Samaritan Ministry

Save the Date!

Our 6th annual Faithwalk and Al Ichiki 5k will take place 12-2-17.  We hope to see you there as we commemorate World AIDS Day, raise awareness of HIV/AIDS in our community, fight stigma, and spread love. Registration is underway!  For more details: http://www.samaritancentral.org/faithwalk-2/

Governor Haslam signs Historic Needle Exchange Law for Tennessee

Tennessee Governor Haslam has signed a Needle Exchange Bill into law, and this is a historic step forward in the fight against addiction and the opioid epidemic that has blown-up in the Appalachian Region of the country, including East Tennessee. Samaritan Ministry has provided leadership in the state to help to bring attention to this problem and specifically to the increase in Hepatitis C infections. Our Hepatitis C prevention programs and testing have helped to bring awareness to this issue in Tennessee. We are grateful to the leadership in our legislature, and to the Governor, for taking on this issue with overwhelming support in both houses.

Please take a look at this link to a great report from local memphis.com

President Trump’s FY 2018 Budget Cuts Essential HIV/AIDS, STD Programs

The President released his FY 2018 Budget proposal and there is alarm within the HIV community about the effect these proposals would have on people living with HIV and on programs that have made a difference in the fight against this disease.

A May 24, 2017 press release by AIDS United, NASTAD, the National Coalition of STD Directors, NMAC and The AIDS Institute details some of the cuts in the President’s budget.

“The country has made great progress in the fight against HIV/AIDS and STDs, but if these cuts are enacted, we will turn back the clock, resulting in more new infections, fewer patients receiving care, and ultimately, more suffering from diseases that are preventable and treatable.” said Michael Ruppal, Executive Director of The AIDS Institute.

The President’s budget proposes to cut CDC’s HIV prevention programs by $149 million or 19 percent, cut CDC’s STD prevention programs by $27 million or 17 percent since FY 2016, totally eliminate the Ryan White Program’s AIDS Education and Training Centers (AETC) and the Special Projects of National Significance (SPNS) programs, eliminate the HHS Secretary’s Minority AIDS Initiative Fund, reduce SAMHSA’s Minority AIDS Initiative programs, and cut the Housing Opportunities for People with AIDS (HOPWA) program at HUD by $26 million.

Jesse Milan, Jr., President & CEO of AIDS United stated, “We have seen historic decreases in the number of new HIV infections over the past six years because of sustained investments in prevention, and we have thousands of HIV positive Americans who have yet to achieve viral suppression through treatment programs. By cutting funding, the work we have done will be reversed, and all the work left to do will falter and put the health of our nation at risk.”

HIV Self-Testing Leads to Self-Empowerment

Samaritan Ministry is a community leader providing opportunities for HIV testing in a variety of settings.  The test that we use (OraQuick Advance Rapid HIV Antibody Test) provides a quick 20-minute turn-around with results provided by a trained HIV counselor.

OraSure Technologies also manufactures an In-Home HIV Test which is available locally as an option for people wishing to determine their HIV status with a maximum level of privacy.  This test is available at Walgreens, Kroger, CVS, and Walmart in Knoxville (retail priced at around $44), and is gaining popularity although it is used more widely outside the U.S.  Please enjoy the article below from OraSure Technologies about the impact of this test in Ethiopia.
Find out more at http://www.oraquick.com!

“I remember the first time I got tested was extremely scary and made me feel that knowing my status, which could likely be positive, could mean the end of the world,” Hana said, recalling her experience from many years ago.  At the time, stigma around being HIV positive was high, but knowledge about the virus and its transmission was low.

Hana and her friend, Selam, have been going to PSI/Ethiopia’s HIV prevention drop-in centers for the past 4 years.  As peer educators and participants themselves, they understand that knowing your HIV status is an important factor in living a healthy life.  As female sex workers, they know that their risk of contracting HIV is high. Because of this high risk, sex workers are a population that the USAID funded MULU/MARPs project, led by PSI/Ethiopia, can’t afford to miss.

Hana and Selam were part of the insight gathering phase of the HIV Self-Test (HIVST) kits that PSI/Ethiopia is launching in ten towns across Ethiopia where the burden of HIV is high.  A first for the country, this project puts a strong emphasis on empowering consumers like Hana and Selam.

Hana and Selam tell PSI that they make sure to be tested every three months, even though the recommendation is to be tested every six months. “The last time I got tested was two weeks ago using the Ora-quick.  It made no sense when it was being explained to me, but I found it to be so straight forward [when used]. It made me feel like I am the doctor administering my own health using something sophisticated. The convenience and the fact that I don’t have to feel judgment from health practitioners after knowing my status is so empowering that I told everyone I met that day about HIVST,” they explain.

After hearing this, USAID, government health bureaus and local implementing partners were excited about the potential that using the HIV self-testing kits would have with at risk populations. In addition to prevention of HIV through distribution of condoms, STI screening, free counseling and the drop-in centers, Hana and Selam said that being able to find these HIV self-test kits would be hugely beneficial for them.

Hana and Selam had different opinions about where they wanted to have access to the kits. In addition to the drop-in centers, the self-testing kits would be available at pharmacies and health centres.

“I simply can’t wait to show the HIVST kits to my peers once this product becomes abundantly available.” said Selam with a beaming smile.

Annual HIV Infections Decline Substantially in the U.S.*

Overall, annual HIV infections declined 18 percent from 2008 to 2014, from an estimated 45,700 to 37,600. Declines were seen in a number of populations and geographic areas: incidence fell sharply among heterosexuals (36%) and people who inject drugs (56%), and several states and Washington, D.C. made substantial, statistically significant, progress in decreasing annual HIV infections. The declines are due in part to progress in diagnosing infections among people living with HIV and ensuring they have access to early, ongoing treatment.

Yet the data also show that tough challenges remain, particularly for communities in the South and among gay and bisexual men.

While Southern states represented 37 percent of the U.S. population in 2014, they accounted for 50 percent of new HIV infections. Annual infections remained stable among men who have sex with men (MSM), who accounted for 70 percent of new infections in 2014, though progress is mixed. Encouraging declines were seen among young MSM aged 13-24 and white MSM (18% in both groups), but increases occurred among MSM aged 25-34 (35%) and Hispanic/Latino MSM (20%). Annual HIV infections were estimated to be stable among black MSM, an important sign of progress in comparison to the increases that were previously reported for earlier time periods.

Read the full statement at: https://content.govdelivery.com/accounts/USCDCNPIN/bulletins/18743ca

*Reported at CROI 2/14/17

 

FAITH Coalition Recognized Week of Prayer

Knoxville’s FAITH Coalition put together an awesome Week of Prayer for the Healing of AIDS. There were several events during the first week of March.
The week began with an Evening of Prayer for the Healing of HIV/AIDS at the Wesley Foundation. The musical offerings by students and clergy were phenomenal and the prayers were so moving.
Then we had a heart-to-heart talk about the whys and wherefores of HIV in the Black Community with Patrick Lee from Gilead Sciences over a delicious catered dinner at Clinton Chapel AME Zion Church.
AKA Sorority pulled out all the stops Friday at the Crowne Plaza with a lovely reception recognizing their honorary sister Rev. Dr. Pernessa Seele. Rev. Seele reminded the group to listen when God calls, as she did when she started Week of Prayer for the Healing of AIDS. Then she surprised us all by singing There is a Balm in Gilead!
The week concluded with the prayer breakfast at Community Evangelistic Church. Rev. Dr. Pernessa Seele spoke to a sold out crowd on The Church and HIV: Is There a Balm in Gilead? She outlined the terrible toll that HIV is taking on our community, and challenged us to quit wandering in the wilderness of HIV infection. She said it is time to start leading people to the promised land. We need to put aside our discomfort and talk honestly about sex. We need to advocate for programs that work, even if they are controversial. The morning also included a thought provoking skit by WordPlayers, some delicious breakfast food and free HIV testing.

Our Testing Team is pictured below: (from the left) Judy Roitman, Knox County Health Department; Wayne Smith, Samaritan Ministry; and Melodie Daniels, Helen Ross McNabb Center.

44-Member AIDS Coalition Issues Statement of HIV Risk When Undetectable*

As the nation’s largest and longest-running coalition of community-based HIV/AIDS groups, AIDS United PPC includes 44 members, such as AIDS Alabama, Housing Works, Los Angeles LGBT Center, AIDS Foundation of Chicago, the Latino Commission on AIDS, the National Black Justice Coalition, Project Inform and the Harm Reduction Coalition.
Dated March 6, 2017, the AIDS United PPC statement reads as follows:
Substantial evidence strongly demonstrates that a person living with HIV who has a sustained, undetectable viral load cannot sexually transmit HIV to another person. Continued analysis of large-scale clinical trials has shown zero cases of HIV sexual transmission. This expands on prior data that the risk of HIV transmission from a person living with HIV who is on anti-retroviral therapy and has achieved an undetectable viral load (viral suppression) in their blood for at least 6 months is negligible to non-existent.
Too many people living with HIV are not getting the message of this benefit of treatment and sustained viral suppression from their clinical providers or the HIV education and advocacy community. Understanding that maintaining viral suppression through successful anti-retroviral therapy not only maintains health but also prevents transmission can encourage people living with HIV to initiate and adhere to treatment regimens and may help reduce HIV-related stigma. We acknowledge, however, that social and structural barriers exist that prevent some people living with HIV from achieving viral suppression.
Outdated HIV criminalization laws and policies in the U.S. do not reflect the current science related to HIV transmission risks. Scientific evidence about the reality of transmission risk based in this data about viral suppression and transmission risk has already had an impact on HIV criminalization statutes and prosecutions in Europe.
Therefore, AIDS United recommends:

  • That providers and educators consistently share the message that new evidence demonstrates that a person living with HIV who has a sustained, undetectable viral load cannot sexually transmit HIV to another person.
  • That the Department of Health and Human Services Anti-retroviral Guidelines Committee examine this issue further and consider updating Guidelines language.
  • That HIV criminal laws and policies in the United States be modernized to reflect the science related to viral suppression and HIV transmission risk.

* POZ News Update 3/14/17 [update@poz.com]

“Berlin Patient” Timothy Brown Celebrates 10 Years of Being Cured of HIV

Timothy Ray Brown—formerly known as the “Berlin Patient”—has marked a decade since he was cured of HIV. Brown, who now lives in San Francisco, celebrated the anniversary with a cake during a community workshop in Seattle, site of the 2017 Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI), reports The Bay Area Reporter.

While living in Berlin in 2006, Brown, who was HIV positive and on antiretrovirals at the time, developed leukemia. To combat the blood disease, Brown underwent chemotherapy that killed off his immune cells. In rebuilding Brown’s immune system, his doctor used cells with a CCR5-delta-32 mutation that made them resistant to HIV. After a decade of various tests, Brown remains free of HIV.

“In a way it seems like yesterday, but in a way it feels like a long time ago that I had to take medications every day,” Brown told The Bay Area Reporter. “That is the best part of my cure—not needing to take daily medication and not needing to depend constantly on my doctors for my survival.”

So why is he now taking daily HIV meds again? To prevent acquiring HIV. Because his immune cells are still susceptible to the less common strains of HIV that use the CXCR4 receptors to infect cells, Brown has started taking Truvada as PrEP, or pre-exposure prophylaxis.

“Recovery has taken too long, but I feel great and I am grateful for everything,” Brown told the newspaper. “I still hang on to the hope that everyone living with HIV will be cured in my lifetime.”

Wayne and Mr. Brown at the 2015 United States Conference on AIDS in Washington D.C.

 

Samaritan Ministry and OraSure Test 140 at Local RAM Clinic in Knoxville

Samaritan Ministry teamed up with OraSure Technologies to provide HIV and Hepatitis C (HCV) testing at a Remote Area Medical Clinic in Knoxville, Tennessee on a Saturday and Sunday in February. This testing effort is a collaboration between RAM, Samaritan Ministry, Helen Ross McNabb Center, and OraSure Technologies. OraSure produces the CLIA waived rapid tests for HIV and Hepatitis C antibodies, and is our partner in all of our community testing efforts.

Many people live in fear of sickness and injury because they have little or no access to basic medical care. RAM responds to this need by providing free dental, vision, and medical care to isolated, impoverished, or underserved communities. We are grateful to be able to be a part of this local clinic in Knoxville and are hoping to work toward a long-term partnership with Remote Area Medical. Learn more about this great organization at http://www.ramusa.org.

We tested about 14% of the 1000 that were served at the clinic over the two days; 68 were tested for HCV (several positive results) and 74 were tested for HIV (zero positive results). This is a great educational opportunity for all of those who step forward to be tested.