Thursday, November 15, 2012

Thursday Spin Down

COP 24/7 Special
Out of Many, One HIV Treatment

A new combination treatment is now available to people with HIV.

BY Michelle Garcia

It’s been a year of discovery about HIV, with news both good (death rates in the U.S. have fallen) and bad (one in five gay and bisexual men have HIV). Among the former, though, is the arrival of a new medication, Gilead’s Stribild, a capsule that fuses four drugs into one pill, which may just revolutionize treatment routines for anyone who is just now testing positive.

Stribild (previously known as Quad) combines elvitegravir, cobicistat, emtricitabine, and tenofovir disoproxil fumarate into a single daily dose for people who have not previously been treated for HIV. There’s a hefty market for that. Greater Than AIDS reported this year that of that one in five gay men who have HIV, a full half of them do not yet know it.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, men who have sex with men (MSM) accounted for 61% of all new HIV infections in 2009, and young MSM accounted for 69% of new infections among persons age 13–29. That means that there are about 441,669 gay or bisexual men with HIV in the U.S., and close to a quarter million of those men have never been treated for the virus.
Paul Sax, MD, a physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital who was a principal investigator in one of the Stribild studies, says the approval of Stribild is crucial for those patients. Clinical trials, which took place over a 48-week period, indicated that Stribild was more effective than other drugs in keeping viral loads down.
“Through continued research and drug development, treatment for those infected with HIV has evolved from multipill regimens to single-pill regimens,” adds Edward Cox, MD, of the Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. “New combination HIV drugs like Stribild help simplify treatment regimens.” The prescription drug became available to patients in late August.

Since Stribild is a complete drug regimen, it should not be taken with any other HIV medication. The pill is slightly more effective than Atripla as well as Truvada combined with atazanavir and ritonavir. In one study, 88% of Stribild users had undetectable amounts of HIV in their blood (compared to 84% with Atripla). It’s also being heralded as a good alternative because it mitigates certain side effects that patients have with Atripla.

Stribild is the third HIV combination medication developed by Gilead, following Atripla in 2006 and Complera in 2011. Gilead CEO John C. Martin, Ph.D., says his company has kept a solid focus on developing simplified yet effective HIV treatment regimens.

“Therapies that address the individual needs of patients are critical to enhancing adherence and increasing the potential for treatment success,” he said in a statement following Gilead’s FDA approval.

The pill’s initial price of $28,500 per patient annually raised eyebrows, but after negotiations with state AIDS service directors, Gilead agreed to lower it for AIDS Drug Assistance Programs. The company’s own patient assistance program will also help people with HIV handle the cost of treatment.

There are a few precautions that Stribild users need to know about: It must be taken with food and may interact badly with certain drugs. Like many HIV treatments, it may also cause side effects including kidney damage, fat redistribution, immune reconstitution syndrome, nausea, and headaches. Even with these issues, Gilead officials say the pill will carry fewer complications and be more effective in treating HIV than other medications on the market. ( source: )

For local information conrtact: ,  or

Gay Youth Center Benefits in Tidal Wave of Support

Just weeks after the "super frankenstorm" Sandy battered numerous states on the east coast, among the wreckage was a emergency drop in center for gay youth, the Ali Forney Center. But almost as quickly, a social media outpouring helped raise money for a new, bigger Ali Forney Center to keep helping dozens of young people a day with medical care, counseling and a safe place to sleep. There was an outreach in Arkansas for donations and The National Association of Black and White Men Together forwarded a $500 donation toward the rebuilding of the center.

"I wish every day thousands of people would help get homeless kids off the street," said Carl Siciliano, executive director of the last-ditch refuge for homeless lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youths. "Too bad it takes a storm to get people to see how bad they have it."

According to a item in Boston's Edge publication, Siciliano founded the drop-in center in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood 10 years ago, naming it after Ali Forney, a gay 22-year-old who was shot to death on a Harlem street in 1997. He had been homeless since age 13, when his mother threw him out.

City officials estimate LGBT youths represent about half the city’s nearly 4,000 homeless young people, who sleep outdoors or in city subways, abandoned houses and even on rooftops. More than 100 would arrive at the center daily looking for support. The city reserves about 250 shelter beds for them, and Ali Forney offers 77 in various places, about 30 of them city-funded. Unfortunately, their are no formal statistics citing homeliness among LGBTQ youth in Arkansas nor is there dedicated city or state funding streams for this population.  However, there is an effort underway to address this issue through the Lucie's Place project which is currently in a fundraising phase.

Even before Sandy, the center had planned to relocate to the 8,600-square-foot Harlem space, which is six times bigger than the original one and will be open 24 hours a day. Paying for the move and renovation was a big challenge - until Sandy came along.

The center, which was evacuated ahead of the Oct. 29 storm, was hit by the same surge of water along the Hudson River that swamped a power substation and flooded commuter tunnels.

A blogger picked up Siciliano’s Facebook posting about damage to the center, and it quickly went viral, tweeted to hundreds of thousands of followers by actors Pam Grier and Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

In the first three days, the center received almost 1,000 donations totaling more than $100,000. That total has grown to more than $250,000 - and counting - with contributions coming from around the world, including England, France, Sweden, Canada and Mexico.
"This shows the power of social media, when prominent people link digitally with a healthy network of people who connect emotionally," said Ryan Davis, a pioneer in using social media in politics and activism who is on Ali Forney’s board.
About $400,000 is needed to replace what the center lost and prepare the Harlem site, which Siciliano hopes will be up and running by Christmas.

No comments: