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Posts for January, 2016

Mobile Alabama reopens marriage license window

Timothy Kincaid

January 8th, 2016

On Wednesday, following Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore’s pronouncement that no marriage licenses can be issued to same-sex couples in the state, Mobile County stopped issuing marriage licenses altogether. Now they have resumed. (Fox6News)

The Mobile County Probate Court will re-open marriage license windows Friday morning, Mobile County Probate Judge Don Davis said in a statement.

Davis’ statement says, “In an abundance of caution, the Court wanted an opportunity to review the order, and to have legal counsel research the matter. The Court is now satisfied, on the advice of counsel, that the appropriate action is to open the window and resume issuance of marriage license.

Poor Alabama. It’s a sad state of affairs when the state’s judicial officers just ignore the instruction of the state’s Chief Justice.

Michael Weinstein doubles down on “PrEP = Party Drug”; lies about video

Timothy Kincaid

January 8th, 2016

Public Health Solutions is a NYC based non-profit that performs both research and outreach on public health matters. As part of their focus, they support the increased use of pre-exposure prophylaxis as a prevention for the transmission of HIV.

A couple of months ago, Public Health Solutions uploaded three videos to their YouTube channel; one about PrEP and love, one targeting African-American men, and one targeting young men who party. The videos were part of a video intended to drive high-risk individuals into a clinical survey.

Here is “I Like to Party”:

Although the visuals of the video only show drinking in a bar, the implied message is that some young men use substances as a part of sex. And, indeed, the video campaign deviser said as much. (HuffPo)

The “Time2PrEP” campaign from Public Health Solutions is a series of video shorts that talks to different individuals across the queer spectrum about their experiences with PrEP and why they utilize the groundbreaking medication. Kenny Neal Shults of ConnectedHealthSolutions.com told The Huffington Post:

“When we sat down to consider the best audiences for the campaigns we knew only one thing for certain — we wanted to address gay men who might fall under the puritanical ‘Truvada Whore’ classification. That is, we wanted to reach men whose sexual and recreational drug behaviors both put them at a greater risk for both contracting HIV and being stigmatized for even considering going on PrEP. It seemed obvious to us that judging the men who could benefit most from PrEP for the behaviors that we think they should abandon and replace with consistent, unfaltering condom use was not our job. Our goal as HIV prevention professionals is to reduce HIV infections, and to communicate to those at high risk that they don’t deserve to be punished with HIV for ‘misbehaving.’ I mean, that’s the tacit implication of these reactionary pulpit platforms isn’t it; you either use a condom every time — behave — or you’re shamed and set apart from the rest of the community.”

michaelToday it seems that Michael Weinstein of AIDS Healthcare Foundation has become aware of the video. And he’s decided to use it to further his attack on PrEP and those who use it. And, as seems consistent with Weinstein, his statement is long on accusation and short on facts.

AHF’s press release starts with a statement that is shockingly lacking in truth.

In what looks to be the first direct-to-consumer drug advertising paid for by Gilead Sciences, Inc. for use of its AIDS treatment, Truvada, as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) to prevent HIV infection in non-infected individuals, Gilead has paid for an ad that violates Food and Drug Administration (FDA) guidelines for PrEP by promoting off-label use of the drug by encouraging situational PrEP use for those who “… like to party.”

Oh so many lies.

First this is not a direct-to-customer drug advertising. It is an online video by a non-profit organization that never ever mentions the name of any drug.

Next, the video was not “paid for by Gilead Sciences, Inc.”, or not in the sense that Weinstein claims. Mary Ann Chiasson, the Vice President, Research and Evaluation at Public Health Solutions clarified.

As the Project Director, I can set the record straight. The time2prep project was funded by a grant from Gilead for educational videos about PrEP targeted to high risk men who have sex with men in New York City. The videos were designed to be provocative and to encourage men to go the New York City Department of Health PrEP/PEP website to learn more. Gilead played no role whatsoever in determining the content of the videos. In fact, I’m not sure anyone at Gilead has ever even seen the videos.

But the big lie, the heinous smarmy lie is this: “…an ad that violates Food and Drug Administration (FDA) guidelines for PrEP by promoting off-label use of the drug by encouraging situational PrEP use…” Further in the press release, Weinstein states,

When I referred to PrEP as a party drug two years ago, it created a nationwide scandal. Now Gilead—in what looks to be its first official paid advertising for Truvada as PrEP—explicitly promotes PrEP as a party drug for situational use in direct violation of FDA regulations. This is illegal and we will seek to hold them accountable for their irresponsible and illegal advertising,” said Michael Weinstein, President of AIDS Healthcare Foundation, which has criticized and cautioned against the widespread deployment of PrEP as a community-wide public health strategy, such as the CDC’s recommendation that 1.2 million individuals go on PrEP, but supports its use on a case-by-case basis decided upon between a medical provider and his or her patient.

If indeed this was a promotion of PrEP for situational use, rather than as part of a daily regimen, that would be in violation of FDA regulations. The FDA has approved Truvada for PrEP under certain conditions. While I would certainly phrase some of these requirement differently, AHF’s press release lists them:

Guidelines issued by the FDA for PrEP for individuals include 1) an initial baseline negative HIV test; 2) daily adherence to the Truvada medication; 3) ongoing periodic HIV testing to ensure the individual on PrEP remains HIV-negative; and 4) continued use of other prevention methods, such as condoms.

AHF’s points 1 and 3 cannot be determined one way or another from the video. But we can clearly see whether the video promotes daily adherence and condoms.

At 0:03 JD Phoenix (a young porn actor) reaches for items on his counter as he heads to a bar. They consist of condoms, lube, his keys and a baggie with pills of some sort (it is not clear as to the nature of the pills). From this we conclude that condoms are a part of Phoenix’s sexual encounters.

At 0:21 Phoenix’ alarm goes off on his phone informing him that it’s “time to prep!” He then reaches for a daily pill organizer and takes that day’s blue pill. From this it is clear that Phoenix is on daily adherence to the drug.

So Weinstein’s claims about “situational use” appear to be false. And his threat about “holding accountable” seem nothing more than empty threats used to bolster his own implied moral superiority.

And, of course, Weinstein couldn’t pass up the opportunity to portray himself as a great prophet:

It now appears AHF President Michael Weinstein made a prophetic comment to an Associated Press reporter in April 2014 when he offhandedly referred to PrEP as a “… party drug.” Since then, both he and AHF have been repeatedly and harshly criticized by the gay and AIDS communities for the observation, while Gilead itself now funds and promotes party use of Truvada as PrEP in violation of the law and FDA regulation.

Neither Gilead nor anyone else is promoting “party use” of Truvada as PrEP in this video. Or certainly not more than the other two videos promoted “black use” or “love use.” It’s a video targeting a high-risk community. That’s all.

But Weinstein has latched only the word “party” and sees it as validation for his opposition to PrEP. He objects to the idea that people who use drugs might use Truvada to allow them to have unfettered sex. Naughty dirty drug-induced porn star sex. And it’s “irresponsible” for Gilead, or anyone else, to help these party sex people remain HIV negative.

It’s hard to ignore the implications of Weinstein’s position. If party people shouldn’t proactively protect themselves from HIV transmission, does that mean that they deserve what they get? Is HIV the wages of sin?

And, really, it seems to me that this is what is behind Weinstein’s campaign of shame, it’s all about demonizing people who have sex in ways of which Weinstein disapproves.

And I don’t think the prophet reference is casual. I think that is how he sees himself, as a great moral leader casting down as whores and riffraff those who oppose him and declaring the one and only true and holy way to have sex.

Petulant Tennessee judge reprimanded

Timothy Kincaid

January 6th, 2016

AthertonLast year Mr. and Mrs. Bumgardner decided that they just weren’t all into the marriage thing anymore and decided to call it quits. Unfortunately for them, their divorce was assigned to Judge Jeffrey Atherton of Chattanooga.

Judge Atherton was really quite upset that the US Supreme Court had ruled that gay people have all the same rights as other people and threw a little fit. If gay people could get married then, well, he’s show them. He’d write a petulant and whiny little ruling taking it out on the Bumgardners.

Although this Court has some vague familiarity with the governmental theories of democracy, republicanism, socialism, fascism, theocracy, and even despotism, implantation of this apparently new “super-federal-judicial” form of benign and benevolent government, termed “kryptocracy” by some and “judi-idiocracy” by others, with its iron fist and limp wrist, represents quite a challenge for a state level trial court. In any event, it should be noted that the victory of personal rights and liberty over the intrusion of state government provided by the majority opinion in Obergefell is held by this Court to have divested subject matter jurisdiction from this Court when a divorce is contested. Individuals, at least according to the majority opinion, are apparently authorized (along with the federal judiciary) to define when a marriage begins and, accordingly, ends, (without the pesky intervention/intrusion of a state court) leaving irreconcilable divorces under Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-4-101 (11), Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-4-103, and perhaps even Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-4-129 to some degree (but only when the grounds and/or irreconcilable differences are stipulated), intact and within the jurisdiction of this Court to address.

Nah nah nah nah nah! Go ask the limp-wristed Supreme Court to divorce you!

Yeah… no.

Judge Atherton (you homophobic bigot), you can consider yourself publicly reprimanded.

Alabama’s Roy Moore blusters some more

Timothy Kincaid

January 6th, 2016

bama2015 was Alabama’s year in the spotlight.

On January 23, Judge Callie Granade found that Alabama’s anti-gay marriage ban violated the Equal Protections and Due Process provisions of the US Constitution. A few weeks later the Eleventh Circuit – and the US Supreme Court – denied stay on the ruling and marriages began.

On February 8, Alabama State Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore issued a pronouncement instructing the state’s probate judges to ignore the Federal Court ruling, the Eleventh Circuit’s response, and the refusal of stay by the Supreme Court of the United States and to instead deny marriage certificates to same-sex couples. He threatened to sic the governor on any who didn’t comply.

On February 10, Alabama Governor Robert Bentley (R) said he wasn’t playing that game. “I don’t want Alabama to be seen as it was 50 years ago when a federal law was defied. I’m not going to do that. I’m trying to move this state forward.”

Mobile County Probate Judge Don Davis felt that he was stuck between two ruling and didn’t want to defy either court. He requeste that the state Supreme Court “clarify” Moore’s pronouncement. They declined. Upon suit by Mobile county residents, Judge Granade ordered Davis to issue licenses.

Over the next month, probate judges in all but about a dozen counties began issuing licenses.

But on March 4, the Alabama State Supreme Court announced that the US Constitution’s Equal Protections and Due Process provisions do not provide equal protections for them sinning homosexuals.

As it has done for approximately two centuries, Alabama law allows for “marriage” only between one man and one woman. Alabama probate judges have a ministerial duty not to issue any marriage license contrary to this law. Nothing in the United States Constitution alters or overrides this duty.

The one exception was for Judge Davis, who had been specifically ordered by Grenade to issue licenses to four couples. They conceded that he could do that. Or, at least, he could tell them why they should let him do so.

Davis responded by requesting that be be exempt from the state ruling, but the Bama court wasn’t having it. They insisted he issue no more same-sex marriage licenses. Davis then turned to Judge Granade and requested that now that he had issued those licenses as ordered, he be allowed to deny future requests. Grenade also said no, he must comply with the US Constitution.

So, having been told that he cannot discriminate and that he must discriminate, Davis shut down the marriage license office in Mobile County to everyone.

Seeing that the state Supreme Court and several county judges were pretending to misunderstand Granade’s ruling and acting as though it only applied to four couples, marriage supporters appealed to make the case class action. On May 21, Granade agreed and applied her ruling to all 68 probate judges in the state. However, she stayed her ruling until the Supreme Court could rule on marriage equality (the case was already on their calendar).

On June 3, the state House voted to eliminate state marriage licenses altogether. But the next day the state Senate voted down that proposal.

On June 26, the US Supreme Court ruled in Obergefell v. Hodges that the fundamental right to marry is guaranteed to same-sex couples by both the Due Process Clause and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. On July 1, Granade clarified that her ruling now applied to all probate judges in Alabama (“by the language set forth in the order, the preliminary injunction is now in effect and binding on all members of the Defendant Class.”)

And same-sex marriages resumed in Alabama.

In September, the House again sought to eliminate marriage licenses, but again the Senate did not play along. So everything was assumed to be settled. Until today. (AL.com)

Chief Justice Roy Moore issued an order today saying that a ruling issued last March by the Alabama Supreme Court remains in effect and that probate judges “have a ministerial duty not to issue any marriage license contrary” to Alabama’s law and constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.

In a four-page administrative order, Moore said the conflict between the state court ruling and the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in June has caused “confusion and uncertainty” among probate judges.

No. Most people know full well that federal rulings trump Moore’s opinions. There’s no confusion and no uncertainty.

But Moore is trying the same thing he did with Granade, claiming that the Supreme Court ruling applies only to the four states in that specific suit. Even though even the lowliest of junior clerks in Joe’s Law Shack and Auto Body Repair know that if SCOTUS doesn’t offer certiorari to a case, and if their ruling on related cases confirm the judge’s ruling, then that ruling stands.

Most counties will likely ignore Moore. But Judge Davis appears to have given up. (Buzzfeed)

Nonetheless, Moore’s move has stopped marriage licenses in at least one county. Mobile County Probate Judge Don Davis — who had been caught between the conflicting state and federal court orders last year — stopped issuing marriage licenses altogether on Wednesday afternoon.

“Well, we have closed,” Russell Davidson, a supervisor of the court’s division that handles marriage licenses, told BuzzFeed News. “At this time, we are not issuing any licenses until further notice.”

I suspect that won’t take long.

Greek parliament votes for civil unions

Timothy Kincaid

December 24th, 2015

europeABC.net.au

Greece’s parliament has approved a bill granting same-sex couples the right to a civil union, becoming one of the last European countries to give them legal recognition after years of opposition from the influential Orthodox church.

The bill does not include adoption rights and may have other deficiencies.

FDA changes blood donation ban

Timothy Kincaid

December 22nd, 2015

givebloodSince 1983 the Food and Drug Administration has forbidden any man who had ever had sex with another man – even once – since 1977 from donating blood, out of fear of transmitting the Human Immunodeficiency Virus. And while that made sense in 1983, for many years that has been a policy based on fear and stereotype instead of science.

All blood donated is tested for bloodborne pathogens, including HIV. And current tests allow detection of an HIV infection as recently as nine days after exposure.

Considering that men who have sex with men continue to account for over half of all new HIV infections, it does not seem unreasonable for there to be some waiting period after a sexual encounter for a gay man to donate blood in many instances, just to be certain that he hasn’t been infected too recently to have tests identify the virus.

But forty-seven years is an excessive amount of time to wait.

Several other nations – including the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Finland, and Japan – have all revised their restrictions to a much smaller abstinence window, most selecting one year. Now the United States has followed suit. (Washington Post)

The Food and Drug Administration on Monday lifted a decades-old, lifetime ban on blood donation for men who have had sex with other men, replacing it with a 12-month “deferral” period that prohibits such donors from giving blood for a year after their last same-sex contact.

The agency said its updated policy reflects “the most current scientific evidence” and mirrors the approach taken in other countries, such as Australia and the United Kingdom. “We have taken great care to ensure this policy revision is backed by sound science and continues to protect our blood supply,” FDA Acting Commissioner Stephen Ostroff said in a statement.

I don’t agree that this reflects “the most current scientific evidence”. It seems to me that a much shorter window – maybe a few weeks or a month – could be utilized with the same level of protection. It also seems to me that a person on PrEP would present no risk to the blood supply irrespective of their most recent sexual experience. As would those in monogamous relationships in which neither party is HIV+.

But this is a step in the right direction. And the FDA has said that it is a “first step” and is likely to evolve. Let’s hope the next step reflects individual risk assessment. Let’s also hope that it comes a bit sooner than 23 years.

AHF’s Michael Weinstein mocks the CDC about PrEP

Timothy Kincaid

December 22nd, 2015

michaelIn 1987 there was little to no hospice care available for dying AIDS patients. Several activists united and petitioned LA County Board of Supervisors for funding and the AIDS Hospice Foundation was born with Michael Weinstein at its helm.

In 1995 – 1996, antiretroviral medication changed the face of HIV. Those infected with the virus no longer could expect an onset of opportunistic maladies followed by an early painful death. Now HIV, if properly treated, has no significant impact on quality of living or life expectancy. And the need for specialized AIDS hospice care diminished significantly.

So Weinstein rebranded the organization as AIDS Healthcare Foundation, and began offering medical services to those infected with HIV. Over time, AHF has grown tremendously, with revenues in the hundreds of millions of dollars (much of it through either grants or Medicare) and programs dotting the globe. Also growing has been Weinstein’s political power (and compensation – about $400,000 in 2012).

Michael Weinstein has not been hesitant to use his connections and power, using public media attacks and lawsuits as his primary methods. In 2012, they spent over a million dollars on legal fees.

Many of Weinstein’s efforts have been controversial, and most come across as heavily moralistic. Taken cumulatively, they paint a picture of a man and an organization determined to stop others from having sex in ways in which he disapproves.

In 2007, Weinstein decided that Viagra was being used by people who were doing drugs. Disapproving, AHF held a press conference accusing Pfizer, the maker of Viagra, of contributing to HIV and announced a lawsuit against them over their marketing and demanding that they contributed to AHF. (Bay Area Reporter)

The Los Angeles-based AIDS Healthcare Foundation has charged the pharmaceutical company Pfizer with “promoting Viagra as a party drug … leading to more infections with sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV,” according to its president Michael Weinstein.

AHF filed suit in a Los Angeles court Monday, January 22 to force the company to end those ads, begin an education campaign on the responsible use of Viagra, and pay an unspecified sum to the organization to help care for people infected with HIV.

Weinstein had no facts to back up his assertions.

When pressed during a telephone conference call Monday to back up his assertion with data, Weinstein mentioned recently speaking with a group of black youth who said crystal meth “use is rampant” within their community.

I can’t find the results of that lawsuit, so it may have been nothing more than a bluff or an attempt at extortion.

Also in 2007, AHF began running ads in Indian newspapers accusing Cipla, an Indian company, of price-gouging. They did not get the support of local non-profit organizations who saw a conflict of interest. At the time, a leading Gilead exec was on AHF’s Board and they provided funding to Weinstein’s organization. (Gilead denied any connection with Weinstein’s effort.) (IndiaTimes)

Cipla had refused Gilead’s offer to sell the latter’s anti-AIDS drug Viread under a licensing agreement. Cipla is also the only Indian company opposing Gilead’s patent application for its blockbuster anti-HIV drug Viread in India.

In recent years, Weinstein has decided that he disapproves of people watching bareback porn and waged a war of accusation and innuendo against producers. Even though there is testing and prevention efforts in porn – both gay and straight – Weinstein and AHF seemed determined to stop its production altogether and in all circumstances.

In 2012 AHF spearheaded an initiative on the ballot in Los Angeles County which required porn actors, gay or straight, to wear condoms during anal or vaginal sex. Weinstein was not shy about his desire to monitor other’s desire. (Weinstein op-ed)

The fact that most straight porn is made without condoms sends a horrible message that the only kind of sex that is hot is unsafe.

Though opposed by the Libertarian Party, the Republican Party, and local newspapers, Measure B passed the vote with 60% of the vote. And, as could be expected, the $6 billion industry – and its economic benefits – moved out of Los Angeles County with sadly ironic consequences. (SF Weekly)

Last year, after Measure B pushed several companies to Nevada, the industry saw its first on-set transmission in over a decade. Though the performer tested negative for HIV before his shoot, the test used was not the RNA plasma test that is the standard here in California. By the time he shot the scene, his viral load had increased to the point where he could transmit the virus to someone else.

Undeterred by real life consequences, Weinstein presses on seeking a statewide initiative forcing his ideas about acceptable porn production throughout California. There may be an initiative on the 2016 ballot to mandate Weinstein’s views.

In 2012, as the result of a county audit finding that AHF had overcharged LA County by millions of dollars, Weinstein sued the County in an effort to punish Supervisor Yaraslovsky, with whom Weinstein had feuded. (LA Times)

The lawsuit arose out of an audit by the county, which claimed the foundation had overcharged $1.7 million for its AIDS services by billing for costs that should have been allocated to other sources. The judge did not rule on which side was correct, only saying that the county has the right to audit its contractors.

Weinstein, defending his political tactics, told the paper that regardless of who was billed for the costs, the money was spent serving patients: “We would not have gotten to where we are today if we hadn’t fought like hell on behalf of our clients and our mission.”

A U.S. District judge ruled for the county this week. “Rather than a sincere attempt to vindicate their First Amendment rights,” the paper quotes the judge saying, “the court fears that plaintiffs instituted this action in an effort to obtain a tactical advantage in their ongoing political battles.”

To illustrate his conclusion, he included an excerpt from an email Weinstein sent to a foundation staff member shortly before the suit was filed:

“It is time to take the gloves off,” Weinstein wrote, according to the written decision reported in the Times, “We need to go after Zev [Yaroslavsky] directly and hard. He is the real power behind our problems with the county on porn, the audit and fee-for-service. Plus he is a lame duck and an arrogant jerk. His Berman-Waxman power base is dead and he and others need to be taught a lesson. The voters are with us.”

But it isn’t just the big-dollar fights and power plays that have caused controversy. So too have many of AHF’s public pleas for the public to get tested.

In Los Angeles, one can’t get away from AHF’s billboards. And they seem to share a common theme: sex is dirty and bad and people who want to have sex with you are liars who want to give you diseases.

One such campaign featured a number of couples of various races and sexes with the tag line “Trust Him?”

TrustHim_GayWhite_1130x400

Though nothing in the ads tells you why one would not trust the other, but Weinstein apparently assumes that sex must include some sleazy component and had this to say about the immensely unpopular billboards. (Poz)

“While infidelity is nothing new, the level of risk in contracting STDS from bed-hopping partners is at an all-time high. We want to remind couples that STDs linger around much longer than a wandering eye and that secret sexual experiences can often produce much more than what one bargained for.”

This message has many HIV/AIDS activists disgusted at Weinstein and his organization. (HIVPlusMag)

This stigmatic view of sex and trust is both reductive in personal responsibility and stigmatizing towards HIV-positive people. It suggests that people living with the disease are akin to criminals who lie in order to have sex, or even intentionally spread the virus. Sure, the people behind the AHF campaign may argue differently. However, it is hard to ignore the criminal theme of the advertisements that, by default, further marginalize people living with HIV and keeps fear in the forefront of safer sex messaging. As one Facebook user stated, “This does not say ‘fear HIV.’ It says, ‘fear people living with HIV.'”

In addition to all the ways that Weinstein doesn’t want people to have sex, he also has opinions about how they meet. Earlier this year, another of AHF’s billboard campaigns went on the direct attack against hook-up sites.

ahf tinder

As usual, when Tinder objected, Weinstein bulldozed over them and hinted that it all could be fixed by coughing up. (Guardian)

“They’re tone deaf,” Michael Weinstein, president of AHF, told the Guardian. “It would have been much wiser for them to say that they’re concerned about their customers and look forward to working with us to help people get the checkups that they need. This would not have been the global story that it has become if they had not responded that way.”

And lest you think these ads come across as sex-negative,

“There are consequences to hooking up,” Weinstein told the Guardian. “That’s not a moralistic judgement. It’s just a fact and minimizing that is important.”

But nothing has set Weinstein and AHF apart from the HIV/AIDS community more than Weinstein’s obstinate opposition to pre-exposure prophylaxis. The battle between anti-PrEP forces (Weinstein and AHF) and pro-PrEP forces (The Centers for Disease Control, the World Health Organization, AIDS Project Los Angeles, amFAR, Gay Men’s Health Crisis, the National Minority AIDS Counsel, and virtually every gay and AIDS/HIV advocate that seeks to see an end to the transmission of the Human Immunodeficiency Virus) has turned into all out war.

The opening salvo was fired by Weinstein on April 7, 2014 (AP)

“If something comes along that’s better than condoms, I’m all for it, but Truvada is not that,” said Michael Weinstein, president of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation. “Let’s be honest: It’s a party drug.”

Obviously, Truvada is not a party drug. It is not a euphoric, a hallucinogen, a mood enhancer, nor does it have the hallmark of any other pharmaceutical whose primary purpose is to feel good. What Weinstein meant here is what he meant when he accused Viagra of being a party drug: that it was used by people doing drugs and having bad bad sex. That it prevented these naughty naughty gay boys from infecting each other with HIV was secondary to his objection to their behavior.

In August 2014, Weinstein started running ads in gay newspapers which, at first glace, appeared to say that PrEP was not very effective at preventing transmission.

AHF prep facts

Those who read the text would learn that any effectiveness was low due to low adherence – not exactly a surprise for research in high-risk and third world populations. But even if you get beyond the graph, Weinstein extrapolated from that data a conclusion set that is not supported in science: Low adherence means low effectiveness in preventing HIV and effectiveness measures whether Truvada works in the real world.

In other words, Truvada doesn’t work.

This infuriated those who have been taking strides to eliminate HIV transmission in the real world. They particularly noted the dishonesty of Weinstein who never notes that for those who DID adhere to the drug protocol effectiveness was 99% or better.

But Weinstein seems uninterested in facts. He has positions. And a sizable salary based on continued services to those who become newly infected each year.

In fact, there have been raised questions about the ethics of AFH’s testing facilities and how they feed a stream of income into the organization. In April of this year, three former staffers filed a whistleblower lawsuit against AHF:

The plaintiffs accuse AHF of an “organizational-wide criminal effort” across at least 12 States in the form of kick-backs to AHF clients and staffers. They believe that AHF has defrauded governmental programs out of tens of millions of dollars, based on their own experience with the agency going back to at least 2010.

The three plaintiffs, all former managers at AHF who were in a position to be familiar with agency policy, also include Mauricio Ferrer of Florida and Shawn Loftis of New York.

When someone tested positive in an AHF clinic, the suit claims, they were offered cash or other inducements to be linked to care in AHF clinics. Furthermore, AHF staff were provided commissions when they successfully linked someone with a positive test result to AHF services. This procedure was developed first in Los Angeles and then spread across all States where AHF has a presence.

Of additional concern is whether AHF’s (grant funded) testing centers inform those who test HIV negative that they have an options to persue PrEP. Although some communities, like West Hollywood, require all testing facilities to give PrEP referral information, many do not.

And Weinstein has made it clear that he is the face and voice of opposition to PrEP. While some, like Larry Kramer, initially had concerns, they’ve come to see the potential of the drug. Kramer joined Peter Staley and others earlier this month in releasing a statement that reads in part:

We – AIDS activists, new and old, aged 24 to 80 – have just broken bread in the same apartment where GMHC was formed, coming together for a lively discussion on how to reduce HIV infections among gay men and trans women. Although we may not see eye-to-eye on every issue we debated tonight, we all agree that Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) is highly effective at protecting a person from HIV infection. While PrEP isn’t for everyone, any individual who thinks they are at risk of getting HIV should have easy access to it, without judgement.

Weinstein appears to be the sole hold-out. But he is always ready to speak to any news source which is looking for “controversy” on the issue.

At the heart of Weinstein’s objections is the assertion that people at greatest risk won’t take the drug consistently. Which may be true. But it’s very implausible to assume that those who don’t have enough structure in their lives to take a pill once a day do have enough structure to have condoms ready and use them every time. Of the two, a daily pill requires far less forethought. Weinstein’s argument is laughable.

Also conveniently ignored is the consequences of occasional lapses. Failing to use a condom just one time can result in HIV transmission. But failing to take the pill just one time, or two times, or three times a week still provides enough protection to prevent transmission. In testing, those whose blood revealed adherence to the protocol four times per week have nearly 100% effectivity.

And, unlike condoms, PrEP doesn’t break.

As a corollary argument Weinstein insists that those who use PrEP won’t use condoms, which will lead to an increase in other STIs. And that too might be true. But it raises the natural question: if we find a true vaccine or a cure for HIV, will Weinstein oppose that measure as well because it would mean less condom usage? Will he insist that some continued HIV infection is a small price to pay for preventing increased gonorrhea?

That may be less rhetorical of a question than one might imagine. Weinstein has actually penned an op-ed to the LA Times calling on the federal government to cease funding for the search for a vaccine for HIV. Framed as a complaint against the wasting of funds that could otherwise be used (by AHF, I presume) to pay for treatment, it still is a chilling idea that the head of a prominent HIV/AIDS care organization opposes the search for a vaccine which could end the pandemic.

Although the opinions of both the activist and the science community have reached near consensus about the efficacy and value of PrEP as a tool in the fight against the transmission of HIV, Weinstein has been effective in his opposition. He has sown doubt in the gay community as to whether PrEP works. He has done his best to shame those who use this “party drug”. At least in part, he has contributed to the slow uptake in PrEP usage in the gay community.

And, having slowed the PrEP movement, now he’s decided that it’s time to mock the Centers for Disease Control for their struggle in convincing gay men that this preventative measure is neither shameful not ineffective.

AHF PrEP

You see, you shouldn’t push PrEP, but treatment. After all, if you pay AHF to treat people once they’ve contracted HIV, then their virus is brought down to undetectable levels and they are non-infectious. And as for PrEP, leave it to the Truvada whores who have multiple partners and never use condoms.

But the word is – finally – getting out. I see PrEP becoming a regular discussion point in some subsets of West Hollywood. Activists in New York are becoming more vocal. San Francisco City government is dedicating city resources. Social approval is on the uptick and the community – though originally fearful of another “solution” – has had time to observe and see how things went for the earliest guinea pigs.

Weinstein should get his gloating out of his system. Because I think that PrEP is going to become as common as condoms were in the 90’s and AHF is going to have to come up with some other business plan.

Appeals court upholds conviction in Miller-Jenkins case

Timothy Kincaid

December 21st, 2015

Kenneth Miller

Isabella Miller-Jenkins is fifteen and she hasn’t seen her mother, Janet Jenkins, in at least five years.

In 2010, Lisa Miller (Isabella’s other mother) took her and fled to Nicaragua so as to avoid compliance with court orders to first allow visitation and – when she defied the court – to turn primary custody over to Janet Jenkins. Miller and Jenkins had been in a civil union when the child was conceived and both had parental rights. When the relationship soured, Miller claimed a conversion to conservative Christianity and used her newfound religious ideologies to gain allies in her custody battle.

The parental kidnapping was planned and assisted by her attorneys, Liberty Counsel’s Mat Staver and Rena Lindevaldsen along with a network of other supporters. Among them was Kenneth Miller (no relation), a Mennonite minister who provided plane tickets and facilitated people to assist Miller in her abduction.

In 2012, Kenneth Miller was found guilty of aiding in the kidnapping and sentenced to 27 months in jail. Rev. Miller appealed the decision arguing that the Virginia courts did not have jurisdiction as his criminal act did not occur in that state (the Virginia courts had jurisdiction over the parental rights, the abduction took place in Tennessee, Kenneth Miller performed his role in Virginia, and Lisa fled with Isabella first to Canada and then to Nicaragua).

Now the appeals court has responded. (Reuters)

On appeal, Miller argued that Vermont, where the custody battle between the women took place, was an improper venue, as he personally was not alleged to have committed any criminal act there.

But U.S. Circuit Judge Susan Carney, writing for a three-judge panel, said it was Lisa Miller’s removal of her child from the United States that allowed that allowed for the jurisdiction.

“It was not, for example, simply violating a state court custody order and crossing a state line: Its international nature endowed it with a different character and consequences,” Carney wrote.

To date, Mat Staver and Rena Lindevaldsen have not been held accountable for their role in the abduction.

Gay basher found guilty

Timothy Kincaid

December 18th, 2015

knott Does this look like the face of an innocent woman? It’s not, it’s Kathryn Knott.

Kathryn was out drinking with 14 of her good friends from her Catholic high school last September in downtown Philadelphia when the group ran into a gay couple. So they decided that they’d beat them while screaming homophobic slurs. One of the couple was knocked unconscious and left with broken cheekbones and a fractured upper jaw that needed to be wired shut for eight weeks.

Perhaps they forgot that anything that is done on a street in a major city is likely to show up on a surveillance camera. So they just went on to the next bar and thought nothing of it. Until their faces were flashed across the screens of everyone watching the news.

The prosecutors isolated three of the participants to charge with assault and conspiracy. Two of them, Philip Williams and Kevin Harrigan, plead guilty to assault and conspiracy. They got off pretty easy. (Philly.com)

Philip Williams, 24, of Warminster, and Kevin Harrigan, 26, of Warrington, were both sentenced to probation, community service at a LGBTQ center yesterday before Common Pleas Court. Both men will also voluntarily stay out of Center City as part of their probation deal, though an attorney for one admitted it would be difficult to enforce.

But the third assailant decided that punishment – even light punishment – was for fools and suckers. After all, she’s a pretty blonde girl whose daddy is a chief of police in one of the nearby suburbs.

So Kathryn Knott decided to fight her arrest in court.

And so for the past several days, a jury has heard character witness say that she’s lovely and non-violent. Others in the party all claimed that they didn’t see her throw a punch. And she swore, up and down, that she only tried to stop the fight. And never ever ever did she hurl homophobic slurs. No, not her.

But they also heard the victims tell that she did, indeed, throw punches and scream slurs. And several witnesses did as well.

Then there was Knott’s social media history which suggested that she held animus towards gay people.

And, after three days of deliberation, the jury just didn’t find her believable. (Philly Voice)

After a series of contentious, “heated” deliberations, a Philadelphia jury returned a mixed verdict Friday in the assault trial of Kathryn Knott, finding the Bucks County woman guilty of simple assault and conspiracy to commit simple assault against Zachary Hesse, one of two victims beaten as they walked to get pizza in Center City on Sept. 11, 2014.

Knott also was found guilty of reckless endangerment against both Hesse and his boyfriend, Andrew Haught, but acquitted of aggravated assault, a felony and the most serious charge against her.

Several on the jury were fighting for a guilty charge on all counts. And though they disagreed as to the extent of her culpability, jurors found Knott’s demeanor, obvious lies, and lack of remorse to be disgusting.

Kathryn Knott will receive her sentencing on February 8. Having put the victims through the trauma of reliving the event and having taken jurors away from their lives and insulted them with lies, I sincerely hope that Knott’s sentence is significantly more severe than that of her fellow assailants who admitted their crimes and expressed remorse for their actions.

Ultra-Orthodox declaration on homosexuality disappears

Timothy Kincaid

December 18th, 2015

Jewish newspaper Haaretz has noted that an ultra-orthodox statement on homosexuality has disappeared

The Torah Declaration, the paper that outlines the ultra-Orthodox position on homosexuality, is no longer accessible online, signaling that at least some of its backers in the community may be distancing themselves from the document’s uncompromising stance on LGBT identity.

Haaretz notes the strong connection between the statement and Arthur Goldberg, founder of JOHAH, and speculates that the removal of the document may reflect a growing distrust in ex-gay efforts following a fraud lawsuit against JONAH.

JONAH ordered out of existence

Timothy Kincaid

December 18th, 2015

jonah logoIn 2000, Arthur Goldberg (a felon convicted of fraudulent financial dealings) founded Jews Offering New Alternatives to Homosexuality (JONAH, now renamed Jews offering New Alternatives to Healing). As most other ex-gay organizations had a strong evangelical Christian emphasis, JONAH provided a place for same-sex attracted Jews to rediscover their heterosexuality in a space that was respectful of their religious and cultural heritage.

But, as was the case with the Christian ex-gay groups, they failed. It turns out that Jews are no more likely to be counseled into changing their sexual orientation than are evangelical Christian.

In 2013 a number of former clients of JONAH filed a lawsuit against JONAH, Arthur Goldberg, and counselor Alan Downing claiming that they had fraudulently offered services and made promises that they could not fulfill (in addition to some really creepy “therapy” techniques). After significant testimony and consideration, on June 25, 2015 the jury unanimously determined that consumer fraud had been committed and that JOHAH was liable for $72,400.

Today Judge Peter Bariso of the Superior Court of New Jersey has entered his order. It could not be worse for JONAH, Goldberg, and Downing:

1. JONAH, Inc. shall permanently cease any and all operations within thirty (30) days of the entry of this Order, including its educational functions, its provision of referrals and/or direct services, and operation of its websites and listservs, which it shall cause to be taken offline, provided however that it shall be permitted to maintain use of “@jonahweb.org” email addresses, only for those purposes not prohibited by this Order, for one hundred eighty (180) days from the entry of this Order;

2. JONAH, Inc. shall permanently dissolve as a corporate entity and liquidate all its assets, tangible or intangible, within one hundred eighty (180) days of the entry of this Order;

3. As of the date of this Order, pursuant to the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act, N.J.S.A. §§ 56:8-1, et seq., Defendants are permanently enjoined from engaging, whether directly or through referrals, in any therapy, counseling, treatment or activity that has the goal of changing, affecting or influencing sexual orientation, “same sex attraction” or “gender wholeness,” or any other equivalent term, whether referred to as “conversion therapy,” “reparative therapy,” “gender affirming processes” or any other equivalent term (“Conversion Therapy”), or advertising, or promoting Conversion Therapy or Conversion Therapy-related commerce in or directed at New Jersey or New Jersey residents (whether in person or remotely, individually or in groups, including via telephone, Skype, email, online services or any delivery medium that may be introduced in the future, and including the provision of referrals to providers, advertisers, promoters, or advocates of the same), provided however that Alan Downing shall have thirty (30) days from the date of the entry of this Order to cease the provision of Conversion Therapy to his current clients;

4. Plaintiffs’ counsel is awarded attorneys’ fees and expenses in the amount of three million five hundred thousand U.S. dollars ($3,500,000) to be paid by Defendants (the “Fee Award”) within such time as mutually agreed upon by the Parties. Plaintiffs shall submit to this Court a notice of satisfaction upon Defendants’ payment of the Fee Award.

[emphasis added]

So one more ex-gay group is gone.

Guernsey moves toward equality

Timothy Kincaid

December 10th, 2015

The Bailiwick of Guernsey is a possession of the British Crown in the English Channel. Though it relies on the United Kingdom for defense, the collection of islands with a population of about 65,000 is politically autonomous and has its own legislature.

Guernsey’s legislature has now voted to introduce a bill to recognize same-sex marriages (BBC)

The move to introduce same-sex marriage was approved 37-7.

It is not clear when the legislation, which will be voted on separately, will come back to the States or when the law will come into effect.

A Policy Council spokesman said it depends on the “priority given to the legislation” and time needed to draft it. He said at the earliest this “would not be before 2017”.

They rejected, with similar margins, bills which would provide for civil unions or other secondary recognition.

Of the other two Crown possessions, Jersey adopted marriage equality earlier this year and the Isle of Man passed a civil partnership bill in 2011 and is in the public consultation process of changing to marriage.

South Africa approves PrEP

Timothy Kincaid

December 9th, 2015

South Africa has joined the United States and France in approving the use of Truvada as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) in the prevention of the transmission of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). (The Citizen)

Medicines Control Council (MCC) held their 75th meeting from November 27-28, where Truvada, the HIV prevention drug, was approved.

MCC approved the use of the fixed-dose combination of tenofovir disoproxyl fumarate and emtricitabine to include pre-exposure prophylaxis of HIV (commonly referred to as PrEP).

As South Africa’s public healthcare system is woefully understaffed and underfunded, it is not clear how well this step will be implemented in that nation’s most vulnerable population. However the wealthiest 20% of South Africans use private healthcare so there is some hope that the availability of PrEP could reach at least that portion of the population.

PrEP, at last

Timothy Kincaid

December 9th, 2015

IMG_4155The last step in my quest for pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) is complete. My liver is functioning fine and I received clearance to begin the process. I’ve taken my first pill and in about seven days I’ll be effectively immune from the virus.

In a few weeks I’ll return to the doctor for tests to determine whether my body is acclimating to the medication or if side effects have occurred. And, going forward, I’ll require testing every three months.

But finally! Hallelujah!

No, trans is not a box with defining characteristics

Timothy Kincaid

December 8th, 2015

My friend, the beautiful and talented Arisce Wanzer, discusses the assumptions that are far too often made about trans women. Give it a read. Here’s the entro:

Being transgender means facing no shortage of struggles, whether they be internal, interpersonal, or societal. These pressures run the gamut from feeling passable, finding love, and securing housing to being hired for dependable, well-paying jobs or receiving proper healthcare. They weigh differently on each trans person individually—no one problem affects all trans people in exactly the same way.

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