Starvoice • 02.04.11

By Jack Fertig

CELEBRITY BIRTHDAYtn-500_img_1303

Judith Light turns 62 on Wednesday. We couldn’t get enough of her as Claire Meade in Ugly Betty, but really, how can we not cherish Light’s extensive work as a gay rights and AIDS activist? The L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center named their library after her. Last spring, she joined Cyndi Lauper’s Give a Damn campaign joining the likes of Elton, Whoopi and Anna Paquin.

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THIS WEEK

Sun and Mars are in a long dance together through Aquarius. Dissonance from Venus and Pluto, both in Capricorn, can turn that into a war dance. It’s too easy to build up resentments over nothing. Strive for clarity and self-awareness. If you feel wronged, own your part of it and move on.

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AQUARIUS Jan 20-Feb 18
Some bee in your bonnet has you agitated and touchy. What’s at the bottom of this? Who are you really angry at? Yourself? Talk with someone who knows your BS better than to fall for it.

PISCES Feb 19-Mar 19
One of your friends is out to double-cross you. Keep your radar up. Standing with one foot in the future and one in the past blinds you to the present. Focus on what matters at the moment.
ARIES  Mar 20-Apr 19
Consider social demands before agreeing to any. Focus on challenges at work. Reexamine your goals and your strategies. Are they realistic? Even the best plans need an occasional tweak.

TAURUS Apr 20-May 20
You prefer safer paths, but are now easily goaded to big gambles. Some risk-taking is good and necessary; exercise foresight, good sense and moderation. If it looks good, go for it.

GEMINI May 21-Jun 20
New sexual adventures take you to places you’d never dreamed of. Be careful. Bragging about your new erotic adventures is also fine, but be careful about “the time and place for everything.”

CANCER Jun 21-Jul 22
You and your partner need some spice in your love life. Take turns granting each other’s desires. You’ll be surprised. Be careful where to discuss. If it gets out that could also be a surprise.

LEO Jul 23-Aug 22
Your efforts on teamwork are admirable, but remember that teamwork is not necessarily what you say it is. Work at taking orders and suggestions, then show how you can carry those out.

VIRGO Aug 23-Sep 22
Sports injuries and accidents are out to get you. Whatever you do to relax, stay focused on developing technique and keep your eyes open to usual risks. But you’ll look sexy in a cast.

LIBRA Sep 23-Oct 22
Fun and games at home start more fights than they prevent. The best application for rough competitive energy could be wrestling to see who gets on top.

SCORPIO Oct 23-Nov 21
Family fights break out too easily. Discussing those problems with a friend is more helpful than putting it in the face of your folks. Work helps relieve tension gets you some perspective.

SAGITTARIUS Nov 22-Dec 20
In your heart, you know compulsive spending is counterproductive. Sit down and analyze your finances. Learning a new game or creative outlet is helpful, if it doesn’t get expensive.

CAPRICORN Dec 21-Jan 19
Trying a new look either gets expensive or challenges your resourcefulness. Go for something radical and dramatic, even if it’s just for those special occasions.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 4, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

A new take on an old holiday classic: Anita Mann’s version of ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas’

It’s the holiday season, and so today I thought I’d share this video that I found on Mark S. King’s blog, “My Fabulous Disease.”

King is a recovering alcoholic and drug addict, not to mention an AIDS activist since the early days of the epidemic, and this video features his alter ego, Anita Mann, reading “Twas the Night Before Christmas” as part of a fundraiser for LGBT people recovering from addiction. As read by Anita, it’s the same old Christmas story we’ve all heard a million times, but her, uh, interpretation can make you see it in a whole new light.

And when you’re done watching the video, go on over to King’s blog and explore. Be sure to read his biographical information, and then read some of his posts, which are all about keeping a stubbornly positive attitude and always looking for the lighter side of life. It might give you a new outlook on life in general, not to mention the holiday season.

—  admin

Truvada breakthrough gets mixed reaction from local docs, advocates

Report that drug could protect HIV-negative men from infection is good news, but concerns remain over long-term effects, some say

David Taffet  |  Staff Writer taffet@dallasvoice.com

REMEMBERING THEIR NAMES | Two unidentified visitors console each other at the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt display in October 1989 in Washington, D.C. Panels from the Quilt will be on display in the International Peace Chapel at Cathedral of Hope on World AIDS Day 2010, Wednesday, Dec. 1. More coverage of World AIDS Day events in North Texas begins on Page 14. (Doug Mills/Associated Press)

An extensive study released this week indicates that use of the anti-retroviral drug Truvada by HIV-negative men can prevent infection. Use of the drug for prevention is called Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis or PrEP.

Dr. Nick Bellos, a local infectious disease specialist, called the results of the study a step in the right direction. But Bellos also warned that the study only showed 75 percent effectiveness in preventing infection among people who were most compliant. And he said he had concerns about patients developing resistance to the drug and not using other risk-reduction techniques.

Local AIDS activist Bret Camp, associate executive director for health and medical services at Resource Center Dallas, also warned that the side effects and long-term effects of using Truvada can be severe.

Global HIV Vaccine Enterprise executive director Dr. Alan Bernstein, referring to another recent study using a topical microbicide that appears to prevent HIV infection in women and another study that included the first demonstration of efficacy by an HIV vaccine regimen, said, “The announcement [about Truvada] … is a very important addition to what is the most promising 15 months in the field of HIV prevention research since the epidemic began 27 years ago.”

The Centers for Disease Control said the findings in the Truvada study are a major advance in prevention research and a new tool to reduce the risk of infection among gay men and bisexuals.

Dr. Brady Allen, a Dallas internist, was optimistic, but also had some concerns.

“I think we have a lot of issues to consider with PrEP,” he said. “We will certainly need recommendations from the CDC. In addition, I think it is promising work.”

AIDS Arms Executive Director Raeline Nobles was also optimistic.

“This study shows hope and a new way to battle the HIV epidemic,” Nobles said. “Usually we are a little apprehensive when there is a press release about new drugs or vaccines being tested, as we know there will be years of further study and validation — and often failure over time to come to fruition.”

But, she added, the Truvada study has her excited about the future.

Camp stressed that “The anti-retroviral prophylaxis approach is promising but only a piece of the solution.”

He said that the new drug therapy cannot replace traditional prevention methods, and he pointed out that new infections did occur among men who took the medication.

Among the 2,500 enrolled participants, 36 new infections occurred among individuals who received the drug. Among placebo recipients, there were 64 new infections. Researchers estimated that the use of the preventive medication cut new HIV infections by an estimated 44 percent overall when compared to placebo.

“Adherence to taking the pills is key to success,” Camp said.

The study did show that those who took Truvada daily had a much higher rate of protection than those who took the pills only half of the time.

Camp said that “two participants who seroconverted had resistance after” that would have been built by irregular use of the drug, causing it to be at a lower-than-therapeutic level in the blood at the time of infection.

Dr. Nick Bellos
Dr. Nick Bellos

Bellos said that those patients also may have contracted a strain of the virus that is resistant to Truvada.

But Bellos still called the results promising and said that prophylaxis is a good idea.

“In a perfect world, if we could get everyone treated, we could plateau the epidemic,” he said.

While the CDC called “developing guidance on the safe and effective use of PrEP and determining how to most effectively use PrEP in combination with other prevention strategies to reduce new infections in the U.S.” its most urgent priority, Camp warned of the risks.
While he said that compared to some of the other anti-retrovirals on the market, Truvada is fairly well tolerated, it can still cause headaches, nausea and diarrhea.

“It’s known to cause decreases in renal function,” he said. “We could be setting people up for renal issues and the long-term effects are just now coming to our attention. Cardio-vascular disease, diabetes — we don’t know what the next 10 to 20 years on those drugs will be.”

Bellos noted that metabolic bone disease could also be an issue.

He said that anyone taking the drug as a prophylactic measure would need to be medically monitored on a regular basis, just as someone who is HIV-positive.

Despite his concerns, Camp did say he believes the results are a breakthrough that proved a non-intended use or expected finding. Previous studies have shown a benefit of drugs for medical personnel accidentally exposed to the virus but this was the first time prevention was proven through sexual exposure.

“The value is more in post-exposure, when traditional HIV prevention mechanisms fail,” he said.

Camp said he is more excited about the research into anti-microbial topical gels that have recently also proven effective in preventing infection after exposure.

Bellos agreed.

“My preference is for a vaccine,” Bellos said.

“Then we don’t have to worry about it.”

He said that a study has been done in South Africa among couples where one is HIV-positive and the other is negative, showing that when the positive partner’s viral load is undetectable, the risk to the negative partner is about 6 percent.

“On therapy, 94 percent of the negative partners stayed negative,” he said.

Bellos also warned that the Truvada study showed that even for the most compliant participants in the study showed only 75 percent effectiveness in preventing infection.

He said he is concerned that people will ignore traditional prevention methods that have proven effective and instead rely on the less-effective prophylaxis.

Nobles said it has long been known that strict adherence to anti-retroviral treatment among HIV-positive people leads to less transmission of the virus to others.

But she wondered about some of the ethical implications that need to be studied, including the cost and availability of Truvada.

“If we can’t afford to treat all HIV positive people living with the disease today — which we cannot — how will we ever be able to afford paying for preventive medications, too?” Nobles said.

The drug costs about $45 per pill in the United States. Because the manufacturer gave away the patent for production by generic drug makers in other countries, it is available in some countries for under $1.

“One wonders if insurance companies are going to be willing to pay for this,” Allen said.

Bellos said that he has some patients with family members in places like Pakistan and Thailand and they are able to get the drug from overseas.

“We should have two other large PrEP trials reported on in 2011 in other high-risk groups, which will help confirm or refute these results,” said Allen.

President Barack Obama also weighed in on the importance of the study.

“I am encouraged by this announcement of groundbreaking research on HIV prevention,” the president said in a statement released Tuesday, Nov. 23.

“While more work is needed, these kinds of studies could mark the beginning of a new era in HIV prevention,” the president said.

“As this research continues, the importance of using proven HIV prevention methods cannot be overstated.”

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MORE ON TRUVADA

Truvada is a combination drug therapy known as a nucleoside analog reverse transcriptase inhibitor. Two anti-HIV medications, Emtriva® and Viread®, are combined into one pill that is taken once a day with or without food.

In the United States, the cost of the treatment is more than $1,000 per month.

Manufacturer Gilead has given away the patent for generic manufacturers to produce and sell it in third world countries. There, the cost of the drug averages 45 cents a day or about $15 per month.

Those generic medications are not available in the United States.

Dr. Nick Bellos said that patients of his who have access to the generic medication have family members in those countries that are filling the prescription and sending them the drug.

Truvada has been one of the more successful HIV medications. Fewer people seem to experience side effects on this drug than on some of the others.

Studies show that more people became and stayed undetectable over a three-year period on Truvada than on Combivir or Sustiva, two other popular HIV medications.

Those on Truvada showed a greater increase in the number of CD4 cells than on other medications.

Side effects include nausea, vomiting, unusual muscle pain and/or weakness.

Longterm use could lead to liver damage, renal failure, increased risk of diabetes and metabolic bone disease.

Changes in body fat have been seen in some people taking Truvada.

—David Taffet

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 26, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens

Focusing on S. Dallas

Wiley says South Dallas AIDS Walk designed to target message of HIV awareness to a different community

TAMMYE NASH  |  Senior Editor nash@dallasvoice.com

Auntjuan Wiley, right, and Jai Makokha
Auntjuan Wiley, right, and Jai Makokha

Dallas County has the highest HIV infection rate in Texas, according to county health officials, and some of the highest morbidity rates in the county are in two zip codes: 75215 and 7521o.

Both of those zip codes are in the South Dallas area, and yet, that area remains dolefully underserved when it comes to HIV/AIDS education, outreach and awareness efforts and HIV/AIDS services, according to longtime AIDS activist and educator Auntjuan Wiley.

“When it comes to HIV services and awareness and outreach, we focus on Oak Lawn and Oak Cliff. South Dallas always gets missed,” Wiley said this week. “And the only medical service provider for people with HIV in South Dallas is the Peabody Health Center.”

That’s why, when he was named executive director of the new Anthony Chisom AIDS Foundation, Wiley immediately set out to find ways to fill that gap. And when he heard about the idea for an annual South Dallas AIDS Walk from Anthony Chisom, he decided right away to get involved. The first South Dallas AIDS Walk is scheduled for March 19, 2011.

The lead-up to the walk began last Thursday, Nov. 4, with a kick-off party that included Dallas City Councilwoman Carolyn Davis, Dallas County Health and Human Services Director Zachary Thompson and more. Wiley’s co-chair for the walk is AIDS activist Jai Makokha.

Wiley is quick to stress that the South Dallas AIDS Walk is not meant to compete — either for participants or funds — with AIDS Arms’ LifeWalk, held each year in October in Lee Park. The South Dallas event, he said, is targeting a whole different audience.

And the walk “isn’t just all about the Anthony Chisom Foundation,” Wiley added. “Some of the funds will come to us, yes. But we have other beneficiaries, too.”

Those beneficiaries, he said, include The Afiya Center, which focuses on HIV/AIDS prevention and reproductive health for women and girls; Welcome House, which provides housing and services primarily for African-Americans with HIV/AIDS; the Ugieki Foundation, which focuses on HIV/AIDS awareness and education and provides an online project management system for charitable organizations; AIDS Arms’ Peabody Health Center; and AIDS Interfaith Network.
Wiley explained that well-known interior and floral designer Anthony Chisom began his foundation, which provides financial assistance to people with HIV to help them pay rent and utilities and buy their medications among other things, after a trip to Africa where he saw the devastation the HIV epidemic had caused there.

“He knew then that when he came home he had to do something. He had to get involved. So he started the Anthony Chisom AIDS Foundation,” Wiley said.

Wiley said he and his steering committee are working to confirm Phil Wilson, founder and CEO of the Black AIDS Institute, as keynote speaker and grand marshal for the South Dallas AIDS Walk. But, he said, walk organizers need lots of sponsors, vendors, walkers and volunteers. And he hopes that many of the businesses and civil and faith community leaders in South Dallas will come on as partners in this effort.

He said the involvement of the business, civil and religious leaders will be vital to the walk’s success.

“South Dallas is, historically, a hard community to reach with the AIDS awareness and education messages,” Wiley said. “There is still a lot of the fear and stigma and shame surrounding HIV and AIDS in South Dallas that isn’t as strong any more in Oak Lawn and Oak Cliff. So it takes a different approach in South Dallas.

“It is very important that we have an aggressive and strategic community engagement piece to this effort. There needs to be a real conversation with the gatekeepers in this community, the community leaders,” he said. “If we can get them involved, then we have a better chance of getting our message to this community.”

Wiley said the walk will be an annual event, because a one-time thing won’t get the message across.

“You can’t go into this community just once with a message and then leave,” he said. “You have to stay there. You have to be visible. You have to let them know we care. We want them to know that this is ‘a walk in South Dallas, for South Dallas.’ That’s our theme.”

While the obvious goal is to raise awareness and funds, “it’s about a lot more than just charity and awareness. It’s about doing the work. Until there is a cure the work has to be done,” said Wiley, who this month marked his 15th year of living with AIDS and this year marked his 20th year of working in the HIV/AIDS field.
Wiley said, “This is about change. Dallas County has the highest HIV infection rate in Texas. South Dallas has some of the highest infection rates in Dallas County. That has to change. It is just time for a change.”

For more information, contact Auntjuan Wiley by e-mail at a.wiley@anthonychisomaidsfoundation.org or by phone at 214-455-7316.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 12, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens

AIDS activists file complaint against Larry Flynt

JOHN ROGERS  |  Associated Press

LOS ANGELES — An AIDS activist group filed a workplace safety complaint against Larry Flynt on Thursday, Aug. 26, accusing the porn king of creating an unsafe environment for his stable of sex stars by not requiring they use condoms.

To illustrate its point, the AIDS Health Foundation also delivered 100 DVDS of hardcore Flynt films to the state Division of Occupational Safety and Health’s Los Angeles office. Only a single scene in one of the films shows a performer using a condom, said AHF spokesman Ged Kenslea.

The films, most with innuendo-laden names, “clearly demonstrate workplace activities highly likely to spread bloodborne pathogens in the workplace,” the complaint says. It urges the state agency to order the use of condoms on film sets.

Larry Flynt Productions President Michael Klein indicated that is an unreasonable demand, adding porn audiences don’t want to watch people using condoms.

“We won’t budge when it comes to condomless productions,” he said in a statement. “That’s what the consumer wants, and we deliver it.”

Federal law requires that all porn actors be tested for HIV 30 days before the start of filming, and Klein said Flynt’s productions adhere to those standards. He added that none of the company’s actors has ever tested positive for HIV.

AHF President Michael Weinstein said his group targeted Flynt in part because he is arguably the world’s most famous and successful pornographer. Hours before filing the complaint, AHF members, clad in bright red shirts, demonstrated outside the plush Beverly Hills skyscraper that is home to Larry Flynt Productions.

Earlier this year, the group brought similar complaints against nine talent agencies it says promote actors willing to have unprotected sex on camera. Cal-OSHA spokeswoman Krisann Chasarik said Thursday those complaints prompted an investigation, although she didn’t know the status of it.

Depending on the nature of a complaint, Chasarik said, Cal-OSHA can launch a workplace inspection or ask that an employer prove the complaint is groundless.

“Our next step now would be to evaluate the complaint,” she said of Thursday’s filing.

According to the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, workers in the adult film industry are 10 times more likely to be infected with a sexually transmitted disease than members of the general population. The department documented 2,013 cases of chlamydia and 965 cases of gonorrhea among workers between 2003 and 2007, and noted that some performers had four or more separate infections over the course of a year.

As many as 25 industry-related cases of HIV have been reported since 2004, the department said.

—  John Wright