Category: Sexual Health

A Multi-Level Analysis of Barriers to Care: Macro Level (Structural)

I argued in a previous post that public health should look at factors impacting health using a multi-level approach. In this post, I attempt to outline the various multi-level barriers to medical care (specifically access to PrEP, HIV prevention, and AIDS care) for black queer men (or black men who have sex with men). This post focuses on structural barriers, but the micro and meso level analyses are also available.

At the structural level, queer men, especially those who are men of color, poor, disabled, or uneducated,  face stigma, low health literacy, discrimination, incarceration, poverty, and a general lack of access to healthcare all of which impact their ability to gain access to PrEP and other prevention measures and to continue their treatment and care (Levy et al., 2014; Philbin et al., 2016; Rucker et al., 2017; Thomann et al., 2017). Stigma continues to stand out as a huge structural barrier, especially with respect to access to PrEP or anything related to HIV or sexual health. HIV can often still be considered a “gay men’s disease” or something that only slut and whores have to worry about; these notions continue even from the medical institution, which also continues to emphasize the idea of “Truvada Whores”—the idea that queer men take PrEP in order to participate in riskier sexual behaviors rather than to decrease their risk of contracting HIV (Calabrese et al., 2017; Calabrese & Underhill, 2015). Some providers and researchers have gone so far as to recommend PrEP for everyone; however, we must remember to target PrEP to individuals who are at risk of contracting the disease rather than encouraging everyone to take it even if they are incredibly unlikely to contact HIV (Calabrese, Underhill, et al., 2016). Of course, there are heterosexual individuals who are at risk of contracting HIV, who should likely be taking PrEP, though it has primarily been targeted towards gay men (in sometimes insensitive advertisements that increase stigma for the queer community), but there are also people who don’t have enough risk factors to warrant the medication.

Calabrese, S. K., Magnus, M., Mayer, K. H., Krakower, D. S., Eldahan, A. I., Hawkins, L. A. G., . . . Dovidio, J. F. (2017). “Support Your Client at the Space That They’re in”: HIV Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) Prescribers’ Perspectives on PrEP-Related Risk Compensation. AIDS Patient Care STDS, 31(4), 196-204. doi:10.1089/apc.2017.0002

Calabrese, S. K., & Underhill, K. (2015). How Stigma Surrounding the Use of HIV Preexposure Prophylaxis Undermines Prevention and Pleasure: A Call to Destigmatize “Truvada Whores”. Am J Public Health, 105(10), 1960-1964. doi:10.2105/ajph.2015.302816

Calabrese, S. K., Underhill, K., Earnshaw, V. A., Hansen, N. B., Kershaw, T. S., Magnus, M., . . . Dovidio, J. F. (2016). Framing HIV Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) for the General Public: How Inclusive Messaging May Prevent Prejudice from Diminishing Public Support. AIDS Behav, 20(7), 1499-1513. doi:10.1007/s10461-016-1318-9

Levy, M. E., Wilton, L., Phillips, G., Glick, S. N., Kuo, I., Brewer, R. A., . . . Magnus, M. (2014). Understanding Structural Barriers to Accessing HIV Testing and Prevention Services Among Black Men Who Have Sex with Men (BMSM) in the United States. AIDS Behav, 18(5), 972-996. doi:10.1007/s10461-014-0719-x

Philbin, M. M., Parker, C. M., Parker, R. G., Wilson, P. A., Garcia, J., & Hirsch, J. S. (2016). The Promise of Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis for Black Men Who Have Sex with Men: An Ecological Approach to Attitudes, Beliefs, and Barriers. AIDS Patient Care and STDs, 30(6), 282-290. doi:10.1089/apc.2016.0037

Rucker, A. J., Murray, A., Gaul, Z., Sutton, M. Y., & Wilson, P. A. (2017). The role of patient-provider sexual health communication in understanding the uptake of HIV prevention services among Black men who have sex with men. Cult Health Sex, 1-11. doi:10.1080/13691058.2017.1375156

Thomann, M., Grosso, A., Zapata, R., & Chiasson, M. A. (2017). ‘WTF is PrEP?’: attitudes towards pre-exposure prophylaxis among men who have sex with men and transgender women in New York City. Cult Health Sex, 1-15. doi:10.1080/13691058.2017.1380230

A Multi-Level Analysis of Barriers to Care: Meso Level (Interactional & Community)

I argued in a previous post that public health should look at factors impacting health using a multi-level approach. In this post, I attempt to outline the various multi-level barriers to medical care (specifically access to PrEP, HIV prevention, and AIDS care) for black queer men (or black men who have sex with men). This post focuses on the meso or mid-range level of analysis, and an analysis of the micro level is available from last week.

Black queer men especially lack trust in the pharmaceutical industry as well as in providers and the medical institution themselves (Philbin et al., 2016; Rucker et al., 2017; Thomann et al., 2017). This moves into a community level and interactional level issue where the community has many reasons not to trust providers or drug companies. We can think back to previous studies like the Tuskegee experiments, but we can also think about the lack of adequate care for black patients currently, including limited pain management and less patient-centeredness to name a few examples (Hoffman, Trawalter, Axt, & Oliver, 2016). This is a considerable barrier for providers to overcome in order to provide better treatment to black queer men. Similarly, queer men generally face implicit and explicit bias from providers and receive worse care, and this lack of care is exacerbated by other marginalized social positions (Phelan et al, 2014).

These could also be seen as macro level issues at the institutional level because the medical institution and pharmaceutical industry have constructed a practice that is ineffective for many marginalized individuals. Further, this stems from structural issues in our country such as racism, incarceration, and stigma that limit access to health care and impact our institutions.

Hoffman, K. M., Trawalter, S., Axt, J. R., & Oliver, M. N. (2016). Racial bias in pain assessment and treatment recommendations, and false beliefs about biological differences between blacks and whites. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A, 113(16), 4296-4301. doi:10.1073/pnas.1516047113

Philbin, M. M., Parker, C. M., Parker, R. G., Wilson, P. A., Garcia, J., & Hirsch, J. S. (2016). The Promise of Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis for Black Men Who Have Sex with Men: An Ecological Approach to Attitudes, Beliefs, and Barriers. AIDS Patient Care and STDs, 30(6), 282-290. doi:10.1089/apc.2016.0037

Rucker, A. J., Murray, A., Gaul, Z., Sutton, M. Y., & Wilson, P. A. (2017). The role of patient-provider sexual health communication in understanding the uptake of HIV prevention services among Black men who have sex with men. Cult Health Sex, 1-11. doi:10.1080/13691058.2017.1375156

Thomann, M., Grosso, A., Zapata, R., & Chiasson, M. A. (2017). ‘WTF is PrEP?’: attitudes towards pre-exposure prophylaxis among men who have sex with men and transgender women in New York City. Cult Health Sex, 1-15. doi:10.1080/13691058.2017.1380230

 

A Multi-Level Analysis of Barriers to Care: Micro Level (Individual)

I argued in a previous post that public health should look at factors impacting health using a multi-level approach. In this post, I attempt to outline the various multi-level barriers to medical care (specifically access to PrEP, HIV prevention, and AIDS care) for black queer men (or black men who have sex with men).

At the individual level (the micro level), queer men are skeptical of medication for healthy individuals and wary of the potential side effects caused by these medications (Philbin et al., 2016). These ideas seem to go hand-in-hand. If you don’t want to take medication as a healthy person, you’d be worried about the potential side effects that would ultimately make a health person sick in order to prevent something that you might or might not contract. In this sense, it might be important to make people recognize the real possibility of contract the disease. We’re treating risk here, but preventing the disease is important. Further, the side effects of PrEP are fairly uncommon.

Queer men might think that this medication would be useful for others but not for them. Here, we have to think about assessing the individual patient to decide whether or not PrEP is right for them (Philbin et al., 2016). We’re not treating someone because they’re black and queer, and black queer men have the highest rates of HIV. It’s obviously possible for black queer men to have low associated risk of HIV. Treating high risk means treating patients with high risk factors not treating everyone from a population that has high rates of the disease. However, this presents an added barrier for providers to convince patients with high risks that this is the right drug for them.

Philbin, M. M., Parker, C. M., Parker, R. G., Wilson, P. A., Garcia, J., & Hirsch, J. S. (2016). The Promise of Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis for Black Men Who Have Sex with Men: An Ecological Approach to Attitudes, Beliefs, and Barriers. AIDS Patient Care and STDs, 30(6), 282-290. doi:10.1089/apc.2016.0037

 

 

Multi-level Models of Health Behavior for HIV

In a post about public health and epistemologies of ignorance, I argued that public health interventions have focused solely on the individual rather than looking at other factors impacting health. Moving forward, we need to develop multi-level models of health behavior, so here are a few examples of a multi-level analysis and multi-level models related to HIV prevention and AIDS care. Kaufman et al (2014) present a multi-level analysis of factors impacting HIV-related behavior and behavior change and review a few recent models for looking at HIV-related health behavior from multiple levels. The transtheoretical and health belief models and the theories of reasoned action and planed behavior have been used repeatedly in public health literature about HIV-related health behaviors, but all of these models and theories focus on the individual rather than looking at the individual as part of a larger system.

Kaufman et al (2014) looked at four multi-level models that expand on the individual models of health behavior to look at a more holistic picture:

  1. The Multiple Domain Model: Zimmerman, R. S., Noar, S. M., Feist-Price, S., Dekthar, O., Cupp, P. K., Anderman, E., & Lock, S. (2007). Longitudinal test of a multiple domain model of adolescent condom use. Journal of Sex Research44(4), 380-394.
  2. The Network-Individual-Resource Model: Johnson, B. T., Redding, C. A., DiClemente, R. J., Mustanski, B. S., Dodge, B., Sheeran, P., … & Carey, M. P. (2010). A network-individual-resource model for HIV prevention. AIDS and Behavior14(2), 204-221.
  3. The Dynamic Social Systems Model: Latkin, C., Weeks, M. R., Glasman, L., Galletly, C., & Albarracin, D. (2010). A dynamic social systems model for considering structural factors in HIV prevention and detection. AIDS and Behavior14(2), 222-238.
  4. The Transmission Reduction Intervention Project: Friedman, S. R., Downing, M. J., Smyrnov, P., Nikolopoulos, G., Schneider, J. A., Livak, B., … & Psichogiou, M. (2014). Socially-integrated transdisciplinary HIV prevention. AIDS and Behavior18(10), 1821-1834.

These are just a few examples of models that look at factors on multiple levels, specifically for HIV. More work should be done to expand and perfect these models, though the move towards multi-level models is certainly a move in the right direction. We should attempt to use a social-ecological framework with thinking about other public health interventions as well.

Kaufman, M. R., Cornish, F., Zimmerman, R. S., & Johnson, B. T. (2014). Health Behavior Change Models for HIV Prevention and AIDS Care: Practical Recommendations for a Multi-Level Approach. Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes (1999)66(Suppl 3), S250–S258. http://doi.org/10.1097/QAI.0000000000000236

Implicit Bias in Prescription of PrEP

African American men who have sex with men (MSM) are disproportionately affected by HIV; however, recent research suggests that medical providers are less likely to prescribe Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP), a preventative treatment for HIV, to black MSM (Calebrese et al, 2014). This is a direct result of implicit racial bias, prejudice, and a lack of institutional knowledge on the part of medical providers. Current stereotypes about gay men exist among many medical practitioners, specifically with regard to “Truvada Whores.” It is assumed that MSM who take PrEP will participate in more risky behaviors and thus be at greater risk of HIV, though PrEP is an important measure for reducing risk of HIV. This is further exacerbated by implicit racial bias which corroborates beliefs by providers that black MSM are even more likely than white MSM to partake in risky sexual behaviors if they are prescribed PrEP. As such, medical providers are less likely to prescribe PrEP to black MSM, barring them from access to an important and potentially life-saving measure to prevent HIV, a disease that they are disproportionately affected by.

This research suggests that public health interventions that focus on black MSM might be misplacing their efforts by focusing on changing the behaviors of the individuals or encouraging use of PrEP if they don’t have the necessary support from their doctors. Perhaps, public health interventions should focus on developing additional institutional knowledge to prepare medical providers for caring for black MSM and providing adequate sexual health care.

Calabrese, S. K., Earnshaw, V. A., Underhill, K., Hansen, N. B., & Dovidio, J. F. (2014). The Impact of Patient Race on Clinical Decisions Related to Prescribing HIV Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP): Assumptions About Sexual Risk Compensation and Implications for Access. AIDS Behav, 18(2), 226-240. doi:10.1007/s10461-013-0675-x

World AIDS Day 2017

Friday, December 1st marks the annual observation of World AIDS day. Since starting in 1988, World AIDS Day has provided an opportunity to support those living with HIV, and to commemorate individuals who have died from AIDS-related illnesses. It is estimated that there are nearly 37 million people worldwide living with HIV, and more than 35 million people have died of HIV or AIDS.

The theme for this year’s World AIDS Day is Let’s End It, to promote ending isolation, stigma, and HIV transmission. With advances in HIV treatment and prevention continuing to increase, the fight against stigma and discrimination that people living with HIV experience. This stigma also discourages people from getting tested for HIV. Regular HIV testing is important, since early detection of the virus, and subsequent early treatment, are vital from both an individual and a public health perspective. Those with an undetectable viral load, where the amount of HIV in their blood cannot be detected with current technologies, are unable to transmit the virus to others.

Here at UNC, the Student Health Action Coalition (SHAC) HIV is partnering with Student Wellness to provide Free HIV testing on Friday. The event will be in the Great Hall in the Student Union from 10:00 am – 4:30 pm, testing in confidential and quick. Stop by, get tested, know your status, and help fight HIV stigma! #LetsEndIt #TarHeelsGetTested

 

Sources –

World AIDS Day – https://www.worldaidsday.org/

 

PrEP for Life

Reflecting on the models of health discussed previously (part 1 & part 2), a queer man without human immunodeficiency virus (HIV; disregarding other illnesses) would be healthy, whereas a queer man with HIV would be unhealthy within the medical model of health. In the sociocultural model of health, both a queer man with HIV and without HIV would likely be considered healthy. Given current treatments, there would likely be no affect on an individual’s ability to perform the five activities of daily living. Finally, in the psychological model, we have no easy way to estimate beforehand.

However, within the “drugs for life” model, since queer men are identified within the public health discourse as high risk for HIV, they are immediately seen as bodies-at-risk. Within this model, being queer men can become a predisease for HIV. Much like pre-hypertension for hypertension, the predisease becomes an illness to be treated in itself. Here, we treat the predisease with public health interventions, but the predisease is the behavior of men having sex with men. However, with the best intentions, public health interventions and health communications campaigns can exacerbate the stigma within the queer community with regards to HIV and pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP).

Within this model, PrEP becomes another “drug for life.” There’s no point at which individuals can stop taking PrEP to prevent HIV. It has to be consistently taken in the same way that one would consistently take drugs after contracting HIV. Hence, the treatment for the disease and the treatment to prevent the disease have the same consequences. Presumably, patients would only stop taking PrEP after finding a long-term partner with whom they are monogamous (also presumably both partners would be HIV negative). However, this assumes compulsory monogamy and perhaps even compulsory matrimony. For queer men who don’t want to become monogomous or get married or who are worried about their partner’s (or partners’) infidelity might still be taking PrEP. This combination of high NNT (especially high NNT when we consider the effectiveness of condoms, which should still be used while taking PrEP, since it isn’t 100% effective) with the endless length of the prescription results in considerable profits for drug companies and a significant economic injustice for queer men.

The Newest Style of Sex Education

About a week ago, our class had the pleasure of listening to Alexandra Lightfoot, EdD discuss her involvement in one of the more revolutionary forms of public health circulating the block. As a professional, she has focused on the intersection between the arts and public health and how the two can be combined to create more effective health messages.

The topic of her discussion was the Arts-based, Multiple-component Peer Education (AMP!) Program that first came to UNC from UCLA a few years ago. AMP! utilizes interactive theatre techniques with college students who create scenarios to deliver sex-ed to 9th grade students in a novel way, especially down here in the South.

The critical component of this program is its use of satire, humor and storytelling to disseminate knowledge and start discussions about sexual and reproductive health with high school students and their health teachers. Research has shown that this traditionally complicated conversation is facilitated by this arts-based approach and the AMP! intervention has significantly increased student knowledge about how to prevent HIV and maintain sexual health.

Given that the live performance model of AMP! is delivered by college student “near peers” in locations close to their universities, it has been difficult to scale the program here in North Carolina. However, it has scaled well in the Los Angeles Unified School District, so hopefully that will provide a blueprint for sharing this creative and fun program to more youth in North Carolina. Lightfoot and her partners at the UCLA Art and Global Health Center are currently developing a compendium of video scenarios made by NC-based college students and a manual for teachers so that the intervention can be implemented more widely via digital delivery in classrooms across the state. The team is currently applying for funding to further refine the digital model and pilot and evaluate the implementation process and impact on student outcomes.

What do you think? Is this something you feel is appropriate for NC high school students? What do you think are the barriers and challenges such a program might encounter here? What are the positives about this kind of approach to sex education? Let us know below in the comments.

National Coming Out Day: Empowering, Heteronormative, or somewhere in between?

Tomorrow, on Wednesday, October 11th, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) will commemorate the 29th annual observance of National Coming Out Day, to “celebrate coming out as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer (LGBTQ)”. Many fine this day an opportunity to reflect back on and share their own coming out story, the HRC frames the day “as a reminder that one of our most basic tools is the power of coming out”. While my own process of coming out, at least in the sense mentioned above, I have some issues with this notion that it is a process with a shareable end goal, that I am able conveniently post to social media (based on the privilege I have in society), to remind my friends and family that I am queer, in case how I am living my life did not make that obvious enough.

On one hand, there is something to be said about the need for visibility, simply having a presence of owning your identity can be empowering, and it can help others in their process of finding their identity. But at the same time, I cannot help but wonder if the emphasis placed on coming out only serves to be heteronormative in nature, this need to distinguish yourself as the “other”. I also have issue with the idea that only LGBTQ+ individuals need to take the time to process what their sexual attractions and gender identities are, and more importantly how they define them and their place in the world. Why is it so normalized to own and share this counter narrative, when say, someone who identifies as a cisgender straight man is just accepted and believed in their identity?

Coming out also reinforces this idea that this process has an end goal, you spend some time, realize you’re not straight, share it with your friends and family, and done. This week, I want to encourage everyone to take a moment, think about how you feel with sexual orientation and gender identity, and consider how it positions you in the spaces that you occupy and the world around you, and the think about the ways that it can make it easier or more difficult for those in your circles who are not straight, are not cisgender. Does it give them space, and does it allow others to be open to themselves, and do you use your privilege to challenge that status quo to make that easier?

PrEP for HIV Prevention? Here’s what you need to know

Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis, or PrEP, has changed the way in which we talk about HIV Prevention. After being approved for preventive use by the FDA in 2012, there has been a sharp increase in PrEP prescriptions in the U.S. over the past several years. Currently, the only prescription available for PrEP is Truvada, which also serves as a treatment drug for those who are HIV positive.

Truvada is a nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor, or an NRTI. When exposed to HIV, a NRTI works by masking itself as a building block of the virus’s genetic structure. While our own cells are able to recognize and correct for this coding mistake, HIV cannot, and as a result is unable to replicate and mount a widespread infection.

A quick distinction: Truvada as a drug is a form of PrEP, PrEP is a general class of preventive measures. Birth control can be thought of as a form of PrEP, preventing a pregnancy before it occurs. Even sunscreen is a form for PrEP. You apply lotion to prevent sunburn before it occurs.

But PrEP only works if you take it. According to recent findings from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the majority of uptake of PrEP in the United States has been among middle-aged, white, gay men. But the HIV epidemic has shifted, with the CDC noting continuous inequalities in the southern states and among young African Americans.

More concentrated efforts need to happen to ensure that those who can benefit from PrEP are able to access and receive it. Gilead, the company that produces Truvada, has a copay card available, where they pay up to $3600 a year in copays for those living under 500% of the national poverty level. For more information on PrEP, UNC campus health also serves as a great resource on campus, and students can get more information by making a free appointment with Student Wellness by emailing LetsTalkAboutIt@unc.edu or by calling (919) 962-WELL(9355).

For additional Resources on what to know about PrEP, and how to have a conversation with your provider, please see the resources below for information from the CDC. For those looking for a PrEP friendly provider, here is a list of providers in the State of North Carolina who actively prescribe PrEP.

Sources –

Gilead Copay Card: https://www.gileadadvancingaccess.com/copay-coupon-card

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention PrEP Resources: https://www.cdc.gov/hiv/risk/prep/index.html

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention PrEP Information: https://www.cdc.gov/hiv/basics/prep.html

List of PrEP Providers: https://www.med.unc.edu/ncaidstraining/files/PrEPProvidersforDownload.pdf/view