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

HHS announces 2013 Ryan White funding

HHSThe Department of Health and Human Services on Tuesday announced its 2013 Ryan White funding for critical HIV/AIDS health care services and medications. A total of $594 million in Part A funding was awarded to 53 cities for medical and support services.

Dallas was awarded $ 14,324,000. Fort Worth will receive $ 3,653,145.

The Metroplex did not do as well as other comparable metropolitan areas.

Smaller cities such as Atlanta will receive $ 21,483,214, and Fort Lauderdale was awarded half a million dollars more than Dallas.

Elsewhere in Texas, Houston was awarded $19,750,043, San Antonio $4,309,561 and Austin $4,024,795. El Paso does not receive Ryan White Part A funding.

The money goes to area planning councils that divide the money among AIDS service organizations and county facilities such as Parkland Hospital.

Part B funding is awarded to states for the AIDS Drug Assistance Program. Texas will receive $83 million to ensure those with HIV who have no insurance to cover the cost of medication will receive necessary drugs. Only New York and California received more funding than Texas. This money helps people with HIV who need drug assistance throughout the state.

Part C funds are granted directly to organizations that provide comprehensive primary health care in outpatient settings to people living with HIV. In Texas, 10 providers were granted money. In Dallas, AIDS Arms will receive $315,875. The Tarrant County Health Department and Dallas County Hospital District each will receive more than $800,000.

—  David Taffet

Food pantry receives sizable donation from Hilton Anatole

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Part of the Anatole’s donation

Resource Center received a sizable donation on Friday from the Hilton Anatole.

After a conference ended on Thursday, the caterer asked hotel staff for a suggestion of where to donate food and other items that weren’t used. Several Anatole staff members including Hal Scott suggested the Resource Center’s food pantry. Scott is the brother of Paul Scott, executive director of AIDS Services of Austin and a former executive director of Resource Center.

Resource Center spokesman Rafael McDonnell said the donation included gallon containers of ketchup and salad dressing that would be used by the hot meals program and other needed items like hand sanitizer and replacement mop buckets.

In all, the donation filled nine pick-up trucks.

McDonnell said that despite the size of the donation, the need continues.

“The government is still closed and the need is still there,” he said.

The food pantry distributes seven tons of food a week. Half of its clients are also housing insecure.

—  David Taffet

Resource Center food pantry giving out Twizzlers ‘because that’s all we’ve got’

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The Food Pantry shelves are usually brimming with a variety of items for clients of Resource Center.

Resource Center put out a call for donations Thursday for its food pantry serving low-income people with HIV/AIDS.

“We have peanut butter, beans, tomato sauce and carrots, and that’s it,” Resource Center spokesman Rafael McDonnell said. “We’re giving away Twizzlers because that’s all we’ve got.”

He was at the Food Pantry on Denton Drive Cutoff across from Inwood Station celebrating the last day of work of pantry manager Micki Pacific, who has been with the Center 10 years.

“I can’t remember it ever looking like that,” McDonnell said.

Partially it’s the time of year, he said. Because it’s Pride week, people aren’t having food drives. Some of the pantry’s stock comes from the North Texas Food Bank.

“But the Food Bank doesn’t have because of the sequester,” he said.

The Center will accept canned goods donations for the pantry at the front desk at 2701 Reagan St. on Friday and Saturday. Officials are also urging people to bring canned goods to the Center’s 30th Anniversary and Open House on Saturday, and can accept donations at the pantry on Denton Drive Cutoff on Monday.

McDonnell said he hopes the community will be as outraged that people don’t have food as they are about the dress code for the parade.

—  David Taffet

Micki Pacific leaves Resource Center food pantry, moves to Northwest

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Tree hugger Micki Diane Pacific

Micki Diane Pacific left Resource Center this week where she was manager of the Food Pantry and hot meals program.

During her tenure at Resource Center she led the team that started the GEAR transgender program, and the Trans Health Clinic.

“I am moving to Washington state to be a socialist, tree-hugging hippie!” she said. “I plan to get a kayak and get my snowboard back out on the ski slopes there.”

In Washington, she’ll be part of several worker-owned cooperatives and helping with some new start-up businesses.

Pacific served in the Army working on top secret missions for the NSA. She also is a live sound engineer who has worked with more than 180 national performing artists, including John Fogerty, ZZTopp, Genesis and The Monkees.

“I will miss a lot of the great friendships that I have here,” she said.

During her 10 years at Resource Center, she estimates her programs have distributed more than 5,000 tons of food.

“It’s been an honor to be able to be part of that,” she said.

—  David Taffet

University of Houston student targeted in homophobic attacks wins election

Kristopher Sharp

Kristopher Sharp plans to use his position as vice president of the University of Houston—Downtown to educate the campus on diversity next school year.

Sharp and his running mate, Isaac Valdez, were elected by the student body last week. Sharp was the target of anti-gay attacks throughout the campaign, including a flier that listed Sharp’s HIV-positive status with medical information on the back. In the weeks that followed, Sharp said graffiti stating “Issac + Kris=AIDS” popped up in bathrooms.

The university launched an investigation and Sharp said he is working with the administration. He’s also hired a lawyer for his protection, but he said he doesn’t want to press charges when the person responsible is found. Instead, he wants the university to place them on academic probation.

—  Anna Waugh

AIDS Walk South Dallas distributes funds

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Walk director Auntjuan Wiley, left,  presents check to AIDS Interfaith Network Director Steven Pace.

AIDS Walk South Dallas distributed $4,000 to its beneficiaries last week.

Kidscapes Foundation and AIDS Interfaith Network each received a check for $2,000. In addition to distributing funds and paying all expenses, walk director Auntjuan Wiley said his organization raised enough to retain seed money for next year’s event.

More than 200 people registered for the walk that took place on March 16 and 512 people attended the event at St. Philip’s School on Pennsylvania Avenue.

HIV and syphilis testing was done before and after the event. Of the 27 people tested, one person tested positive for HIV and got into treatment and another person got back into treatment.

Wiley said plans are already underway for next year. St. Philip’s School will host the event again. The area is one of the hardest hit in Dallas for new HIV infections.

The 2014 walk will take place on March 22.

—  David Taffet

Houston student targeted for HIV status, ‘homosexual agenda’ in election

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A flier circulated on a Houston college campus this week targeted a student body vice president candidate’s sexual orientation and HIV status.

Kristopher Sharp, a junior social work major at the University of Houston-Downtown, said administrators called him in to meet with them on Tuesday and he learned about the anti-gay flier.

The flier, above, has a picture of him with an X over it below the caption, “WANT AIDS?” and urges students not to support him and his running mate’s “homosexual agenda.”

On the back of the flier is a copy of a medical document from one of Sharp’s recent doctor appointments that contains his home address, phone number and HIV status.

Sharp, 23, said he’s out on campus and is open about his HIV-positive status, having spoken about his experience with the disease at a World AIDS Day event. He said he keeps a folder of medical forms in his student senator desk in the student government office since his doctor is a few blocks from campus. He said he recently noticed forms missing.

Seeing the flier and realizing someone took his forms shocked him.

“I was devastated,” Sharp said. “I knew going into this that there would be some people who wouldn’t support me because of who I am.”

—  Anna Waugh