Call for More Syringe Exchange Programs

While overdose deaths declined last year in Philadelphia, HIV infections increased. Last week, the Philadelphia Department of Public Health released data that show an increase in new HIV infection since 2016 after a decade of decline. The increase has been attributed to infections among people who inject drugs — 59 of whom were newly diagnosed with HIV in 2018, double the number of people who were diagnosed in 2016. Bucks County has been experiencing a similar increase.

https://www.philly.com/opinion/editorials/syringe-exchange-hiv-hep-c-prep-law-20190409.html

By Inquirer Editorial Board

Rise in HIV Cases Among Injection Drug Users

Thomas Farley, commissioner of Philadelphia’s Department of Public Health, said the increase “is something that definitely has us concerned.”

The overall number of new HIV cases has been on a steady decline since the mid-2000s. Currently, 19,199 Philadelphians are living with HIV. In 2017 there were 419 newly diagnosed HIV infections, according to the health department.

But from 2016 to 2018, the number of new diagnoses reported in people who inject drugs has nearly doubled to 59, a number that is sure to rise when all the data are finalized, said James Garrow, spokesperson for the Department of Public Health.

https://www.philly.com/health/opioids-hiv-aids-increase-philadelphia-iv-drug-users-prep-20190404.html

By Mari Schaefer

Marketing PrEP to African American Women

To address that, the Philadelphia Department of Public Health recently launched a “Philly, Keep on Loving” campaign promoting awareness of PrEP.

“Even though PrEP may not be right for all Philadelphians, it’s important to consider it a part of sexual-health planning, along with condoms and birth control,” said Caitlin Conyngham, HIV prevention coordinator with the Department of Public Health.

https://whyy.org/articles/philadelphia-wants-to-get-the-hiv-prevention-pill-to-women-most-at-risk/

By Trenae Nuri

PrEP Campaign

And the City of Philadelphia Department of Public Health recently launched a new sexual health marketing campaign to promote the HIV prevention pill called “Philly, Keep On Loving.”

“With an HIV rate four times the national rate, increasing the use of PrEP is necessary to end the HIV epidemic in Philadelphia,” stated Dr. Kathleen Brady, medical director and medical epidemiologist for the Department’s AIDS Activities Coordinating Office (AACO) in a news release.

https://www.phillytrib.com/news/health/advocates-push-for-black-women-to-be-informed-about-prep/article_5b260798-b534-50eb-b9b2-993c40e2c8e7.html

By Ayana Jones

White House HIV Plan

But Tom Farley, Philadelphia’s public health commissioner, isn’t impressed.

“We’re glad that the administration is talking about eliminating HIV infection,” Farley said. “That’s certainly important. Our question is, really, what’s new about this plan? And that’s not clear.”

https://whyy.org/articles/philadelphia-to-receive-hiv-funding-under-new-trump-plan-to-eliminate-virus-by-2030/

By Dana Bate

HIV Testing in Middle School Children

6ABC

[T]he Philadelphia Health Department confirms that they were working with a group called SPEAK OUT, and that this was organized though Councilman Bobby Henon’s office to offer free HIV testing for Lincoln High School students.

They set up the van at a nearby pizza place and apparently did not realize it was also near the middle school.

As for the age requirement, the Health Department says in the state of Pennsylvania, anyone who legally consents to HIV testing – no matter their age – can be tested.

https://6abc.com/health/philly-middle-school-students-offered-pizza-for-hiv-testing/4931255/

By Alicia Vitarelli

Daily Caller

Any person in the state of Pennsylvania can get tested for HIV as long as they provide consent, Garrow said.


“We, like all public health agencies, believe that everyone should know their HIV status, and will continue to make it easy for people to access these types of tests,” Garrow said. “It is regrettable that these students wandered into an HIV testing event targeted at high schoolers. This is absolutely not a case of bribing or enticing young children to submit to HIV testing in any type of coordinated fashion.”

https://dailycaller.com/2018/12/19/school-students-hiv-pizza/

By Neetu Chandak

Fox News

A health department spokesperson told Fox News in a statement that “there is no minimum age to provide consent for HIV testing.”


“Parental consent is also not required, as in 30 other states. Additionally, all of our HIV testing is anonymous. For these reasons, there was no way the testing provider could have known the age of the people presenting for testing,” the spokesperson said, adding only “a small number” of the middle school students were tested.


“It is regrettable that these students wandered into an HIV testing event targeted at high schoolers,” the statement continued. “This is absolutely not a case of bribing or enticing young children to submit to HIV testing in any type of coordinated fashion.”

https://www.foxnews.com/health/pennsylvania-middle-school-students-offered-pizza-in-exchange-for-hiv-testing-report

By Madeline Farber

Inquirer

Health department spokesperson James Garrow says these kind of outreaches are common and no reason for alarm. HIV is still a health menace, and screenings help keep those infected from unknowingly spreading the virus. I understand that.


“These events are a normal part of our work to fight the HIV epidemic,” Garrow told me in an email. “One of our providers, sponsored by us, set up this event with the intention of encouraging students from the nearby Lincoln High School to get tested for HIV. Given that one-quarter of all new infections in Philadelphia are among youth between the ages of 13 and 24, this isn’t an abnormal event.


“A number of students at Austin Meehan Middle School came to the testing event and were tested for their HIV status. Under Pennsylvania’s HIV testing law, commonly known as Act 148, there is no age limit for consenting to an HIV test, or duty to inform parents. Because our testing is anonymous, there is no way for us to have known that these students were from the middle school.”

http://www.philly.com/news/columnists/aids-hiv-philly-jenice-armstrong-philadelphia-meehan-20181221.html

By Jenice Armstong