Yesterday, people with HIV/AIDS were barred from entering the United States. Yesterday, people with HIV/AIDS had to apply for waivers to visit friends and family members before coming home. Yesterday, people with HIV/AIDS were subjected to prejudicial treatment based on outdated views and disproven fears.
Later today, a plane from The Netherlands will arrive at JFK Airport in New York and two passengers onboard will, for the first time in more than two decades, be able to step safely onto U.S. soil. The arrival of Clemens Ruland and Hugo Bausch will also signal the end of a shameful and discriminatory policy that has exacted a heavy price on our country’s reputation in the scientific community and kept countless individuals – both straight and gay – separated from their loved ones.
Beginning today, the United States’ decades-old HIV Travel and Immigration Ban will be a relic of the past, and the stigma and discrimination it has engendered around the world will, with any luck, begin to fade, too.
The ban, which was put into place due, in large part, to the efforts of former Senator Jesse Helms of North Carolina, whose action resulted in an unconscionable policy of separation for families, spouses and children who were literally torn apart because of the law. It was, as President Obama remarked when announcing its demise, “a decision rooted in fear, rather than fact.”
Good riddance to a horrible reminder of America’s bigotry.
Today is World AIDS Day, and anything I say would be woefully inadequate. Instead of trying to come up with something meaningful to say, I’m going to use others who are unfortunately more experienced with this blight.
First is Joe Jervis of Joe.My.God. I usually post a little snippet to go with, but I’m making an exception today. Go to Joe.My.God to read Membership, a masterful piece that he republishes every World AIDS Day.
AIDS has cut a wide swath through the LGBT community. I look at people like Joe who came up in the 1980s and realize how much they’ve been through. It’s more than anyone should be expected to handle, let alone at such a young age. And it was made infinitely worse by so-called religious people either thanking God for the disease or just ignoring it. The biggest surprise isn’t that so few LGBT people identify as religious; it’s that any of us do.
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On July 17, 2009, the New York State Senate voted on a bill that would have capped “shelter costs” (rent, utilities) at 30% of monthly income for people living with HIV/AIDS who are receiving public assistance.
State Senator Tom Duane, who sponsored the bill, gave an impassioned 22-minute middle-of-the-night speech during the NY Senate’s marathon session. It’s uncomfortable at times, but you know what? So is watching your friends die around you while no one gives half a damn.
While the bill passed in the NY Senate, it appears unlikely that the NY Assembly will vote on it before the end of the session.
* * *
Finally, I saw this video last summer and have been hanging onto it for today. It’s the closing song for last year’s Gay Men’s Chorus Los Angeles concert. The song is “He Ain’t Heavy.” As you watch, think of this: If you counted them up, how many friends, lovers, and family members have the men in this choir lost? How many did they lose before their 30th birthdays?
Today, HIV/AIDS is an equal opportunity disease, though much more treatable and much less a death sentence than it was in the beginning. Throughout most of the world, it is a primarily heterosexual disease, passed from mother to child. China has been hit hard by unsanitary blood plasma-buying schemes. Here in the United States, the disease still affects gay men more than any other group.
If you don’t know your HIV status, get tested. For the love of God, get tested. Today.
Regardless of your status or your orientation, use a condom. We want to have you around for a long time.
Testifying is Dr. Ruth Jacobs, who gets some schooling from Councilmember David Catania. (Pay attention to Dr. Jacobs’ vocal emphasis at the 00:58 mark.)
A few points:
Holy gosh, she’s a terrible reader.
I almost admire the intellectual gymnastics Dr. Jacobs applies here: Anal sex is too dangerous but she doesn’t want it discussed in sex education classes, but she doesn’t want kids to have to leave sex ed because they’ll be discriminated against or something, so none of the other students can learn about safer anal sex because anal sex is too dangerous. I’m going to have to flow chart that one.
Almost as important as the pretzel logic of Dr. Jacobs is the stellar performance by Councilmember Catania in the last few minutes of the video. Honestly, his logic is not hard to follow; why don’t straight allies speak with the same passion when confronted by the Ruth Jacobses of the world?
I did a quick search for Dr. Jacobs and you’ll never guess what I found. She isn’t just some random concerned citizen, she’s been our opponent for years! Dr. Ruth Jacobs is President of Citizens for a Responsible Government (CRG) possibly best known for opposing transgender discrimination protection in Montgomery County, Maryland (That URL is downright CLASSY!). According to the 2008 Maryland Court of Appeals judgment against the Board of Elections, Dr. Jacobs and CRG submitted fraudulent signatures calling for a referendum against the law.
So basically, Dr. Jacobs has been recycling the same nonsensical testimony for upwards of five years between fraudulent petitions. She fits right in with her compatriots, doesn’t she? All she needs now is a radio show!
As a Christian, I agree with the biblical condemnation of the homosexual lifestyle. However, we are living in a nation and world that increasingly rejects biblical norms. To defend traditional sexual morality against the encroaching threat of homosexuality and other aberrant forms of sexual expression, we need to be able to do more than cite Bible verses. Fortunately, there are plenty of economic reasons for being against sodomite degeneracy and I think as conservatives we need to be able to articulate why our nation cannot afford the extremely high financial costs of this lifestyle at a time when we are confronting dangerously high budget deficits, national debt, and personal debt.
Let’s start with AIDS. U.S. Government expenditures on this disease have risen from $200,000 in Fiscal Year 1980-1981 to $23.3 billion for Fiscal Year 2008. These figures have increased steadily over nearly three decades and probably exceed $100 billion. When you factor in what countries all over the world have spent on seeking to diminish this disease, without recognizing the morally aberrant sexual behavior causing its spread, we are probably looking at expenditures of over $1 trillion dollars. Think of how much constructively (sic) such money could have been spent on public health issues such as improved sanitation, immunizations, and other more worthwhile programs instead of promoting immoral and self-destructive behavior through needle exchanges and widespread condom distribution. The money wasted on AIDS research could be returned to taxpayers or transferred to more worthwhile areas of public health research such as cancer, heart disease, and combating pandemic conditions like H1N1 flu. Our ongoing U.S. political debate over health care reform also needs to factor in the economic costs of homosexual and other sexually deviant behaviors on our health care system in terms of pharmaceutical drugs, tainted blood supplies, and requiring doctors and nurses to treat sexually transmitted diseases which would not occur if people practiced chastity outside of heterosexual marriage and monogamy within such marriage.
Anyone who studies prison conditions knows that AIDS is a reality in many correctional facilities due to the occurrence of rape. I’m not sure if the Justice Dept’s Bureau of Justice Statistics keeps track of prison rape statistics or other instances of same sex sexual assault, but that also has economic implications not to mention the psychological trauma experienced by all rape victims.
The sad practice of so many companies and universities adopting domestic partner benefits in a misguided effort to attract employees drives up insurance costs for these companies and prevents them from providing additional coverage to those of us adhering to traditional sexual moral standards. It also requires these companies to pass on the costs of their goods and services beyond normal inflationary trends. Additionally, it also probably makes it more difficult for them to expand their businesses and create additional jobs in an economy coping with near double digit unemployment rates.
The homosexual lifestyle also affects areas such as life insurance, estate planning, real estate, and investments as firms providing these services have to factor in how to treat same sex domestic partner issues into their cost calculations. Guess who has to pay for these increased costs and potentially lower investment returns? We do, regardless of whether or not we approve of the homosexual lifestyle. The next time some one tells you how wonderful is the “progress” gays have made in recent decades ask them if they have ever thought about the multiple economic consequences of this “progress” as described in this posting. I welcome suggestions from readers as to other possible economic costs of the homosexual lifestyle which I have forgotten.
This use of HIV/AIDS as an excuse for homophobia certainly isn’t new, but it seems to be resurging lately. As usual, the goal of the Religious Right is nothing less than global extermination.
Two years after Congress approved the policy change, President Obama announced this afternoon that in January 2010 the United States will end the policy of forbidding international travel and immigration based on HIV status. The statement came at the signing of the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Treatment Extension Act, which authorizes a 5% annual increase in the program’s funding for the next four years.
Over the past 19 years this legislation has evolved from an emergency response into a comprehensive national program for the care and support of Americans living with HIV/AIDS. It helps communities that are most severely affected by this epidemic and often least served by our health care system, including minority communities, the LGBT community, rural communities, and the homeless. It’s often the only option for the uninsured and the underinsured. And it provides life-saving medical services to more than half a million Americans every year, in every corner of the country.
It’s helped us to open a critical front on the ongoing battle against HIV/AIDS. But let me be clear: This is a battle that’s far from over, and it’s a battle that all of us need to do our part to join. AIDS may no longer be the leading killer of Americans ages 25 to 44, as it once was. But there are still 1.1 million people living with HIV/AIDS in the United States, and more than 56,000 new infections occur every single year.
Some communities still experience unacceptably high rates of infection. Gay men make up 2 or 3 percent of the population, but more than half of all new cases. African Americans make up roughly half of all new cases. Nearly half of all new cases now occur in the South. And a staggering 7 percent of Washington, D.C.’s residents between the ages of 40 and 49 live with HIV/AIDS — and the epidemic here isn’t as severe as it is in several other U.S. cities.
So tackling this epidemic will take far more aggressive approaches than we’ve seen in the past — not only from our federal government, but also state and local governments, from local community organizations, and from places of worship.
But it will also take an effort to end the stigma that has stopped people from getting tested; that has stopped people from facing their own illness; and that has sped the spread of this disease for far too long. A couple of years ago Michelle and I were in Africa and we tried to combat the stigma when we were in Kenya by taking a public HIV/AIDS test. And I’m proud to announce today we’re about to take another step towards ending that stigma.
Twenty-two years ago, in a decision rooted in fear rather than fact, the United States instituted a travel ban on entry into the country for people living with HIV/AIDS. Now, we talk about reducing the stigma of this disease — yet we’ve treated a visitor living with it as a threat. We lead the world when it comes to helping stem the AIDS pandemic — yet we are one of only a dozen countries that still bar people from HIV from entering our own country.
If we want to be the global leader in combating HIV/AIDS, we need to act like it. And that’s why, on Monday my administration will publish a final rule that eliminates the travel ban effective just after the New Year. Congress and President Bush began this process last year, and they ought to be commended for it. We are finishing the job. It’s a step that will encourage people to get tested and get treatment, it’s a step that will keep families together, and it’s a step that will save lives.
Because of this week’s actions, people living with HIV/AIDS virus can enter the United States without lying about their status, and without smuggling their life-preserving medications. People who have not had access to HIV testing and treatment will have resources to better care for the disease and to get information to slow its spread. People who are victims of of the twin human viruses of hate and fear will have access to tools previously withheld because of the victim’s orientation or gender preference.
So thank you President Obama, and thank you members of Congress.
The next battle awaits. We’re hoping we don’t have to bring 200,000 people back to Washington, DC before you take action on these other threats to human liberty.
National HIV Testing Day is coming up on June 27, 2009. Time to roll up your sleeves and get tested.
Each year, on June 27, the National Association of People With AIDS (NAPWA), in partnership with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other national and local entities across the country organizes National HIV Testing Day. This unique initiative sends the message, â€œTake the Test, Take Control,â€ to those at risk from HIV from those already living with HIV.
NAPWA was one of the first AIDS organizations to advocate that people at risk of infection should seek out voluntary HIV counseling and testing. As people living with HIV/AIDS, NAPWA members and staff understand that knowledge of HIV status is essential to making informed decisions about their lives. NAPWA took this knowledge one-step further in 1995 by launching the National HIV Testing Day campaign.
National HIV Testing Day was developed in response to the growing number of HIV infections in communities of color and other heavily impacted communities. Today, CDC estimates approximately 250,000 Americans are living with HIV but unaware of their HIV status. NAPWA believes HIV testing is a critical first step in taking control and responsibility over oneâ€™s health.
Okay, are you up to speed? Sen. Schultheis wants babies to be born with AIDS so that their mothers will feel bad about being whores, which they obviously are since they have HIV.
Since word of the senator’s comments spread, an email he sent to a blogger has surfaced. In the email the senator tries to shift blame for his statement that he hopes babies get AIDS so their whore mothers feel bad. It wasn’t his fault, you see. It was the reporter!
I had always considered Lynn Bartels as one of the best journalists the Rocky [Mountain News] had. As such she should have had the good sense to question me on my hurried comments to make sure she had a clear understanding. She failed to do that, and as a result has sullied my long-standing reputation as a strong pro-life advocate and caused many good citizens to doubt my views.
The left-wing blogs are in a heated frenzy, deliberately using my comments to spread the thought that I want children to get AIDS. NOTHING COULD BE FURTHER FROM THE TRUTH. NOTHING!
Except it isn’t a journalist’s job to edit a senator’s statements, and what Sen. Schultheis said was:
What Iâ€™m hoping is that yes, that person may have AIDS, have it seriously as a baby and when they grow up, but the mother will begin to feel guilt as a result of that.
Keep in mind that this was the clarification of his stupid and offensive statement on the senate floor that babies should be punished for their mothers’ presumed sin. This is what he said when she went to him to make sure she understood him right.
But it doesn’t stop there! Sen. Schultheis did a radio interview on the same day he spoke on the senate floor and talked to the mean reporter who reported what he said. And since it’s not 1952 (much to Sen. Schultheis’ dismay), we have a readily available recording of that interview from KHOW’s Caplis & Silverman Show.
Craig Silverman: …there are things that can be done to prevent the baby that she’s going to have from getting the HIV from the mother; there are medical steps that can be taken. So I can understand you trying to deter bad behavior, but what did the little baby that’s going to be born do to deserve you condemning them to get HIV?
Sen. Schultheis: First of all, it’s a very small percentage as you know, and let me… if you’ll give me a few minutes here let me try to explain a little bit on where I’m going on this, because we… The only reason this has gotten to be a big issue is because of the gay issue and the hom…and the HIV and that’s the only reason this thing’s floated to the top.
But let me just say, for my children for example, when they were small and they started to run out into the street, I spanked the heck out of them because I did not want that behavior to end up in an accident and for them to be killed. And the reason is because I’ve seen, and we’ve heard stories over and over of people where their children have run after balls and what have you and been killed, because of that kind of behavior. So parents take decisive action as a result of having seen the consequences of that kind of behavior. And so they teach their children, then, don’t run out in the street and so forth. […]
Silverman: Just to use your metaphor–it’s interesting to hear you say you spanked the hell out of your children when they were going to run in the street, but it would be comparable to you going in the house and getting a child who didn’t run in the street, throwing them under the car, and saying, “You see what happens?!?” Don’t you follow that that’s the better metaphor for what you’re doing? You’re punishing the baby.
Schultheis: [chuckles] You know, you’re making it sound like you’re punishing every baby, but that’s not the case.
Isn’t he a lovely person?
Just in case people weren’t sure how he felt, Sen. Schultheis posted an entry to his blog in which he tries to re-re-re-explain what he meant. He goes into some detail about his concern for the government’s proper role, and how the test is invasive to privacy. What’s odd, though, is that Sen. Schultheis’ comments about how babies being born with AIDS would be an awesome punishment for slutty moms is nowhere to be found.
I assume that’s what he’s talking about when he mentions “additional remarks taken out of context”, but we know from his own words completely in context that Dave Schultheis really, really, really likes the idea of babies being born with AIDS so their mothers feel bad about being slutty sluts who slut. Because all women who have HIV/AIDS, in case you’d missed the news, are whores of one sort or another. Because Dave Schultheis, the senator for northern Colorado Springs, the Air Force Academy, parts of the Black Forest, and the town of Monument, is a horrible human being.
On Wednesday, State Senator Dave Schultheis (R) rose to speak before a vote on SB 09-179, a bill that in part would “require health care providers providing care to a pregnant woman during gestation, or hospitals where a pregnant woman presents for delivery, to test the woman for HIV if she has not previously been tested and allows the pregnant woman to decline to be tested”.
Seems pretty reasonable, yes? The goal is to have an HIV test early so that if the mother is HIV+ steps can be taken to protect the fetus before birth. Note that the mother may decline to be tested.
It seemed like an easy vote until Sen. Schultheis requested to speak. The Colorado Senate ended up passing the bill 32-1, but here’s the transcript and a link to audio of what Sen. Schultheis had to say, both courtesy of the Colorado Independent:
Sexual promiscuity, we know, causes a lot of problems in our state, one of which, obviously, is the contraction of HIV. And we have other programs that deal with the negative consequences â€” we put up part of our high schools where we allow students maybe 13 years old who put their child in a small daycare center there.
We do things continually to remove the negative consequences that take place from poor behavior and unacceptable behavior, quite frankly, and I donâ€™t think thatâ€™s the role of this body.
As a result of that I finally came to the conclusion I would have to be a no vote on this because this stems from sexual promiscuity for the most part, and I just canâ€™t vote on this bill and I wanted to explain to this body why I was going to be a no vote on this.
To restate it more succinctly, Sen. Schultheis thinks that unborn babies should not be protected from HIV/AIDS because their mothers are whores anyway. That’s outrageous, but it’s not just me getting hyperbolic. Sen. Schultheis clarified his statement to the Rocky Mountain News later the same day.
“What I’m hoping is that yes, that person may have AIDS, have it seriously as a baby and when they grow up, but the mother will begin to feel guilt as a result of that. The family will see the negative consequences of that promiscuity and it may make a number of people over the coming years … begin to realize that there are negative consequences and maybe they should adjust their behavior. We can’t keep people from being raped. We can’t keep people from shooting each other. We can’t keep people from jumping off bridges. People drink and drive, and they crash and kill people. Poor behavior has its consequences.”
To clarify again, Sen. Schultheis says directly that he’s “hoping” that a baby is born with AIDS so that the mother (who is apparently a whore) will feel bad.
My question to the people of Colorado’s ninth district, (including northern Colorado Springs, the Air Force Academy, parts of the Black Forest, and the town of Monument) is a simple one: WHAT THE FUCKING FUCK?
Sen. Schultheis, oddly enough, is on Twitter! His current status, posted at around 5:00 yesterday (well after the story broke in Colorado), is “Should government be used to ameliorate the negative consequences of immoral behavior. I say NO.” I am SOOOO following Dave!
Many people don’t realize that federal law forbids gay men from donating blood, tissue, or organs. The regulation began as a guideline in 1983 in the middle of the AIDS panic and was codified in 1990.
While I believe it was necessary at its inception, the ban has long since been outmoded by the testing required of all donations. Current blood testing detects HIV between 10 and 21 days after exposure. Many organizations have been trying to get this unnecessary restriction overturned for quite some time. Since 2006 their numbers include the Red Cross, the AABB (the international blood association), and Americaâ€™s Blood Centers.
Yet in the face of all scientific research to the contrary, the FDA and CDC, which regulate the nation’s blood supply and tissue/organ donations, say that a lifetime ban on gay men who have had sex once in the last 25 years is appropriate. (By the way, a woman who had unprotected anal sex last night? Step right up! Two gay men who have only had sex with each other for the past fifty years? Their blood’s no good.)
The rule is iron-clad for blood and tissue, but there is one exception for organ donation. Jim Swift of KXAN, the Fox affiliate in Austin, Texas, filed this report yesterday:
A rare kidney disorder showed up in testing for the donor, so the donation fell through. A school principal was next up. Health issues got in the way again. Vara kept smiling and praying.
Then a co-worker at the Texas State Comptroller’s office, hearing about Vara’s ups and downs, pulled him aside one day. He offered to give up one of his kidneys.
“It matters to me; it matters that those kids have a father,” Knisely explained.
First, he had something to tell Vara: “I’m gay,” he confided.
Recalling the conversation, Vara’s eyes sparkle and a small knowing smile spreads across his face.
“I said, ‘Philip, I know.'”
Tests revealed no HIV/AIDS infection, which the CDC specifically looks for when homosexuals are tested for transplants. In fact, Knisely, at the age of 51, is the picture of health.
And to Knisely, Vara is the picture of tolerance.
“There are a number of men who I’ve worked with the whole 19 years that we’ve known each other who still don’t speak to me today,” Knisely said.
As for Vara, there was never any doubt.
“I treat everybody the same,” said Vara.
Thank you Philip Knisely, for risking a friendship to save a life.
This morning I found out that there will be a protest/blood drive about the FDA gay ban in Phoenix, Arizona TOMORROW, February 21, 2009. 100 healthy HIV-, Hepatitis B- and Hepatitis C- men will ask to give blood and save up to three lives each; based on the current policy they will be denied the ability to donate. A second blood drive will take place in cities across the nation on May 23, 2009.