Volunteers needed for HIV vaccine trial

Researchers looking for men, trans women who have sex with men to participate in study

Gallegos.Ernesto

Ernesto Gallegos

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

UT Southwestern continues recruiting volunteers to participate in a vaccine trial that has been in progress for more than a year.

The Phase II trial is taking place at almost two dozen sites across the country. According to Clinical Research Unit Community Advisory Board member Ernesto Gallegos, Dallas has been among the most successful at recruiting volunteers — but more qualified participants are needed.

Researchers are looking for healthy adult men who test HIV negative, have sex with other men, are between the ages of 18 and 50 and are circumcised.

They are also seeking transgender women who have sex with men.

Volunteers are screened to make sure they qualify for the trial.
Gallegos said participating would be a 12-to-18-month commitment.

He said his involvement began when he volunteered for the study.

He had a partner who was positive.

In his initial screening, he was disqualified because he had antibodies to the adenovirus type 5. That common virus is a cause of respiratory illnesses.

Gallegos said that when he learned he couldn’t participate directly in the study, “I stepped back [and asked], ‘How can I continue to help?’”

That’s when he joined the advisory board as its youngest member.

Volunteers receive a physical exam and, if they are accepted into the project, they are administered the vaccine in four doses.

Participants are asked to keep a written record of any reaction to the vaccine and are required to go to UT Southwestern once every three months for an HIV test, an interview and risk reduction counseling.

A participant cannot contract HIV from the vaccine because it does not contain the virus itself. It is not made from live, weakened or killed HIV or HIV-infected cells.

Phase I of the trial established that the vaccine was safe to give to humans. This phase continues to test safety and dosages.

Researchers will be looking at whether the group getting the vaccine has less chance of contracting the virus and if those who do contract the virus will show smaller amounts of HIV in the blood.

Half the test group will receive the vaccine and half a placebo.

Volunteers will not know whether they received the placebo or the vaccine until after their participation in the study is complete.

Those who are inoculated with the placebo will be eligible to participate in future vaccine studies. Generally those who got the actual vaccine are ineligible for future studies, whether the vaccine proved efficient or not.

For more information or to volunteer, go online to HopeTakesAction.org and fill out a short questionnaire or call 214-590-0610.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 13, 2012.

UPDATE: UT Southwestern Clinical Research Manager Tiana Petersen wrote to update a few items in the story. She said participants would commit 24 months to the study. The Adenovirus type 5 is a common cold virus.

“Phase IIB, is specifically designed to study efficacy,” she wrote. “Researchers will evaluate whether receiving the vaccine injections compared to placebo injections has a significant effect on reducing the number of new HIV infections. Originally, the study was designed to answer questions about whether the vaccine regimen can lower viral load among those who do become HIV-infected, and whether the vaccine regimen continues to be safe.”

Volunteers will not know whether they took the placebo or vaccine until after the study is complete.

—  Kevin Thomas

Top 10: N. Texas helped mark AIDS anniversary

AIDSat30

HOLDING VIGIL | Hundreds gathered for a commemoration in downtown Dallas on World AIDS Day.

No. 5

In 2011, the world marked three decades of AIDS. It was June 5, 1981, that the Centers for Disease Control first reported on five cases in which otherwise healthy young men, all gay, had been treated for pneumocystis carinii pneumonia at three separate Los Angeles hospitals since the previous October, with two of them dying of the disease. A month later, on July 4, the CDC reported on 26 cases of Kaposi’s sarcoma, again all in gay men, within the previous 30 months, with eight of the patients having died. As scientists struggled to find the cause, the plague became known as GRID, or gay-related immune deficiency syndrome.

But it wasn’t until a year later — on June 27, 1982 — that the term AIDS, or acquired immune deficiency syndrome, was coined. Human immunodeficiency virus — HIV — wouldn’t be discovered until 1983 by Institut Pasteur in France, and it was identified as the cause of AIDS by Dr. Robert Gallo in the U.S.

By 2011, more than 25 million people worldwide had died of AIDS, and new infections continue, with men who have sex with men once again leading in terms of new infections, according to the CDC.

Despite the frightening infection rates, federal funding for HIV/AIDS services is dwindling, with community-based AIDS service organizations struggling to find new ways to raise money, offer services and educate the public. One North Texas organization, AIDS Resources of Rural Texas based in Weatherford, announced in July that it could no longer keep its head above water and would be closing its doors as of Sept. 1.

Most clients who had been accessing services at ARRT were absorbed by the Tarrant County AIDS Outreach Center in Fort Worth, where Executive Director Allan Gould pledged to continue to provide services to its growing client base, despite increasing cuts in federal and state funds.

In late September, AOC announced its intention to partner with the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, based in Los Angeles, to open an AIDS clinic in 2012. On World AIDS Day, AHF officials and basketball legend Magic Johnson announced that the planned AOC clinic would be one of three Magic Johnson clinics opening in the next year.

Observances of the 30th anniversary of the AIDS epidemic worldwide began in early 2011, while in North Texas, the first such commemoration came in late June when Dallas Voice and a host of partner organizations and business presented a public forum focusing on the status of HIV treatments today. On July 1, Dallas Voice published a special issue, AIDS@30, focusing on current treatments, research and education efforts, as well as profiles on individuals living with HIV/AIDS.

AIDS service organizations joined together for World AIDS Day commemorations on Dec. 1, including a display of panels from the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt in downtown Dallas, and on Dec. 6, Charles Santos spearheaded The Gathering, an unprecedented collaboration of performing artists from around North Texas who donated their time to a performance at The Winspear Opera House. About 1,000 people attended the event, which raised more than $60,000 for local AIDS service organizations.

— Tammye Nash

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 30, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

25 ways to fight AIDS

Today, December 1, is World AIDS Day.

Wait! Before you click the ‘next’ button or scroll down your news feed hear me out: The LGBT community has been living with AIDS for three decades now. For people of my generation the message to get tested and use condoms has been stated and restated so many times that it has faded into the background with the result that, all too often, people do not take the steps they need to to protect themselves. Harris County is responsible for 30% of the new HIV/AIDS diagnosis in Texas and men who have sex with men account for 64% of newly diagnosed men statewide. The threat is not over, the fight is not over, AIDS still endanger the LGBT community.

But I don’t want to just talk about just condoms and testing (as important as they are). Fighting HIV/AIDS is easier than you might think. I present to you 25 ways, in no particular order, to fight AIDS in Houston.

25. If you’re over a certain age talk to a young LGBT person about how your life has been affected by HIV/AIDS. You might be surprised how eager we are to hear your stories.

24. If you’re under a certain age listen to an older LGBT person tell you how HIV/AIDS has affected their lives. I know you aren’t eager to hear their stories, but listen anyway. You may find that learning the history of your community is more empowering than you’d expect.

23. If you are a sexually active gay man or transgender woman participate in the Baylor College of Medicine’s HIV Vaccine Study.

22. Ask your local public or school library to put books about HIV/AIDS on the shelf, not just in the back room where they have to be requested. Access to accurate information is crucial in fighting the spread of the disease.

21. Post HIV/AIDS stories to facebook.

20. Ask your clergy person what your community of faith is doing to fight the pandemic.

19. Sign up for action alerts from the Texas HIV/AIDS Coalition at texashiv.org

18. Actually follow through when the action alerts from the Texas HIV/AIDS Coalition arrive in your in-box.

17. Volunteer for organizations that deal with communities at high risk for infection: high school dropouts, victims of sexual assault, the poor, the homeless and sex workers. Fighting AIDS means fighting the injustice in our society that all too often contributes to new infections.

16. Say AIDS out loud.

15. Ask political candidates what they will do to continue funding to fight HIV/AIDS.

14. Once they’re elected, ask those candidates why they aren’t doing more to continue funding to fight HIV/AIDS.

13. Remind yourself that it’s OK to be tired of hearing about HIV/AIDS.

12. Thank a person who volunteers their time to the fight.

11. Take a moment to remember the people we’ve lost.

10. Take a moment to think of the people we may loose if this pandemic isn’t stopped.

9. Take a HIV/AIDS healthcare worker to dinner.

8. Wear a red ribbon.

7. Recognize that wearing a red ribbon isn’t enough.

6. Work with communities other than your own. HIV/AIDS effects us all.

5. Get angry.

4. Get over your anger.

3. Donate to an HIV/AIDS Charity.

2. When you pass a mobile HIV testing center, thank the workers.

1. Don’t pretend the fight is over, and don’t let other people pretend it’s over either.

—  admin

Abounding Prosperity receives $1.7 million grant

South Dallas prevention organization targets population hardest hit by new HIV infections

FUTURE MOVE? | Kirk Myers, CEO of Abounding Prosperity, says that his agency, now located in South Dallas across the street from the Peabody Health Center, will have to move to a bigger space to adequately house the extra staff he needs to operate the grant the agency just received from the CDC. (David Taffet/DallasVoice.

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

Abounding Prosperity, a South Dallas-based AIDS education organization, has been awarded a grant from the Centers for Disease Control, and is the only agency in the Dallas-Fort Worth area to be included in this round of CDC funding.

The money will be used to expand HIV prevention services for young gay and bisexual men of color, transgender youth of color and their partners, according to Kirk Myers, CEO of Abounding Prosperity.

Myers said that his organization was one of the few nationally that got fully funded. The five-year grant totals $1.7 million.

The CDC awarded prevention grants to 34 agencies around the country. This expands on an earlier program to reach the targeted populations with an increase of $10 million to $55 million nationally over five years, funding a larger number of community organizations.

“We will be trying to identify those people who are positive and unaware,” Myers said,“and help those people who are positive and know their status to become responsible for not reinfecting themselves or anyone else.

“We see ourselves as a prevention organization rather than a care organization,” he added.

Although three Dallas AIDS organizations applied for the grant money, Myers said he believes Abounding Prosperity was chosen because it targets African-American men who have sex with men (MSM) between the ages of 17 and 29, the group hardest hit with new infections in Dallas.

That includes many who are unemployed and underemployed.

To encourage testing and behavioral intervention, Myers suggested using incentives such as gift cards that might cover gas costs.

“Even though testing should be done routinely, you’re not worried about testing when you’re worried about your next meal,” Myers said.

In addition to testing, the focus will be on using evidence-based interventions designed to create behavior changes using techniques that have proven successful with gay men.

Myers said he will need to triple the size of his staff to nine and add more office space to operate the grant. He has already looked at two properties on MLK Boulevard near Abounding Prosperity’s current office.

Myers said that he would like to collaborate with Dallas County and other AIDS organizations’ programs to reach the most underserved populations.

He specifically mentioned Resource Center Dallas’ syphilis elimination program as an obvious partner.

“Syphilis is off the charts in Dallas,” Myers said. “And if you’re putting yourself at risk for syphilis, you’re putting yourself at risk for HIV.”

But, Myers said, his ultimate goal is to do the job of education and prevention so well that he can put Abounding Propserity out of business.

“I want to eradicate AIDS,” he said.

Ryan White funds

In addition, the Health Resources and Services Administration of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced $1.89 billion in grants to states for HIV/AIDS care and medications. Texas was awarded $85,856,474 in Ryan White money designated “supplemental part B.”

The state also received $786,424 in AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP) Emergency Relief Awards.

ADAP funding matches money spent by the state. Texas cut its ADAP funding, which may be a reason smaller states are receiving more money. Georgia and Louisiana each were awarded $3 million and Florida almost $7 million in emergency drug assistance money.

Dallas will receive $14,625,082 and Fort Worth $3,864,274 in Ryan White Part A funding. Dallas awards are administered for the region by the county. Other cities in Texas receiving these grants are Houston ($19.7 million), San Antonio and Austin ($4.4 million each).

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 30, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

BREAKTHROUGH: Study shows anti-retroviral drugs reduce infection in HIV-negative men

A study published today in the New England Journal of Medicine found that the use of daily anti-retroviral medication reduces the risk of infection in HIV-negative gay men.

The study was done in six countries with 2,500 gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men. Using the drug Truvada, they found that it can prevent men from acquiring HIV.

Among the enrolled participants, there were 36 infections among individuals who received the drug and 64 new infections among placebo recipients. Researchers estimated that the use of the preventive medication cut new HIV infections by an estimated 44 percent overall when compared to the placebo. This is the first evidence that a drug regimen can reduce the risk of HIV among HIV-negative men.

“Condoms are still the first line of defense, but we’re hopeful that [Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis Initiative] may be an important addition to a comprehensive prevention toolbox that will help prevent new infections among gay men,” said National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors executive director Julie Scofield.

Bret Camp from Resource Center Dallas’ Nelson-Tebedo Clinic called it a milestone but cautioned about the side effects and long-term damage of Truvada. He stressed that this therapy will not replace traditional prevention methods.

More on the breakthrough in this Friday’s World AIDS Day Edition of Dallas Voice.

—  David Taffet

Forum set to promote HIV awareness

from staff reports

Resource Center Dallas will hold a community forum seeking input to expand awareness and prevention of HIV/AIDS in an effort to battle the growing rate of HIV/AIDS in Dallas County, on Tuesday, Oct. 12, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the center, 2701 Reagan St.

The forum is being held in collaboration with Dallas County and other community partners. It is free and open to the public.

Bret Camp, associate executive director for health and medical services at the center, said, “The goal is to lay groundwork for a community-driven effort that will reduce the transmission of HIV/AIDS, and to increase awareness of the services available to the public.”

He noted that a recent CDC study found that in 2008, one in five — or 19 percent of — men who have sex with men in 21 major U.S. cities are infected with HIV. Nearly half — 44 percent — were unaware of their infection.
The forum is part of the “Greater Than AIDS” project which responds to the AIDS crisis in the United States by targeting the severe and disproportionate epidemic among the gay community and African-Americans. The effort aims to raise knowledge and understanding of HIV/AIDS and confronts the stigma surrounding the disease.

Resource Center’s forum concentrates on gay men and will target communities most heavily affected, based on HIV/AIDS incidence and prevalence data, to ensure its success. Information gained will be used in strategic planning to reduce the number of HIV cases in the Dallas metropolitan area.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 08, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas

Dallas rate of new HIV infections higher than national average

New statistics released by CDC examine infection rates in MSM in 21 major metro areas

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer taffet@dallasvoice.com

In September, the Centers for Disease Control issued new HIV statistics for men who have sex with men in 21 metropolitan areas.

They tested 8,153 men and found HIV prevalence was 28 percent among blacks, 18 percent among Hispanics and 16 percent among whites. In Dallas, 461 men participated in the study.

The statistics were worse for Dallas than the 21 cities as a whole. Nationally, 19 percent of those tested were positive. In Dallas, 26 percent were positive. About 44 percent of those who tested positive in the full survey were previously unaware of their status. In Dallas, 54 percent were previously unaware.

In Houston, the same percentage tested positive as in Dallas, but only 23 percent were previously unaware of their status.

Only Philadelphia, Detroit and San Juan had higher percentages of participants than Dallas who did not previously know their status. Each of those cities scored more than 70 percent unaware. Only Baltimore and New York City revealed a higher percentage of new HIV infections than Dallas or Houston.

The study found that HIV prevalence dropped with higher education levels and with higher income levels.

Positive testing increased with age but those in their 30s were most likely to be unaware of their status.

For more on the report go online to cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm5937a2.htm?s_cid=mm5937a2_w

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 08, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas

CDC study shows ‘concentrated epidemic’ of HIV in gay, bisexual men

44% of 8,000 men in 21 cities didn’t know they had virus

MIKE STOBBE  |  AP Medical Writer

ATLANTA — One in five sexually active gay and bisexual men has the AIDS virus, and nearly half of those don’t know they are infected, a federal study of 21 U.S. cities shows.

Experts said the findings are similar to earlier research, but the study released Thursday, Sept. 23 is the largest to look at gay and bisexual U.S. men at high risk for HIV. More than 8,000 men were tested and interviewed, and 44 percent of those who had the virus didn’t know they had it.

Overall, less than half of 1 percent of Americans have the AIDS virus, according to a calculation by the Kaiser Family Foundation, a research and policy organization in Washington, D.C.

But gay and bisexual men continue to be infected at much higher rates, said Jennifer Kates, Kaiser’s director of global health and HIV policy.

“We don’t have a generalized epidemic in the United States. We have a concentrated epidemic among certain populations,” she said.

That’s why a new national AIDS strategy, unveiled by the White House in July, is emphasizing more of a government focus on men who have sex with men and others at the highest risk of getting infected, Kates said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends HIV testing at least once a year for all men who have sex with men and are sexually active, but research indicates more than half don’t get tested.

An earlier study in just five cities in 2004-05 found similar results.

The new study, conducted in 2008, included 16 additional cities. Researchers offered free testing to the men, interviewed them and paid around $25 for their participation.

Black men were more likely to have HIV, with 28 percent reportedly infected, compared to 18 percent of Hispanic men and 16 percent of white men.

Black men were also least likely to know they were infected — about 60 percent didn’t know they had HIV — compared 46 percent of Hispanic men and 26 percent of whites.

—  John Wright

Come out, if not for yourself, for youth

Living in the closet may be good for your pocketbook. But it can be hell on your mental state, the lives of those around you and the future of the LGBT youth who are watching you for clues on how to live

Ken Mehlman
Ken Mehlman

Seems like we have been hearing a lot about people coming out lately. The most notable so far was Ken Mehlman, former chairman of the Republican Party. His announcement was not very surprising since there had been rumors floating since he stepped down from his job with the GOP. But it did cause a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth on both sides of the political aisle.

The folks on the left were outraged that he sought forgiveness, and the folks on the right were outraged … in general.

What his media event makes clear is the value and hazards of being “out.”

For Mehlman, his closet existence gave him free reign to work with homophobic bigots with impunity. He could walk the halls of power in the GOP, aiding his party and candidates in their systematic oppression of LGBT Americans and still get to go home and have sex with men.

The down side of that is now that he has come out, he has absolutely no “street cred” in the LGBT political scene and even less with the right wing.

That brings me to the whole process of coming out.

For me, it happened at least three times. First when I was 18, and having sex with a couple of high school friends. I finally got the nerve to tell my family and pretty much got a

“That’s nice,” and a pat on the head.

My mother was going through a lot at that period in her life so she just might not have understood what I was telling her.

The second time I came out was with my girlfriend. That’s right, girlfriend.

She and I had been living together for a while and I told her that I really liked having sex with men. Hey, it was 1971! She didn’t like that kind of competition. So I moved out, but in true ’70s fashion, we remained friends.

Shortly after, I came out again to my mother — and this time it took. She was a bit upset that she would not have grandchildren, but being the good Jewish mother, she promptly started trying to hook me up with her gay friends. Not a pleasant experience!

From that point on, I was never really in the closet again. The good thing about that is I rarely had to worry about keeping stories straight (pardon the pun) and didn’t need a beard. I could participate in political activism and actually work to achieve my own freedom and equality.

Moreover, contrary to common wisdom at the time, being out never hurt my career; I managed to do that independent of my sexuality.

When I see stories like Mr. Mehlman’s, I have a certain amount of sympathy. I understand how scary life outside the closet can be, yet I also know the insidious damage that being closeted can cause.

Had I stayed in my closet any longer, I might have gotten married and had children. Coming out after starting a family really hurts everyone; I know this from the experience of friends.

Staying in the closet may seem like a good career move. But aside from money, how soul crushing is it to have to hide who you are every day with your peers? It can’t be easy, and because of that I find it hard to be completely unsympathetic to Mehlman’s plight.

But I do understand why he is not being welcomed with open arms by the LGBT community.

If anything, his story should serve as an example of how not to come out of the closet. Waiting so late in your career and life makes it more difficult. What’s worse, it sets a bad example for young people who might look up to you.

What? Bad example? I sound like my mother, and occasionally that is a good thing.

Whether we know it or not, every one of us is constantly influencing the younger people around us. When we act in a manner that is patently duplicitous and self-serving, they notice.

It sends a message that it’s OK to lie and cheat in pursuit of your career or whatever other goal you have in mind.

That means there will be a whole generation of LGBT Americans who decide the closet is OK so long as you profit from it.

Whether we like it or not, all of us in the LGBT community have kids. They might not be biological family, but when they come into the community they look for role models — and we are what they see.

You don’t have to be rich or connected or politically astute or in a position of authority; they will find you. They watch how people who are already out manage their lives, and they model their own behavior on that example.

If that makes you nervous, that’s a good thing. Being conscious of how we live our lives can often make us examine our choices and our behavior. We don’t all have to be paragons of correctness and we don’t have to be in-your-face activists. We just need to be authentic in our loves and that means being who we are. It means being out.

So if you are out already, I salute you. Coming out is scary, difficult, joyous and liberating. It is a rite of passage to wholeness.

If you are struggling with the closet door, there are plenty of folks who can help you. Your actions, your example, might just save someone from the despair of living a lie.
Set an example for someone. Let them know it’s OK to be LGBT — or whoever they are. If you don’t do it for yourself, at least do it for our kids.


Hardy Haberman is a longtime local LGBT activist and a member of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas. His blog is at http://dungeondiary.blogspot.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 17, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas

Dallas County health chief calls for replicating 1980s model to combat rising HIV infection rate

In the face of Dallas County’s steadily rising HIV infection rate, which is the highest in Texas, health authorities are eyeing new strategies for treatment and prevention of the disease, according to Zachary Thompson, director of Dallas County Health and Human Services.

The county health department, along with Resource Center Dallas and AIDS Arms Inc., have announced a joint press conference Thursday morning to unveil a new HIV/AIDS partnership, which will include two upcoming community forums and two new mobile testing sites.

Thompson said rising HIV infection rates are of particular concern in the 13-24 age group, in the American-American population and among men who have sex with men (MSM).

“I think when we saw what was going on in the Oak Lawn area back in the ’80s, there was a lot of information, there was a lot of education, there was a lot of discussion about testing,” Thompson told Instant Tea on Wednesday morning. “I think that’s the model we need to look at Dallas County-wide. It’s not just in one area. We need to take that same model and look at the fact that we’re seeing new HIV infection rates throughout Dallas County. … You’ve got a young population that may feel they’re invincible, and they may have missed the message altogether.”

A media alert announcing Thursday’s joint press conference between the three agencies states that, “By joining forces, they hope to bring progress in prevention, testing and education, as it pertains to HIV/AIDS.”

Thompson said health authorities believe there are many people in Dallas County who need HIV/AIDS services but don’t know how to access them.

“We need to really dialogue with the community on what are lessons learned, what are things we need to do,” he said. “Is it more testing? Is it more information? Is it more linkage to resources? We think the resources are out there. People just may not be aware of them.”

The two community forums in October will be at Resource Center Dallas, 2701 Reagan St., and at the Urban League on Lancaster Road, Thompson said. Additional community forums will be announced soon.

The new mobile testing sites will be in two areas that are seeing rising HIV infections rates — East Oak Cliff and a section of North Dallas near LBJ Freeway and Coit Road.

“We’re going to have to look at the fact that with the state of all budgets, federal and state, we’re going to have to really focus on what’s going on in our community and how we can utilize existing services right now,” Thompson said.

Thursday’s press conference will be at 10 a.m. in Room 627A on the 6th floor of the health department, 2377 North Stemmons Freeway in Dallas.

For coverage of the press conference, see Friday’s Dallas Voice.

—  John Wright