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

Donation allows Resource Center to upgrade dental clinic equipment

Resource Center CEO Cece Cox, left, is shown with Ed Wakin, who donated new dental equipment that will make the delivery of dental services more efficient for the center’s clients.

Resource Center Dallas dedicated new equipment Thursday in its dental suite that will make delivery of service more efficient and will allow its dentists to serve more clients.

The new digital equipment cuts out the 20-minute processing time and eliminates the need for disposal of chemicals, said Resource Center Dallas CEO Cece Cox. Electronic storage of information becomes more efficient and saves space.

“We can diagnose and treat earlier,” Dr. LaShawn Shaw said.

Shaw said if she needs to refer a patient to another dentist for an additional procedure, the digital X-rays can be emailed. She said this machine also exposes the patient to less radiation than traditional dental X-ray machines.

Ed Wakin made the donation for the purchase of the equipment.

“I was just seeing what Resource Center did,” he said. “I was so impressed. We discussed the needs and it took me about 10 minutes to make the decision to help with this gift.”

“People forget how important oral health is to overall health,” Shaw said. She said dental health is important for people with HIV to have proper nutrition. It’s also hard for someone with HIV to return to the workforce if they can’t talk and present well.

—  David Taffet

The Nelson-Tebedo Clinic has some state-of-the-art new dental equipment

RCD’s Bret Camp at the dedication of the dental suite at the Nelson-Tebedo Clinic in December 2011.

Resource Center Dallas will dedicate a state-of-the-art digital X-ray and electronic medical records system Thursday at the Nelson-Tebedo Community Clinic on Cedar Springs Road. The new equipment will allow the clinic to serve more HIV-positive dental clients.

Ed Wakin made a $26,000 donation that funded the new equipment in large part. He became acquainted with the dental program after taking a tour in support of the Center’s capital campaign.

“I’m thrilled my gift can make such a huge difference in the lives of people the Center serves every day. It’s an honor to do this for the LGBT community and the community at-large,” Wakin said in a press release.

Resource Center Dallas CEO Cece Cox said: “We are thankful for Ed’s generous gift, which has had an immediate impact in improving our clients’ health. That, combined with his larger support to build a new home for the center, will save and change lives for decades to come.”

The Center launched its dental clinic in 1989 and served more than 800 people last year performing more than 1,500 procedures. That number is expected to grow by 2014. The new equipment provides more advanced, clearer X-rays and will speed up the process of taking X-rays. It will also let the center’s dentists and dental staff educate patients by showing them their teeth via a monitor in each dental suite, and in turn allow staff to see more patients every day.

The dedication ceremony and tours of the clinic take place from 11:30 a.m. until 1 p.m Thursday, Nov. 15.

—  David Taffet

OraQuick home HIV test goes on sale

OraQuick’s flip chart instructions

Orasure’s new in-home OraQuick HIV test is now available in stores.

The test can detect HIV beginning three months after contact. Using it earlier than three months after a “risk event” may not produce an accurate result. Other rapid tests that can detect the virus within a few days of contact are still only available through a doctor or HIV testing facility such as  the Nelson-Tebedo Clinic or the Dallas County Health Department.

Ron Ticho, Orasure’s senior vice president for corporate communications, said this is the same test doctors and other testing facilities have used for 10 years. With more than 25 million tests done, OraQuick is more than 99 percent accurate, he said.

Since receiving approval to offer a home test kit in July, OraSure has trained phone counselors to answer questions and developed and revised its instructional material that comes with the test kit.

“We took some time to develop a test kit the consumer could use,” Ticho said.

He said the kits went through two tests — observed and unobserved. In the observed test, the company watched people open the package and test themselves as they followed the instructions. In the unobserved test, people took the kit home.

—  David Taffet

Grand opening today for Magic Johnson Clinic at FW’s AIDS Outreach Center

Executive Director Allan Gould at AOC

AIDS Outreach Center, Tarrant County’s largest AIDS services provider, will host a grand opening for its new Magic Johnson Clinic at 6 p.m. today.

The clinic is at AOC’s office at 400 N. Beach St. in Fort Worth. Also opening is a new pharmacy to provide medications needed by clients.

AOC partnered with Los Angeles-based AIDS Healthcare Foundation to open the clinic. AHF is the largest provider of HIV/AIDS medical care in the U.S. They operate 10 clinics in California, six in Florida, two in Washington, D.C., and one in Georgia. This is the first in Texas and the sixth designated as a “Magic Johnson” center.

AHC’s Condom Nation 18-wheeler has been in the DFW area through the weekend providing HIV testing and distributing condoms. It will also be at the opening this evening.

—  David Taffet

West Nile-infected mosquitoes found in Oak Lawn; crews to spray area on Monday night

The map above shows the area in Oak Lawn to be sprayed Monday, June 18 beginning at 10 p.m.

 

Mosquitoes carrying West Nile virus were found in the Wycliff/Maple area in Oak Lawn and city crews will spray in the area for mosquitoes on Monday night.

Because of a mild winter and wet spring, West Nile virus is active two months early this year and has been found in mosquitoes in 10 areas in Dallas.

The city will spray the area from 10 p.m. Monday night to 3 a.m. Tuesday morning.

West Nile virus can be particularly dangerous to people with HIV.

“West Nile is a concern to HIV-negative and -positive [people],” said Bret Camp, health services director for Resource Center Dallas. “Any co-infection has the potential to exacerbate the situation and make someone have a more serious condition.”

During the overnight spraying, keep pets inside, vehicle windows up and don’t follow the trucks, Dallas city spokesman Jose Luis Torres said.

“The truck sprays up, shoots 180 degrees and it spreads like smoke,” Torres said.

He said if anyone comes in contact with the spray, wash with soap and water.

The area to be sprayed is bounded by Maple Springs Boulevard, Mahanna Street, Maple Avenue, Wycliff/Douglas Avenue and Lemmon Avenue.

—  David Taffet

AIDS funding pioneer Pallotta to speak Friday

No one disputes that Dan Pallotta was a pioneer in raising awareness about AIDS and HIV, organizing the California AIDSRide from 1992 to 2002, as well as North Texas’ AIDS ride from 1999 to 2001. It was around that time Pallotta started taking flak for not spending resources well; he was roundly criticized for spending $400,000 to raise $1 million, a ratio most contributors to charity found off-balance. But while Pallotta stopped fundraising for those organizations, he didn’t exactly take the criticism lying down. In 2010, he published Uncharitable, a book that argued there are two rules (those for charities, and those for businesses) and that non-profits should be more entrepreneurial in order to be more competitive … and, presumably, bring in more capital. In short, he says the question “What percentage of my contribution goes to charity?” is outmoded thinking. He’s speaking about this divisive issue at Dallas Social Venture Partners’ Social Innovation Luncheon Series, which will be held at the Tower Club inside Thanksgiving Tower on Friday, April 13. The lunch begins at 11:30 a.m. Tickets cost $50 and can be purchased at DSVP.org.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Some HIV providers stop taking Medicare patients

Other local doctors say they’ll follow suit if Congress goes through with  reductions in reimbursement rate

Vasquez.Jaime

Dr. Jaime Vasquez

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer

Some doctors have opted out of the Medicare system because Congress has threatened to cut reimbursement payments.

Bob Hutchison, 58, has HIV and is disabled from injuries he sustained on the job. He said his HIV is under control, but he needs care for his disability. He receives social security and recently qualified for Medicare. But he can’t find a doctor who’ll treat him.

The Trinity Health and Wellness Clinic can treat Hutchison for his HIV. But the facility isn’t equipped to deal with his other conditions unrelated to the virus.

Last year, Congress proposed cutting Medicare payments by almost 30 percent. A current proposal would cut payments by 27.4 percent.

Some doctors say they were already losing money on Medicare patients, but with the additional cuts they won’t be able to pay their staffs.

Trinity referred Hutchison to Parkland hospital to treat his injuries from a broken back.
But Hutchison lives in Rockwall, which has no public hospital and where residents aren’t eligible for free or sliding scale treatment at the Dallas facility.

Hutchison qualified for Medicare because of his disability. That program, known primarily for covering medical costs for people over 65, also covers the disabled.

And unlike patients using private insurance who can go out of network, pay higher rates and bill the provider themselves, Medicare users must use a doctor that accepts the program. An individual cannot choose to pay the doctor in full and then bill the government for reimbursement, even at the lower rate.

Not all Oak Lawn physicians will take new patients on Medicare. What was uniform at their offices this week was a long pause and sigh when asked about the program.

“We’re only taking Medicare from existing patients if they transfer over,” said Rick Porter, a spokesman for Dr. Steven Pounders’ office.
Pounders also has contracted with three Medicare HMOs. He said that as good as one of those plans that his office accepts is, Baylor Hospital doesn’t take it, presenting those patients with another problem.

Porter said an additional problem is that unless a patient with HIV on Medicare has a good Part D prescription plan, it’s hard to switch medications. And if the patient has to change drugs during the year, a plan that covered an existing regimen may not cover the new treatment.

Dr. Jaime Vasquez also continues seeing existing patients who have converted from private insurance to Medicare. New patients on Medicare are accepted on a case-by-case basis.

“We’re keeping a quota,” his office manager said.

She said Vasquez’s office simply can’t afford to take many additional patients with the minimal payment Medicare provides for services — which Congress is threatening to cut further.

According to the Texas Medical Association, almost half of Texas physicians are considering opting out of Medicare altogether.

Although the proposed cut in payments for 2012 hasn’t gone into effect yet as Congress remains deadlocked on this and other issues, the number of doctors accepting new patients on Medicare continues to decline.

Orthopedic surgeon Diane Litke still accepts new patients on Medicare, but she said many of her patients see her for an injury and not for long-term care. But she sided with doctors who have stopped accepting the coverage.

“I think Congress should take a 30 percent pay cut,” she said. “As soon as they cut it [Medicare], I’m going to drop it.”

Part of the problem is the uncertainty. Each year, Congress threatens to cut Medicare payments. Payments usually remain frozen.

This year, the cuts were part of a bill that recently passed extending the payroll tax cut. Before the bill passed, Medicare payment to doctors was stripped from the legislation, and so reimbursement rates remain up in the air.

Although some local doctor’s offices said they aren’t taking new patients on Medicare, some said they are.

At least three local practices with HIV specialties are accepting new Medicare patients: Uptown Physicians; Dr. Nick Bellos, who recently returned his business to Oak Lawn; and Dr. Patrick Daly.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 24, 2012.

—  Kevin Thomas