This evening, Queer News Tonight reports that after a new HIV vaccine showed promising results in initial clinical trials, researchers today announced plans to partner with Moderna, manufacturers of one of the COVID-19 vaccines, to continue developing the innovative treatment. The experimental vaccine, developed by the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI) and Scripps Research, displayed a 97% response rate among participants in an early stage Phase I trial. Researchers are now partnering with biotechnology company Moderna to explore the development of an mRNA based vaccine. Rather than introducing a weakened or inactivated virus into the human body to trigger an immune response like many vaccines, mRNA vaccines teach the body how to make a protein that triggers an immune response in the body. Researchers say that using this technique to combat the HIV virus, which mutates rapidly and is notoriously hard to target with vaccines, could potentially accelerate the process of HIV vaccine development. According to IAVI, The new vaccine represents a step towards a process that’s been called a “holy grail”.
According to leading epidemiologist and environmental scientist Dr Shanna Swan, penises around the world are shrinking, and pollution is to blame. Humanity is facing an “existential crisis”, she explains in her new book Count Down: How Our Modern World Is Threatening Sperm Counts, Altering Male and Female Reproductive Development, and Imperilling the Future of the Human Race. It all comes down to phthalates, a chemical used in manufacturing plastics that impacts the hormone-producing endocrine system. Because of this pollution, Dr Swan says, fertility rates are rapidly falling – and a growing number of babies are being born with smaller penises. Dr. Swan said “Chemicals in our environment and unhealthy lifestyle practices in our modern world are disrupting our hormonal balance, causing various degrees of reproductive havoc,” Dr Swan, who is a professor in environmental medicine and public health at the Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, based her work on a series of peer-reviewed studies. She began her research by examining phthalate syndrome in rats whose foetuses were exposed to the chemical. She discovered that the rat babies were more likely to be born with shrunken genitals – and the same was true in male human babies, too.
Arkansas legislation is being called one of the most extreme and deadly anti-LGBTQ healthcare bills seen in years and it is heading to the governor’s desk. S.B. 289, dubbed as the “Medical Ethics and Diversity Act,” seeks to give medical workers a right to refuse providing healthcare to someone because of the worker’s “religious, moral or ethical” beliefs. That could open the door for LGBTQ people to face denial from life-saving service from doctors, nurses, or EMTs. The bill was previously rejected by the Arkansas House Public Health, Welfare and Labor Committee over criticism that it was too broad before it passed. The bill lists protected health care professionals including doctors and nurses and any individual who furnishes or assists in the provision of a healthcare service including social workers and pharmacists. Now, the proposal goes to Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s desk. His office has written in statements that he is “neutral” on the law at the moment, so whether it goes into effect or not may depend on if he applies his signature to it. Watch this space.
In a new statement this week from The American Psychological Association, the 100,000 members have condemned conversion ‘therapy’ that attempts to change a person’s gender identity in a new resolution document. Many of its policies and viewpoints are standard acceptance in medical practices. In the seven-page document, the organisation details its stance on the anti-LGBTQ+ practice and why it shouldn’t be conducted. Along with condemning conversion ‘therapy’ in regards to gender identity, the APA has also made changes to their 1997 resolution that opposes conversion ‘therapy’ for a person’s sexual orientation. A total of 20 states and a number of cities in the U.S. have banned conversion ‘therapy’. It was revealed in a recent study by the Trevor Project that “LGBTQ+ youth who underwent conversion therapy were more than twice as likely to report having attempted suicide.”
A new study finds Monthly injections to treat HIV are as effective when used every two months. ViiV Healthcare, a specialist HIV company which is part of GlaxoSmithKline, earlier this year achieved FDA approval for Cabenuva, a monthly injectable antiretroviral regimen to treat HIV.
The monthly injections were touted for their ability to reduce treatment for the virus from a daily pill regimen to just 12 treatment days per year. Now, ViiV has announced that Cabenuva — a combination of two antiretroviral injections, ViiV’s cabotegravir and Johnson & Johnson’s rilpivirine — can achieve similar levels of performance when administered every two months.
Dr. Hans Jaeger from ViiV said “It provides an option that could change the treatment experience for some people living with HIV by removing the need for daily pills for the treatment of HIV. This regimen can enable people living with HIV to reduce the days they receive treatment from 365 to 12 or 6 per year, representing a paradigm shift in their experience of HIV treatment.” Data from ViiV’s global study confirmed that dosing the treatment every two months was “non-inferior to monthly dosing,”
A once-a-month PrEP pill may be on its way. For a new drug to come to market, it must pass at least three different trials before being submitted to the FDA for approval for use in the U.S. Islatravir, formerly known as MK-8591, is being developed by the pharma company, Merck. It has already reached its second stage of trials. Following promising results, it looks likely to go to Phase 3 trials, bringing it one step closer to approval. In its phase 2 trial, 250 participants at low-risk of HIV were recruited to receive either six monthly doses of Islatravir or a placebo. Those taking Islatravir were monitored to see how quickly the medicine entered their bodies and how long it remained potent. The Islatravir participants were found to have levels of the drug, “well above the prespecified PK threshold for HIV-1”. Last November, the FDA called a long-acting PrEP injection a “breakthrough therapy”. Cabotegravir has been designed to be administered by a health professional once every eight weeks. Designating a treatment as a ‘breakthrough’ means the FDA has been impressed by trial results and will work with a pharmaceutical company to speed up a therapy going through the approval process.
President Joe Biden reopened the federal health insurance marketplace this week for three months, citing the importance of access to health care when more than 1 out of every 12 Americans has been infected with the coronavirus. Nearly 15 million Americans are uninsured at the coronavirus pandemic rages on. Per Axios’ Caitlin Owens, of the 15 million people eligible for coverage under the Affordable Care Act, 4 million are eligible for a free high-deductible plan, 4.9 million would qualify for a subsidized plan and 6 million wouldn’t qualify for any subsidy.
Advocates say a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention signals that the agency will resume critical work on LGBTQ+ health, something they say is direly needed during the pandemic. The CDC released a report last week detailing the many health disparities that make lesbian, gay and bisexual Americans particularly vulnerable to complications from coronavirus. Information on transgender people was not included, because the survey turned up too small a sample size of respondents, the CDC noted. Intersex people are also not represented in the dataset. The report’s stated goal is to guide future data collection and create a roadmap for tackling health disparities. But the data itself is not new: Under the Obama administration, the CDC had been documenting the health challenges facing LGBTQ+ people. The Trump administration, however, hit the brakes on LGBTQ+ data collection. Jessica Halem, former LGBTQ outreach and engagement director for Harvard Medical School said “We have to ask these gender identity questions, and we can ask simple questions about sexual identity that lets us know who we’re reaching and who are not.” LGBTQ+ organizations have been sounding the alarm for a year about the ways in which queer Americans are being hard-hit by the virus, but until now, federal reports have given little weight to those fears.
Last week Covid-19 Czar and perhaps the world’s leading expert on AIDS / HIV was on NPR’s Fresh Air. He brought Queer News Tonight to a complete stop when talking about his early days of studying HIV. During the dawn of the 1980’s Fauci need to learn. Here is what he said. “I went to the Castro District. I went down to Greenwich Village, and I went into bathhouses to essentially see what was going on.” At that moment, my already great respect for Dr. Fauci moved to a 10.0 on the richter scale. “This was the very, very early years of the outbreak. We were seeing these large numbers of mostly gay men who were formerly otherwise well, who were being devastated by this terrible, mysterious disease. And it was so concentrated in the gay community that I really wanted to get a feel for what was going on there that would lead to this explosion of a sexually transmitted disease. The epidemiologist in me went, ‘Oh, my goodness, this is a perfect setup for an explosion of a sexually transmitted disease.’ And the same thing going to the gay bars and seeing what was going on, and it gave me a great insight into the explosiveness of the outbreak of the sexually transmitted disease.” He also noted that then-President Ronald Reagan and his religious right supporters made HIV and AIDS research a lot harder, but he doesn’t think Reagan personally hated gay people. Another news moment was how Fauci felt about AIDS activists targeting him in the ’80s for not doing more to combat the epidemic. Fauci said he understood and that it changed him forever. Larry Kramer wrote a famous Op-ed calling Fauci a “murderer.” Fauci replied “I’ll never forget that. He wanted to gain my attention, and he certainly did gain my attention.” Fauci and Kramer later became good friends. And today, the LGBTQ community is a good friend of Dr. Anthony Fauci. And in 2020, the worst year of our lives, even in the dark days of AIDS, we thank Dr. Fauci for standing up for the LGBTQ community.
Earlier this year, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in America eased its restrictions on blood donation by gay and bisexual men, bringing down the deferral period from one year to three months. The move was taken to allow more blood donors during the coronavirus pandemic and now a new pilot scheme could remove blood restrictions permanently. The pilot scheme, called Assessing Donor Variability and New Concepts in Eligibility is looking for 2,000 men to be recruited from community health centres in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Memphis, Atlanta, Orlando, Miami, Washington, D.C. and Baton Rouge. It is being fronted by three of the biggest blood donation centres in the United States, Vitalant, OneBlood and the American Red Cross. The participants need to have had sex with another man within the past three months and be willing to donate blood, with the results potentially changing the questionnaire that the FDA uses to decide whether someone is eligible to donate blood. A statement on the Advance website reads: “If the scientific evidence supports the use of the different questions, it could mean men who have sex with men who present to donate would be assessed based upon their own individual risk for HIV infection and not according to when their last sexual contact with another man occurred.” This would mean a swap away from a time-based deferral period to an individual-risk based system.