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See Reviews of NAESM’s 2016 National African American MSM Leadership Conference on HIV/AIDS and other Health Disparities, by Executive Director, Minister Robert Newells, Linkage Coordinator, George Mizrahi Jackson and Community Outreach Specialist and Pharmaceutical Training Liason, Camryn Crump of APEB, at  APEB Blog


Sex Positive 101

Camryn Crump 

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Youth amaze me! On behalf of AIDS Project East Bay (APEB), George Mizrahi Jackson and I, Camryn Crump, were given the opportunity to facilitate a Sex Positive 101 class as The G Thought and Cam’s Verbal Vomit at Realm High School in Berkeley, Ca.
Like every adult, I was curious how we would be perceived by our sexually diverse younger Black and Latino Brothers and Sisters.


As two young Black Gay Men, being judged is always a thought in the forefront of our mind, especially when the audience is mostly made up of heterosexuals. It is like coming out of the closet all over again. In the end the students and participants thoroughly enjoyed our presentation, activities, discussion and authenticity. We left with them begging to have us back next month.

We taught 5 different classes throughout the course of the day, each one 50 minutes. Our presentation consisted of HIV prevention, both contraceptive and biomedical. We also discussed Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) and how they are treated, along with substance use and utilizing the harm reduction model for high-risk negatives. Using pictures, scenarios, and interactive games with incentives, George and I were able to engage the youth and enrich them with much needed information. According to the Pre and Post tests taken by the participants, we were able to increase their knowledge and efficacy around HIV prevention, STIs, and contraceptives by 70%.

We enjoyed all of the youth that participated in the Sex Positive 101 class at Realm High, and Ms. Molly, the Public Health Teacher for having us. We are looking forward to teaching more classes at Realm High and will release the schedule for these classes on the APEB website.

“It was wonderful seeing my students engage and partake in curriculum that is important and be excited about it.The safe space that George and Camryn provide and set as a standard helps bring a lot out of the youth .”
-Ms. Molly, Public Health Instructor, Realm High

Young Men With Detectable Viral Loads Are More Likely to Engage in Risky Behavior


Untitled design (13)A new study on HIV-positive men and transgender women who have sex with men reported that participants with detectable viral loads were more likely to have anal sex without condoms than those who were virally suppressed, and that condom use was closely related to substance abuse.

The study conducted by researchers at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health examined a group of 991 participants, age 15 to 26, at 20 adolescent HIV clinics across the United States from 2009 to 2012. Of this group, nearly half (46 percent) reported having condomless anal sex within the past three months. Among those who had detectable viral loads, a full 44 percent reported condomless sex, a significant percentage higher than those who were virally suppressed but had condomless sex (which was only 25 percent).

But the study showed more than just a possible correlation between risky behavior and viral suppression. The reserachers also analyzed the group on psychosocial factors. For example, according to Patrick A. Wilson, an assistant professor of Socioeconomic Sciences who led the study, among the young men with detectable viral loads, those with substance abuse problems were more likely to report condomless anal sex. Wilson said that there was a co-occurance with substance abuse problems and motivation to use condoms.

Economics also played a role, as those who fell into a low income category had lower rates of viral suppression.

“While many of these young men are engaged in care, and success stories are many, we still have work to do to reduce the rate of new infections,” said Wilson. “We must remain engaged in finding new behavioral approaches for those young men who have yet to seek HIV testing, antiretroviral treatment, and adhere to viral suppression activities.”

About half of the study participants were prescribed antiretroviral medications and linked to care, but the study showed that this strategy was not enough.

“To truly curb HIV among this group, we cannot solely rely on one strategy,” said Wilson. “These findings speak to the need for targeting substance use and mental health concerns — factors related to viral suppression and sexual risk taking.”

Read more at: http://www.hivplusmag.com/sex-dating/2016/1/04/young-men-detectable-viral-loads-more-likely-engage-risky-behavior

PrEP Blog and Insight

PrEP and Trust among Black MSM PrEP

By: Rob Newells

What do you do when the people responsible for implementing PrEP education programs don’t trust the science? What if the outreach workers and HIV test counselors believe they’re required to “push” PrEP at the expense of behavioral interventions that have been the focus of prevention programs for years? These are people in prime positions to provide PrEP education to key populations, but suggesting that otherwise healthy clients start a daily medication for prevention is a tough pill for some front-line staff to swallow.

I am a black MSM. I serve at a community-based organization where a large percentage of both the clients and employees are black MSM. One of the known barriers to PrEP implementation among black MSM is medical mistrust. Those barriers don’t just exist among clients; they also exist among members of the HIV workforce tasked with increasing PrEP awareness in their communities. If members of the HIV workforce don’t trust the medical establishment or clinical research or pharmaceutical companies or government agencies, how do we expect them to provide unbiased information about PrEP to the people who need it most?

With all of the good work HIV prevention research advocates have done educating the public about PrEP, there has been more than enough misinformation disseminated about PrEP to create and encourage lingering doubt in the minds of those who are already mistrustful of the medicalization of HIV and the perceived influence of pharmaceutical companies on the HIV prevention agenda. After the 2015 National HIV Prevention Conference in Atlanta, I listened to staff members who had attended as they reported back to staff that stayed behind:

  • “There are lots of things we still don’t know.” (Never mind that we know HIV incidence in our Black MSM community is an overall 32%, surpassing rates in many populations in sub-Saharan Africa.)
  • “We need more information.” (Never mind clinical trials and real-world evidence showing that PrEP is safe and effective and therefore FDA-approved and WHO-recommended.)
  • “There are still questions about the long-term effects of the drug.” (Never mind that we have more than a decade of experience of Truvada in people who are HIV positive.)
  • “People who take PrEP stop using condoms, and STI rates are increasing.” (Never mind the fact that STI rates started increasing before most people had even heard of PrEP. Furthermore, CDC PrEP protocol recommends STI screening, and treatment if necessary, every three months.)

So what do we do when the people responsible for implementing PrEP education programs don’t trust the science?

If I could talk to all of the PrEP-hater educators, I’d tell them that I wish Truvada had been available for HIV prevention when I was treated for syphilis in 2003. It took several months to get to a syphilis diagnosis because I was treated for a skin rash and gout and had a sigmoidoscopy (an invasive large-intestine probe) before the doctor even ordered an HIV test. (This was before rapid testing was widely available, so I had to think about all of my risky behaviors for a couple of weeks before I got the call that the test was negative.) It was the only time I had ever been worried about HIV infection. It took a while longer before the doctor ordered an STI screening, discovered the syphilis, and ordered the appropriate treatment.

After dodging that bullet, I would have jumped at the chance to protect myself from HIV infection by taking a pill every day. I was in my early thirties; I was a personal fitness trainer in Washington, DC with a good day job; and I had a fairly active sex life. Sometimes I used condoms. Sometimes I didn’t. I had never had any concerns before, but that syphilis scared the hell out of me. It didn’t scare me after I found out what it was because syphilis is totally treatable. It scared me when I thought that I might have been infected with HIV. (It didn’t, however, scare me enough to make me increase my condom use to 100% consistently and correctly.) If a pill a day could take the worry of HIV infection from me, I would have been all for it. I wouldn’t have been concerned about long-term side effects or toxicities. I was concerned about living.

If Truvada had been available as PrEP when I tested positive for syphilis in 2003, I probably wouldn’t have tested positive for HIV in 2005. The silver lining is that PrEP is available now. There are black MSM now – who like me then – would jump at the chance to protect themselves from HIV infection by taking one pill every day during their season of risk if they could have accurate, unbiased information about PrEP.

So, to all of the people responsible for implementing and educating communities about PrEP who don’t like PrEP, I say, “It’s not about you.” Your questions have been asked and answered. PrEP works (and is safe and effective) when it is taken according to the prescribing guidelines. Don’t let your personal or professional biases and misinformation become a barrier to key populations like black MSM accessing an HIV prevention option that might be right for them. PrEP is not appropriate for everybody, but everybody needs to know about PrEP. Get out of the way.

Rob Newells is the newly appointed Executive Director of AIDS Project of the East Bay; he is minister and founder of the the HIV program at Imani Community Church in Oakland and is a PxROAR member since 2012. 

Happy New Year

20160125_113939Minister Rob Newells 

On the road to success, the rule is to always look ahead. APEB, which became Alameda County’s first AIDS organization when it was established in 1983 as a program of the Pacific Center for Human Growth, has a history of success thanks to supporters like you. Your donations help save lives every day.

We are entering the New Year with new energy, new focus, and a new Medical Director. Internal Medicine and Infectious Disease specialist Dr. Donna DeFreitas comes to APEB with a vision for improving practice efficiency and patient care. A limited number of appointments with Dr. DeFreitas are available now, and clinic hours of operation will increase gradually over the next few months. Please help us ensure the clinic’s sustainability by making a donation right now.

Remember that open enrollment for 2016 health insurance coverage through Covered California ends on January 31, but Medi-Cal enrollment is year-round!

As we look ahead to a bright future for The Wellness Center primary care clinic, APEB continues to focus on providing support to some of the most vulnerable and marginalized individuals in Alameda County with new programs for youth and transgender clients (YouthLink and Project Transcend) and expanded programs for individuals impacted by incarceration (substance use counseling and primary medical care). We can’t do it without you.

From the reception desk to the Executive Director’s office, 2015 brought a number of impactful changes to APEB. What has not changed is our dedication to preventing the spread of HIV and supporting people living with HIV in Alameda County by providing high quality professional services. Your gifts help strengthen our ability to do just that. Thank you for your continued support of APEB.

Peace & Blessings,


Minister Rob


APEB begins a new chapter: A word from our Executive Director

Dr. Miriam Y. Vega 

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I love the end of the year as I get to read the various top ten lists; everything ranging fromtop music of the year to top word of the year. Did you know that the top word of the 2015 year is an emoji representing “Tears of Joy”?  I could veer into the philosophical and wonder how a symbol came to be the word of the year, but I will not digress.  Although, I leave you with that as food for thought.
 I want to take this brief space to reflect, say thanks and say goodbye.
December 10th will be my last day at APEB as its Executive Director. I will be moving on to a CEO position in Los Angeles and although I will be moving 360 miles south, APEB will not be far from my heart and mind as I continue on as a Board Member. My time at APEB, while short, has been filled with opportunities and interesting challenges both small and large. It is no secret that I had to hit the ground running in order to refocus, restructure, and reenergize the agency, so that it could be sustainable while meeting its mission.  While changes are often hard for staff, partners and community members, APEB has been engaged (and will continue to be) in deep, transformative change.  During my tenure, we cut the APEB deficit in half, brought on three new programs, established new community business partnerships (e.g. The Oakland A’s), and laid the foundation for our new evaluation and development division.  APEB is carving a path forward, working with partners and collaborators that agree on the principles of serving the most marginalized.
Working in non-profits, and in the HIV field specifically, can be difficult on an emotional and physical level. We are confronted on a daily basis with fear, anxiety, hunger, homelessness, and the profound needs of the heart, body, and mind. Because of this, I thank my colleagues in the field for all that they do. I also thank the APEB staff for giving it their all. Overall, I thank those that everyday keep the mission in their hearts and rise above the inevitable politics.  We are making great strides in this field, but stigma remains one of our biggest challenges. We won’t overcome such a challenge if we don’t work together on deeper levels.
Keep striving, because together we can get work towards a true safety net for those that keep falling through the cracks in society.
I wish you well and a wonderful new year filled with hope, joy, laughter, and exciting new paths forward.
‘Till the next time’

Watch: DeRay McKesson at GLAAD


Last weekend, Black Lives Matter activist DeRay Mckesson spoke to an audience of GLAAD supporters and advocates in San Francisco and educated them on the complexities of being black and gay – something we know all too well. While his speech was just under six minutes, he received several rounds of applause as he shared his truth of being a black gay man in today’s society – not to mention an adorable buddy moment before his talk, when Empire’s Jussie Smollett ran onstage for a quick embrace.

Watch the full speech here:

– See more at: http://www.musedmagonline.com/2015/11/watch-deray-mckessons-powerful-speech-glaad-gala/#sthash.TAPLpYtK.dpuf

WATCH: DeRay Mckesson’s Powerful Speech At GLAAD Gala