Malaysia Airlines crash claims 100-plus AIDS researchers, activists

Joep Lange

Joep Lange

The Sydney Morning Herald is among the news agencies reporting that more than 100 AIDS researchers, activists and medical workers on their way to the International AIDS Conference in Melbourne, Australia were among the 298 people killed in the crash of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 in Ukraine early Thursday morning.

Officials have said the plane, a Boeing 777, was shot down by Russian-led separatists using an anti-aircraft missile.

Former International AIDS Society president Joep Lange is said to be among those killed in the crash. New York Daily News is reporting that friends have confirmed that World Health Organization spokesman Glenn Raymond Thomas is also among the victims.

NY Daily News reports that the Boeing 777 departed from Amsterdam and was en route to Kuala Luampur when it was shot down in Ukraine about 25 miles from the Russian border. Among the 298 people killed were 154 from the Netherlands; 43 people, including 15 crew and two infants, from Malaysia; 27 from Australia; 12 people, including one infant, from Indonesia; 9 from the United Kingdom; 4 from Germany; 4 from Belgium; 3 from the Philippines; 1 from Canada; and 41 people “unverified.” Some Americans are believed to have been aboard.

 

—  Tammye Nash

Dallas Bears presents GDMAF with its largest donation ever

bears

Dallas Bears recently presented the Greg Dollgener Memorial AIDS Fund with a $28,100 donation, the largest the organization has ever received. GDMAF provides emergency funds for people with HIV when all other options for help through other agencies have been exhausted.

The organization was founded in 1994 after the death of Greg Dollgener, who taught his friends strength and courage through volunteering at various AIDS organizations and helping those less fortunate than himself despite his own battle with the disease.

—  David Taffet

Storm damages Legacy’s building

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All the glass is missing from the skylight at Legacy Counseling Center

Yesterday’s torrential storm did damage all around the city, and one space not spared was Legacy Counseling Center.

Melissa Grove, executive director of Legacy, jokes that she was “lying in her office getting a suntan,” because the storm blew out the atrium skylight window at the agency’s McKinney Avenue headquarters and counseling office.

“Despite the roof being blown off, we continued to serve our clients, because that’s what we do,” Grove said.

She said the building lost electricity and suffered some water damage. Pieces of the skylight smashed through the windshield of one agency counselor’s car.

Grove  said everyone is safe and agency operations continue as normal, but I suggested it might be a good fundraising opportunity.

“Hey, I’ll always ‘ho’ out for donations,” Grove said. Donations to help repair office damage can be made here.

—  David Taffet

Former drag queen runs for N.C. state Senate as anti-marriage Republican

SteveWiles

Steve Wiles

North Carolina Republican state Senate candidate Steve Wiles supports the state’s ban on same-sex marriage.

Not surprising until you learn that Wiles also was known as Miss Mona Sinclair who performed at Club Odyssey from 2002 until 2010, according to the Winston-Salem Journal.

Wiles first denied he was the drag performer but within three weeks admitted he was.

“I have already apologized to the people who matter most to me for the things I did when I was young,” Wiles said.

He didn’t clarify what he apologized for. For entertaining? For raising money for AIDS organizations?

He also wouldn’t confirm or deny if he is gay.

Wiles also was a Miss Gay America promoter, although he was suspended for “conduct unbecoming to a promoter of the Miss Gay America pageant system.”

The Winston-Salem paper reported Wiles voted in the Democratic primary in 2008. By 2012, he was campaigning for the anti-marriage amendment that passed. In the current election, he has made the anti-gay law his primary issue.

Wiles explained his support of the amendment.

“I do not condone the things I did when I was young,” Wiles said.

Wiles has two opponents. One is the incumbent in this conservative district. The primary for the Republican nomination is tomorrow.

—  David Taffet

Legacy Counseling holds clothing drive

legacylogoLegacy Counseling needs clothing for its Grace Project Conference for women living with HIV. Women attending the May 2–4 conference will be given tickets they can trade for clothing items they can take home. Most of the women attending have family members also in need, so men’s and children’s clothing also is welcomed.

The clothing drop-off takes place in the Legacy Counseling parking lot, 4054 McKinney Ave. at Elizabeth Street on April 11 and 12 from 9 a.m.–noon.

Items needed include gently used or new women’s, men’s and children’s clothing, shoes, accessories (such as purses, scarves, gloves and hats), jewelry and bulk goody bag items for the women attending. Any undergarments donated must be new and still in packaging.

For more information, call 214-520-6308.

—  David Taffet

AHF presents AIDS is a civil rights issue

Al.Sharpton

The Rev. Al Sharpton

The Rev. Al Sharpton will be in Dallas on Saturday for an AIDS Healthcare Foundation town hall meeting. The evening’s theme is “AIDS is a Civil Rights Issue.”

Among the panel members will be Dallas Councilman Dwaine Caraway and Dallas County Health Director Zach Thompson. Yarbrough & Peoples will perform.

The town hall meetings takes place at Agape Temple AME Church, 3432 Mingo St. Feb. 22 at 6–9 p.m.

—  David Taffet

Today is Black HIV Awareness Day

cdcFeb. 7 marks the 14th annual National Black HIV Awareness Day.

In a statement, Dr. Jonathan Mermin, director, National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention for Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said:

“African Americans now bear the greatest burden of HIV in the United States, accounting for nearly half of the more than 1.1 million Americans living with HIV and nearly half of those who have died with AIDS since the beginning of the epidemic.”

In his statement, he said blacks are not getting the care they need.

Among blacks who have been diagnosed with HIV, only 75 percent were linked to care and only 48 percent stayed in care.

Treatment guidelines in the United States recommend that all people with HIV start antiretroviral therapy regardless of the severity of illness. However, only 46 percent were prescribed antiretroviral therapy, and 35 percent achieved viral suppression.

Other statistics:

• CDC estimates show that blacks account for almost half of all new infections in the United States each year (44 percent) as well as almost half of all people living with HIV (44 percent).

• Approximately one in 16 black men will be diagnosed with HIV during their lifetimes, as will one in 32 black women.

• Among blacks, men account for 70 percent of new HIV infections and women account for 30 percent.

• Within the African American community, gay and bisexual men are the most affected, followed by heterosexual women.

• Black men account for almost one-third (31 percent) of all new HIV infections in the United States.

• The rate of new HIV infections for black men is more than six times as high as the rate among white men, and more than twice that of Hispanic men.

• In a study of 21 major U.S. cities in 2008, 28 percent of black MSM were infected, compared to 16 percent of white MSM. Among the black MSM who were HIV-infected, nearly 6 out of 10 (59 percent) were unaware that they were infected.

—  David Taffet

Resource Center receives grant from Elton John foundation

Elton John

Elton John

The Elton John AIDS Foundation awarded Resource Center a $38,000 grant for its Latino HIV/AIDS outreach and prevention program, Valor Latino.

The grant will support existing services including a monthly social support group for Latino gay and bisexual men, Spanish language prevention materials and advertising.

Resource Center CEO Cece Cox said she was grateful to the EJAF for its support.

“HIV/AIDS disproportionately impacts the Dallas-area Hispanic community and Valor Latino is actively leading efforts to reduce HIV infections,” she said.

In 1996, the Center established the first HIV prevention program to target Latino gay men in Dallas. Valor Latino is a comprehensive HIV prevention program offering bilingual and culturally appropriate education, outreach, counseling, testing and referral services with a focus on Latino gay and bisexual men in North Texas.

In 2012 and 2013, Valor Latino tested 1,627 Latino gay and bisexual men. Just over 4 percent of them tested positive. More than nine out of 10 of those diagnosed with HIV now receive medical care and services.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, Latinos are the racial/ethnic group most likely to receive late diagnoses.

Since 1992, the Elton John AIDS Foundation has raised and distributed more than $300 million for projects across the globe focusing on HIV prevention, harm reduction, community health and human rights empowerment campaigns, stigma eradication, and compassionate public policy development.

In 2013, EJAF granted $7.3 million.

According to its website, the 21 new and 35 renewal grants support organizations working to address some of the most critical challenges presented by the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the United States and the Caribbean.

Resource Center has received this grant for Valor Latino each year since 2011. Other Texas organizations received funds from EJAF including Out Youth and Migrant Clinicians Network in Austin, International AIDS Empowerment of El Paso and Houston’s St. Hope Foundation and AIDS Foundation Houston.

—  David Taffet

Gay men push to end 30-year blood donation ban

Blood_Donation_12-07-06_1A push by activists to ease the 30-year-old blanket ban on blood donations from gay and bisexual men faces a key test this week as a federal panel hears results of the latest research, The Washington Times reported. The findings will be released amid growing pressure from politicians and advocates, including college students, to change the policy.

Critics say the ban is a hangover from the early, fear-filled days of AIDS, stigmatizing gay men and ignoring advances in treatment and detection in the decades since.

Supporters of the policy say politics, not science, is driving the proposed change, which would heighten the risk of spreading HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, when the medical demand for blood donations is decreasing.

Under Food and Drug Administration rules, men who have had sex with men (MSM) since 1977 are ineligible to donate blood. An acknowledgment of having male homosexual relations at any time in one’s life is enough to disqualify a potential donor.

“This policy is discriminatory and inadequate,” said a petition drive at WhiteHouse.gov started in early November by students at the University of Michigan.

The students’ solution is to change the questionnaire to ask prospective blood donors, “Have you had unprotected sexual contact with a new partner in the past 12 weeks?”

—  Steve Ramos

‘Dallas Buyers Club’ accurately portrays Oak Lawn’s in-your-face tactics

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Matthew McConaughey in Dallas Buyers Club shown here at his apartment. The actual Ron Woodroof lived on Hudnall Street.

Dallas Buyers Club has been haunting me since I saw a preview of it several weeks ago.

The film was mainly shot in New Orleans, but for anyone from Dallas, it seems to take place in an alternate universe. That scene where Ron Woodroof is working in a Dallas oil field?  Where the hell is that?

Another distracting discrepancy in the movie is the placement of a highway that crosses Cedar Springs Road. And if that weren’t enough, the first time someone called Parkland “Mercy Hospital”, I wasn’t the only one in the audience who laughed.

The visuals weren’t the only things that bothered me. The script depicted Woodroof as homophobic. He wasn’t. That piece works in the story. One week he’s taunting gays, but the next week, after he’s diagnosed with AIDS, he’s the one being taunted for having the “gay cancer.”

That sort of thing did happen — often. Parents rejected sons once they were diagnosed with AIDS. Doctors refused to treat patients, and hospitals virtually quarantined anyone with HIV.

Baylor Hospital had an AIDS floor that was mostly staffed by fabulous, caring, compassionate lesbian nurses. I could do a separate story on their heroics and the horrible way the hospital treated them.

Parkland hospital also had an AIDS floor. Until we (the gay community) sued them, I don’t know if you would actually say the floor was staffed. And that’s why the name is changed to the ironic Mercy Hospital. Who needs the lawsuit?

But Ron wasn’t homophobic. I think he wouldn’t mind the portrayal, though, because it works well in the story. An AIDS diagnosis too often meant horrible treatment by family, friends, church and even doctors. Ron would have loved the notoriety — he’d love his portrayal as someone who went up against the government and won.

Here’s what the film got absolutely right. In Dallas, we didn’t care what the hell the FDA or any other government agency said. We were going to do everything we could to take care of our friends, and no other city did it the way we did. No one was as strident in our protests or as underhanded in getting unapproved treatments.

At Nelson Tebedo, we were administering Pentamadine mist that was preventing pneumocystis, a deadly form of pneumonia that was killing a lot of people. At an AIDS hospice and a housing program, exorbitantly expensive drugs were collected after people died and redistributed to others who couldn’t afford medication. Bill Hunt, who worked at a certain food pantry on Cedar Springs, did the same thing there. All totally illegal and all done with the same “fuck you” attitude. We were going to do what we could to help save our friends’ lives because no one else was helping us do it.

Mary Franklin, who ran the Resource Center Food Pantry for years, worked at the Dallas Buyers Club for six months. The part of the intake coordinator is played by a black actress playing a composite character that includes Franklin.

Franklin described Woodroof as very protective. He’d tell her to stay home on days he or other drug mules were delivering medication from Mexico. He kept her out of the back room where the drugs were kept.

She said the characterization of him dressing as a priest to bring drugs across the border was accurate, but in some ways he was even more renegade than that. Eventually, he purchased a speed boat and brought his cargo into the country across the Gulf of Mexico, avoiding border crossings. That story isn’t mentioned in the film.

Since every film like this needs an antagonist, the FDA agent is it. That same agent catches Ron on the border, in Dallas and in between. In reality, the FDA actually was pretty much looking the other way.

One person who worked at Nelson Tebedo at the time and is still working for an HIV/AIDS agency said during one FDA inspection, an agent found some empty pill bottles. He explained they were for demonstration purposes only. He got away with it and only had to dispose of the bottles. Someone who still works at another agency said collected drugs were locked in a drawer during one FDA inspection. That agent looked everywhere else, but never asked to see inside the drawer.

Also, AIDS doctors in Dallas were not looking on passively as their patients took unapproved drugs. Dr. Steven Pounders (portrayed in the film by Jennifer Garner — and he never looked better) said patients brought medications they received at the Dallas Buyers Club to him to administer and monitor. As the film ends, Garner walks out of Parkland, I mean Mercy, hospital to begin her own practice and seems as if she’s planning to do just what Pounders did.

When I left the theater, the creation of an alternate-universe Dallas where homophobic Ron lived bothered me. Two weeks later, however, I want to see the film again. The story of my friends desperately trying to save my friends is still haunting me.

—  David Taffet