July 31, 2014

Like Gentrification in NYC Venezuela is displacing the people that least can afford it

Venezuela, is, evicting, poor, families, to, make, way, for, the, people, who, need, it, least, Venezuela Is Evicting Poor Families to Make Way for the People Who Need It Least Image Credit: Getty
The news: The roughly 5,000 residents of a massive, unfinished skyscraper in Caracas, Venezuela, called the "world's tallest slum" or the "Tower of David" are being rapidly evicted.

The reason? Big business. Specifically, Chinese bankers have reportedly expressed an interest in redeveloping the Centro Financiero Confinanzas for its original intended use as an office space.

Image credit: Getty

Now, advocates report that 100 families have already been forcibly evicted from the 45-story building as of July 23, and the remainder of its population of 1,200 families is soon to follow. This comes just two months after Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's government promised to improve living conditions there.

The backstory: In the mid-'90s, the tower's construction was abandoned amid the death of primary investor David Brillembourg and a subsequent financial crisis. As a result, squatters took over the entire building, installing electrical and water systems, developing their own managerial system, and occupying the bottom 28 floors with shops, apartments and even daycare centers.

Image Credit: Saúl Briceño

However, the community is not without its critics. While some call it a model commune with clean common spaces and nice apartments, others point to the fact that the building's de facto leader is Alexander "El Niño" Daza, a brutal former gang boss rumored to have thrown his enemies off the upper floors.

The tower is also regarded as a well-guarded and relatively well-off base of left-wing "Chavismo," the political ideology of late President Hugo Chávez. It has stood as both a symbol of failed capitalism and the shortcomings of its alternatives for close to two decades.

What Venezuelans are saying: The international Urban Think Tank worries that Maduro's government is neglecting a valuable opportunity to use the community as the basis for "innovative and inclusive development" by scattering the tower's residents. Critics say the government abandoned its initial promise to help refurnish the site to improve the lives of poor people once visions of foreign cash began dancing in their heads.

Image Credit: AP

For their part, the Venezuelan government insists the evacuations are about safety rather than money. Caracas redevelopment overseer Ernesto Villegas says the rumor that Chinese investors want to finish the building "doesn't make any sense," since the structure is unsafe, in terrible condition and possibly irreparable. He told reporters, “The tower does not meet the minimum conditions for safe, dignifi

Still, the ultimate plans for the building clearly will not involve the current residents, Chinese investment or not. Maduro said recently that three options were on the table: destruction, the establishment of a new residential community or commercial redevelopment.

It seems like big business will likely win that competition.

By Tom McKay 

Exxon Mobil Says it started Complying with New Federal Protections for Gay, Lesbians,Transgender


In a story July 22 about new federal anti-discrimination rules, The Associated Press reported erroneously the value of Exxon Mobil Corp. shares held by investors who supported amending the company's equal employment opportunity statement. The New York state comptroller said the investors' shares are worth about $51.4 billion, not $41.5 billion.
A corrected version of the story is below:
Exxon Mobil says it'll follow new anti-bias rules
Exxon Mobil says it will comply with new federal protections for gay, transgender workers
IRVING, Texas (AP) — Exxon Mobil Corp. has said it will comply with the new protections for gay and transgender employees required of federal contractors, while still sidestepping the question of whether it will formalize that by changing the language of its corporate policy.
Following President Barack Obama's signing of an executive order Monday expanding protections for federal workers and contractors from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, the Labor Department has 90 days to issue regulations for how employers must comply.
Exxon, which according to government records won more than $480 million in federal contracts in 2013 and more than $8 billion since 2006, has long resisted pressure from civil rights groups and shareholders to enumerate such protections in its formal policy.
The world's biggest oil and gas company by market value will continue to "abide by the law," spokesman Alan Jeffers said Tuesday.
He wouldn't say if that meant changing the language in the company's formal equal employment opportunity policy, but stressed that Exxon prohibits "discrimination on any basis."
According to the Human Rights Campaign, which supports gay rights and gay marriage, 91 percent of Fortune 500 companies include anti-gay bias as an explicit part of their non-discrimination policies, and 61 percent explicitly protect against discrimination based on gender identity. Irving-based Fluor Corp. and the company formerly known as the Washington Post Co., now Graham Holdings Co., are the only other companies listed without explicit policies protecting workers from discrimination based on sexual orientation in Human Rights Campaign's 2014 corporate equality index.
In May, Exxon shareholders voted down a proposal for the 15th consecutive year to add such language to its equal employment opportunity statement, maintaining that the business standards stated on a company web site ensure protections without having to specifically name them.
The proposal, backed since 2010 by New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli on behalf of the New York State Employees Retirement System, has never gained majority shareholder support. This year it won 20 percent of voters who DiNapoli said hold roughly $51.4 billion in Exxon stock.
"They say they don't need to because it's not an issue, but we don't agree. Without clear written policies that are very specifically stated, employees aren't clearly entitled to equal benefits," DiNapoli said.
Natasha Lamb of the private equity group Arjuna Capital, another Exxon Mobil shareholder, said she's confident the company will comply with the executive order to the letter.
"I can't imagine Exxon would compromise a federal contract over a couple of words," she said. "That would be juvenile. Once regulation is in place, they will follow suit and act in the best interest of shareholders."
The company began offering benefits to legally married same-sex couples in May 2013, a month before the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act, which had allowed states to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages granted in other states.
But Exxon is facing a same-sex discrimination complaint in Illinois. Last year, the group Freedom to Work sent the company two fictitious resumes for a job opening in Illinois. One resume had stronger qualifications, but identified the applicant as gay. Exxon Mobil responded to the lesser-qualified applicant's resume while the gay applicant received no reply.
Earlier this month, the Illinois Human Rights Commission overturned a lower body's decision to dismiss the case. Exxon has said the allegations are without merit.


46 Yr Old Pedophile Scout Travels 230 Miles to Meet Teen, Gets 7 Yrs.


A GAY scout worker from Yorkshire who groomed a teenage boy in Tunbridge Wells and travelled 230 miles to have sex with him has been jailed for seven years.

Christopher Worrall, 46, who was also chairman of Holme on Spalding Moor Parish Council, travelled to the town for a sex encounter with a boy he had groomed after finding him on Facebook.

He was sentenced at Maidstone Crown Court this morning (Wednesday) for his offences with the boy in Kent as well as with another boy in north Yorkshire.

The court heard how Worrall contacted the victim online and by text and travelled to a Tunbridge Wells hotel where he got the boy to perform a sex act on him and asked him to take photographs of his private parts.

The incidents with both boys happened between June 17 and October 2, 2012.

The court also heard how Worrall, of Chapel Fields, Holme on Spalding Moor, had agonised over “coming out” as a gay, grooming his victims on the internet and of how one of them tried to commit suicide after meeting him.

Judge Martin Joy said: “There has been a devastating psychological impact in relation to both your victims. Both have had a very severe traumatic effect.”

Judge Joy added there had been “deliberate and calculated grooming” involved but decided Worrall did not present a strictly defined danger for the future.

Worrall received consecutive sentences of three and a half years for each offence of having sexual activity with the teenagers with a concurrent sentence of 27 months for two offences of grooming them.

A sexual offences prevention order was also made and Worrall’s name will appear on the sex offenders’ register indefinitely.

Lobbyists are advising GOP that Gay Marriage and being elected R running together this time


Republicans on K Street are helping members of their party shift their stance on gay rights issues.
Kathryn Lehman, a top GOP lobbyist and partner at Holland & Knight, carries a list of 40 to 50 Republican offices in the House and Senate she visits on behalf of Freedom to Marry, a group that backs same-sex marriage. 
 “The issue is losing its toxicity, from a Republican perspective,” she said, mentioning that the list was a fraction of that size when she first took on Freedom to Marry as a client in 2011. 
Lehman, who helped to write the Defense of Marriage Act while working on Capitol Hill, is among a small group of lobbyists and organizations that are leveraging their conservative credentials to try to sway Republican lawmakers on gay marriage, transgender rights and the creation of a federal nondiscrimination policy.
The majority of Republicans in Congress remain opposed to same-sex marriage, and the party’s official platform stresses the preservation of “traditional marriage” between a man and a woman.
But some Republicans have begun to break from the party line. There are now eight Republicans in Congress who support same-sex marriage, split evenly between the House and Senate.
Advocates such as Carl Thorsen and Rob Epplin, who both represent the Human Rights Campaign, and Torrey Shearer, a director at Allegiance Strategies who represents American Unity Fund, are working to grow that number.
“My sense is there are plenty of members who would like to do the right thing, but it’s not because lobbyists are pushing them to do so,” said Thorsen, a founder of Thorsen French Advocacy.
When Thorsen hears that a member might be considering a show of support for LGBT people, he gets in contact with the lawmaker’s office to offer encouragement and walk him or her through how others have gone about it.
“These are human beings who view these issues on a deeply personal level, but at the same time, they’re elected officials, and articulating those views may be — understandably — complicated by their political situation,” he said.
Organizations like Log Cabin Republicans and Project Right Side are also pushing Republicans by providing data about changes in public opinion and, like lobbyists, offering lawmakers and their offices a “safe space” to talk about the challenges facing LGBT individuals. 
In addition, Project Right Side, founded by former Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman, makes the case for how gay rights align with conservative principles.
“We’re also trying to protect a party that we care a lot about. There has been societal change. Any political party that ignores societal change does so at its own peril,” said Mehlman, now the global head of public affairs at investment banking firm KKR, told The Hill.
“As conservatives, we don’t have to ignore it. There is a strong conservative argument for safe schools, for civil marriage, merit-based decisions at work.”
Some Republicans who have softened their position on gay marriage have faced a backlash from religious organizations typically aligned with the GOP.
After Florida Republican Rep. David Jolly said last week that he believed states should honor same-sex marriages, despite it being “contrary to his Christian beliefs,” a conservative organization asked him to apologize.
“We call upon you to publicly apologize for this mistake and hold fast to your original position that states should define marriage as it has always been, the union of one man and one woman only,” read a letter distributed by the Florida Family Policy Council. “We also challenge you to not cower to the pressure, demands and intimidation of homosexual activists.”
Despite the opposition of religious conservatives, advocates are convinced the tide is turning in their favor.
“I have had meetings with some of the most rock-ribbed social conservatives in Washington,” said Gregory Angelo, the executive director of the Log Cabin Republicans. “A lot of them see the writing on the wall, they see the direction the country is headed.”
A Pew Research Center poll released earlier this year showed that more than 60 percent of Republicans under the age of 30 support gay marriage; 43 percent of those aged 30–49 were in favor. 
Epplin, a longtime Capitol Hill aide, said the political climate has changed quickly both nationally and in Congress. He left the Capitol in 2012 for Gephardt Government Affairs, and the Human Rights Campaign was one of his first clients.
In the last 15 years, he said, more Republican staffers and lobbyists have come together in the effort, largely matching the shift in public opinion.
“There was a realization that the Republicans have a role in this,” he said. “You need both sides to get something done.”
Epplin worked most recently for Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), who voted for the repeal of “Don’t ask, don’t tell,” supported employer anti-discrimination legislation and endorsed same-sex marriage in June.
“I was always her LD [legislative director] first,” Epplin said. “I wasn’t her gay LD.”
“Had we had conversations about this? Sure, but the real conversations [that made a difference] with her came from … the people that she knew in Maine that were close personal friends,” he added.
There are now 31 states, plus the District of Columbia, that have legalized same-sex marriage or seen a ban overturned in court. The most recent decision came Monday in Virginia, where the 4th Circuit tossed out a gay marriage ban.
“We are winning faster than I can keep track of,” one advocate told The Hill in an email.
While lobbyists are encouraged, they said there is a steep climb ahead.
Despite more than two decades of lobbying, Congress hasn’t passed legislation that would protect gay or transgender individuals from being fired because of their sexual identity.
“People understand that right now gay individuals largely do not have the right to marry, whereas most Americans believe employment protections for LGBT people already exist,” said Angelo of the Log Cabin Republicans. “A lot of work we do is reminding people that it does not.”
The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which would provide those protections, is largely seen as the next step in LGBT advocacy. Other issues, such as the treatment of gays and lesbians in countries such as Russia and Uganda, are also on the agenda. 
“I believe that this is the civil rights movement of our generation,” said Thorsen, whose sister recently married her longtime partner, “and I’m proud that I’m on the right side of this, and I’m proud that I can tell my grandchildren that I was there when it mattered.”

 Megan R. Wilson

Gay Marriage Have Surpassed Marijuana laws in being Approved. Why?


Nearly two decades ago, Americans’ support for both marijuana legalization andsame-sex marriage was virtually equal. About one-quarter of US citizens was in favor of each, according to Pew Research Center polling at the time.

But that year, 1996, the two movements seemed to be at very different crossroads. In September, US president Bill Clinton signed into law the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which denied federal recognition of same-sex marriages. Two months later, California passed Proposition 215 and became the first state in the US to legalize medical marijuana.

It turned out the two movements were at crossroads, but not the ones it seemed at the time. Today a majority of Americans support marijuana legalization for recreational use and same-sex marriage. But only Colorado and Washington State have legalized marijuana, while same-sex marriage is now legal in 19 US states and in the District of Columbia.

How did gay-marriage advocates accomplish the broad success that marijuana supporters can only dream of?

One popular view is that, over the last decade, attitudes toward both gay marriage and marijuana legalization have dramatically shifted as a more-tolerant millennial generation has come into its own and begun to shape American public opinion. However, the story behind the success of the gay-marriage movement offers different lessons about the levers of change in the American political system.

Follow the money 

The US gay-marriage movement began decades ago to little fanfare, but today counts a majority of America’s richest and most politically influential people and corporations among its backers. It is now well understood in Washington that Democratic Party candidates cannot win funding from prominent party fundraisers without stating their support for marriage equality, say top party strategists. The movement has moved from the fringes of American society to comfortably within the American political and cultural mainstream.

In addition to president Barack Obama’s now-explicit support for gay marriage, there are seven openly gay members of Congress, a tiny fraction of the 535 members but the highest in history. Out gay men and lesbians are more visible and increasingly in positions of power. There’s Annise Parker, the mayor of Houston, the nation’s fourth-largest city and home to the Bush family dynasty; Ellen DeGeneres is host of one of the most-watched daytime TV programs in America.

Five years ago, support for gay marriage was at just 37%, while today 54% of Americans are in favor of marriage equality. Though the gay community still faces discrimination and homophobia, this is a massive shift in US public consciousness. It is probably due to a myriad of factors, but chief among them, critics say, is that the gay-marriage movement learned to play the game for influence in American politics: raising money for political candidates.

Gay-rights groups, political-action committees and individuals sympathetic to LGBT issues gave over $6 million in contributions to political campaigns in 2012, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics. That’s not to say that this funding drowned out opposition voices or that there wasn’t a genuine increase in support among Americans for same-sex marriage in recent years. But it helped build political support more quickly than decades of grassroots activism could have, says Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, which advocates marijuana legalization.

“As a movement, what we’re trying to learn about more from the gay-rights movement is how they were able to mobilize wealthy gay individuals or those sympathetic to their causes to further engage in the political process,” said Nadelmann, who Rolling Stone calls America’s “real drug czar.” “Money is king in American politics,” he told Quartz. “In order to reach the mainstream, you need people within your movement who have influence, who are politically connected, who have the chance to put the message in the ears of those in elected office.”

In 2012, in two of three states that considered ballots to legally recognize gay marriage, supporters raised millions more than their opponents. In Washington state, voters passed referendum 74, a measure that was backed by $13.7 million in donations. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and his wife MacKenzie gave $2.5 million. In Maine, supporters of a measure to repeal Maine’s ban on same-sex marriage raised nearly $9 million, with a large majority of that money coming from out-of-state gay rights groups, versus roughly $2.6 million for opponents.

The financial support has persuaded politicians to back similar measures in other states, said Nadelmann, who acknowledges that the disparity between funding for marijuana-legalization and gay-marriage initiatives is vast. The gay-marriage movement, he explains, sought out financial resources and won in states where its grassroots activism was historically minimal. He cites Washington state specifically as an example: despite the fact that only a slight majority of Washingtonians supported same-sex marriage, the well-funded referendum overwhelmingly passed.

“I have a tremendous amount of respect for those in the gay-rights movement,” Nadelmann said. “What they did in 2012 and really what they’ve done over the last decade has been nothing short of remarkable.”

The pursuit of funding and friends in politics

Last October, a Gallup poll showed that 58% of Americans supported marijuana legalization for recreational use. That was the first time in the poll’s history that a majority of Americans supported legalization.

+The question now for Nadelmann and other leaders in the US marijuana-legalization movement is how to convert that into wins in more states.
With the gay-marriage movement, success in the courtroom has clearly been a factor: last June, the US Supreme Court struck down a key part of the Defense of Marriage Act, which denied same-sex couples married in states that allowed it to federal benefits afforded to heterosexual couples. The decision emboldened the gay-marriage movement to unprecedented successes in the courts in conservative states from Utah to Indiana.

The marijuana legalization movement could follow the same route, challenging state marijuana prohibitions across the country. But, without the Supreme Court weighing in on the issue nationally, that could potentially take many years.

Then there’s the funding issue, which may mean an existential crisis for backers of marijuana legalization. Can it maintain its image as an established grassroots movement while also cozying up to the nation’s wealthy and political elites like supporters of gay marriage have? Welcoming support from people in power will grant them a greater role in dictating the movement’s agenda, an issue that Nadelmann admits could be troubling.

Major political actors who could help the legalization cause with organization and funding are civil-rights groups. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) has said that the criminalization of marijuana disproportionately affects African-Americans and other communities of color, which makes it a civil-rights issue. An estimated 750,000 people, disproportionally individuals of color, are jailed each year for marijuana-related offenses, according to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). In this respect, like their counterparts in the gay-marriage movement who used marriage equality as a structural answer to homophobia, the civil-rights leaders see marijuana legalization as a response to entrenched, institutional racism.

It’s still unclear whether an alliance of civil-rights groups and marijuana-legalization advocates could align enough to become a machine for getting new marijuana laws passed across the US. But if the supporters of legalization want to achieve the success enjoyed by gay-marriage advocates, they’ll need to tap into political networks and funding of that sort.

July 30, 2014

Gays in Arkansas are being victims of discrimination and harassment.


A survey by a prominent gay rights group asserts that large numbers of gays and lesbians in Arkansas report having been the victims of discrimination and harassment. The group is now pushing for legal protects for the LGBT community in the state with support from one prominent Democrat, but a Republican member of the Arkansas legislature is saying not so fast.

In the survey released Monday (July 28) by Human Rights Campaign — the largest such survey conducted of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bi, trans-gendered) individuals in Arkansas' history, the group said — a fourth of all respondents reported employment discrimination, while another 37% described harassment in the workplace.

The report from HRC notes that 38% of LGBT households earning less than $45,000 annually have experienced workplace harassment, while 43% of respondents said they had been harassed at "public establishments." The reported said 45% of those surveyed experienced harassment of some sort at school, with 44% saying that harassment was most common in high school. A full third of LGBT students in rural areas reported being harassed on a weekly basis at their schools.

"To address these disparities, earlier this year, HRC launched Project One America," a press release from HRC said. "With the goal of improving the lived experience of LGBT people, Project One America will work to change hearts and minds, advance enduring legal protections, and build more inclusive institutions for LGBT people from the church pew to the workplace."

As part of its work in the state, HRC on Monday named Kendra Johnson as state director for HRC Arkansas, where Project One America Director Brad Clark said she would work with Arkansas' elected officials to affect change in the state's hearts and minds and laws.

“Kendra has the vision to create a strong Arkansas community by working with various local leaders across the state,” Clark said. “She has the experience to bring LGBT Arkansans the respect and dignity they deserve.”

Jerry Cox, executive director of the Arkansas Family Council, said even though the survey from HRC may show that individuals feel as though they've been discriminated against, he said to his knowledge there has not been a single reported case of an individual being discriminated against "or thrown out of a restaurant because they were go."

“It's a solution in search of a problem," he added. 

Rep. Greg Leding, D-Fayetteville, said the results of the survey show that Arkansas should advance some sort of legal protections for the LGBT community though he doubts such legislation will occur before his time in the legislature is up at the end of 2016.

"I do think we need to take some action. However, I don't think any legislation would stand a chance in the current (Republican-controlled) legislature," he said. "I think nationally, we clearly see opinion trending toward acceptance and equality. I think that's just the arch of the universe with past struggles. We're moving in that direction. Arkansas has lagged, but even here I see us moving in that direction (toward acceptance)."

But Rep. Stephen Meeks, R-Greenbrier, said passage of a law targeted at prevention of discrimination against gays and lesbians would create "special protections" that were unnecessary.

"I guess that would be my question, is what special protection do they need? There are already anti-discrimination laws that are available. I don't see where they would see that they would need special protections."

But Leding pointed to laws he said were specifically designed to discriminate against gays and lesbians as part of the reason why protections were needed.

"Obviously, I'm a pretty big proponent of doing away with the 2004 constitutional ban on marriage equality," he said. "The law forbidding unmarried couples from adopting, even though it didn't name gay couples, that's who they were targeting. And that's been repealed."

Arkansas' ban on gay marriage was ruled unconstitutional of Pulaski County Circuit Judge Chris Piazza, though it is not binding pending an appeal of the ruling. But the decision to stay Piazza's ruling did not come before hundreds of gays and lesbians married at courthouses across the state.

Where Leding said action needs to take place is locally, where city and county ordinances could be passed that would hopefully spur representatives of those communities in the legislature to act on a statewide level.

Leding's own city of Fayetteville is considering an ordinance that would protect LGBT citizens in the community from discrimination, according to a report from the Arkansas Times. Leding said even without the bill having passed, the conversation it has sparked within the Fayetteville community is a positive step forward for LGBT citizens in the city and in Arkansas.

"It has sparked some debate here in the community," he said. "I believe the mayor has expressed support. I know members of the council have. I've heard some mixed comments, too. Some in the business community think it is necessary. Some don't. But I'm glad the community is having the conversation, regardless of whether it passes or not. I think something could be done on a statewide level, certainly after I'm gone. But what will help drive that change more quickly is local communities passing ordinances similar to what's under consideration here in Fayetteville. That helps move things up the ladder."

But for all the talk of equal rights for gays and lesbians, Meeks said being a member of the LGBT community is a choice and therefore should not be afforded the same anti-discrimination protections as other groups, such as African-Americans.

"Laws should apply equally and fairly to everyone. This is why I would disagree. There are current protections in place, like for race. We can't decide our race or nationality. Those are things we have no choice over. These other things, people have a choice as far as their sexual preferences, so forth. So if we keep making these special exemptions or rules for these groups, where does it end?”

The Worse Homophobic Countries are the worse dealing with HIV Here R the worse 10



At a huge international HIV/AIDS conference, TheBody.com spoke with several individuals that hail from some of the toughest countries in the world when it comes to being gay and HIV positive. Read to the voices of these men and women as they respond to the question: What’s Life Like for HIV-Positive Gay Men in the Country Where You Live or Work?


Paul Semugoma, M.D., Uganda

I'm Dr. Paul Semugoma. I work in Uganda with KULHAS, which is Kuchus [gay men] Living With HIV/AIDS.
What is life like for HIV-positive gay men in Uganda? It's not easy, because they are living in a kind of double closet.

Ian McKnight, Jamaica

I'm Ian McKnight. My present job is with the Caribbean Vulnerable Communities Coalition, which is a Caribbean coalition of NGOs [non-governmental organizations] that do work with marginalized groups, among which we work with MSM [men who have sex with men].
In the Caribbean, men who have sex with men suffer extreme discrimination and stigmatization. We have seen where that has resulted in people being beaten, people being killed in Jamaica. We saw that recently in Nassau. We see, for example, where the violence is catching on in countries like Antigua and St. Lucia. We’re also seeing deaths, and we're seeing people threatened

Venkatesan Chakrapani, M.D., India

I'm Dr. Venkatesan Chakrapani from India. I'm with the Indian Network for People Living With HIV.
A person who is a man who has sex with men as well as HIV positive has to face double discrimination from the society, meaning being both positive as well as being MSM, which is not accepted in the general public, as well as within the HIV-positive community. Sometimes an MSM living with HIV may not be affected by the mainstream positive people. In that way, they are facing discrimination, but from the general public, from the health care providers, as well as from the mainstream positive people.

Anita Radix, M.D., Grenada/New York

My name is Anita Radix and I'm originally from Grenada, which is in the Caribbean. I recently relocated to New York. I'm a physician. I work with HIV-positive patients.
Of course it's very different in New York, but when I was working in the Caribbean it was a very difficult situation to work as a physician with clients who were really not able to access care. Especially for MSM, there's a great deal of invisibility. A lot of people don't want to disclose their sexuality or what they're doing.
As one of the few "out" physicians -- I'm a lesbian physician -- I did get a lot of MSM clients who felt comfortable coming to me. But, for the majority of people, they don’t [access care].

Ruben del Prado, Guyana/Suriname

Hi, I'm Ruben del Prado. I'm the UNAIDS country coordinator working in two countries in South America. One is called Guyana and one is called Suriname.
Being gay in both countries is quite different. In Guyana, for instance, the laws of the land are still very much discriminatory of homosexuality. In Suriname, they're not. That immediately gives it a different perspective. In Guyana, being HIV positive and gay is a double jeopardy. It is very, very difficult. In Suriname, of course, being homosexual is a lot less repressed, but being HIV positive is not easy.

Joseph Akoro, Nigeria

My name is Joseph Akoro. I'm from Nigeria. My organization is The Independent Project for Equal Rights [TIP]. Basically, what we do is we work on human rights and also HIV/AIDS issues in the LGBT community in general.
Our special focus [is on] young people, because we know that these people are the most vulnerable to HIV infection and human rights violations based on sexual orientation, which affects sexual behaviors, whether protected or unprotected.
To be HIV positive as a young person and a gay man -- or a man who has sex with men, however you identify -- in Nigeria is bizarre because the law discriminates against you having sex with a man, so you do not have any access to health care as someone who has sex with a man. Also, the government does not even provide those services because they do not acknowledge men who have sex with men.

Michel De Groulard, Trinidad and Tobago

My name is Michel de Groulard. I am a UNAIDS regional program advisor in the regional office of Trinidad and Tobago for the Caribbean.
I have been living in Trinidad for a number of years in different capacities, so I know Trinidad pretty well and I know the gay community pretty well as well. I am really concerned about the young people, the young gay men in Trinidad and Tobago. Some of them have been infected at the age of 15 or 16. Most of the time they have been raped by older men, not knowing at that time what was really happening to them. But because of that, they got infected with HIV.

Orchid Gowe Hunter, Jamaica

My name is Orchid Gowe Hunter and I'm a nurse working for Jamaica AIDS Support for Life for the past 12 years. I have been working with MSM, sex workers, heterosexuals and a wide cross-section of persons living with HIV/AIDS.
For MSM and their family members, from what I have observed, most families, most of these persons are not accepted by their family members -- just a few. For those who are not accepted, most of them are merely turned out on the streets, abandoned by their family, or are discriminated [against] in society, and family members also discriminate [against] these persons. Life is not so nice in Jamaica for MSM right now.

Caleb Orozco, Belize

Caleb Orozco. I'm from Belize. I am the president of the United Belize Advocacy Movement. We're the only MSM organization in the country. We were inspired by a multicentric study in development, and we've never looked back since 2006.
What's life like in Belize? It depends upon your age group and your class group. For [those in] the age group of 18 to 24 who are closeted or who are HIV positive, the experiences are different.

Olanrewaju Onigbogi, M.D., Nigeria

My name is Olanrewaju Onigbogi. I work as a public health physician at the University College Hospital in Ibadan, Nigeria.
I would like to start by giving people a perspective of Nigeria. Nigeria is such a big country, and I work as a researcher in Ibadan, which is in the southwestern part of the country. Many national HIV rates aren't really correct, so the best you can have are regional rates based on work that people have actually done in their region. So I'll be talking strictly about my work around the area where I live.
The HIV situation in Nigeria: I can say it's stabilizing. It was getting worse a few years ago, but now the rates are going down. The data also show that the infection rates are going down

A legal Milestone approaching for gay Chinese not being treated as sick through antigay therapy

Gay rights activists in China are preparing for what they say could be a legal milestone in their fight to stop homosexuality being treated as an illness.
Later this month, a Chinese court will hear the first case of its kind brought against a clinic that offers so-called "gay conversion therapy".
A long campaign in Europe and America has been successful in shifting the medical consensus against such treatment, and now campaigners want Chinese doctors to follow suit.
In an office block in the eastern city of Nanjing, down a gloomy corridor, I find the Nanjing Urban Psychiatric Consultancy Centre.
It's a small office with a sparsely-furnished treatment room upstairs, from which - seemingly prompted by our arrival - a young male patient hurriedly leaves.
Dr Zhou ZhengyouDr Zhou claims to have successfully "cured" 70% of his gay patients
China declassified homosexuality as a mental illness well over a decade ago, but clinics like this one are still easy to find.
Dr Zhou Zhengyou shows me some of the books he's written on the subject over the course of his career.
One of them is a guide for parents who suspect their son or daughter might be gay.
The overriding message appears to be that it is their own parenting methods that are somehow to "blame".
Dr Zhou now claims to cure up to 70% of his gay patients, although he says it is a long and difficult process.
And, his critics point out, at $120 (£70) a session - a lot of money on an average Chinese wage - long and difficult can mean lucrative.
Dr Zhou tells me that today he uses counselling alone and does not treat his patients with so-called aversion-therapy offered elsewhere in China. But he is happy to describe how it works.
"One common method is electric shock. When the patient has a gay thought, we electrocute them or inject them with drugs that make them sick," he said.
A supporter of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community takes part in the Hong Kong gay pride parade on November 12, 2011Gay pride parades have taken place in Chinese cities, including neighbouring Hong Kong
In a picture taken on 8 March, 2011 gay couples kiss during their ceremonial 'wedding' as they try to raise awareness of the issue of homosexual marriage, in Wuhan, in central China's Hubei provinceChinese gay activists have begun taking bolder actions to gain support and acceptance
Legal challenge
China's gay community has begun to fight back. They've organised a number of protests - small in number but nonetheless brave in China.
Video footage of one demonstration shows activists holding up a protest banner at a Beijing medical conference. "Being gay is not an illness," it reads.
The delegates do not seem convinced. "We cannot support homosexuality," a doctor said. "Although we try to understand it," his colleague adds.
In addition to such direct action, the campaigners have been given another avenue to pursue.
Xiang XiaohanIn March, activist Xiang Xiaohan challenged a government decision not to register his gay rights organisation
For the first time, China has allowed them to challenge gay conversion therapy in the courts.
"I had electric shock therapy only once," the man bringing the case, who calls himself Xiao Zhen, told the BBC. "Imagine those who've had it many times."
He put himself through the treatment in order to gather the evidence and he's now hoping that a successful court ruling in his favour will effectively ban the practice.
It's a battle that has been fought elsewhere, of course.
Gay activists in Hong Kong protest against "gay conversion" therapy on 17 June, 2011Government plans to introduce "gay conversion" therapy in Hong Kong drew outrage in 2011
Aversion therapy has been the target of campaigners in Europe and America for decades and today, the notion of the gay conversion has not completely gone away.
But the modern medical consensus in the West is that there's no good evidence that sexual orientation can be changed.
Some people suggest that attitudes in China have been slower to evolve because of the one-child-policy as well as heavy Confucian pressure on young people to get married and produce a family heir.
Attitudes in China, though, are changing fast - that Shanghai now holds an annual gay pride event is proof of that. It includes gay film screenings, discussion groups and a fun-run.
Being China, participants are not allowed to march.
Now the court case, it’s hoped, will be another step forward, sending a message that the enduring medical prejudice needs to stop.

First joint report on the state of Human Gay Rights in Africa

Washington, DC — 
In advance of President Barack Obama’s upcoming U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit with nearly 50 African heads of state, today Human Rights First and the Human Rights Campaign Foundation, the educational arm of America's largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) equality, released a jointreport that provides brief country-specific overviews on the status of LGBT people in each of the continent’s 54 nations.
Heads of state from 32 of the 37 nations in Africa that criminalize LGBT relationships have been invited to the summit. Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni and Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan—both of whom signed draconian anti-LGBT laws earlier this year—are scheduled to attend. The death penalty is allowed as a form of punishment in some Nigerian states, and leaders from two other nations that allow it in all or some parts of their country—Mauritania and Somalia—are also expected to participate.
“More than 800 million people live in African nations that criminalize LGBT individuals because of who they love or who they are” said Ty Cobb, HRC Foundation’s Director of Global Engagement. “Many face near-constant threats of harassment, discrimination, prosecution and violence on a daily basis, and others remain vulnerable to increasingly dangerous and concerted efforts to enact harsh anti-LGBT legislation. Supporting the human rights of all Africans, including LGBT Africans, must be an important part of our nation’s engagement.”
“We know that there are thousands of people across the African continent who are standing up for an end to violence and for full equality for all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity,” said Human Rights First’s Shawn Gaylord. “These people, activists, leaders, lawyers, religious figures and others, need to know that they have support around the world and this Summit is an ideal time to signal that support.”
Human Rights First and HRC Foundation's joint report, The State of Human Rights for LGBT People in Africa, documents existing anti-LGBT laws and efforts to enact new measures; some publicly known instances of discrimination and violence; the presence and activity of LGBT rights organizations; and encouraging signs of support for LGBT people.
Announced by the White House as the “largest single engagement by any U.S. President with Africa”, the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit will provide Obama Administration officials a chance to directly engage these leaders and their delegations on a number of critical issues. Earlier this week, Human Rights First and Human RIghts Campaign joined Council for Global Equality to urge President Obama to include civil society leaders in the summit.
 Human Rights First and HRC Foundation believe that the protection and preservation of the basic human rights of LGBT Africans should be one of the many important areas of discussion. Although we recognize that every bilateral relationship is complex, and that engagement on LGBT rights must be included in the context of broader human rights discussions, we believe that leadership in this once-in-a-generation moment could encourage broader progress on the rights and treatment of LGBT Africans for decades to come.
President Obama declared in 2011 that the “struggle to end discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons is a global challenge, and one that is central to the United States commitment to promoting human rights.” Secretary of State John Kerry has affirmed this commitment, and the Obama Administration has taken tangible steps to advance the cause of achieving full LGBT equality abroad.
In June, the Obama Administration announced a series of new concrete actions that held the Ugandan government and leaders in it accountable for the internationally condemned Anti-Homosexuality Act, which was enacted earlier this year. “We must put all world leaders on notice that such efforts have no place in the 21st century, and there will be severe consequences for engaging in them,” Cobb said at the time. “This creates an important precedent for leaders and governments considering implementing similar laws.”
“We remain hopeful that the United States will put LGBT issues on the agenda not as a stand-alone element but within the framework of a broad discussion of all the other vital issues affecting civil society in Africa,” said Gaylord.

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