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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METRO Health, Wellness & Community celebrates 25 years

By : Alexis Vilaboy
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ST. PETERSBURG – Twenty-five years ago, the beginning of what is now METRO Health, Wellness & Community began in the upstairs 16-foot by 12-foot space of King of Peace Metropolitan Community Church with the mission to help those affected by and infected with HIV/AIDS in the early days of the disease’s discovery.

“I’ve been here, it’ll be 24 years,” recalls CEO Lorraine Langlois. “It’s so gratifying to see some really good people moving up and taking hold; I’m very pleased about that. My role now is really kind of mentoring and making sure the ship’s going where we need it to be.”

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Report: PrEP fails gay Canadian who contracts HIV

By : Staff Reports from the Washington Blade, courtesy of the National Gay Media Association
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NEW YORK — Doctors report that a gay Canadian man contracted HIV even though he had been taking daily medication to ward off infection, HealthDay News reports.

Based on a genetic analysis of the virus, it was determined that the 43-year-old Toronto resident was infected with a strain of HIV that had become resistant to the anti-HIV drug Truvada, said report author Dr. David Knox. He is a doctor with the Maple Leaf Medical Clinic in Toronto, HealthDay reports in an article that ran in U.S. News & World Report.

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World AIDS Day reminds of what was and what can never be again

By : Billy Manes
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Thom Bland, 54, sits across the table from me at a downtown eatery. His signature shovel beard and glasses speak very much to the currency of fashion – we’re all dialing our time machines backward these days – but his cadence is certainly rooted in the trauma that brought him here. There are tears.

“I knew Patient Zero,” he only half-jokes. Bland is HIV-positive and, though his numbers may read “undetectable,” he’s fallen into the gray area – even the blackest of holes – that has picked off his friends and much of his history indiscriminately. He once woke up from anesthesia while having his lungs scrubbed for Kaposi Sarcoma. He has seen the worst. Bland was diagnosed in 1991.

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