AIDS Library

HIV/AIDS and Aging



Thursday, September 18th is National HIV/AIDS and Aging Awareness Day



In honor of National HIV/AIDS and Aging Awareness Day I have put together a comprehensive list of resources available on the web about HIV and Aging. If you are in the Philadelphia area, join the LGBT Elder Initiative for the event listed below.

Gettin’ Older with HIV
Date: Saturday, September 20, 2014
Time: 10am – 12:30pm
Location” 330 S. 13th Street, Philadelphia, PA (St. Luke & The Epiphany)
Details: a free community workshop to update people living with HIV/AIDS, caregivers and service providers about the unique issues facing LGBT people with HIV/AIDS as they get older

In the AIDS Library

Materials focusing primarily on aging

  • Aging with HIV: A Gay Man’s Guide, by James Masten
  • Aging with HIV: Psychological, Social, and Health Issues, by Janice E. Nichols et al
  • What People Over 50 Need to Know About HIV and AIDS, by the PA Department of Health – a pamphlet, available in both English and Spanish
  • The New Ourselves, Growing Older: Women Aging with Knowledge and Power,  by Doress-Worters and Paula Brown – part of the Our Bodies, Ourselves series
  • Nutrition in Aging, by Eleanor D. Schlenker

Materials with sections focusing on aging:

  • The Alternative Health & Medicine Encyclopedia, by James E. Marti – with a chapter called “Aging”
  • Doctor, What Should I Eat?, by Isadore Rosenfeld, M.D. – with a section called “Aging: No One Lives Forever – But It’s Worth a Try”
  • Extended Health Care At Home: A Complete and Practical Guide, by Evelyn M. Baulch – with a section “Care for the Elderly”
  • The Gay Men’s Wellness Guide, by Robert E. Penn – with chapters called “Older Gay Men,” and “Aging”
  • Natural Family Doctor: The Comprehensive Self-Help Guide to Health and Natural Medicine, by Dr. Andrew Stanway et al – with a section of “The later years” and “Death and bereavement”
  • Our Bodies, Ourselves, by the Boston Women’s Health Book Collective – with a sections on “Midlife and Menopause” and “Our Later Years”
  • The Planned Parenthood Women’s Health Encyclopedia, by Planned Parenthood – with an entry on “Aging” and entries on many other issues related to Aging
  • The Women’s Complete Wellness Book, by Debra R. Judelson, M.D., and Diana L. Dell, M.D. – with chapters called “Mature Years: Ages 46 to 64” and “Older Years: Ages 65 and Over”

The Basics

For a brief introduction to this issue, see AIDS InfoNet’s Older People and HIV.

For a longer introduction, see:

For a statistical introductions, see

For a comprehensive patient handout, see the HIV Training and Resource Initiative’s Coming of Age: A Guide to Aging Well With HIV, a 68-page booklet filled with clear explanations of the aspects of medical care and practical advice for staying health.

Specific Issues

For considerations of HIV risk among older folks (and people having sex with them), see:

For safer sex / prevention messages aimed at older adults, especially those at high risk, see:

For more on the way HIV can effect aging, see

For a couple other specific issues around living with HIV in older age, see:

News & Personal Accounts

For news, see

For personal accounts, see

For video personal accounts, see:

  • Aging POZitively – a 35-minute video profiling three older HIV+ adults
  • AARP’s Standing Up to Stigma – an article and 6-minute video profiling a retired doctor who was kicked out of an assisted living facility because of his HIV status
  • The Graying of AIDS – the website of a documentary currently in progress, with dozens of interviews

Info for Providers

For longer introductions about HIV/AIDS and aging aimed at providers:

For clinical research on HIV/AIDS and aging, see:

For an educational video aimed at providers, see the AIDS Education & Training Center’s HIV and Older Adults, a 28-minute video about co-morbities, treatment, psychosocial issues, the importance of testing older adults, and more.

Upcoming Webinars

For upcoming webinars,

ACRIA HIV & Aging Training  
All webinars take place from 1-3pm EST.

Health Promotion for Older Adults Living with HIV (October 22, 2014)

This two hour webinar will provide an overview of how HIV progresses and affects the overall health of older adults. This information will then be related to how service providers can play a role in promoting and helping older adults living with HIV stay linked to care and maintain viral load suppression.
Sexual Health of Older Adults (December 17, 2014)

This two-hour webinar is designed to provide a comprehensive overview of sexual activity among older adults and the need for effective and tailored HIV/STI prevention messages to help improve sexual health. Data on the sexual activity and function of older adults will be provided from a number of sources, including ACRIA’s research with older adults.

Resiliency of Older Adults Living with HIV/AIDS (November, 12, 2014)

This two hour webinar will provide an overview of the different types of resiliency qualities and how their associations with positive healthy behaviors impact the health of older adults living with HIV.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Varying times.

HIV/AIDS, Aging, and Social Service Providers Webinar: Why Should I Care and What Can I Do? (September 16, 2014) 12:00-1pm EST

HIV/AIDS, Aging, and Health Care Providers Webinar: What All Practitioners Should Know (September 17, 2014) 1:00-2:00pm EST

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Hepatitis C Information

In the AIDS Library

These materials are available in the AIDS Library.  Come on down when we’re open and check them out!

  • HCV/HIV Coinfection Information, by the American Liver Foundation
  • Hepatitis & Liver Disease: What You Need to Know (Revised Edition), by Melissa Palmer, M.D.
  • Hepatitis C, The First Year: An Essential Guide for the Newly Diagnosed (2nd Edition), by Cara Bruce and Lisa Montanarelli
  • The Hepatitis C Handbook, by Matthew Dolan
  • HIV, Hepatitis C, and You: A Guide for Coinfected People, by The Body
  • What You Need to Know About HIV/HCV Coinfection, by the National AIDS Treatment Advocacy Project

Info for People Living with Hepatitis C

For the basics, see:

People with further questions can call 877-HELP-4-HEP, a national support line from The Support Partnership (TSP), a collaboration of four national hepatitis C organizations.

For info on HCV treatment

For help paying for treatment, see Project Inform’s list of Patient Assistance Programs.

For specific issues for people living with HCV, see:

For info about HIV/HCV coinfection, see

For HCV info in language other than English, see

  • A enormous amount of info in Spanish, from HCV Advocate
  • Multilingual HIV and Hepatitis C Factsheets, from Multicultural HIV and Hepatitis Service – in Akan, Amharic, Arabic, Bosnian, Burmese, Chinese, Croatian, Greek, French, Indonesian, Italian, Khmer, Korean, Macedonian, Portuguese, Serbian, Spanish, Shona, Somali, Swahili, Tagalog, Thai, Turkish, Vietnamese
  • Foreign Language Publications, also from HCV Advocate, in Bulgarian, Chinese, French, Hmong, Korean, Russian, Spanish, and Somali
  • HCV Info in Urdu, from the Hepatitis Trust in the United Kingdom

For issues around benefits, see A Guide to Hepatitis & Disability, from the Hepatitis C Support Project

For personal stories about HCV, see:

Research, Provider Info, and More

To follow clinical research and other HCV news, see

For statistics, see:

For provider info, see:

For prevention with certain populations, see:

For multimedia, see:

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The Updated Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Spanish HIV/AIDS Website

The updated Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Spanish HIV/AIDS website is now available. Spanish-speaking users may access a wide-array of information including the CDC Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention (DHAP) resources. Users are encouraged to check the website regularly for news and updates, as more fact sheets, consumer Q & As, and other resources become available in Spanish.

Visit the updated CDC Spanish HIV/AIDS website here.

Posted in <a href="" rel="category tag">AIDS Library</a>, <a href="" rel="category tag">Basics of HIV/AIDS</a>, <a href="" rel="category tag">HIV/AIDS Across Languages Cultures and Continents</a>, <a href="" rel="category tag">HIV/AIDS Education Resources</a>

Ongoing Groups at Philadelphia FIGHT

The AIDS Library

of Philadelphia Fight produces a number of handouts and publications that are available to the public. One of our most recently updated publications is the list of Ongoing Groups at Philadelphia FIGHT.

This programming ranges from support groups to educational classes to recreational groups like Yoga or Creative Writing. Many are open to all; some are aimed at specific populations. Some require folks to be HIV-positive; some do not. Some require intake; for some, folks can just drop in.

Please view the Ongoing Groups at Philadelphia FIGHT publication [PDF]

To open the PDF, you need Adobe Reader.
Click here to download Adobe Reader for free.

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Apps & Mobile Sites about Health

Do you use apps on a smartphone or other mobile device? Did you know that there are thousands of great apps and mobile websites to learn about health, from practical tools like medication schedulers to comprehensive resources like the MedlinePlus Mobile site, from calorie counters to Narcotics Anonymous meeting finders to a game called “Catch the Condom”?

The AIDS Library and the Critical Path Project have created a series of guides to spread the word about how many great apps and mobile sites are available to be used by anyone with a mobile device. Below are six guides, each aimed at a different population:

Use these guides to learn more about apps and mobile sites that can help you learn more about health.

In addition, the Critical Path Project is offering a workshop on this issue, APPlify Your Health. Go to their website to learn more and get signed up.

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The New PA Voter ID Law

The information below reflects what was current in the run-up to the election in Fall 2012.  Much of this information is now old, and it is likely to change based on policies and laws implemented before future elections.  We have decided to keep this information here for reference, but please be aware that some of it may be old.  Please contact the AIDS Library if you need assistance.

In the AIDS Library

There’s a special display about this law in the AIDS Library, just to your left when you walk in the door.  You can send folks by any time we’re open to pick up:

  • Know Your Voting Rights: Pennsylvania, by the ACLU of Pennsylvania
  • Need a Photo ID? I Can Help, by the office of State Senator Shirley M. Kitchen
  • Specific Voter ID Issues for Homeless Voters, by the Committee of Seventy
  • Voting Rights of Ex-Felons in Pennsylvania, by the ACLU of Pennsylvania
  • Official voter registration forms
  • Information about the free photo ID that PennDOT will give out, adapted from the PennDOT website
  • Information about obtaining a birth certificate in Pennsylvania adapted from the PA Dept of Health website

Making Sure Your Clients (or You!) Can Vote

The Committee of Seventy has a comprehensive PA Voter ID Law website on this law, including:

The ACLU of Pennsylvania has a Voter ID Law website, which includes:

There are two hotlines to help people with this law:

  • The Voter ID Coalition: 1-866-OUR-VOTE (1-866-687-8683), answered live, Monday – Friday, 9am to 5pm
  • The Department of State’s Voter ID Hotline:1-877-VotesPA (215-868-3772)

For folks without the necessary ID, PennDOT offers instructions for Obtaining a Free PennDOT Secure ID for Voting, as well as list of documents needed to get that ID.

Getting the documents needed to get an ID can be difficult.  Here are the government’s instructions on how to get:

More About Voting

For comprehensive instructions on how to register to vote, see the PA Department of State’s How to Register page.  To confirm that a person is registered to vote, see their Voter Registration Status page.

For folks who’ve been incarcerated, see the ACLU’s Voting Rights of Ex-Felons in PA

The Vote for Homes Coalition is running a free Voter Registration Training with special attention to this new law.  You can sign up here.

Learn More About the Voter ID Law

To learn more about the law and the issues surrounding it, see:

There’s been a lot of news coverage and opinions about the law.  Here are some highlights:

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Free Tax Help in Philadelphia – 2013

Free Tax Help 2013 – Click here to download the AIDS Library’s printable pathfinder to free tax help in Philadelphia, updated for 2013.


Volunteer Income Tax Program – The IRS runs VITA to give free tax-filing assistance to low- and moderate-income individuals and families. See flier attached to this email for a complete list of sites in Philadelphia


  • These sites are not VITA centers. They are places that host VITA volunteers.  Although some VITA sites for 2013 are walk-in only, call the phone numbers (on the flier) before going to any of these locations.  Availability and hours will vary.
  • People must bring the following to VITA appointments:
    • proof of ID
    • Social Security card for you, your spouse and dependents; if not eligible for a Social Security then, Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) assignment letter for you, your spouse and dependents
    • birth dates of all family members
    • all wage and earning statements from employers (W-2, 1099)
    • a copy of last year’s returns if available
    • bank routing numbers and account number for Direct Deposit, such as a blank check
    • total paid for day care provider and the day care provider’s tax identifying number (the provider’s Social Security Number or the provider’s business Employer Identification Number)
    • any other tax information received in the mail

    ***To file taxes electronically on a married filing joint tax return, both spouses must be present to sign the required forms.

To find VITA sites beyond Philadelphia, search here, or call the free hotline: 1-800-906-9887.

Honickman Learning Center – A program of Project H.O.M.E.  For more info about free tax-filing or to schedule an appointment, call 215-235-2900.

The Campaign for Working Families – The CWF website includes a chart of who is eligible for their services. Their website includes a map of their 11 Philadelphia tax prep sites.  Anyone hoping to use this service should call the number of the location (listed at that website) to make an appointment.

American Association of Retired Persons – Folks of low-to-middle income who are 60 or older can get free services through AARP, as part of the Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) program. To locate the nearest site, call 1-888-227-7669, or search for a site online.


The Benefit Bank’s Self-Serve Edition – A free online tax service for anyone who has an Adjusted Gross Income of $60,000 or less, designed to be a self-serve program. – Despite a name that makes it sound like a commercial scam, this is a collaboration of Campaign for Working Families, United Way, and Wal-Mart, to provide free online tax software, as well as additional tax tips.

Paper Tax Forms – all tax forms are available free to download from the IRS’s website.  Here are webpages with:

Order Tax Forms by Phone – You can also call the IRS at 1-800-829-3676 to order forms by US mail. Individuals can order up to 10 forms (or other IRS publications).

Disability and Non-English Speakers – The Philadelphia Revenue Department also offers large print bills, Braille bills, audio cassettes and foreign language telephone interpreter services for folks doing taxes.  To request these, call 215-686-6600.


Earned Income Tax Credit – An webpage about EITC, which helps people who work but make low salaries reduce their tax payment or get a refund. Also see EITC and Disability webpage.

Taxpayer Rights – An webpage about rights regarding taxes, including various publications and factsheets.  A few highlights of the page that may be of use to our clients (or us):

Identity Theft – The IRS also offers an Identity Theft Hotline at 1-800-908-4490 for anyone who believes:

  • That their tax records are currently affected by identity theft and that they have not been able to resolve the matter
  • They may be at risk of identity theft due to a lost/stolen purse or wallet, questionable credit card activity or credit report also has a webpage with additional information regarding Identity Theft and Your Tax Records.

Plain Talk Tax Guide – a 13-page guide from the Philadelphia Revenue Department.  This page also has videos that offer tax assistance, though they focus mostly on business taxes.

Posted in <a href="" rel="category tag">AIDS Library</a>, <a href="" rel="category tag">Free Tax Help in Philadelphia</a>

The International AIDS Conference 2012 & AIDS Activism

Information about The International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2012)

Webcasts of the many conference sessions will be available to watch online (not available until the sessions take place) via the Kaiser Family Foundation’s AIDS 2012 page.

The AIDS 2012 Website has lots of info including:

The International AIDS Society, which organized the conference, has proposed The Washington D.C. Declaration to “turn the tide” against the epidemic, which you can read and sign.

For Science News Coverage from AIDS 2012, see NAM AIDSmap’s AIDS 2012 page, which includes:

For Community Events, see AIDS 2012 Reunion, which lists events from film screenings to dance parties, that aren’t officially part of the conference.

Facebook users can check out the conference’s Facebook page.

Twitter users can follow updates at:

There are many Youth Organizations with web presences about AIDS 2012, including:

Many people have published Opinions & Commentary about AIDS 2012.  Here are a few that may be of interest:

On July 24th, there will be a huge Activist Mobilization called We Can End AIDS outside the conference.

AIDS Activist Resources in the AIDS Library

The following books and movies cover the AIDS epidemic from the perspectives of activists and social critics.


  • AIDS and Accusations: Haiti and the Geography of Blame, by Paul Farmer
  • AIDS and the Policy Struggle in the United States, by Patricia D. Siplon
  • AIDS: Cultural Analysis, Cultural Activism, ed. by Douglas Crimp
  • AIDS in the Twenty-First Century: Disease and Globalization, by Tony Barnett and Alan Whiteside
  • The AIDS Pandemic: Complacency, Injustice and Unfulfilled Expectations, by Lawrence O. Gostin
  • Ashamed to Die: Silence, Denial, and the AIDS Epidemic in the South, by Andrew K. Skerrit
  • Body Count: Fixing the Blame for the Global AIDS Catastrophe, by Peter Gill
  • The Boundaries of Blackness: AIDS and the Breakdown of Black Politics, by Cathy J. Cohen
  • Fighting for our Lives: New York’s AIDS Community and the Politics of Disease, by Susan M. Chambre
  • From ACT UP to the WTO: Urban Protest and Community Building in the Era of Globalization, ed. by Benjamin Shepard and Ronald Hayduk
  • Global AIDS Myths and Facts: Tools for Fighting the AIDS Pandemic, by Alexander Irwin, Joyce Millen, and Dorothy Fallows
  • Globalizing AIDS, by Cindy Patton
  • How to Have Theory in an Epidemic: Cultural Chronicles of AIDS, by Paula A. Treichler
  • Impure Science: AIDS, Activism, and the Politics of Knowledge, by Steven Epstein
  • Infections and Inequalities, by Paul Farmer
  • Inventing AIDS, by Cindy Patton
  • Moving Mountains: The Race to Treat Global AIDS, by Anne-Christine d’Adesky
  • Not in My Family: AIDS in the African-American Community, ed. by Gil L. Robertson IV
  • Pathologies of Power: Health, Human Rights, and the New War on the Poor, by Paul Farmer
  • Policing Public Sex, ed. by Dangerous Bedfellows
  • Righteous Dopefiends, by Philippe Bourgois and Jeff Schonberg
  • The Tragedy of Today’s Gays, by Larry Kramer
  • Sexual Ecology: AIDS and the Destiny of Gay Men, by Gabriel Rotello
  • Stitching a Revolution: The Making of an Activist, by Cleve Jones
  • We Make Change: Community Organizers Talk About What They Do – and Why, by Kristin Layng Szakos & Joe Szakos
  • When Bodies Remember: Experiences and Politics of AIDS in South Africa, by Didier Fassin
  • Will to Live: AIDS Therapies and the Politics of Survival, by João Biehl
  • Women, AIDS & Activism, by the ACT UP New York Women and AIDS Book Group
  • Women, Families, and HIV/AIDS: A Sociological Perspective on the Epidemic in America, by Carole Campbell


  • Pills Profits Protest: Chronicle of the Global AIDS Movement, directed by Anne-Christine D’Adensky, Shanti Avirgan, and Ann T. Rosetti
  • Sex in an Epidemic, directed by Jean Carlomusto
  • Voices from the Front, directed by Sandra Elgear, Robyn Hutt, and David Meieran [note: In-house Reference copy. This item does not circulate]

The History of AIDS Activism

There is no one history of AIDS activism.  For some tellings of the history, see

For many more personal accounts, see’s collection of HIV/AIDS Activist Profiles & Personal Accounts, and their collection of HIV/AIDS Activist Obituaries.

For further research, ACT UP New York has a bibliography of books and articles on the AIDS activism at their Research Info page.

For more information can on the history of AIDS activism in Philadelphia, see:

AIDS Activism Now

For news about AIDS activism, see’s webpage, HIV/AIDS Activism News.

There are many organizations that do activist work around the HIV/AIDS epidemic.  To learn about their actions, join them, or support their causes, see the contact information at their websites:

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The 2011 Discharge Planning Manual

Announcing The 2011 Discharge Planning Manual (DPM).  You may have seen copies at the Prison Summit during AIDS Education Month.  The DPM was created to supplement the AIDS Library’s ongoing prisoner correspondence program.  We reply to letters from prisoners with questions about HIV/AIDS, other health issues, reentry resources, and more.  Last year we answered 747 letters!  If you know someone incarcerated, please put them in touch with us and we can mail them vital information.

A note about who the DPM is for: The DPM contains general advice on reentry and specific resources for individuals coming out of prison to Philadelphia and the surrounding area.  It also contains an introduction to HIV/AIDS, tips for HIV-positive people being released from prison, and a medical summary form intended to help HIV-positive people maintain consistent care during their reentry.  As  such, the ideal audience for the DPM is an HIV-positive person returning to Philadelphia, but it contains content that would be of use to someone who is HIV-negative and returning to Philadelphia, or something who is HIV-positive and returning elsewhere.

Below you’ll see how to get a copy of the DPM, a list of prison & reentry resources available in the AIDS Library, a collection of links to the web presences of Philadelphia reentry organizations, and a variety of web resources around reentry.  If you have any questions about the information here, or about anything else, let me know.

How to Get the 2011 Discharge Planning Manual

The DPM can be accessed at The Discharge Planning Manual page of the Library’s website.  You can open it up and print it. Please also check out the Library’s Publications page to access our Resource Guide and other Library publications.

If you would like a DPM in booklet form, they are available in the AIDS Library or at FIGHT’s reentry program, the Institute for Community Justice.  We can mail a copy to anyone who requests one, as well as answer questions about discharge planning to the best of our ability.  Please contact the AIDS Library by phone (215-985-4851) or email ( to request a copy.

Prison & Reentry Resources in the AIDS Library

The following materials are available in the AIDS Library.  Come check us out!  (See our hours.)

  • Putting the Bars Behind You: Instructor’s Resource Manual – by Ronald C. Mendlin & Marc Polonsky
  • Networking & Interviewing for Jobs (from the Putting the Bars Behind You series) – by Ronald C. Mendlin & Marc Polonsky
  • But They All Come Back: Facing the Challenges of Prisoner Reentry – by Jeremy Travis
  • When Prisoners Come Home: Parole and Prisoner Reentry – by Joan Persilia
  • The Job-Loss Recovery Guide: A Proven Program for Getting Back to Work Fast! – by Lynn Joseph
  • Best Resumes & Letters for Ex-Offenders – by Wendy S. Enelow and Ronald L. Krannich
  • Job Hunting Tips for People with Hot and Not-So-Hot Backgrounds: 150 Smart Tips That Can Change Your Life – by Ron and Caryl Krannich
  • Resume, Application, and Letter Tips for People with Hot and Not-So-Hot Backgrounds: 185 Tips for Landing the Perfect Job – by Ron and Caryl Krannich
  • Reentry Today: Programs, Problems, and Solutions – by the American Correctional Institution
  • Behind Bars: Surviving Prison – by Jeffrey Ian Ross & Stephen C. Richards
  • Celling America’s Soul: Torture and Transformation in Our Prisons and Why We Should Care – by Judith Trustone
  • The Dhamma Brothers: East Meets West in the Deep South – a film about “an overcrowded maximum-security prison in Alabama, dramatically changed by the influence of an ancient meditation program”

Reentry in Philadelphia

The DPM covers all major reentry service providers in Philadelphia in more detail than I’ll go in to in this email.  For quick reference, though, here are the websites of some useful organizations.  More information, programming, and contact info can be found at each website.

In previous Reference Librarian blog posts I’ve covered two topics central to reentry.  Take a look at them for much more info on Job Training and Recovery (including how to get in to Drug & Alcohol Recovery programs).

And for the resources and info about a third important reentry piece, check out the AIDS Library’s Housing Guide.

Online Resources on Reentry

Some of these resources are aimed at the people being released.  Some are aimed at those creating programs for those people.  Some could be used by both populations.

The National H.I.R.E. Network has a website with a lot of information, including:

The National Institute of Corrections collects a lot of useful publications on its Offender Employment webpage, including:

Public/Private Ventures has a webpage of Reentry Publications that can be downloaded freely online, including:

The Legal Action Center has a lot of great content including:

The U.S. Department of Justice Reentry website has:

The Council of State Governments Justice Center Reentry Policy Council website has:

The National Reentry Resource Center has:

  • Information about the 2008 Second Chance Act
  • Collections of popular and scholarly articles, broken down by Reentry Topic, including Employment, Housing, Substance Abuse, Juveniles, and more

The Urban Institute has a webpage collecting some Reentry Research papers, including a report on Partnering With Jails to Improve Reentry: A Guidebook for Community-Based Organizations

The PBS series Frontline has a documentary called The Released that can be watched online.  It focuses on reentry and the cycle of recidivism among people with mental illnesses.

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How Risky Is It?

This installment of my reference series is narrower in scope than recent installments like Discharge Planning and Reentry, HIV/AIDS Education, and Trangender Resources.  But it deals with a tricky line of question that the AIDS Library sometimes gets: “How likely is [some behavior] to transmit HIV?”

This question is tricky for a few reasons.  First, people often ask for a percentage of risk for some sexual act, but in reality a number like that can’t be calculated (and anyway the risk is defined by more than just the specific act).  Second, we want to encourage caution in the face of HIV, but we don’t want HIV-negative folks to fear HIV-positive folks.  Third, we know that the safest choice is usually total abstinence from risky behavior, but if we believe in harm reduction we want to give individuals answers that “meet them where they’re at,” not answers that preach things that won’t work for everyone.  As a result of all these issues we have the potential for confusion and mixed messages when many clients just want to hear “yes, that’s risky” or “no, that isn’t risky.”

So the information below collects resources to help craft good answers to these how-risky-is-it questions.

Explaining Why Risk Statistics Aren’t Precise

As with so many topics, AIDS Info Net gives a clearly written introduction, How Risky Is It?, which includes a section explaining “What the Numbers Mean,” explaining that “these calculations only give a general idea of risk.”

Go Ask Alice, the Columbia Health Services excellent health Q&A site has a good response to someone Confused About HIV Transmission Statistics, which does a good job of explaining why transmission statistics are imprecise, what some of the factors that make a single sexual act more or less risky, and that the virus doesn’t “jump over to the other side” as soon as it gets a chance.

For those more interested in academic epidemiology, the University of California San Francisco’s HIV InSite hosted an interesting roundtable discussion on The Risk of HIV Infection Through Receptive Oral Sex, with full transcript online.  In addition to covering receptive oral sex risk, the researchers discuss the many challenges (even more than I listed above!) to quantifying infection risk.

Estimates of Risk by Behavior

HIV InSite has a page listing Safer-Sex Methods, sorted by No-Risk, Extremely Low-Risk, Low-Risk, and High-Risk Practices.

HIV Insite also publishes, in somewhat technical language, the HIV Risks Associated with Specific Sexual Practices, broken down to:

HIV InSite also fully footnotes the studies and research that their text is based on, for those who want to go deeper in to the research about risk behavior.

For a wider range of behaviors, The Body archives the questions it answers about HIV Risks From The Body’s “Ask the Experts” Forums, and break the questions down by topics:

Specific Risk Issues

STIs – The likelihood of HIV transmission is increased by the presence of other sexually transmitted infections.  The CDC has a webpage, The Role of STD Detection and Treatment in HIV Prevention, which explains this.  The page also includes a link to All Their STD Fact Sheets.

Condoms – Some questions about possible risk turn out to be questions about condoms effectiveness.  Here are some sources of information about this issue:

Antiretroviral Therapy – If an HIV-positive person is in treatment, they are less likely to be able to transmit the virus to someone else. This may of particular interest to people in serodiscordant relationships (where one person is positive and the other negative).  A few resources on this topic:

Circumcision – Male circumcision significantly reduces the risk of HIV acquisition by men during penile-vaginal sex.

Unknown HIV Status – The CDC estimates that 21% of HIV-positive people aren’t aware of their infection (others have put this number even higher).  That CDC report is very technical, however, so try this NPR story for a clear explanation of the 21% statistic.

Injection Drug Use – Sharing needles is a major method of transmitting HIV, but by definition no statistics exist for just how risky any individual injection is.  Here are a few useful resources on IDU risk:


Risk Non-Issues – For the people who want to know how risky it is to play contact sports or get bitten by mosquitoes, refer to the CDC’s HIV Transmission page and AIDS InfoNet’s HIV Myths & Misunderstandings page, which give nice clear NOs to some questions that still come up after all these years.

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