Connect with us

National

Fauci to Congress: Help us implement plan to end HIV

NIH official gives congressional briefing on new federal AIDS plan

Published

on

cure HIV, gay news, Washington Blade

Dr. Anthony Fauci said that scientific advances have made it possible to end the HIV epidemic in the United States within the next decade if not much sooner. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told an audience of mostly legislative aides to members of Congress at a Dec. 5 congressional briefing on Capitol Hill that scientific advances have made it possible to end the HIV epidemic in the United States within the next decade if not much sooner.

In an impassioned description of what he calls “implementation science,” Fauci said he and his colleagues at the National Institute of Health, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and other federal, state, and local health agencies are hopeful that a newly launched federal plan to end HIV will be able to overcome socio-economic barriers that have prevented the scientific advances from reaching those who could most benefit from them.

The briefing, held at the Rayburn House Office Building across the street from the U.S. Capitol, was organized by the National Minority AIDS Council, or NMAC, a D.C.-based AIDS advocacy group that puts on the annual U.S. Conference on AIDS. Fauci said his presentation was based on findings and information presented at the 2019 U.S. Conference on AIDS in August.

Among those who attended the briefing were U.S. Reps. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) and Alcee Hastings (D-Fla.).

Fauci has been involved in AIDS research and public policy since the epidemic first surfaced in the U.S. in 1981. He told the briefing the federal plan is based on two major scientific advances that are available today.

The first, he pointed out, is the effective anti-retroviral drug treatment regimens that have successfully suppressed HIV in the human body for the past 10 years or longer. More recently, he said, studies have shown that suppression of the virus to the point that it becomes undetectable means an infected person can no longer transmit HIV to someone else through sexual relations.

The second major advancement, he noted, is the development of the HIV prevention drug known as PrEP, or pre-exposure prophylaxis, which Fauci said is 99 percent effective in preventing someone at risk for HIV from becoming infected.

“So you now have two, as I call it, game changing issues, treatment as prevention and pre-exposure prophylaxis,” he told the more than 75 people attending the briefing.

“Theoretically, if you got everyone or almost everyone who is infected and put them on therapy and bring down the virus to below detectible and you got most of the people who are at risk of infection and put them on PrEP, theoretically you can end the epidemic tomorrow because the people who are infected are not infecting anyone and the people who are at risk have a 99 percent effective therapy to prevent them from being infected,” he said.

“And all you need to do is implement that,” said Fauci. “The problem is we don’t live in a theoretical world, we live in a real world. And the goal of any plan is to bridge that gap between what we know is possible and what we can make happen,” he said. “And that’s really what the plan is.”

Among the “real world” facts that the plan is intended to address, Fauci said, is the disparities among the diverse groups at risk for HIV who are not taking advantage of the treatment and prevention options.

“Thirteen percent of the population in the United States is African American,” he said. “Yet almost 45 percent of all new infections are among African Americans. Of those, 60 percent are among African-American men who have sex with men and 75 percent of those are young individuals,” Fauci said. “So right now you have a concentration, a real disparity of infection.”

He noted that nationwide, only about 260,000, about 20 percent of the 1.2 million people in the U.S. who are believed to be at “substantial risk” for HIV, are taking PrEP. Aside from that, only 53 percent of people in the U.S. who have HIV have a viral load that is undetectable due to effective drug treatment, Fauci said.

“We have to do better than that,” he told the briefing. “That’s a big target of the plan.”

According to Fauci, he and his government colleagues who helped develop the plan to end HIV in the U.S. determined one important way to address disparities faced by different risk groups was to respond to the geographic breakdown of the HIV epidemic in the U.S.

Much to their surprise, Fauci said, data show that more than 50 percent of all new HIV infections in recent years come from just 48 out of the 3,007 U.S. counties plus the District of Columbia and San Juan, Puerto Rico. Also shown to have high concentrations of new infections are seven southern states.

“This almost shocked me to the point where I had to go and look at the individual data myself because I almost didn’t believe it,” Fauci said. “That’s really amazing.”
Among other things, the new federal plan will target those 50 geographic “areas” along with the seven states for greater resources and outreach to address the disparities that may be causing the higher infection rates there, he said.

“So what do we do to do better than that?” Fauci said. “You maximize the tools you have and you develop better tools,” he continued, adding that a “prototype” for the new federal plan is a highly effective program developed in San Francisco called Rapidly We Treat All.

“They proactively and aggressively go into the community with community workers,” said Fauci in describing the San Francisco program. “They go into areas where there is high risk – gay bars, bathhouses, homeless shelters, commercial sex workers. They approach people and they test them and they get the result right there in a test that takes only 20 minutes,” Fauci said.

“If you’re positive you immediately are put on therapy because they give you a bag of a month’s supply of a drug and say take it. And then they give you a prescription for when they run out,” he said. “And then they say now if you have any trouble call us. This is our phone number. And if don’t have a phone they give them a phone,” said Fauci.

“It’s really amazing how they go into the community,” he said, noting that the incidence of new HIV infections in San Francisco declined dramatically.

He said an aggressive outreach program in D.C. has also resulted in a sharp drop in new HIV infections over the past decade, although the new infection rate in D.C. has remained stable in recent years.

Still more advances in drug treatment, including PrEP, may further boost the number of people taking PrEP, Fauci said. He pointed to a new form of “long lasting” PrEP that’s in the final stages of drug trials that can be given as an injection that will last a month or more, eliminating the need for taking a daily pill. He said a PrEP implant is also in development that can be placed under the skin similar to birth control implants used by women that can last as long as a year.

NMAC, meanwhile, is urging the Senate to follow the U.S. House in approving the full $291 million in funding proposed by the Trump administration for the AIDS plan Fauci outlined at the Capitol Hill briefing. The Senate has approved $266 million in the federal budget for the AIDS plan, $25 million less than the amount approved by the House and called for by the administration.

NMAC spokesperson Chip Lewis said NMAC and other AIDS advocacy organizations are calling on the Senate to agree to the House version of the appropriation when the two bodies negotiate differences in their respective budget figures in the coming weeks.

“We’re very grateful to Dr. Fauci,” said NMAC Executive Director Paul Kawata. “And our efforts here are to educate members of Congress and their staff so that we can make sure we get the HIV budget that we need to end this epidemic,” he said.

Continue Reading
Advertisement

Texas

High School removes LGBTQ ‘Safe Space’ stickers- students walk out

“These aren’t political stickers, they are merely a signal that a teacher has the confidence to have conversations with LGBTQ+ students”

Published

on

Photo Credit: GLSEN

IRVING, Tx. — A sizable number of the student body of a suburban Dallas, Texas high school walked out in protest after faculty members were forced to remove LGBTQ “safe space” stickers from their classroom doors.

Dallas ABC News affiliate WFAA ABC 8 reported that hundreds of students walked out of MacArthur High School on Wednesday after students said they began noticing the stickers were being removed from the classroom doors by the administration.

Carrying rainbow flags, the students walked out protesting what they describe as targeted discrimination against the school’s LGBTQ+ students and teachers.

One teacher reported a Safe Space poster she had printed and laminated was missing from outside her classroom too. “I was freaked. The kids were freaked out,” Rachel Stonecipher, an English teacher and sponsor of the campus’ Gay Straight Alliance told CBS-DFW.

Students, she said, immediately wondered who had removed them and what message their disappearance was sending.

“I was a little scared too because I’m the only openly, very obviously gay teacher, lesbian teacher,” said Stonecipher. She and at least four other teachers signed an e-mail to the principal asking for an explanation.

In a statement released to the media, the Irving Independent School District administration said that district policy does not allow teachers to use classrooms to “transmit personal beliefs regarding political or sectarian issues.

“To ensure that all students feel safe regardless of background or identity, the district has developed guidelines to ensure that posters, banners, and stickers placed in classrooms, hallways, or offices are curriculum-driven and neutral in viewpoint,” the statement added.

“These aren’t political stickers, they are merely a signal that a teacher has the confidence to have conversations with LGBTQ+ students,” Stonecipher told reporters.

Irving police were at the school during the walkout as an added presence.

“We have extra resources deployed at MacArthur HS to maintain a safe environment for all,” Irving police tweeted.

Continue Reading

U.S. Federal Courts

Lambda Legal seeks to add two more Trans plaintiffs in West Virginia suit

Federal class-action lawsuit challenging blanket exclusion of health care for Trans people in WVA’s Medicaid & state employee health plan

Published

on

Shauntae Anderson and Leanne James (Photo Credit; Lambda Legal)

CHARLESTON, WVa. – Lambda Legal filed a motion seeking leave to add two additional plaintiffs—a Medicaid participant and a public employee—to its federal class-action lawsuit challenging West Virginia’s blanket exclusion of health care coverage for transgender people in West Virginia’s Medicaid and state employee health plans.

If granted, Shauntae Anderson, who is a Medicaid participant, and Leanne James, a public employee and Public Employee Insurance Agency (PEIA) member would be added as additional plaintiffs to Fain v. Crouch.

“My life as a Black transgender woman has not been easy. I suffered years of agony and desperation without appropriate care and treatment for my gender dysphoria. Like other Medicaid participants, I rely on Medicaid for health care coverage and it has been heartbreaking to hear that just because I am transgender, I can’t access coverage for care that is medically necessary. It is not only inhumane but also unjust to be singled out this way,” said plaintiff Shauntae Anderson.  

“It is deeply upsetting that I am deprived of coverage for critical and urgent health care simply because I am transgender. As a public employee and PEIA member, being denied coverage for medically necessary care that cisgender state employees have full access to is an insult to my dignity. The exclusion in the state employee health plans is a reminder to myself and other transgender state employees that we are being denied equal compensation for equal work.” said plaintiff Leanne James.

Filed last November in West Virginia’s Southern District, Fain v. Crouch is a class action lawsuit challenging blanket exclusions of coverage for gender-confirming care in West Virginia state health plans. The blanket exclusions of coverage for care are stated expressly in the health plans offered to Medicaid participants and state employees. West Virginia’s state health plans serve approximately 564,000 Medicaid participants and 15,000 state employees, some of whom are transgender. 

“The state of West Virginia continues to deny medically necessary gender-confirming health care to transgender West Virginians – via explicit and targeted exclusions. West Virginia’s ban on gender-confirming care is unconstitutional and discriminatory; it causes physical, emotional, and financial distress; and it denies transgender West Virginians basic dignity, equality, and respect. Ms. Anderson and Ms. James are just two of many transgender people in West Virginia who are being denied basic health care just because of who they are.” said Avatara Smith-Carrington, Staff Attorney at Lambda Legal and lead attorney on the case.

“We admire Ms. Anderson and Ms. James for stepping forward and joining our original plaintiffs in this lawsuit,” said Nicole Schladt, Associate Attorney at Nichols Kaster, PLLP. “Together, we seek an end to healthcare discrimination in West Virginia.”

Continue Reading

U.S. Federal Courts

Lawsuits against Ohio State over sexual predator sports doctor tossed

“The judge just threw 300 survivors in a trash can,” Steve Snyder-Hill said then adding, “a trash can with an OSU logo on it”

Published

on

Screenshot via WBNS-TV, CBS News 10, Columbus, Ohio

COLUMBUS, Oh. – A Federal judge Wednesday dismissed hundreds of pending lawsuits against Ohio State University, (OSU) in cases related to a former OSU sports team doctor Richard Strauss, who had sexually molested young male athletes and other students for twenty years.

In his ruling, U.S. District Judge Michael H. Watson of the Southern District of Ohio wrote;

It is beyond dispute that Plaintiffs, as well as hundreds of other former students, suffered unspeakable sexual abuse by Strauss. It is also true that many Plaintiffs and other students complained of Strauss’s abuse over the years and yet medical doctors, athletic directors, head and assistant coaches, athletic trainers, and program directors failed to protect these victims from Strauss’s predation.”

According to Judge Watson he dismissed the cases because the statute of limitations for criminal rape cases in Ohio is 20 years to report for criminal prosecution or otherwise have legal proceedings initiated.

“If there is a viable path forward for Plaintiffs on their claim against Ohio State, it starts with the legislature rather than the judiciary,” Watson wrote.

Taking aim at Ohio lawmakers Watson noted; ““At all times since the filing of these cases, the Ohio legislature, has the power, but not the will, to change the statute of limitations.” The legislature can provide a “path forward for Plaintiffs on their claim against Ohio State.”

Strauss preyed on hundreds of young men from the time of his employment at OSU in 1978 until he retired in 1998, and allegations about his misconduct didn’t become public until an ex-wrestler named Mike DiSabato spoke out in 2018, years after Strauss’ death by suicide in 2005.

The former athletes were represented by several legal teams including Washington D.C./Oakland, California-based legal advocacy group Public Justice.

Today’s ruling is not only deeply disappointing,” the legal team said in reaction to the ruling today, “but also sends a disturbing message that the very real challenges sexual abuse survivors often face in understanding what has happened to them – and who enabled the abuse they experienced – is irrelevant when they ultimately ask for the court’s help in holding abusive people and institutions accountable.

OSU spent decades denying, hiding, and evading the truth about its role in concealing the abuse that happened on its watch. Today’s ruling punishes survivors already traumatized by the university’s callous campaign of deception. The court’s decision cannot, and must not, be the final word in the survivors’ journey towards justice.”

The case against OSU brought widespread attention as one of the cases involved Strauss victim Steve Snyder-Hill, a prominent LGBTQ activist and a U.S. Army veteran. Upon hearing of Watson’s ruling, a palpably angered Snyder-Hill told several media outlets; “The judge just threw 300 survivors in a trash can,” he said adding, “a trash can with an OSU logo on it.”

Steve Snyder-Hill (Screen shot via WCMH-TV, NBC 4 Columbus, Ohio)

NBC News had reported on the case and profiled Snyder-Hill in 2019:

[…] In the years following the alleged assault, Snyder-Hill would go on to serve in the Iraq War, publicly fight against the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy and become an outspoken advocate for same-sex marriage. He and his husband, Josh, married in 2011 in Washington, D.C., in front of the tombstone of Leonard Matlovich, a Vietnam War veteran who had been discharged by the Air Force for being gay. The couple were involved in a lawsuit filed by Service Members Legal Defense Network that challenged the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which prevented the military from giving benefits to legally married same-sex couples, and successfully fought in court to have their surnames combined in Ohio.

Snyder-Hill was unexpectedly thrust into the media spotlight in 2011 after submitting a question during the Republican presidential debate about whether the candidates would reverse the 2011 repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell.” Some members of the audience booed Snyder-Hill, who submitted his question by video from his military base in Iraq. That an active-duty soldier in uniform would be booed during a presidential debate shocked and angered many Americans during a time when acceptance for same-sex marriage was mounting. […]

The publicity over the OSU cases also ensnared conservative right-wing Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), renewing questions over his failure to stop Strauss from molesting former wrestlers Jordan had coached more than two decades ago at OSU. Jordan was accused of that neglect in 2018 by those former wrestlers.

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Advertisement

Follow Us @LosAngelesBlade

Sign Up for Blade eBlasts

Popular