Connect with us

AIDS and HIV

EQCA filling LGBTQ COVID-19 resource need, echoing early days of AIDS

Published

on

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Twitter May 17, delivering commencement address to Smith college

The coronavirus pandemic has upended normality and the once seemingly inevitable full equality for LGBTQ people. One year ago, on May 17, the US House of Representatives passed the historic Equality Act, legislation that would amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to include sexual orientation and gender identity. But Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refuses to bring the nondiscrimination legislation up for a vote, leaving LGBTQ equality dangling as the Trump administration meticulously strips away hard-won rights and the conservative-dominant U.S. Supreme Court is poised to rule on whether federal job protections for LGBTQ people under Title VII are constitutional.

If the Court strikes down those protections, federal employees and workers in 28 states without LGBTQ employment nondiscrimination laws —  including essential first responders and healthcare workers — could be quietly, individually, unceremoniously fired, adding to the burgeoning roster of the unemployed, which in April hit 14.7%, the highest rate since the Great Depression. What will happen to LGBTQ people in states with nondiscrimination laws?

But even if by some miracle the Equality Act makes it to the Oval Office, it may not feel the flare of President Trump’s special sharpie since he opposes the legislation, despite his love affair with former Fox contributor Ric Grenell, the gay Ambassador to Germany.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi didn’t let the anniversary of the Equality Act pass unnoticed, however. Last year, she wore a rainbow wristband as she orchestrated the 236-173 bipartisan vote, invoking both the Founding Fathers and the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots on the House floor. This year, her passion for LGBTQ equality was laced with tempered rage.

“This year, the ongoing challenge posed by the unprecedented coronavirus pandemic reaffirms our urgent responsibility to reject the violence, bigotry and hate that weaken and divide our communities,” Pelosi said, in part. “For LGBTQ individuals at home and around the world who are persecuted because of who they are or whom they love, we must speak out and demand action.  We cannot stay silent while the Trump Administration’s callous, anti-LGBTQ agenda continues to dismantle decades of hard-won progress by stripping LGBTQ Americans of their rights and their dignity.  And we cannot stand by while the Administration abandons our global leadership in the fight against anti-LGBTQ violence and discrimination.”

Powerful words that comfort and inspire, hang in the air, then vanish. Today, like the beginning of the AIDS crisis three decades ago, LGBTQ people are disappearing, identities erased by government neglect, the weight of bureaucracy, and the lack of action, despite good intentions.

On May 19, there were 1.56 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the United states, with 92,258 deaths. The government collected data on gender, age, race and ethnicity – but how many of these human beings were LGBTQ?

On the afternoon of May 19, the state of California reported a total of 81,795 cases of coronavirus, with 3,334 deaths. California has the largest LGBTQ population in the country so how many of these people are LGBTQ?

On the afternoon of May 19, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health identified 39,573 positive cases of COVID-19, with a total of 1,913 deaths, noting that 92 percent of the people who died had underlying health conditions.

“An interactive dashboard is available that provides an overview on COVID-19 testing, cases and deaths along with maps and graphs showing testing, cases and death data by community poverty level, age, sex and race/ethnicity,” says a Public Health press release promoting their website, www.publichealth.lacounty.gov. Sexual orientation and gender identity are not included.

For LGBTQ people who survived the AIDS crisis, the pain of this erasure evokes a “safer-at-home” primal scream.

“[E]ssentially no data is being collected in California or elsewhere about COVID-19 impacts on the LGBT community on infection rates, on hospitalization rates, on death rates — that data simply isn’t being collected,” said out State Sen. Scott Wiener on a Zoom news conference May 13 before testifying before the California Senate Health Committee on his LGBTQ data collection bill, SB 932. “It is appalling that we have the ability to collect the data and it’s simply — it’s an afterthought. And that is, unfortunately, the history of the LGBTQ community where we have to fight against invisibility all the time, we have to fight to be counted.”

Equality California Executive Director Rick Chavez Zbur was pained to say that “the fight before us just about collecting this data reminds me more of the 1980s than I want to admit. For our community to once again be erased and ignored, to have our government look the other way as our community dies nearly four decades later, it’s just appalling, it’s unacceptable.”

The difference between the 1980s and now though, Zbur said, was that today the LGBTQ community has openly LGBTQ leaders and allies working to correct the dire inequality the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed.

But it doesn’t feel that way.

There was plenty of time to kick existing LGBTQ health and death data laws into gear, tailoring unique messages, mentioning the LGBTQ community as one of the minority groups at greater risk for infection and inviting help to test and track LGBTQ COVID-19 cases.

“This new virus represents a tremendous public health threat,” Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, told reporters on a telephonic news briefing Tuesday, Feb.25, when the Los Angeles Blade first starting covering the COVID-19 crisis.

“Ultimately we expect we will see community spread in this country,” she said. “It’s not a question of if this will happen but when this will happen and how many people in this country will have severe illnesses ….We are asking the American public to prepare for the expectation that this might be bad.”

At a Feb. 27 news conference, California Gov. Gavin Newsom said there was no coronavirus emergency in the state but 33 people tested positive, most quarantined travelers on the Diamond Princess cruise ship, adding that following protocol, California was monitoring more than 8,4000 people who flew from Asia to California.

Meanwhile, a woman from Solano County tested positive for COVID-19 on March 1, appearing to be the first US case for which there was no known source for the illness. But at a Newsom news conference, California Health and Human Services Secretary Mark Ghaly noted that the woman had been sick in the community well before she was hospitalized. Contact tracing revealed that two Los Rios Community College District college students, working as medical professionals, had come in contact with her and were being isolated and “treated” in Sacramento County. Additionally, three UC Davis roommates were under 14-day isolation “out of an abundance of caution” after one showed mild symptoms, according to the Los Angeles Times.

And then there was the whistleblower who revealed that HHS “sent more than a dozen workers to receive the first Americans evacuated from Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak, without proper training for infection control or appropriate protective gear,” the Washington Post reported. “The workers did not show symptoms of infection and were not tested for the virus, according to lawyers for the whistleblower. Out Rep. Mark Takano was furious when those evacuees were sent to March Air Force Base in Southern California.

Three months ago, HHS, the CDC, the State of California, and LA Public Health knew there was a strong likelihood that community spread of COVID-19 would be bad but didn’t gear up to protect first responders, healthcare workers or the public. Nor did they extend collection of demographic data needed to track outbreaks beyond gender and age when West Hollywood, LA and California declared a health emergency.

LGBTQ people were good citizens, responsibly taking part in the greater mitigation effort when officials ordered large gatherings to be cancelled  and businesses closed.

On March 11, an open letter from more than 100 organizations specifying how COVID-19 could impact LGBTQ communities was distributed to the media, healthcare workers and public officials. It outlined how COVID-19 “may pose an increased risk to the LGBTQ+ population” with vulnerabilities and underlying medical conditions and laid out “specific steps to minimize any disparity.” For instance: 37% of LGBTQ adults smoke every day compared to 27% of non-LGBTQ people; 21% of LGBTQ people have asthma, compared to 14% of non-LGBTQ people.

“[W]e need to make sure the most vulnerable among us are not forgotten. Our smoking rates alone make us extremely vulnerable and our access to care barriers only make a bad situation worse.” noted Dr. Scout, the Deputy Director for the National LGBT Cancer Network, “This letter outlines simple steps to ensure no population is further stigmatized by a virus.”

The LGBTQ community responded. “The situation with COVID-19 is changing quickly. I don’t know whether we will be closed for a few days, a few weeks or even longer. Until our public health officials can assure us that it is safe, we will remain closed,” David Cooley wrote in a March 16 Facebook post announcing he was shutting down The Abbey in West Hollywood. “I am saddened that it has come to this. If staying open caused the pandemic to spread more quickly, I would be inconsolable. I know this crisis will pass. When it does, we will all celebrate together.”

Meanwhile, Trump began a pattern of lies and magical thinking. “It’s going to disappear,” Trump assured the world on March 17, having previously declared the coronavirus was “well under control” in this country.

The LGBTQ nonprofit safety net started to fray, but they bucked up to behave responsibly, as well. The LA LGBT Center said they were starting tele-health contacts, protecting seniors, homeless youth and staff from COVID-19; Project Angel Food issued a dire call for volunteers and the [email protected] Coalition closed but still provided food and sought shelter for clients.

Accustomed to equality in Southern California, LGBTQ people felt part of the larger community response. In a March 16 phone interview, LA Mayor Eric Garcetti recalled the community’s historic experience with the AIDS crisis.

“This community has been through tougher days than this and the most important thing is to not only be resilient but to be calm,” Garcetti told the LA Blade. “The LGBTQ community — which has seen what spread can do to a community and how devastating it can be — can really be the leaders of influencing in our workplaces, with our families and with others.”

The LGBTQ and HIV/AIDS communities did their part. The Los Angeles County Commission on HIV  released an Interim Guidance for healthcare providers and persons living with HIV and underscoring the statewide and local “Safer At Home” orders. And nonprofit leaders such Jeffrey King, founder and executive director of In The Meantime Men, found ways to address issues no one else was discussing.

“The coronavirus has us all making major adjustments in our lives,” King said in a video posted on his Facebook page. “I want to encourage you to stay connected, and to consider your risk. Many of us are still engaging in sex. Our sex clubs and gay-specific social venues are closing now. Our social dating apps, however, are in full effect. Again – I want you to consider your risk and to act responsibly.”

But LGBTQ people started disappearing and dying, including icons such as playwright Terrence McNally.

Then, towards the end of March came the surge. Frontline community clinics and health centers that faced a shortage of test kits and medical supplies pleaded for help. Jim Mangia, Chief Executive of St. John’s Well Child and Family Center, one of the few LA-area clinics that serve transgender clients of color, told reporters on a March 24 conference call that the situation was dire. The week before, 879 patients “were required to be placed in triage tents to isolate them from other patients,” the LA Times reported. No data on how many clients were transgender.

“Public health officials across California report that the number of COVID-19 patients in intensive care units (ICU) doubled overnight. As of 2 pm. Saturday, the state now has 4,643 confirmed cases and 101 deaths, a spokesperson for the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) told the Los Angeles Blade Saturday afternoon, adding that approximately 89,600 tests had been conducted as of March 27,” the LA Blade reported. Newsom was bracing for a possible torrent of new infections with testing increasingly becoming an issue.

“There’s as much as ten times as many cases of coronavirus infection than is being reported,” a medical worker at the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center told the Blade. “I think that the death count is very likely much higher, because the criteria for testing is so strict. So, we don’t really know the actual infection rate or mortality rate is currently.”

But no one was talking to the LGBTQ community. Finally, attorney and West Hollywood City Councilmember John Duran started posting daily updates on his personal Facebook page — including one with a frank discussion about having sex in a pandemic.

On April 4, the LA Blade posted a number of essential LGBTQ services, including The Trevor Project which said its crisis contact volume spiked at nearly twice normal volume, especially as COVID-19 forced LGBTQ young people to return to or remain in unsupportive or abusive environments. (The Trevor Project’s TrevorLifeline 24/7 can be reached at 1-866-488-7386, via chat at TheTrevorProject.org/Help or by texting 678-678.)

That was also the day the LA Blade finally got through during Newsom’s regular news conferences and asked if the newly announced website (covid19supplies.ca.gov) met the specific health and economic needs of LGBTQ Californians, especially those living with HIV and LGBTQI+ residents solely dependent on the gig economy.

“Yeah, from across the spectrum from addressing homeless youth — particularly in LA County. So, the answer is ‘yes’ — from an LGBTQ perspective but also from a geographical perspective. And from an age perspective as it relates to finding more federal resources for housing opportunities for LGBTQ youth and adults. Look, I come from San Francisco, 5th generation, it’s a point of deep pride when we talk in terms of cultural competency, neighborhood by neighborhood,” Newsom said. “The history of the HIV epidemic searing the consciousness of our health care delivery focus — again a bottom-up focus, and yeah, of course that extended to Dr. Fauci, who is very familiar to the folks in San Francisco and within the LGBTQ community as being one of our heroes decades ago, in terms of how he met that moment and he spoke truth in that moment. So, the answer is absolutely ‘yes’ — point of pride for me as a former mayor of San Francisco, who’s deeply attached to the needs and desires and aspirations and the health of our LGBTQ community.”

“We are always grateful for Governor Newsom’s leadership, but perhaps never more than during this public health crisis. Governor Newsom has been a lifelong pro-equality champion and we know he and his team are prioritizing our LGBTQ+ community — and the diverse communities to which we belong — and will identify and implement specific solutions to meet the unique challenges we face,” Equality California’s Zbur wrote in an email to the LA Blade. “We look forward to working closely with the governor in the coming weeks and months to provide health and healing for LGBTQ+ and all Californians.”

But while public acknowledgements were appreciated, they were brief and unsustained. LA County and LA City news conferences never even mentioned the LGBTQ community when other minority groups or issues about access to care were highlighted. The LA Blade called out the disparities on April 14 noting that for all the attention of a slew of populations at high risk for contagion, LGBTQs were not included, nor was data being collected.

The LA Blade was not alone. On April 21, GLMA Health Professionals Advancing LGBTQ Equality issued a second open letter signed by more than 170 organizations calling for action “to protect LGBTQ patients from discrimination and to include sexual orientation and gender identity in data collection efforts related to the pandemic,” as well as the economic harm to LGBTQ communities.

By May 12, Newsom told the LA Blade that he and Dr. Sonia Angell were working with Sen. Wiener on the data collection bill – but he did not commit to signing an emergency executive order to demand that local providers and county health departments start collecting LGBTQ data that is being lost with every passing minute.

“I don’t think that there are any disagreements that this needs to happen,” Wiener said during the Zoom news conference. “Obviously, the Governor and current Public Health are drinking water from a fire hose right now, and so we will continue to work with them to make sure that this happens and that it’s prioritized.”

However, Wiener added, “I would love for the Governor to issue an executive order immediately,” using the language in the bill.

And what of the most marginalized of the marginalized? Despite California officially a sanctuary state, the Disaster Relief Assistance for Immigrants (DRAI) program is not accessible for transgender, gender-nonconforming, and Intersex (TGI) people, many of whom are people of color, who have difficulty meeting criteria, according to Bamby Salcedo, founder of [email protected] Coalition.

“All organizations distributing money under DRAI are non-LGBTQ specific, which further impacts LGBTQ people, particularly TGI people, from accessing these funds. Communities such as sex workers, houseless people, those who have been recently released from immigration detention who do not have any type of documentation, and all others that live at the intersections of identifying as TGI will experience significant difficulties in accessing DRAI funds,” Salcedo said in a May 19 press release.

Despite decades of seeming progress, thousands of votes to advance democracy, millions contributed to fundraisers and political campaigns — LGBTQ people are once again fending for themselves and taking care of each other.

On May 18, Equality California launched a consumer-friendly website and help line “to connect LGBTQ+ Californians impacted by the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) crisis with LGBTQ+ friendly resources and support services,” says an EQCA press release. The civil rights organization is also working to expand the website “to include comprehensive directories of service providers in each of the state’s 53 counties and launch a series of free webinars for people facing unemployment or lost wages.”

“The COVID-19 LGBTQ+ Help Center and Help Line are roadmaps for members of our community to find the support they need from providers who know and care about LGBTQ+ people,” says Zbur. “We’re in this together. Whether you need to get tested, file for unemployment or a loan, find a foodbank or talk to a mental health professional, we’re here to help. Go to the website, call the phone number or send us an email and we’ll get you to the right place.”

The Equality California website, funded by grants from the AT&T Foundation and Sempra Energy Foundation, outlines how LGBTQ+ people “face higher rates of comorbidities such as HIV and cancer, are more likely to use tobacco products, are less likely to have health insurance and less likely to access care when they are sick out of fear of discrimination,” are overrepresented in the industries hit hardest by the economic downturn, with elders who already faced isolation before the COVID crisis.

The goal of the Help Center and Help Line is to help LGBTQ+ people navigate the social safety net to find resources they need.

 LGBTQ people might be dis-counted by governmental agencies but as in the early days of AIDS, LGBTQ people are starting to take care of each other. What the future looks like for the otherwise invisible devastated community remains to be seen.

LGBTQ+ Californians facing healthcare, financial, social challenges are encouraged to visit covid19.eqca.org or call (323) 448-0126 for assistance.

 

AIDS and HIV

President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief marks year 20

Achievements PEPFAR have been remarkable, well-documented by outside evaluators, and hugely applauded throughout the advocacy community

Published

on

President George W. Bush signing PEPFAR’s authorizing legislation January 28, 2003. (Photo Credit: George W. Bush Presidential Center)

WASHINGTON – The President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) marks its twenty year anniversary today, marking the largest commitment by any nation to address a single disease in the world.

The initiative which was personally led and launched by former President George W. Bush in 2003,  its funding has totaled more than $110 billion to date, including funding for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (Global Fund), to which the U.S. government is the largest donor.

PEPFAR is credited with saving millions of lives and helping to change the trajectory of the global HIV epidemic.  The White House today released a statement by President Joe Biden marking the 20th Anniversary:

Twenty years ago today, President George W. Bush declared that preventing and treating HIV/AIDS was a foreign policy priority of the United States. At a time when nearly 30 million people were HIV positive, but very few were receiving life-saving medicines, the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) transformed the global AIDS response and laid a marker for America’s commitment to countries that were impacted the hardest by the AIDS epidemic. Helping lead the bipartisan effort in Congress to authorize PEPFAR is among my proudest achievements from my time in the Senate. To this day, PEPFAR remains a powerful example of America’s unmatched ability to drive progress and make life better for people around the world.
 
Since 2003, PEPFAR has saved more than 25 million lives and dramatically improved health outcomes in more than 55 partner countries. AIDS-related deaths have declined by 68 percent since their peak in 2004, and new HIV infections are down 42 percent. PEPFAR investments have ensured that 5.5 million babies have been born HIV-free. And two decades of investment in partner nations’ health systems played a critical role in countries’ ability to respond to other health crises such as COVID-19, Mpox, and Ebola.    
 
Today, PEPFAR continues to support 20.1 million people around the world with HIV/AIDS treatment, and my Administration is committed to continuing to lead the global HIV/AIDS response. We will build on our decades of progress to reach the Sustainable Development Goal of ending AIDS by 2030, work to eliminate the stigma and inequities that keep people from accessing care, and keep the voices of people living with HIV/AIDS at the center of our response.  I look forward to working with Congress on PEPFAR’s reauthorization this year.

PEPFAR is overseen by the U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator, who is appointed by the President, confirmed by the Senate, and reports directly to the Secretary of State, as established through PEPFAR’s authorizing legislation.

PEPFAR’s original authorization established new structures and authorities, consolidating all U.S. bilateral and multilateral activities and funding for global HIV/AIDS. Several U.S. agencies, host country governments, and other organizations are involved in implementation.

Dr. John Nkengasong, the current coordinator was sworn in on June 13, 2022, and holds the rank of Ambassador leading the Office of the Global AIDS Coordinator (OGAC) at the U.S. Department of State.

Nobel Prize winning scientist Harold Varmus, who served as Director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) from 1993 to 1999 and currently the Lewis Thomas University Professor of Medicine at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York City, wrote in an article honoring World Aids Day 2013:

[…] “the PEPFAR story must begin with George W. Bush and his wife, Laura, and their interests in AIDS, Africa, and what Bush termed “compassionate conservatism.” According to his 2010 memoir, Decision Points, the two of them developed a serious interest in improving the fate of the people of Africa after reading Alex Haley’s Roots and visiting The Gambia in 1990.3 In 1998, while pondering a run for the U.S. presidency, he discussed Africa with Condoleezza Rice, his future secretary of state; she said that, if elected, working more closely with countries on that continent should be a significant part of his foreign policy. She also told him that HIV/AIDS was a central problem in Africa but that the United States was spending only $500 million per year on global AIDS, with the money spread across six federal agencies, without a clear strategy for curbing the epidemic.”

Key Facts (As provided by Kaiser Health & Family Foundation)

  • Although the U.S. has been involved in efforts to address the global AIDS crisis since the mid-1980s, the creation of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) in 2003 marked a significant increase in funding and attention to the epidemic.
  • PEPFAR is the largest commitment by any nation to address a single disease in the world; to date, its funding has totaled more than $110 billion, including funding for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (Global Fund), to which the U.S. government is the largest donor. PEPFAR is credited with saving millions of lives and helping to change the trajectory of the global HIV epidemic.
  • U.S. funding for PEPFAR grew from $2.2 billion in FY 2004 to $7.0 billion in FY 2022; FY 2022 funding includes $5.4 billion provided for bilateral HIV efforts and $1.6 billion for multilateral efforts ($50 million for UNAIDS and $1.56 billion for the Global Fund).
  • As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to have profound effects across the world, PEPFAR has acted to respond to COVID-19 in countries that receive support in order to minimize HIV service disruptions and leverage the program’s capabilities to address COVID-19 more broadly.
  • Looking ahead, PEPFAR faces several issues and challenges, including how best to: address the short- and long-term impacts of COVID-19 on PEPFAR and the HIV response; accelerate progress toward epidemic control in the context of flat funding; support and strengthen community-led responses and the sustainability of HIV programs; define its role in global health security and broader health systems strengthening efforts; and continue to coordinate with other key players in the HIV ecosystem, including the Global Fund.

Key Activities and Results (As provided by Kaiser Health & Family Foundation)

PEPFAR activities focus on expanding access to HIV prevention, treatment, and care interventions. These include provision of antiretroviral treatment, pre-exposure prophylaxis, voluntary male circumcision, condoms, and other commodities related to HIV services. In addition, PEPFAR has launched specific initiatives in key strategic areas. For example, in 2015, PEPFAR launched DREAMS, a public-private partnership that aims to reduce HIV infections in adolescent girls and young women.

The latest results reported by PEPFAR indicate that it has:

  • supported testing services for 63.4 million people in FY 2021;
  • prevented 2.8 million babies from being born with HIV, who would have otherwise been infected;
  • provided care for more than 7.1 million orphans and vulnerable children (OVC);
  • supported training for nearly 300,000 new health care workers; and
  • supported antiretroviral treatment for 18.96 million people.
  • In the 15 countries implementing the DREAMS initiative, new diagnoses among adolescent girls and young women have declined with most DREAMS areas (96%) experiencing declines greater than 25% and nearly two-thirds with declines greater than 40%.

The achievements of the PEPFAR program have been remarkable, well-documented by outside evaluators, and hugely applauded throughout the advocacy community and the developing world. In general, milestones have been met, the program has been enlarged (for instance, to include some research on implementation of medical assistance), the roster of PEPFAR countries has grown and spending plans have not been exceeded.

Continue Reading

AIDS and HIV

FDA eases blood donation restrictions for gay & bisexual men

The FDA’s proposal would lift the mandatory three-month deferral period for some men who have sex with men

Published

on

FDA headquarters (Photo Credit: U.S. Government/GSA)

SILVER SPRING, Md. – The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) introduced a proposed change to its blood donation guidelines on Friday that would ease restrictions for gay and bisexual men.

The FDA notes the proposal, news of which was first reported in November, would bring U.S. policies in alignment with those in place in countries like the U.K. and Canada. The agency is expected to formally adopt the new guidelines after a public comment period.

The move follows criticism from LGBTQ groups and organizations like the American Medical Association (AMA) who have long argued the current policy is homophobic and based on an outdated understanding of the risks associated with blood donation by men who have sex with men.

As the AMA wrote of the current policy: “a man who has protected sex with another man in the three months prior to a blood donation cannot be a donor, but a man or woman who has unprotected sex with multiple partners of the opposite sex over the same time period remains eligible.”

The FDA’s proposal would lift the mandatory three-month deferral period for some men who have sex with men and instead use a “gender-inclusive, individual risk-based questions relevant to HIV risk.”

Potential donors would be asked for information about their sexual history over the past three months. Respondents who indicate they have had sex with one or more new sexual partners would then be asked whether they have had anal sex during this period. Those who answer “yes” would be deferred from blood donation.

Axios noted that as of this morning, about 20 percent of the country’s community blood centers have a one-day supply or less, while the FDA’s broadened eligibility criteria would increase the annual blood supply by two to four percent, citing data from America’s Blood Centers’ daily tracker and the Williams Institute.

U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) issued a statement celebrating the FDA’s proposal. “As I have long advocated for, this blood donation policy takes a step forward and is better rooted in the most up-to-date science with a focus on individual risk factors, not outdated stigmas that effectively ban gay and bisexual men,” she said.

Baldwin has repeatedly urged the agency to revisit its blood donation policy over the years, including by corralling support from other members of Congress to cosign letters to the FDA in 2014 and 2016, raising the issue again in 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated shortages in the blood supply.

The Congressional LGBTQ+ Equality Caucus also acknowledged the move in a statement by its chair, Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.): “I am glad the FDA is finally moving toward an individual risk-based assessment model, but recognize, based on existing reporting, that many LGBTQI+ people may still be barred from donating,” he said. “I look forward to taking a closer look at the proposed guidelines once they are published and working with the FDA to ensure that any unnecessary barriers are removed.”

Several LGBTQ groups also issued statements celebrating the FDA’s new guidance.

“These changes are 40-plus years in the making, and are a tremendous leap forward toward elevating science over stigma,” said GLAAD President Sarah Kate Ellis. “GLAAD and leading medical experts have long been advocating for guidelines that see and treat LGBTQ people the same as any other person, including as potential donors who want to help others.”

“This new policy removes a decades-long barrier for many in our community – and there is more to do to ensure gay, bisexual and transgender people are no longer unfairly stigmatized when they try to donate blood,” Human Rights Campaign President Kelley Robinson said. “The assessment criteria have flaws, focusing excessively, for instance, on the number of partners a potential donor has instead of just on new partners,” she added.

Carl Schmid, executive director of the HIV+ Hepatitis Policy Institute, said: “While this long-overdue change is being made based on the science and the facts, which have been clear for years, it is the result of the leadership of the Biden administration that continues to tear down discriminatory government policies.”

Continue Reading

AIDS and HIV

Experimental HIV vaccine failure, deemed safe but ineffective

“We remain steadfast in our commitment to advancing innovation in HIV & hope the data from Mosaico will provide insights for future efforts”

Published

on

HIV (Photo Credit: National Institutes of Health)

BETHESDA, Md. – A clinical trial of an investigational HIV vaccine regimen, being conducted in partnership with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) by Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies and global partners of parent company Johnson & Johnson dubbed “Mosaico,” was discontinued.

In an announcement made Wednesday, NIAID said the HIV vaccine regimen tested among men who have sex with men (MSM) and transgender people was safe but did not provide protection against HIV acquisition, an independent data and safety monitoring board had determined.

A spokesperson for Johnson & Johnson noted in light of the board’s determination, the Mosaico clinical trial will be discontinued. Participant notifications and further analyses of the data are underway. Throughout the trial, study investigators have ensured that any individuals who contracted HIV received prompt HIV treatment and care.

Both Johnson & Johnson and NIAID stressed that no safety issues with the vaccine regimen were identified.

“We are disappointed with this outcome and stand in solidarity with the people and communities vulnerable to and affected by HIV,” said Penny Heaton, M.D., Global Therapeutic Area Head, Vaccines, Janssen Research & Development, LLC. “Though there have been significant advances in prevention since the beginning of the global epidemic, 1.5 million people acquired HIV in 2021 alone, underscoring the high unmet need for new options and why we have long worked to tackle this global health challenge. We remain steadfast in our commitment to advancing innovation in HIV, and we hope the data from Mosaico will provide insights for future efforts to develop a safe and effective vaccine. We are grateful to our Mosaico partners and the study investigators, staff and participants.”

Janssen Vaccines & Prevention sponsored the Mosaico study with funding support from NIAID, part of the National Institutes of Health. The trial was conducted by the NIAID-funded HIV Vaccine Clinical Trials Network, based at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle. The U.S. Army Medical Research and Development Command provided additional study support.

The Phase 3 Mosaico Study:

Mosaico, a Phase 3 study of Janssen’s investigational HIV vaccine regimen, began in 2019, and completed vaccinations in October 2022. The study included approximately 3,900 cisgender men and transgender people who have sex with cisgender men and/or transgender people, who represent groups and populations vulnerable to HIV, at over 50 trial sites in Argentina, Brazil, Italy, Mexico, Peru, Poland, Puerto Rico, Spain and the United States.

The study evaluated an investigational vaccine regimen containing a mosaic-based adenovirus serotype 26 vector (Ad26.Mos4.HIV) administered during four vaccination visits over one year. A mix of soluble proteins (Clade C/Mosaic gp140, adjuvanted with aluminum phosphate) was also administered at visits three and four.

The Mosaico DSMB analysis, based on the data available to date, indicated that the regimen does not protect against HIV and the study is not expected to meet its primary endpoint. No safety issues with the vaccine regimen were identified. In light of this, the study will be discontinued, and further analyses are underway.

Continue Reading

AIDS and HIV

Patti LaBelle, Gladys Knight dazzle World AIDS Day concert 

“As millions remain affected by HIV/AIDS, World AIDS Day provides an opportunity to honor those we’ve lost and those living with HIV/AIDS”

Published

on

Patti LaBelle performs onstage during World AIDS Day 2022 at John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts on November 30, 2022 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Paul Morigi/Getty Images for AIDS Healthcare Foundation)

WASHINGTON – The AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) hosted its 2022 World AIDS Day Concert on Wednesday, Nov. 30, in the concert hall of The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in the nation’s capital.

Renowned multi-Grammy Award-winning vocalists Patti LaBelle and Gladys Knight delivered show-stopping performances to the packed crowd, which included supporters, dignitaries such as: Harold Phillips, Director of the White House Office of National AIDS Policy; White House Senior Advisor for Public Engagement, Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, and New Orleans Mayor, Mayor LaToya Cantrell, and more, in a night of hope and celebration.

The legendary Gladys Knight performs at the Kennedy Center during a free concert hosted by AHF to commemorate World AIDS Day on December 1, 2022, in Washington.
(Joy Asico/AP Images for AIDS Healthcare Foundation)

AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), is the world’s largest HIV/AIDS care provider, currently operating in 45 countries. The concert is held every year to commemorate World AIDS Day, observed internationally each year on Dec. 1. This year also marked the global organization’s 35th anniversary. 

At the event, longtime humanitarian and AIDS advocate, Princess Diana was honored, posthumously, with AHF’s Lifetime Achievement Award. Under its “Keep the Promise!” banner, AHF also acknowledged progress made in the global fight against HIV and AIDS and continues to raise awareness about “The Other Pandemic” as a reminder of the significant work still to be done on HIV/AIDS, as well as remembering the lives that have been lost over the years.  

Legendary entertainers Patti LaBelle (L) Gladys Knight (C) and AHF President Michael Weinstein, together at The Kennedy Center during a free concert hosted by AHF to commemorate World AIDS Day on December 1, 2022, in Washington.
(Joy Asico/AP Images for AIDS Healthcare Foundation)

Michael Weinstein, President of AHF, said, “As millions remain affected by HIV/AIDS around the globe, World AIDS Day annually provides an opportunity to honor those we’ve lost and those living with HIV/AIDS today, as well as reminding leaders and the community of the work that still remains to address this epidemic. From providing compassionate AIDS hospice care in those darkest early days to growing to become the largest global AIDS organization today, now providing lifesaving care and treatment to more than 1.7 million people around the globe, we also celebrate the tireless work of all those who help make today’s AHF possible: our staff, Board, affiliate organizations and affinity groups, friends, family and elected officials and community partners across the globe, but most of all, our clients and patients—with our annual 2022 World AIDS Day event. It was a momentous night to host our World AIDS Day concert at The Kennedy Center for the first time, and welcome back the legendary Patti LaBelle, and have another great American icon, Gladys Knight join us, while also being able to honor the legacy and humanitarian work of the late Princess Diana.”

President of AIDS Healthcare Foundation, Michael Weinstein and Director of the White House Office of National AIDS Policy, Harold Phillips attend World AIDS Day 2022 at John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts on November 30, 2022 in Washington, DC.
(Photo by Paul Morigi/Getty Images for AIDS Healthcare Foundation)
Congresswoman, Sheila Jackson Lee and Patti LaBelle attend World AIDS Day 2022 at John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts on November 30, 2022 in Washington, DC.
(Photo by Paul Morigi/Getty Images for AIDS Healthcare Foundation)
Derek J. attends World AIDS Day 2022 at John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts on November 30, 2022 in Washington, DC.
(Photo by Paul Morigi/Getty Images for AIDS Healthcare Foundation)
Continue Reading

AIDS and HIV

Cleve Jones, activist & founder of AIDS Memorial Quilt honored

National AIDS Memorial hosted observances at the 10-acre Memorial Grove and displaying Quilt in nearly 100 communities throughout the U.S.

Published

on

Former San Francisco mayor Art Agnos presents award to Cleve Jones (Photo courtesy of National AIDS Memorial Foundation)

SAN FRANCISCO  – The National AIDS Memorial marked World AIDS Day with a national observance at the 10-acre National AIDS Memorial Grove in San Francisco, honoring AIDS activist and founder of the AIDS Memorial Quilt Cleve Jones with its Lifetime of Commitment Award. 

The two days of events brought together leaders on the front lines of the epidemic for powerful conversations and events focused on “Changing the Pattern for a Future without AIDS,” referencing a major initiative of the Memorial that is bringing the Quilt to the South to address the growing crisis of rising HIV rates amount communities of color and marginalized populations.

Jones, who founded the Quilt thirty-five years ago, was recognized for his visionary leadership, activism, and powerful voice in the fight for health and social justice. He remains an inspirational force for change and action today, standing up without hesitation and using his voice for those who are often overshadowed and not heard.  

U.S. House Speaker, Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Cailf.) praised Jones in a special video tribute, saying, “Cleve, you are a force of nature – unshakable in the face of adversity, overflowing with a passion for serving others.”

“When the AIDS crisis tightened its grip on San Francisco – when pain and despair grew rampant – you kept hope alive,” she continued. “You were a shining light in the dark, building community out of grief and spurring action out of anguish. From the halls of power to union halls and picket lines, you have never relented in your mission: empowering the oppressed, tearing down injustice and honoring the dignity and beauty of every person.”

Presenting the award to Jones was former San Francisco mayor and mentor Art Agnos to an audience of more than 600 people from the community who gathered on the eve of World AIDS Day for a gala to support the Memorial’s programs. 

“I’m honored to receive this award, but more importantly I’m so pleased that the Quilt now has a permanent home with the National AIDS Memorial and that it is continuing its mission of activism and justice. One thing I’ve learned is that through hope one finds courage and through courage we find love. Love is at the core of what we do and that is what this Quilt represents,” Jones told the audience gathered.

The National AIDS Memorial worked with local partners from across the country to display hundreds of Quilt sections featuring more than 3,500 individual panels in nearly 100 communities on World AIDS Day. 

The largest Quilt display ever in Alabama is taking place in Montgomery and surrounding areas as part of the memorial’s Change the Pattern initiative. The program, funded through a $2.4 million grant from Gilead Sciences, is organizing quilting workshops, displays and educational programming with Southern AIDS Coalition throughout the Southern U.S.

“On this World AIDS Day, it is inspiring to know that thousands of Quilt panels are on display in communities across the country, touching hearts and minds through the stories represented in the fabric,” said Gilead Sciences Chairman and CEO Daniel O’Day.  “The Quilt’s purpose remains as strong and important today, as it was thirty-five years ago, when the vision of Cleve Jones sparked a powerful movement to advance health and social justice.”

The National AIDS Memorial’s World AIDS Day Observance panelists highlighted the importance of the work being done around the country, the interconnectivity of issues to reach zero, and the importance of education and outreach to at-risk populations during three powerful conversations available for viewing online on the memorial’s website and include: Reflections with Cleve Jones and 35 years of the Quilt; The State of the Epidemic Today with Leaders on the Frontlines; and Young Leaders Making an Impact.

 

Reading of the Names at the National AIDS Memorial Grove in San Francisco
(Photo courtesy of National AIDS Memorial Foundation)

“As our community comes together this World AIDS Day, it’s hard not to look around and see who’s missing – our friends, lovers, and family we’ve lost over four decades of this horrific, cruel disease,” said National AIDS Memorial CEO John Cunningham. “It always brings tears, and we carry so many emotions, particularly as we think of what could have been. But for me, as a man living with HIV/AIDS, I shift to a brighter space, choosing to look around me, thinking about so many of us still here, living and thriving. Survivors, who have so much to be thankful for, but also a heavy burden to share our own stories and journey, so history never repeats itself.”

He continued, “Today, people are still dying and there should have been a cure long ago. We are angry because bigotry, hate, and stigma persist today in society.  And we carry shame, because communities of color and marginalized populations continue to be disproportionately impacted by HIV and discrimination, and it shouldn’t be this way.  It’s time to change the pattern.”

Continue Reading

AIDS and HIV

Translatinx network helps a resilient community ‘Live Its Truth’

“We’re trying to push ourselves to the next level through community empowerment and leadership development”

Published

on

Courtesy of Cristina Herrera

NEW YORK – When Cristina Herrera was 15 years old, she traveled alone from Southern California to the Bronx in pursuit of new life experiences. A native of El Salvador, Cristina thought as a teenager that she was different, but she was unsure about which terminology fully captured her identity.

“I knew that I wasn’t gay,” explains Cristina. “But I couldn’t put into words as to who I was.” 

It was only through connecting with the trans Latinx community in New York that Cristina found herself – and came out as transgender.

When Cristina began her gender transition in the mid-1980s, she says there were barely any employment opportunities for a transgender person. To survive, many immigrant trans women in Cristina’s circle engaged in sex work and became more susceptible to contracting HIV. Policing and arrests of sex workers also put their immigration statuses in peril, and stigma exposed them to violence. It was during this time that Cristina became set on improving the lives of trans Latinx people.

“My community was already informally supporting one another,” she says. “But I wanted to make sure that other people would never have to go through some of the difficult issues I experienced.”

Determined to fulfill this promise, Cristina put herself through college and landed a job at a nonprofit supporting the LGBTQ+ community. She absorbed as much as she could at the organization, but she started to want a bigger influence on how to serve the community that helped find her identity. 

“In 2005, I began dreaming about starting a trans-led, immigrant-led organization,” she says. “My dream came true two years later when I started the nonprofit.”

Today, as the founder and CEO of the advocacy nonprofit Translatinx Network, she serves trans Latinx people in New York City and beyond. The organization, which for the past three years has been a Gilead TRANScend Community Impact Fund grantee, connects people to legal aid, HIV prevention and support groups, and immigration assistance.

In the years since its creation, Cristina and her colleagues have led the charge in providing support and connections for trans Latinx people as they build their communities in the United States.

“Many people in our community went from being in the shadows to becoming documented and getting their green cards or work permits,” she says. “We were showing our community that we don’t have to be stuck – that there’s more to life.”

Cristina is now looking for ways to replicate the success of the organization by gathering information and its outcomes and continuing to expand its services. “We want to stay on the front lines and keep our community healthy and protected,” she says. “We’re trying to push ourselves to the next level through community empowerment and leadership development.”

And Cristina is proud that through her organization’s success, she’s able to serve a population that has historically been left out or forgotten.

“I love any opportunity where I can be there for others,” she says. “I want all of us to be able to live our truth while at the same time fulfill our life goals.”

The preceding article was previously published by [email protected] © 2022 Gilead Sciences, Inc. and is republished with permission.

Continue Reading

AIDS and HIV

Ending HIV-related stigma in the Southern U. S.: Gina’s story

“Stigma is an onion with many layers,” Gina says. “We can really do this – we really can, but we have to address the layers that drive HIV”

Published

on

Blossom Chrishelle Brown (Left) with Gina Marie Brown (Photo Credit: Southern AIDS Coalition)

BIRMINGHAM, Al. – Gina Brown has been living with HIV for 27 years and introduces herself as a social worker by training, but an activist by birth. As the Director of Strategic Partnerships and Community Engagement at the Southern AIDS Coalition, she’s working to fight against challenges that she has personally experienced such as homelessness, addiction and abuse, as well as stigma, racism, sexism and ageism.

“Everything that you could think of when it comes to HIV, I’ve experienced,” she says. “When I’m sitting at the table, I’m not just talking with an employee hat on. I’m talking from a community standpoint as a person on the same journey.”

‘Stigma kills’

Stigma can be a significant barrier to receiving HIV care or medical treatment. A 2021 survey by GLAAD and Gilead shows that the U.S. South not only has the highest rates of HIV diagnosis, but it’s also a region that is generally uncomfortable with HIV. Positive test results, in turn, are too often accompanied by secrecy and isolation.

“Stigma kills. I know that sounds like a cliché, but it’s the truth,” Gina says. “It keeps people out of care. It keeps people from taking their medication. It keeps people from disclosing their status. It keeps people from being happy.”

Stigma impacts people everywhere with HIV, but Gina believes in the Southern United States it’s more than just external stigma. “We internalize what people say and think about us. We get caught up in it and actually think those things about ourselves too.” 

The Southern AIDS Coalition, a Gilead grantee, focuses on stigma reduction and culturally appropriate care. Education and public health advocacy are core to the organization’s goals of preventing new transmissions and building a better life for people living with HIV.

Using deliberate language to discuss HIV is one important tool the coalition uses to help dismantle stigma, Gina says.

“You go in the room, and you might have somebody who will stand up and say, ‘I’m HIV.’ And I say, ‘No, you’re living with HIV.’ That’s the first thing, getting people to understand that we are living, we’re not dying, we’re not sick, we’re not all of those things,” she says.

Power of Community: Sharing HIV Experiences

Gina also helps facilitate a program called “Out of the Shadows,” with the Institute of Women and Ethnic Studies. The group works to provides a safe space for women in the New Orleans community to share their HIV experiences, improve access to services and overcome feelings of isolation. She says it was her own experience with the community that was critical to helping her regain her confidence after being diagnosed.

“What you see now is not always who I was in this fight. It was people who truly carried me and gave me tools to empower myself. People saw things in me that I never saw in myself,” she says.

Gina now wants to serve as that type of person for those she works with, and she always strives to meet them where they are in their journeys. “If you need to crawl, I will crawl with you. When you start walking, I will walk with you.”

But Gina says with a laugh, “When you start running, you’re on your own because I’m too old to run. I’ll do everything else with you, but I’m not running.”

Ending the HIV Epidemic

Efforts by the Southern AIDS Coalition and other organizations to reduce stigma and discrimination have been highlighted by the United Nations as critical to ending the epidemic. Gina looks with optimism toward the end of the epidemic and the UNAIDS goal to get every community and country on track to end AIDS as a public health threat by 2030. 

“Stigma is an onion with many layers,” Gina says. “We can really do this – we really can, but we have to address the layers that drive HIV.”

The preceding article was previously published by [email protected] © 2022 Gilead Sciences, Inc. and is republished with permission.

Continue Reading

AIDS and HIV

Iconic landmarks in Los Angeles to light up red on World AIDS Day

This year’s theme, “Putting Ourselves to the Test: Achieving Equity to End HIV,” calls out the disproportionate impact across sub-populations

Published

on

Los Angeles Blade graphic

LOS ANGELES –  As Angelenos mark World AIDS Day, several prominent landmarks around Los Angeles County– including Union Station, City Hall/Grand Park Fountain, Dignity Health Sports Park, LAX Pylons, and Six Street Viaduct — will switch their evening architectural lighting to all red to increase awareness about HIV/AIDS, show solidarity in the fight against HIV, and honor those who have died due to HIV disease.

World AIDS Day, observed each year on December 1, provides the opportunity to honor and remember the more than 40 million people worldwide, including over 27,000 Los Angeles County (LAC) residents lost to HIV/AIDS since this epidemic began.

This year’s World AIDS Day theme, “Putting Ourselves to the Test: Achieving Equity to End HIV,” calls attention to the disproportionate impact of HIV across sub-populations, particularly across race, gender, sexual orientation and geographic lines. 

Los Angeles County has an estimated 59,400 people living with HIV and in 2021 there were 1,479 new HIV diagnoses reported, mostly among gay men, African-Americans, Latinos, and transgender persons.

“We thank our partners across the community who have been working for decades to increase awareness and prevention of HIV/AIDS and provide services and support for those living with HIV, “and honor those in our communities we lost to this terrible disease,” said Barbara Ferrer, PhD, MPH, MEd, Director of Public Health. “More than anything, as we honor, on World AIDS Day, those in our communities we lost to this terrible disease, we re-commit ourselves to the work to end the HIV/AIDS epidemic, which continues to disproportionately impact communities of color and the LGBTQ community.”

Public Health works with others to help bring an end to the epidemic by reducing the number of new annual HIV infections, decreasing the number of undiagnosed people living with HIV, and increasing the viral suppression rates among people who are diagnosed with HIV.

Public Health collaborates with a broad cross-section of diverse community partners to implement community-driven outreach and education, community-based HIV/STD testing, linkage to care, intensive street-based case management, and clinic-based services.  Recently, Public Health has spearheaded innovative programming through our many new Ending the HIV Epidemic (EHE) Initiatives (www.lacounty.hiv), expanded HIV testing access through both community-based partners and the  www.takemehome.com testing initiative, ongoing efforts to prevent homelessness among persons living with HIV; enhanced outreach efforts to the transgender community through our TransInLA Instagram and Facebook pages and supporting HIV-positive individuals with accessing lifesaving medication. Research shows that suppressing HIV to undetectable levels virtually eliminates transmission of the virus to sexual partners.

Public Health encourages people to learn more about HIV, know their HIV status, and, if necessary, access free life-saving HIV medications and services.  To learn more about HIV and STDs and locate HIV testing, services, and resources, please visit www.getprotectedla.com and http://publichealth.lacounty.gov/dhsp/

Continue Reading

AIDS and HIV

GLAAD study: Signs of progress in efforts to combat HIV stigma

Some of the conclusions from GLAAD’s study have broader applicability to the stigmatization of other diseases and health conditions

Published

on

Stop HIV Stigma (screen capture from CDC's YouTube channel)

NEW YORK – A welcome sign that some progress has been made in efforts to combat stigma, data from a forthcoming study by GLAAD found that Americans have become increasingly comfortable interacting with people who are living with HIV.

GLAAD, the largest LGBTQ media advocacy organization, shared an advance copy of its 2022 State of HIV Stigma Study with the Washington Blade ahead of its release Thursday during World AIDS Day.

The study’s documentation of the substantial increase in the percentage of respondents who said they would feel comfortable interacting with people living with HIV — up from 36 percent in 2020 to 43 percent this year — was hardly the only metric pointing to possible improvements with respect to the stigmatization of HIV in America.

At the same time, other findings in the report present a grimmer picture. As GLAAD President Sarah Kate Ellis said in a statement, the data underscores the need to “dramatically accelerate public health messaging about HIV and visibility about HIV in the media for it to be understood as the treatable, untransmittable and preventable condition it is.”

Ninety percent of respondents said they believe stigma around HIV persists, Ellis noted. And GLAAD’s study offers some insight into how and why, looking at a variety of different types of evidence.

For example, it documents the prevalence of false and medically inaccurate beliefs about how and to whom the virus is transmitted (revealing that fewer people now believe “only certain groups of people get HIV.”) It assesses the extent to which respondents saw stories in the media about people living with HIV (with only one in three reporting that they had.) And it provides some insight into the relative efficacy of public health messaging around risk reduction strategies (a good sign: Knowledge about the use of pre-exposure prophylaxis for the prevention of HIV has increased.)

Some of the conclusions that can be gleaned from GLAAD’s study have broader applicability to the stigmatization of other diseases and health conditions.

Last month, the group published a summary of its qualitative interviews on stigma, writing: “We heard people mention a few similarities between COVID-19 and HIV as it relates to the stigma that both viruses carry, much of it centered around an initial lack of education, and fear of transmission.”

As Ellis said in her statement about the forthcoming study, “Newly-released data show how stigma, inadequate resources and lack of comprehensive public health messaging set back the fight against HIV during the COVID-19 pandemic and delayed response to the monkeypox virus (mpox) outbreak this year.”

GLAAD has published annual State of HIV Stigma Studies since 2020, a project that is funded by Gilead’s COMPASS initiative. The report can be found on the group’s End HIV Stigma page, with a downloadable PDF available here.

Continue Reading

AIDS and HIV

Biden outlines plan to renew fight against HIV/AIDS

Biden on the eve of World AIDS Day outline ways his administration will fight the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the U.S. & globally

Published

on

White House on World AIDS Day 2021 (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden detailed how his administration plans to improve the lives and health outcomes for people living with HIV/AIDS while strengthening treatment and prevention efforts at home and abroad in a statement published Wednesday on the eve of World AIDS Day.

Proposed healthcare reforms on the domestic agenda included improving access to lifesaving treatments, broadening the use of preexposure prophylaxis (PrEP) to reduce the rate of new infections, and strengthening efforts to reduce stigma associated with the disease. Biden noted his request for $850 million from Congress to fund these initiatives.  

Policy wise, he highlighted the administration’s pressure on the Armed Forces to sunset rules prohibiting deployments and commissions for servicemembers with HIV, and on state legislatures to repeal HIV criminalization statutes used to prosecute people for exposing others to HIV.

Internationally, the president said, “My administration has also pledged up to $6 billion to the Seventh Replenishment of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria — an initiative that has saved an estimated 50 million lives to date.” He called on other countries to match the pledge “so we can together deliver on the promise of health and well-being for millions around the world.”

“World AIDS Day presents an opportunity to renew America’s commitments to fighting the disease,” Biden said, while also acknowledging the tremendous progress in science, medicine, public health, and other arenas that have made the prospect of an end to AIDS and the worldwide transmission of HIV achievable. “At the same time, while these advancements have saved so many lives, they also exposed longstanding racial and gender-based disparities in access to prevention and care.”

“For the more than 38 million people around the world now living with HIV — especially members of the LGBTQI+ community, communities of color, women, and girls — a diagnosis is still life-altering,” Biden said. “We can do better.”

“As we today honor the 700,000 Americans and 40 million lives lost worldwide to AIDS-related illnesses over the years, we have new hope in our hearts,” the president’s statement concludes. “We finally have the scientific understanding, treatments, and tools to build an AIDS-free future where everyone — no matter who they are, where they come from, or whom they love — can get the care and respect they deserve.”

The full statement is available here.

Continue Reading
Advertisement

Sign Up for Blade eBlasts

Advertisement

Follow Us @LosAngelesBlade

Advertisement

Popular