LifeWalk sets one record, hopes for more

As of Sunday, Oct. 4, when the event took place, the 25th anniversary LifeWalk had already brought in $527,000 “and counting,” according to Tori Hobbs, chief development officer for AIDS Arm INc., the AIDS service organization that presents the walk each year. That total, Hobbs added, sets a record for funds raised as of the day of the event.

The goal for this year’s LifeWalk was $600,000, and Hobbs said that by the time the final deadline of Oct. 23 rolls around, the organization expects to have reached its goal. The final total for LifeWalk 2014 was $592,628.

And the teams and individuals competing for top fundraiser honors also have until Oct. 23 to turn in their funds to be considered for prizes and recognition.

Here are a few photos from Lee Park on Sunday during LifeWalk, and special thanks to Avita Pharmacy for letting us post their group photo of walkers just before they stepped off. Other photos are by Tammye Nash.

—  Tammye Nash

Administration commits nearly half a billion dollars to PEPFAR

Susan E. Rice

National Security Advisor Susan E. Rice

National Security Advisor Susan E. Rice on Saturday, Sept. 26, announced that the Obama Administration is investing “nearly half a billion dollars to support an AIDS-free future for adolescent girls and young women,” through the President’s Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).

In a statement released Saturday, Rice said that both new HIV infections and AIDS-related deaths are both down by more than 40 percent since the peak of the epidemic, adding that the Obama Administration has “invested nearly $50 billion” through PEPFAR to “achieve an AIDS-free generation, building on the initiative and $15 billion provided by President Bush.”

She continued, “Working with partner countries around the globe, we are now supporting life-saving antiretroviral treatment for 7.7 million men, women and children worldwide; enabled more than one million babies to be born HIV-free; and tested and counseled more than 14 million pregnant women last year alone.

“Today we are setting a bold new course by announcing ambitious PEPFAR prevention and treatment targets for 2016 and 2017.”

The goal is that by the end of 2017, PEPFAR will support antiretroviral treatment for 12.9 million people, pay for 13 million male circumcisions to help prevent HIV transmission and reduce HIV infections by 40 percent among adolescent girls and young women in 10 sub-Saharan African countries, Rice said. Every year, Rice noted, 380,000 adolescent girls and young women are infected with HIV. That’s 7,300 every week, or more than 1,000 every day.

“This must change,” Rice said.

The new effort includes $300 million in additional HIV prevention investments with the PEPFAR-led DREAMS partnership, building on the $210 million that PEPFAR and private partners committed to DREAMS on World AIDS Day last year.

DREAMS stands for Determined, Resilient, Empowered AIDS-free, Mentored, and Safe women.

“Over the last 15 years, we have seen remarkable results as we have worked together toward achieving the Millennium Development Goals,” Rice said. “PEPFAR’s new targets and investments come at a critical time as we transition from the Millennium Development Goals to meet the challenge before us in the new Sustainable Development Goals: to end the AIDS epidemic by 2030.

“We believe if we all — governments, private sector, civil society including faith-based organizations — bring our collective will and energy together, we can achieve an AIDS-free generation and bring this epidemic to a halt,” she conclluded.

—  Tammye Nash

Community forum on PrEP set in Houston

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Damon Jacobs

The United Way of Greater Houston — Community Resource Center will host a one-day event on pre-exposure prophylaxis — PrEP — on Thursday, Oct. 22. The event is co-sponsored by Med-IQ, HealthHIV, Pozitively Healthy and the National Coalition for LGBT Health. The event is supported by an educational grant from Gilead Sciences Inc.

“Are you prepared for PrEP? A Community Forum to Explore the Optimal Use of Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis for HIV Prevention” will be open to the community from 5:15-8:30 p.m., and to HIV service providers from 5:15-9 p.m. Dinner will be provided. The UW Community Resource Center is located at 50 Waugh Drive.

Presentations will range from defining PrEP and how it works to identifying barriers to accessing and using PrEP. Continuing medical education and continuing education credits will be available for physicians, physicians’ assistants, nurses and other healthcare professionals.

Steering committee faculty for the event are Dr. Robert M. Grant, professor of medicine with the University of California in San Francisco; Dr. Oni J. Blackstock, assistant professor in the Department of Medicine at Albert Einstein College of Medicine/Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx, New York; and Dr. Richard Elion, associate professor of clinical medicine with George Washington University school of Medicine in Washington, D.C. Community presenter will be Damon Jacobs, a licensed marriage and family therapist and consumer PrEP educator from New York City.

Advocates and consumers can RSVP to the forum here.

Providers and healthcare professionals can contact Med-IQ at 866-858-7434 or by email at info@med-iq.com for information. ASO/CBOs and consumers can contact HealthHIV at 202-232-6749 pr by email at christopher@healthyhiv.org for information.

—  Tammye Nash

2 Dallas organizations among those receiving prevention funding from CDC

Six community-based organizations in Texas —  including two in Dallas — are among the 90 CBOs nationwide chosen to receive a total of $216 million in new funding intended to strengthen HIV prevention efforts, according to a statement released this morning (Wednesday, July 1) by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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Kirk Myers, Abounding Prosperity

Dallas CBOs receiving funds are Abounding Prosperity Inc. and AIDS Arms Inc. Other Texas CBOs on the list are AIDS Foundation Houston Inc., BEAT AIDS Coalition Trust in San Antonio, Change Happens in Houston and St. Hope Foundation in Houston.

According to a statement from the CDC, “The selected CBOs have demonstrated experience and on-the-ground expertise serving populations most affected by the epidemic, including African-Americans, men who have sex with men, transgender individuals and people who inject drugs.

“Consistent with CDC’s high-impact prevention approach, CBOs will invest the new funding in cost-effective and scalable interventions, targeted to the populations that need them most,” the statement continued. “These include HIV testing, condom distribution, improving adherence to treatment among people with HIV, and ensuring access to pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) for people at high risk of infection.”

These funds are “one critical piece” of the nearly $700 million the CDC invests annually in HIV prevention efforts across the country, the statement said.

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Dr. John Carlo, AIDS Arms

Dr. Eugene McCray, director of CDC’s Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention, said the funding includes, for the first time, a component allowing organization to pool their expertise and resource into “prevention partnerships.” Of the 90 organizations receiving funds, 30 will serve as the lead of a partnership comprised of several organizations, giving 47 additional organizations the chance to contribute their expertise to help deliver more comprehensive prevention services.

“It’s clear that we need to focus our limited resources on strategies that can have the greatest possible impact,” McCray said. “This funding targets local communities to help maximize the impact of every federal prevention dollar. By delivering powerful prevention tools where they’re needed most, we can have a transformative impact on the epidemic.”

The funded organizations are in the 50 geographic areas that reported the highest number of HIV diagnoses in 2011. Of the 90 directly-funded CBOs, 67 (74.4 percent) primarily serve African-Americans and 15 (16.7 percent) primarily serve Hispanics; 64 (71.1 percent) primarily serve MSM.

 

—  Tammye Nash

AIDS Arms offers pop-up HIV testing locations this week

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Dr. John Carlo

National HIV Testing Day is Saturday, June 27, and AIDS Arms Inc. is honoring the day with pop-up locations for free HIV testing in Oak Lawn and in Cockrell Hill, beginning Thursday, June 25.

While AIDS is no longer the death sentence it once was, it is still a pandemic,and its impact on individuals and families is staggering. The best way to fight it, says Dr. John T. Carlo, AIDS Arms’ CEO, is to educate ourselves and to know our sero-status.

“By getting tested, a person can find out whether he or she needs life-saving medications,” Dr. Carlo said, noting that these free HIV testing events provide the “ideal opportunity to take this important step in preserving the health, safety and lives of loved ones.”

The tests at AIDS Arms National HIV Testing Day events are “fast (results can be available in as quick as 60 seconds), free and performed in a confidential manner,” according to an AIDS Arms press release.

NHTD pop-up testing locations are:

• Thursday, June 25, 3-7 p.m. at Walgreen’s, 3802 Cedar Springs Road.

• Thursday, June 25, 3-7 p.m. at Walgreen’s, 8120 S. Cockrell Hill Road.

• Thursday, June 25, 10 p.m.-2 a.m. at Havana’s, 4006 Cedar Springs Road

• Friday, June 26, 3-7 p.m. at Walgreen’s, 3802 Cedar Springs Road.

• Friday, June 26, 3-7 p.m. at Walgreen’s, 8120 S. Cockrell Hill Road.

• Saturday, June 27, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. p.m. at Walgreen’s, 3802 Cedar Springs Road.

• Saturday, June 27, 10 a.m.-2 p.m.. at Walgreen’s, 8120 S. Cockrell Hill Road.

• Sunday, June 28, 11 p.m.-3 a.m., Station 4, 3911 Cedar Springs Road.

—  Tammye Nash

25 Stories of LifeWalk: Raeline Nobles

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Raeline Nobles

LifeWalk, the  5K held each October to raise money for AIDS Arms and other North Texas AIDS service agencies, marks its 25th year this fall. And to celebrate, each Friday for the 25 weeks leading up to the event, AIDS Arms is posting another Story of LifeWalk.

This week’s story comes from Raeline Nobles, AIDS Arms’ longtime executive director, who retired a few years ago.

Check it out here.

—  Tammye Nash

Legacy’s Master Leasing needs sheets

Melissa Grove

Legacy Counseling Center’s glamorous Melissa Grove … because I didn’t have a picture of Larry to post

Legacy Counseling Center needs new and gently used full-sized sheets and bedding for its clients in its Master Leasing Program.

The program began about a year-and-a-half ago. About 24 apartments in Oak Cliff’s Oak Park Estates neighborhood were renovated and decorated with donations from the community to house people with HIV/AIDS who were homeless.

Residents who participate develop a one-year plan to get back on their feet, but having a place to live gives them the stability to do that. A number of residents who have participated in the plan have graduated out of the program.

Contact Larry by email or at 214-244-2240 to donate sheets or find out what else the program needs.

—  David Taffet

UPDATE: Needle exchange pilot program bill passes House

texas-capitolThe Texas House voted overwhelmingly today (Tuesday, May 12) to support a pilot needle exchange program aimed at slowing the spread of HIV and other diseases in select Texas counties.

HB 65 by Rep. Ruth McClendon, D-San Antonio, passed on a bipartisan 92-37 vote with 2 representatives voting present. The program would create test sites for an anonymous exchanges in Bexar, Dallas, El Paso, Harris, Neuces, Travis and Webb Counties.

“These Needle Exchange Programs have proven successful throughout the nation and have recently been enacted in Kentucky and Indiana. Charitable and faith based organizations have tried establishing these programs in Texas for years, and it is about time the government allows these organizations to help their communities without fear of arrest or government interference,” McClendon said in a statement to the Voice.

The bill would not use state money to establish the program, instead relying on not for profit groups to take on the efforts without fear of prosecution.

When Legacy Community Health’s Januari Leo learned it pass today, she said she was floored. “It was unexpected. We had been following other bills,” she said by phone. Having followed the fight for needle exchange bills in their various iterations since 2003.

The bill has faced an uphill climb in the Legislature in the past. Leo said the bill nearly passed in the 2009 session. Last session right wing groups used it as bait to defeat many of its supporters in the House and Senate. Losing key Republican support left advocates thinking it was all but dead.

Like Leo, Resource Center’s Rafael McDonnell was surprised. He also welcomed the vote. “This is a welcome move by the House to create this pilot program. We’ve seen elsewhere that needle exchanges are effective to reduce the spread of communicable diseases like HIV. It’s a common sense policy and good for public health. I hope it finds support in the state senate.”

The bill’s future in the state senate is uncertain following the defeat last year of its chief Republican supporter former State Sen. Bob Deuell of Greenville by Sen. Bob Hall. The bill had no Senate companion this year.

To Stephen Pace of AIDS Interfaith Network, even if it just won in the House, the time for a needle exchange is still long overdue. “We need needle exchanges in the arsenal. It is part of the comprehensive approach to HIV. The struggle is really about judgment about drug use, not HIV prevention – and we have been involved in the struggle for 30 years,” AIDS Interfaith’s Steven Pace wrote via text message. “It’s time for Texas to get on board with all the real ways of doing HIV prevention.”

—  James Russell

UPDATE: LGBT groups respond to FDA lifting lifetime ban on blood donations

AIDS ribbon

UPDATE:

Lambda Legal and the ACLU chimed in as well echoing the earlier statements from the Human Rights Campaign and Resource Center’s Rafael McDonnell: the rule requiring men not have had sex with other men for 12 months before donating blood contributes to unfounded fears, generalizations and stereotypes of gay men.

Per Lambda Legal’s Scott Schoettes, Legal Senior Attorney and Director of the HIV Project:

Merely changing the parameters of this outdated policy does not alter its underlying discriminatory nature, eliminate its negative and stigmatizing effects, nor transform it into a policy based on current scientific and medical knowledge…If we are serious about a policy that is truly most protective of the blood supply, it will treat all potential donors the same and base any deferrals on the conduct of those potential donors within a scientifically justified ‘window period’ prior to donation.

Per the ACLU’s Legislative Representative Ian Thompson:

The FDA’s proposal must be seen as part of an ongoing process and not an end point. The reality for most gay and bisexual men — including those in committed, monogamous relationships — is that this proposal will continue to function as a de facto lifetime ban. Criteria for determining blood donor eligibility should be based on science, not outdated, discriminatory stereotypes and assumptions.

Earlier, the Human Rights Campaign’s Government Affairs Director David Stacy blasted the FDA’s decision:

While this new policy is movement toward an optimal policy that reflects fundamental fairness and the best scientific research, it falls far short of an acceptable solution because it continues to stigmatize gay and bisexual men, preventing them from donating life-saving blood based solely on their sexual orientation, rather than a policy based on actual risk to the blood supply. This new policy cannot be justified in light of current scientific research and updated blood screening technology. We will continue to work towards an eventual outcome that both minimizes risk to the blood supply and treats gay and bisexual men with the respect they deserve.

ORIGINAL STORY:

The Food and Drug Administration announced today (Tuesday, Dec. 23) that it will lift the lifetime ban on blood donations by men who have sex with men, reports The New York Times. The FDA however stayed the rule requiring men not have had sex with other men for 12 months before donating blood.

The FDA instituted the ban in the early days of the AIDS epidemic, when little was known about the virus, to protect the nation’s blood supply. But according to the Times, “science — and the understanding of H.I.V. in particular — has advanced in the intervening decades, and on Tuesday the F.D.A. acknowledged as much.”

The LGBT think tank Williams Institute estimated lifting the ban could add 317,000 pints of blood to the nation’s supply annually, a two percent increase.

The United States joins other European countries in lifting the ban, such as Britain which listed theirs in 2011.

The move is seen as a victory for gay and bisexual men.

“This is a major victory for gay civil rights,” I. Glenn Cohen, a law professor at Harvard University who specializes in bioethics and health, told the Times. “We’re leaving behind the old view that every gay man is a potential infection source.” But he said the policy was “still not rational enough.”

“It’s great they’re lifting the lifetime ban. It made no sense because we’re in a different time and place. But we’re only half way there,” said Resource Center’s Communications and Advocacy Manager Rafael McDonnell. “They’re limiting monogamous couples who have been together for a long time and practice safe sex. It’s progress but they could have gone further.”

He also speculated if the new rules, which will be drafted early next year, will include gender identity. He cited a case from earlier in 2014 when a transgender woman in Canada was mistaken for a gay man and turned away from donating blood. Canada lifted their lifetime ban on men who have sex with men from donating blood as long as they have been celibate for five years. The policy does not exist for trans women in relationships with women, however.

Just a few weeks ago, two federal advisory committees met to discuss changing the federal policy, reported NPR. While one committee on blood safety overwhelmingly voted (16-2) to change the policy, another was more cautious. The latter, an advisory committee to the Food and Drug Administration, discussed and then ducked making any possible changes. But they were open to allowing donations by men who haven’t had sex with another man for more than a year, which seems to indicate a compromise in the administration.

MSM are more susceptible “as a group, at increased risk for HIV, hepatitis B and certain other infections that can be transmitted by transfusion,” according to the current FDA webpage. But that policy isn’t discriminatory: “FDA’s deferral policy is based on the documented increased risk of certain transfusion transmissible infections, such as HIV, associated with male-to-male sex and is not based on any judgment concerning the donor’s sexual orientation.”

 

—  James Russell

Christmas Stocking Auction raises funds for Legacy Founders Cottage

The annual Christmas Stocking Auction at the Round-Up Saloon on Sunday, Dec. 14 raised $19,000 for Legacy Counseling Center’s Legacy Founders Cottage. Founders Cottage provides hospice and rehabilitative care for people living with HIV.

—  David Taffet