Get ready for the PrEP Rally!

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Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis — PrEP for short — is a a daily regime of medicines for HIV-negative individuals who are at high risk of HIV infection intended to help them keep from becoming HIV-positive. It is, Resource Center Communications and Advocacy Manager Rafael McDonnell said, “one of the tools” that people can use to avoid HIV infection.

But it is, possibly, a greatly under-utilized tool, McDonnell said, maybe because people just aren’t familiar with it and how it works.

Resource Center‘s United Black Ellument and Team Friendly DFW, an organization focused on fighting the stigma that too often accompanies  an HIV-positive status, aim to change that. And they plan to start with the PrEP Rally set for Saturday, Oct. 15, from 2-5 p.m. at Resource Center, 5750 Cedar Springs Road.

Those who attend will learn what PrEP is, how it works, and if it is right for them, as medical professionals and community volunteers share their own PrEP stories and talk about Resource Center’s plan to launch its own PrEP clinic soon.

“We will be launching a PrEP clinic sometime later this fall or early next year,” McDonnell said, adding that center officials are already working to line-up the volunteer medical professionals necessary to operate the clinic.

“We need medical professionals to do the necessary blood work for those who come in, and to talk to people about PrEP and whether it’s right for them,” he explained.

“Right now, Tarrant County is the only public health clinic in the state of Texas that operates a PrEP clinic,” McDonnell continued. “We’d love to see Dallas County start a similar program here. It’s likely that a county PrEP clinic would reach people that the Resource Center couldn’t reach, and we’d reach people the county couldn’t reach.”

The PrEP Rally will include food and beverages for those attending, but McDonnell encouraged interested persons to RSVP quickly because seating is limited. Admission is free, but those who want to attend should register here to guarantee their seat.

For more information visit UBEDallas.org/PrEP16.

 

—  Tammye Nash

DVtv: Tiffany, Debbie Gibson light up 11th annual MetroBall

Debbie

Brad Pritchett and Israel Luna took DVtv to S4 on Friday night to talk to 80s pop princesses Debbie Gibson and Tiffany who performed at the 11th annual MetroBall, benefitting the Greg Dollgener Memorial AIDS Fund.

—  Tammye Nash

CNN series ‘The Eighties’ takes on the AIDS epidemic

Larry Kramer

LGBT and AIDS activist Larry Kramer was one of the loudest voices in the fight against AIDS and its stigma in the 1980s.

How old were you when the AIDS epidemic first hit?

How old were you when the New York Times printed that first story about gay men dying of some mysterious cancer? When they called it GRID — Gay-Related Immune Deficiency? When they realized it wasn’t just gay men getting sick and started calling it AIDS — Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome? When they finally discovered the human immunodeficiency virus — HIV — that causes AIDS?

How old were you when the men of our community were dying every day?

Truth is, a lot of people reading this weren’t even born yet back then. A lot more were just wee tots with no idea what was happening. For some, the 1980s are ancient history, not personal history, with no relevance to their day-to-day lives.

That lack of historical perspective may be why HIV infection rates are so high among young people.

Now CNN offers a chance to maybe fill in some of the historical gaps for the younger generation with a new episode of the cable channel’s original series The Eighties, “The Fight Against AIDS,” airing tomorrow (Thursday, June 2, 8 p.m. CST). The program “focuses on the pandemic that created a movement and defined a decade.”

According to a press release, this “mysterious and lethal illness developed into a pandemic with enormous political and cultural consequences. What started as a medical detective story grew into a societal nightmare as first dozens and eventually thousands of people all over the world contracted the lethal virus that came to be known as AIDS. It’s a story of ignorance and heartbreak, but also one of compassion, courage and dedication.”

Award-winning producers Tom Hanks and Gary Goetzman, in association with HBO producer Mark Herzog, present the series, The Eighties, which “explores the individuals and events that shaped a decade of exceptionalism and excess.” The program combines rarely-seen archival footage and interviews with journalists, historians, musicians and television artists to tell the story of the decade. Future episides will focus on the age of Reagan, the end of the Cold War, Wall Street corruption, the tech boom and the expansion of television and the evolving music scene.

—  Tammye Nash

New food pantry open

Food pantryThe new Resource Center Food Pantry is open at 2701 Reagan St. Volunteers stocked shelves on Sunday (May 1) to get the pantry ready to open today.

“Perishable goods should be available next week once refrigeration system is complete,” Resource Center posted on its Facebook page. So perishable items that need to be refrigerated such as eggs, meat or milk are not available yet.

The former food pantry location closed a month ago because the retail center on Denton Drive Cutoff that also included Elliott’s Hardware will be torn down to make way for a so-called “West Village-type” mixed-use development. Resource Center had hoped to keep the former location open until renovations at its new location were complete.

—  David Taffet

Oak Lawn Library supports National Transgender HIV Testing Day

Trans HIV Testing DayOak Lawn Library, 4100 Cedar Springs Road, is offering free HIV testing today (April 18) from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. to mark National Transgender HIV Testing Day. Free coffee will be available all morning and free hot dogs at noon.

No appointments are necessary.

The event is sponsored by Trans Pride Initiative, UT Southwestern and the Dallas Public Library.

 

 

—  David Taffet

Greg Louganis gets his Wheaties box

GLAt 56, Greg Louganis may be the oldest athlete ever to be on the front of a Wheaties box. But it has been a long time comin’.

Louganis, of course, was the model of physical perfection when he won four gold medals for diving at the Olympic Games. Notoriously, he also thwacked his skull on a diving board, slicing open his scalp and bleeding into the pool before his second dive, where he received perfect 10s in 1988. But as he revealed in his autobio Breaking the Surface in 1995, it was nerve-wracking at the time, because he has just earlier that year learned he was HIV-positive. No one knew, and Louganis himself didn’t expect to live long enough to be on a Wheaties box.

As it turned out, it wasn’t the disease, but the bigotry, that kept him from staring at you across your breakfast table.

It was a strange at the time he wasn’t so honored, because he was America’s sweetheart… except he was secretly gay. Apparently, General Mills figured it out, and told Louganis he wasn’t in keeping with their image of wholesomeness. But yesterday, a photo of Louganis from his prime was added to the lineup of athletes on the boxes. He is one of several “makeup” vintage boxes, including swimmer Janet Evans and hurdler Edwin Moses.

And it kind of makes sense. After all, the first athlete on a Wheaties box was a decathlete named Bruce Jenner. Now that Bruce is Caitlyn and a member of the execrable Kardashian Klan, a modest, settled gay-rights activist like Louganis seems like a church deacon in terms of wholesomeness… oh, wait, we know about those church deacons too…

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

AIDS Walk South Dallas steps off

The sixth AIDS Walk South Dallas stepped off at 10 a.m. this morning (March 26) from the MLK Jr. Community Center. Proceeds benefit the Afiya Center.

—  David Taffet

Researchers edit HIV genes out of immune cells

Kamel Khalili

Kamel Khalili, a lead researcher in the study.

Temple University researchers have successfully edited HIV cells out of a patient’s infected immune cells, according to study results published in Nature Scientific Reports.

The researchers used the gene editing tool known as CRISPR/Cas9 to clear out the entire HIV-1 genome from a patient’s infected immune cells in a petri dish, they said.

“Not only did this remove the viral DNA, it did so permanently. What’s more, because this microscopic genetic system remained within the cell, it staved off further infections when particles of HIV-1 tried to sneak their way back in from unedited cells,” according to Gizmodo.

While the virus was not removed, the “technique successfully lowered the viral load in the patient’s extracted cells.”

“[These findings] demonstrate the effectiveness of our gene editing system in eliminating HIV from the DNA of CD4 T-cells and, by introducing mutations into the viral genome, permanently inactivating its replication,” Temple geneticist Kamel Khalili said in a statement. “Further, they show that the system can protect cells from re-infection and that the technology is safe for the cells, with no toxic effects.”

—  James Russell

Clinton, Sanders respond to 2016 presidential HIV/AIDS questionnaire

Bernie Sanders and Hillary ClintonIn February, a coalition of more than 50 AIDS and HIV service organizations, including AIDS Arms and Houston’s Legacy Community Health, sent a survey to presidential candidates from both parties to assess their stances on HIV/AIDS policies and initiatives. Candidates were question on their positions on HIV stigmatization laws, research funding and needle exchange policies.

Of the five candidates still in the race, only the two Democrats — former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders — have responded.

In general both support policies supported by HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention advocates. But when it comes down to the nuts and bolts of policy, Clinton shines.

On the issue of ending HIV criminalization laws, here’s Clinton’s take:

As President, I will work with advocates, HIV and AIDS organizations, and Congress to review and reform outdated and stigmatizing HIV criminalization laws — and I will call on states to do the sameI will continue to aggressively enforce the Americans with Disabilities Act and other civil rights laws to fight HIV-related discrimination. And I will ensure that my Administration releases the latest facts about HIV transmission and risk behaviors to counter unnecessary laws and work to educate prosecutors about the latest science of HIV to reduce unnecessary charges against people with HIV that are not scientifically valid. 

Here’s Sanders’ take:

We should continue and expand the policies that are working. The United States has clearly come a long way in its attitudes towards sexual orientation, gender identity, and health status, but there is still a long way to go. We must ensure that health providers, social services, law enforcement, and all other entities have proper resources and training to handle the varying needs of the community they serve. Schools must be giving students age-appropriate, comprehensive sex education. I echo the Strategy’s recommendation that all Americans should have access to scientifically-accurate information regarding HIV infection. For starters, I would direct FDA to update its blood donation policy. The recent update was a step in the right direction, but a blanket one-year ban is still not supported by science. I have joined other Members in asking FDA to implement a risk-based policy for all donors.

Click here to read Clinton’s complete response. Click here to read Sanders’ complete response.

For what it’s worth, the coalition is still happy to receive responses from remaining GOP candidates Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, businessman Donald Trump and Ohio Gov. John Kasich. In absence of a response, however, the coalition reviewed campaign literature, speeches or other positions of the candidates but found no information directly related to HIV/AIDS issues addressed in the survey.

—  James Russell

New study: PrEP could prevent 168,000 new HIV infections

CDC HIV impactThe Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new research on Wednesday, Feb. 24, showing that reaching the National HIV/AIDS Strategy targets for HIV testing and treatment and expanding the use of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) could prevent 185,000 new HIV infections in the U.S. by 2020, a 70 percent reduction in new infections.

The study estimates that, between 2015 and 2020:

Reaching the nation’s goal of ensuring 90 percent of people living with HIV are diagnosed, and 80 percent of people diagnosed achieve viral suppression could prevent 168,000 new HIV infections

By also increasing the use of PrEP, a daily anti-HIV pill, among people who are uninfected but at high risk, an additional 17,000 infections could be prevented

If HIV testing and treatment remained the same, expanded use of PrEP among high-risk populations alone could prevent more than 48,000 new infections.

—  David Taffet