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Why COVID-19 must be included in safer sex messaging on college campuses

Schools have not adequately educated students about the increased risks of virus transmission when it comes to being sexually intimate.

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Little information is available to college students on stopping the spread of COVID-19 within an intimate relationship. DisobeyArt/iStock via Getty Images Plus

With college students back on campus, and COVID-19 with us for the foreseeable future, it has become increasingly clear that educators need to develop a new definition of safer sex.

Although the virus is not a sexually transmitted infection, students can spread COVID-19 through droplets and particles, especially when within 6 feet of each other. That includes being intimate.

This is why sex education efforts need to inform students not only about sexually transmitted infections, HIV and unintended pregnancy, but also about ways to reduce COVID-19 transmission risk.

As psychologists and educators at the University of California, Los Angeles, who design interventions to promote the health and well-being of college students, we are aware of the work that has gone into reopening campuses during the pandemic. But despite all the effort, some critical health needs of those students have been entirely overlooked.

A group of college students on campus.
Much can be done to reduce COVID-19 risk for sexually active students. Ariel Skelley/DigitalVision via Getty Images

The CDC missed a chance

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention produced a lengthy document, last updated in November 2021, about college campuses and COVID-19 transmission. The document offers suggestions on how to stop the spread of the virus in all kinds of scenarios, from communal eating to sporting events. But stunningly, we could not find a word about the potential for spreading COVID-19 within an intimate relationship.

This is particularly disturbing when one considers that college students could use some expert advice. Their decision-making skills are not fully developed, and many college-age students are impulsive.

Pleasurable and perhaps risky behaviors often win out over possible long-term negative consequences. Just look at the rates of STIs, HIV and unintended pregnancy: Compared with other age groups, the rates are higher among college students.

Ways to avoid COVID-19

The irony is that there is much to say and to promote about reducing COVID-19 risk for sexually active students.

Here are some evidence-based recommendations: Limit the number of sexual partners. Avoid sexual contact with anyone who has COVID-19 or symptoms. Use condoms and dental dams. Avoid activities involving transmission of fecal-oral material. Wear masks during intimate acts. Avoid kissing.

Also: Wash hands before and after sexual activity. Use clean sex toys. Sanitize areas where sexual activity occurs. Engage in self-pleasure. And understand that those who are not symptomatic can still transmit COVID-19 and some STIs.

Abstinence programs don’t help

Many abstinence programs are based on the premise that abstinence until marriage is the acceptable standard of human sexual behavior.

But research has shown that abstinence programs are ineffective and often lead to increased rates of unintended pregnancy and other high risk behaviors. That’s because they limit discussions of STI prevention and birth control; this effectively withholds information from young people who are in the midst of making crucial decisions about their health and future.

Instead, research shows that programs that provide accurate information in a nonjudgmental way about abstinence, contraception and STI prevention work better, particularly if they also promote communication, decision-making and negotiation skills.

These same programs could also add information about preventing the spread of COVID-19 while sexually intimate.

A young woman on her bed is looking at her smartphone.
By accessing COVID-19 test results via smartphone, students can easily share them with their intimate partners. martin-dim/E! via Getty Images

How schools can help

Instead of ignoring the issue, university administrators should make sure students have the tools they need to avoid both COVID-19 and STIs.

For example, with just their smartphones, students can easily schedule COVID-19 tests, get the results and then share them with those they are intimate with. The same can be done with STI, HIV and pregnancy results.

Sharing those results with respect for confidentiality requires widespread promotional campaigns to normalize this new behavior. Schools or campus-based student organizations could ignite a trend on Twitter with a simple but memorable slogan. Here’s one we suggest: “Show me yours and I’ll show you mine.” That’s one of many Twitter-friendly lines that would encourage students to exchange electronic health records.

Some campuses already have vending machines that contain free COVID-19 self-test kits. Results are sent to students electronically. At UCLA, the self-test kits are placed near sexual health vending machines, which are stocked with condoms, lubricant, emergency contraception and other reproductive and sexual aids.

Learning to interact again

Communication between students is critical, particularly when sharing intimate information. But after 18 months away from campus because of COVID-19, some have experienced serious social and emotional impacts. For many, peer-to-peer communication skills have declined. This awkwardness makes it particularly difficult when discussing sensitive subjects.

Again, the school can help. One way is to offer students breakout sessions in small groups. This could be done in-class or as extracurricular assignments. Either approach gives socially anxious students – or those recovering from COVID-19 isolation – the outlet they need to interact in person with others.

How parents can help

Young people have been bombarded with sexual misinformation from both peers and media. But studies show that intergenerational communication about sexual activity can reduce risky sexual behaviors. And while sexual health education is effective at reducing unwanted outcomes, it’s enhanced when parents are involved.

With the widespread impact of COVID-19, now is a great time to bring parents into the conversation. But they are often an underutilized resource. Many haven’t had sexual health education themselves, they may not know what’s appropriate to share with their children and they may simply be uncomfortable with sex topics.

We are still in a time of considerable ambiguity, mistrust and confusion. That applies to both COVID-19 and sexual health. But there is one certainty: Young people need responsible adult guidance to secure a healthy future. And the sooner the better. In the grip of a pandemic, their lives may depend on it.

Tamra Burns Loeb receives funding from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health.

Gail Wyatt, Phd works at University of California, Los Angeles(UCLA). She receives funding from National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health, Cal Wellness Foundation, and Gilead Pharmaceutical Sciences.

Michele R. Cooley-Strickland is the co-principal investigator of a grant with pending funding from the Eisner Foundation at UCLA. The title of the grant is "Plan A: Intergeneration STI, HIV, and Pregnancy Prevention – ‘Sex, Cookies, & COVID’.”

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Spread & Containment

Moderna’s HIV vaccine prepped for trials in Africa

Moderna has joined forces with non-profit organisation IAVI on a third phase 1 trial of its candidate HIV
The post Moderna’s HIV vaccine prepped for…

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Moderna has joined forces with non-profit organisation IAVI on a third phase 1 trial of its candidate HIV vaccine in Africa, where the burden of the virus is still being keenly felt.

IAVI (the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative) has started screening subjects to be included in the study, called IAVI G003, at centres in Rwanda and South Africa, said the biotech.

Moderna’s vaccines deliver HIV-specific antigens discovered by researchers at IAVI and Scripps Research that have already been tested in a proof-of-concept study carried out last year using an adjuvant protein vaccine approach.

There are hopes that its mRNA approach, which proved so effective against COVID-19, could succeed where traditional vaccine technologies have failed in HIV.

One candidate – mRNA-1644 – has already shown its potential in an earlier phase 1 trial (IAVI G001) run in the US. It codes for an antigen called eOD-GT8 60mer and, in the study, stimulated a targeted B-cell immune response in 97% of vaccine recipients.

Moderna says that B-cell activation should lead to the induction of broadly neutralising antibodies (bnAbs), widely considered to be a goal of an efficacious HIV vaccine, but that immunising with eOD-GT8 60mer alone will almost certainly not be sufficient.

The biotech is looking at a combination regimen of vaccines targeting different HIV immunogens such as Core-g28v2 60mer to try to boost the immune response further against HIV and improve the protective efficacy.

Earlier this year, the first healthy volunteers were dosed with mRNA-1644 in a second phase 1 trial (IAVI G002), which is being funded in part by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and is being carried out in US populations.

IAVI G003 will enrol 18 healthy HIV-negative adult volunteers who will receive two doses of the eOD-GT8 60mer mRNA shot. They will be followed for six months to gauge the safety and immunogenicity of the vaccine.

Moderna said the trial is a “first-in-Africa” study, evaluating an mRNA-delivered HIV immunogen in Africa with African researchers leading the project.

Despite more than 30 years of research, the tendency of the virus to mutate means that classical approaches to vaccine design have been ineffective, and at least four prior vaccine candidates have failed in clinical trials.

In February, one of the front-runner candidates in the decades-long quest to find an HIV vaccine – Johnson & Johnson – reported that its candidate failed a phase 2b trial.

The Ad26.Mos4.HIV vaccine – which uses the same adenoviral technology as J&J’s COVID-19 vaccine and targets four HIV antigens – showed that the shot was safe but unable to meet its target of reducing transmission of HIV by 50%.

And last year, the HVTN 702 study of two co-administered HIV candidate vaccines from Sanofi Pasteur and GlaxoSmithKline, combined with GSK’s adjuvant MF59, was also discontinued due to a lack of efficacy.

The post Moderna’s HIV vaccine prepped for trials in Africa appeared first on .

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Government

Report: Pfizer, NIH Discussing Study of Longer Paxlovid Dosing Regimen

With increasing concerns about COVID-19 reinfection, Pfizer and the National Institutes of Health are discussing potential studies regarding a longer treatment…

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Report: Pfizer, NIH Discussing Study of Longer Paxlovid Dosing Regimen

With increasing concerns about COVID-19 reinfection, Pfizer and the National Institutes of Health are discussing potential studies regarding a longer treatment period with the antiviral medication, Paxlovid.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and scientific adviser to the White House, said the plan for the new studies could come over the next few days, Reuters reported this afternoon. During a White House briefing on COVID-19, Fauci pointed out that the rising cases of COVID-19 driven by an Omicron sub-variant are increasing the use of Pfizer’s Paxlovid. So far, more than 660,000 courses of Paxlovid have been administered across the U.S., Reuters said.

However, there is a growing concern that some patients are not shaking the virus as quickly as expected following a treatment regimen of the antiviral. Some continue to experience symptoms, or see a recurrence of their COVID-19 symptoms, following treatment with Paxlovid, Reuters said. Currently, there is no clear indication on the number of patients who are experiencing such a recurrence, or whether or not it is due to the variant type of COVID-19. But, the numbers appear to be enough to warrant such a conversation between America’s top infectious disease expert and Pfizer.

Paxlovid was granted Emergency Use Authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in December. It was granted EUA for the treatment of high-risk adults and pediatric patients 12 years and older who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and are at serious risk of hospitalization. A combination of nirmatrelvir and ritonavir tablets, during clinical trials, Paxlovid significantly reduced the risk of hospitalization or death by 89% compared to placebo in non-hospitalized, high-risk adults with COVID-19 within three days of symptom-onset. However, even then, there were cases of a recurrence of symptoms in some clinical trial patients.

Pfizer Chief Executive Officer Albert Bourla has suggested that those patients who experience a recurrence of symptoms should undergo a second round of treatment with Paxlovid. As BioSpace previously reported, Bourla said if symptoms reoccur, “then you give a second course, like you do with antibiotics, and that’s it.”

However, the FDA has balked at that suggestion. Dr. John Farley, director of the FDA’s Office of Infectious Diseases, argued that there is no evidence of benefit for a longer course of treatment, such as 10 days instead of the current five days of administration, or a second five-day round of treatment.

Mark Van Scyoc/Shutterstock

While Pfizer may undertake these additional studies, as BioSpace reported earlier Wednesday, the pharma giant has so far reportedly resisted requests to use Paxlovid in combination studies. The nonprofit Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative said that Pfizer rejected a January request to offer doses of Paxlovid to be used in a study alongside an inhaled steroid in Africa.

Also Wednesday, Indianapolis-based Eli Lilly said studies have confirmed that bebtelovimab, the company’s monoclonal antibody against COVID-19, is effective against all variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, including BA.2, which is currently the dominant strain in the U.S., Seeking Alpha reported.

 

BioSpace source:

https://www.biospace.com/article/pfizer-nih-in-talks-to-begin-study-of-longer-paxlovid-dosing-regimen

 

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Government

Missouri Bill Prevents Doctors Being Disciplined If They Prescribe Ivermectin Or Hydroxychloroquine

Missouri Bill Prevents Doctors Being Disciplined If They Prescribe Ivermectin Or Hydroxychloroquine

Authored by Naveen Athrappully via The…

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Missouri Bill Prevents Doctors Being Disciplined If They Prescribe Ivermectin Or Hydroxychloroquine

Authored by Naveen Athrappully via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours),

Missouri lawmakers passed legislation that prevents state licensing boards from disciplining doctors who prescribe ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine.

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson signs a bill in Jefferson City, Mo., on May 24, 2019. (Summer Balentine/AP Photo)

Sponsored by Rep. Brenda Kay Shields (R-Mo.), HB 2149 also bars pharmacists from questioning doctors or disputing patients regarding the usage of such drugs and their efficacy.

With a convincing 130–4 vote in the House, HB 2149 passed both chambers on May 12 and currently heads to the office of Gov. Mike Parson to be potentially signed into law.

The board shall not deny, revoke, or suspend, or otherwise take any disciplinary action against, a certificate of registration or authority, permit, or license required by this chapter for any person due to the lawful dispensing, distributing, or selling of ivermectin tablets or hydroxychloroquine sulfate tablets for human use in accordance with prescriber directions,” reads the draft of the bill (pdf).

It adds, “A pharmacist shall not contact the prescribing physician or the patient to dispute the efficacy of ivermectin tablets or hydroxychloroquine sulfate tablets for human use unless the physician or patient inquires of the pharmacist about the efficacy of ivermectin tablets or hydroxychloroquine sulfate tablets.”

Critics of the bill have noted that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not given approval for usage of the drugs. Ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine have been divisive drugs and politically polarized throughout the pandemic.

“But, nevertheless, the Missouri legislature has chosen to ‘own the libs’ by issuing a gag order against every pharmacist in this state from offering their medical opinion on taking either one of those medications—even if it could kill their patient,” wrote former Democratic nominee Lindsey Simmons in a May 12 Twitter post.

Although 22 countries across the world have approved the use of ivermectin in treating COVID-19, the FDA maintains that the current data show the drug to be ineffective. Large doses can be dangerous, it says.

A recent study published in the International Journal of Infectious Diseases analyzed a national federated database of adults that compared ivermectin with the FDA-approved COVID-19 medication, remdesivir.

After using propensity score matching and adjusting for potential confounders, ivermectin was associated with reduced mortality vs remdesivir,” researchers wrote. “To our knowledge, this is the largest association study of patients with COVID-19, mortality, and ivermectin.”

According to The Associated Press, Missouri state Rep. Patty Lewis, a Democrat, agreed to the bill to satisfy a group of conservatives in the Senate. She added that the bill will not change anything significantly as medical boards do not engage in punishing doctors who prescribe drugs legally.

Tyler Durden Wed, 05/18/2022 - 23:25

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