Connect with us

National

Facebook pressed to drop ads claiming PrEP is unsafe

‘Inaccurate’ ads blamed for discouraging HIV prevention efforts

Published

on

More than 50 LGBT, AIDS, and public health organizations released a joint letter on Monday addressed to Facebook Chairman and CEO Mark Zuckerberg urging him to immediately remove “dangerous and misleading” ads currently running on Facebook and Instagram suggesting the HIV prevention drug PrEP is unsafe.

“As organizations attached to this letter – leaders in lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) advocacy, public health, and HIV/AIDS prevention – we are urgently reaching out to Facebook and Instagram regarding factually inaccurate advertisements which suggest negative health effects of Truvada PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis),” the letter states.

“Using Facebook’s and Instagram’s targeted advertising programs, various law firms are attempting to recruit gay and bisexual men who use Truvada PrEP as an HIV preventative to join a lawsuit, claiming that the drug has caused harmful side effects in this patient population, specifically bone density and kidney issues,” the letter says.

Officials with the LGBT advocacy group GLAAD and the HIV prevention advocacy group PrEP4All Collaborative, who organized the joint letter, say the ads in question are lumping together past instances of side effects of Truvada as a treatment for people with HIV who have taken it in combination with other drugs and HIV negative people who are taking Truvada alone as PrEP.

They point out that studies conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration have found Truvada use in PrEP has had minimal to no side effects and has been deemed safe and effective as an HIV prevention medication. Government studies have shown PrEP to be 99 percent effective in preventing someone from acquiring HIV if taken properly.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, which oversees HIV prevention efforts, told a congressional briefing last week that serious side effects of PrEP have been shown in studies to be “very few” and “really not pertinent at all, not at all.”

The letter released by the advocacy groups expresses concern that Facebook appears to be ignoring these findings in its refusal so far to remove the ads suggesting PrEP is harmful.

“By allowing these advertisements to persist on their platforms, Facebook and Instagram are convincing at-risk individuals to avoid PrEP, invariably leading to avoidable HIV infections,” the joint letter says. “You are harming public health.”

The letter says the LGBT and HIV prevention groups reached out to Facebook to explain why they believe the advertisements are harmful and for months have urged Facebook to take them down but Facebook has declined to do so.

The Washington Post reported on Monday that Facebook said the ads do not violate its advertising policies.

“We value our work with LGBTQ groups and consistently seek their input,” the Post quoted a statement it says Facebook released to the newspaper. “While these ads do not violate our ad policies nor have they been rated false by third-party fact checkers, we’re always examining ways to improve and help these key groups better understand how we apply our policies,” the Post quoted the statement as saying.

According to the Post, Facebook’s archives show that the ads have been viewed millions of times in recent months.

Longtime HIV patient advocate Peter Staley, who is a co-founder of the PrEP4All Collaborative, told the Washington Blade that LGBT and AIDS activists have tried unsuccessfully to explain to Facebook and its third-party fact checking officials why they believe the ads are misleading and inaccurate.

Most of the ads in question have been purchased by law firms and personal-injury lawyers representing clients in lawsuits filed against Gilead Sciences, the drug company that manufactures Truvada. The lawsuits charge that some HIV-positive patients who have taken Truvada in combination with multiple other drugs have experienced serious and potentially life-threatening kidney function and bone density problems.

The lawsuits also claim that Gilead withheld releasing a safer version of one of the compounds that make up Truvada for many years until the patent ended on one of the drugs with more harmful side effects.

“All of those drugs together can really attack the kidney and it’s really hard to figure out which one is to blame,” Staley said.

“But for HIV negative people on PrEP, PrEP is generally the only thing they’re taking except maybe Viagra,” Staley said while laughing. “So that’s why even though it’s the same drug – Truvada is the same drug as treatment and as prevention – it has acted very differently in these two patient populations in these two points in history,” he said.

“So we tried to explain all this to Facebook and they’re just pointing to the label,” said Staley. “It’s the same drug so it’s only got one label. The FDA doesn’t issue a separate label for treatment and one for prevention for PrEP. It’s all one label,” Staley points out.

“And right at the top on the label are these scary warnings that in rare circumstances this can cause kidney problems, this can cause bone density issues,” Staley says. “So Facebook points to that and says well it’s there, it’s right on the label. These law firms running these ads can say this.”

“And we’re like yeah but you’re scaring tens of thousands of people away from a miracle pill that is nearly 100 percent effective and where we haven’t seen these toxicities in this patient population at all,” Staley said. “And here we are with Facebook just pointing to obscure, undefined advertising policies and third-party fact checkers that know nothing about HIV.”

Among the groups that signed on to the joint letter to Facebook, in addition to GLAAD and the PrEP4All Collaboration, are the Human Rights Campaign, AIDS United, the American Academy of HIV Medicine, the American Foundation for AIDS Research, the Gay Men’s Health Crisis of New York, the National Minority AIDS Council, and the Trevor Project.

Representatives of the groups that signed the joint letter have pointed out that Facebook recently agreed to ban ads placed by organizations opposing vaccines on grounds that anti-vaccine messages were refuted by virtually all professional medical organizations and public health experts.

The AIDS and LGBT representatives are urging Facebook to ban the ads targeting PrEP on similar grounds that medical and scientific evidence refutes any claims that PrEP is harmful for those who take it as an HIV prevention medication.

“As a caregiver I want patients to realize that Truvada is absolutely safe for PrEP,” said Dr. Sarah Henn, Chief Medical Officer at D.C’s Whitman-Walker Health. “We want to make sure that patients who are at increased risk for HIV acquisition don’t get scared away from prevention that could really be important to their long-term health,” Henn told the Blade.

Staley said that after months of intransigence by Facebook over the LGBT and AIDS groups’ requests for dropping the anti-PrEP ads, he was encouraged on Monday afternoon when he and a GLAAD official received an email message from Facebook. The message came after widespread media coverage of the release of the joint letter to Zuckerberg by the over 50 groups.

“You and your partners raise a number of important issues which we have shared with our leadership, and which will receive our full attention,” Staley quoted the message as saying from Lindsay Elin, Facebook’s director of external affairs.

“And they also say they look forward to continuing the conversation,” Staley paraphrased the message as saying.  “I think we got their attention.”

Continue Reading
Advertisement

New York

Long Island library reverses decision to pull LGBTQ Pride display & books

“The Board of Trustees reversed its decision to ban Pride displays & books in the children’s section! This happened because YOU spoke up!”

Published

on

Smithtown Library, Long Island NY (Smithtown Library Board/Facebook)

SMITHTOWN, Ny. – The Smithtown Library Board of Trustees met in an emergency session Thursday night to rescind its Tuesday vote to ban any and all displays related to LGBTQ Pride from kids’ areas at Smithtown Library buildings.

The Board’s Tuesday decision was met with anger and dismay including New York Governor Kathy Hochul who wrote on Twitter, “Our public spaces should be accepting our young people — not rejecting them.”

The New York Library Association had also issued a statement saying; “This ban of any displays related to Pride sets a dangerous precedent for libraries across the state because it normalizes the victimization of LGBTQ+ youth in their schools and in their communities, which has dire consequences.

The Hauppauge New York-based LGBT Network credited the onslaught of public anger and criticism including Governor Hochul’s as the mitigating factors in the reversal by the library board. The group also warned that there is a larger fight being waged that imperils LGBTQ+ youth.

“Tonight the Smithtown Library Board of Trustees reversed its decision to ban Pride displays and books in the children’s section of their library! This happened because YOU spoke up and spoke out! It is a reason to celebrate and demonstrates what our collective power can do. But it is also a wakeup call that the culture wars targeting LGBTQ youth are very much here in our backyard,” a statement on the group’s website noted.

“The reversal overall is good because it gets those books and displays back into the libraries,” LGBT Network vice president Robert Vitelli told local media after the library board reversed itself. “The commentary that went along with the votes shows there’s still a lot that needs to be done.”

Continue Reading

The White House

Biden calls Supreme Court ruling on Roe v. Wade ‘a sad day for court’

“Imagine, woman having to carry a child that’s a consequence of incest, with no option” to terminate the pregnancy, Biden said

Published

on

President Biden speaks to Americans after Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade (Screenshot/YouTube)

WASHINGTON – Just after the Supreme Court’s conservative majority moved to overturn the constitutional right to abortion on Friday in a 6-3 ruling, President Joe Biden vowed to protect American women from prosecution for traveling to other states to terminate their pregnancies. 

Thirteen states have made or will soon make abortion illegal, some without exceptions for rape and incest, following today’s ruling. After a draft of that ruling was leaked in May, some state legislatures considered bills to prevent women from circumventing their restrictions on abortion. 

“If any state or local official high or low tries to interfere with a woman exercising her basic right to travel, I will do everything in my power to fight that unamerican attack,” Biden said. 

Delivering his remarks from the Great Cross Hall of the White House, the President looked visibly upset, particularly when discussing the extreme abortion bans in some states that will now be allowed to go into effect. 

“They are so extreme that women can be punished for protecting their health; that some women and girls will be forced to bear their rapists’ child,” Biden said. It was at this point that he appeared to go off-script to share his personal feelings on the ruling and its implications. “It just stuns me,” he said. “Imagine, woman having to carry a child that’s a consequence of incest, with no option” to terminate the pregnancy.

Biden called for those who share his anger and outrage – many who gathered on the steps of the Supreme Court in protest – to remain peaceful. He urged Americans to vote to give Democrats in Congress the majority that will be necessary for them to codify the constitutional right to abortion first established by the Supreme Court’s 1973 ruling in Roe v. Wade and overturned today with the decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health.

Biden warned of the “dangerous path the court is taking us on,” pointing to Justice Thomas’s comments in the decision that “In future cases, we should reconsider all of this court’s substantive due process precedents, including Griswold, Lawrence, and Obergefell.” 

Should the court revisit the precedents established by those cases, it could mean constitutional protections for the return of laws banning birth control, sodomy and same-sex marriage. 

Biden noted Americans’ constitutional right to abortion was affirmed in multiple decisions by the Supreme Court, endorsed by justices who were appointed by presidents from both parties. 

“It was three justices named by one president, Donald Trump, who were the core of today’s decision to upend the scales of justice and eliminate a fundamental right for women in this country,” Biden said.

President Biden speaks on Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade:

Full transcript:

REMARKS BY PRESIDENT BIDEN
ON THE SUPREME COURT DECISION
TO OVERTURN ROE V. WADE

Today is a — it’s not hyperbole to suggest a very solemn moment.  Today, the Supreme Court of the United States expressly took away a constitutional right from the American people that it had already recognized.

They didn’t limit it.  They simply took it away.  That’s never been done to a right so important to so many Americans.

But they did it.  And it’s a sad day for the Court and for the country.

Fifty years ago, Roe v. Wade was decided and has been the law of the land since then.

This landmark case protected a woman’s right to choose, her right to make intensely personal decisions with her doctor, free from the inter- — from interference of politics.

It reaffirmed basic principles of equality — that women have the power to control their own destiny.  And it reinforced the fundamental right of privacy — the right of each of us to choose how to live our lives.

Now, with Roe gone, let’s be very clear: The health and life of women in this nation are now at risk.

As Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, as Vice President and now as President of the United States, I’ve studied this case carefully.  I’ve overseen more Supreme Court confirmations than anyone today, where this case was always discussed.

I believe Roe v. Wade was the correct decision as a matter of constitutional law, an application of the fundamental right to privacy and liberty in matters of family and personal autonomy.

It was a decision on a complex matter that drew a careful balance between a woman’s right to choose earlier in her pregnancy and the state’s ability to regulate later in her pregnancy.  A decision with broad national consensus that most Americans of faiths and backgrounds found acceptable and that had been the law of the land for most of the lifetime of Americans today.

And it was a constitutional principle upheld by justices appointed by Democrat and Republican Presidents alike. 

Roe v. Wade was a 7 to 2 decision written by a justice appointed by a Republican President, Richard Nixon.  In the five decades that followed Roe v. Wade, justices appointed by Republican Presidents — from Eisenhower, Nixon, Reagan, George W. [H.W.] Bush — were among the justices who voted to uphold the principles set forth in Roe v. Wade.

It was three justices named by one President — Donald Trump — who were the core of today’s decision to upend the scales of justice and eliminate a fundamental right for women in this country.

Make no mistake: This decision is the culmination of a deliberate effort over decades to upset the balance of our law.  It’s a realization of an extreme ideology and a tragic error by the Supreme Court, in my view.

The Court has done what it has never done before: expressly take away a constitutional right that is so fundamental to so many Americans that had already been recognized.

The Court’s decision to do so will have real and immediate consequences.  State laws banning abortion are automatically taking effect today, jeopardizing the health of millions of women, some without exceptions. 

So extreme that women could be punished for protecting their health.

So extreme that women and girls who are forced to bear their rapist’s child — of the child of consequence. 

It’s a — it just — it just stuns me. 

So extreme that doctors will be criminalized for fulfilling their duty to care.

Imagine having — a young woman having to ch- — carry the child of incest — as a consequence of incest.  No option. 

Too often the case that poor women are going to be hit the hardest.  It’s cruel.

In fact, the Court laid out state laws criminalizing abortion that go back to the 1800s as rationale — the Court literally taking America back 150 years. 

This a sad day for the country, in my view, but it doesn’t mean the fight is over.

Let me be very clear and unambiguous: The only way we can secure a woman’s right to choose and the balance that existed is for Congress to restore the protections of Roe v. Wade as federal law.

No executive action from the President can do that.  And if Congress, as it appears, lacks the vote — votes to do that now, voters need to make their voices heard.

This fall, we must elect more senators and representatives who will codify a woman’s right to choose into federal law once again, elect more state leaders to protect this right at the local level.

We need to restore the protections of Roe as law of the land.  We need to elect officials who will do that.

This fall, Roe is on the ballot.  Personal freedoms are on the ballot.  The right to privacy, liberty, equality, they’re all on the ballot. 

Until then, I will do all in my power to protect a woman’s right in states where they will face the consequences of today’s decision.

While the Court’s decision casts a dark shadow over a large swath of the land, many states in this country still recognize a woman’s right to choose.

So if a woman lives in a state that restricts abortion, the Supreme Court’s decision does not prevent her from traveling from her home state to the state that allows it.  It does not prevent a doctor in that state — in that state from treating her.

As the Attorney General has made clear, women must remain free to travel safely to another state to seek the care they need.  And my administration will defend that bedrock right. 

If any state or local official, high or low, tries to interfere with a woman’s ex- — exercising her basic right to travel, I will do everything in my power to fight that deeply un-American attack.

My administration will also protect a woman’s access to medications that are approved by the Food and Drug Administration — the FDA — like contraception, which is essential for preventative healthcare; mifepristone, which the FDA approved 20 years ago to safely end early pregnancies and is commonly used to treat miscarriages.

Some states are saying that they’ll try to ban or severely restrict access to these medications. 

But extremist governors and state legislators who are looking to block the mail or search a person’s medicine cabinet or control a woman’s actions by tracking data on her apps she uses are wrong and extreme and out of touch with the majority of Americans.

The American Medical Association and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists wrote to me and Vice President Harris stressing that these laws are not based on — are not based on evidence and asking us to act to protect access to care.  They say by limiting access to these medicines, maternal mortality will climb in America.  That’s what they say.

Today, I’m directing the Department of Health and Human Services to take steps to ensure that these critical medications are available to the fullest extent possible and that politicians cannot interfere in the decisions that should be made between a woman and her doctor.  And my administration will remain vigilant as the implications of this decision play out.

I’ve warned about how this decision risks the broader right to privacy for everyone.  That’s because Roe recognized the fundamental right to privacy that has served as the basis for so many more rights that we have come to take — we’ve come to take for granted that are ingrained in the fabric of this country: the right to make the best decisions for your health; the right to use birth control — a married couple — in the privacy of their bedroom, for God’s sake; the right to marry the person you love. 

Now, Justice Thomas said as much today.  He explicitly called to reconsider the right of marriage equality, the right of couples to make their choices on contraception.  This is an extreme and dangerous path the Court is now taking us on. 

Let me close with two points. 

First, I call on everyone, no matter how deeply they care about this decision, to keep all protests peaceful.  Peaceful, peaceful, peaceful.  No intimidation.  Violence is never acceptable.  Threats and intimidation are not speech.  We must stand against violence in any form regardless of your rationale.

Second, I know so many of us are frustrated and disillusioned that the Court has taken something away that’s so fundamental.  I know so many women are now going to face incredibly difficult situations.  I hear you.  I support you.  I stand with you. 

The consequences and the consensus of the American people — core principles of equality, liberty, dignity, and the stability of the rule of law — demand that Roe should not have been overturned.

With this decision, the conservative majority of the Supreme Court shows how extreme it is, how far removed they are from the majority of this country.  They have made the United States an outlier among developed nations in the world.  But this decision must not be the final word.

My administration will use all of its appropriate lawful powers.  But Congress must act.  And with your vote, you can act.  You can have the final word.  This is not over.

Thank you very much.  I’ll have more to say on this in weeks to come.  Thank you.

Continue Reading

U.S. Federal Courts

U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade

Justice Thomas said the Court should also reconsider the decisions that extended marriage equality & the right to private, consensual sex

Published

on

Crowds gather outside SCOTUS after Roe v Wade was overturned June 24, 2022 (Blade Photo by Josh Alburtus)

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday in a 6-3 ruling overturned Roe v. Wade. Justice Clarence Thomas in the decision said the Supreme Court should also reconsider the decisions in the Obergefell and Lawrence cases that extended marriage equality to same-sex couples and the right to private, consensual sex.

LGBTQ rights groups were quick to condemn the ruling.

“Today the Supreme Court issued a devastating ruling in Jackson Women’s Health Organization v. Dobbs — a huge setback to our long-standing fundamental right to bodily autonomy,” said National LGBTQ Task Force Executive Director Kierra Johnson. “This decision by the conservative majority on the bench also marks the beginning of the vital work to re-establish our constitutional foundation for reproductive justice and freedom. We must redouble our work to protect access to abortion and reproductive justice at the state and national levels. We will never give up.”

“When the Supreme Court is willing to throw 50 years of precedent out the window, it proves that we are at an exceedingly dangerous, unprecedented moment. The Court’s majority opinion does not reflect the will of our nation — two thirds of whom support Roe v. Wade but instead fulfills an extreme, out of step, ideological agenda. And it shows that all of our rights are on the line right now, as state lawmakers will be further emboldened to test the limits of our hard-won civil rights,” added interim Human Rights Campaign President Joni Madison. “Women are under attack, LGBTQ+ people are under attack, BIPOC people are under attack, and we are justifiably outraged. We cannot relent — we must fight back.”

Jim Obergefell, a candidate for the Ohio House and the lead plaintiff in the landmark U.S. Supreme case that affirmed marriage equality as the law of the land, issued the following statement today following news that the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.

“It’s a sad day for womens’ rights. This U.S. Supreme Court continues to erode the rights of citizens at an alarming rate. We are facing a health and human rights crisis in this country and as a result countless lives will be at risk. Women deserve responsive leaders who support reproductive justice. Leaders who respect their basic right to have control over their own body. The reality is that women today will have less rights than their own mothers. We are going backwards and it’s both enraging and terrifying to see the excessive government overreach that this court is imposing on our country.”

In his remarks on the Supreme Court ruling, President Joe Biden speaking live from the Great Cross Hall in the White House said at one point, “It just stuns me,” adding that poor women would be hit the hardest by the decision. “This is a sad day for the country in my view but it does not mean the fight is over.”

He called on Congress to restore abortion protections into law and pointed to the November midterm elections, saying, “this fall, Roe is on the ballot.”

He urged protests to be conducted peacefully and said violence is never acceptable.

“This decision must not be the final word,” Mr. Biden said.

Mr. Biden’s remarks ended at 12:49 p.m. EST after speaking for nearly 12 minutes. He did not respond to shouted questions from reporters about the ruling and the future of the Supreme Court. 

Screenshot/YouTube NBC News

U. S. Attorney General Merrick B. Garland released a statement condemning the high court’s ruling.

“The Supreme Court has eliminated an established right that has been an essential component of women’s liberty for half a century – a right that has safeguarded women’s ability to participate fully and equally in society. And in renouncing this fundamental right, which it had repeatedly recognized and reaffirmed, the Court has upended the doctrine of stare decisis, a key pillar of the rule of law.

“The Justice Department strongly disagrees with the Court’s decision. This decision deals a devastating blow to reproductive freedom in the United States. It will have an immediate and irreversible impact on the lives of people across the country. And it will be greatly disproportionate in its effect – with the greatest burdens felt by people of color and those of limited financial means. “

The Attorney General went on to warn that acts of violence in the wake of today’s ruling will not be tolerated.

“Advocates with different views on this issue have the right to, and will, voice their opinions. Peacefully expressing a view is protected by the First Amendment. But we must be clear that violence and threats of violence are not. The Justice Department will not tolerate such acts.”

Shannon Minter, the Legal Director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights told the Blade in an email; Justice Thomas’s concurrence is an open assault on the landmark precedents that have transformed the place of LGBTQ people in our society. Historically, the Supreme Court has relied on substantive due process to protect essential liberties such as the freedom to decide whether to conceive a child, to marry or be in an intimate relationship with the person of one’s choice, to raise children as one sees fit, and to travel or move anywhere in the country.

“These are among our most basic and cherished freedoms, and Justice Thomas is urging the court to scrap them all. While the majority opinion does not go that far, it is full of landmines that appear to lay a foundation for future decisions that may cast these fundamental rights into question or eliminate them altogether. Today’s decision is even more alarming than the leaked opinion and strongly suggests that this is only the beginning of a radical campaign to undo decades of precedent.  The question is no longer if this Court is willing to jettison other fundamental freedoms, but how quickly they are likely to do so, and which ones are likely to be on the chopping block first,”  Minter added.

(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Read the Supreme Court’s opinion:

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Advertisement

Follow Us @LosAngelesBlade

Sign Up for Blade eBlasts

Popular