DIFFA/Dallas awards funds to Resource Center nutrition programs

Resource Center officials announced Wednesday, Oct. 8, that their agency has received a $22,500 award from the Design Industries Foundation Fighting AIDS/Dallas (DIFFA/Dallas) for the center’s nutrition programs. The money was awarded at an event held Sept. 12 at Roche Bobois.

Resource Center offers nutritional services through its food pantry as well through its hot lunch program.

The pantry, which began in 1985 out of a cardboard box at the intersection of Cedar Springs and Throckmorton, is presently located 5450 Denton Drive Cutoff and serves around 1900 clients every month.

The center began a hot lunch programs for its clients in the early 1990s. It is one of two agencies in Dallas County providing hot meals in a nonresidential setting to those living with HIV/AIDS, making the critical link between nutrition and treatment adherence. More than 100 clients a day eat lunch at the center Monday through Friday.

DIFFA is the oldest and one of the largest funders of HIV/AIDS service and education programs in the United States. Founded in 1984, DIFFA has mobilized the immense resources of the design communities to provide over $38 million to hundreds of AIDS organizations nationwide.

With events including the House of DIFFA each spring, DIFFA/Dallas has granted nearly $7 million to organizations across North Texas, including Resource Center. March 2015 will mark the 25th anniversary of the House of DIFFA.

—  Tammye Nash

Longtime Parkland CEO Ron Anderson dies of cancer

RJAnderson

Ron J. Anderson, M.D.

Ron J. Anderson, M.D., president and CEO of Parkland Health and Hospital System for 29 years, died Thursday, Sept. 11 of cancer. He was 68 years old. As of Friday morning, services were pending.

Anderson took over as head of Parkland in 1982, when he was 35 years old and when the AIDS epidemic was in its early days. Anderson was head of the county hospital when, in the late 80s, the Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance  (then called Dallas Gay Alliance) and Ron Woodruff of Dallas Buyers Club fame, filed — and won — the lawsuit that forced Parkland to treat people with HIV.

Anderson was named president and CEO after serving two years as medical director of the hospital’s emergency room and outpatient clinic and head of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center’s Division of Internal Medicine. He retired from Parkland in 2011, after spending his last years with the hospital leading the bond campaign that brought in public financing for the new $1.3 billion facility due to open next year.

In the mid-1980s, Anderson grabbed national attention when he spoke out against the practice — called patient dumping — of transferring medically unstable patients from private hospitals to public hospitals based on the patient’s ability or inability to pay, leading to passage of state laws regarding indigent care in Texas and later federal legislation banning patient dumping.

According to a press release from Parkland announcing his death, Anderson was known as an advocate of universal health care and for leading development of Parkland’s Community Oriented Primary Care health centers. He came to national attention again in the mid-1990s as a spokesperson in the movement for better confidentiality regarding the patient/physician relationship.

Anderson once said, in a speech to a UT Southwestern graduating class, “It is not enough just to try ‘to do good’ and try ‘to avoid evil,’ although these are the ethical keystones of the physician/patient relationship. We cannot be paternalistic toward patients and must accept their cultural, religious, ethnic and social differences. We must respect our patients’ autonomy and desire for wholeness, which should stimulate us to address the social justice issues affecting our patients’ lives.”

—  Tammye Nash

Know Your Rights at Work

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Greg Nivens

As we get ready to celebrate the Labor Day weekend holiday, Lambda Legal is launching the newest section of its “Know Your Rights” information hub, this time focusing on workplace rights for LGBT and HIV-positive people.

Greg Nevins, a Lambda Legal counsel and Workplace Fairness Project strategist based in the agency’s Atlanta office. said that workplace issues continue to be a major concern among those who call Lambda Legal’s Legal Help Desk. The new Know Your Rights Workplace site “will help people advocate for themselves as well as assist them if issues arise,” Nivens said.

He said the hub will soon be mobile-friendly and translated into Spanish. It includes legal and advocacy guidance on a wide array of issues, including what to do if you experience discrimination, what laws protect you, HIV discrimination in the workplace, what to do if you are fired, gender identity discrimination. job searches, immigrant rights, good company policies, how unions can help and same-sex spousal and partner benefits.

This is Lambda Legal’s third Know Your Rights hub. The other two are Know Your Rights: Teens and Young Adults, and Know Your Rights: Transgender.

—  Tammye Nash

Kirven: Benny Longoria death certificate never signed

Benny Longoria

Benny Longoria

Dallas activist C.d. Kirven told Dallas Voice today, via email, that efforts to get Tulsa police to investigate the death of gay man Benny Longoria are moving forward.

A friend found Longoria, 40, dead in his apartment on June 20. But the man’s family said police did not contact them until a month later, that police had Longoria’s body cremated without notifying them and that police have refused to return his possessions, including his cell phone.

A representative of the company that manages the apartment complex where Longoria lived said that the apartment and most of his possessions were covered in blood when his naked body was found. Police have refused to investigate the case as a suspicious death.

Kirven learned of the situation earlier this week when Dallas City Councilman Adam Medrano contacted her and asked if she could help the Longorio family find answers.

Today, Kirven said the case is being investigated as possible HIV/AIDS-related discrimination, and that she has helped the Longoria family filed a complaint with the U.S. Justice Department alleging a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Kirven also said she is helping the family file a complaint with the Internal Affairs division of the Tulsa Police Department.

Tulsa Police Sgt. Dave Walker reportedly told the family that Benny Longoria’s doctor verified that he died of a combination of ethanol abuse and HIV/AIDS. But Kirven said that when she contacted the office of Longoria’s physician, Dr. Frances Haas, she was told that Dr. Haas had not confirmed any cause of death and had not signed a death certificate.

Kirvin said today that she has obtained a copy of Longoria’s death certificate, which has not been signed by any doctor. She said Dr. Haas is mailing Benny Longoria’s medical records to his family and “wants nothing to do with Benny’s death.”

She also said that Capt. Alexander has said that because the doctor has not signed the death certificate, by law Longoria’s death has to be investigated as a suspicious death.

A memorial in celebration of Benny Longoria will be held Saturday at 5 p.m. at Compadres Mexican Grill, 7104 S. Sheriden Rd., in Tulsa. For information contact C.d. Kirven at 972-533-1593.

Kirven said that several TV stations have said they will be covering the memorial service and vigil, and that she was faxing a copy of the death certificate to KRMG radio in Oklahoma City, which is planning coverage of the case. She has also talked to a reporter with Vice.com.

Tulsa-based reporter Richard Fricker called Dallas Voice today in an effort to contact Kirven, and said that he knows of similar cases that have happened in Tulsa.

Dallas Voice will, of course, continue to follow this story as it unfolds, and will have a representative at the memorial service in Tulsa on Saturday.

memorial-flyer-Benny_Longoria

—  Tammye Nash

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