Important information about recent trends in HIV infection.
Free HIV testing now available at Health Services.
(October 29, 2010)
We want to make the Brown Community aware of important information about new HIV and STI infection trends among young gay and bisexual men. In response to this concerning trend, Brown University AIDS Program (BRUNAP) and Health Services are partnering to launch a number of awareness and prevention initiatives, beginning with a presentation and question and answer session with BRUNAP and Health Services physicians on Monday, November 1st at 7pm in Petteruti Lounge. This letter also contains important information about free HIV testing available on campus and about post-exposure prophylaxis.
Students may be already be aware that, in the US and in Rhode Island, gay and bisexual men make up the majority of new HIV infections and new syphilis infections in recent years. Additional data from the CDC shows a steady increase in HIV infection among young gay and bisexual men (18-24 year olds) over the last five years.
In the last year alone in Rhode Island, there has been a 20% increase in HIV infections among men who have sex with men. Recently, a number of college students in Rhode Island have tested positive for HIV. Some of these students were diagnosed with acute HIV, meaning that they were infected very recently.
In acute HIV infections, some people may present with swollen lymph nodes, a sore throat and/or a rash or a headache. Others may become HIV infected without any symptoms. Because a newly infected person’s body may not have had enough time to develop antibodies, the diagnosis of acute HIV infection is made by direct testing for the HIV virus. Identifying acute HIV is particularly important because people with acute HIV are highly infectious and can spread the virus easily through unprotected sex or sharing needles.
FREE HIV TESTING: Regular HIV antibody testing is a key component of HIV prevention. We hope that awareness of this issue will encourage students to seek testing. Health Services has begun the process of implementing free HIV testing. Free, confidential HIV testing will be offered by appointment on Friday afternoons in Health Services beginning November 5th and running for the remainder of the semester. Brown students can call 401.863-3953 to request an appointment for the free HIV test clinics. In addition, a free HIV testing day will be offered on December 1st (World AIDS Day). Details for this event will be widely advertised.
Condoms of course are also vital to HIV prevention and offer very effective protection. Safer sex supplies are currently available across campus on RPLs doors, in the 1st and 3rd floor bathrooms of Health Services, in Health Education, in the LGBTQ Resource Center, and from the vending machine in J. Walter Wilson’s 1st floor gender-neutral bathroom.
POST-EXPOSURE PROPHYLAXIS: We also want students to know that Post Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) is available at Health Services. PEP can be taken within 72 hours after a sexual exposure with a person known to be HIV-infected or after a high risk exposure, such as unprotected anal intercourse, with a person of unknown HIV status. PEP can sometimes be effective at preventing HIV infection.
Once individuals are identified with HIV, treatment services are widely accessible. Numerous programs are available that can see patients regardless of ability to pay or type of insurance. If individuals have evidence of a weakened immune system, then treatment with well tolerated medication is recommended. Treatment is currently very effective with a combination of medications which result in a reduction in HIV viral levels. Although there is no cure for HIV, the viral infection can be suppressed indefinitely if individuals continue to take their medications and remain in care. HIV has become a chronic, manageable infection, when diagnosed and treated. There is no cure or vaccine yet available, so the best way to avoid illness is to practice safer sex, seek out PEP treatment within 72 hours if a risky episode occurs and undergo regular HIV testing.
It is very important to us that students feel supported and cared for as we face this issue together. Students can get support around this issue from the LGBTQ Resource Center, Psychological Services, and Health Education.
Edward Wheeler, MD, Director of Health Services
Timothy Flanigan, MD, Director of Infectious Disease Alpert School of Medicine Brown University
Kenneth Mayer, MD, Director of BRUNAP (Brown University AIDS Program)
Kelley Garrett, Coordinator LGBTQ Resource Center