Uncategorized

HIV Transmission -> What We Know & Why States Are Getting It Wrong

HIV

andrew shaughnessy

By: Andrew Shaughnessy, Manager of Public Policy
PROMO Missouri
@AndrewShag

AIDS.gov states that certain body fluids from an HIV-positive person can transmit HIV.

The body fluids mentioned are: Blood, Semen (cum), Pre-seminal fluid (pre-cum), Recital fluids, Vaginal fluids, & Breast milk.

Nowhere on this list does it mention saliva. Missouri laws, similar to several States, criminalizes behaviors that the CDC regards as posing either no risk or negligible risk for HIV transmission, this includes saliva. The Justice Department goes so far as to detail the best practices States should incorporate to make HIV-related laws align with science.

However, earlier this week, Missouri Legislator Travis Fitzwater (R -49) introduced Missouri House Bill 1181, which would have made it a crime for an individual knowingly infected with HIV to intentionally project saliva at another person.

HB 1181


Missouri is no stranger to strict laws (MO Rev. Sec. 565.085) that criminalize certain behaviors that have been proven by science to not transmit HIV. Several States still reference criminal statutes that fall under this category, which is why States should start modernizing their HIV criminal laws: now. Enacted through the fear of the 80s – early 90s, Missouri, like many States, continues to get it wrong it when it comes to effective HIV/AIDS policy. States enacted these laws with the intention of reducing HIV transmission, however research shows that these fear-based laws have the opposite effect and help HIV proliferate.

Missouri House Bill 1181 was scheduled for a hearing on Tuesday April 7th, but at the last moment was taken off of the docket. This hopefully signals a step in the right direction — but we still have a long journey ahead. Advocates in Missouri and nationwide should continue to monitor any legislation that seeks to further criminalize people who live with HIV.

Conferences · National Black Justice Coalition

The Bisexual Community and HIV/AIDS

As part of last fall’s National Black Justice Coalition Conference, “Out on the Hill”, I attended a White House meeting on Gay and Bisexual Men and HIV/AIDS.  I came away from the meeting impressed by the level of concern that the White House and other partners in the fight to eradicate HIV/AID are consistently demonstrating.

At the White House meeting, 09/26/14 Photo Credit. S. Washington
At the White House meeting, 09/26/14 Photo Credit. S. Washington

We’re 30 years into the HIV/AIDS epidemic but according to a report released by the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), infections among gay and bisexual men are on the rise in the U.S, especially for men of color.

kaiser hiv-aidsAs a bisexual community expert I think it’s essential to educate folks to the fact that bisexuals have always been at the forefront of the fight to prevent HIV infection. Even if many times history erased us. Since the very beginning of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, the bi community helped shape the messaging, support opportunities and intervention models pertaining to ending HIV/AIDS.

In honor of the 1990 National Bisexual Conference, the City of San Francisco proclaimed the first ever "Bi Pride Day" (check out the dot matrix copy of the proclamation above). As part of the acknowledgement, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors also proclaimed: …Whereas, The contributions of bisexuals in developing AIDS service projects, combating discrimination, and advocating for social justice have long been undervalued or discounted by most of society; and Whereas, The 1990 National Bisexual Conference offers the bisexual community an opportunity to showcase some of its extraordinary work and leadership in establishing model AIDS programs, and working to build a society free of discrimination and injustice; and Whereas, The 1990 National Bisexual Conference gives all people the occasion to finally end the silence about the numbers of bisexual persons who have died of AIDS, and to recognize the tremendous leadership contributions of bisexual activists in the fight against the killer disease...
In honor of the 1990 National Bisexual Conference, the City of San Francisco proclaimed the first ever “Bi Pride Day” (check out the dot matrix copy of the proclamation above). As part of the acknowledgement, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors also proclaimed:
…Whereas, The contributions of bisexuals in developing AIDS service projects, combating discrimination, and advocating for social justice have long been undervalued or discounted by most of society; and
Whereas, The 1990 National Bisexual Conference offers the bisexual community an opportunity to showcase some of its extraordinary work and leadership in establishing model AIDS programs, and working to build a society free of discrimination and injustice; and
Whereas, The 1990 National Bisexual Conference gives all people the occasion to finally end the silence about the numbers of bisexual persons who have died of AIDS, and to recognize the tremendous leadership contributions of bisexual activists in the fight against the killer disease…

Many times bi efforts were slighted, invalidated, forgotten or in some cases erased. And as Dr. Herukhuti, Black bisexual theorist, so eloquently once put it, “bisexual erasure is psychic murder”. Nowhere is this more dangerous than in the arena of public health, where bisexual populations are often erased in favor of a few more convenient fictions:

  1. There are few bisexuals (Not!)
  2. Most bisexuals experience privilege from their heterosexual presenting relationships and do not need (or deserve) care allocated from LGBT resources. (FALSE!)
  3. Even if support providers frequently use bisexual data (‘cause it’s the worst) to strengthen arguments for more support in reaching LGBT populations, there is no legal requirement for them to find and serve bisexual people (SADLY TRUE).
dr_h_sotu
Jan 20th, 2015 tweet from Dr. Herukhuti

Dr. Herukhuti has also directly linked bisexual erasure to the disproportionate rates of HIV bisexual people of color report saying,

“Bisexuals become the disappeared of the movement. Nowhere is the impact of this dynamic felt more viscerally than in black and brown communities. Historically, HIV research and prevention has had a problematic relationship with bisexuality in black communities, fluctuating from demonizing black bisexual men as vectors of HIV transmission to treating us as if we are exactly like black gay men — lumping us into a single box of men who have sex with men along with them. It is, therefore, no wonder that HIV rates are disproportionately higher in black communities.”

It’s no wonder then that gay history runs parallel to the history of biphobia, and its legacy, bisexual erasure. If bisexual historical figures and bisexual figures aren’t “bisexually erased” into being gay men or lesbians, they are removed from the conversation, even if their data isn’t!

For example, in 1985 when Larry Kramer first published his seminal work on the HIV/AIDS epidemic “The Normal Heart”, the only mention of bisexuals is in the stage directions. In the play’s “About the Production” section, Kramer describes the walls of the set being whitewashed and painted in “black, simple lettering” with “facts and figures and names”. One of the items on set walls?

“The number of cases in gays and the number of cases in straights, calculated by subtracting the gay and bi-sexual number from the total CDC figure.”

If gay+bisexual=gay, where does the bisexual go? Contrary to popular belief, we do not disappear in a puff of logic. We just die, and sometimes we die without anyone to remember our name.

To me this feels like vexation without representation, and bisexuals get nothing for their troubles. And troubles they are, with bisexuals facing higher rates of nearly every societal ill such as alcohol, drug abuse, smoking, cancer, sexual violence (including rape, stalking and intimate partner violence), heart disease, suicide and PTSD.

Bisexual oriented AND bisexually behaviorally people simply report more disparities than their gay, lesbian and heterosexual peers. In comparison to some research on transgender individuals, bisexuals report less hate crimes yet nearly the same rates of suicide and sexual assault.

BiNet USA Bisexual Community Issues Presentation, Jan 2015 http://www.binetusa.org/bi-presentations
BiNet USA Bisexual Community Issues Presentation, Jan 2015

Winning the disparity race has left bisexuals with nothing but shame, often internalized and externalized about our identity. Whether it be damaging oppositional dialogue about bisexual community labels or consistent calls for “visibility” instead of straight up parity, bisexuals have paid the price.

An evolving world is waking up to recognize that binaries are too simple to define love, and that bisexuals need more than just to be named. We need to be served like our lives depend on it and our sanity requires it. Will the world wake in time?

To learn more about the bisexual community and HIV/AIDS, please check out The Bisexual History of HIV/AIDS, in photos.

Uncategorized

The Bisexual History of HIV/AIDS, in Photos

“And I just want it known that there is someone out here remembering him with tenderness in my heart and tears in my eyes.”

– Iris De La Cruz, Kool-AIDS On Ice

1981

Dr. David Lourea, a co-director of The Bisexual Center (founded in 1976), was also a pioneer in fight to end HIV/AIDS. In 1981, Dr. Lourea and bisexual/leather icon Cynthia Slater presented safer-sex education workshops in bathhouses and BDSM clubs in San Francisco. Photo Credit: Queerest Library Ever Blog: http://queerestlibraryever.blogspot.com/2013/01/archives-david-Loreau-and-bisexual.html
Dr. David Lourea, a co-director of The Bisexual Center (founded in 1976), was also a pioneer in the fight to end HIV/AIDS. In 1981, Dr. Lourea and bisexual / leather icon Cynthia Slater presented safer-sex education workshops in bathhouses and BDSM clubs in San Francisco. Photo Credit: Queerest Library Ever Blog

 1982

Caption: Former BiNet USA President Alexei Guren is co-founding board member of the Health Crisis Network (now CareResource) in Miami, Fla.; begins outreach and advocacy for Latino married men who have sex with men.
Former BiNet USA President Alexei Guren helps co-found the Health Crisis Network (now CareResource) in Miami, and begins outreach and advocacy for Latino married men who have sex with men.

1983

BiPOL, the first and oldest bisexual political organization, was founded in San Francisco by bisexual activists Autumn Courtney, Lani Ka'ahumanu, Arlene Krantz, Dr. David Lourea, Bill Mack, Alan Rockway, and Maggi Rubenstein.  BiPol launches demonstrations against “anti-gay/bisexual raids in Haiti and U.S.” Photo Credit: Queerest Library Ever Blog: http://queerestlibraryever.blogspot.com/2013/01/archives-david-Loreau-and-bisexual.html
BiPOL, the first and oldest bisexual political organization, was founded in San Francisco by bisexual activists Autumn Courtney, Lani Ka’ahumanu, Arlene Krantz, Dr. David Lourea, Bill Mack, Alan Rockway, and Maggi Rubenstein. BiPol launches demonstrations against “anti-gay/bisexual raids in Haiti and U.S.” Photo Credit: Queerest Library Ever Blog

 1984

Black bisexual LGBT icon ABilly S. Jones (with G. Gerald and Craig Harris) organizes first federally funded national “AIDS in the Black Community Conference” in Washington, D.C. Photo Credit: BiCities TV @ BECAUSE Conference http://blip.tv/bicities/256-abilly-s-jones-hennin-at-because-7021559
Black bisexual LGBT icon ABilly S. Jones (with G. Gerald and Craig Harris) organizes first federally funded national “AIDS in the Black Community Conference” in Washington, D.C. Photo Credit: BiCities TV @ BECAUSE Conference
Caption: After a two year battle, BiPOL activist, AIDS educator, and therapist Dr. David Lourea persuades the San Francisco Department of Public Health to recognize bisexual men in a weekly “New AIDS cases and mortality statistics” report. This model is then used by other department of public health offices around the country.  Dr. Lourea went on to criticize the Department of Public Health for closures of bathhouses and sex clubs in a March 1984 letter.
After a two year battle, BiPOL activist, AIDS educator, and therapist Dr. David Lourea persuades the San Francisco Department of Public Health to recognize bisexual men in a weekly “New AIDS cases and mortality statistics” report. This model is then used by other department of public health offices around the country. Dr. Lourea went on to criticize the Department of Public Health for closures of bathhouses and sex clubs in a March 1984 letter.

  Continue reading “The Bisexual History of HIV/AIDS, in Photos”

Huffington Post LGBT Wellness

LGBT Wellness Roundup: October 5

As published on Huffington Post’s new LGBT Wellness blog, see original at: http://ow.ly/DhVNO

Each week HuffPost Gay Voices, in a partnership with bloggers Liz Margolies and Scout, brings you a round up of some of the biggest LGBT wellness stories from the past seven days. For more LGBT Wellness, visit our page dedicated to the topic here. The weekly LGBT Wellness Roundup can also now be experienced as a video — check it out above.

Pride · social media · Tobacco Policy · Uncategorized

New Tips From Former Smokers Ad Features Effects of Tobacco & HIV

BioPic b&w

     Felecia King

    Project Specialist

   The Network for LGBT Health Equity

 
 

This week, the CDC launched the next phase of the Tips From Former Smokers Campaign, and this time they are tackling the issue of tobacco and HIV. The ad features Brian, who smoked for 30 years, and suffered a stroke as a complication of his HIV and tobacco use. (read more about Brian’s story HERE)

Smoking is especially harmful to people who are living with HIV. For example, smokers with HIV:

  • Are at higher risk than non-smokers with HIV of developing lung cancer, head and neck cancers, cervical and anal cancers, and other cancers;
  • Are more likely than non-smokers with HIV to develop bacterial pneumonia, Pneumocystis jiroveci pneumonia (PCP), COPD, and heart disease;
  • Are more likely than non-smokers with HIV to develop two conditions that affect the mouth: oral candidiasis (thrush) and oral hairy leukoplakia; and
  • Have a poorer response to antiretroviral therapy.
  • People with HIV who smoke are also less likely to keep to their HIV treatment plan and have a greater likelihood of developing an AIDS-defining condition and dying earlier than non-smokers with HIV.

(the above examples are from Aids.gov <– Click the link for more info!)

For these reasons, smoking is a significant health issue for all individuals, but it is even more of a concern for people living with HIV, who tend to smoke more than the general population. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 19% of adults in the United States are smokers. However, the smoking rate is two to three times higher among adults who are HIV-positive.

 

SmokingLGBT    

Tobacco Policy

New Study Looks at Smoking Cessation among People with HIV

IMG_5241

 

Corey Prachniak is an LGBT rights, HIV policy, and healthcare attorney. He serves on the Steering Committee of the Network for LGBT Health Equity and tweets @LGBTadvocacy.

 

 

 

What makes smoking cessation successful among people living with HIV?  That was the question posed at an event last week at the American Legacy Foundation in Washington, DC.

Dr. Donna Shelley explained that ending smoking among people living with HIV is especially important because “smoking increases the risk of HIV-related infections” and leads to “poorer adherence to HIV meds, higher viral load,” and other health problems.  NAM, an HIV/AIDS organization, notes that HIV-positive “smokers are approximately three times more likely than non-smokers to develop the AIDS-defining pneumonia PCP” and that “oral thrush, a common complaint in people with HIV, is also more common amongst smokers.”  Dr. Shelley’s study focused on testing cessation strategies among people with HIV in New York.

When it comes to quitting smoking, it could be seen as a positive or negative that people living with HIV are already likely to have complicated medical adherence needs.  On the one hand, adding smoking cessation interventions and medications adds to the burden that many people living with HIV already face.  But on the other hand, many people living with HIV have found success at incorporating medication regimens into their lives and are used to managing their care, either on their own or with the support of a medical adherence team.  For people who are doing well adhering to their HIV-related medications and treatments, they may well be able to incorporate tobacco cessation measures with a high level of adherence.

In fact, that is what Dr. Shelley’s preliminary data suggested.  “Adherence at baseline to HIV meds,” meaning how well people remembered to take their HIV medications at the start of the study, “was closely correlated to adherence to cessation medications” by the study’s sixth week, she said.

Dr. Shelley also noted that the people for the study were recruited from healthcare clinics, which often are in more regular contact with their patients than are other types of medical providers.  That’s because these settings tend to offer multiple, highly coordinated services.  So, for example, if a client comes in to see her therapist but has missed an appointment with her primary care doctor, the staff person checking her in can make sure she reschedules with her doctor or gets the prescription refill or referral that she might need.

The research tested three adherence regimens: smoking cessation medication alone; medication and adherence text messages; and medication, text messages, and adherence counseling phone calls.  Interestingly, the research found that the group with the best adherence were those who received the medication and text messages, but not the phone calls, which many people reported as being “too much.”  People also stressed that they liked texts with positive reinforcement – like “stay on track” or “look how much money you’ve saved this month” – versus messages that just reminded them to take their medication.

It’s unclear whether the results are unique to people living with HIV, or would have been the same for others, as well.  But it’s worth noting that people who are already managing HIV-related care preferred quick positive reinforcement on quitting smoking rather than lengthy counseling on taking their meds or daily messages telling them to take their pill.

It’s true that HIV is not just a problem for the LGBT community.  But given that 63% of new HIV infections in 2010 were among men who have sex with men, and that LGBT people smoke at a rate that is 68% higher than the population in general, the intersection of smoking and HIV is a critical topic for LGBT health advocates to keep in mind.

Uncategorized

I Did It: Lunch With a Total Stranger

liz margolies

 

 

Liz Margolies, L.C.S.W.

Founder and Executive Director, National LGBT Cancer Network

 

 

woman-dines-alone-in-omotesando-1280x

As published on Huffington Post’s new LGBT Wellness blog, see original at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/liz-margolies-lcsw/i-did-it-lunch-with-a-total-stranger_b_5090289.html

When a white, atheist psychotherapist has lunch with the founder of Depressed Black Gay Men (DBGM), they each get food for thought.

We met by email when someone forwarded his information to me. The email didn’t even contain a last name, but it was one of the most eloquently written requests for information about LGBT cultural competency trainings I had ever read. Over the course of that day, Antoine Craigwell and I corresponded several times about our respective organizations, but he always avoided answering my direct questions about himself, his profession, or how he came to write so well. Instead he asked to meet for a one-hour lunch the next day at a Cuban restaurant in my neighborhood. I requested a picture so that I would recognize him when he arrived; he sent me a selfie with an intense gaze.

I arrived on time. (Remember, I’m a psychotherapist.) He was 20 minutes late, meaning a full third of our time was already gone, but he vanquished my annoyance with an immediate apology and charm. We took the last two seats at the counter, and I ordered the only vegetarian options available: rice, beans and tostones. He got liver and onions over his rice and beans. I tried to find out more about his personal life, but again, he gently deflected those attempts, keeping our discussion fascinating but academic, until we gradually moved to the focus of his work.

Several years ago, after attending the funeral of a young, black gay man who had taken his own life, Antoine decided to write a book. He is not a mental health professional but noticed three things that can make the experience of depression different for many black gay men: religiously fueled homophobia, stigma, and intraracism. Through interviews and extensive research he discovered that in this population depression is expressed not only in typical ways but often in ways that may include violence, anger, drug use and unsafe sexual practices. We engaged in an intense conversation about racism in diagnoses and untreated depression. When the form of depression is unrecognized and therefore undiagnosed, it is also left untreated. In fact, most studies report far lower rates of depression and mood disorders among blacks and Latinos than among whites. And yet, just as Antoine said, LGB youth who are also members of racial/ethnic minorities have a significantly increased risk of suicide attempts. Clearly, the measurement tools for diagnosing depression are inadequate for recognizing depression in many black gay men. In one report that I found after that lunch, 43 percent of black gay youth reported having thought about or attempted suicide as a result of issues related to their sexual orientation.

Antoine explained to me that the black church is the bedrock of many families and the community, but that in spite of offering invaluable systems for coping with sociocultural stressors, it often espouses a fundamentalist perspective on sexuality, causing some mothers to cast their sons out of families, sometimes for even a hint of homosexuality. The results are often disastrous. As an atheist mother of a queer son, my heart twisted in despair: I don’t think about religion very much, so I was struck by how support and condemnation contradict each other yet are so closely intertwined.

Feeling an urgency to reach more people than books can, Antoine switched directions, producing the documentary You Are Not Alone and founding DBGM, a nonprofit organization with a mission to raise awareness and save lives. “If by what I’m doing, one black gay man could be prevented from killing himself, then my job is done; his healing begins,” he said. Antoine has been showing the documentary around the country. It features powerful interviews with black gay men, religious leaders (Christian and Islamic) and mental health professionals.

According to Antoine, DBGM will soon launch a program entitled “I Am Working on Healing,” with two support groups: “Sons and Mothers” for black gay boys and their mothers, to encourage acceptance of their gay sons, and “My Sons” for black mothers whose sons have committed suicide. Antoine also offers cultural competency trainings wherever possible. “Aha!” I thought. “This may be where our work together begins.”

After lunch I thought about my own social activism, which is primarily focused oncancer, a disease that usually strikes later in life. I then thought about the young black gay men who would never reach adulthood and whose untreated and undiagnosed depression would mean that they would also never likely reach a psychotherapist’s office. I thought about how a good psychotherapist had saved my own son’s life and realized how fortunate we both are that he did. The 40-minute lunch shook me.

When I returned home, I Googled Antoine’s name and learned that my humble lunch-mate is an award-winning journalist. He is also, surely, a powerful agent for change.

To learn more about DBGM, visit their website.

Need help? Visit The Trevor Project or call them at 1-866-488-7386. You can also call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

Follow Liz Margolies, L.C.S.W. on Twitter: www.twitter.com/cancerlgbt

Creating Change 2013 · Uncategorized

“Home-Queer-Home” Rural Organizing

alex picBy Alex Aldana
Blogging Scholarship Recipient
Recap on Saturday’s SONG Rural Organizing workshop
 
 
 

A wrong turn down the second floor, in the hopes I could find the nearest wash room, and listening to the  echoes of vivid voices  on this particular room,, made me forget about my personal deeds in the toilet to what I thought would be one of the most relevant  and charming workshops on Saturday afternoon at the conference.

It took me a minute to sit down near the exit (in case I had to go really bad) to blend it with the topic under discussion. I had actually bookmarked the workshop and perhaps had forgotten about it. No coincidence again I was meant to be here.

SONG’S Rural Organizing Workshop brought me back to my community, to the desert.  In the Coachella Valley, being distant from all other cities and services from California, definitely brings to light good ideas not only to “queerify” spaces, but also to invite by immigrant community, including the farm workers, students, artist and allies to create something like the work SONG does in the South:

“We Decide Who We Are. We Decide Who We Love. We Decide How We Survive and Thrive”

5 of 6 SONG Founders celebrating 20 years of SONG

 

“We believe that Community Organizing is the best way for us to build collective power and transform the South. Out of this belief we are committed to building freedom movements rooted in southern traditions like community organizing, political education, storytelling, music, breaking bread, resistance, humor, performance, critical thinking, and celebration” -said along the lines of one of the presenters representing Southerns On New Ground.

It’s amazing to have organizations like these in the south, facing all the “anti-immigrant” sentiment that impacts the well-being of many.

What really touched my heart is to remember my origins, the land in which me and my mother migrated. yet my work comes with me to every city or state I find work and opportunity, i find the moral obligation to come back home, whenever I can, and remain active, engaging, helping the inter-generational activist to create spaces that don’t exist, but also bridge those who do exist and yet don’t work with one another. The power of collaboration.

I’d love to see Catholic Charities work with our Queer groups in the Desert! (Sarcasm).

I think It is time for me to come home after a long year of learning. I’m hopeful to bring back home this tool to refine our communities understanding of what the queer immigrant life has looked like, and could look like, outside the urban context, and understand how queer life and rural life came to be positioned in many people’s minds as categories that often feel like they’re mutually exclusive.

Problems like crystal meth use among young man having sex with man (YMSM), hostile border patrol offices, bullying and new HIV infections continue to affect this land that I grew up. A Land divided by the expensive golf club and fancy hotels. With a Music Festival that brings Thousands, but is nowhere in our youth’s budget to attend or makes a positive impact to address our struggles in the community.

The Legacy and Dream of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, and Queer communities as committed to liberation, dignity, and safety for all people must be remembered, amplified, and carried forward….

I never forget where Home is in my heart. Year after year, I’m grateful to bridge services and empowerment to my younger generations that probably think moving to West Hollywood and Los Angeles is the best option that they have to succeed as queer youth.

The best remedies practiced for many generations are found in the house, with our elders. In our community. Never forget to give back to yours.

Conferences

Respect

by e.shor

The discussion of HIV has “traditionally” been centered around gay men in the LGBTQI community, but in the last ten years we have found more information on the intersections of HIV with communities of color, transgender folks (mostly transgender women, but not exclusively), and people over the age of 50. I mention these populations because they do not necessarily get a lot of press time with HIV research and prevention…and they should.

Robert Valadéz from the Gay Men’s Health Crisis in NYC gave some really helpful information about HIV transmission and trends in adults over 50. This is a growing body of literature and there is more and more community support for prevention and interventions. Here are some things we learned about:

In 2005, Persons Aged 50 and Older accounted for (CDC 2007):

  • 15% of new HIV/AIDS diagnoses
  • 24% of persons living with HIV/AIDS (increased from 17% in 2001)
  • 19% of all AIDS diagnoses.
  • 29% of persons living with AIDS.
  • 35% of all deaths of persons with AIDS.

So…these are some startling statistics. I am excited that we are talking about the jump in prevalence  from 17% (2001) to 27.4% (2007) for older adults that are 50+. This is a community that is overlooked so often in regards to sexual health education and prevention because for some reason we don’t like about older folks having sex. Well it is clear that this social stigma about sex among 50+ people is manifesting in some unfortunately public health issues, including growing rates of HIV and STI transmission. Let’s strip back a little of the stigma around sex among 50+ people and starting showing some respect to the folks who laid our histories.

 
CDC. HIV/AIDS Surveillance Report, 2005. Vol. 17. Rev ed. Atlanta: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, CDC; 2007:1–54.

Tobacco Policy

HHS Tobacco Strategic Plan Launch: Eyewitness Account & LGBT Inclusion Details

by Scout
Director of National LGBT Tobacco Control Network
 
1st ever HHS Tobacco Plan!
Reporting from George Washington University Auditorium Launch of the HHS Tobacco Strategic Plan
 
 
 
 

Houston We Have An Easy-to-Read Liftoff

As your intrepid guy about town, I zipped down to DC to attend the live launch of the first-ever HHS Tobacco Control Strategic Plan. If memories of Healthy People 2010 are leaving you waiting for the shorter movie version of the plan, let me tell you the first piece of important news – this plan is only 21 pages long! So, read away dear ones!

The Launch Party

I get to DC and sure enough, it’s a gathering of the glitterati of the tobacco control world (which of course meant I didn’t know half the folk)… there’s the head of ALA, TFK, ACS, OSH*, BLDDT, CHRK, and ZLWY. (ok, maybe I made a few of those up). And there’s big TV cameras everywhere, like maybe there’s a new all-tobacco-all-the-time set of news channels? Arrayed in the front of the room are posters of all the new tobacco warning ads FDA just announced they are considering. Plus lo, I see the head of another tobacco disparity network, Jeannette Noltenius (the Latino network). We of course bond together, because we are nearly invincible as a team. With a nod to dear ally Rosie Hinson from HHS Assistant Secretary Koh’s office (she was the one who helped make sure there were enough LGBT references in the plan before launch) I sat down and hushed up ready for the show.

Many folk were obviously listening to the actual launch via webcast… so let me just hit a few points that stuck out for me in the launch comments.

HHS Secretary Sebelius explained how tobacco is a big focus for HHS and health care reform, she mentioned the 3 bigger initiatives they’ve taken till now.

The gathered media waiting for the launch party

Big 3 Govt Tobacco Initiatives Before This Plan

  1. Passing FDA oversight of nicotine, which will especially change the warning labels. (finally!)
  2. Investing about $250M in new tobaccoprograms (presumable through Communities Putting Prevention to Work (CPPW) and REACH awards, neither had much LGBT inclusion).
  3. Healthcare reform invests $15B (over years) in new prevention healthcare fund. (This money is expected to take the best practices from 2. and replicate them to other areas.)

Shocking Facts Rattled Off

  • Tobacco costs this country $193B a year in health care and lost productivity costs! ($96B in healthcare costs alone)
  • Tobacco estimated to take 1 billion lives worldwide this century.
  • 1,000 people each day become daily smokers.

    Assist. Secty. Koh rattling off shocking facts, but what is Secty. Sebelius doing?
  • 8 million people in US have chronic diseases stemming from tobacco.
  • Every 10% increase in cigarette costs decreases local smoking rates by 4%. (<- that’s why policy changes are SO hot right now)
  • US Tobacco industry spends $12.5 billion dollars a year in marketing, or $34M a day!

4 Pillars of New Tobacco Plan

  1. Change social norms (including big media campaign to counter last point above)
  2. Improve health (supporting states and communities to continue work like was launched with CPPW awards, or supporting quitlines).
  3. HHS leading by example (such as increasing cessation coverage through medicare and medicaid, both planned rollouts)
  4. Advancing knowledge (like more data collection on priority populations and more research on best practices)

The Goal

According to Assistant Secty Koh, “The goal is to make it as easy to quit a it is to buy a pack of cigarettes.” And of course… they also talked about the other goal of making sure young folk don’t start.

New FDA Tobacco Warnings

So Miguel, the videocam fits in your pocket but the mic needs its own suitcase?

Not sure if lesbians gained control of Congress while I wasn’t looking but in what seems to government by consensus, the FDA has rolled out 36 potential new warning labels for cigarette packages and are taking comments on them until Spring. Then they will pick 9 that will be required to cover the top 50% of front and back of each cigarette pack and top 20% of every tobacco industry advertisement by Sept 2011. Like the FDA Commissioner said… “this essentially makes each pack of cigarettes into a mini billboard for tobacco control.” It’s an interesting note that while the ads are sometimes graphic… it’s not necessarily because they feel adults need to learn the dangers (research has shown most adults know the dangers well), but because they feel it’ll be a deterrent to youth to see (or carry around) something so terribly yucky looking. Interesting. Linda Bailey from North American Quitline Consortium later asked, “why don’t any of the warnings include the national quitline 1-800-QUITNOW?” Good point Linda, maybe folk can suggest that in the comment period.

Open Comments and Other Bloggers

In the comment section Jeanette and I duly stood up and mentioned something about disparity populations. I believe I mostly thanked them then asked another question about elementary school programs (which showed how many were watching online because folk started to email me resources right after I spoke) and Jeannette asked about the importance of racial and ethnic minority community-based work. But then afterwards I hooked up with old buddy Miguel Gomez from Office on HIV/AIDS (who was sporting the biggest microphone I’ve ever seen attached to his flip camera). He runs AIDS.gov and seems they are doing buckets of social media interviews and podcasting for blog.AIDS.gov, so when he finishes editing them up, I’ll be sure to link them here. And later, we’re hoping they teach us some tricks to get our Youtube channel really rolling. (until then thanks for reading the old school print version!) But I know you’re all waiting for the real news, so let me get right to…

LGBT Inclusion in Tobacco Plan

  • P. 12 CHALLENGES: THE BURDEN OF TOBACCO USE AND BARRIERS TO PROGRESS. “Members of certain racial/ethnic minority groups, individuals of low socio-economic status (SES),pregnant women, and other groups carry a disproportionate burden of risk for tobacco use and tobacco-related illness and death… [last sentence of para] Available evidence also reports very high smoking rates among lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender populations;however these populations remain underrepresented in current surveillance systems used to monitor tobacco use.”
  • p. 23 STRATEGIC ACTIONS: 4. Advance Knowledge. [bullet 3] “Expand research and surveillance related to high-risk populations (e.g. American Indians/Alaskan Natives and other minority racial/ethnic groups; lesibn, gay, bisexual, and transgender populations; individuals with mental disorders; those of low socio-economic status) to identify effective approaches to prevention and cessation.”
  • P. 24 STRATEGIC ACTIONS: 4. Advance Knowledge. [bullet 4] Expand research andsurveillance that promote the effectiveness of both population- and individual-based cessation interventions and tobacco dependence treatments. [Descriptive subtext] … “In addition there is a need for more evidence of effective cessation interventions for populations such as youth; young adults; pregnant women; low-income smokers; racial/ethnic minorities; lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender smokers; light or intermittent smokers; and those with comorbidities (particularly mental health and substance abuse disorders).”

That’s all I’ve got for now folk, hope you enjoyed the eyewitness account of the launch!

Best,

Scout

* ALA = American Lung Association
TFK = Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids
OSH = CDC Office on Smoking and Health
ACS = American Cancer Society