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HIV/AIDS orgs respond to Obama’s HIV/AIDS Strategy

Following release of National HIV/AIDS Strategy

By Antoine Craigwell

(Wednesday, July 14, 2010) – Paul Kawata, executive director of the National Minority AIDS Council, posted on the social networking site, Facebook, a letter signed by 180 national and community organizations at the forefront of the fight against HIV and AIDS. This letter was in response to the announcement and release of the National HIV/AIDS Strategy (NHAS) yesterday.

The text of the letter below:

Honorable Barack H. Obama
President, United States Of America
The White House
Washington, DC

Dear President Obama,

On behalf of the180 national and community based organizations (see list below) on the front lines of this epidemic, thank you for your leadership and commitment to fight the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Each of us stands here in the footprints of so many heroes we’ve lost to HIV/AIDS. Our friends who fought so hard in the early days could probably never imagine a President holding a reception at the White House to honor the HIV/AIDS community. Most would have loved to be part of this event. We miss them and will never forget the sacrifices they made so that we can be here today.

In the first 18 months of your administration the travel ban on those living with HIV was removed, restrictions on the use of federal funds to support needle exchange were removed, the Ryan White Care Act was reauthorized, and $30.4 Million was set aside as part of the Prevention and Wellness Fund for HIV/AIDS Prevention. However, we’ve also had our challenges in ensuring adequate funding for PEPFAR and other international HIV/AIDS initiatives.

As you implement the National HIV/AIDS Strategy (NHAS), we ask that the first thing you address is the AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP) funding crisis. We appreciate the $25 million to see us through September 30, 2010. We are concerned that is not a long-term solution and will only get us through a limited period. As of Jul 8, 2010, 2,291 individuals are on waiting lists. This number does not include individuals in states that don’t keep waiting lists, have significantly reduced the drug formulary, or have significantly changed the income eligibility levels. On Jul 1, Georgia became the 12th state to close enrollment and start a waiting list. Ohio changed its income eligibility levels so that more then 1,000 HIV/AIDS patients will lose their benefits. New Jersey also changed its income eligibility levels so that 947 HIV/AIDS patients will lose their benefits. Without an immediate solution, other states will follow.

As you consider solutions, please make it [funding for ADAP] multi-year funding through 2014, support states that don’t keep waiting lists but have closed enrollment or that are on the brink of a waiting list, ensure that all the necessary drugs are covered, and [the] integration of a permanent solution into health care reform.

We look forward to the reviewing the National HIV/AIDS Strategy and the opportunity to work with your administration to ensure its implementation across the country. Thank you for your support and leadership.

Sincerely,

2 God B The Glory, Inc     A Brave New Day     A Family Affair

ACT UP Philadelphia     Action for a Better Community    Advocates For Youth

African American Hispanic Health Education Resource Center

AID For AIDS Nevada      AIDS Alabama

AIDS Alliance for Children, Youth & Families

AIDS Care Services, Inc.   AIDS Community Research Initiative of America

AIDS Foundation of Chicago    AIDS/HIV Services Group (ASG)

The AIDS LIFE Campaign   AIDS Resource Center of Wisconsin

AIDS Project of Central Iowa     AIDS Resources of Rural Texas

AIDS Treatment Activists Coalition (ATAC)      Albany Damien Center

Amanda Beck-Myers     Ananias      Anxiety Disorders Association of America

Asian Media Access     Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum

Asian & Pacific Islander Coalition on HIV/AIDS

Asian & Pacific Islander Wellness Center

Aspirations Wholistic Tutorial Services     Baton Rouge AIDS Society

Bienestar Human Services    Black AIDS Institute

The Black Women’s Health Imperative     Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS

Paul Browne       CAEAR Coalition      CALOR

Camden NJ Area Health Education Center (AHEC)

Camillus Health Concern, Inc.    CARES     CareSouth Carolina

Cascade AIDS Project        Central City AIDS Network, Inc.

Central Illinois FRIENDS of People with AIDS

CenterLink: The Community of LGBT Centers

William H. Chastang Consumer Advocate/Outreach Coordinator

Christie’s Place, Inc.        Citywide Project/Citywide Ministries

Coai, Inc.       Community Access National Network

Community HIV/AIDS Mobilization Project (CHAMP)

Community Information Center, Inc.        Comprehensive Health Education

Connecticut AIDS Resource Coalition         DeKalb Prevention Alliance, Inc

Desert AIDS Project         Gregory W. Edwards, EdD

Eternal Hope Community Development Corporation, Inc.

Family Heath & AIDS Care Services International     Family Health Project

Family Planning Association of Puerto Rico        F.L.A.S., INC.

Fort Worth Northside Community Health Center, Inc.

Greater Love Tabernacle    Gregory House Programs    GROUP Ministries, Inc.

Harlem United Community AIDS Center      Harmony House, Inc.

Hawaii Island HIV/AIDS Foundation     Hermanas de Luna y Sol    HEROES

HIV/AIDS Alliance for Region Two, Inc.

HIV/AIDS Services for African Americans in Alaska    HIV-AIDS UETS

HIV Care Program       HIVictorious, Inc.

HIV Planning Council Santa Clara County      Housing Works

Illinois Alliance for Sound AIDS Policy       Iris House

Johns Hopkins Local Performance Site

PA/MidAtlantic AIDS Education and Training Center

Monica Johnson, NMAC Board Member

Lambda Legal     Lark Lands, M.S., Ph.D.       H.O.P.E.

The LaStraw, Inc.      Latino Commission on AIDS

Latino Community Services

Helen Lemay, Distinguished Teaching Professor Emerita, Stony Brook University

Liberty Research Group

Don Little, MPH, Former Chair of the Oklahoma Native American AIDS Coalition

The Living Room     LMPHW Specialty Clinic

Love Heals, the Alison Gertz Foundation for AIDS Education

Lower East Side Harm Reduction Center

Kentucky HIV/AIDS Advocacy Action Group

Michigan Positive Action Coalition (MI-POZ)

Minnesota AIDS Project

Minority AIDS Council of Orangeburg, Bamberg, and Calhoun Council, Inc.

Missoula AIDS Council             M OCHA Center Inc.

Multicultural AIDS Coalition, Inc.       he NAMES Project/AIDS Memorial Quilt

Native Health             National African American Drug Policy Coalition, Inc.

National AIDS Fund         National AIDS Housing Coalition

National Association of People with AIDS

National Association of Social Workers

National Latino AIDS Action Network          National Minority AIDS Council

National Native American AIDS Prevention Center

NCLR/CSULB Center for Latino Community Health, Evaluation and Leadership Training

New Jersey Women and AIDS Network        New Destiny Recovery Ministry

New York AIDS Coalition          New York City AIDS Housing Network

Nightsweats & T-cells, Co          North Carolina Harm Reduction Coalition

Oklahoma City Indian Clinic         One Heartland       One Love Project

Open Door Clinic        Leonardo Ortega, NMAC Board Member

David G. Ostrow, MD, PhD              Partnership Project

Choyce Perkinds, Advocate For AAHHERC           Positive Efforts, Inc

Project Aware at Stanley Street Treatment & Resources

PROCEED, Inc.      Project HANDLE, Neighborhood House         Project Lazarus

Project Link of South Florida, Inc.       Proyecto SOL Filadelfia

Puerto Rico Community Network for Clinical Research on AIDS (PR CoNCRA)

Andre Weatherby Rawls     Recovery 2000, Inc.       Redemption Outreach Intl

Regional AIDS Project

Genevieve Rohan, FNP-C, AAHIVMS and Tegest Hailu, MD, AAHIVMS, Hailu/Rohan Family Practice

SAYFSM          Vanessa Sasso, Seattle HIV/AIDS Planning Council

Shanti

S.H.A.P.E. (Stop HIV/AIDS and Addiction through Prevention and Education)

Carlton R. Smith, Baltimore Black Pride, Inc. Founder, Churches United Against AIDS; Board chair

South Carolina Campaign to End AIDS (SC-C2EA)

South Central Educational Development, Inc.   South Jersey AIDS Alliance

South LA Access Center        Southern AIDS Coalition (SAC)

Southwest Louisiana AHEC         Stanley Street Treatment & Resources

Street Works       St. Luke AME Church/ Treat Me Right Inc.

Suburban HIV/AIDS Consortium (SHAC)

TACTS-THE Association of Clinical Trials Services

Tampa-Hillsborough Action Plan           C. Taylor

Ti-chee Native AIDS Prevention Project          Rose Todd-Stanford

Total Health Awareness Team            Treat Me Right Inc.

Treatment Access Expansion Project          Treatment Action Group

Two Spirit Society of Denver            U Can Do It 2!

Evelyn Ullah, NMAC Board Member            Us Helping Us

Valley AIDS Information Network Inc.

Vermont CARES        VillageCare

Volunteers of America Greater Baton Rouge

West County Health Centers, Inc.             Who’s Positive          Willis Center

The Women’s Collective      Women’s Health Center

Women Together For Change           Women Watch Afrika, Inc

Advertisements

July 14, 2010 Posted by | African-American News, Black Gay Men, Black Gay Men Health, Black Men, Black Men Health, Caribbean, Caribbean Community, community, Elderly LGBT, Health, HIV, HIV Status, LGBT community, LGBT Immigrant rights, LGBT Rights, LGBT Seniors, Male Health, Obama, Politics, Public Health | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Conflicting Sexuality: Exploring sexual abuse in the Internet age

An autobiography with online chat rooms

By Antoine Craigwell

(New York, NY) – Cybersex: The Play, morphed from a 10-year-old seed, as an idea in the mind of Jason Duvall Hunter, to finally growing into and becoming a tree that bloomed and bore fruit with a performance at the New York City Producer’s Club.

At the Producer’s Club, last Saturday night, Jul 10, more than 60 people gathered to share in Hunter’s dream of producing a play. A real estate broker by day and the play’s writer, producer, director, and sound and lighting master, Hunter was finally able to bring to the stage his vision of melding his story with current technology: exploring his sexual abuse as a child with his search for love and affection in Internet chat rooms.

“I’ve thought of this play for over 10 years and with the rise of the Internet and computers, this is also autobiographical where I explore sexual identity and conflict. It’s also an opportunity for me to create this using my own life experience as a template,” Hunter said.

CyberSex: The Play is an adult rated play, which describes in graphic detail the sexual escapades that people engage in online chat rooms. It features a cast and crew of 13, and consists of people of different racial backgrounds, who, according to Hunter, were chosen from an open casting call and is intended as a reflection of diversity in society.

The play, with Harmonica Sunbeam as the Online Host, began with introductions into Internet Chat Rooms by the character “YouMe69n” (a handle used by several of the characters), played and with dance sequences choreographed by FranCisco Vegas – in drag, Michael Smith, Oscar Salazar, Nick Dorvill, and DJ Baker as “Shine2Fine”. Using different chat room handles, the characters include “Boy1683n” played by Delvon Johnson, “ShavedFratboy” played by Yvette Quintero, “Kenny1744n” played by Tristan Sample, “Tyboy1215n” by Nemian Quaid, and “LindaSue49n” by Unique Mills. The play devolves into the story of David, played by Alton Alburo, dressed simply in a black T-shirt and pants, who interleaves into the play a monologue describing his seduction and rape when he was 8-years old by his older cousin.

FranCisco Vegas as "YouMe69n"

It is in Internet chat rooms that David turns to find his sexuality identity, to determine if he is gay, straight, or bisexual. And, it is by entering into the Chat Rooms, in six different scenes, that he encounters people who populate these Internet sites, and are not who they say or claim to be; that in fact, many are hiding their true selves behind masks and various costumes with attitudes and behaviors. He realizes that as he searches for meaning in the chat rooms, he is the only one being truthful.

David reveals toward the end that since he was raped, his sexual development has been stunted: although he has participated in several different sexual acts, including having a girlfriend who turned out to be a lesbian, and with many different people, the trauma of the rape has prevented him from ever achieving an orgasm.

A scene from a sex chat room

“I want people to come away from seeing this play with perceptions of themselves, to see in the people they know, the costumes and the masks people wear, and the lies people tell, especially the covers people use as they interact with each other online. This is basically an exploration of sexuality and sexual identity, and is a peeling away of the layers to reveal true selves,” said Hunter.

Sharing in the play’s production, associate producer Nathan James, a writer and advocate for and of the LGBT community, said that working with Hunter and Bill Johnson, the co-director, was a privilege to create a performance that is at once both provocative and groundbreaking.

“It is provocative in that it’s a play that steps outside the boundaries of convention and engages the audience with intriguing concepts regarding our sexual identity and some of our darker life experiences,” James said.

DJ Baker as "Shine2Fine"

Bill Johnson, 14 years as a director, who participated in productions such as “Colored Museum” by George C. Wolf, and “Bus Stop” by William Inge, said that he was glad to have been given the opportunity to give voice to Hunter’s personal story. He said he took the writer’s words to ensure that the story is told through direction, lighting, costumes, and props, which were minimal.

“It’s a good story. Unfortunately, molestation is too much part of life. Too many men have been molested and haven’t dealt with it, and don’t know how to deal with it. This play addresses this issue and I hope it opens some lines of communication,” the co-director said.

Hunter, who has been working on producing the play since January, had a

Alton Alburo as "David"

table reading in February this year and depending on the success of the play, plans to pursue an extended run for about three or four weeks in the Fall at a mid-level theater, such as the Helen Mills Theater or a theater with about 140 seats. His vision for the play’s future is that it would attract sponsors and with a bigger budget go off-Broadway or even ambitiously, to Broadway itself.

July 14, 2010 Posted by | African-American News, Black Gay Men, Black Gay Men Health, Black Men, Black Men Health, Blogroll, Caribbean, Caribbean Community, community, Elderly LGBT, Guyana, Health, HIV, Immigrant rights, Jamaica, LGBT community, LGBT Immigrant rights, LGBT Rights, LGBT Seniors, Male Health, Public Health, Theater | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Christians must oppose all discrimination: Bishop Singh.

(Pastoral letter issued by Bishop Benedict Singh, Bishop of Georgetown, Guyana, on Jan 4, 2001, and reprinted in The Catholic Standard, a publication of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Georgetown Guyana, on Jul 9, 2010; editor Colin Smith.)

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Jesus Christ,

The Constitution of Guyana was amended by parliament on 4th January. One section of the amended Constitution of Guyana prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and marital status. Some Christians are vigorously opposing this element in the amended Constitution on the grounds that it is an “official endorsement and national approval of sexual perversion”.

When dealing with questions that generate strong emotions, we need to be careful and precise with our choice of language. First, we must note that what is at issue here is not discrimination against homosexuality but discrimination against PERSONS who are homosexuals. We need to remind ourselves that as Christians we are called to oppose every kind of discrimination against persons. We are called to reach out to all minorities and especially to those who find themselves in a minority they did not choose…..

Most of us, whether we find ourselves sexually attracted to the opposite sex or our own sex, did not choose one or the other: we simply discovered that is how we are. Homosexual persons are sexually attracted solely to their own gender. There is strong evidence that their orientation is fixed early in life (in many cases before birth), and it is totally outside of their control. Experience has taught us that no therapy or counseling can change it….

As Christians, we are called by the Lord to love our neighbour. They are our brothers and sisters, children with us of the one Father. We do not show them that we regard them as brothers and sisters if we do nothing to remove the discrimination which they undoubtedly suffer.

In society at large – and in our church – there are homosexual men and lesbian women who lead useful and virtuous lives. Many of them show an active concern for justice and for the plight of the needy which is an example to all of us. In the face of the discrimination they encounter, some of them can be described as truly heroic.

Some allege that to outlaw discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is to “open the flood-gates “to all kinds of “corrupt and ungodly sexual practices”. Undoubtedly, if this amendment stands as it is and its effects are worked out, we Christians will have to define and proclaim our beliefs and moral standards with regard to sexuality and we will not fear to do so.

We do believe that God himself is the author of marriage in which a man and a woman “are no longer two but one”. We believe that that act of sexual intercourse is the highest expression of that unity. So we hold that the intimate sexual act may only be exercised between a man and a woman joined in the unbreakable union of marriage. Further, we believe that all Christians are called to actively promote the values of marriage and the
family among people of every race and religion and sexual orientation.
But our support for marriage and the family is not helped by discrimination against any person. It is not sufficient to merely refrain from active discrimination. We have to show others that we love and respect them as
persons. For these reasons, Christians should not oppose the wording of this amendment.

Finally, we should not allow ourselves to react to the attempts of others to bring more justice to our society with fear or irrational emotion. The Spirit of God is with us and he will enable us calmly and serenely to proclaim our faith and that justice which is an integral part of that faith.

Bishop Benedict Singh

July 13, 2010 Posted by | African-American News, Black Gay Men, Black Gay Men Health, Black Men, Black Men Health, Caribbean, Caribbean Community, community, Elderly LGBT, Guyana, Health, HIV, HIV Status, Immigrant rights, Jamaica, LGBT community, LGBT Immigrant rights, LGBT Rights, LGBT Seniors, Male Health, Mental Health, Politics, Public Health | , , , , , | Leave a comment

We should not discriminate against Homosexuals

By Mike James

(Note: this article was extracted from The Catholic Standard, Jul 9, 2010, editor Colin Smith, published by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Georgetown, Guyana.)

A very interesting and often heated debate has developed in Guyana over the past two weeks on the issue of the rights of homosexuals following an impassioned critique by some members of the Inter Religious Organization
of a current film festival sponsored by the Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD) at the Side Walk Cafe in Georgetown and responses by other members of the IRO and members of the wider Guyanese public.
The debate revives the equally contentious issues surrounding the 4 January 2001 Constitutional Amendment approved in Parliament prohibiting discrimination against persons based on their race, age, sex, marital status, religion or sexual orientation.

Following strong lobbying led by some sectors of the religious community that the law would limit the rights of religious groups to discriminate against homosexuals, the President of Guyana declined to sign the amendment into law, and subsequently approved a revised constitutional amendment without sexual orientation being listed as one of the grounds on which discrimination is prohibited in Guyana.

It is notable at the time significant religious bodies, including the Roman Catholic and Anglican churches and other civil society groups publicly registered solid and dispassionate arguments for retaining the prohibition of discrimination on the grounds sexual orientation. It is also notable that the President bowed to the pressure of very vocal and agitated groups claiming the right to vilify and discriminate against homosexuals despite the fact that he himself had been subject a few short years previously to a sustained, disgraceful, uncharitable, obscene and totally unjustified public campaign of insults, mockery and contempt surrounding supposed allegations of his own sexual orientation.

For a good understanding of a Catholic perspective on the current controversy on homosexual rights in Guyana, the publication of the following excerpts from the excellent Pastoral Letter published by Bishop
Benedict Singh on the issue may be helpful. His concerns, ignored by the President and Parliament at the time, remain as valid today as they were then.

July 13, 2010 Posted by | African-American News, Black Gay Men, Black Gay Men Health, Black Men, Black Men Health, Caribbean, Caribbean Community, community, Elderly LGBT, Guyana, Health, HIV, HIV Status, Immigrant rights, LGBT community, LGBT Immigrant rights, LGBT Rights, LGBT Seniors, Male Health, Public Health | , , , , , | Leave a comment

U.S. President announces national HIV/AIDS strategy

By Antoine Craigwell

(Tuesday, July 13, 2010) – Finally, U.S. President Barack Obama announced a National HIV/AIDS Strategy (NHAS) as a way of addressing the rising numbers of people in the U.S. who are HIV positive and living with AIDS.

President Obama meets with Jeffery Crowley, ONAP director.

Announcing the National HIV/AIDS Strategy, coordinated by the Office of National AIDS Policy (ONAP), the president said in a letter, “Thirty years ago, the first cases of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) garnered the world’s attention. Since then, over 575,000 Americans have lost their lives to AIDS and more than 56,000 people in the United States become infected with HIV each year. Currently, there are more than 1.1 million Americans living with HIV. Moreover, almost half of all Americans know someone living with HIV.”

The country is at a crossroads with HIV as a domestic epidemic demanding a renewed commitment, increased public attention, and leadership, the president said. He said he challenged the Office of National AIDS Policy at the start of his administration to develop a national strategy with three goals: reducing the number of people who become infected with HIV; increasing access to care and improving health outcomes for people living with HIV; and, reducing HIV-related health disparities.

“To accomplish these goals, we must undertake a more coordinated national response to the epidemic. The Federal government can’t do this alone, nor should it. Success will require the commitment of governments at all levels, businesses, faith communities, philanthropy, the scientific and medical communities, educational institutions, people living with HIV, and others,” Obama said.

ONAP in its vision statement said: “The United States will become a place where new HIV infections are rare and when they do occur, every person, regardless of age, gender, race/ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity or socio-economic circumstance, will have unfettered access to high quality, life-extending care, free from stigma and discrimination.”

But leaders at the forefront in the fight against AIDS, especially in the Black community, suggest that the Strategy does not go far enough.

Phill Wilson, president and CEO. Black AIDS InstituteIn a press release, Phill Wilson, president and chief executive officer of the Black AIDS Institute, on his organization’s Website  said that the National AIDS Strategy represents a new day in the country’s nearly three-decade-long struggle against AIDS.

“For the first time, we finally have a national plan in place to guide our fight against the epidemic and to hold decision-makers accountable for results,” said Wilson.

Wilson pointed to the hypocrisy in the U.S.  AIDS policy toward other countries, which imposed as a condition to  receive AIDS assistance that they were required to have a national AIDS strategy, but America never had one.

“With no plan in place to mandate coordination between different government agencies or to ensure accountability, it is hardly surprising that we have an HIV/AIDS epidemic 40% worse than previously believed, with 1 in 5 Americans infected with HIV don’t know they have the disease, half or more of people diagnosed with HIV are not receiving regular medical care, and HIV rates in some communities worst than those found in some of the poorest countries on the planet,” Wilson said.

The new strategy provides a promising opportunity for Americans to get real about the shortcomings in its national response to the epidemic, he said. At a time when AIDS deaths are largely preventable, the government has provided only minimal leadership in making knowledge of HIV serostatus an essential social norm in the most heavily affected communities. And even though the face of AIDS in America is typically Black or brown, most people with HIV are forced to seek medical care from health providers who neither look like them nor understand the challenges they face. The new strategy provides a blueprint for changing some of these realities, and it is an opportunity we must energetically grasp, Wilson said in the release.

But, he said that while he praises the president for placing Black America front and center in his national HIV/AIDS strategy, AIDS in America today is a Black disease, which accounts for about 13% of the national population, with Black people making up half of all new HIV diagnoses. The AIDS death rate among Black males is eight times higher than for white males, while Black women are 19 times as likely to die as whites, he said.

Pointing to the limitations of the AIDS Stratefy, Wilson said, “If the new AIDS strategy is to succeed, it has to work for Black people. In reporting results, the Obama administration needs specifically to report outcomes for Black people. Only if prevention and treatment programs work for Black America will we win our national fight against AIDS. Unfortunately, the new strategy does not sufficiently address the issue of resources. Already, we are seeing many AIDS drug assistance programs impose caps or waiting lists for life-saving drugs. There are over 3000 people on ADAP waiting lists. This month, the President authorized a one-time funding increase for ADAP of $25 million, but this amount, while welcome, represents only about 7% of amounts needed this year alone to ensure the program’s continued solvency.

“At a time when we are largely losing the fight to prevent new infections, prevention programs currently account for only 3% of federal AIDS spending. To put available prevention weapons to effective use, experts estimate that annual prevention spending needs to increase from $750 million to $1.3 billion for at least each of the next five years. This new strategy offers a sound, evidence-based approach to better results, but it will be worth little more than the paper it is written on if we don’t follow through with essential resources.

“In difficult economic times, it is often necessary to make painful choices. As a country, though, we need to transition from AIDS “spending” to AIDS “investments.” By investing in cost-effective AIDS programs, we are investing in America’s families and helping young people remain productive contributors to society for future decades.”

Paul Kawata, executive director of the Washington-DC based National Minority AIDS Council (NMAC), in a statement said, “This is a historic time on many fronts. On the one hand, President Obama has made history today by being the first President ever to create a truly national strategy to deal with the HIV/AIDS epidemic. The ideas contained in this plan are aggressive and would certainly go a long way toward combating what continues to be one of our nation’s most troubling public health emergencies.”

Kawata said he purposefully used the word ‘plan’ to demonstrate that without the funds to carry out the president’s ambitious agenda, it significantly short of a strategy.

“The blueprint is most certainly there,” he said. “But now our collective attention must shift to resources.”

He said that while the president can rightly lay claim to a historic and much-needed moment in the HIV/AIDS movement, history continues to be made each day as more people living with HIV/AIDS continue to join the ranks of those waiting to receive life-saving medicines. Tragically, this has become an issue of resources as well—an issue that has become an all-too familiar refrain in the battle against this disease, he added.

“We must look at this plan as a solid first step in achieving our ultimate goal: eradicating HIV/AIDS. Now the conversation must turn to implementation—and how we fund such an audacious goal. To ignore the difficult topic of HIV/AIDS funding would be tantamount to placing the president’s strategy in a shredder,” said Kawata.

But, Jeffery Crowley, ONAP director, in a statement posted on the ONAP Website said, “Today, Secretary Sebelius also announced that $30 million of the Affordable Care Act’s Prevention Fund will be dedicated to the implementation of the NHAS. This funding will support the development of combination prevention interventions. It will also support improved surveillance, expanded, and targeted testing, and other activities.”

Among the many items the Strategy calls for is a three-step process of reducing HIV-related disparities and health inequities, which include reducing HIV-related mortality in communities at high risk for HIV infection, adopting community-level approach to reduce HIV infection in high-risk communities, and reducing stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV.

The Strategy said that regarding the third step of this process, in the earliest days of the HIV epidemic, fear, ignorance, and denial led to harsh, ugly treatment of people living with the disease, and some Americans even called for forced quarantine of all people living with HIV. Although such extreme measures never occurred, the stigma and discrimination faced by people living with HIV was often extremely high. Even today, some people living with HIV still face discrimina­tion in many areas of life including employment, housing, provision of health care services, and access to public accommodations. This undermines efforts to encourage all people to learn their HIV status, and it makes it harder for people to disclose their HIV status to their medical providers, their sex partners, and even clergy, and others from whom they may seek understanding and support.

Time and again, an essential element of what has caused social attitudes to change has been when the public sees and interacts with people who are openly living with HIV. For decades, community organizations have operated speaker’s bureaus where people with HIV go into schools, businesses, and churches to talk about living with HIV. In the 1990s, both major political parties had memorable keynote speakers at their presidential nominating conventions that were living with HIV.

With Americans with Disabilities Act, the Fair Housing Act, the Rehabilitation Act, and other civil rights laws commemorating their 20th anniversary this year, these laws have proven to be vital for the protection of people with disabilities including HIV. The Strategy calls for a greater commitment to civil rights enforcement and that to be free of discrimination based on HIV status is both a human and a civil right, “We know that many people feel shame and embarrassment when they learn their HIV status. And, there is too much social stigma that seeks to assign blame to people who acquire HIV. Encouraging more individuals to disclose their HIV status directly lessens the stigma associated with HIV. As we promote disclosure, however, we must also ensure that we are protecting people who are openly living with HIV.”

Working to end the stigma and discrimination experienced by people living with HIV is a critical compo­nent of curtailing the epidemic, said the Strategy document. People at high risk for HIV cannot be expected to, nor will they seek testing or treatment services if they fear that it would result in adverse consequences of discrimination. HIV stigma has been shown to be a barrier to HIV testing and people living with HIV who experience more stigma have poorer physical and mental health and are more likely to miss doses of their medication. An important step is to ensure that laws and policies support current understanding of best public health practices for preventing and treating HIV.

“While we understand the intent behind such laws, they may not have the desired effect and they may make people less willing to disclose their status by making people feel at even greater risk of discrimination. In some cases, it may be appropriate for legislators to reconsider whether existing laws continue to further the public interest and public health. In many instances, the continued existence and enforcement of these types of laws run counter to scientific evidence about routes of HIV transmission and may undermine the public health goals of promoting HIV screening and treatment,” the Strategy document said.

To reduce stigma and discrimination experienced by people living with HIV, the Strategy document recommends that communities be engaged to affirm support for people living with HIV: Faith communities, businesses, schools, community-based organizations, social gathering sites, and all types of media outlets should take responsibility for affirming nonjudgmental support for people living with HIV and high-risk communities. The promotion of public leadership of people living with HIV: Governments and other institutions (including HIV prevention community planning groups and Ryan White planning councils and consortia) should work with people with AIDS coalitions, HIV services organizations, and other institutions to actively promote public leadership by people living with HIV. The promotion of public health approaches to HIV prevention and care: State legislatures should consider reviewing HIV-specific criminal statutes to ensure that they are consistent with cur­rent knowledge of HIV transmission and support public health approaches to preventing and treating HIV. And, strengthening of enforcement of civil rights laws: The Department of Justice and federal agen­cies must enhance cooperation to facilitate enforcement of federal antidiscrimination laws.

July 13, 2010 Posted by | African-American News, Black Gay Men, Black Gay Men Health, Black Men, Black Men Health, Caribbean, Caribbean Community, community, death, depression, Economy, Elderly LGBT, Health, HIV, HIV Status, LGBT community, LGBT Immigrant rights, LGBT Rights, LGBT Seniors, Male Health, Mental Health, mental illness, Obama, Politics, Public Health | Leave a comment

What Pride Means

(Note: This article reposted from the SASOD YahooGroup. It was  written by a Guyanese who resides in the U.S. The Center refers to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center in New York City.)

Yesterday, in the quiet recesses of the Center, we met as a diverse group of mostly gay and undocumented immigrants to discuss Pride Celebrations. Releasing tension[s] absorbed from the outside world, we all relaxed, and began sharing our stories of coming from societies where no such celebration can occur, and our impressions encountering our first New York City Pride Parade. Some of our stories were of immediate relief, while others like mine, were of initial cynicism and apprehension.

The first time I was exposed to New York City pride, I decided I didn’t want to be that type of gay man. It appeared too celebratory, extravagant and vulgar. The parade didn’t reflect any part of me. I recoiled. Years went by, as I dismissed it it as a vehicle for certain aspects of the gay community that I didn’t identify with.

Now, as part of the Immigrant Social Action Group at the Center, my impression has been drastically changed. The year-long journey that brought me here has been life-altering, as desperation led to self-acceptance. In my case, self-acceptance opened my mind to all forms of diversity in sexual identity and gender identity. A large part of this was due to my presence inside the Center. It has been a wholesome and pleasurable womb for personal rebirth.

The themes of self-acceptance and wider acceptance emerged in our discussion[s] of what gay pride and the parades mean. Through my friends’ stories, I was taught how the celebratory nature of the parades have facilitated many gay immigrants’ acceptance of themselves. Stories were told that delighted me as I sat immersed in the camaraderie. One woman told of her first New York City gay pride, when she tremulously looked on, until a contingent of her fellow countrymen walked by in national wear and invited her into the parade. She jumped in, and immediately experienced a rebirth, and attainment of pride, in her sexual identity.

Another story told, was of a gay man who, newly arrived in the United States, was in San Francisco with a friend. They went to the pride parade, and were taken aback by the sight of gay men and women marching in public dancing and celebrating. It seemed the American Dream; it seemed everything they had come to America for. As they ran along the outside of the parade asking what it was, they were invited onto a Float. Two thin, brown men invited to dance on an all-white float. They melted into the celebration.

A third story came from a man of Caribbean descent who was afraid of being seen in public in the vicinity of the parade. His story reflected mine. After many years of living in fear, he finally broke free. He now marches proudly and openly. Another man, also from the Caribbean, spoke of his initial reluctance because of the pretentious atmosphere of the parade. Yesterday, he too reflected my impression. As he gradually learnt to accept himself, he became comfortable and accepting of others, so that today, he no longer sees the parade as a distortion of gay pride, but a valid celebration, to not only display our presence, but to invite the timid and unsure, and to entice those outside our community into a celebration, with lowered barriers of aversion.

There are still many barriers to be lowered. A significant portion of the intolerance we feel as gay immigrants comes from other settlers from our homelands, and other countries, who have brought bigotry with them. Even within New York City, we live with prejudice because we cannot afford to live elsewhere. It sometimes makes us feel resigned to failure in seeking a better life. This sentiment was shared by many in the room.

Even when those of us who find strength and courage to come out and immerse ourselves in gay-friendly parts of the City, do so, we encounter intolerance. This particular strain of intolerance is very hurtful because it comes from within the LGBT community itself. I personally know that identifying as gay doesn’t automatically lead to full acceptance by other LGBT individuals. At a recent celebration for gay pride, I witnessed racial tension between two individuals. I felt hurt. I went there expecting to see all facets of the LGBT rights movement under one banner regardless of each individual’s other identities. I was hoping to see unwavering acceptance. I was hoping to see public expression of the move beyond self-acceptance to acceptance of others. I came away disappointed, reeling from the reality of bigotry. Even as we ourselves struggle for acceptance, we sometimes fail to push our own insecurities away. I hear gay men mock lesbians and transgendered individuals. I hear macho-acting men berating effeminate men. I hear every possible distinction being used to discriminate. I feel deflated.

One of the storytellers spoke of coming to the US to escape living in the shadows of his society, but finds himself doing the same here. Yes, in coming into the borders, he no longer fears for his life because of his sexual orientation, but he finds it has been exchanged for other intolerances spread across many of his identities. He feels it against his complexion, he feels it against his effeminate manner, he feels it against his thick accent, he feels it against his muslim faith. The magnitude of the intolerance, he feels, remains the same. Another speaker feels it because she is also muslim, has a heavy accent, and because she is transgendered.

I mention this because it is, and has been, transgendered individuals, effeminate men, and macho-acting women who have been at the front lines of the fight for acceptance. No other choice exists for them. They, unlike many others who fit gender stereotypes, don’t have the luxury to hide behind mannerisms for convenience. So they absorb so much more. They also have to be stronger. It is for this that I force myself to accept all of us despite how insecure I feel, or how chipped, shattered or distorted we may have become in our personal struggles.  The line between preference and discrimination is a fuzzy one, and it takes diligent vigilance to remain on the virtuous side of it.

I have heard the term ‘post-gay’ being used to describe individuals who have moved away from activism and live openly within the confines of the larger society. They have given up some of their identity to be accommodated. However, when I hear the term ‘post-gay’ this is what I imagine: a biologically diverse movement that is no longer a minority, but encompasses all sexual and gender identities. A place where we recognize and celebrate all gender non-conforming individuals who don’t have the luxury of hiding behind secondary identities, and who make the pride parade even more colorful and exuberant. Post gay will happen when the laws of the land truly reflect the real biological diversity that humans encompass. It is the lawful discrimination after all, that keeps so many of us living on the fringe of this society as it did in our countries of origin.

I am happy to have had the opportunity to connect with so many LGBT individuals from all countries, sexual preferences and personalities during my own healing process. Being open and accepting of others has helped me heal even further than I would have otherwise. As I walk in my first New York City Parade this Sunday, I will be wearing personal pride and celebrating reaching it. I will also be opening my mind to other expressions of sexuality and gender identity as I encounter them. The Social Action Group, comprised of all colors, ethnicities, sexual and gender identities, have pledged to uphold open acceptance in defending equality.

We will be marching, celebrating our renewed enthusiasm and pride in accepting not only all sexual identities, but all other facets of the LGBT community. We hope our celebration is seen and shared. We hope that our voices as diverse, undocumented, immigrants seeking a better life as LGBT individuals will be heard, understood, and given empathy and support. We feel strongly that our concerns encompass and reflect those of the larger LGBT community; that listening and giving support to our plights will bring awareness to the gamut of issues, and facilitate a wide-ranging healing process.

Greg

June 24, 2010 Posted by | African-American News, Black Gay Men, Black Gay Men Health, Black Men, Black Men Health, Caribbean, community, Guyana, Health, HIV, Immigrant rights, LGBT community, LGBT Immigrant rights, LGBT Rights, Public Health, Uncategorized | , , | Leave a comment

LGBT Seniors Have National Caregiver Resource Center

SAGE also launches ad campaign

By Antoine Craigwell

(New York, NY) – In a special event celebrating Pride month, more than 150 lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) seniors and staff of Services and Advocacy for LGBT Elders (SAGE) gathered on Monday, Jun 14 at SAGE’s office for the launching of the National Caregiver Resource Center and ad campaign.

The National Caregiver Resource Center, a first in the country catering specifically to LGBT seniors, was made possible by a collaborative $900,000 grant over three years to 10 partner agencies around the country from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Department for the Aging. These partner agencies are charged with providing training on LGBT issues, access to mainstream services and providers for seniors, and critically important educational tools and information for elderly LGBT people, including financial management, case and social worker assistance, and enabling access to addressing health and disability concerns.

SAGECAP Ad Campaign

“Our SAGECAP program provides an LGBT-affirming space where people who are going through the difficult time of providing care for a loved one can receive essential information and support,” said Michael Adams, executive director of SAGE. “SAGE’s city-wide ad campaign is meant to remind LGBT caregivers that they are not alone and that our SAGECAP services are there to help.”

Pat Parsons standing next to SAGE Resource Center sign

The press release added that the campaign’s ads would run as posters throughout the city’s Metropolitan Transit Authority subway and bus system from Jun 14 to Jul 26, as well as in print and online magazines, blogs, and in media that target the LGBT community throughout New York City. Animated versions of the ads will also run online. In all, it is expected that the campaign will be viewed more than 33 million times during the seven-week campaign period. Later this year, in preparation for November’s Caregiver Appreciation Month, SAGE will broaden the campaign to educate LGBT communities nationwide about the types of support caregivers could receive.

At the combined launch Adams said, “The National Resource Center is a huge breakthrough for the LGBT community because this is the first time that the federal government is providing support, federal benefits, for LGBT people across the country through service providers. The public education campaign, on the other hand, is an example of the kind of educational work the Resource Center would do. The ad campaign is to help caregivers for LGBT elders become aware of SAGE’s caregiver support program.”

Michael Adams, executive director, SAGE, and Sheila Bligen, retired Verizon employee

Although SAGE caters to LGBT elders 50 years and over, John “Marty” Young, an African-American who is two years shy of that goal, is already familiarizing himself with the organization’s services.

“I think it’s a great opportunity to meet the needs and to recognize that there exists a number of LGBT seniors who are invisible. This center acknowledges their existence and importance, especially with so much emphasis on youth these days,” said Young.

Lee Evans, 63-year old, who is a bisexual retired Broadway actor and singer, says that since he came out to his daughter and had to deal with different health issues including prostate cancer and rheumatoid arthritis, that SAGE has been able to help older LGBT people who are single.

“SAGE has given me an opportunity to come out of the closet and be comfortable,” he said

Adams said that seniors in the LGBT community are living in unprecedented times, especially for caregivers, healthcare facilities, and communities that serve them.

“Our country is witnessing the first generation in history to live and age more openly as LGBT people. Going into the closet to access vital services isn’t an option,” said Adams.

Another senior, Shelia Bligen, 59, who is retired from Verizon, says that although she has been with SAGE for two years, she always knew about the organization, from their women’s dances.

“SAGE is an outlet where I can give back. I volunteer and make use of the available programs, including computer services and opportunities to attend the opera. To me the resource center means I could refer friends and others to SAGE because a lot of people don’t know of the organization,” said Bligen.

Three seniors chatting after the launch

Cathy Renna, of Renna Communications, the firm handling public relations for SAGE, said, “This campaign follows last year’s highly successful and award-winning LGBT older adult visibility campaign with the message that “there’s no expiration date on a full and active life.”

Renna added that the world famous photographer Janette Beckman, who has shot photos of rock stars and hip-hop artists for Rolling Stone magazine for the past two decades, has turned her lens on SAGE members, donors, staff and volunteers.

“Janette and Double Platinum, the award-winning gay and lesbian focused marketing agency owned by Arthur Korant and Stephanie Blackwood, have put a positive and hopeful face on LGBT aging,” said Renna.

Barbara Russel, at left, greeted by Lawrence Lala, seated.

While the Resource Center is official, SAGE is in the process of identify appropriate staff, including a director, and later this year, plans to launch a Website which would provide vital information to LGBT elderly audiences to ensure that seniors are supported all over the country.

June 17, 2010 Posted by | African-American News, Black Gay Men, Black Gay Men Health, Black Men Health, Caribbean, community, Elderly LGBT, Health, HIV, HIV Status, Immigrant rights, Jamaica, LGBT community, LGBT Immigrant rights, LGBT Rights, LGBT Seniors, Male Health, Public Health | , , , , | Leave a comment