Expressing my view!

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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

You’ve got the flu or want to avoid getting it:

Here’s what you do – HIV Positive people, especially, need to take extra precautions

When U.S. Vice President Joe Biden said that people should avoid subways and other confined spaces because of the swine flu sweeping the nation, the country recorded its first swine flu death – a toddler in Houston, TX – which led to the decision by state and federal health officials to ratchet up their alert level, and which prompted the Word Health Organization (WHO) to up their grade to Phase 5, a status just below declaring a full pandemic, has come as a jolt to everyone. This drastic and seemingly draconian action by national and internationally health related agencies should come as no surprise, since many of them were severely criticized for their lack of preparedness and response to two major flu outbreaks in recent memory, Sars and the Avian Flu, both which emphasized the global nature of the spread of any infection and threatened to overwhelm countries’ health infrastructure, revealing how unprepared many were.

But while there are numerous suggestions on what to do, to protect against contracting or passing the virus on, many of those tips in the local media have not included enough detail for adequate protection.

A person could be infected and spread the flu up to a full day before he or she feels symptoms and up to seven days after they are sick.

Many HIV positive people, especially, need to take extra precautions, as someone once said, the general perception is that most people are afraid of contracting HIV from an HIV-positive person, but really, it is the HIV positive person, who with a compromised immune system, is most vulnerable and at risk from the general population. Consequently, a HIV-positive person needs to observe the rules for the general population and take additional precautions, such as staying away from crowded or heavily populated areas, like night clubs, sex clubs, parties, public transport conveyances, and should contact their doctor to enquire as to the best medication. Those with the HIV virus should be aware of the signs of an illness coming on, the beginning scratchiness or dryness in the throat, the feeling of lethargy or extreme tiredness, or headaches. HIV positive people should make it their duty to pay attention to their bodies, as with a compromised immune system, assumption should not be entertained and nothing taken for granted.

According to William Shay, M.D., a Chelsea-based general internist who specializes in HIV treatment, an HIV-positive person who has a fever of 101-degrees or higher and has a cough with any other symptoms, should see their doctor.

So, while waiting for a vaccine, which the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) optimistically suggest could take six months to be produced and some reports state that even if there is a vaccine there won’t be enough for everyone, and it would be ineffective, because this flu strain is likely to have mutated or people would develop a resistance to it.  These five critical tips, widely agreed upon by the WHO, the CDC, and other health experts, are what a person could do to avoid getting sick and, importantly, avoid infecting others.

  • Washing hands:
    The best thing anyone could do right now to avoid swine flu, experts say, is to wash their hands. It sounds like a stupidly simple response to an overwhelming situation, but almost compulsive hand-washing helps prevent the spread of this respiratory infection. It’s the droplets from coughing and sneezing, which coat surfaces and which people touch that spread the infection. The virus gets on hands, and then everything touched is infected.

    While washing the hands seems simple, how it is done is important:

  • Use warm or hot water if you can;
  • Lather up with soap and rub not just your fingers and palms but also under the fingernails, around the wrists and between the fingers for as long as it takes to sing the “Happy Birthday” song twice; and
  • Rinse well.

While it is important to wash hands thoroughly with soap and water before eating and after using the bathroom, for whatever the bodily function, it is also important after using a tissue or covering the mouth as with a sneeze or a cough, sick or not, or as with seasonal allergies, which could present similar symptoms to the flu.

A person should think of how often he or she would wash their hands if they worked in a hospital’s emergency or operating room; hands should be washed that often and that thoroughly.

2. Covering the mouth when coughing or sneezing.

“The way you spread influenza is with droplets that come out of your mouth or nose,” said Dr. George T. DiFerdinando Jr., a physician, epidemiologist and professor at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey-School of Public Health. He recommends the classic shoulder or crook-of-the elbow sneeze.

“It’s a whole lot better for those [droplets] to be on blouse or sleeve than spraying onto surfaces or other people,” he said, after which, wash the hands.

While wearing surgical face masks are an option for containing the droplets, they don’t keep a person’s hands clean and there is no consensus in the healthcare community on whether or not face masks are advisable for everyday use.

“If the swine flu virus is spreading throughout the community, it would not surprise me if people use face masks to good effect,” DiFerdinando said.

  1. Staying home.

Someone who is sick should stay home, DiFerdinando said. Try to muster the energy to wash the hands after every tissue use so as not to avoid re-infecting everything touched afterward. This helps to reduce the presence of the virus in the immediate environment, with recovery, and protects household and loved ones.

  1. Not touching the face.

While very few people succeed at restraint and control, more people are urged to try to keep their hands away from their face and areas where there are mucous membranes, such as around or close to the eyes, inside the nostrils and mouth, which are direct routes to the bloodstream and which allows the virus to bypass the protective barrier of the skin.

“That’s just human nature,” DiFerdinando said. “It’s not something to moan about. In this circumstance you’ve got a very strong motivator to keep your hands clean. If you keep washing your hands, you decrease the dose [of flu virus] that you get when you put your hands in your mouth.”

5. Avoid sick people

It’s a good idea to avoid close contact with other people who are sick, DiFerdinando said, adding: “We won’t even see air kisses.” The flu virus tends not to float in the air. Instead, once dispersed, the liquid droplets tend to settle on objects that doctors call fomites – things that people touch that can pick up a virus. Examples include coins, hand rails, door knobs, common household and office objects. Smooth objects transmit microbes more than rough or porous ones. So, for instance, coins would allow one to pick up more virus than paper money.

Not surprising to Dr. James Koopman, professor of epidemiology at the University of Michigan’s School of Public Health, is the number of cases concentrated in one geographic area.

“There is a lot of direct contact and touching of common things when children are in school,” Koopman said. “They are in general more susceptible to these things.”

Koopman and his colleagues are trying to pin down the relative importance of different routes of transmission, whether by the air or by hand touching, fomite.

“Our work is indicating there can be big differences between something like airborne virus – you may take a small amount in with every breath, but when you get a big goober of someone’s cough on your finger and it touches your mucosal membrane – your eye, nose, mouth or somewhere where it can gain access – that could be a much higher dose,” Koopman said.

It takes time for a new virus – and the swine flu outbreak is based on a new strain of an H1N1 virus – to adapt to a human’s immune system and survive there long enough to find another organism to infect, Koopman said.

At first, the immune system can handle small doses of virus, such as with airborne transmission, he said. In that case, “maybe the hand-fomite touching spread would be more important than the airborne,” he said.

Maybe later, the virus evolves to survive and transmit successfully in smaller doses, or via different routes, he said.

“I personally think this virus has been circulating a bit longer than is recognized at this time,” Koopman said.

The CDC photograph, below, captured a sneeze in progress, revealing the plume of salivary droplets as they are expelled in a large cone-shaped array from this man’s open mouth. The flu virus can spread in this manner and survive long enough on a doorknob or countertop to infect another person. It dramatically illustrates the reason you should cover your mouth when sneezing or coughing to protect others from germ exposure, health officials say. It’s also why you need to wash your hands a lot, on the assumptions others don’t always cover their sneezes.

Photo of man's sneeze - droplet plume

Photo of man's sneeze - droplet plume

April 30, 2009 Posted by | community, Health, LGBT community, Male Health, Public Health, Uncategorized, Washington Heights Community | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Thanksgiving night, Dinner and Subway ride home thoughts

(New York, NY) My sister, who was visiting from Maryland, and my nephew, who lives in New York City, had invited me to accompany them to see the Christmas Spectacular at Radio City Hall, on the eve of Thanksgiving and after to his house in Rockaway Park, Queens, to cook Thanksgiving dinner.

Though hastily contrived, sometime betwixt the hours of late Thanksgiving eve’s mad and panicked dash to the supermarket, and early the next morning, my sister-in-law, my brother, my younger nephew and his most recent girlfriend, my sister and my older nephew came together to cook for a Thanksgiving dinner far exceeded any of our expectations. From the turkey, which was baked to a golden brown color, stuffing that was so rich my sister complained it was had a trifle too much salt and was too peppery, to the collard greens with ham hocks, candied yams, carrot and ginger soup, good ole Uncle Ben’s wild rice and my nephew’s indomitable mashed Idaho potatoes, the boiled corn, the warm spiced clove and cinnamon stick apple cider, and the apple pie with sugarless, but Splenda sweetened ice cream, all washed down with glasses of red or white, heavy in sulphites, Napa Valley wines, lots of conversation and a television stuck on CNN International where there were constant flashes and reminders of the carnage in Mumbai, a world away, all juxtaposed against a backdrop of reggae music, pulsating through speakers at my older nephew’s house.

At the end of this gastronomic gourmandizing, more food than any of us had had occasion to be near in the most recent past, we departed for our respective houses: my brother, sister-in-law, younger nephew and most recent girlfriend to their apartment, my sister staying with my older nephew to head to her house the next morning, my older nephew remaining in his house and retiring to bed, to sleep off the turkey, and I to my apartment.

I was dropped off at the subway station and after a short, but seemingly interminable wait on the platform, which was surprisingly populated, I boarded a local train to make a connection to an express train at the juncture of Utica and Fulton Streets in Brooklyn. When the A train arrived, Manhattan bound, odd assortments of people embarked and disembarked as the train made its express stops through neighborhoods, yet any given time, there were no more than 16 people sharing the car I occupied.

While sitting on one of the side facing seats, two young men came into the train, one at one of the lower stops in Brooklyn, just before heading through the tunnel under the East River to Manhattan, and the other at another station, also in the riverain bordering stations. Trying to read the latest issue of the New Yorker, I glanced up took notice of them both. One sat opposite me and the other, in one of the forward facing seats across from me. As the train barreled along its tracks the young man sitting facing me reached across to ask a question of the one in the forward facing seat. Not understanding what he was saying, the forward facing passenger looked in my direction and seeing that I was interrupted from my reading by this sudden and unusual activity: speaking to a stranger on the subway, he asked me in Spanish if I understood and spoke the language and to translate what the other young man was saying. Turning to him, I asked him of his problem and he explained that he had just been evicted from the apartment where he was staying and was asking the other young man if he could spare him a dollar to help him get to someplace. Translating the request, the Spanish-only speaking young man replied that he was “broke” and didn’t have money, the begging young man looking crestfallen and disappointed, leaned his head against the glass panel separating him from the doorway and closed his eyes.

Immediately, the thought occurred to me: I’ve written recently about lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) homeless youth, and shelters like the Ali Forney Center and the planned True Colors Residence to provide permanent housing, but what to tell a homeless LGBT young person if one encounters one who is in need of shelter. Conscious of the falling temperature outside, the coldness in the air, the realization that this was Thanksgiving night, I was stumped. I racked my mind for what and where to tell this young man of a place he could go that would at least provide him with shelter, perhaps a warm place, if only for the night.

The Spanish-only speaking young man asked me where he could get a connection to the Bronx, and as I told him where he could get trains, the D or No. 4, the other young man expressed that he too was heading to the Bronx. He said that he had just moved from Philadelphia to the city to take a job which didn’t work out, his girlfriend had just thrown him out of the apartment, and he was heading to the Bronx, to a family member, with whom he hoped he could stay, at least, for the night.

My mind racing while he told his tale, I could only come up with a suggestion that if his family were unable to accommodate him, he could try calling the city’s help line, 311, and to ask about temporary shelter. The question, however, haunted me: where and what does someone who is either lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender do or go if they suddenly found themselves without a place to live?

At Broadway/Nassau Street station, both young men disembarked the train and headed for the No. 4 train. Yet, throughout these dramas, I still was able to read my magazine, until the train arrived at my station stop much further uptown.

When I arrived home, I immediately called my older nephew and my brother, answered by my sister-in-law, to tell them I had arrived safely home. Briefly, with each, we marveled at how we were able to put together a full three-course Thanksgiving meal in a less then 24 hours, reminisced and acknowledged the feeling of family we experienced and shared, how special and reinforcing it was to all of us. As a true journalist, I found the hint of a story and plan on following it, not only to see where it leads, but to provide information for the wider community.

November 29, 2008 Posted by | African-American News, Blogroll | , , , , , , | 1 Comment