Man sentenced for deadly sexual assault with HIV as the weapon

CrowleyMatthew Louis Reese, 31, was given 95 years in prison this week, in part because he gave HIV to a minor.

The Dallas man pleaded guilty to three charges — aggravated sexual assault of a child with a deadly weapon, aggravated sexual assault with serious bodily injury and sexual assault of a child. The deadly weapon is HIV.

The victim was a 15 year-old girl at the time. She is now 17.

The two met on a chat line and spoke for months before first having sex. Reese never told the girl he had HIV and did not use a condom.

Missing from any reports is why the girl’s parents bore no responsibility for monitoring who their 15-year-old daughter was dating.

Apparently Reese was not in treatment for his HIV and had a viral load count high enough to pass along the disease. He must serve half of his sentence before he is eligible for parole.

—  David Taffet

Report shows LGB people face additional health risks, transgender issues require another report

health-rainbow2_0A report released recently by the Boston-based Fenway Institute has found important health-related risks within the LGB community that are not well-documented or well-known and not addressed by prevention and treatment programs.

Many studies have shown that gay men have a higher risk of HIV infection and that LGBT youth are at higher risk of being bullied and considering suicide. But the new Fenway policy brief  shows that the LGB community has a higher rate of tobacco use than the general public, that lesbians have an increased risk of being overweight and that LGB elders have an increased risk of disability.

The Fenway report is based on data collected by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention through an annual Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Surveys (BRFSS) in all 50 states, reaching 506,000 people. CDC provides the core questionnaire for each state to administer, asking questions about such health-related matters as diet, physical activity, smoking, immunization and sleep.

CDC does not include a question about a survey participant’s sexual orientation on the core questionnaire or on a list of additional optional questions states can add. Only 27 states have, on their own initiative, begun asking questions about sexual orientation and/or same-sex sexual behavior, according to the Fenway report.

Because sexual orientation data is not collected in all 50 states, says the Fenway report, “it is impossible to compare their health behaviors to those of other groups.”

“Without this information, states may miss the opportunity to develop programs, policies and services to address local health disparities.”

The Fenway report urges all states “to include, at a minimum, a sexual identity measure, and, whenever possible, to also include a sexual behavior measure.” Due to the “nuances and complexity of measuring gender identity, and the unique and understudied health disparities transgender people face,” said the Fenway report, “a comprehensive assessment of these issues” requires another report.

Some of the specific findings of Fenway’s analysis of the data collected by the 27 states that do ask questions about sexual identity and/or same-sex sexual behavior include:

  • Lesbians and bisexual women are less likely than heterosexual women to obtain mammograms and Pap tests
  • Gay men have higher rates of alcohol and drug use
  • LGB people have higher rates of tobacco use and are more likely to lack health insurance
  • LGB older adults have increased risk of disability, excessive drinking and smoking
  • 18 percent of doctors in California are “sometimes” or “often” uncomfortable treating gay patients
  • 9.4 percent of men who identified themselves as “straight” in New York City had sex with another man during the past year.
  • 76 percent of self-identified lesbian sexually active adolescents reported having had sex with a male

Of the 27 states which have asked people about their sexual orientation, some have asked the question in only one year; some every year. The 27 states include: Alaska, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Washington, and Wisconsin.

The report urges all 50 states to begin asking about sexual orientation.

“Collecting sexual orientation data at the state level,” says the report, “can propel the federal initiative forward and enhance states’ ability to document and work toward eliminating health disparities experienced by their own populations.”

LISA KEEN  |  Keen News Service

—  Steve Ramos

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

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

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

AHF opens STD clinic in North Dallas

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Bret Camp

AIDS Healthcare Foundation has opened an STD clinic at its North Dallas office.

AHF Texas Regional Director Bret Camp said the clinic is open twice a week to offer free STD testing. In addition to checking for HIV, tests will be given for syphilis, gonorrhea and chlamydia.

While Dallas has the highest rate of new HIV infections in the state, Camp said, Houston is ahead of Dallas with other sexually transmitted diseases. But STD rates in Dallas remain high and Camp encourages testing for them as well as for HIV.

Dallas County’s rate of chlamydia and gonorrhea increased while syphilis decreased over the previous year. Chlamydia was the most prevalent STD with 16,848 cases reported. Camp said these three STDs are all curable when caught in their early stages and much more difficult to treat if left undiagnosed.

Free testing is available at the AHF office at 7777 Forest Lane, Suite B-122 on the Medical City campus on Mondays from 3–7 p.m. and Thursdays from 3–6 p.m. To schedule an appointment, call 972-383-1066.

AHF has offices in Fort Worth and Dallas and is the largest provider of healthcare to people with HIV in the United States.

—  David Taffet