‘Dallas Buyers Club’ accurately portrays Oak Lawn’s in-your-face tactics

Dallas6

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

Anatole 2

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

Camp,Bret7

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

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.

—  Dallasvoice

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

Kris.Sharp

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.”

—  Dallasvoice

Health officials recommend flu shots for everyone — especially those with HIV

Parkland hospital sent a news release this morning encouraging everyone to get flu shots. Dallas County health officials are noticing a higher rate of flu-related hospitalizations than last year.

Dallas County has not reached the peak of flu season so getting a vaccination can still help prevent illness. The predominant strain of flu this year is H3N2, which is more severe than last year’s H1N1 virus.

Parkland’s Chief of Infection Prevention Dr. Pranavi Sreeramoju said the best way to reduce your risk of getting the flu is by receiving the flu vaccine. He said H3N2 causes more severe illness, more hospitalizations and more complications.

The Centers for Disease Control is recommending that all people over the age of six months receive the vaccine. But groups at special risk are people over the age of 65 and people with compromised immune systems, including people with HIV.

Walgreens on the corner of Oak Lawn and Cedar Springs has flu shots available.

Resource Center Dallas’ Nelson-Tebedo Clinic is offering flu shots for $20. Call ahead to make an appointment, Monday through Saturday but not Tuesday at 214-528-2336.

—  David Taffet

A preliminary assessment of Bush 41′s legacy on LGBT issues and HIV/AIDS

President George H.W. Bush remains in guarded condition in the intensive care unit of a Houston hospital, according to the Houston Chronicle.

His prognosis is unclear, but now seems like a good time to look back on Bush 41′s legacy on LGBT and HIV/AIDS issues.

Bush came into office on Jan. 20, 1989 promising a “kinder, gentler nation.” That was wonderful news to the gay community that had been ravaged by AIDS. During the previous eight years, the nation had been led by a president who had uttered the word AIDS for the first time just a little more than a year before.

Locally, gay-rights advocates were focused on things like police stings at Reverchon Park and employment discrimination, but Bruce Monroe, who was president of the Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance in the early 90s, said national LGBT groups were primarily focused on HIV/AIDS.

When Bush took office, “don’t ask, don’t tell” and the Defense of Marriage Act were still an entire administration away. At that time, service members who were found to be gay or lesbian were court-martialed, imprisoned and given dishonorable discharges. And the concept of marriage equality was still several years away.

—  David Taffet

HIV infections on rise among young gay, bi men, according to new CDC report

HIV infections are on the rise among young gay and bisexual men, according to statistics released this week by the Centers for Disease Control.

For the past decade, new HIV cases have remained stable at 50,000 per year. In 2010 there were 47,500 new infections.

New infections among young gay and bisexual men ages 13-24 rose 22 percent from 2008 to 2010. African-American young gay and bisexual men account for the largest number of new infections — 4,800 in 2010.

Gay and bisexual men accounted for 63 percent of all new HIV infections — an increase of 12 percent from 2008 to 2010.

The annual number of new infections in the U.S. has remained stable despite continued increases in the number of people living with HIV, indicating that HIV testing, treatment and prevention programs are making an important impact — but incidence still persists at far too high a level, according to the new CDC report.

The estimates are made to help the CDC focus HIV prevention efforts where the need is greatest.

The National Minority AIDS Council issued the following statement in response to the statistics:

—  David Taffet

WATCH: Dallas’ Otis Harris Jr. talks about living with HIV on MTV

Otis_GTADallas_138For World AIDS Day, MTV is airing I’m Positive, which featuring Otis Harris Jr., a local 25-year-old who tested positive for HIV and is part of the Greater Than AIDS campaign. Dallas Voice featured Harris in a story several weeks ago.

Harris shares his story of contracting HIV and explains the importance of spreading awareness.

For a year, Harris was afraid to tell his father that he tested positive. But his father’s reaction was that he loves his son and now is participating in the Greater Than AIDS with his son. And his reaction to seeing himself on a billboard with his son?

“Now my fat face is up there,” Harris Sr. said.

On World AIDS Day, Harris will be at the Dallas event Saturday at Main Street Garden, from 3–6 p.m. Watch a video preview of Harris’ appearance on I’m Positive after the jump.

—  David Taffet