Saturday, Sept 24th: Boston Student Health Activist Summit

14333777_863641610432695_6382319670311940394_nThe annual Student Activism Summit returns September 24th to the BU School of Medicine. Hosted by Boston Student Health Activist Community (BSHAC), students and young professionals from across Boston will gather to discuss important social justice issues that impact the health of our communities and learn ways they can integrate that work into professional and civic life.



Saturday at 11:30 AM – 5:30 PM                                                                                                                                             Boston University School of Medicine                                                                                                                             72 E Concord St, Boston, Massachusetts 02118

It is FREE and OPEN to the public. Please RSVP at:



This Friday It’s National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day! So Get Tested or Volunteer.

ImageFrom our friends at Hispanic Black Gay Coalition Boston: 

This Friday is National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (NBHAAD) is an HIV testing and treatment community mobilization initiative for Black people in the United States and across the Diaspora. There are four specific focal points: Get Educated, Get Tested, Get Involved, and Get Treated!

Support these focal points this Friday at the Union Methodist Church in the South End by getting free sexual health counseling, a confidential rapid HIV test, or get involved by volunteering/spreading the word about NBHAAD. A $10 gift cards available to those who get tested.

PLEDGE to support NBHAAD by doing one of the following:

1. Schedule a sexual health counseling session and/or get a confidential rapid HIV-test. Drop-In anytime on Friday or call 617-487-4242 to set an appointment.

2. Volunteer at Friday’s testing event (anytime between 10-5 pm) or  volunteer next Saturday, Feb. 15th, as we host another testing event at the Mattapan Library. We need support setting up and passing out information in the community in Mattapan.

3. Help raise awareness by inviting your friends to take the pledge or share information on Friday’s event through social media.

Friday: Demonstrate Against the TPP & Corporate Globalization – BOSTON and ELSEWHERE

International Day of Action to Stop the TPP!

Boston: Friday, January 31st, 1 PM at the State House. Details of demo and march here

Elsewhere: Find out about stop TPP actions and events in your city.

Check out these links to find out why stopping the TPP is important for Global Health and for people with HIV.

Can’t make the Demo? Call Congress to Stop the TPP!

The TPP and YOU!

Banks, corporations, and governments have been colluding unjust, unfair and unchecked “trade” agreements that have been leading up to global dominance of power in society. Together, we must raise awareness to the masses to rise against this oppressive force. Since NAFTA was passed twenty years ago, approximately one million US jobs have been lost and workers rights and regulations have decreased.

Now we face the largest “trade” agreement in human history, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) that is referred to as “NAFTA on steroids”, involving the US, Canada, Mexico, Brunei, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, Australia, Chile, Malaysia, & Vietnam giving them control of 40% of the World’s GDP. In the 29 chapters of the TPP, it includes internet rights/freedoms, environmental policies, fossil fuel imports & exports, food regulations and labeling transparency, restriction on imports and exports, workers rights and wages, fast track agreement approval, and pharmaceutical patenting. It is the ultimate corporate power grab!

The only way to overcome these forces is so educate yourself, inform others, unite, and resist!!! We will gather outside of the State House at 1pm and soon after march around common areas in BostonJoin us!!!

WBUR: End Of AIDS In Mass. Within Reach

ACT UP Boston’s End AIDS efforts may be having some effect.

This past Winter ACT UP met with Rebecca Haag of Boston’s AIDS Action to discuss the establishment of a coordinated effort to End AIDS  in Massachusetts (ACT UP  Boston released its own End AIDS Plan, or budget, last Winter). As the story by WBUR illustrates, the states HIV power players, such as the Mass Department of Public Health and AAC/Fenway Health, are now working on doing just that.

So why shouldn’t they? Massachusetts is unique as a state that provides access to health care and services that can be used to end AIDS.  Treatment as Prevention and other tools such as HIV PEP and PrEP and are readily available here. Also, compared to other states, Massachusetts is fiscally fit.

The Bay State  just needs to make that short term investment for that  long term payoff of ending a deadly, costly epidemic. Getting Massachusetts to make that investment is where people like you come in. It will require a political push on Beacon Hill for funding to make it happen. With your help it can be done. So get on board and ACT UP.

WBUR: End Of AIDS In Mass. Within Reach

Could Massachusetts stop — not just reduce but actually stop — the spread of HIV and new cases of AIDS?

Some activists say that with a little more money and a targeted plan, the end of AIDS is within reach here.

“It’s possible for us to end the AIDS epidemic in Massachusetts,” said Rebecca Haag, president and CEO of the AIDS Action Committee of Massachusetts. “This came on our watch and I believe we should put an end to it.”

You may be shaking your head and asking, “Really?”

Well, Haag says, think about this figure: 657. That’s the total number of new HIV casesreported to the state Department of Public Health in 2011. Compare that with the many hundreds of Massachusetts residents who were dying of AIDS every year from the mid-1980s through the mid-1990s.

In 1994, the worst year, 1,156 died. Overall, nearly 13,000 Massachusetts residents died of the disease, and more than 18,000 are now living with it.

But recent years have seen major progress.

“In Massachusetts, we have been successful in dramatically reducing new incidence of HIV infection and are approaching levels that start to look like an unsustainable epidemic, over the long term,” said Kevin Cranston, who directs the Bureau of Infectious Disease at the Department of Public Health.

When might there be so few new cases that HIV dies out? Cranston says it’s hard to predict, in part because Massachusetts is down to the hardest-to-reach cases. Most of them are young gay men in poor city neighborhoods.

Like Frank. When his dad found out he was gay, he was kicked out of the house. Frank, who’s 21, turned to prostitution.

“I would sell myself for food. I would sell myself for a place to sleep. It makes you feel gross,” he said. “That’s why I stopped. It made me feel really gross. I’d have to get drunk in order to have sex. I won’t do it again.”

Frank’s solution, for now, is to stop having sex. His last HIV test was negative and he plans to keep it that way.

Frank had the test at a drop-in program in Cambridge called Youth on Fire. He says the meals, showers and counseling are his backbone, but Frank is still just barely getting by. If Frank had a stable life, with a doctor and health insurance, there’s a pill he could take every day to prevent HIV. But he doesn’t. If Frank got the virus, there’s another daily pill that would virtually ensure he didn’t pass it to someone else. But would he take it?

Prevention and treatment have come a long way, says Kenneth Mayer, Medical Research Director at Fenway Health.

“But each of these approaches does involve resources and does involve the buy-in of individuals,” Mayer said.

Frank would have to be tested regularly, check in at a clinic regularly, and he’d have to be prepared to take a pill every day for the rest of his life, “Because if people take it erratically, one can create resistant virus,” Mayer explained. “Which will make it harder to treat later and we don’t want that to happen.”

Mayer, who treated the first cases of AIDS in Boston in the early 1980s, says Massachusetts will have to put a lot of support for people like Frank in place if it hopes to end the AIDS epidemic.

The Department of Public Health is finalizing a statewide plan. Haag has one of her own.

“First of all, we need to test every sexually active person in Massachusetts,” Haag suggested. “We’re not that far away from oral tests being available in drug stores.”

Haag’s plan also includes making sure everyone at risk can get and afford their medicine, has stable housing, community support and on-going education. The cost? About $150 million a year, Haag estimates — double the $75 million the state currently spends on HIV/AIDS services.

“That investment has significant long-term payoffs in terms of reducing health care costs,” Haag said. “And that’s what everyone is talking about right now. HIV is a place we can demonstrate that works.”

Haag estimates the state has saved $2.4 billion since 2000 by reducing new cases of HIV. (See the chart below.) That may sound high, but the CDC estimates that lifetime medical costs for each case of AIDS are over $379,000.

Activists typically look to the government for extra money. But in Massachusetts, everyone is supposed to be shifting money to prevention, to keep people from getting sick and cut health care spending. So would hospitals, doctors and health insurers join forces to help end HIV and AIDS?

“I think the [health insurance] plans would be very willing to work with those stakeholders if it meant that in the end we were going to eradicate that and save a lot of money in the long run,” said Lora Pellegrini, president of the Massachusetts Association of Health Plans. “But there are huge anti-trust considerations about how we would structure that.”

Massachusetts does not have the lowest rate of new HIV cases in the country – that’s Vermont, with only 9 in 2011.

But its rate is low — compare it to Florida, with 5,124. It may not happen tomorrow, but for Massachusetts residents who recall the epidemic’s terrible, tragic peak, the very fact that advocates and officials can now envision the end of AIDS here is breathtaking.

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Treatment as Prevention Breakthrough #2: KwaZulu-Natal Study Big Leap Forward

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Commnunity-Wide TasP in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa: It works in Africa, it can work here.

Community-Wide Treatment as Prevention. 
A newly published study finds that as more HIV infected members of a community members are put on treatment, fewer people become infected with the virus within that community. The community “treatment as prevention” study was published this week in the prestigious journal Science.

Researchers from the Africa Centre for Health and Population Studies used HIV surveillance data collected in KwaZulu-Natal, a poor rural area of South Africa where about one out of three have HIV. Over time, about 20,000 individuals among 228,000 area residents were put on HIV treatment.

The study found that for each percentage point increase for those in the province on HIV treatment, there was a significant decrease in HIV transmission community-wide.

When HIV treatment coverage reached 20 percent of the infected population, there was a 22 percent decline in HIV infections said study researcher Frank Tanser, PhD, of the Africa Centre for Health and Population Studies in South Africa. “In communities where HIV treatment achieved 30 percent, the individuals’ HIV acquisition was 38 percent less likely.”

Conversely, in areas where access to HIV treatment coverage was low there were no such reductions in new infections.

The results have implications for HIV at-risk communities well beyond AIDS ravaged Africa. Here in the United States, greater HIV treatment access should achieve the same “Treatment as Prevention” reductions of new transmissions in those affected communities.

“These findings are extremely important,” said Paul De Lay, deputy executive director, Programme, Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS.

“The results give clear evidence that HIV incidence is reduced as a result of high coverage of antiretroviral therapy,” added Dr. Tanser.

The research also confirms the results of the study that proved the concept of Treatment as Prevention or TasP. Declared the 2011 breakthrough of the year by the Journal Science, the New England Journal of Medicine study found that effectively treating HIV infection provides an HIV prevention bonus of reducing the spread of the virus for couples where one partner in HIV infected and the other is not. The groundbreaking study, known as HPTN 052, found that if an HIV-positive person stays on antirviral therapy, the risk of transmitting the virus to their uninfected sexual partner can be reduced by 96 percent. 

Followup studies to HPTN 052 have found that Treatment as Prevention, if implemented on a world wide scale, would not only be cost-effective, it could save global health programs money over the long term.

Commenting on those findings, Dr. Rochelle Walensky of the Harvard Center for AIDS Research said that regardless of the country, TasP is a triple winner: “HIV-infected patients do better, their partners are protected and it is very cost-effective.”

Along with the study measuring the community-wide benefit of TasP, Science published another KwaZulu-Natal study showing that providing antiviral therapy increased overall life expectancy by more than ten years.

Myron Cohen, who headed the original HTPN 052 TasP study, called the KwaZulu-Natal studies terrifically important.

Cohen told NPR, “I think this is a home run, by any nature, and it’s teaching us something. You know, you don’t have to treat everybody in order to see a community benefit.”

The studies noted above demonstrate how Treatment as Prevention will be invaluable tool for ending the epidemic in community hot-spots, whether they be in Africa, or urban and rural North America.

Scott Brown to 20 Million with HIV: Drop Dead!

It started as a civil conference call with Senator Scott Brown’s Office. We of ACT UP Boston wanted to find out what the   Senator was doing to end HIV/AIDS and if he would co-sponsor the Robin Hood Tax to assist in helping make that happen.  We began the call by having some actual researchers explain some of their very hopeful cost/benefit data on treatment- as-prevention (TasP). They were the kind of studies that would gladden the heart of any liberal (“Implementing TasP will save millions and millions of lives”) or any fiscal conservative (“Implementing Tasp, over the long-term, will save billions and billions of dollars”). It was a win-win proposition about which we are still highly excited. Ten frustrating minutes of discussion then followed with the Brown staff making no firm commitments to support funding of policies that will likely end the AIDS pandemic: He just reiterated – ad nauseam – seemingly baseless reassurances of the Senator’s “good will.”

Then things went down hill faster than today’s Dow Jones Average. We were told that we should be “grateful” that we had an independent like Scott Brown who could cross party lines, if necessary. When we disputed that claim and pointed out coming fiscal-cliff, sequestration cuts and the suffering they would cause people with HIV at home and abroad, there was a prolonged, dead silence on the line. Brown’s office made no comment or any expression of concern for the twenty million human souls who will lose there lives unless some significant action is taken.

Instead we were told that in a pragmatic, “realistic”, political world, Scott Brown’s opportunistic “middle of the world” positioning are what is needed and that we should feel grateful for his political sleight of hand.

Uh, no thanks…