Posts in ‘Viruses’ category

The perils of chemsex

Posted on 3rd December 2015 by · No comments

The term “Chemsex” is used in the United Kingdom to describe intentional sex under the influence of psychoactive drugs, mostly among men who have sex with men. The main drugs are mephedrone, γ-hydroxybutyrate (GHB), γ-butyrolactone (GBL), and crystallised methamphetamine. These drugs are often used in combination to facilitate sexual sessions lasting several hours or days with multiple sexual partners.

Mephedrone and crystal meth are physiological stimulants, increasing heart rate and blood pressure, as well as triggering euphoria and sexual arousal. GHB (and its precursor GBL) is a powerful psychological disinhibitor and also a mild anaesthetic.

Anecdotal reports and some small qualitative studies in the UK find that people engaging in chemsex report better sex, with these drugs reducing inhibitions and increasing pleasure.

Unfortunately use of chemsex can lead to mental health problems which can be permanent. Moreover Casual sex, particularly if under the influence of alcohol or drugs can lead to the acquisition of sexually transmitted infections and even such bugs as shigella, an infection causing severe bacillary dysentery and diarrhoea usually associated with travel to regions such as Indian subcontinent, North and East Africa and South America.

See trailer for Chemsex, a film ChemsexOfficial directed by William Fairman and Max Gogarty (a Peccadillo Pictures)  in the medical journal Lancet.

Sexually abused children should be offered HPV vaccination

Posted on 19th November 2015 by · 1 comment

Should children exposed to sexual abuse be offered human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination alongside screening for sexually transmitted infections? A recent article in the Lancet argues for a yes answer.

The WHO defines childhood sexual abuse  as the involvement in sexual activity of a child under the age of 18 years who did not give informed consent or is not developmentally prepared.

The global prevalence of childhood sexual abuse is estimated to be 8–31% for girls and 3–17% for boys. The true figures are probably nearer the upper figure.

According to a review, parents were the perpetrators of about 45% of cases of childhood sexual abuse in the USA, and other relatives were responsible for a further 19%.  Others included figures of authority such as priests and teachers. Survivors of such abuse are often hesitant to report such incidents because of shame and fear of retribution. Thus, the incidence and prevalence of childhood sexual abuse is almost certainly underestimated. Read the rest of this post »

Daily pri-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) prevents HIV infection in high risk gay men

Posted on 23rd September 2015 by · No comments

Daily HIV medicine taken by men who have sex with men (MSM) reduces risk of HIV infection by 86% as was reported by Molina J-M, and colleagues in the ANRS Ipergay trial  at the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections held in Seattle, USA in 2015 (23LB.).

Molina et al reported the final results of a three year study which randomised MSM who were negative for HIV to either take daily HIV prophylaxis with two anti-retroviral drugs in a single tablet immediately or deferred for 1 year.

The study showed that those taking the drugs on a daily basis have a 86% reduction in the risk of being infected by HIV than MSM not taking the drug (p=0.0001). The trial was stopped in October of 2014 and all participants in the  deferred group were offered pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP)

As a Lancet editorial commented:

The science is now clear: oral pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) with a coformulation of tenofovir disoproxil fumarate and emtricitabine (Truvada) significantly reduces the risk of HIV infection among individuals at high risk of HIV infection.

The news that PrEP has shown consistent efficacy among those who take it as prescribed should be a cause for celebration, and galvanise action to ensure access to PrEP for those who could benefit the most. But almost 3 years since the US Food and Drug Administration approved tenofovir–emtricitabine for PrEP little is being done on implementation.

With more than 2 million new HIV infections every year worldwide, it is time for that to change.

Decline in high grade cervical lesions in US women

Posted on 20th August 2015 by · No comments

The incidence of high grade cervical lesions in young women in the United States has fallen, a new analysis has found. Susan Hariri and her colleagues reported in the journal Cancer that this may be caused by the introduction of the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine but may also be due to changes in screening guidelines.

From 2008 to 2012, 9119 cases of high grade cervical lesions (CIN2+) were reported among 18 to 39 year olds as part of a sentinel system for the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In all four catchment areas the researchers found a dramatic and consistent decrease in the incidence of high grade lesions among women aged 18 to 20 over the study period.

In California the incidence fell from 94 in 100 000 to 5 in 100 000

In Connecticut it fell from 450 to 57 in 100 000

In New York it fell from 299 to 43 in 100 000

In Oregon it fell from 202 to 37 in 100 000.

No change was seen among 30 to 39 year olds.

Vaccination against HPV has been available in the US since 2006. It is offered to girls aged 9 to 12 and as part of short term catch-up scheme targeting 13 to 26 year olds. The picture is unclear, however, as the recommended age for initiating cervical cancer screening was raised to 21 years during the same period, and screening intervals have been extended.

The study concluded that the declines in CIN2+ detection in young women were likely due to reduced screening but could also reflect the impact of vaccination. 

Start HIV treatment regardless of CD4 count

Posted on 26th July 2015 by · No comments

A large international study (INSIGHT START) published in the New England Journal of Medicine has found that starting antiretroviral therapy immediately after human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) diagnosis rather than waiting until a patient’s CD4+ count has declined is of considerable benefit.

The results of the study were also released at the International AIDS Society conference in Vancouver, Canada, on 20 July.

Currently most authorities strongly recommend starting anti-HIV once CD4+ count drops to below 350 cells per cubic millimetre. Until the INSIGHT START study there was no randomized trials  showing the benefits and risks of initiating antiretroviral therapy in patients with asymptomatic HIV infection who have a CD4+ count of more than 350 .

START study conducted in 35 countries randomly assigned 4,685 HIV positive patients to either receive immediate antiretroviral therapy (median CD4+ of 650) or wait until their counts fell to below 350.

After a mean follow up of 3 years the study found that 42 patients in the immediate-initiation group died, as compared with 96 patients in the deferred-initiation group  (95% confidence interval, 0.30 to 0.62; P<0.001). Reduction in deaths were largely from tuberculosis, Kaposi’s sarcoma, and malignant lymphomas – conditions that can occur in HIV-infected individuals with only moderately damaged immune systems.

Currently the WHO requires all patients with HIV to be treated CD4+ of 500 or less. WHO may need to extend that to treating anyone at diagnosis. This would not only benefit the individual but by reducing viral shedding in body secretions reduce transmission and hence have a public health benefit. Moreover some of the costs of starting early would be offset by not needing to perform repeated CD4+ counts.

Call for HPV vaccination for school age boys

Posted on 22nd August 2014 by · 1 comment

In a recent editorial in the British Medical Journal (available only on subscription), Margaret Stanley and coauthors urged the UK government to introduce a gender neutral vaccination programme against HPV in schools for boys and girls aged 12-13 to reduce not only ano-genital warts but HPV-related cancers. These include cervical cancer in women, anal cancers in men who have sex with men and oropharyngeal cancers.

The authors point out that  oropharyngeal cancers have the fastest rising incidence (15% per year) and anal cancer rates in the UK have risen by nearly 300% in the last 40 years..

Human rights violations against sex workers: burden and effect on HIV

Posted on 31st July 2014 by · 1 comment

This is part of a series of articles on HIV and sex workers published by The Lancet and freely available.

In this article Michelle Decker et al  reviewed evidence from more than 800 studies and reported on the burden and HIV implications of human rights violations against sex workers.

Abuses of human rights are  perpetrated by both state and non-state actors. Such violations directly and indirectly increase HIV susceptibility, and undermine effective HIV-prevention and intervention efforts.

Violations include homicide; physical and sexual violence, from law enforcement, clients, and intimate partners; unlawful arrest and detention; discrimination in accessing health services; and forced HIV testing.

Abuses occur across all policy regimes, although most profoundly where sex work is criminalised through punitive law.

The authors conclude that protection of sex workers is essential to respect, protect, and meet their human rights, and to improve their health and wellbeing.

Research findings affirm the value of rights-based HIV responses for sex workers, and underscore the obligation of states to uphold the rights of this marginalised population.

Sexual health of female sex worker in the UK

Posted on 3rd June 2014 by · No comments

Female sex workers (FSWs) are assumed to be at increased risk of sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Using routine STI surveillance data, McGrath-Lone et al  in an article published in the latest issue of Sexually Transmitted Infections investigated differences in sexual health between FSWs and other female attendees at sexual health (genitourinary medicine – GUM) clinics in England.

They reported on 2704 FSWs visiting to 131/208 GUM clinics, (primarily large, FSW-specialist centres in London) in 2011. By comparison with other female attendees, FSWs travelled further for their care and had increased risk of certain STIs (eg, gonorrhoea Odds Ratio: 2.76, p<0.001). Significantly migrant FSWs had better sexual health outcomes than UK-born FSWs (eg, period prevalence of chlamydia among those tested: 8.5% vs 13.5%, p<0.001) but were more likely to experience non-STI outcomes (eg, pelvic inflammatory disease OR: 2.92, p<0.001).

They concluded that although FSWs in England have access to high-quality care through the GUM clinic network, there was evidence of geographical inequality in access to these services.

A minority do not appear to access STI/HIV testing through clinics, and some STIs are more prevalent among FSWs than other female attendees.

Targeted interventions aimed at improving uptake of testing in FSWs should be developed, and need to be culturally sensitive to the needs of this predominantly migrant population.

A tale of two cities: Sex work in India

Posted on 27th March 2014 by · No comments

Talk given at University College London by Maryam Shahmanesh. Maryam studied sex workers in Goa and Karnataka province and the relation of risks to sexual health and HIV and  government policy.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F43ebh6Mbf8

Need and acceptability of human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination in men

Posted on 29th October 2013 by · No comments

HPV vaccination of young women with the quadrivalent vaccine (HPV4) resulted in a dramatic fall in genital warts and cervical cancer rates. However rolling out a similar vaccination in young men has been hampered by arguments that  male HPV4 vaccination programmes exceed cost-effectiveness thresholds.

Unlike the USA and Australia, European countries do not include men in HPV vaccination programmes, instead focusing on achieving expanded coverage among women to promote herd immunity.

Yet there is  evidence that HPV4 vaccination offers substantial clinical benefits to men and is cost effective among men who have sex with men (MSM). MSM have largely been excluded from mathematical models. A recent study in the journal Sexually Transmitted Infections has shown that HPV related conditions such as anal/genital warts and rectal infections are likely to be profoundly underdiagnosed among MSM in most European cities. The paper concluded that there is an urgent need to improve sexual healthcare tailored to MSM at risk for STIs.

There is also the argument  for a gender-neutral (universal) approach to vaccination.

In the same issue of STI a meta-analysis shows that there are currently a number of obstacles to acceptability of HPV vaccination in  men. They concluded that Public health campaigns should aim to promote positive HPV vaccine attitudes and awareness about HPV risk in men. The paper recommended interventions to promote HPV vaccination for boys and to overcome  obstacles to HPV vaccine acceptability for men.