40 Years of the HIV Epidemic – #LGBTWellness Roundup

Each week LGBT HealthLink, a Program of CenterLink brings you a round-up of some of the biggest LGBTQ wellness stories from the past week.

LISTEN to our Weekly Wellness Roundup podcast! Subscribe here: https://bit.ly/LGBTWellnessPodcast or where ever you podcast.

HIV Epidemic Turns 40

CNN reported on reaching the 40 year mark since the first cases of HIV in the US, which was first reported as five cases of a strange illness among gay men in Los Angeles. The CDC continued to follow up that report as more cases emerged, but little was known about the deaths and it took then-President Reagan four years to acknowledge the outbreak in the ’80s. HIV/AIDS would go on to claim more than 30 milion lives worldwide, including 700,000 in the US alone. 

Stressors and Substance Use

A study found that among gender minority adolescents, there were some important factors that explained the relationship between gender-related stressors and substance use. Resilience and gender-related pride were protective whereas internalized transphobia was a major risk factor. Family functioning and social support were also protective in some cases with respect to alcohol use. The study followed 30 teens for two years. 

Queer HPV Program Studied

Researchers studied an HPV vaccination program for queer men in Canada, and found that initiating vaccination was associated with getting tested for HIV or STIs, or having visited an HIV provider in the last six months. The program was more successful among men aged 26 or younger, who qualified for free vaccination, than among queer men 27 and up, among whom having private insurance made individuals twice as likely to get vaccinated. 

Trans and Nonbinary Pregnancy Experiences

Today reported on what it is like to experience pregnancy as a transgender man or nonbinary person, including the stereotypes, discrimination, and lack of culturally competent and inclusive care that one can encounter. It can be especially challenging given the number of providers an individual may have to see over the course of pregnancy and postpartum care, which often involved educating those providers and the stress that comes with that, advocates said. This situation has caused many trans and nonbinary parents to opt for the privacy of home births. 

Conversion Efforts Have Mental Health Consequences

A study in Korea found that sexual minorities who had experienced efforts to change their sexual orientation were 1.44 times more likely to have contemplated suicide than were sexual minorities who had not experienced such treatment, and were 2.35 times more likely to have actually attempted suicide. The results, which show similar harms from attempts to change one’s sexual orientation as have U.S. studies, demonstrate the need for such practices to be banned, researchers said.

Dr. Levine Defends Youth

NBC News reported on the work being done by Dr. Rachel Levine, the U.S. assistant secretary for health, to raise awareness on the needs of transgender youth. Dr. Levine has called out recent policies seeking to discriminate against transgender youth in sports, healthcare access, and more, and could use her growing portfolio of mental heatlh policy oversight to address the needs of youth whom she says need to be supported rather than targeted. 

Be Proud and Be Counted – #LGBTWellness Roundup

Each week LGBT HealthLink, a Program of CenterLink brings you a round-up of some of the biggest LGBTQ wellness stories from the past week.

LISTEN to our Weekly Wellness Roundup podcast! Subscribe here: https://bit.ly/LGBTWellnessPodcast or where ever you podcast.

Be Proud and Be Counted

CenterLink marked the start of Pride Month by reaffirming our commitment to supporting LGBTQ centers as they address social, cultural, and health needs in their communities. That commitment is why we are passionate about the All of Us Research Program, which wants health data to reflect the diversity of America by enrolling one million people. Show your pride and make sure the LGBTQ community is included in health research! Learn more and #JoinAllofUs at JoinAllofUs.org/together.

Politics, Pandemic Hurting Mental Health

The Trevor Project published its annual study of LGBT youth mental health, which found that 94% of youth said that the recent political climate has negatively impacted their mental health, and 70% said that their mental health has been poor most or all of the time during the COVID-19 pandemic. Black LGBT youth reported the highest levels of racial discrimination in the past year, with two-thirds having experienced such discrimination.

Internet Holds Opportunity and Risks

Relatedly, Psychiatric Times published a special report on the challenges and opportunities that the internet poses for LGBT youths’ mental health. While there are a growing number of online mental health resources for LGBT youth, online bullying is also a major problem, and the internet is also a source of false information and referrals for so-called “conversion” efforts that have been condemned by major health organizations. The report includes online resources and communication tips for professionals. 

HIV Infections Drop among Young MSM

The CDC published new data on HIV rates, which showed an 8% decline in new HIV infections between 2015 and 2019. Queer men aged 13-24 saw a major 33% drop in new infections, and while such a drop was seen among all racial and ethnic groups, Black and Latinx sexual minority men still faced major disparities. The southern US accounted for half of new infections in 2019. 

Cancer Efforts Leave Some Behind

Forbes reported on how breast cancer awareness efforts have fallen short on reaching transgender and nonbinary people, many of whom are at fairly high risk depending on what type of gender-affirming care they have received. Awareness campaigns typically use the traditionally feminine color of pink and a fairly narrow image of who is at risk and should get screened, leaving many trans people to feel left out, stigmatized, or just unaware of whether or not they should ask a provider about their risk.

Health Centers to Study COVID Experiences

The LA Center announced that it and four other LGBT-focused health centers will conduct a major study on the healthcare experiences of LGBT individuals during the COVID-19 pandemic. The centers will pool their data, which is inclusive of sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) measures – something that was lacking from virtually all federal and state surveillance systems related to COVID-19 testing, treatment, and vaccination. 

Combining HIV Prevention with Gender-affirming Care – #LGBTWellness Roundup

Each week LGBT HealthLink, a Program of CenterLink brings you a round-up of some of the biggest LGBTQ wellness stories from the past week.

LISTEN to our Weekly Wellness Roundup podcast! Subscribe here: https://bit.ly/LGBTWellnessPodcast or where ever you podcast.

Combining HIV Prevention with Gender-affirming Care

A new study will examine the impact of offering HIV prevention services combined with gender affirming care for transgender women. They note that about 14% of these women are living with HIV, making prevention an important issue; at the same time, accessing gender affirming care is often challenging. By combining services, they hope to make both more accessible. 

Billy Porter Tackles Stigma with Story

CBS News reported that Billy Porter, who has broken racial and sexual orientation barriers in the entertainment industry, disclosed that he is living with HIV. Porter said he hopes his story will help end stigma and educate folks on the HIV epidemic, the height of which he lived through ad a young gay man. 

Queer Women Missing Provider Conversations

A study found that lesbian women were less likely than heterosexual women who had not had same-sex partners to have discussed their sexual and reproductive health with their providers. The study also found that patient-provider communications were associated with higher likelihood of using contraception and having an STI diagnosed, underscoring the importance of improving such communication among queer women. 

Vaccines and Trans Individuals

Discover reported on challenges accessing (and trusting) COVID-19 vaccines for transgender people. Some feel that not enough is known about how the vaccines interact with hormone therapy, and studies and data on COVID-19 have rarely included gender identity questions – meaning transgender people are invisible in the data that exists. They also point to the broad healthcare barriers and negative experiences that trans folks have in general. 

Pregnancy and Inclusivity 

USA Today reported on efforts to make language and policies around pregnancy more inclusive of transgender and nonbinary folks who may become pregnant but who don’t identify as women or “mothers.” Proposed legislation aiming to improve reproductice healthcare has begun to take on language such as “pregnant people” and advocates say it is more scientifically accurate and helps to include more parents and children. 

New Policy on Citizenship

Gay City News reported that the State Department has updated policies to make it easier for children with one American parent and one parent from another country to have U.S. citizenship, even if the U.S. parent is not biologically related. The old policy meant that many binational same-sex couples could not have citizenship recognized for their children. 

Theater Plus Better Health for Youth – #LGBTWellness Roundup

Each week LGBT HealthLink, a Program of CenterLink brings you a round-up of some of the biggest LGBTQ wellness stories from the past week.

LISTEN to our Weekly Wellness Roundup podcast! Subscribe here: https://bit.ly/LGBTWellnessPodcast or where ever you podcast.

Theater Plus Better Health for Youth

A new study explored how to use theater programs to support LGBT youth mental health. Researchers examined an after school program in Florida that has mental health providers as participants and as an “on-call” resource for the youth involved. The program focuses on theater skills-building as well as fostering relationships rather than taking an explicit focus on LGBT topics, distinguishing the concept from a traditional LGBT student organization.

Supporting Patients with Health Challenges

Oncology Nursing News shared resources on serving LGBT patients with respect to issues including cancer, COVID-19, and aging. Key to all these, they say, is training of service providers as well as open dialogue so that patients’ needs can be identified. They point to evidence from the CDC that LGBT folks are more likely to have conditions that exacerbate COVID-19, meaning the community may have disparate long-term needs even beyond the pandemic’s height.

What PrEP and COVID-19 Vaccines Have in Common

Meanwhile, MSNBC explored how both PrEP and the COVID-19 vaccine require LGBT patients to have trusted providers where they feel comfortable talking about the risks and benefits of preventive care, without feeling shame. The author points to the low uptake of PrEP despite many in the LGBT community standing to benefit from the HIV prevention treatment, and says that fear of side effects or stigma may prevent more people from seeking it out.

Testing App Has Appeal

Researchers studied how cisgender men and transgender women felt about an app to help them share HIV and syphillis test results with others. Participants liked the idea of a “verified” way of sharing negative test results with partners, feeling it may help normalize testing. They also felt that such an app could help them more easily forward positive test results to providers to more quickly access care.

Center Spotlight: OC’s Anniversary

The Orange County Register reported on the LGBTQ Center OC celebrating its 50 year anniversary. From a help line and social space to a center for HIV activism, and more recently, a place where transgender youth can find support and the Black Lives Matter movement is amplified, the center has engaged in countless issues affecting LGBT health as the community’s needs have changed with the times.

Survey on LGBT Communities

CMI launched its 15th annual survey of LGBT communities, which is used by LGBT service providers and others learn more about what issues and interests are affecting LGBT individuals. The annual study helps to fill gaps in what is known about LGBT issues, given limited data elsewhere. The results will be made available for free on their website in mid-August. 

Feds Expand LGBT Healthcare Protections – #LGBTWellness Roundup

Each week LGBT HealthLink, a Program of CenterLink brings you a round-up of some of the biggest LGBTQ wellness stories from the past week.

LISTEN to our Weekly Wellness Roundup podcast! Subscribe here: https://bit.ly/LGBTWellnessPodcast or where ever you podcast.

Feds Expand LGBT Healthcare Protections 

WebMD reported that the Biden administration will interpret the Affordable Care Act’s ban on sex-based discrimination to include discrimination against LGBT individuals, reversing a policy of the previous administration. The change is based in part on the Supreme Court’s landmark Bostock decision, which found that sex discrimination bans in the context of employment included LGBT individuals. The administration will now consider it illegal to discriminate against LGBT folks in healthcare.

Lack of Data Now Impacting Vaccination

The New York Times reported on lingering concerns that LGBT individuals are not being counted with respect to COVID-19 data, which rarely includes questions about sexual orientation or gender identity (SOGI). Few jurisdictions attempted to collect SOGI data on COVID-19 cases, and now the same is happening with respect to vaccinations. Not only will this make it impossible to track vaccination among LGBT folks, it is also a missed opportunity to signal inclusiveness and thus increase vaccine uptake, advocates say.

HIV Seems to Worsen COVID-19 Outcomes

Penn State News reported on a new study finding that people living with HIV were 24% more likely to be infected by COVID-19 and 78% more likely to die from COVID-19 compared to people who were not living with HIV. Research to date has been inconclusive on the relationship between COVID-19 and HIV – which disproportionately affects LGBT individuals and people of color – but the results suggest people living with HIV should be a priority in COVID-19 responses.

Flavored Tobacco Bans a Step against Disparities

The Sun Journal published an op-ed exploring why banning the sale of flavored tobacco products is an important steps towards ending disparities facing groups such as people of color and LGBT folks. The author explains how marketing tactics and exploitation of the LGBT community by “Big Tobacco” helps explain the widespread disparities they are now facing in terms of tobacco use. The author also notes that smoking also impacts COVID-19 outcomes, where these same populations face dispariteis. 

Clinical Guidance for Trans Patients Lacking

A study found that better and more expansive clinical guidance is needed regarding care for transgender people worldwide. It found that most of the limited guidance that does exist focused on HIV or on transition-related care; other areas, including primary care and mental health care, were largely ignored in the literature. The study also found that more patient-facing materials were needed.

Center Spotlight: Long Beach Expands Services

Long Beach Business Journal interviewed the new director of the LGBTQ Center Long Beach, Carlos Torres, as his team reinstates some in-person programming as the COVID-19 situation improves. In-person therapy has resumed, as has outdoor wellness programming for seniors, which Torres says is sorely needed to address the isolation they’ve felt during the pandemic. They are also working to offer a new PrEP clinic to improve outreach and access to the HIV prevention treatment. 

Find out what your local LGBT center is doing to improve health using CenterLink’s interactive center directory

Grant to Explore Tobacco-HIV Intersection – #LGBTWellness Roundup

Each week LGBT HealthLink, a Program of CenterLink brings you a round-up of some of the biggest LGBTQ wellness stories from the past week.

LISTEN to our Weekly Wellness Roundup podcast! Subscribe here: https://bit.ly/LGBTWellnessPodcast or where ever you podcast.

Grant Will Explore HIV-Tobacco Intersection

Medical University of South Carolina announced that it has received a $2 million grant to study a new “opt-out” intervention that would proactively provide people living with HIV who smoke with cessation assistance. The research team notes that up to 50% of people living with HIV smoke – about triple the rate of the general population – and that it is playing a more notable impact as HIV care itself has improved markedly over the past few decades. 

Lack of Affirming Care Costs Health

NBC News reported on a study finding that transgender people who wanted gender-affirming surgery but had not been able to access it were twice as likely to express severe mental health challenges and were also more likely to drink heavily and use tobacco. The study is the latest to show that there are myriad health benefits beyond the immediate aims of surgery, despite moves in states across the US to limit gender-affirming care. 

Most Teen Boys are Out

Researchers found that most Gen Z sexual minority teen boys are out to their parents, with about two in three out to female parents and half out to male parents, a big increase from past decades. Teens who identify as gay were more likely to be “out” than those who identify as bisexual; not being religious and being sure of one’s identity were other factors associated with higher likelihood to be out. 

Consistency of Parental Views Matters

Relatedly, Healio reported on a small study finding that gay and lesbian adults whose parents had a consistent perspective on their sexual orientation – whether it was good or bad – had lower levels of mental health symtoms than those whose parents had shifted from negative to positive views over time. The surprising results suggest that the journey towards finding support could be as or more challenging than simply not having that support, with authors calling for more study.

Center’s Vaccine Efforts Highlighted

The Pennsylvania Capital-Star reported on how the Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center in Allentown, PA, is working to improve COVID-19 vaccine distribution to LGBT communities in that area. The center’s director notes that a big issue today in vaccine distribution is trust between prospective patients and vaccine providers, giving LGBT centers a big role to play in reaching and educating LGBT folks (who have been hit hard by the pandemic) about their vaccine options. 

Mark Your Calendars

Did you know? May 17th is International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, an event that aims to address stigma and bias against LGBT populations worldwide. Later in the month, May 24th will mark Pan Day of Visibility, which brings awareness to pansexuality. 

Centers Play Major Mental Health Role, #LGBTWellness Roundup

Each week LGBT HealthLink, a Program of CenterLink brings you a round-up of some of the biggest LGBTQ wellness stories from the past week.

LISTEN to our Weekly Wellness Roundup podcast! Subscribe here: https://bit.ly/LGBTWellnessPodcast or where ever you podcast.

Centers Play Major Mental Health Role

Researchers interviewed 60 LGBT center leaders and found that 98% provided support groups and 85% provided individual psychotherapy, underscoring the importance of mental health work by LGBT centers. They also found that most leaders had limited staff to provide these services and were interested in having more training on providing LGBT-specific, evidence-based care.

Resources Strained as Needs Soar

Relatedly, Fox 5 reported on the challenges facing LGBT health centers in New York, where a lack of patient visits and in-person fundraisers has meant for huge drops in revenues. At the same time, they are struggling to provide telehealth and other modified services to provide for health as well as social connection, as well as play a role in vaccine distribution – a further stretch of resources.

Learn more about what LGBT centers are doing in your area, and how to get involved or receive services, here.

PrEP is Widely Known, But Underused

A new study found that while 98% of sexual minority men and transgender women were aware of PrEP as an HIV prevention method, less than 25% were actually taking it. People of color included in the study were more likely to take PrEP if they had received information about it from a healthcare provider, underscoring the need for providers to educate patients (and themselves) on this topic).

After Incarceration, Challenges Continue

Center for American Progress published a report on the barriers facing LGBT folks who reenter the community following incarceration. For example, parole restrictions often limit housing and healthcare options for trans folks in particular, and some states permanently ban name changes for people with criminal convictions, making it impossible for people to access affirming IDs.

Mother-Son Duo Tackle Inequity

Commercial Appeal reported on how a mother-son duo in Memphis addressed the lack of Black-led LGBT organizations by forming one themselves. Relationships Unleashed is working to advance socioeconomic equity, sexual health, and – during the pandemic – COVID-19 relief to Black LGBT folks in the Memphis area.

Pandemic’s HIV Comparisons Have Limits

The Ithacan explored the limitations in comparisons between HIV and COVID-19. While COVID-19 has affected everyone (albeit inequitably) and therefore drawn widespread attention and resources, HIV was largely seen as a “gay cancer” that went ignored by many politicians and the general public for years, while LGBT communities were decimated. 

Anti-Trans Bills Also Anti-Science, #LGBTWellness Roundup

Each week LGBT HealthLink, a Program of CenterLink brings you a round-up of some of the biggest LGBTQ wellness stories from the past week.

LISTEN to our Weekly Wellness Roundup podcast! Subscribe here: https://bit.ly/LGBTWellnessPodcast or where ever you podcast.

Anti-trans Bills Also Anti-science 

Scientific American reported on how bills in Arkansas and nineteen other states seeking to block transgender youth from receiving care run counter to science. They cite research finding that trans-affirming care is not only safe for youth, but also positively affects their mental health. 

HIV Vaccine Could Be Closer

Insider reported on how advancements on vaccines for COVID-19 could mean that an HIV vaccine is closer than ever. Scientists have used the new mRNA technique to develop the COVID-19 vaccines after decades of study, and that same method could be used to vaccinate for HIV, a disease that has disproportionately impacted LGBT communities. 

College Athletics Lack Inclusive Policies

Gay City News reported on new findings that college athletic policies fall short on LGBT inclusion. Only three percent of NCAA Division 1 schools had “robust” protections, while nine in ten (92%) lacked trans-inclusive policies. Resources for athletes and policies for fans were also found among a minority of programs. 

LGBT Training in ER Residencies 

Researchers found that 75% of emergency medicine residency programs offered some LGBT health training, with an average of two hours of instruction. They also found that most survey respondents would have preferred more instruction on this topic. Lack of time in the curriculum was the biggest barrier cited for not offering more LGBT health education. 

New Safe Space – in Spanish

CenterLink launched a new LGBT youth chat platform in Spanish. Q CHAT SPACE,  a collaboration with Planned Parenthood and PLFLAG, has helped fill gaps (especially during the pandemic) for youth who need a safe, virtual place to connect. The platform’s Spanish-language launch aims to expand the reach and impact of the program. 

HPV Convos Lacking

A study explored how sexual minority men discuss HPV vaccination with their partners, and found that most did not engage in much conversation on the topic – despite higher rates of HPV among queer men than others. They found that the value placed on safer sex conversations and the type of relationship that men were in were important factors for this type of discussion. 

Anti-LGBT Bias & Racism Are Bad for Health – #LGBTWellness Roundup

Each week LGBT HealthLink, a Program of CenterLink brings you a round-up of some of the biggest LGBTQ wellness stories from the past week.

LISTEN to our Weekly Wellness Roundup podcast! Subscribe here: https://bit.ly/LGBTWellnessPodcast or where ever you podcast.

Anti-LGBT Bias & Racism Are Bad for Health

A new study found that in states with higher indicators of structural racism and anti-LGBT policies, Black sexual minority men were more likely to drink heavily, experience anxiety, and see themselves as a burden to others. Queer Black men were also less likely to get tested for HIV in states with more anti-LGBT policies. The results demonstrate how policies and structural biases can directly impact health, and also show the importance of intersectionality for LGBT people of color.

Celebrating International Asexuality Day

ABC 10 marked the first-ever International Asexuality Day, which tool place this month to bring awareness to asexuality and other related identifies such as demisexual. Advocates say that asexual individuals are disproportionately young, meaning that (like nonbinary and queer folks) the population of people who identify as asexual will likely grow over the coming years. Asexual folks have reported higher levels of discrimination and mental health issues compared to other LGBT+ individuals, according to several studies.

New Clinic Focuses on Sex Workers 

Gay City News reported on a free health clinic launched by Callen-Lorde Community Health Center and transgender activist Cecilia Gentili, that will provide holistic care to sex workers in New York. The goal of the program, which is free and is currently funded through June, is to connect members of this broad population – who often encounter stigma and other barriers in accessing care, and who face disparities in many health conditions – to a variety of health services. 

LGBT Care Options Grow

Nearby, Out in Jersey reported on the growing number of LGBT-focused health programs in the state, which have begun to fill the gaps that LGBT folks often find in encountering inclusive and competent care. Many of the programs are offshoots of larger health systems serving the general population. Common services include gender-affirming care, HIV and STI testing and treatment, and mental health services, all areas of care that can be especially difficult to navigate when providers do not have sufficient LGBT-related training. 

Trans Youth Transitioning Care 

A study explored how transgender youth moved from pediatric to adult care, and found that many barriers existed with respect to issues such as insurance problems and patients not feeling ready. Study participants identified ways to improve such transitions, including by having referrals from trusted sources and building patient independence over time. The authors also called for more collaboration between providers and families as such transitions of care occur. 

Policy Could Boost Fertility Options

WBEZ reported on legislation in Illinois that would require insurers to cover fertility treatment for anyone who was eligible, rather than limiting such coverage to different-sex couples, as is currently the case. The bill could make a big difference in the lives of prospective LGBT parents, who often have little to no benefits through their insurance – thus leaving them to foot enormous costs in seeking to have children. 

School Support Lags for Trans Youth of Color – #LGBTWellness Roundup

Each week LGBT HealthLink, a Program of CenterLink brings you a round-up of some of the biggest LGBTQ wellness stories from the past week.

LISTEN to our Weekly Wellness Roundup podcast! Subscribe here: https://bit.ly/LGBTWellnessPodcast or where ever you podcast.

School Supports Lacking for Trans Youth of Color

Researchers found high levels of mental health issues and victimization among Black and Latinx transgender youth, surpassing those found among cisgender youth of color. They also found that Black and Latinx trans youth had lower levels of school connectedness than did their White trans peers, which is concerning given that this often serves as a protective factor for youth.

LGBT Youth Exposure to Suicidality

Relatedly, a new study found that LGBT youth were more likely than their non-LGBT peers to have known someone who attempted or died by suicide. Gender minority youth who were assigned female at birth had the highest rate of suicidality exposure, with about 2 in 3 reporting that they had personally known someone affected by this issue. The study’s authors say that the results suggest building resilience among LGBT youth should be a priority. If a youth you know needs support, check out Trevor Project

Continuing Health Services during COVID-19

The Fenway Institute published a brief on how to continue to support the health needs of LGBT folks during the COVID-19 pandemic. They discuss how telehealth (including through investments made with government pandemic funds) has made care accessible to many, but that it is still critical for in-person care to be offered for those who cannot get services virtually. They also note the need for expanded sexual health counseling as advising simply social isolation is unrealistic.

Marking Trans Day of Visibility

UNAIDS marked Transgender Day of Visibility with a video encouraging adults to support youth in exploring and expressing their gender. They discussed how discrimination against transgender and other gender minority individuals puts them at risk for things like discrimination and homelessness – and thus health conditions such as HIV. 

A Presidential First

Meanwhile, GLMA recognized the occasion in the US by noting several positives – such as the first-ever presidential proclamation to mark Transgender Day of Visibility – but also challenges faced by trans folks, including a recent spike in bills eliminating access to care or athletic opportunities for trans youth. 

Utah Center’s Kits Push Prevention

CenterLink highlighted the work being done at the Utah Pride Center to address suicide prevention, including through its resource distribution program that sends boxes of educational materials to businesses and organizations. One challenge has been getting information out during COVID-19, when much of the outreach has had to be virtual but when physical materials are still needed as spaces reopen. 

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