Thorne Harbour Health calls for community to stop having casual sex during COVID-19

Thorne Harbour Health – media release, 26 March 2020

For the first time in its four-decade history, Thorne Harbour Health is calling on communities to stop having casual sex in the face of 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

Thorne Harbour Health, formerly the Victorian AIDS Council, is calling on LGBTI communities and people living with HIV to limit their risk of COVID-19 transmission.

Thorne Harbour Health CEO Simon Ruth said, “We’re faced by an unprecedented global health crisis. While COVID-19 is not a sexually transmitted infection, the close personal contact we have when during sex poses a serious risk of COVID-19 transmission. We need people to stop having casual sex at this stage.”

“But after four decades of sexual health promotion, we know abstinence isn’t a realistic strategy for most people. We need to look at ways we can minimise risk while maintain a healthy sex life.”

Last week, the organisation released an info sheet with strategies to minimise the risk of COVID-19 while having sex. Strategies included utilising sex tech, solo sexuality, and limiting your sexual activity to an exclusive sexual partner, commonly known as a ‘f*ck buddy’.

“You can reduce your risk by making your sexual network smaller. If you have a regular sexual partner, have a conversation about the risk of COVID-19 transmission. Provided both of you are limiting your risk by working from home and exercising physical distancing from others, you can greatly reduce you chance of COVID-19 transmission,” said Simon Ruth.

The organisation’s stance is not dissimilar from advice from the UK government. Earlier this week, chief medical officer Dr Jenny Harries advised couples not cohabitating to consider testing their relationship by moving in together during the country’s lockdown.

Thorne Harbour Health CEO Simon Ruth released a video message today addressing sex & COVID-19 following last week’s message about physical distancing.

Update on COVID-19 for PLHIV

SAMESH, March 19, 2020

SAMESH, SHINE SA, and Thorne Harbour Health are encouraging people living with HIV (PLHIV) to take additional precautions in the face of the changing landscape around 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

We want to ensure the ongoing health and wellbeing of all PLHIV who are more vulnerable to COVID-19. This means minimising the risk of exposure to the virus.

While everyone is at risk of contracting COVID-19, the consequences of infection are more severe for some vulnerable groups. This includes PLHIV who are:

  • Aged over 60 years old
  • Living with a detectable viral load or a CD4 count below 500
  • Diabetic
  • Smokers
  • Living with hepatitis B or C
  • Living with a comorbidity such as heart or lung issues

Those PLHIV on treatment with an undetectable viral load (and no other significant health condition) are at no greater risk of serious health consequences due to COVID-19 than the general population. That being said, they should still take the advice of the health department in exercising precautions such as handwashing, working from home where possible, limiting time on public transport, and avoiding large groups or crowded areas.

Those PLHIV who fall into one of the vulnerable groups listed above should limit contact with others to avoid potential exposure to COVID-19.

If you are living with HIV and are concerned you might be at risk, you should:

  • Maintain regularly scheduled medical appointments, but consider asking your doctor about telehealth consultations
  • Ensure you have between 1-3 month supply of any medications you currently take
  • Avoid stockpiling medications beyond a 1-3 month supply as this could cause unnecessary shortages
  • Be wary of advice or articles in social media — do not modify the medications you currently take without first consulting your doctor
  • Contact your doctor about getting vaccinations for influenza and pneumococcal when available
  • Keep in touch with friends, colleagues, and family via phone calls and video chat — consider scheduling regular catch ups
  • Stay in touch – our organisations will continue to release more information and resources as the situation continues to evolve

This public health issue can be stressful, but our communities have a long history of staying informed and collective action to ensure we look after our health as well as the wellbeing of those around us. Let’s keep this legacy going as we look after ourselves and those around us

Development and validation of PozQoL: a scale to assess quality of life of PLHIV

BMC Public Health, 2018 18:527, https://doi.org/10.1186/s12889-018-5433-6

Abstract

Background

Advances in medical treatment for HIV are driving major changes in HIV policy and practice, including the encouragement of intake and adherence to HIV antiretroviral treatment (ART) by people living with HIV (PLHIV) for both personal and public health benefits. However, there is increasing recognition that achieving these goals will require a concurrent focus on the broader psychological and social wellbeing of PLHIV. Increasingly calls are being been made to incorporate a stronger focus on quality of life (QoL) of PLHIV into HIV prevention policy.

In order to achieve this goal, HIV community, support and healthcare services need a valid, short and practical way to evaluate QoL of PLHIV accessing their programs. Current QoL measures are either long, complex, restricted in their use, or expensive. To address these shortcomings, the PozQoL study aimed to develop, test and validate a short and freely available scale assessing QoL among PLHIV.

Methods

Drawing on a literature review, the prioritisation of domains and development of the initial pool of items was conducted in consultation with PLHIV community organisations in Australia. The items covered health concerns, psychological, social, and functional wellbeing. Testing involved a baseline and a follow-up survey of 465 adult Australians living with HIV. Participants were recruited through social media and various community organizations nationwide. The survey included the pilot PozQoL scale and other validated measures of health and wellbeing.

Results

Guided by an Exploratory Factor Analysis and conceptual considerations, a 13-item scale was developed. The PozQoL scale demonstrated high levels of fit in a Confirmatory Factor Analysis, very good internal consistency, test-retest reliability, and concurrent validity with other measures that approximated different aspects of QoL.

Conclusion

The PozQoL scale has been tested in a diverse sample of adult PLHIV living in Australia, demonstrating very good reliability and validity. The insights from PLHIV and other stakeholders supported the balancing of statistical rigour and conceptual accuracy. The scale is now ready to be implemented and field-tested across a range of community, support and healthcare programs for PLHIV. This will make a significant contribution to the evaluation and enhancement of programs for PLHIV.

Changing attitudes to and engagement with biomedical HIV prevention by gay and bisexual men

Centre for Social Research in Health, UNSW, 2017

The latest findings from the PrEPARE Project have now been published. The  PrEPARE Project is a longitudinal study of Australian gay and bisexual men’s attitudes to biomedical HIV prevention, particularly PrEP and treatment as prevention (TasP).

With the unprecedented scaling up of PrEP access in many states over the last few years, we have observed a surge in PrEP use, and increasing levels of support for PrEP in the community. Belief in the effectiveness of TasP has also increased, although many men remain skeptical about it. The report includes national summary data. it is hoped that the report will be useful in assessing community readiness for biomedical prevention and potential issues in implementation.

Key findings:

» Nearly a quarter of gay and bisexual men (24%) reported they had ever used PrEP. This was a large increase from the 2015 survey (3%).

» Most current PrEP users were accessing it from a research study or demonstration project (82%) and the majority (74%) reported increased sexual confidence and reduced concern about acquiring HIV as a result of PrEP.

» Nearly all participants (95%) had heard of PrEP and two-thirds of participants (66%) knew someone who had taken PrEP; substantial increases from the 2015 survey. Knowledge of PrEP also improved between 2015 and 2017.

» Willingness to use PrEP has increased among HIV-negative and untested men (to 37% in 2017) and concern about using it has fallen (to 36%).

» Support for gay and bisexual men using PrEP increased to 75% in 2017, as did willingness to have sex with someone using PrEP (47%).

» Belief that HIV treatment prevents transmission increased to 20% in 2017; the increase was primarily among HIV-negative and untested men.

» Agreement that early HIV treatment is necessary increased to 79% in 2017; this increase was concentrated among HIV-positive men