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Study finds LGBT health care improving

LGBT Health, gay news, Washington Blade, health care, improving

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WASHINGTON — A new report finds that things are improving for LGBT people because of better access to health care,, a Summit Professional Network publication, reports.

Citing a new study called “Health and Access to Care and Coverage for LGBT Individuals in the U.S.” from the Kaiser Family Foundation, the site reports findings that say that while LGBT people still tend to have more physical and mental health challenges than their straight counterparts, their needs are being increasingly recognized and met.

Researchers evaluated data from the U.S. Census Bureau, various state agencies, the Institute of Medicine, the National Center for Transgender Equality, the Centers for Disease Control and more to issue the report. Recent factors such as the Affordable Care Act’s implementation and the Supreme Court’s DOMA ruling were also considered, the article said.

The report credits the Affordable Care Act and the rejection of DOMA with “reshaping the health care and coverage landscape for (LGBT) individuals and their families.”


New study explores gay domestic violence

domestic violence, gay news, Washington Blade

A new study from PLoS ONE reports findings on the effects of domestic violence in GBT men.

NEW YORK — A new study from PLoS ONE reports findings on the effects of domestic violence in GBT men, Medical Daily reports.

Researchers looked at a collection of 19 studies on the various effects of domestic violence on MSM and found that 48 percent of those reviewed had been exposed to domestic violence reporting alcohol and drug abuse, symptoms of depression, higher rates of HIV and more incidents of unprotected sex, the Daily reports.

Although many victims of abuse tend to develop these problems, the problem may be exacerbated for MSM, considering that they are not only more likely to contract HIV (63 percent of new infections were among MSM in 2010), but also because the rates of infection are rising among the group — 22 percent among young MSM and 12 percent overall between 2008 and 2010, the Daily article said. In all, about 489,121 people living with HIV at the end of 2010 were either MSM or MSM and injection drug users, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And risky sexual behavior — the kind that doesn’t involve wearing protection — is a major contributor to the problem, the Daily article said.


Shigella outbreak in UK linked to rimming

Shigella, bacteria, rimming, gay news, Washington Blade

Shigella grow on agar plates in a lab. (Photo public domain)

LONDON — The UK has seen an increase in cases of a bacterial infection linked to rimming by gay and bi men, Gay Star News reports.

Shigella can lead to diarrhea, stomach cramps, vomiting and fever. It’s spread through oral contact with feces or unwashed hands, the article said.

In 2009, there were only 43 cases among men in the UK that did not have a link to travel. Just four years later, reports have surged to 224 cases with more cases expected, Gay Star News reports.

“Shigella is on the rise, so it is vital gay and bisexual men know about it and how to avoid getting it,” Dr. Gwenda Hughes, head of STI surveillance at Public Health England, was quoted as saying.

Posters and leaflets informing men about the infection are being distributed to nightclubs, saunas and bars and other gay venues, as well as sexual health clinics.

Gay and bisexual men are being urged to avoid oral-fecal contact and to wash their hands thoroughly and shower after sex, the article said.

The infection is treatable with antibiotics.


Should you get vaccinated for meningitis?

vaccine, syringe, gay news, Washington Blade

If you believe you have been in close contact with an established IMD case, a vaccine will not acutely protect you. Rather, you should consult your provider regarding a one-time antibiotic dose to prevent developing the disease.

Anxiety has again increased this past week following reports of new cases of invasive meningococcal disease (IMD), i.e. meningitis and/or sepsis caused by the bacteria Neisseria meningitidis, among gay men in Los Angeles County. IMD cases are typically scant and sporadic with little cause for broad public health concern. But this recent spate of apparently connected cases, concentrated in the gay community resonates with us differently, given our long history with a certain other disease.

Several burning questions remain for gay men amid the fear and uncertainty of what this new outbreak means for them: What is my personal risk? What can I do to protect myself from infection? And should I get vaccinated?

Since 2010, an outbreak in New York has been tracked among men who have sex with men (MSM), identifying 22 cases through April 2013, which led to seven deaths. Even so, the absolute number of annual cases within the U.S. general population remains vanishingly small, at less than half of what it was two decades ago.

Curiously, despite the recent escalation of IMD in MSM, the disease was still not on many of our radars until last spring, when four cases were detected in Los Angeles. At that time, there was much confusion over apparently conflicting messages from different departments of health and false insinuation that this was another “gay disease,” which government officials were dragging their heels on addressing. The frenzy of media coverage left many of us without clear answers on whether getting vaccinated or even worrying about the disease appearing in D.C. next was merited.

And now, following news of eight confirmed IMD cases in LA County this year – half among MSM, of which three were HIV-positive and reported residence in or socializing around West and North Hollywood – the LA County Department of Public Health last week broadened its previous recommendation for vaccination.

Health officials there now advise that all MSM be vaccinated if their residence, travel or social interactions have put them or will put them in regular close contact with other MSM. “Close contact” is defined as kissing, sexual contact, sharing eating utensils or drinking containers, sharing cigarettes, or being within a three-foot distance for more than eight hours.

Because the recent cases in LA appear to be linked, a push to increase local vaccination to include almost all MSM is indicated to prevent secondary cases in the setting of an epidemic. However, the question is more nuanced for gay men in other major cities like D.C.

Notably, Seattle’s public health officials discouraged expanded vaccination among local gay men last spring, stating that doing so would be an overreaction. Meanwhile, health departments in San Francisco and D.C., advised vaccination for sexually active gay men, who connect through social networking applications or planned to attend parties, clubs or other venues where gay men meet.

So what about vaccination now? In short, it still depends on your HIV status, current and anticipated sexual practices, and most importantly, one’s tolerance for risk. Broad vaccination for IMD is not practical in places where there is no ongoing epidemic; and to date, D.C. has had no reported cases. No real herd immunity would result from such an effort anyway, considering after several years the vaccine’s effectiveness wanes, requiring a booster at five-year intervals.

For now, simple recognition of symptoms that suggest infection followed by prompt medical attention is more powerful than any vaccine. Some of the vague constitutional symptoms that may precede the onset of IMD include sudden fever, nausea, confusion, headache, sensitivity to light and sound, severe muscle aches, and rash in a previously healthy person.

Although these initial clinical features are similar to many common, self-limited viral illnesses, left untreated one’s condition may rapidly decompensate to more ominous and specific symptoms of neck stiffness, mottled or discolored skin, and cold or painful extremities.

If you believe you have been in close contact with an established IMD case, a vaccine will not acutely protect you. Rather, you should consult your provider regarding a one-time antibiotic dose to prevent developing the disease. Beyond 14 days from a suspected exposure the evidence suggests no need for antibiotic prophylaxis.

For those interested in vaccination, either of the two recommended quadrivalent conjugate vaccines (Menactra or Menveo) would cost you about $85 without insurance at CVS pharmacy or $150 as a walk-in at Whitman-Walker Health, with insured patients paying less. HIV-positive individuals should receive both an initial and booster shot 2 months apart.

Daniel O’Neill, MD is an internal medicine resident at Virginia Mason Medical Center in Seattle and plans to move back to D.C. this summer to continue his training.


Conversion therapy bill advances in Washington

Richard DeBolt, Republican Party, Chehalis, Washington, gay news, Washington Blade, conversion therapy bill

State Rep. Richard DeBolt (R-Chehalis) said all youth should be protected. (Photo public domain)

OLYMPIA, Wash. — A bill intended to prevent health care providers from trying to convert gay people under age 18 passed the Washington state House last week, the Associated Press reports.

House Bill 2451, which passed on a 94-4 vote, would make it an act of unprofessional conduct to try to change the sexual orientation of a patient under 18. That would include efforts to change behaviors, gender expressions or to reduce sexual or romantic attractions toward people of the same sex.

Rep. Richard DeBolt (R-Chehalis) said regardless of personal beliefs, all youth should be protected.

“As a Christian person, I can’t stand by and watch someone be put through a tortuous practice to change a behavior,” the AP quoted him as saying.

The measure would fall under the Uniform Disciplinary Act, which includes acts of unprofessional conduct such as negligence, dishonesty, misuse of drugs or alcohol and betrayal of practitioner-patient privilege, the AP reports. Disciplinary authorities could sanction a health-care provider found to be engaging in gay conversion efforts. Sanctions could range from a fine to probation to mandatory remedial education to license revocation.

The bill now heads to the Senate, the AP reports.


Wealthy lesbians concerned about health: study

wealthy woman, health, gay news, Washington Blade

Wealthy LGBT people, especially women, rank health issues as their primary personal concern according to a new study.

CHICAGO — Wealthy LGBT people, especially women, rank health issues as their primary personal concern according to a new study conducted by the Spectrem Group’s Millionaire Corner. Spectrem is a research and consulting firm for the wealth and retirement industry.

The findings were published on the Corner’s website and note more than two-thirds of affluent LGBT investors surveyed expressed concern about the health of their spouse or partner (67 percent) and 65 percent said they are most concerned about having someone to take care of them in their senior years, the Corner reports.

Six out of 10 surveyed (62 percent) said they are most concerned with their own health and 58 percent ranked assuming responsibility over aging parents atop their personal concerns. More than half (55 percent) are most concerned about a family health catastrophe, the article notes.

In comparison, 63 percent overall said they are most concerned about maintaining their current financial position, and nearly half (50 percent) are focused on the financial situation of their children.

Lesbians — as is the case with straight women — report being more concerned about these issues than men, gay or straight, the article said. Salary inequality, child rearing and caring for parents were all cited as factors, the article said.


N.Y. Pride group hosts LGBT Health Month

LGBT Health, gay news, Washington Blade, health care, health month

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ALBANY, N.Y. — The Empire State Pride Agenda last week announced the fifth annual LGBT Health Month in New York. The campaign is designed to bring awareness to the health needs of LGBT residents, WAMC Northeast Public Radio reports.

Assembly member Dick Gottfried and Sen. Neil Breslin, both Democrats, were the drivers behind the New York State Legislature resolution designating March as “Official LGBT Health Month.” Organizers point to troubling statistics: just over 31 percent of gay and lesbian people in poverty lack health insurance; fewer than half of lesbian and gay women between the ages of 18 and 24 have ever had a pap test; and a higher percentage of LGBT people smoke cigarettes. All of these numbers represent significant threats to health, the station reports.


Gay, bi boys more likely to use steroids

steroids, gay news, Washington Blade

About 21 percent of gay and bisexual boys said they had abused steroids at some time in their lives.

NEW YORK — Gay and bisexual boys are almost six times as likely as their heterosexual peers to misuse steroids, according to a new study Reuters Health reports.

“What was most surprising to us was the magnitude of the disparities that emerged between sexual minority and heterosexual boys,” Aaron J. Blashill from Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston told Reuters Health in an email.

More than 5 percent of adolescent boys use anabolic-androgenic steroids to enhance strength, athletic performance, and muscle size, but nobody had studied the association between sexual orientation and steroid abuse before, Blashill and his colleague Steven A. Safren told Reuters.

Long-term misuse of steroids can lead to heart problems, hormone-related changes and psychiatric disorders.

The researchers were concerned that gay and bisexual boys might be more likely to misuse steroids because of other factors that have been tied to steroid and other substance abuse. Those include depression, victimization, suicidal thoughts and intent and poor body image, the article said.

To see if that was the case, Blashill and Safren used data from the 2005 and 2007 U.S. Youth Risk Behavior Surveys of 17,250 teenage boys, including 635 who were gay or bisexual.

About 21 percent of gay and bisexual boys said they had abused steroids at some time in their lives, compared with only 4 percent of heterosexual boys, Reuters reports.

Gay and bisexual boys were also nearly six times as likely as heterosexual boys to report moderate use of steroids (at least 10 times) or severe use (at least 40 times), according to the report in the journal Pediatrics.

In an effort to understand why, the researchers looked at other factors thought to be important contributors to steroid use. They found drug and alcohol use, depression or suicidal tendencies and feelings of victimization played a role in steroid misuse.


England official calls conversion therapy ‘abhorrent’

Norman Lamb, Ministry of Health, England, Great Britain, conversion therapy, gay news, Washington Blade

Health Minister Norman Lamb (Photo by; courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

LONDON — England’s Health Minister Norman Lamb says gay conversion therapy is “abhorrent and has no place in modern society,” the Guardian reports.

“It is based on the completely false premise that there is something wrong with you if you happen to be gay,” Lamb, the minister for care and support, was quoted as having said by the Guardian. “I certainly want to do what I can, as a liberal Democrat, to eradicate this.”

Lamb spoke to the Guardian as 15 cross-party MPs (members of Parliament) wrote to him demanding tougher measures, including consideration of a ban on gay conversion therapy.