HIV study results troubling
ATLANTA, Ga. — Nearly three out of four Americans living with HIV do not have their infection under control, according to a Vital Signs report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, released in conjunction with World AIDS Day, Dec. 1. The low percentage comes from the fact that 1 in 5 people with HIV do not know they are infected and, of those who are aware, only 51 percent receive ongoing medical care and treatment.
Of the nearly 1.2 million people living with HIV in the U.S., only an estimated 28 percent have a suppressed viral load (defined as viral load less than 200 copies of the blood-borne virus per milliliter of blood) — meaning that the virus is under control and at a level that helps keep them healthy and reduces the risk of transmitting the virus to others.
However, of those living with HIV who are in ongoing care and on antiretroviral treatment, 77 percent have suppressed levels of the virus. Effective HIV treatment and care benefit infected individuals by improving their health, and are also important for HIV prevention. Results from a recent study of heterosexual couples from the National Institutes of Health showed that consistently taking antiretroviral therapy, in combination with safer behaviors, can reduce the risk of spreading HIV by approximately 96 percent.
HIV bias in dental care
LOS ANGELES, Calif. — A study by the Williams Institute found that five percent of dental offices in Los Angeles County have a blanket policy of refusing dental services to People Living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA). The study also revealed that an additional five percent of dental providers would treat PLWHA differently than other patients in ways that could potentially violate anti-discrimination laws. Examples include only providing the most basic of services, such as a cleaning, or only treating them on certain days of the week or in an isolated room.
“Thirty years into the epidemic, HIV-positive patients continue to face discrimination when accessing dental care,” said study co-author Brad Sears, executive director of the Williams Institute. “While it is definitely encouraging that 90 percent of dentists in Los Angeles County do treat HIV-positive patients, it is likely that the rate of discrimination is higher in other parts of the country.”
Similar studies of health care providers in Los Angeles County conducted by Sears between 2003 and 2006 found that 55 percent of obstetricians, 46 percent of skilled nursing facilities and 25 percent of plastic surgeons had unlawful blanket policies of refusing service to PLWHA.
Youth groups secure major grants
LOS ANGELES, Calif. — Liberty Hill Foundation has selected five community organizations from around the country to receive $100,000 multi-year grants in an effort to end violence against LGBTQ communities and advance safety, self-determination and justice for LGBTQ youth. The grants will be made through the Queer Youth Fund, one of Liberty Hill’s donor advised funds.
The 2011 Queer Youth Fund grantees are Brown Boi Project (Oakland, Calif.); Colorado Anti-Violence Program (Denver, Colo.); Make the Road New York (Brooklyn, N.Y.); The Theatre Offensive (Cambridge, Mass.); and Three Wings (Seattle, Wash.).
The Queer Youth Fund was established in 2002. So far, more than $3.5 million has been awarded to groups in 21 states and Canada. Each grant is $100,000 and paid out over three to five years.
HRC launches Jewish org index
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Human Rights Campaign Foundation announced is launching the first-of-its-kind Jewish Organization Equality Index (JOEI) survey. Modeled after HRC’s Corporate Equality Index (CEI) and Healthcare Equality Index (HEI), JOEI is designed to measure LGBT inclusion in the programs and employment practices at Jewish non-profit organizations.
Rabbi Hyim Shafner of the Bais Abraham Congregation in St. Louis, Mo., said, “It is my hope that the Jewish Organization Equality Index will serve as a strong step toward strengthening the important Torah value of seeing all Jews as made in the image of God and deserving of the highest of human dignity and kavod, no matter their gender, gender identity, sexual orientation or background.”
Gay cops win partner benefits
BALTIMORE, Md. — Baltimore County must grant equal employment benefits to same-sex couples, the result of a binding arbitration decision secured after Lambda Legal and the police union filed grievances on behalf of Baltimore County police officers Margaret Selby and Juanika Ballard, who had been turned down for benefits for their same-sex spouses.
“Under Maryland law, Officer Selby and Officer Ballard both have legal spouses who should be recognized. We are pleased that Baltimore County will finally have to fulfill its obligation to these dedicated long-time employees who just want to protect their families,” said Susan Sommer, Lambda Legal director of constitutional litigation. “This binding arbitration order is the final step in a long process. For years, these police officers have put themselves in harm’s way to keep Baltimore County safe. Now they will get the same employee protections for their spouses that other officers get.
“We are thankful to the Fraternal Order of Police for standing by its lesbian and gay members to make sure these officers are treated like their colleagues,” Sommer added.
LGBT Cancer Network expands
NEW YORK, N.Y. — The National LGBT Cancer Network, the first program in the country to address the needs of all LGBT people with cancer and those at risk, has expanded its directory of LGBT-friendly cancer screening facilities beyond New York City. The list now covers facilities in California, Colorado, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Vermont.
Liz Margolies, executive director of the National LGBT Cancer Network, explained, “We have selected each facility for inclusion based on its commitment to offering safe, affordable, welcoming care to all LGBT people. Each has demonstrated proven cultural competence in respecting the bodies, histories and families of LGBT patients. We will research additional facilities and expand the list until every LGBT person in the country is within driving range of a safe and welcoming facility where they will be respected. …
“On average,” she added, “medical students receive under 5 hours of training on LGBT issues in their entire medical education. To address these concerns from patients, we have included, wherever possible, a contact person at each facility who has agreed to shepherd members of the LGBT community through the process of being screened.”
The list of facilities is available at cancer-network.org/screenings/facilities.
Biased law moving forward
ABUJA, Nigeria — On Nov. 29, the Nigerian Senate unanimously outlawed same-sex marriages and civil unions, with penalties of up to 14 years in jail for participants and 10 years in jail for anyone who helps or witnesses such a marriage or union. The measure also bans public displays of affection between gay couples.
During the bill’s third reading, which determined its passage, senators chided U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron’s October threat that aid might be withheld if the bill is enacted. Senate President David Mark said, “Any country that does not want to give us aid or assistance, just because we hold on very firmly to our values, that country can (keep) their assistance.”
He added, “No country has the right to interfere in the way we make our laws, as we do not interfere into others.”
The bill was approved in a form that is even more restrictive than when it was read at a public hearing some weeks ago. Now, the bill additionally criminalizes the registration of gay clubs, organizations and “same-sex amorous relationships” in general.
At press time, the bill is awaiting three readings in the House of Representatives, at which time it is expected to be approved. If it is, the measure will then be submitted to the president for final assent.