PHOTOS and VIDEO: Dallas marks IDAHO

About 45 people attended a candlelight vigil in downtown Dallas on Tuesday night to mark the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia. A number of pedestrians also stopped along the sidewalk to listen to speakers at the JFK Memorial.

The evening began with singing and an invocation by the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence.

Maeve O’Connor spoke about transphobia. A video of her talk is below.

BiNet Dallas president Morgan O’Donnell and event organizer Elizabeth Jayne Webb addressed biphobia by the gay as well as straight communities. Jesse Garcia, Steven Sprinkle and Davlin Kerekes spoke about homophobia.

After the speakers, there was a candlelight vigil along several downtown blocks.

This is the first time Dallas participated in IDAHO. The event has been marked in Europe and Canada since 2004 and is held on May 17 because that is the date in 1990 when the World Health Organization removed homosexuality from its list of mental disorders.

No counterprotesters showed up at the vigil.

More photos and video after the jump.

—  David Taffet

What’s Brewing: Texas Legislature may limit access to drugs for thousands with HIV/AIDS

Your weekday morning blend from Instant Tea:

1. Today is the International Day Against Homophobia & Transphobia, also known as IDAHO, which commemorates the World Health Organization’s removal of homosexuality from its list of mental disorders on May 17, 1990. Activists in Dallas will mark the event for the first time this year, with a march and candlelight vigil beginning at the JFK Memorial downtown. For more info, go here.

2. As a House-Senate conference committee works to finalize the state budget, funding for the Texas HIV Medication Program hangs in the balance. The program, which provides life-sustaining drugs to low-income people with HIV/AIDS, needs an additional $19.2 million over the next two years to serve 3,000 anticipated new clients. The House version of the budget leaves out the needed funds, while the Senate version includes them. Now it’s up to the conference committee to resolve the discrepancy. If the committee doesn’t include the $19.2 million in the final budget, the program likely will be forced to turn away clients or otherwise limit access. Contact members of the House-Senate conference committee and urge them to fully fund the Texas HIV Medication Program by going here.

3. Now that David Kunkle and Mike Rawlings have advanced to a runoff for Dallas mayor, we’re hosting an LGBT forum for the two candidates next week at the Cathedral of Hope. A large turnout for the forum will serve as a reminder to Kunkle and Rawlings that the LGBT community in Dallas is a force to be reckoned with. For details or to RSVP, go here.

—  John Wright

March against LGBT-phobia set in Dallas

Daniel Cates

Event is part of International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia and will include candlelight vigil and speakers

DAVID TAFFET | Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

Activists will gather at the JFK Memorial in downtown Dallas as part of the worldwide recognition of International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, known as IDAHO, on May 17.

The event began in 2004 but this is the first time Dallas will participate.

“It’s celebrated around the world and we’ve never had one here in Dallas,” said organizer Daniel Cates.

The May 17 date was chosen by the Paris-based IDAHO committee: Although U.S. groups like the American Psychological Association had already removed homosexuality from its list of mental disorders, the World Health Organization did so on May 17, 1990.

That was a major step for the LGBT community in many countries in gaining equality based on sexual orientation.

Cates said that the day is celebrated differently in different parts of the world.

“Some places it’s as simple as showing a film or having an art exhibit,” he said.

In countries where a Pride Day celebration is banned, a demonstration against homophobia might be permitted.

In Dallas, Cates said, “We’re doing a candlelight vigil, not a loud, screaming march. Chicago is doing a boisterous protest.”

Cates said the march through downtown would be on sidewalks with police escorts but would not close streets. The route is be short, about a half mile, Cates estimated.

He said the second Stonewall March set for June 25 will also be held downtown and will again close streets, as it did last year.

“The two events seem to be attracting two different groups,” Cates said.

He called the IDAHO event a more mature crowd.

“The march appeals to a younger crowd who wants to know, ‘Why the hell don’t I have my rights?’” he said.

Cates said the Dallas IDAHO vigil will concentrate on homophobia, biphobia and transphobia. Other cities have expanded their focus to include other groups also experiencing discrimination.

He cited Islamophobia as an issue that will be addressed in some places.

The march returns to the JFK Memoril where speakers will address the crowd, including Maeve O’Connor, a transgender member of the Resource Center Dallas board of directors. Her three-minute speech at Dallas County Commissioners Court is reportedly the story that convinced John Wiley Price to vote for the county nondiscrimination policy to gender identity and expression.

Elizabeth Jayne Webb, who is an event organizer as well as speaker, is an organizer of Walk for Choice.

She recently planned the Slut Walk to call for an end to blaming the victims in cases of in rape and violence.

Rainbow LULAC President Jesse Garcia will speak about building bridges between the Hispanic and LGBT communities. He hosts a morning talk show on KNON.

Other speakers will include Davlin Kerekes, an activist with the International Socialist Organization Dallas Branch, and Dr. Stephen Sprinkle, associate professor of religion at Brite Divinity School and theologian-in-residence at Cathedral of Hope. Sprinkle is also the author of Unfinished Lives, a book about LGBT hate crime victims.

Cates said the evening will also include songs and speakers will be followed by an open mic.

—  John Wright

AIDS breakthrough: Gel helps prevent infection

MARILYNN MARCHIONE  |  AP Medical Writer

MILWAUKEE — For the first time, a vaginal gel has proved capable of blocking the AIDS virus: It cut in half a woman’s chances of getting HIV from an infected partner in a study in South Africa. Scientists called it a breakthrough in the long quest for a tool to help women whose partners won’t use condoms.

The results need to be confirmed in another study, and that level of protection is probably not enough to win approval of the microbicide gel in countries like the United States, researchers say. But they are optimistic it can be improved.

“We are giving hope to women,” who account for most new HIV infections, said Michel Sidibe in a statement. He is executive director of the World Health Organization’s UNAIDS program. A gel could “help us break the trajectory of the AIDS epidemic,” he said.

And Dr. Anthony Fauci of the U.S. National Institutes of Health said, “It’s the first time we’ve ever seen any microbicide give a positive result” that scientists agree is true evidence of protection.

The gel, spiked with the AIDS drug tenofovir, cut the risk of HIV infection by 50 percent after one year of use and 39 percent after 2 1/2 years, compared to a gel that contained no medicine.

To be licensed in the U.S., a gel or cream to prevent HIV infection may need to be at least 80 percent effective, Fauci said. That might be achieved by adding more tenofovir or getting women to use it more consistently. In the study, women used the gel only 60 percent of the time; those who used it more often had higher rates of protection.

The gel also cut in half the chances of getting HSV-2, the virus that causes genital herpes. That’s important because other sexually spread diseases raise the risk of catching HIV.

Even partial protection is a huge victory that could be a boon not just in poor countries but for couples anywhere when one partner has HIV and the other does not, said Dr. Salim Abdool Karim, the South African researcher who led the study. In the U.S., nearly a third of new infections each year are among heterosexuals, he noted.

Countries may come to different decisions about whether a gel that offers this amount of protection should be licensed. In South Africa, where one in three girls is infected with HIV by age 20, this gel could prevent 1.3 million infections and 826,000 deaths over the next two decades, he calculated.

He will present results of the study Tuesday at the International AIDS Conference in Vienna. The research was published online Monday by the journal Science.

“We now have a product that potentially can alter the epidemic trends … and save millions of lives,” said Dr. Quarraisha Abdool Karim, the lead researcher’s wife and associate director of the South African program that led the testing.

It’s the second big advance in less than a year on the prevention front. Last fall, scientists reported that an experimental vaccine cut the risk of HIV infection by about 30 percent. Research is under way to try to improve it.

If further study shows the gel to be safe and effective, WHO will work to speed access to it, said its director-general, Dr. Margaret Chan.

The gel is in limited supply; it’s not a commercial product, and was made for this and another ongoing study from drug donated by California-based Gilead Sciences Inc., which sells tenofovir in pill form as Viread. If further study proves the gel effective, a full-scale production system would need to be geared up to make it.

The study tested the gel in 889 heterosexual women in and near Durban, South Africa. Researchers had no information on the women’s partners, but the women were heterosexual and, in general, not in a high-risk group, such as prostitutes.

Half of the women were given the microbicide and the others, a dummy gel. Women were told to use it 12 hours before sex and as soon as possible within 12 hours afterward.

At the study’s end, there were 38 HIV infections among the microbicide group versus 60 in the others.

The gel seemed safe — only mild diarrhea was slightly more common among those using it. Surveys showed that the vast majority of women found it easy to use and said their partners didn’t mind it. And 99 percent of the women said they would use the gel if they knew for sure that it prevented HIV.

This shows that new studies testing the gel’s effectiveness without a placebo group should immediately be launched, said Salim Abdool Karim. The only other study testing the gel now compares it to placebo and will take a couple more years to complete.

The study was sponsored by the Centre for the AIDS Programme of Research in South Africa, or CAPRISA; Family Health International; CONRAD, an AIDS research effort based at Eastern Virginia Medical School; and the U.S. Agency for International Development, or USAID.

Gilead has licensed the rights to produce the gel, royalty-free, to CONRAD and the International Partnership on Microbicides for the 95 poorest countries in the world, said Dr. Howard Jaffe, president of the Gilead Foundation, the company’s philanthropic arm.

The biggest cost of the gel is the plastic applicator — about 32 cents, which hopefully would be lower when mass-produced, researchers said.

Mitchell Warren, head of the AIDS Vaccine Advocacy Coalition, a nonprofit group that works on HIV prevention tools, said the study shows a preventive gel is possible.

“We can now say with great certainty that the concept has been proved. And that in itself is a day for celebration,” he said.

—  John Wright