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

WATCH: S. Texas constable accuses police chief of texting pornographic images of trans women

A constable in South Texas is accusing his challenger in next year’s election, a local police chief, of sending text messages to his cell phone containing pornographic images of transgender women.

Constable Robert Lopez claims Primera Police Chief Joe Rodriguez was trying to set him up in the event his phone records become public.

But Rodriguez denies that, saying he intended to send the images to his cousin but mistakenly sent them to Lopez. Which we might believe if it weren’t for the fact that in 2007, Rodriguez was terminated as an officer with the Rio Hondo ISD after an investigation into searches for adult web content he allegedly made from district computers.

In any case, we’re pretty sure “she-male fetish porn” — which ValleyCentral.com is using to describe the images — is considered offensive.

Watch the video report below.

—  John Wright

Off-duty D.C. officer arrested in shooting incident involving transgender women

Washington, D.C. police officer Kenneth Furr was arrested after an incident early Friday morning in which he allegedly stood on the hood of a car while firing multiple shots into the vehicle and yelling “I’m going to kill you.” Three of the car’s five occupants were transgender women, the other two were male friends, according to the Washington Blade. One of the men, identified to the Blade by a representative of D.C.’s Transgender Health Empowerment as a brother to one of the trans women in the car, was shot several timesm and two of the women were injured.

Furr, a 20-year veteran of the police force, has been charged with driving while intoxicated and assault with a dangerous weapon. Furr, who registered a .15 on a breathalyzer test when he was arrested, had allegedly gotten into an argument, about an hour and a half earlier, with the people in the car in a drugstore parking lot. Reports indicate that Furr was firing a Glock 9 and that five shells were recovered at the scene. The shooting took place at a different location, according to WTOP FM 103.5.

The T.H.E. representative told the Blade that the argument started when Furr, appearing to be drunk, approached one of the trans women and solicited her for sex and she turned him down.

Officials said Furr was on restricted duty at the time of the shooting due to a medical condition. His service weapon had been turned into the department, and officials said he was not authorized to carry a firearm when the incident occurred. Reports also indicate that Furr had previously been fired from the police department, but was later reinstated.

The shooting involving Furr came within a month and a half of the murders of two trans women, both of whom were shot to death in separate incidents 11 days apart. The two murders happened within two blocks of each other on Dix Street, according to this report from WTOP FM 103.5.  One woman was walking with a friend on July 20, in the 6100 block of Dix, when they were approached by two young black men. The attackers shot one of the women without provocation, the friend told police. On July 31, a trans woman walking the 6200 block of Dix was shot to death by a young black man who asked her for change and then opened fire.

T.H.E. and the D.C. Trans Coalition held a rally Sunday near the site of the latest shooting. The crowd of about 70 who attended included D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray, D.C. Council member Tommy Wells and D.C. Deputy Police Chief Diane Groomes who said she was representing Police Chief Cathy Lanier.

—  admin

UT Southwestern marks HIV Vaccine Awareness Day

DAVID TAFFET | Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

UT Southwestern’s Dr. Mamta Jain will be at ilume on May 18 to give a presentation on the necessity for an HIV vaccine.

Jain is heading a clinical trial of a vaccine that may help researchers understand how the immune system may prevent HIV. They are trying to understand why some people who are HIV-positive develop AIDS while others do not.

The study began last September but participants for the trial are still needed.

Jain said that participants cannot contract HIV from the vaccine.

“The vaccine is composed of man-made proteins that are found in HIV, not the HIV virus itself,” Jain said. “The vaccine cannot cause infection.”

Participants will receive three shots of either the vaccine or a placebo plus a booster shot in the first six months. Then they will return every three months for an HIV test, interview and risk-reduction counseling.

The study runs for three years.

Investigators are looking for gay men or transgender women who have sex with men who are between the ages of 18 and 5o and are HIV-negative. Testing to qualify would be done at UT Southwestern.

Jain will speak in the Great Room and Champagne Lounge at ilume, 4123 Cedar Springs Road on May 18 at 5-7 p.m. Free.

—  John Wright

Femme X provides service to people learning to be women

Nikki Starr

Starr says her service benefits trans women who want to present a more feminine appearance

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

Way back in 1996, Nikki Starr started Miss Victoria’s Feminine Illusions, a business dedicated to helping those — male or female — who wanted to be more feminine in appearance.

Starr suspended operations in 2001 because she traveled quite a bit with her job as an executive for a software company dealing with supply chain logistics.

But with the encouragement of a friend, Starr decided to try again, and Femme X Studios has been up and running since 2006.

Starr said she works with a variety of people: Some might have a fetish; others are transgender women who know they are women but never learned how women’s sizes work or how to put on makeup.

“They don’t know where to start,” Starr said.

While her target audience is varied, Starr said she rarely works with drag queens. She said she is not in business to help someone present an illusion or exaggeration of femininity.

“I provide a service as an image and style consultant,” she said.

Some of Starr’s clients are just coming out as transgender and learning to be more feminine. One client is a married cross-dresser whose wife does not know.

“She’s just trying to figure it out,” Starr said of her client.

Much of Starr’s business comes from people who are in the closet. Some are high-powered business executives who need a private, discreet place to explore.

Starr said she schedules three or four appointments a week and while an appointment may last up to eight hours, the basic appointment is usually three hours.

“Everything’s included,” Starr said. “They don’t have to bring anything — clothes, shoes, hair, lingerie. What do they want? Photography? Makeup?”

Starr has release forms for all pictures on her website. To assure discretion, she said she’ll use the client’s own camera and hand them the memory card. But, she noted, photography can be useful for the client to see and compare differences in makeup or hairstyles. And some do want a glamour shot session.

Starr said that some clients are very nervous on their first visit. They might spend the entire visit just drinking a glass of wine and talking. And Starr said she is careful to take that client through each step and talk about the experience as they go.

She also offers a very basic one-hour make-up class in which she discusses products, skincare and basic makeup application techniques.

Starr also helps her clients prepare for their own forays into the world of retail. Her advice for people shopping for the first time who have not developed a relationship with any salespeople is to call ahead.

“If you call ahead, they can prepare for you,” she said.

Starr used that same principle in planning an outing with a transgender group.

She made reservations for a group at the Uptown restaurant Sambuca and explained who they were. They told her, “as long as you’re dressed appropriately.” Starr said that when her group arrived, they were assigned a waiter who went out of his way to make the evening a lot of fun.

And while Starr specializes in image consulting, she refers her clients to a number of other people — including counselors, cosmetic surgeons and doctors to prescribe hormone therapy, as well as friendly gyms, retailers and restaurants.

Starr said that each of her customers is looking for something a little different and she said the key to success is spending time making sure she understands that client’s needs.

“We can customize an experience that’s right for you,” Starr said.

—  John Wright

Alleged serial killer linked to 5 strangulations in Houston, including two transgender women

Lucky Ward

Houston police have arrested a man they say is responsible for five murders last year, including two in which the victims were transgender women. Lucky Ward, 46, is a serial killer who targeted those he perceived as vulnerable, according to police.

Ward’s victims included Gypsy Rodriguez, 40, of Houston, a transgender woman who was found dead Sept. 13; and Myra D. Ical, 51, a trans woman who was found dead Jan. 18, 2010. Both women were murdered near Houston’s heavily LGBT Montrose area.

The Houston Chronicle has published a story that identifies Rodriguez and Ical by their male birth names, refers to them with male pronouns and calls them “men who dressed as women.” Meghan Stabler, a transgender activist from Houston, said on her Facebook page that she’s asked the newspaper to correct the story.

—  John Wright

UTSW seeks volunteers for HIV vaccine trial

Researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center announced on Friday, Sept. 10, that they are looking for people at high risk of contracting HIV to participate in a three-year, nationwide clinical trial intended to determine whether a combination of two potential HIV vaccines will stimulate an immune response against the virus.

Dr. Mamta Jain, assistant professor of internal medicine at UT Southwestern, will be principal investigator for the study locally. She said the trial is designed to determine whether the new combo-vaccine will reduce the HIV viral load of people who subsequently become infected with HIV, preventing the onset of AIDS. She said that the combo-vaccine is composed of man-made proteins found in HIV, not the virus itself, and stressed that participants could not contract HIV from the vaccine. She also said the combo vaccine is designed to produce T-cells and antibody responses against HIV, and that it has proven safe in animals and hundreds of human volunteers during previous clinical trials.

The trial, known as the HVTN 505 study, will include 1,350 volunteers nationally who will be assigned randomly to receive either the combo vaccine or a placebo. Researchers with the study locally are looking for 40-50 volunteers to participate through UT Southwestern. The next closest site where the trial is being conducted is the Alabama Vaccine Research Clinic in Birmingham, about 650 miles from Dallas.

Investigators are looking for healthy, HIV-negative men between 18 and 45 who have sex with men, and transgender women who have sex with men. Participants will receive three shots of the combo vaccine or a placebo, plus a booster shot, within the first six months. They will then be asked to return every three months over the next three years for an HIV test, an interview and risk reduction counseling.

The study, funded by the HIV Vaccine Trials Network, “may help us better understand why some people develop AIDS and others don’t,” Jain said. “If you could prevent people from getting sick with AIDS, that’s a tremendous accomplishment.”

For more information about the clinical trial, call 214-590-0610 or 214-590-0603, or go online to HopeTakesAction.org. Go online to UTSouthwestern.org/InfectiousDiseases for more information about UT Southwestern’s clinical services for infectious diseases.

—  admin

Laser treatment offers alternative to smokers who are trying to quit

Study: LGBTs smoke at more than twice the rate of non-LGBT peers

Tammye Nash  |  Senior Editor nash@dallasvoice.com

PAINLESS  |  Xena Sebastian of Anne Penman Laser Therapy of Dallas demonstrates the laser she uses to help smokers kick the habit. She said the laser is a non-invasive and painless alternative to other smoking cessation aids. (Tammye Nash/Dallas Voice)

PAINLESS | Xena Sebastian of Anne Penman Laser Therapy of Dallas demonstrates the laser she uses to help smokers kick the habit. She said the laser is a non-invasive and painless alternative to other smoking cessation aids. (Tammye Nash/Dallas Voice)

According to a report released in July by the American Lung Association, the smoking rate among gay and lesbian Americans is twice as high as among other Americans.

The report — “Smoking Out A Deadly Threat: Tobacco Use in the LGBT Community” — says that gay, bisexual and transgender men are two to two-and-a-half times more likely to smoke than straight men. Lesbians, bisexual and transgender women are one-and-a-half to two times more likely to smoke than straight women.

And, the report notes, bisexual boys and girls have the highest smoking rates when compared to both heterosexual and LGT peers.

Why? Well there are a number of reasons, the ALA suggests in its report: “possible contributing factors to the LGBT smoking rate includ[e] stress and discrimination related to homophobia, the tobacco industry’s targeted marketing to LGBT consumers, and lack of access to culturally appropriate tobacco treatment programs.”

And quitting smoking is not easy. Studies have indicated the relapse rate for those who quit to be between 75 and 80 percent, even with aids like gums, patches and pills.

But Xena Sebastian believes she has a solution that is almost sure-fire: laser therapy.

Sebastian, a registered nurse, said she spent most of her professional career working in cardiovascular intensive care units, “but I got a little old for ICU duty, which is pretty intense.”

So she began working doing infusion treatments, and from there learned about laser therapy. She now operates Anne Penman Laser Therapy of Dallas.

Sebastian explained that the laser is a holistic, drug-free method of treatment developed by Anne Penman of Scotland specifically to help smokers become non-smokers. And, Sebastian added, the success rate for laser treatments is “higher than any other kind of [stop smoking aid], including gums and patches and pills. The best part is that it is non-invasive, drug free and pain free.”

Penman is based in Scotland, and according to her website, she used laser therapy to end her 60-cigarette-a-day habit in 1991 after her husband, also a longtime smoker, had a heart attack at age 39. That same year, she trained to become a laser therapist, and quickly developed her own protocol for the treatment. By 1994, she was training others to use her protocol.

Sebastian said that laser therapy works along the same lines as acupuncture, using the laser instead of needles to target energy points throughout the body, causing the release of seratonins and endorphins, “the same chemicals that are released when you workout.”

The laser, Sebastian said, “is a healing light that works on an intracellular and cellular level” to help detox the body, flushing out harmful substances, and to dampen that craving for nictotine.

Laser therapy can also be used for pain management and to reduce stress, and there are other applications, as well, although Sebastian said she does not promote laser therapy for those.

All Anne Penman clinics use the Thor Laser, which has been approved by the FDA for “tissue healing, inflammation, pain relief and wounds,” according to the Thor Laser website.

The smoking cessation packages at Sebastian’s clinic cost $499 for three treatments. She said patients come in for their first treatment and are then asked to return within 48 hours for the second treatment. The third treatment can be used down the line if the patient relapses.

Sebastian said many patients are ready to quit smoking after the first treatment, and almost all of them quit after the second treatment.

The package price also includes a supply of nutritional supplements and vitamins that help the patient detox and reinforce healthy habits.

Sebastian acknowledged that the nearly $500 price tag seems high to many people. She also noted that few insurance plans cover the cost of laser treatment to quit smoking.

But, she said, “If you smoke one pack a day and this treatment helps you quit, then you have paid for the treatment in a month and a half” of not buying cigarettes.

Sebastian said she is not condemning other smoking cessation treatments that use pharmaceuticals. “I am a registered nurse. I certainly believe pharmaceuticals have their place. But if you can [quit smoking] without them, with a holistic and non-invasive treatment, then try that first,” she said.

Anne Penman Laser Therapy of Dallas is the only Anne Penman treatment center in Texas. It is located at 6518 LBJ Freeway. For more information, call 214-503-7955, e-mail annepenman_dallas@yahoo.com, or go online to AnnePenmanLaserTherapyDallas.com.
For more information about Anne Penman and Anne Penman Laser Therapy, go online to AnnePenman.com. For more information about the laser used in Anne Penman Laser Therapy, go online to ThorLaser.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 10, 2010

—  Kevin Thomas

New group forming for hate crime survivors

O’Connor, Mullinex both fell victim to hate crimes, and now they want to use their experiences to help others

DAVID TAFFET | Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

Maeve O’Connor, left, and Winter Mullinex

Options for victims of hate crimes are limited. But two transgender women who survived life-threatening attacks have the group formed Surviving Hate to try and offer more options for hate-crime survivors who are trying to put their lives back together.
To raise money to launch their group, Dallas filmmaker Israel Luna will screen his film, “Ticked-Off Tr*nnies With Knives,” on July 7 at Studio Movie Grill in North Dallas.

Surviving Hate organizer Maeve O’Connor said there are advocacy groups for hate crime victims, but survivor groups outside of a clinical setting are rare. She said she realized the need for such a group during discussions with Winter
Mullinex, who also lived through a violent attack.

“We realized we were able to empathize with each other about what we went through,” O’Connor said.

The new group is still in the development stage. Their goal, she said, was to empower survivors to live healthy lives. A website where survivors will be able to share their experiences, anonymously if they prefer, should be running next week. O’Connor said they are still creating their board of directors and then will apply for non-profit status.

O’Connor said she hopes this spawns a network of survivor groups across the country.

Surviving Hate will reach beyond the transgender community to help victims of any bias-related violence — whether it was motivated by race, religion, ethnicity or physical disability, as well as sexual orientation and gender identity and expression.

The most recent FBI statistics are for 2008, a year before the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Hate Crime law was enacted. Of the 7,780 bias incidents reported for that year, 16.7 percent were based on sexual orientation.

O’Connor believes that some crimes based on gender identity are included in that number, but most have gone unreported. Statistics compiled for the year 2010 — that will not be available until 2012 — will include gender identity and expression as specified in the new law.

Both O’Connor and Mullinex spoke about the crimes that affected their lives. Both were raped, beaten and left for dead. O’Connor said her rapists told her, “You look like a girl. You act like a girl. We’re going to help make you a girl.”

The attack happened 31 years ago when she was 16.

The first reaction is fear, she said, and like many hate crime victims, she did not report the crime. Next, she said, comes shame.

But she said at that age she did not understand gender identity and was not out, she believed the attack happened because of who she really was.

Winter, a survivor of multiple hate crime attacks, was first raped at age 9. She said she understood at the time she was transgender.

Both women said the purpose of their new group is not to wallow in pity. Survivors often think their reactions are unusual, but together victims discover their reactions are quite similar and normal.

The women said the victims are often blamed for bringing on the attack. But the purpose of Surviving Hate is not self-pity or assigning blame.

“How do you thrive?” O’Connor said. “How do you go on with your life? I’ve become successful. I’d like others to do that.”

“I can tell you, 31 years later, you don’t get over it,” she said. “But you do learn to deal with it and put it to the side.”

“When you’re in a victim mindset, you feel powerless,” Mullenix said. “No one lives unscarred, but survivors are empowered and capable of leading a normal life.”

She would like to help hate crime victims move past the fear.

Their goal for survivors seems simple but is something that took both women years to achieve.

“Learn to have healthy, happy relationships and trust again,” Winter said. •

“Ticked Off Tr*nnies with Knives” at Studio Movie Grill, 11170 North Central Expressway. July 7 at 8 p.m. $10. SurvivingHate.org.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 02, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas