Metro Wellness, CAN Community Health open Clearwater Health Center

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
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ABOVE: Rose Addison, Vilma M. Vega, Priya Rajkumar and Caroline White-Smith open Metro and CAN’s Clearwater location Aug. 30. Photo by Ryan Williams-Jent.

Metro Wellness & Community Centers and CAN Community Health leadership gathered Aug. 30 to introduce the community to their Clearwater Health Center and its team.

“I’m the Medical Director at this office and I’m really blessed to be here and to be able to provide care,” Dr. Vilma M. Vega shared at the opening. “I am blessed to see this. We’re here for all patients, whether insured or not insured; they are all treated exactly the same.”

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Even with PrEP, HIV rates still a concern for gays

By : Staff Reports OF THE WASHINGTON BLADE, COURTESY OF THE NATIONAL LGBT MEDIA ASSOCIATION
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DUBLIN | Men with same-sex sexual partners are 28 times more likely to contract HIV than their heterosexual counterparts despite a radical reduction in new infections among gay men in Western countries, according to a U.N. report released this week, the Independent, an Irish newspaper, reports.

The overall annual number of new HIV infections dropped from a high of 3.4 million in 1996 to 1.8 million last year, according to UNAIDS, which coordinates the organization’s global response to HIV/AIDS.

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Walgreens to offer free rapid HIV test for National HIV Testing Day

By : Kathy Ruiz
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ORLANDO | First observed in 1995, National HIV Testing Day is held every June 27 to raise awareness of the HIV/AIDS epidemic as well as to encourage people to get tested, know their status and get linked to treatment and care.

Walgreens is partnering with the Orange County Department of Health to offer free rapid HIV testing and information about prevention options including Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis, or PrEP — the HIV prevention pill.

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HIV groups urge states to investigate reduced coverage of AIDS drugs

By : Lou Chibbaro Jr. of the Washington Blade, courtesy of the National LGBT Media Association
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ABOVE: Carl Schmid, deputy director of the AIDS Institute, said state officials have begun to respond to the HIV coalition’s concerns. (Photo courtesy of Schmid)

A coalition of 60 HIV organizations from across the country is calling on insurance commissioners and attorneys general in all 50 states and D.C. to investigate a practice they say is being adopted by health insurers that’s resulting in excessively high out-of-pocket costs for AIDS and Hepatitis C drugs.

In a May 16 letter to all state insurance commissioners and attorneys general, the Federal AIDS Policy Partnership, of which the 60 HIV groups are members, said health insurance companies and pharmacy benefit managers, known as PBMs, have begun refusing to allow drug manufacturers’ co-pay assistance contributions from counting toward the patients’ insurance deductible.

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Key New Mexico clinic in HIV treatment to expand research

By : wire report
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SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Southwest CARE Center, a once-tiny New Mexico clinic at the forefront of HIV/AIDS research since its founding in 1996, is seeking to expand its research program.

The center’s director of research, Tamara Flys, said this week Southwest CARE of Santa Fe is looking for partnerships to delve into geriatric, pediatric, diabetes and primary-care research, the Santa Fe New Mexican reported.

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UPDATE: Publix to begin covering HIV preventative drug PrEP for employees

By : Jeremy Williams
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UPDATE:

After meeting with state Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, Publix announced they would begin allowing PrEP to be covered for their employees under their prescription benefits.

The company took to Twitter saying:

Publix appreciates the concerns shared by our associates and customers. We offer generous health coverage to our eligible full-time and part-time associates at an affordable premium and are committed to the health and well-being of our associates and their families.

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Out medical director opens Diversity Health Center of Tampa Bay

By : Ryan Williams-Jent
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Tampa | The Diversity Health Center of Tampa Bay, dedicated to evidence-based patient care and to developing long-lasting relationships within the community it serves, is open for business.

Dr. David W. Lyter, who came out in the early 1980s, has “been doing gay men’s healthcare ever since.” He formerly served Tampa Bay as the medical director for Metro Wellness & Community Centers, and says he founded the new facility to “focus on a broader type of medical care.”

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Usage remains low for pill that can prevent HIV infection

By : wire report
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NEW YORK (AP) — From gritty neighborhoods in New York and Los Angeles to clinics in Kenya and Brazil, health workers are trying to popularize a pill that has proven highly effective in preventing HIV but which — in their view — remains woefully underused.

Marketed in the United States as Truvada, and sometimes available abroad in generic versions, the pill has been shown to reduce the risk of getting HIV from sex by more than 90 percent if taken daily. Yet worldwide, only about a dozen countries have aggressive, government-backed programs to promote the pill. In the U.S., there are problems related to Truvada’s high cost, lingering skepticism among some doctors and low usage rates among black gays and bisexuals who have the highest rates of HIV infection.

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Watermark’s Top headlines of 2017

By : Watermark Staff
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2017 was a roller coaster of a year. Our highs were marked with great achievements and big celebrations, and our lows were filled with the passing of great LGBTQ leaders and fear-filled headlines we thought we would never read.

Below we look back on the top 5 LGBTQ headlines out of Central Florida, Tampa Bay, from the state of Florida and across the nation, and the world.

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PrEP usage low in young gays CDC finds

By : Staff Reports OF THE WASHINGTON BLADE, COURTESY OF THE NATIONAL LGBT MEDIA ASSOCIATION
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PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Less than 4 percent of young adult men who have sex with men in the U.S. are on PrEP according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The data was taken from an anonymous online survey of 2,347 black, white and Hispanic men ages 18-24 who’d had anal sex but were not HIV-positive, Reuters reports.

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Florida Health to offer PrEP for free at all county health departments by end of 2018

By : Jeremy Williams
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Tallahassee, Fla. | As part of their strategic efforts to eliminate the spread of HIV in the state, the Florida Department of Health announced Dec. 1 that they are currently working to make Truvada, the Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis medication commonly known as PrEP, available at no cost at all of the 67 county health departments by the end of 2018.

PrEP is a once-daily pill that can reduce the risk of acquiring HIV in HIV-negative individuals. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, taking PrEP daily reduces the risk of getting HIV by more than 90 percent.

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Stories from gay and straight women in Central Florida, Tampa Bay and the nation during the AIDS epidemic

By : Greg Stemm
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It was the late 1980s. All across America, including right here in Central and West Central Florida, gay and straight women were suddenly finding that their gay male friends and relatives were dying from a tragic and perplexing new disease.

From our vantage point in 2017, AIDS has become a chronically manageable disease instead of a death sentence and PREP has dramatically reduced the likelihood of transmissions. It can be hard to remember just how dire a time it was.

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