Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Those Lube Stickers Aren’t Just For Show!

by Mike Wilson
(former IRMA intern, IRMA advocate forever)

 Hello IRMA! It feels like I have not said that greeting in ages. I may not be an intern with the AIDS Foundation of Chicago, but I have certainly not left behind my engagement with (and love of) IRMA and other HIV prevention organizations.

Since leaving the IRMA internship I have been working as a Youth Advocate for a teen center in the greater Chicago area. While I will honestly attest to the fact that working with the teens at the center and local community has been a rewarding experience, it has not come without its fair share of awkwardness - most notably the “pearl clutching” that occurs when people ask me what I did before working at the teen center.

And to be fair, it hasn’t all been “pearl clutching.” The community in this area is absolutely fantastic, I have been surprised time and time again at how committed this community is to its teens and families. And as my husband and I move to upstate New York, we can only hope that we find ourselves in a community as dedicated to the concept of community. Particularly among the teens there has been a surprising interest in discussing HIV prevention methods - so hopefully the seeds of future activism are being planted.

Along with this surprising interest, there has been confusion and silence as I get the feeling that many of the teens (and members of the community) are ignorant of the HIV/AIDS battle being fought not even a mile away in the city of Chicago. Though the mostly white, fairly wealthy families of this area are privileged enough to not be the face of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Chicago, but within that privilege they often find themselves shut off from understanding how real and close this epidemic is. Perhaps the best way to explain this is by discussing what happened last weekend.

In an effort to get teens involved in volunteer work, our center leads monthly trips into Chicago to a soup kitchen to let the teens learn about experiences other than their own and to learn the importance of community engagement and volunteerism. These trips involve meeting at the center and then piling into the cars of various staff members.

However, this time, as I was closing up the center doors, teens had began to make their way into the parking lot. A group of four teens happened to notice a small blue Neon that has a few (too many) bumper stickers on the back. Interestingly enough, these teens didn’t know that this was my car. As I approached the group to let them in my car, I could hear them laughing and one of them saying “And Lube? And Lube? What the hell?” To which, the group continued to laugh more than I thought someone could at the concept of lubricant.

Not sure how to proceed I walked through the group and unlocked the car. There was this awkward pause as the teens looked at me, in shock that they were making fun of bumper stickers on a car that they didn’t know was mine. I opened my door to get in and the teens still stood, seeming hesitant. To which I just said, “well lube matters” and quickly followed that with “ok, now come on. We’re going to be late”. And they hurried into the car.

Even with the radio on, there was an awkward silence in the car. The teens were clearly worried that I may have been upset and I was attempting to figure out how to best explain that I wasn’t upset with them, but still reinforce some message about GLAM (Global Lube Access Mobilization) and the “And Lube” campaign.

Suddenly, the silence was broken. “So, uh, Mike... yeah... we weren’t making fun of your car. It’s just, having a sticker about lube isn’t something you see everyday”.

To which I laughed a bit. “Oh please, I wouldn’t care if you made fun of this car. I’m a grad student, of course my car isn’t wonderful.”

To which a teen perked up in his seat. “So what? Do the stickers hold the car together?” The teens laughed, I couldn’t help but join in a bit.

“More or less,” I responded. “And really guys, don’t worry about it.”

“So I have to ask, what does ‘And Lube’ mean?”

“Well, the ‘And Lube’ campaign is exactly what it sounds like. It’s about advocating for proper lubricant along with condoms in the fight against HIV/AIDS.”

“Why would you need that?”

“Well, as I’m sure you’ve discussed in health classes. Condoms can break, or slip, or tear. And that can make them problematic for HIV/AIDS prevention. Having proper lubricant along with condoms helps prevent those issues and thus helps to prevent new HIV infections.”

And then the most wonderful reply came: “makes sense.”

There were many ways that I could have handled this situation. My first instinct, honestly, was to just say something along the lines of “lube access isn’t funny,” but I didn’t want to come across as overly judgmental. And in all honesty, before I worked with IRMA, I don’t think I would have thought any differently than this group of teens that I already know are well-engaged.

Yes, this situation may have been awkward at first. But it was a great opportunity to explore that awkwardness and get in some activism. It is surprising how much a sticker can get someone talking and it is even more surprising to see someone engage with that humor and to then be reminded that activism is about education and engagement after all.



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*Join IRMA's robust, highly-active. moderated, global listserv addressing rectal microbicide research and advocacy as well as other interesting new HIV prevention technologies by contacting us at rectalmicro@gmail.com. Joining our listserv automatically makes you a member of IRMA - a network of more than 1,200 advocates, scientists, policy makers and funders from all over the world.

*Please look for us on Facebook: www.facebook.com/InternationalRectalMicrobicideAdvocates, and you can follow us on Twitter: @rectalmicro.

*Also, please note that shared news items from other sources posted on this blog do not necessarily mean IRMA has taken any position on the article's content.

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Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Advocates Applaud Launch of MTN-017, World’s First Phase II Rectal Microbicide Study

[IRMA press release]
 
Trial Design Significantly Enhanced By Strong Community Input

October 2, 2013 – IRMA applauds the launch of the world’s first-ever Phase II rectal microbicide trial. The Microbicide Trial Network’s study, called MTN-017, will test a reduced glycerin formulation of tenofovir gel applied rectally. Volunteers consisting of gay men, other men who have sex with men, and transgender women will participate in the study at sites in the United States and in Thailand, South Africa, and Peru.

“Today feels like every holiday imaginable rolled into one,” said Jim Pickett, chair of International Rectal Microbicide Advocates (IRMA.) “The launch of the MTN-017 study is a milestone long in the making and marks a giant leap forward in the development of safe, effective, acceptable, and accessible products that could be used to prevent HIV during anal intercourse.”

IRMA is pleased to have participated in an intensive community input process with the Microbicide Trials Network that included in-person consultations with advocates and key stakeholders in Thailand, South Africa, Peru and the United States. “The dreams and desires of many men, women, and transgender individuals the world over can be heard loud and clear in the design of the MTN-017 trial. This deep collaboration between scientists and community members is key to the success of this trial and to the rectal microbicide field in general,” said Pickett.

When microbicides were first imagined, they were “vagina-centric.” While many embraced the notion of creating vaginal products women could control, the majority of the HIV/AIDS community— scientists and advocates alike— dismissed the possibility of developing rectal microbicides for use during anal intercourse as an HIV prevention method. It was not considered feasible and the pursuit was seen as hopeless, even laughable. At best, the rectal microbicide field would consist of testing vaginal microbicides for rectal safety, because these products would undoubtedly end up in the rectum despite their intended destination.

IRMA thanks the visionary scientists, advocates and funders like the U.S. National Institutes of Health who bucked prevailing “wisdom” and have remained steadfast in their commitment to developing new HIV prevention methods for use during anal intercourse.

“I feel like we are taking two giant leaps forward today. One in the fight against HIV, and the other in the fight against ignorance and small thinking,” said Pickett.

# # # #

International Rectal Microbicide Advocates (IRMA) is a global network, housed at AIDS Foundation of Chicago, comprised of more than 1,200 advocates, scientists, policy makers and funders focused on rectal microbicide research and advocacy and related issues such as access to safe, condom-compatible lubricants.

Learn more about the MTN-017 study here.

Watch this video “The Rectal Revolution is Here: An introduction to rectal microbicide clinical trials” in English, Spanish, or Thai.

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*Join IRMA's robust, highly-active. moderated, global listserv addressing rectal microbicide research and advocacy as well as other interesting new HIV prevention technologies by contacting us at rectalmicro@gmail.com. Joining our listserv automatically makes you a member of IRMA - a network of more than 1,100 advocates, scientists, policy makers and funders from all over the world.

*Please look for us on Facebook: www.facebook.com/InternationalRectalMicrobicideAdvocates, and you can follow us on Twitter: @rectalmicro.

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Sunday, September 8, 2013

Sept 10 at #USCA2013 - Everything You Need to Know About #Anal Health

This Tuesday, September 10 at the United States Conference on AIDS in New Orleans join IRMA and friends from 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. for this fun workshop on anal health and rectal microbicide research and advocacy.

Session 5: Imperial 9, Level 4. See ya there - show your rectal pride!


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 *Join IRMA's robust, highly-active. moderated, global listserv addressing rectal microbicide research and advocacy as well as other interesting new HIV prevention technologies by contacting us at rectalmicro@gmail.com. Joining our listserv automatically makes you a member of IRMA - a network of more than 1,200 advocates, scientists, policy makers and funders from all over the world.

*Please look for us on Facebook: www.facebook.com/InternationalRectalMicrobicideAdvocates, and you can follow us on Twitter: @rectalmicro.

 *Also, please note that shared news items from other sources posted on this blog do not necessarily mean IRMA has taken any position on the article's content.

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Monday, July 15, 2013

Adherence to rectal microbicide use among mainly ethnic minority young MSM: lessons from a 3-month placebo gel trial at three US sites [IAS 2013]

Oral paper presented by Alex Carballo-Diéguez at IAS 2013.

 

Abstract:

Background: Adherence to product use is the cornerstone of microbicide studies. This is the first study to assess how frequently mainly ethnic minority MSM, ages 18-30, with a history of unprotected receptive anal intercourse (RAI) in the prior year, would self-administer gel using a rectal-specific applicator prior to RAI in their everyday lives.

Methods: Recruitment took place in Boston, MA; Pittsburgh, PA, and San Juan, PR. Participants received 40 applicators prefilled with 4mL of hydroxyethylcellulose placebo gel that they could use over 12 weeks. They were asked to self-administer a dose within 90 minutes prior to RAI and report RAI and gel use at least weekly through an interactive voice response system (IVRS). At week 12, they responded to a Computer Assisted Self Interview (CASI) and underwent an in-depth interview. Participants were repeatedly counseled that the study focused on product adherence and that the gel would not protect against HIV.

Results: 124 MSM were enrolled (Mean age 23.1; 41% White, 40% Latino, 8% African American, 11% mixed/other). 95 participants completed the trial (18 were lost to follow up and 11 withdrew). Based on the IVRS, (n=94, 1 missing data), 88 participants had RAI (Median 10 occasions) using gel on 81.1% of occasions (SD 23.3, range 0-100). Based on CASI, (n=86, 9 refused to answer RAI question) 83 participants had RAI (Median 12 occasions) using gel on 81.7% of occasions (SD 26.7; 0-100). Based on CASI, 69% of men typically applied gel immediately before RAI; 40 inconsistent users gave as reasons not having gel with them (85%), forgetting to use it (48%), not wanting to use it (13%), partner refusal (10%) and gel messiness (10%).

Conclusions: Ethnically diverse young MSM with a history of unprotected RAI showed high adherence to gel use. Adherence to product use could potentially be enhanced by improving portability, facilitating the development of routines to counteract forgetfulness, and improving motivation and partner negotiation skills. Participant retention was challenging and needs further study. Two different self-report methods provided convergent results. Limitation: A product of known efficacy could have different uptake than the placebo used in this study.


Click for slides.

 
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*Join IRMA's robust, highly-active. moderated, global listserv addressing rectal microbicide research and advocacy as well as other interesting new HIV prevention technologies by contacting us at rectalmicro@gmail.com. Joining our listserv automatically makes you a member of IRMA - a network of more than 1,200 advocates, scientists, policy makers and funders from all over the world.

*Please look for us on Facebook: www.facebook.com/InternationalRectalMicrobicideAdvocates, and you can follow us on Twitter: @rectalmicro.

*Also, please note that shared news items from other sources posted on this blog do not necessarily mean IRMA has taken any position on the article's content.

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Thursday, July 11, 2013

Meet Octavio Vallejo, A Friendly Rectal Microbicide Advocate

Check out this interesting mini-bio of  Octavio Vallejo, the latest in IRMA's "Meet a Friendly Rectal Microbicide Advocate" series on the IRMA website here.  Octavio is one of five new bios posted this week.


Octavio Vallejo
Los Angeles, California, USA

Octavio Vallejo has been working in the HIV prevention field for more than 22 years. As an HIV+ gay Latino man, Octavio has long recognized the need for additional methods of protection for young gay men and other men who have sex with men. His involvement with rectal microbicides came through his interactions with scientists such as Dr. Ian McGowan and Dr. Ross Cranston. Their passion for this issue was contagious and soon Octavio became involved with IRMA's active body of passionate researchers and advocates.


Octavio was drawn to IRMA by its spirit of inclusion and the resolve, resilience, and passion shown by the advocates connected with IRMA. He works for the Capacity Building Assistance program at AIDS Project Los Angeles as a Biomedical Prevention Specialist. This role have given Octavio more opportunities to share evidence-based information to all parties interested in changing the course of the HIV epidemic and educate them about the new generation of prevention tools and approaches.

Currently, Octavio and his fellow staff members are in the process of creating the platform to bring microbicide advocacy to the forefront of all their trainings, educational endeavors and prevention discussions.

Thank you Octavio for your continued dedication to HIV/AIDS prevention advocacy! 

------------------- *Join IRMA's robust, highly-active. moderated, global listserv addressing rectal microbicide research and advocacy as well as other interesting new HIV prevention technologies by contacting us at rectalmicro@gmail.com. Joining our listserv automatically makes you a member of IRMA - a network of more than 1,100 advocates, scientists, policy makers and funders from all over the world.

*Please look for us on Facebook: www.facebook.com/InternationalRectalMicrobicideAdvocates, and you can follow us on Twitter: @rectalmicro.

*Also, please note that shared news items from other sources posted on this blog do not necessarily mean IRMA has taken any position on the article's content. -------------------
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