This column is an on-going health series from Dr. James Simmons. He will offer useful news and tools that will help empower LGBTQ+ readers to make informed choices about their health.
COVID-19. Wait, don’t click away. This will be mostly painless. Well, not painless. Just like a little poke. Like the poke in your arm from the bivalent booster that each of you should get as soon as possible.
The new bivalent booster will cover you against the COVID-19 variant omicron and some of its sub-variants. The previous versions of the vaccines, or boosters that were administered earlier this year, do not protect you nearly as well against omicron, especially after 6 months.
You’ve probably heard headlines about a “nightmare variant” and several other sub variants of omicron that might elude our immune protection from prior infection or the vaccine, or both.
Those headlines seem too click-baity to me. I’m not about fear tactics. I am a realist.
There’s still so much we don’t know about these new variants.
So far, they don’t seem to be making people any more sick or killing any more people than the original omicron. But rates of cases and hospitalizations are on the rise in Europe, which has historically proven to be a precursor for what we will experience in the U.S.
Remember the first time around with omicron? It was less about omicron being a more lethal strain and more about the sheer volume of people that omicron made sick. And even with a less lethal variant, we ended up with record numbers of hospitalizations and deaths.
This scenario could play out again this winter with the emergence of new omicron sub-variants. The truth is that we just don’t fully know what to expect with these new variants. But we do know that we need all the tools and resources we can get to avoid what could be kind of a nasty winter.
Here’s what you can do to protect yourself and your loved ones:
1.) Get the bivalent booster. Your previous vaccines aren’t going to cut it against these new omicron variants.
2.) Mask up again in public. Preferably with N95 or KN95s. This will absolutely help protect you against all the respiratory madness this winter.
3.) Stay home if you are sick. This should be a GIVEN, but honestly, we have these antiquated notions of honorability about working hard through our illnesses when really all that gets us is sub-par productivity and getting everyone else sick. If you are sick, stay home.
4.) Ventilation is key. Keep doing things outside if possible, but if you are inside make sure that your ventilation is on point. Crank up those high quality air filters, open windows with fans blowing out, demand your workplace update their ventilation, etc.
5.) Get your flu shot. I’m not arguing with ya’ll about it. It’s what I recommend. Get it. It’s not perfect, but it really can help lessen the severity of the flu when you catch it.
HIV awareness for Latinx gay men
Hey y’all. National Latinx HIV and AIDS Awareness Day was Oct. 15, but this awareness is more than once a year.
Why am I steady on these HIV awareness days? Well, because we still need to be.
In the last year that we had really robust data, 2019, more than 36,000 new HIV diagnoses were reported, and the Latinx community accounted for 29% of those.
That is way, way, way disproportionate, right? The group with the second highest amount of diagnoses where Hispanic or Latinx men who have sex with men.
This is a big deal because, remember, I talk about U=U all the time. Undetectable equals untransmittable. If you’re HIV positive, your viral load is undetectable. you cannot transmit HIV to someone who is HIV negative.
If you’re HIV negative, you can be on PrEP, which is a pill or a shot, when taken is directed, that is between 95 and 99% effective at preventing the transmission of HIV through sexual contact.
Those two tools together mean we’re not transmitting HIV anymore, so we should be having zero new diagnoses, right?
But many people don’t know about these options, which is why we talk about it, and listen, it all begins with testing.
You have to know your status before you can know what you can do about it, right?
Everybody needs to be tested, and if you are sexually active you should test every 3-6 months.
If you’re positive, we can get you into treatment.
If you’re negative, we can get you on PrEP.
It’s that easy.
I always have resources on my website.
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