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Williams Institute: Culture, not PrEP, linked to spike in STIs

Author says ‘quiet sexual revolution’ happening

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Only a small minority of eligible patients are taking Truvada as pre-exposure prophylaxis for HIV prevention, according to a recent study.

Rates of HIV screening are alarmingly low in some populations of gay and bisexual men in the United States and only a small minority of eligible patients are taking Truvada as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) for HIV prevention, according to a recent study by the Williams Institute of the University of California, Los Angeles School of Law.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends all sexually active men who have sex with men (MSM) test annually for HIV and include PrEP in their HIV prevention methods. With a probability sample, the first that offers nationwide estimates, researchers found only 4% of MSMs are using PrEP and as many as 25% of young gay and bisexual men have never been tested for HIV—while fewer than half are screened at least once per year.

“Our findings suggest that health education efforts are not adequately reaching sizable groups of men at risk for HIV infection,” the study’s principal investigator, Ilan H. Meyer, Distinguished Senior Public Policy Scholar at the Williams Institute, said in a press release. “It is alarming that high- risk populations of men who are sexually active with same-sex partners are not being tested or taking advantage of treatment advances to prevent the spread of HIV.”

Nationwide, the number of new HIV infections has decreased year-over-year since 2010, a public health achievement that still does not mitigate the potential risks associated with low rates of HIV screening and PrEP use. Meanwhile, the spike in sexually transmitted infections (STI) like gonorrhea, chlamydia, and syphilis among MSM has been partially attributed to riskier behaviors among men who use PrEP. That conclusion, which is fueled in part by peer- reviewed research—and also, perhaps, by some sexual shaming or stigma—is challenged by the findings reported in the Williams Institute paper.

Lead study author Phillip Hammack, Ph.D., professor of psychology at the University of California, Santa Cruz, told the Los Angeles Blade: “Our data don’t support the idea that we can attribute the rise in STIs to PrEP use, at least not in a direct manner. I personally don’t think that’s what’s happening.” More responsible are a constellation of different cultural factors, from the availability of easy sex via hook-up apps to decreased anxiety about HIV/AIDS, Hammack explained. “I would speculate it has more to do with a culture shift about sex. More people are having sex today. We’re in sort of a quiet sexual revolution when it comes to new identities, new labels, and sexual behavior.”

To an extent, Hammack said, low rates of HIV testing and PrEP use can be explained in the same way, along with various other factors, including stigma, which often prevents gay and bisexual men from discussing their sexual behaviors or identities with healthcare providers and non-LGBT-specific clinics are not always familiar with the full spectrum of diverse sexual identities and behaviors. Additionally, limited access to medications and financial barriers are in large part responsible for the low numbers of eligible patients using PrEP.

Hammack told the Los Angeles Blade that HIV prevention efforts must focus on better educating healthcare providers, especially in more rural areas. “A really encouraging finding of ours was that if folks had access to LGBT-specific resources and were out to their providers, they were much more likely to be tested and to be on PrEP,” he said. Physicians and healthcare providers must talk with men in sensitive, non-stigmatizing ways in order to really understand patients’ sexual risk profiles. For example, some MSMs may identify as straight and disavow membership in the LGBT community.

Such a shift in approach is likely to result in an increased number of men who choose to take PrEP, the Williams Institute study suggests. Hammack explained that prior research, with samples of gay/bisexual men in urban areas, found only moderately- higher numbers of PrEP users, typically between five and 10%—still well below the rates recommended by the CDC and World Health Organization.

More of the factors that can explain the low number of PrEP users, both nationwide and in large metropolitan areas, will be borne out in a forthcoming study that will include in-depth interviews of gay and bisexual men. Despite public campaigns about the safety and efficacy of PrEP, Hammack explained, “In this [forthcoming] study, what we’ve seen is, frankly, a lot of misinformation about PrEP.” Along with undue fears about side effects, Hammack and his team discovered “a fair amount of sexual shame. ‘Well, I don’t want to be considered a PrEP whore’—that kind of language.”

Some of the findings in the Williams Institute study are cause for celebration, however. HIV testing rates among black MSMs are higher than rates among white men. “What our findings on that suggest is that the testing campaigns that have targeted African-American men are paying off,” Hammack said. Still, while rates of new HIV infections have decreased in the general population, there has been an increase in new diagnoses among black gay and bisexual men. “I think we’re in a transitional moment in which we’re starting to see the effects of the aggressive efforts to reduce the impact of HIV on communities of color,” Hammack explained. “And it’s going to take some time before we see the actual infection rate numbers go down.”

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California

Newsom signs orders to roll back coronavirus restrictions next Tuesday

The Governor’s Office established a timeline to continue winding down the various provisions of the 58 COVID-related executive orders.

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Governor Gavin Newsom (Photo Credit: Office of the Governor of California)

SACRAMENTO – Effective June 15, restrictions such as physical distancing, capacity limits and the county tier system will end as Governor Gavin Newsom signed a series of executive orders Friday marking a return to normalcy after nearly 15 months of the ongoing battle to protect the state’s residents from the ravages of the coronavirus pandemic.  Additionally, those Californians who are fully vaccinated won’t be required to wear a mask — including indoors.

Newsom’s actions also include terminating the Stay-at-Home Order that was implemented early in the pandemic to protect Californians and retiring the Blueprint for a Safer Economy.

“California is turning the page on this pandemic, thanks to swift action by the state and the work of Californians who followed public health guidelines and got vaccinated to protect themselves and their communities,” said Newsom. “With nearly 40 million vaccines administered and among the lowest case rates in the nation, we are lifting the orders that impact Californians on a day-to-day basis while remaining vigilant to protect public health and safety as the pandemic persists.”

The Governor’s Office today established a timeline and process to continue winding down the various provisions of the 58 COVID-related executive orders, which suspended statutes and regulations to help the state and businesses continue operations during the pandemic.

To ensure that impacted individuals and entities have time to prepare for the changes, the provisions will sunset in phases, beginning later this month, in July and in September. For example, the suspension of certain licensing requirements for manufacturers to produce hand sanitizer will end on June 30, as shortages are no longer a concern. By the end of September, nearly 90 percent of the executive actions taken since March 2020 will have been lifted.

The California Department of Public Health on Friday released a new state public health officer order that goes into effect on June 15. 

Dr. Tomás Aragón, California’s public health officer, issued a new order that, among other things, puts in place new requirements for mask wearing that take effect Tuesday. The new rules say fully vaccinated people don’t have to wear a mask in most places, either indoors our outdoors. But the state is still requiring people who have not been vaccinated to wear a mask in public places.

“We’ve met our metrics, we feel prepared,” Dr. Mark Ghaly, California’s Health and Human Services Agency secretary, told reporters on Friday. “Things in California, from a COVID transmission perspective, are going reasonably well.”

These actions supports the full and safe reopening of the state, while maintaining focused public health requirements that address the risk posed by variants as some regions across the nation and world continue to experience high levels of transmission, Ghaly noted.

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West Hollywood

One City One Pride, LGBTQ Arts Festival Continues through June 30

All festival events are being presented on an online virtual platform to respond to the City’s efforts to prioritize health & public safety

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OUT on Robertson painting honoring Lady Gaga's Born This Way Album 10th anniversary (Photo Credit: City of West Hollywood)

WEST HOLLYWOOD – The 2021 theme for One City One Pride is ‘For the Record LGBTQ Stories’ of the past that have often been hidden or undocumented. One must read between the lines to find stories hidden behind “beard” marriages, coded language, and erased or destroyed evidence. This year, One City One Pride looks at some of these previously hidden stories.

Due to the coronavirus crisis, all festival events are being presented on an online virtual platform to respond to the City of West Hollywood’s efforts to prioritize health and public safety. A select few programs can also be experienced as self-guided solo walking tours or outdoor exhibitions.

More detailed information about the following City of West Hollywood One City One Pride LGBTQ Arts Festival events is available at www.weho.org/pride.

Forthcoming events of the 40-day festival include:

  • Pride Poets Poetry Hotline presented by West Hollywood City Poet Laureate Brian Sonia-Wallace & the Pride Poets from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday, June 11, 2021 to Sunday, June 13, 2021. Free. Call in to get a custom poem for you or a loved one based on the topic of your choice, written by one of the team of LGBTQ+ Pride Poets standing by at the remote Poetry Hotline from June 11-13, marathon-style from 10 a.m. to 10 a.m. Poems will be written on-the-spot and callers can choose to have copies of the poems emailed or mailed to them. Poetry hotline: call (202) 998-3510 to speak to a poet.
  • LGBTQ History in Comics — A virtual panel with readings from creators presented by Prism Comics. Launches Tuesday, June 15, 2021, at 6 p.m. Free. View the panel at: http://www.youtube.com/wehoarts and www.prismcomics.org. Join Prism Comics, moderator Justin Hall (No Straight Lines; Associate Professor of Comics, California College of The Arts) and a diverse, talented group of creators as they explore our queer past through comics. The panel and readings will remain online for viewing after the premiere date. More information is available at www.prismcomics.org.
  • Secret Lives, stories, music, and original writings by LGBTQ seniors watch party presented by NewStages, a program of Oasis Theater Company at 7 p.m. on the first four Tuesdays in June. Free. RSVP by calling (323) 860-5830 or by email at [email protected]Secret Lives will explore the stories of remarkable seniors as well as many historical figures who had to keep secrets to maintain their careers, their families, and their place in society. Archived events available at www.weho.org/pride.
  • WeHo Reads: Legacy and Lineage and the Lost Generation at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, June 16, 2021. Free. RSVP to get a reminder: https://wehoreadsrajivjubidare2021.eventbrite.com. As part of the City’s WeHo Reads series and One City One Pride LGBTQ Arts Festival, poets read and discuss works by mentors they’ve never met alongside their own work. Streaming at www.weho.org/wehoreads.
  • Shaped By Sylvester: Tiki Spills the Tea podcast organized by Steven Reigns. Free stream at https://www.stevenreigns.com/appearances from Wednesday, June 23, 2021 to Wednesday, June 30, 2021. Listen to tales of growing up black and trans in 1960s LA with a good friend that soon became a disco superstar.
  • West Hollywood Pride Play Reading Festival presented by The Alliance of Los Angeles Playwrights at 2 p.m. on Saturday, June 26, 2021, and Sunday,  June 27, 2021. Free. https://www.facebook.com/groups/laplaywrights. The Alliance of Los Angeles Playwrights (ALAP) annual West Hollywood ALAP Pride Reading Festival features staged readings of six one-act plays on Saturday, June 26, 2021 and one featured full length play on Sunday, June 27, 2021.
  • QueerWise presents Queer/Women+ Discussion at 7 p.m. on Saturday, June 26, 2021. Free. Join the woman-identified people of Queerwise for an exploration of gender where it gets tricky – where gender touches race and class and desire. Livestreamed at https://www.facebook.com/queer.wise.
  • Stuart Timmons West Hollywood LGBTQ History Tour — A collection of short films to be released on Wednesday, June 30, 2021 at 9 a.m. Free. Originally written by acclaimed author/historian Stuart Timmons and produced/directed by Jason Jenn, the tour first dazzled audiences in 2015 as part of the celebration of the 30th Anniversary of the City of West Hollywood’s incorporation in November 1984. The project is both a self-guided walking tour and a special in-person performance event. For 2021, the tour is being recorded as a collection of short films hosted indefinitely in the City of West Hollywood’s WeHoArts YouTube channel: www.youtube.com/wehoarts.

Additionally, these programs are available to view through June 30, 2021:

  • Dear Harvey: Stories of Harvey Milk byPatricia Loughrey. Extensively researched and beautifully constructed, this documentary-style ensemble play recounts the life and lasting impact of groundbreaking LGBTQ activist and politician Harvey Milk, as told by the people who knew him best … the real-world figures whose lives were forever altered by Milk’s too-short career. This performance will be available to watch for the duration of One City One Pride through June 30, 2021 at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ShX27kXqwBg and there is a special welcome from Stuart Milk, the nephew of Harvey Milk.
  • John Elgin Woolf: Master of the Hollywood Regency (Trail and Short Film) presented by Friends of Residential Treasures: LA. Free. Experience online or as a self-guided walking tour. Take this self-guided architectural trail curated by filmmaker and journalist Matt Tyrnauer, or watch a short film exploring the interior of the Seiter House — an important early work that John Elgin Woolf designed for himself and his same-sex partner.
  • Love Note presented by Rogue Artists Ensemble. Free. No RSVP Needed. Experience online or as a self-guided experience at Plummer Park, located at 7377 Santa Monica Boulevard. Rogue Artists Ensemble’s Love Note is a free, interactive, solo audio expedition of your heart, taking place in West Hollywood’s Plummer Park, where audience members can activate sonic narrative experiences at eight unique stops throughout the park. Using only a cell phone and headphones, participants will discover and listen to stories about romance, compassion, and connection, leading to a secret phone line, where participants are invited to share their own love story that will become part of the project’s archive. The community-contributed stories recorded during the run will be then woven back into the experience to create an ever-evolving tapestry of voices calling out for love and belonging. This experience is free and open to the public during park operating hours. The experience contains some mature themes and is not recommended for children. A travel map is available for download at the Rogue Artists Ensemble website for audience members to use for their story expedition in the park. Can’t make it to Plummer Park? Visit the Rogue Artists Ensemble website at www.rogueartists.org/lovenote to create your own experience from the comfort of your home.
  • Meringue, a public art exhibition. Free. Outdoor exhibition on traffic median at Santa Monica Boulevard and N. Doheny Drive. Meringue is a temporary public art exhibition by LGBTQ artist Kim Kiduck. The translucency of Meringue lets sunlight in to glow naturally during the daytime, and at night transforms Meringue into a mixing chamber of various light combinations. The exhibition will be lit up in rainbow colors for the duration of the City’s One City One Pride LGBTQ Arts Festival.
  • The City of West Hollywood’s Human Rights Speakers Series presents: Breaking Fast. Free.

The City of West Hollywood’s Human Rights Speaker Series and One City One Pride LBGTQ Arts Festival present Breaking Fast: Exploring the Intersection of Faith and Sexual Identity, an open panel discussion of the feature film, Breaking Fast, and its themes related to navigating the difficult conversations and real-life impacts of faith, sexual identity, and community. Archived event video available to view at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NmSvpTBPzkI.

  • Walking Amongst the Rubble: Undocuqueer Pride Queer Poetry Reading Series presented by Influx Collectiv. Free. More information and the online podcast is available at https://www.influxcollectiv.org/podcast.
  • Pride Publics: Words and Actions presented by ONE Archives Foundation. Free. ONE Archives Foundation presents “Pride Publics: Words and Actions,” a multi-site outdoor exhibition that examines the intersection between pride and publicness and examines themes central to queer public life while highlighting trailblazers and their visions. With free and accessible outdoor installations plus a digital guide, this exhibition aims to give visibility to LGBTQ life in the public through the lens of history, community, and activism. More information is available at https://www.onearchives.org/pridepublics. This exhibition is organized by ONE Archives Foundation.
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California

Montclair issues 1st Pride proclamation- LGBTQ residents say no thanks

Mayor Dutrey said that he felt that the council “was sabotaged” by those who refused to accept the proclamation was made in good faith.

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Montclair Civic Centre (Photo courtesy City of Montclair)

MONTCLAIR, CA. – For the first time ever the city council of this mid-size city in southwestern San Bernardino County declared June as Pride Month issuing a proclamation recognizing its LTBTQ+ community.

Along with the proclamation, the city lit up the outside of the building at the Civic Centre that houses the Council Chambers in rainbow-colored LED lights as part of its “celebration of diversity and support for the LGBTQ+ community.”

Montclair’s Mayor John Dutrey presented the proclamation to the Rev. Maggie Burbank of the Monte Vista Unitarian Universalist Congregation, a LGBTQ-affirming denomination and congregation. According to the San Gabriel Valley Tribune’s journalist Steve Scauzillo, Burbank was a last minute substitute after gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and non-binary members from LGBTQ+ groups from in and around the city refused to accept it.

In the public comments portion of the proceeding, several residents spoke up about the issue.

At the center of the refusal is Montclair’ City Councilman Benjamin Lopez, who had a long association and deep ties with the former Traditional Values Coalition, an Anaheim based conservative ‘family values’ group founded by the late Rev. Louis P. Sheldon- the group is listed by the Southern Poverty Law Center as an anti-LGBTQ hate group. Sheldon contended that there was a “homosexual agenda” to not only promote acceptance of gay rights, but to recruit children into homosexuality, as was also described in his obituary published May 29, 2020.

Scauzillo reported that Lopez, elected in November 2020, spoke on numerous occasions from 2003 to 2013 before the state Legislature and in media reports against gay rights, same-sex marriage, the teaching of contributions from gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Americans in California public schools, and protections for transgender individuals.

Thuan Nguyen, a long-time Montclair resident and doctoral student in sociology at USC who had asked for the city to recognize and celebrate LGBTQ Pride recognition at a previous meeting, said he struggled with the decision not to accept it. He asked Lopez to apologize for past statements and positions he took while working for the now defunct Traditional Values Coalition.

Mayor Dutrey told Scauzillo that he felt that the council “was sabotaged” by those who refused to accept the proclamation was made in good faith. “The whole purpose was not to be political but to recognize the LGBTQ community in Montclair. I was disappointed in the remarks that were made,” he said.

Audio of the City Council session:

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