailed as a model for other countries looking to follow suit, the Star Observer reports.


Author of disputed study takes stand in Mich.

Regnerus, gay juror, National LGBT Bar Association, Gay News, Washington Blade

University of Texas sociologist Mark Regnerus testified for more than three hours as a witness for the state of Michigan. (Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

DETROIT — The author of a controversial study of adult children often cited by opponents of gay marriage defended his work in court this week but also said it was too early for social scientists to make far-reaching conclusions about families headed by same-sex couples, the Associated Press reports in a story carried by the Washington Post.

University of Texas sociologist Mark Regnerus testified for more than three hours as a witness for the state of Michigan, which is defending a ban on gay marriage. The constitutional amendment, approved by voters in 2004, is being challenged by two Detroit-area nurses in a rare trial.

Regnerus was the leader of a study that screened thousands of people, ages 18-39, and found roughly 250 who said they grew up in a house where a mom or dad eventually had a same-sex relationship, the AP reports.

He found they were more likely to have problems — welfare dependence, less education, marijuana use — than young adults from stable, straight-led families. But he later acknowledged that his study didn’t include children raised by same-sex couples in stable relationships.

The results ignited a blast of criticism when they were published in an academic journal in 2012, the AP reports.


Study: stress a factor in teen binge drinking

binge drinking, gay news, Washington Blade

The authors of this study sought to determine if minority stress theory could explain why gay and lesbian adolescents engage in binge drinking more than heterosexual youths.

VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Higher rates of binge drinking by lesbian and gay adolescents compared to their heterosexual peers may be due to chronic stress caused by difficult social situations, according to a study presented last weekend at the Pediatric Academic Societies (PAS) annual meeting in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

Research has shown that lesbians and gays experience higher rates of physical and mental health problems. One explanation for these disparities is minority stress. According to this theory, chronic stress due to discrimination, rejection, harassment, concealment of sexual orientation, internalized homophobia and other negative experiences leads to poor health, researchers said in a press release.

The authors of this study sought to determine if minority stress theory could explain why gay and lesbian adolescents engage in binge drinking more than heterosexual youths. To do this, they analyzed responses from 1,232 youths ages 12-18 years who took part in an online survey conducted by OutProud: the National Coalition for LGBT Youth. Sixteen percent of youths identified themselves as lesbian females and 84 percent as gay males.

The survey asked questions about sexual minority experiences and included more than 260 variables. It represents the only known research to explore the relationship between binge drinking and a variety of minority stress experiences, such as homophobia and gay-related victimization, in a large national sample of lesbian and gay adolescents.


HIV doctor assigned new post in New York

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(Photo by Daniel Schwen; courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

NEW YORK — Dr. Demetre Daskalakis, an AIDS doctor and activist credited for his on-the-ground work with meningitis vaccines last year in New York City, has been named the city’s new assistant health commissioner in charge of the Bureau of HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control. He’ll start in September at a $180,000-per-year salary, the New York Times reports.

At the height of the meningitis outbreak last year among gay and bi men, Daskalakis spent many nights in the city’s sex clubs and bathhouses administering meningitis vaccines. He had been given the go-ahead to do so after city officials found their own efforts were met with suspicion, the article said.

In his new role, he and his colleagues at the health department hope that he will be able to leverage his acceptance among gay people, and history of taking HIV treatment into the trenches, to reach a population that has not always trusted authority. They also hope he will be able to reach marginalized groups like young black and Latino men who have sex with men but who, for social or cultural reasons, do not identify as gay or bisexual, the Times article said.

Daskalakis takes over one of the largest bureaus within the health department, with 200 employees and a $200 million budget, at a critical moment in the history of the virus that causes AIDS, the Times reports.


Gay couples more likely to be happy in relationships

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(Photo courtesy Bigstock)

LONDON — Gay couples are more likely to be happy and positive about their relationships than their straight counterparts according to a major study by the Open University, the Independent, a British newspaper, reports.

However, they are less likely to be openly affectionate toward each other — holding hands in public, for instance — because they still fear attracting disapproval, the article said.

The study of 5,000 people – 50 of whom were later followed up with in-depth interviews – aimed at finding out how modern couples keep their relationships on track through life’s difficulties.

“LGBQ participants (lesbian, gay, bisexual and queer) are more generally positive about and happier with the quality of their relationship and the relationship which they have with their partner,” the research concludes.


HHS backs gay couples, HIV/AIDS patients

Barack Obama, Global AIDS, gay news, Washington Blade

Married gay couples will be eligible for a family health policy under President Obama’s health care reform law. (Washington Blade file photo by Lee Whitman)

WASHINGTON — Married gay couples will be eligible for a family health policy under President Obama’s health care reform law, beginning in 2015, the U.S. government said on March 14, Reuters and other media outlets reported. Insurers were encouraged to begin offering coverage this year, the article said.

HHS exercised federal authority to prevent discriminatory insurance market practices on an issue that has been caught up in state marriage laws.

The move follows a February lawsuit filed by an Ohio gay couple that was unable to obtain family coverage under Obamacare, they said, because their state does not recognize same-sex marriage, Reuters said.

“If an insurance company offers coverage to opposite-sex spouses, it cannot choose to deny that coverage to same-sex spouses,” Dr. Matthew Heinz, who heads HHS outreach to LGBT communities, said in a posting to a government website.

The HHS also said insurers cannot turn down HIV/AIDS patients whose premiums are being paid through the federal Ryan White program, the AP reports.


Forced sterilization condemned for trans, intersex people

WHO, World Health Organization, sterilization, gay news, Washington BladeLONDON — The World Health Organization (WHO) has joined forces with several international agencies such as UNICEF, the United Nations Population Fund, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and others, to condemn the forced sterilization of transgender and intersex people in a report released May 30, Gay Star News reports.

The report, “Eliminating forced, coercive and otherwise involuntary sterilization: An interagency statement,” is the strongest statement in support of the rights of transgender and intersex people to be recognized as the gender they identify with without having to undergo surgical procedures at a global level, the article said.

The report notes that voluntary sterilization is an important form of contraception in many parts of the world but condemns interventions against a person’s will or where people are coerced into sterilization to meet government guidelines.

“Sterilization is an important option for individuals and couples to control their fertility,” the report reads. “Sterilization is one of the most widely used forms of contraception in the world. When performed according to appropriate clinical standards with informed consent, sterilization methods such as vasectomy and tubal ligation are safe and effective means of permanently controlling fertility. However, in some countries, people belonging to certain population groups, including people living with HIV, persons with disabilities, indigenous peoples and ethnic minorities, and transgender and intersex persons, continue to be sterilized without their full, free and informed consent.”

The report also says any involuntary or forced practice is “a violation of fundamental human rights.”


New LGBT health initiative unveiled in Pa.

LGBT Health Initiative, University of Pennsylvania, gay news, Washington Blade

University of Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jeffrey M. Vinocur; courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

PHILADELPHIA — The University of Pennsylvania is unrolling an LGBT health initiative that covers medical, dental and nursing schools as well as the region’s largest health system, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports.

Penn is set to announce its Program for LGBT Health Friday and has posted details online this week.

P.J. Brennan, the health system’s chief medical officer, told the Inquirer it was a natural fit with Penn Medicine’s three-pronged mission: research, education, and patient care. There has been no opposition, he said, a sharp contrast with the 1980s. He was training in infectious diseases here when the division had to fight “a lot of fear and ignorance” to start an HIV program.

Now Penn is compiling a list of its LGBT experts to include in a brochure that would help patients choose doctors. The idea came out of a daylong planning retreat that the program’s organizers held in the fall, the Inquirer reports.


San Diego officials advise vaccine for travelers

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Health officials in San Diego are advising residents about the potential benefits of getting vaccinated.

SAN DIEGO — Although there are no reported cases of invasive meningococcal disease (IMD) in San Diego County, health officials there are advising residents about the potential benefits of getting vaccinated, especially those who plan to attend the White Party in Palm Springs (April 25-28) or those planning to visit New York or Los Angeles where several IMD-related deaths have occurred, the San Diego Gay & Lesbian News reports.

San Diego County health officials said they are following the recommendations of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health that were made in consultation with the CDC and the California Department of Public Health, the paper said.

L.A. County has confirmed eight IMD cases since January. Four have been with men who have sex with men; three of those cases involved HIV-positive individuals, the News reports. Three died, all MSM, two of whom were HIV-positive.


Cuomo seeks to end HIV epidemic in New York

Andrew Cuomo, gay news, Washington Blade

‘We are in a position to be the first state in the nation committed to ending this epidemic,’ said New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

NEW YORK — New York’s Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office said last week that it has developed a plan to aggressively identify, track and treat people with HIV infection there with hopes of lowering infections there to non-epidemic levels by 2020, the New York Times reports.

The Cuomo administration described the effort as reflecting a once unimaginable sea change in thinking since the first cases of AIDS were reported among gay men, mostly in the city, by the Centers for Disease Control in July 1981. It has gone from a mysterious plague to a disease that experts can envision one day vanquishing.

“Thirty years ago, New York was the epicenter of the AIDS crisis,” Cuomo said in a statement on Saturday as quoted by the Times. “We are in a position to be the first state in the nation committed to ending this epidemic.”

The state’s acting health commissioner, Dr. Howard Zucker, said on June 27 that he believed that by 2020, New York could reduce its annual incidence of new infections to about 750 from the current 3,000, bringing the number of new cases below the number of annual deaths, or as he put it, “bending the curve” in the direction of ending the epidemic in the state, the Times article said.

The prospect of ending the AIDS epidemic is gaining momentum in epidemiological circles. It is based on studies showing that AIDS drugs have a double-barreled effect not just as treatment but as a means of blocking transmission. On June 24, Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, a leading AIDS researcher, argued at the Aspen Ideas Festival that “we can end the AIDS pandemic in the next 10 years,” the New York Times article said.

In New York, of an estimated 154,000 people infected with HIV, 22,000 do not know they have it, state officials said. Of the 132,000 who know they have it, 64,000 need treatment to suppress the virus.