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CULTURE ARCHIVES Equality From The Archives Health NYC ARCHIVES PRIDE ARCHIVES THE FRONT ARCHIVES Uncategorized

An Open Letter to Dr. Anthony Fauci

The Press of Freedom: A Column Open to Our Readers

I have been screaming at the National Institutes of Health since I first visited your Animal House of Horrors in 1984. I called you monsters then and I called you idiots in my play, The Normal Heart, and now I call you murderers.

You are responsible for supervising all government-funded AIDS treatment research programs. In the name of right, you make decisions that cost the lives of others. I call that murder.

At hearings on April 29 before Representative Ted Weiss and his House Subcommittee on Human Resources, after almost eight years of the worst epidemic in modern history, perhaps to be the worst in all history, you were pummeled into admitting publicly what some of us have been claiming since you took over three years ago.

You admitted that you are an incompetent idiot.

Over the past four years, $374 million has been allocated for AIDS treatment research. You were in charge of spending much of that money.

It doesn’t take a genius to set up a nationwide network of testing sites, commence a small number of moderately sized treatment efficacy tests on a population desperate to participate in them, import any and all interesting drugs (now numbering approximately 110) from around the world for inclusion in these tests at these sites, and swiftly get into circulation anything that remotely passes muster. Yet, after three years, you have established only a system of waste, chaos, and uselessness.

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It doesn’t take a genius to announce that you have elected to personally supervise the study of a broad range of new drugs. Yet, two years later, you are forced to admit you’ve barely begun.

It doesn’t take a genius to request, as you did, 126 new staff persons, receive only 11, and then keep your mouth shut about it.

It takes an incompetent idiot.

To quote Representative Henry Waxman at the above hearings: “Dr. Fauci, your own drug selection committee has named 24 drugs as high priority for development and trials. As best as I can tell, 11 of these 24 are not in trials yet. Six of these drugs have been waiting for six months to more than a year. Why the delays? I understand the need to do what you call setting priorities but it appears even with your own scientists’ choices the trials are not going on.”

Your defense? “There are just confounding delays that no one can help… we are responsible as investigators to make sure that in our zeal to go quickly, that we do the clinical study correctly, that it’s planned correctly and executed correctly, rather than just having the drug distributed.”

Now you come bawling to Congress that you don’t have enough staff, office space, lab space, secretaries, computer operators, lab technicians, file clerks, janitors, toilet paper; and that’s why the drugs aren’t being tested and the network of treatment centers isn’t working and the drug protocols aren’t in place. You expect us to buy this bullshit and feel sorry for you. YOU FUCKING SON OF A BITCH OF A DUMB IDIOT, YOU HAVE HAD $374 MILLION AND YOU EXPECT US TO BUY THIS GARBAGE BAG OF EXCUSES!

The gay community has been on your ass for three years. For 36 agonizing months, you refused to go public with what was happening (correction: not happening), and because you wouldn’t speak up until you were asked pointedly by a congressional committee, we lie down and die and our bodies pile up higher and higher in hospitals and homes and hospices and streets and doorways.

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Meanwhile, drugs we have been begging that you test remain untested. The list of promising untested drugs is now so endless and the pipeline so clogged with NIH and FDA bureaucratic lies that there is no Roto-Rooter service in All God’s Christendom that will ever muck it out.

You whine to Congress that you are short of staff. You don’t need staff to set up hospital treatment centers around the country. The hospitals are already there. They hire their own staff. They only need money. You have money. YOU HAVE $374 MILION FUCKING DOLLARS, FOR CHRIST’S SAKE.

The gay community has, for five years, told the NIH which drugs to test because we know and hear first what is working on some of us somewhere. You couldn’t care less about what we say. You won’t answer our phone calls or letters, or listen to anyone in our stricken community. What tragic pomposity!

The gay community has consistently warned that unless you move quickly your studies will be worthless because we’re already taking drugs into our bodies that we desperately locate all over the world (who can wait for you?!!), and all your “scientific” protocols are stupidly based on utilizing guinea-pig bodies that are clean. You wouldn’t listen, and now you wonder why so few sign up for your meager assortment of “scientific” protocols that make such rigid demands for “purity” that no one can fulfill them, unless they lie. And why should those who can obtain the drugs themselves take the chance of receiving a placebo in one of your “scientific” studies?

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How many years ago did we tell you about aerosol pentamidine, Tony? This stuff saves lives. And we discovered it ourselves. We came to you, bearing this great news on a silver platter, begging you: can we get it officially tested; can we get it approved so insurance companies and Medicaid will pay for it (as well as other drugs we beg you to test) as a routine treatment, and our patients going broke paying for medicine can get it cheaper? You monster.

“Assume that you have AIDS, and that you’ve had pneumonia once,” Representative Nancy Pelosi said. “You know that aerosolized pentamidine was evaluated by NIH as highly promising… You know as of today that the delays in NIH trials… may not be solved this year… Would you wait for [an NIH] study?”

You replied: “I probably would go with what would be available to me, be it available in the street or what have you.”

We tell you what the good drugs are, you don’t test them, then YOU TELL US TO GET THEM ON THE STREETS. You continue to pass down word from On High that you don’t like this drug or that drug — when you haven’t even tested them. THERE ARE MORE AIDS VICTIMS DEAD BECAUSE YOU DIDN’T TEST DRUGS ON THEM THAN BECAUSE YOU DID.

You’ve yet to test imuthiol, AS101, dextran sulfate, DHEA, Imreg-1, Erythropoietin — all drugs Gay Men’s Health Crisis considers top priority. You do like AZT, which consumes 80 percent of your studies, even though Dr. Barry Gingell, GMHC’s medical director, now describes AZT as “a cumulative poison… foisted on the public.” Soon there will be more AIDS patients dead because you did test drugs on them — the wrong drugs.

ACT UP was formed over a year ago to get experimental drugs into the bodies of patients. For one year ACT UP has tried every kind of protest known to man (short of putting bombs in your toilet or flames up your institute) to get some movement in this area. One year later, ACT UP is still screaming for the same drugs they begged and implored you and your world to release. One year of screaming, protesting, crying, cajoling, lobbying, threatening, imprecating, marching, testifying, hoping, wishing, praying has brought nothing. You don’t listen. No one listens. No one has ears. Or hearts.

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Whose ass are you covering for, Tony? (Besides your own). Is it the head of your Animal House, the invisible Dr. James Wyngaarden, director of the National Institute of Health (and may a Democratic president get him out of office fast)? Is it Dr. Vincent DeVita, head of the National Cancer Institute, another invisible murderer who lets you be his fall guy? Or Dr. Otis Bowen, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, no doubt the biggest murderer on the list; Shultz and Weinberger would never take such constricting shit from the Office of Management and Budget. All the doctors have continuously told the world that All Is Being Done That Can Be Done. Now you admit that isn’t so.

WHY DID YOU KEEP QUIET FOR SO LONG?!

I don’t know (though it wouldn’t surprise me) if you kept quiet intentionally. I don’t know (though it wouldn’t surprise me) if you were ordered to keep quiet by Higher Ups Somewhere. You are a good lieutenant, like Adolph Eichmann.

I do know that anyone who knows what you have known for three years — that, to quote Ted Weiss, “the dimension of the shortfall is such that you can’t possibly meet our needs,” and, to quote the New York Times and their grossly incompetent AIDS reporter, Philip Boffey (whose articles read like recycled NIH releases): “Officials Blame Shortage of Staff for Delay in Testing AIDS Drugs” — I repeat, anyone who has known all this and denied it for the past three years is a murderer, not dissimilar to the “good Germans” who claimed they didn’t know what was happening.

With each day I realize a little more that the gay community has lost the battle. And that we haven’t begun to experience the horrors that still await us —  horrors even worse than you now embryonically signify. We have lost. No one important enough has ears. Or hearts.

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You care, I’m told (although I no longer believe it). I’ve even heard you called a saint. You are in essence a scientist who’s expected to be Lee Iacocca. But saints, miracle workers, good administrators, brilliant scientists have imaginations vivid enough to know how to spend $374 million in a dire emergency. You have no imagination. You are banal (a word used so accurately to describe Eichmann).

Do I want you to leave? (Yes.) Could you’re replacement possibly be more pea-brained than you? (Yes, it is possible.) Will this raving do any good at all? Will it make Congress shape you up? Will it make my own communities bureaucratically mired AIDS organizations finally ask the right questions? (Judy Peabody of GNHC please take note.) Will Dr. Mathilde Krim ever — as she indicated she would — get the American Foundation for AIDS Research to fund the desperately needed and desperately needy Community Research Initiative, which is valiantly attempting to do what you should be doing, so tired we are of waiting for you to do it? (Leonard Bernstein and Harry Kraut please take note.)

I have no answers to most of these questions. You may (God help us all) be the best that will be given us. You may, like John Ehrlichman, once accused, seek redemption and forgiveness by rethinking, retooling, and, like Avis, trying harder. Even more miraculous, those Supreme Murderers in the White House might tomorrow acknowledge that families simply everywhere have gay sons and daughters.

But I fear these are only pipe dreams and you’ll continue to carry on with your spare equipment. The cries of genocide from this Cassandra will continue to remain unheard. And my noble but enfeebled community of the weak, and dying, and the dead will continue to grow and grow — until we are diminished.

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Health THE FRONT ARCHIVES

Dying to Entertain Us: Celebrities Keep ODing on Opioids and No One Cares

When mid-century matinee idol Rock Hudson appeared alongside Doris Day at a press conference in July 1985 looking glassy-eyed and skeletal, the scattered members of the early AIDS activism movement cautiously rejoiced.

“We were thrilled, in a really kind of awful way, because we thought maybe this is it, maybe this is AIDS,” says David France, director of How to Survive a Plague, the Oscar-nominated documentary about the influential New York City–based AIDS activist group AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP) that would form in 1987.

Early AIDS activists such as France certainly weren’t celebrating the prospect that Hudson might suffer from a highly stigmatized disease and face a swift and horrific death. Rather, in their desperation, as they watched fast-increasing numbers of their friends and lovers suffer such a fate, they had been praying for the power of celebrity to finally thrust AIDS into the national conversation.

They got their wish. After Hudson disclosed he had AIDS later that summer, the nation finally woke up to an epidemic that had been ravaging gay communities in major urban areas. During the short remainder of Hudson’s life, the beloved movie star and friend of first lady Nancy Reagan took to the activist pulpit, praising the sudden surge of public interest in tackling the burgeoning epidemic.

“That death began research,” France recalls of Hudson’s passing in October 1985.

The next year, the notoriously parsimonious President Ronald Reagan allowed a significant increase in the National Institutes of Health’s budget — for research into AIDS, a disease about which Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) scientists had first sounded the alarm five years earlier.

Flash forward three decades: Thanks in large part to a massive, sustained governmental investment, currently to the tune of more than $26 billion in annual federal dollars, the U.S. HIV epidemic is now increasingly being brought under control. At the same time, several city and state governments, such as those in San Francisco, Seattle, and New York City and State, have waged expensive, multifaceted campaigns to help control their own local epidemics.

Consequently, HIV is effectively crossing paths with the contemporary opioid epidemic, as that particular scourge follows a devastating upward trajectory and the governmental response remains woefully inadequate.

According to CDC estimates, the number of new annual transmissions of HIV declined by 14.8 percent between 2008 and 2015, from 45,200 to 38,500, while during that same period annual deaths among people diagnosed with AIDS declined from about 16,000 to 12,800; approximately 1.1 million people now live with the virus. Meanwhile, at least 2.1 million U.S. residents have an opioid addiction, according to government estimates, with those recently struggling with the condition including a long roster of boldfaced names: Macklemore, Demi Lovato, Rush Limbaugh, Cindy McCain, Matthew Perry, Jamie Lee Curtis, Eminem, Charlie Sheen (whose 2015 disclosure about his HIV status led to soaring testing rates), Courtney Love, and Steven Tyler. Some 42,000 Americans died from an opioid overdose in 2016, a rate that has soared fivefold since 1999. During the current century, opioids have already cut short the lives of more than 350,000 Americans, including such celebrities as Glee’s Cory Monteith.

This year, the federal government is ponying up some $27 billion for overall drug control efforts, including $16 billion for enforcement and interdiction and $11 billion for treatment and prevention. Much of this spending is earmarked for tackling the opioid epidemic. But public health experts believe such figures remain paltry given the scope of the opioid crisis, particularly because of insufficient support for what an increasingly widespread consensus says should be at the core of the U.S. response: evidence-based addiction treatment.

“We’re spending too little to address the epidemic, and you get what you pay for,” Caleb Alexander, co-director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Drug Safety and Effectiveness, says of the federal government’s “anemic” efforts so far. Looking to the future, he says, “Treatment costs are going to be enormous, but so is the cost of inaction.”

***

In April 2016, the legendary musician Prince died of what was eventually revealed as an accidental overdose of fentanyl, the extraordinarily powerful synthetic opioid painkiller that has swept through the U.S. drug supply in recent years. Eighteen months later, the same drug killed singer Tom Petty. Both entertainers fell prey to opioid use disorder the same way many Americans do: They were prescribed painkillers in this class — or in Prince’s case, he apparently got at least one physician to write prescriptions for him in someone else’s name — to treat chronic pain resulting from workplace-based physical trauma. For Prince, who had weathered long-term hip pain, dancing in heels for decades was his rarified version of a factory worker’s repetitive strain injury. Petty had recently concluded a nationwide tour he carried on with despite a hip fracture, on top of knee issues and emphysema.

These men’s awesome celebrity notwithstanding, the overall reaction to Prince and Petty’s overdoses — and to the opioid-driven losses before them of such other popular performers as Philip Seymour Hoffman and Heath Ledger — has amounted to nothing much when it comes to awakening Americans to the scope of the national crisis. By comparison, Rock Hudson’s death, as well as Magic Johnson’s announcement in 1991 that he had HIV, utterly jolted the national conversation about that epidemic.

Melissa Moore, deputy state director in the New York office of the national advocacy group Drug Policy Alliance, reasons that Americans are disinclined to file a celebrity overdose in the same mental folder where they place personal worries that addiction, or HIV, may hit them where they live. Such drug-driven deaths are “looked at as a part of the fast and quick lifestyle of celebrities that isn’t for an average person,” Moore says.

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The public’s perception of the HIV and opioid epidemics — which do, of course, overlap given that injection drug use is a major risk factor for HIV transmission — have historically diverged in various other key ways. “People aren’t shocked by drug deaths or overdoses in a way that they are about a new and emerging infectious disease that they don’t understand,” says Kenyon Farrow, the former U.S. health policy director at the ACT UP offshoot nonprofit Treatment Action Group.

While AIDS was brand new during the Reagan era, the nation’s ebbs and flows of mass addiction to opioids date back more than 150 years. Today’s epidemic was brought on in part by excessive prescription of opioid painkillers after Purdue Pharma brought OxyContin to the market in 1995 and then aggressively promoted the drug as a pain-relieving godsend that boasted a low risk of addiction.

The current crisis actually represents history repeating itself. Following the Civil War, the United States saw a surge in the prescription of opioids such as morphine, codeine, and heroin, in part for battle wounds. The advent of modern chemistry in the early nineteenth century had given rise to the synthesis of such drugs, and the advent of hypodermic injection use for medications later that century fanned the flames of the epidemic. By 1900, 1 in 200 Americans were addicted to opioids, about the same rate as seen today.

Better training of the younger generation of physicians — older doctors were notorious for overprescribing opioids for a wide swath of conditions, from pain to diarrhea — helped contain that early epidemic, as did a series of major acts of Congress passed between 1890 and 1924 that progressively taxed opium and eventually banned its importation, required manufacturers to identify the components of medicinal products, and ultimately regulated opioids.

During the first few decades after World War II, addiction to opioids — particularly heroin — largely afflicted inner-city populations, in particular New York City’s. Throughout this period, occasional entertainer overdoses helped remind the general public of the dangers of opioids. Hank Williams, who suffered chronic pain due to a spinal condition, accidentally overdosed on morphine in 1953. During the post-counterculture era, heroin was behind the deaths of Janis Joplin and John Belushi.

***

Today, the stigmas associated with each epidemic powerfully mediate how people react to news of either HIV or opioid addiction. These involve not only deeply ingrained attitudes regarding race and class, but also by the question of whether individuals are seen to have brought HIV or addiction on themselves, and the perceived degree to which free will dictated their high-risk behaviors.

Early HIV activists moved mountains to combat the hostile attitudes society initially levied against those living with the virus. Media reports of celebrities such as Magic Johnson or Ryan White, the HIV-positive boy whose harsh discrimination at the hands of his middle-American town propelled him into the national spotlight, helped lend humanity to those living with the virus. White, in particular, seemed custom-made to inspire a more caring attitude toward people with AIDS: a sweet-faced boy who had contracted HIV “blamelessly” through hemophilia treatments and whose poetic last name, in tandem with his pale skin tone, projected a nonthreatening image of angelic purity to the nation’s racial majority.

Stigma toward those with HIV is generally driven by two main factors: fear of contagion, and judgment about what stigmatized behaviors an individual may have engaged in to contract HIV, including various forms of condomless, non-missionary-position, non-heterosexual sex, as well as injection drug use. Sex between men is, of course, much less stigmatized today than in the 1980s, when it was still illegal in half the states. But ignorance still abounds about how HIV is and is not transmitted, and that ignorance certainly drives people’s fear of contact with those living with the virus.

The predominantly white face of the opioid epidemic has helped drive a more forgiving public reaction to that crisis — a fact that invites painful historical parallels, given the harshly punitive response to people of color affected by the the heroin scourge of the 1960s and 1970s and the crack epidemic of the 1980s.

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Additionally, the American public may be more sympathetic toward those addicted to opioids because they tend to perceive the epidemic as largely driven by doctors prescribing painkillers to individuals with legitimate medical conditions. The truth is, most of those who misuse opioid pills obtain them without a prescription. Additionally, droves of those who initially became addicted to prescription painkillers have migrated to heroin, which can be cheaper and easier to obtain.

All this said, drug addiction remains one of the most highly stigmatized human conditions, a fact that significantly limits the ability for celebrity narratives to help inspire the nation’s reaction to the opioid epidemic.

“Katie Couric getting a colonoscopy and everyone going to check their colon is not the same as Katie Couric coming out and saying she struggles with heroin addiction,” says Kassandra Frederique, New York State director at Drug Policy Alliance. “Celebrity can only carry you so far when it comes to stigmatizing behaviors.”

***

Perhaps the most crucial difference between the AIDS and opioid epidemics lies in how each has inspired troops of activists to fight for the respective causes. David France notes that, compared with today’s population of individuals addicted to opioids, gay men provided a much richer pool for potential activist foot soldiers during the 15-year crisis period of the AIDS epidemic, because such men were often either facing death themselves or thought they were.

“My study of ACT UP has led me to believe that self-interest was [AIDS activism’s] major component and major driving influence,” France says.

By comparison, those addicted to drugs like heroin or Vicodin, France argues, may not see overdose as a clear and present danger — and so may be less inclined to fight for their lives and those of others by, say, joining an activist movement or howling at their elected representatives. Additionally, the everyday lives of those in the throes of addiction may be so chaotic or otherwise compromised that these individuals lack the wherewithal to commit themselves to activism and political organizing.

Oftentimes, however, family members are indeed motivated to advocate for change. According to France, it’s such moms, sisters, daughters, and nieces who contact him pleading him to make a documentary about the opioid crisis. 

“But they’re also not leaving their ordinary life to go full bore in the opioid movement,” he adds.

The comedian Russell Brand is one of the rare celebrities who has a history of opioid addiction and has thrown himself into advocacy work — although his is quite a problematic voice. In Brand’s 2012 documentary on addiction treatment, he is sharply critical of opioid substitution therapy such as methadone or buprenorphine. In the face of competing scientific evidence that supports such medically based treatment as an effective, if imperfect, means of reducing the risk of opioid-use relapse and overdose, Brand clings stubbornly to the abstinence-centered dogma of Narcotics and Alcoholics Anonymous as the preferred route to fighting the opioid crisis.

Celebrated photographer Nan Goldin, who suffered a recent bout of active opioid addiction that took hold after she was prescribed OxyContin for chronic wrist pain, has waged a vociferous and creative activist campaign against the Sackler family, the wealthy owners of Purdue Pharma. Calling for nonprofits to refuse donations from the highly philanthropic dynasty, she has orchestrated colorful, headline-grabbing protests at various art institutions, including in the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Sackler Wing.

Having started her own opioid-addiction-related advocacy group, Goldin is among those pushing for a massive, multipronged federal investment in combating the opioid epidemic, to the tune of $100 billion over the next decade. Called the Comprehensive Addiction Resources Emergency Act, or CARE, the proposed legislation is not as pie-in-the-sky utopic as the extraordinary price tag may make it sound. Importantly, CARE is modeled after the Ryan White Comprehensive AIDS Resources Emergency (CARE) Act, itself a multipronged federal program that passed with bipartisan zeal in 1990 — during a Republican presidency — and which has been reauthorized enthusiastically ever since. Today, that legislation provides about $2.3 billion annually in vital healthcare-based response to the HIV epidemic.

Repeating the success of the Ryan White Act on the opioid front would require a massive advocacy movement in the coming years. Longtime activist Jennifer Flynn Walker, director of mobilization and advocacy at the Center for Popular Democracy, argues that with a continued accumulation of grassroots organizing against the epidemic, such a corps of foot soldiers could harness the publicity generated by a future celebrity overdose and channel it into considerable progress.

“If Prince died next year, I think you would see the same kind of response,” she says, referring to the kind of impact that Rock Hudson and Magic Johnson had on the HIV movement, with “everybody going wearing overdose ribbons to the Oscars.”

If Walker is right, the next famous person to overdose on opioids could yield a tipping point. “The celebrity death,” she says, “only becomes the watershed moment because there was the base organizing happening first.”

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Equality Healthcare PRIDE ARCHIVES THE FRONT ARCHIVES

Trump’s Gag Rule and Alarm Over HIV Pill Are Partners in Sex Panic

I attended my first Pride in 1979, when I was seven years old. In preparation for the march, I made signs with my mom and her partner (now her wife; they got married in 2015 after 37 years together). Their signs were long, lofty, and political. The sign I made was inspired by a button I had seen on St. Patrick’s Day. It read: “Kiss me, I’m gay.”

My mom asked me if I wanted to switch signs with her — was that really the sign I wanted to carry myself? I had no idea why she was asking me this; my sign was better, so of course that was the one I wanted to carry. I admit that my seven-year-old self was almost embarrassingly straight; but to me, carrying the sign wasn’t an identity statement. It was an affiliative statement. I was claiming my place as part of this community, embracing its joy and its pain and its liberation and its struggle as my own. People kissed me all day (and they always asked first).

Almost forty years later, I have devoted the majority of my professional life to the care of the LGBTQ community in all its diversity. Most recently, I have been a staunch advocate for access to pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), the daily pill that reduces risk of HIV infection by over 90 percent. I advocate for PrEP not only because it prevents new HIV infections, but also because it redefines the narrative around gay sexuality that emerged in the HIV era.

In spite of the tremendous gains that we have seen in LGBTQ liberation in the past decades, many still experience the threat of HIV infection as an ever-present shadow over their sexual lives. In our research with the Hunter HIV/AIDS Research Team, we have found that between 25 percent and 39 percent of HIV-negative gay men say they think about HIV all or most of the time in their daily lives, and between 29 percent and 46 percent say they think about HIV all or most of the time while they are having sex. This omnipresent burden of HIV is an underrecognized psychological tragedy of the epidemic.

But even less recognized is the way the threat of HIV infection has operated as a type of social control. Consciously or unconsciously, the constant threat of illness is presented to members of the LGBTQ community as the “cost” of their sexual expression and liberation. In other words, our society will tolerate your having “that kind” of sex, as long as you always remember you can die from it.

These words may seem harsh, but I believe they are critical to understanding the dynamics that have impeded PrEP rollout, including reluctance on the part of healthcare providers and systems to fully embrace it as a prevention strategy. PrEP provides relief from the burden of HIV threat, and many people report that taking PrEP allows them to fully experience intimacy and joy in sexuality without anxiety or fear. But lifting this burden also lifts social control over sexuality. In one of the first PrEP trainings I conducted for providers, one doctor said to me: “But wait — if we give this medication to gay men, they can have as much sex as they want and they won’t get HIV.” Concerns about making PrEP more widely available arise, in part, from discomfort with the notion of gay sex without a cost.

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The fight for PrEP availability and accessibility, then, is at its core a fight for sex positivity and true sexual liberation. Sex that’s free from the threat of HIV is not merely a side benefit of PrEP: It is a central good in itself. Ensuring access to PrEP is a statement that we — as a society, as a public health community — will not use the threat of illness as a tool for social or behavioral control over sexual expression.

At the same time, our society is facing another, parallel debate over health, sexuality, and social control. On June 1, the Trump administration, through the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), proposed a new rule for the Title X program, the Public Health Service Act that funds family planning services in the United States. If adopted, this new “gag rule” will prohibit providers in Title X–funded settings from giving abortion referrals or even mentioning abortion as an option in their counseling of pregnant patients.

The new Trump rule would also remove a current regulation that requires Title X–funded settings to provide access to “medically approved” family planning services. The removal of this regulation will allow Title X funding for settings that offer only “natural” family planning methods (i.e., fertility awareness, also called the rhythm method) to patients seeking contraceptive services.

Fertility awareness can be an effective contraceptive method, but only if the individual using it abstains from sex for about fourteen days out of every month — that’s almost half the year. As such, when offered to the exclusion of other methods, natural family planning specifically restricts individuals’ ability to choose when and whether to have sex, unless they want to live with the constant threat of unintended pregnancy.

Social control over sexuality is, in fact, the explicit goal of restricting access to reproductive health services. Consider this quote from a 2011 interview with Sandy Rios, director of governmental affairs for the American Family Association, which supports the new gag rule:Why in the world would you encourage your daughters, and your granddaughters…to have unrestricted, unlimited sex anytime, anywhere, and that, somehow if you prevent pregnancy, that somehow you’ve helped them.” Just as the doctor at my PrEP training was afraid to give people the opportunity to have sex without fear of HIV infection, Rios is concerned that if we give people access to reproductive health services, they can have as much sex as they want and they won’t get pregnant.

If you care about access to PrEP — if you believe deeply in the sexual liberation it can facilitate — then you should care about access to birth control and abortion as well. Denying full access to reproductive health services, like denying access to PrEP, exerts social control over sexual expression by associating it with a threat (of HIV, of pregnancy) even though we have the biomedical means to alleviate that threat. And similar to the fight for PrEP access, these restrictions will fall hardest on people of color, who comprise more than half of all patients in Title X–funded health centers.

Stopping these proposed changes to Title X is an emergency. If the new regulations go into effect, more than 4,000 Title X health centers will be barred from providing comprehensive reproductive care to their more than 4 million patients. To help, you can learn more about the issue; post comments to HHS during the open comment period; tell your representatives how much you care about this issue; or give money to advocacy organizations that are fighting for reproductive justice.

The LGBTQ community has been my community since I was a child, and my affiliation remains strong in part because of our community’s passionate commitment to sexual freedom in all its diversity. I will be marching in this year’s Pride parade with my husband and my son, holding banners for my mother and her wife (whose marching days are behind them, but whose advocacy still burns bright). I hope you will stand with us in the fight for reproductive justice, which is part of sexual liberation for us all.

Dr. Sarit Golub is a professor of psychology at Hunter College and the Graduate Center of City University of New York. She directs the Hunter HIV/AIDS Research Team (HART), which conducts interdisciplinary, community-based research.

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Healthcare NEW YORK CITY ARCHIVES NEWS & POLITICS ARCHIVES NYC ARCHIVES THE FRONT ARCHIVES

Uncle Poodle Is HIV Positive

In her NON-coming out/coming out speech the other night, Jodie Foster moaned that she’s not Honey Boo Boo and therefore didn’t need to reveal everything to the world her whole life.

But I felt (A) That diminished all the dignified stars who’ve felt it important to come out and are hardly reality show attractions

(b) Honey Boo Boo has been gay positive, especially with the inclusion of Uncle Poodle–Lee Thompson–who led to the show’s message that everyone’s a little bit gay and there ain’t nothing wrong with that.

Well, Uncle Poodle has a new revelation.

He’s tested positive for HIV.

In keeping with the tone of the show, he’s revealed that publicly.

And even if certain Oscar winners might not agree, I have to say “Congrats on the honesty. It could actually make a difference.”

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Equality Healthcare NEWS & POLITICS ARCHIVES THE FRONT ARCHIVES

If You’re a Man Who’s Had Sex With a Man You Met on the Internet, You May Want a Meningitis Vaccine

If you’re a man who’s had “intimate contact with another man” whom you met on the Internet, the New York City Health Department recommends that you get a meningitis vaccination following a recent spike in the rare/potentially fatal disease.

In addition to Internet rendezvous, the Health Department says that any man who’s had intimate contact with another man he met at a bar, party or via-a mobile app should also get the vaccine.

If you have HIV and fall under any of the aforementioned categories, the Health Department says you run an even higher risk of contacting the disease.

As we reported last week, there have been four cases of the disease in several boroughs, including one fatality, in the past four weeks. 

]

All four of the men — between the ages of 31 and 42 — who contracted the disease are HIV positive, which the Health Department says puts them at a much greater risk than the general population.

The disease spreads by “prolonged close contact with nose or throat discharges from an infected person. Examples of prolonged contact include living in the same household or intimate activities, including kissing and sexual contact.”

Symptoms of meningitis include high fever, headache, stiff neck and rash that develop rapidly within two days. The Health Department says that people who have been in prolonged close contact with infected people need to see their health care provider immediately to receive preventive antibiotics.

Symptoms may occur two to 10 days after exposure, but usually within five days.

The Health Department is offering free vaccines at the following hospitals:

Bronx

– Jacobi Medical Center

– Lincoln Medical and Mental Health Center

Brooklyn

– Coney Island Hospital

– Kings County Hospital Center

– Woodhull Medical and Mental Health Center

Manhattan

– Bellevue Hospital Center

– Harlem Hospital Center

Queens

– Elmhurst Hospital Center

– Queens Hospital Center

To find an HIV care provider or location to get a vaccine call 311. For more information search “Meningitis” at www.nyc.gov.

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Meningitis Alert Issued For New York City Gay Guys and “Men Who Have Sex With Men”

The New York City Health Department just issued a health alert for “gay men and men who have sex with men.”

We’re not experts, but “men who have sex with men” probably would have covered all bases.

Regardless, if you’re a man having any type of sex with a man — gay, bisexual, whatever — you run the risk of contracting meningitis, according to Health officials.

The Health Department says there have been four cases of the disease in several boroughs, including one fatality, in the past four weeks. 

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All four of the men — between the ages of 31 and 42 — who
contracted the disease are HIV positive, which the Health Department
says puts them at a much greater risk than the general population.

The disease spreads by “prolonged close contact with nose or throat discharges from an infected
person. Examples of prolonged contact include living in the same
household or intimate activities, including kissing and sexual contact.”

Symptoms
of meningitis include high fever, headache, stiff neck and rash that
develop rapidly within two days. The Health Department says that people
who have been in prolonged close contact with infected people need to
see their health care provider immediately to receive preventive
antibiotics.

Symptoms may occur two to 10 days after exposure, but usually within five days.

Health officials say that anyone with symptoms should seek medical care immediately.

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“How Did Magic Johnson Get HIV?” Asks Gossip Site

Spurred by a Frontline documentary on AIDS and the African American community, Gawker posted a blog saying they doubt Magic Johnson really got AIDS as he said he did–by sleeping with a lot of women, which they consider low-risk activity.

They even offer a bounty to anyone who can offer info as to how Magic really got it.

(They mention certain orgy parties with transsexual hookers, which Johnson may or may not have been at.)

Hmm.

I’m all for information and enlightenment, but:

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*Low-risk is still risk!

*Transsexual hookers are still women!

*No one will ever be able to know how Magic got infected. There’s no way to pinpoint the exact moment and cause of infection so many years after the fact. This isn’t like a murder, where you can dig up DNA evidence and witnesses.

So this is all a pointless exercise in attention grabbing.

But at least it’s hitting on something we’ve all thought about:

How did he really get it?

Should we be ashamed of ourselves for wondering?

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Failed War On Drugs Contributing To AIDS Epidemic: Report

The Global Commission on Drug Policy released a report this afternoon that shows how the failed “war on drugs” is contributing to the AIDS epidemic amongst intravenous drug users and their sexual partners (you can review the entire report below).

The Commission, which is made up of the who’s who of former presidents and United Nations aide workers, finds that “repressive” law enforcement practices steer drug addicts away from safe treatment facilities and into “hidden environments,” where the risk of contracting HIV is heightened. 

According to the Drug Policy Alliance, which provided the Voice with a copy of the report, 33 million people across the globe currently are living with HIV. Of those 33 million, intravenous drug use accounts for one-third of new HIV infections outside of sub-Saharan Africa.

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The report finds that the international “war on drugs” has done
nothing to reduce the global drug supply of opiates like heroin. In
fact, the use of opiates has increased by 380 percent in recent decades.

Because these drugs are illegal, a black market is created for
junkies to get their fix, which leads to organized crime and violence.

The Commission recommends — among other things — that countries
that under-utilize addiction treatment (like the United States) start
implementing measure that help reduce the risk of HIV, like sterile
syringe distribution, safer injecting facilities, and prescription
heroin programs.

“[A] failure to take these steps,” the Commission finds, “is criminal.”

The report shows how countries where addiction is treated as a health
issue are winning the fight against the spread of HIV. In countries
like Australia, Portugal and Switzerland — where steps similar to those
recommended by the Commission have been taken — “HIV infections have been nearly eliminated among people who use drugs,
just as vertical transmission of HIV has been eliminated in countries
where broad access to prevention of mother-to-child transmission of the
virus is available,” according to the DPA.

Additionally, “a number of specific countries, including the U.S.,
China, Russia and Thailand, have ignored scientific evidence and
resisted the implementation of evidence-based HIV prevention programs –
with devastating consequences. In Russia, for example, approximately one
in one hundred adults is now infected with HIV. In the United States,
Congress recently re-instated a longstanding ban on the use of federal
funds for syringe exchange programs,” the group continues.

The Commission’s recommendations are as follows:

● Push national governments to halt the practice of arresting
and imprisoning people who use drugs but do no harm to others.

● Measure drug policy success by indicators that have real
meaning in communities, such as reduced rates of transmission of HIV and
other infectious diseases, fewer overdose deaths, reduced drug market
violence, fewer individuals incarcerated and lowered rates of
problematic substance use.

● Respond to the fact that HIV risk behavior resulting from
repressive drug control policies and under-funding of evidence-based
approaches is the main issue driving the HIV epidemic in many regions of
the world.

● Act urgently: The war on drugs has failed, and millions of
new HIV infections and AIDS deaths can be averted if action is taken
now.

How the drug war fuels the HIV pandemic:

● Fear of arrest drives persons who use drugs underground,
away from HIV testing and HIV prevention services and into high-risk
environments.

● Restrictions on provision of sterile syringes to drug users result in increased syringe sharing.

● Prohibitions or restrictions on opioid substitution therapy
and other evidence-based treatment result in untreated addiction and
avoidable HIV risk behavior.

● Deficient conditions and lack of HIV prevention measures in prison lead to HIV outbreaks among incarcerated drug users.

● Disruptions of HIV antiretroviral therapy result in elevated
HIV viral load and subsequent HIV transmission and increased
antiretroviral resistance.

● Limited public funds are wasted on harmful and ineffective
drug law enforcement efforts instead of being invested in proven HIV
prevention strategies.

See the entire report below.

Gcdp Hiv-Aids 2012 Reference

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The Best Broadway Bares Ever!

It happened last night at Roseland, raising truckloads of money for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS while lavishing the panting crowd with a Happy Endings show of fractured fairy tales.

The stories were carried out in spectacular, sassy numbers that had been choreographed and rehearsed to the max, with feathers on (or actually off).

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There were numbers involving gay bullying, unicorns showing peen, ladies bumping it to “Puss N Boots,” three gay bears (and ultimately a whole army of them) taunting a male Goldilocks, and a big gayola wedding for the “Happy Ending.”

At one point, a very cute Pinocchio ended up with a wooden hardon, tapping it to “Knock on Wood.”

And let’s not forget the scene with Jennifer Tilly telling a young gay that she’s his evil stepmother.

“I’m sort of like a Patti LuPone,” growled Tilly, “minus the stepmother part.”

She then asked the guy if he’s searched for love at the Eagle.

“I’m looking for a boyfriend,” he replied, “not someone to pee on me!”

Hilarious lowbrow jokes like that have’t been combined with such artistry since…my column!

Photo: Christian Freedom Photo: Christian Freedom Photo: Christian Freedom Photo: Christian Freedom
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HIV Is Not A Crime!

But guess what?

In many places in this country, people with AIDS are treated as criminals if they don’t disclose their status to partners, even if the transmission risk is next to nil.

Poz magazine founder Sean Strub — who’s doing a documentary on the subject (trailer above) — tells me that a guy named Nick Rhoades got 25 years in jail for nondisclosure!

And he had an undetectable viral load and he used a condom!

And there are so many other instances like this that it’s clear PWAs are being equated with serial killers.

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I’m all for personal responsibility, but that should involve both partners.

I.e., they both need to take the necessary precautions regardless of their presumed status.

If either one is silent or evasive on the subject — or even if they exult, “I’m negative” — you still take the necessary precautions.

Don’t buy a ticket for a horror film and then complain to the cops that your heart jumped from the fright.

(And I’m willing to admit that way more education is needed to alert those at risk to these essentials.)

An extra sad twist from all this is that in certain states, people are obviously better off never getting tested because they won’t know anything and therefore can’t withhold any information!

Not getting tested can spare you the rest of your life in jail!

I thought we’d come a long way from the 1980s civil suit by Rock Hudson’s lover — who didn’t get HIV from Rock, but who still collected big time for the trauma and the distress — but in fact things have gotten way, way worse.