Showing posts with label HIV Discrimination. Show all posts
Showing posts with label HIV Discrimination. Show all posts

February 5, 2019

Dignity For Gay People in India Is Fought Every Day, Is 50 Million Deaths ok?


A Personal History of Outlawed Love and Sex 
By Siddharth Dube

In 1988, when Siddharth Dube was a deeply in love 26-year-old, the majority of gay men in India concealed their sexual orientation. A colonial-era law, Section 377, criminalized homosexuality, which was defined as an “unnatural” offense. To protect themselves from arrest, many gay men socialized in public parks and toilets under the cover of darkness. As an Americanized journalist just in from New York, Dube was often shielded from the accumulation of traumas that defined the lives of others. With his partner, a Parisian Bharatanatyam dancer, the cool Delhi nights passed in idyllic fashion. Until the night the police called them in.

“The man sitting behind the desk in the muddy-brown uniform of the Delhi police looked at me with such aggressive loathing,” Dube writes in “An Indefinite Sentence,” his heart-stopping memoir of being gay in India and the world. “I thought, momentarily, that he had mistaken me for someone else. … He burst out angrily, almost as if in a rage. ‘You are a homo! You have naked men dancing at your house, exposing themselves. Go back to America! If you want to live here, you will live as an Indian, not like an American!’”

Dube fled. A scholarship at Harvard put him on the path to a career in global health policy, with a special focus on AIDS. “In every way, this was a disease about me,” he explains. “This virus that was intertwined with our essential human longing for sex and love, and with being outlawed, shamed and persecuted.”

From that distance it was easier to assess the things — beautiful and terrible — that had defined life in India. There was the magical childhood in Calcutta with loving parents, private yoga lessons and bedtime stories. But then, from the age of 11, there were the seven years at the Doon School, the elite public school in the Himalayan foothills, where sexual abuse by older students flourished and headmasters cruelly advised victims to “become tougher.” It speaks to the author’s transcendental capacity for forgiveness that he was later able to harness the memories of his abuse into fighting for the human rights of others. “My own suffering seemed less random and unfair,” he writes, “now that I could see so many other people who had also been wrongfully cast out by society.” 

As the AIDS epidemic gathered ferocious momentum in the United States, the activist and author Paul Monette observed, “Death by AIDS is everywhere around me, seething through the streets of this broken land.” Dube responded by living a life of virtual abstinence. Over the next few years he poured himself into work for the United Nations, the World Bank and then Unicef. He published two books, including a deeply reported account of one impoverished family’s life in India.

And so, although this is a personal memoir, it is also a memoir of work. Work helped Dube find himself. And work allowed him to live a life he could be proud of. It’s in combining his personal story with the ravages of AIDS he witnessed that Dube advances the genre of queer memoirs in India. 

The book has precursors. Firdaus Kanga’s novelized account of his life in Bombay, “Trying to Grow” (1991), is one important example. Another is “Because I Have a Voice” (2005), in which the editors Arvind Narrain and Gautam Bhan brought together an indelible set of essays and personal narratives from across the country. At the opposite end of the class spectrum, A. Revathi’s gut-wrenching “The Truth About Me” (2010) recounted the normalized violence facing the country’s hijras — a term for a variety of third gender. But Dube’s return to India in the 1990s, at the height of its AIDS crisis, equipped him to chronicle another vital story. His critical and vivid reporting of the time brings to mind the achievements of David France in “How to Survive a Plague.”

In 1996, doctors in India told The New York Times that the death toll from AIDS could reach 20 million, or even 50 million, by the end of the century. That year, after a group of prostitutes in the southern city of Madras were arrested for solicitation, a researcher working for Dr. Suniti Solomon, the microbiologist credited with pioneering AIDS research in India, drew samples of their blood. The women didn’t know what they had consented to. The six who tested positive for H.I.V. were immediately transported to a government-run reformatory where they were confined to a tiny room. They were refused legal and medical aid and access to their families.

A pattern was set in place. “Forever after in India,” Dube writes, “AIDS was thought of as a disease of women prostitutes merely because the first indigenous cases were detected among them. They were accused of spreading the sexual infection to hapless men, who then spread it to their innocent wives and babies.” On the pretext of protecting the public, human rights abuses became rampant.
Some doctors didn’t just refuse to treat victims; they leaked their status to the media. Prostitutes were imprisoned in such large numbers, the government had to set up makeshift camps to house them. And Hindu supremacist politicians censored any public conversation about sex and sexuality. In 1996, vigilante groups empowered by such politicians burned down movie theaters that screened Deepa Mehta’s film “Fire,” because it focused on a lesbian relationship. The idea that homosexuality is a disease brought to India by Islamic invaders is popular even today. Last September, after the Supreme Court overturned Section 377, a politician from the prime minister’s Bharatiya Janata Party called homosexuality “a genetic disorder, like having six fingers.”

Such statements betray an ignorance of traditional values. “Hindu mythology,” the author Devdutt Pattanaik writes in “Shikhandi,” his retelling of popular myths, “makes constant references to queerness.” A key character in the war epic Mahabharata was born a woman and becomes a man. A great king experiences life as both a man and a woman. And, in an oral retelling of the story of Lord Ram, the Hindu god is so moved by the steadfast devotion of his hijra subjects that he promises, “Never again shall you be invisible.” In the literary history “Same-Sex Love in India” the academic Ruth Vanita reminds us that pre-Islamic texts feature “men and boy prostitutes and dancers who service men … in descriptive, nonjudgmental terms, as normally present in court and in daily life.”

Nationalist politicians, more so than anyone else, should by now be aware that it was the British, with their Victorian prudery, and their fear and distaste of Indians, who criminalized homosexuality. They empowered the police to arrest hijras without a warrant for merely “appearing” to be “dressed or ornamented like a woman.”

By the time of the AIDS crisis, these forms of persecution were widely embedded in Indian society; they forced vulnerable groups to take the lead in the campaign to spread awareness. In Madras, one of the H.I.V.-positive prostitutes isolated at the start of the epidemic started working as a peer educator. In the coastal state of Goa, Dominic D’Souza, a young gay man, fought to dissolve the law that had allowed the state to isolate him in a TB sanitarium after he fell ill. Collectives of prostitutes mushroomed across the country. On one memorable occasion a protest outside Parliament shut down the main streets of the Indian capital. In the time they had, many victims catalyzed transformative change in how the public approached the unprecedented crisis.

By reminding us of their achievements, Dube gives his readers the substantial gift of hope. The sentiment is, in fact, the spine of his memoir. “The impoverished, the reviled and the outcast — whether black or untouchable, whether girly boy, faggot, hijra or whore — never stop fighting for dignity and justice,” he writes. “There is hope in this — undying hope. It makes bearable the most indefinite of sentences.” 


July 28, 2018

Black HIV Man Is Refused Hair Cut } He is Suing Barber Shop


Image result for Nikko Briteramos, 34

 This is Los Angeles folks and not MIssissippi and no body can tell me this has nothing to do with the Suprme Court Siding with the Flower Shop. HIV is settled Science since thousands if not millions of People with HIV Can not pass it on if they are Undetectable, never mind that hair, saliva,eating the hair he cuts cannot give this ________something of a man HIV. 🦊Adam
A Los Angeles barbershop is facing down a Lambda Legal lawsuit for allegedly refusing to cut a man’s hair because he is HIV-positive. 
Nikko Briteramos, 34, (Above)says that the owner of King of Kuts barbershop in Leimert Park told him he couldn’t risk serving positive people because word might reach his celebrity clients. 
“It was a small loss, maybe even a greater loss of dignity to some degree, but I’m tough enough to battle that,” said Briteramos. “But the fact that it was presented to me as this sort of matter of fact, like anyone would do the same sort of way, that’s what gave me the impression that this was a broader social issue.” 
Briteramos had been a regular at King of Kuts prior to the incident. But the trouble started, he said, when his former barber from Chicago coincidentally started working at the shop last October. 
Briteramos made international headlines as a college freshman at Huron University in South Dakota when he was arrested for criminal HIV exposure in 2001. At 19, he learned he might be positive after donating blood, according to court documents. Before confirming his diagnosis, Briteramos engaged in sexual activity with a female student at the college. The campus launched community-wide testing using his photo, and his story and status were widely publicized.
The fallout cost Briteramos his basketball scholarship. He dropped out of school. 
HIV criminalization laws are now largely seen as counterproductive to halting the virus because studies have shown they heighten stigma and discourage testing. 
In Briteramos’ case, the very public arrest followed him and deeply impacted his life.  
When Briteramos walked into King of Kuts last October, his former Chicago barber told the owner of the shop about Briteramos’ difficult past. 
“When it should have been Nikko’s turn, Rambo, the owner of King of Kuts, came outside to speak with him,” his lawsuit states. “He told Nikko that he would not cut his hair and the shop could not serve him because of his HIV status.” 
Briteramos said, after everything he had been through, he had come to expect that response from people.
“I felt bad but at the same time, I wasn’t 100 percent devastated,” he said. “I was frustrated in the very least.”
But Briteramos recognized that in some parts of the country, there was just one barbershop to get a haircut. 
Lambda Legal HIV Project Director Scott Schoettes says cases like Briteramos’ deeply impact marginalized people beyond the door of a single business or incident. 
“The service itself can have varying degrees of import and urgency, so if someone’s going in to get healthcare services and perhaps even in an emergency situation obviously the discrimination there is going to feel a lot harder to deal with and have greater consequences,” said Schoettes.
Briteramos’ suit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, alleges the cuttery violated the Americans with Disabilities Act and California’s non-discrimination law. 
It seeks to cease the alleged discrimination and to award Briteramos unspecified damages. 
“Justice has to begin with a sort of apology at the very least, a taking back of that position that you wouldn’t cut someone’s hair, irrespective of their opinion of one’s own clientele,” said Briteramos. 
The lawsuit has been filed alongside the launch of a new public education campaign by Lambda and the Black AIDS Institute (BAI) that aims to reduce stigma around HIV in Black communities. 
Phill Wilson, CEO and founder of the Black AIDS Institute, said Briteramos’ case highlights the imperative of confronting discrimination to end the epidemic. 
“In addition, as a Black organization, we have to be ever vigilant in confronting injustice,” Wilson said. “It is a part of our survival. We fight those injustices to survive–and this is a case about injustice. It’s about bias. It’s about bigotry. It’s about discrimination. We have an obligation to be at the forefront of that effort; that’s essential.” 

May 16, 2018

Gay Men Were Fired By The Peace Corps For Being HIV+

Romany Tin started feeling feverish and tired this January, six months into his dream job teaching English at a rural Cambodian high school as a volunteer for the Peace Corps. After a battery of blood tests two days later, he got the news: He had HIV and would be flown to Washington, DC, for treatment.
“At first I was just shocked,” Tin told BuzzFeed News. But after reading about how HIV medications had advanced, allowing infected people to live normal lives, “my mindset was literally just, I want to make sure I can come back.”
But that wouldn’t be possible.
Despite effective treatment — within a month, medication had slashed the amount of HIV in his blood to an undetectable level — the Peace Corps notified Tin that because of his new HIV diagnosis, his assignment in Cambodia had been terminated. 

In a March 8 letter about Tin’s case reviewed by BuzzFeed News, the Peace Corps said that “medical separation” was appropriate. His stipend would be cut off, and he would have to wait three to six months — time he’d need to make sure his new treatment was working well, the letter argued — before reapplying for a post in a different country with better medical resources. In person, Tin recalled, his Peace Corps health worker told him that Cambodia was not on an approved list of countries where people with HIV could serve.
“They’re such a progressive organization, but their stigma and knowledge of HIV and how to treat it is very backwards,” said Tin, whose story was first reported by Them. “I feel very mistreated. I feel angry.”
Tin is one of at least two gay men ousted from the Peace Corps this year after testing positive for HIV. Two other gay men who used to work for the program told BuzzFeed News that Peace Corps doctors denied their requests for PrEP, the daily pill that protects against HIV infection, because their sexual behavior was deemed not risky enough. And when one of those men managed to get a second request for PrEP approved, he was then threatened with dismissal for exactly the behavior that made him eligible for the drug: having unprotected sex.
The Peace Corps is a federal program launched 57 years ago by President John F. Kennedy to create a civilian army spreading American values in poor areas of the world. Like the US military, it has repeatedly come under fire for its policies on the sexual health and safety of its servicemembers. In 2014, for example, a new law forced the Peace Corps to lift its 35-year ban on federal abortion assistance for volunteers. The year before that, a different law overturned its ban on pregnant volunteers. In 2011, yet another law required the organization to address its long track record of mishandling sexual assault cases.
And in 2008, Jeremiah Johnson, a Peace Corps volunteer in Ukraine, had his service terminated after testing positive for HIV. The ACLU took up Johnson’s case, claiming that the Peace Corps was discriminating against people with disabilities. In response, the organization implemented a new policy to not automatically terminate HIV-positive volunteers but to instead assess them on a case-by-case basis.
As for the two men booted this year, the Peace Corps told BuzzFeed News that, “The health, safety and security of Volunteers are Peace Corps’ top priorities.” Its 7,000-plus volunteers work in 65 countries around the world, but there are only 18 where it can “provide appropriate medical support” to those with HIV, a spokesperson said by email.
In addition to concerns about volunteers’ health, the Peace Corps also must consider local legal restrictions around HIV status that could endanger the safety of volunteers or people they work with. In some countries, for example, it’s illegal for people with HIV to have sex without condoms, or to keep their HIV status secret from their sexual partners.
“The agency considers factors including access to reliable specialists and trusted laboratories as well as a country’s legal climate when placing HIV-positive Volunteers,” the spokesperson said.
Still, legal experts and HIV advocates say that the Peace Corps’ medical separation policy may violate the Americans with Disabilities Act as well as HIV-specific anti-discrimination laws.
“The paternalistic response that it is in their ‘best interests’ does not change the stark fact of discrimination,” Lawrence Gostin, a professor of global health law at Georgetown University, told BuzzFeed News by email.   
Forced medical separations also ignore the effectiveness of current treatments, HIV advocates say.
“We are concerned that the Peace Corps’ policy pertaining to volunteers diagnosed with HIV is arbitrary, not grounded in evidence, and being implemented without critical attention to the wellbeing of the volunteers,” said the Treatment Action Group, a think tank that has been advocating on Tin’s behalf, in an open letter to the Peace Corps last week.
“In practice,” the TAG letter added, “these policies mean that volunteers who make the health-conscious decision to get tested for HIV — a practice the Peace Corps should encourage — are, in effect, punished if they test positive.” 
A second gay man who was terminated from his post after getting HIV had been teaching high school students in Southeast Asia. (Because of privacy concerns, BuzzFeed News is using the first initial of his middle name, M., and not disclosing the country of his assignment.)
M. joined the Peace Corps in March of last year. In a sexual health training session, he said he asked whether he could get PrEP and was told Peace Corps doctors would not prescribe the medication unless he had already had unprotected sex in the country. He hadn’t.
In March of this year, M. got his blood tested for another medical issue and was surprised to find out he was HIV-positive.
His doctor told him that because of the country’s restrictive laws against people with HIV, he would be putting its Peace Corps program at risk of being shut down if he stayed at his post. So M. flew back to his host family for a week to say his goodbyes. “We didn’t know what to do but cry,” he said.
Once back in DC, M. was told by the Peace Corps that he could not go back to that country, that he would be put on forced leave without his stipend, and that he’d have to wait three to six months before re-applying to serve. He was devastated, he said, to be forced out of his adopted country, and furious that the Peace Corps doctors had not encouraged him to take PrEP when he’d expressed interest in the drug.
Like Tin, M. received a letter from the Peace Corps stating that the termination was to ensure his safety. “This condition limits your ability to perform your Volunteer assignment and has the very real potential for further aggravation during the remainder of your Peace Corps service,” the letter stated. He was medically separated this month. James Fishon
 Two former Peace Corps members told BuzzFeed News that they were denied PrEP while serving in Ukraine, which has one of the highest rates of new HIV diagnoses in Europe.
James Fishon

 After 32-year-old Jeremiah arrived in 2015, he saw a Peace Corps doctor in Chernihiv and asked about how to get access to PrEP. The doctor seemed generally uncomfortable discussing gay sexual health, Jeremiah recalled, and was confused about what the drug was. (BuzzFeed News is withholding Jeremiah’s last name to protect his identity.)
The doctor eventually asked him to fill out a form, based on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s 2014 guidance around evaluating risk of HIV exposure. A few weeks later, according to emails reviewed by BuzzFeed News, the Peace Corps denied his request for PrEP, saying his answers on the form showed that his sexual behavior was not risky enough to merit a prescription. Jeremiah was stunned.
“I was sexually active and was going to a country where they had the highest prevalence of HIV infection in Europe,” Jeremiah said. “It was definitely something I felt I needed.”
Months later, he visited a different Peace Corps doctor in Ukraine and made a second request for PrEP. When filling out the form this time, “I lied and said I was engaging in risky behavior,” Jeremiah said.
His request was approved — but before getting the drugs, he had to listen to his doctor read a statement out loud. The letter, Jeremiah recalled, stated that he was violating his Peace Corps contract by engaging in sexual behavior that put himself or others at risk. And if he continued this behavior, the doctor said, he could face dismissal. (The Peace Corps did not answer questions about whether volunteers are contractually obligated to use condoms. Instead the spokesperson wrote: “Peace Corps Volunteers are expected to comply with both Peace Corps’ medical policies and the instructions of Peace Corps Medical Officers regarding the prevention and treatment of illness and injury.”)
Jeremiah began taking the drugs and finished his service at the end of last year. “I think LGBT health in the Peace Corps is almost nonexistent,” he said. “It just isn’t there.”
James Fishon had a similar experience in the summer of 2017. He was working in a Ukrainian village near the border with Belarus, focusing on programs for kids with HIV.
At the medical office in Kiev for a routine medical check, Fishon asked the doctors about PrEP. Initially, as with Jeremiah, the doctor said he didn’t know what PrEP was, and then gave him a form to fill out. Fishon stated that he was a man who had sex with men, and that in the last year he had had sex without condoms and had contracted a sexually transmitted infection — all factors that make PrEP strongly recommended by the CDC.
When asked if he had yet had sex in Ukraine, he said no — and that answer prompted the Peace Corps to deny his request. A doctor at Peace Corps headquarters wrote an email to Fishon saying his “current sexual activity does not meet criteria” and advised him to “use condoms every time you have sex.”
Three months later, after filing three complaints with the Peace Corps about potential safety risks in his village, Fishon was attacked in the street by two men who knew he was gay and working on LGBT issues. After the attack, he left. “I am so disappointed in the Peace Corps because I feel like they dropped the ball every step of the way,” Fishon said. “They talk about being an organization that wants to be diverse and inclusive — and they like that on the surface — but the fact of the matter is they don’t have the structure in place to protect those people.”  On Feb. 22 of this year, hoping to go back to his work in Cambodia, Tin appealed his termination. He argued that his viral count in two recent lab tests was undetectable, that Cambodia has the medical infrastructure to support the regular bloodwork he needs, and that his meds could be shipped in from the US.
“Please don’t judge me hastily because of my diagnosis and take into consideration everything that I have mentioned into the kindness of all of your hearts,” his letter concluded. “I really wish to continue my service without any interruption.”
On March 1, the health coordinator in DC told Tin that his appeal had been reviewed by the Medical Review Board and had been denied. On March 8, Tin was officially terminated.
He’s now back in his hometown in Southern California, figuring out what he’ll do next.
“I feel completely healthy, mentally and physically. They know that,” Tin said. “I could have returned to service.”
Azeen Ghorayshi
Azeen Ghorayshi

January 19, 2017

An Indian Prince Fighting Ignorance About Sex and HIV/AIDS

Prince Manvendra Singh Gohil, India's first openly gay royal and AIDS activist, speaks during an interview in New Delhi. A member of a royal warrior clan and heir apparent to the throne of Rajpipla in Gujarat, Gohil uses his fame and status to educate the gay community about safe sex and their rights in a country where gay sex is a criminal offense. (Originally AFP)

“People say homosexuality is a part of western culture. It is absolutely wrong,” Gohil told AFP in an interview, citing the Kamasutra and the homoerotic sculptures that feature in ancient temples across the country.

“It is the hypocrisy in our society which is refusing to accept this truth. And this motivated me to come out openly and tell the world ‘I am gay, so what? And I am proud of it’.”

Gohil has been part of a campaign against the colonial-era law that bans homosexual acts in India, which he says has contributed to the spread of HIV/AIDS.

His charity, Lakshya Foundation, works with homosexual men and the transgender community to promote safer sexual practices, though they face constant obstruction from police.

“People are having sex under fear and unsafe sex practices are going on,” he said.

“When we started work among the MSM (men having sex with men), we were harassed and threatened by police.

“We would keep condom packets in public toilets, and even hang them on trees in public parks because we did not want to stop them from having sex in toilets or behind the bushes. We just wanted them to have safe sex.”

Gohil says some of his NGO’s workers “were arrested and taken to the police station where the cops themselves had forced sex with them without condoms.” (AFP)
‘Spreading homosexuality’

Gay sex was effectively decriminalised in 2009 when the Delhi high court ruled that prohibiting it was a violation of a person’s fundamental rights.

But in 2013 the Supreme Court ruled that the responsibility for changing the 1861 law rested with lawmakers and not judges.

Prosecutions are rare, but gay people say they face significant discrimination as well as harassment from the police.
Gohil said even a government contract to distribute condoms did not protect his workers from police harassment.

“They said we were spreading homosexuality,” he recalled.

“Some of our workers were arrested and taken to the police station where the cops themselves had forced sex with them without condoms.”

India has the third highest number of HIV/AIDS cases in the world according to the United Nations, with about 2.1 million people in 2015, although the rate of infection is falling.

In another positive sign, two bills designed to end discrimination against transgender people and individuals infected with HIV are currently going through the Indian parliament.

Working with people in the transgender community is a priority for the government in its national AIDS response plan, but social isolation means the community is still at particularly high risk of HIV transmission.

The bill seeks to prohibit discrimination in any form and specifically bans denying them access to public places, on pain of up to two years’ imprisonment and a fine.

But campaigners have objected to a clause which would force people to undergo tests to determine their gender identity. 

They say this is against the spirit of a 2014 Supreme Court judgement that allowed anyone to “self identify” which gender they are.

“When the social empowerment ministry itself is not clear who a transgender is how will they address their issues?” said Gohil.

“It is a challenging situation. I don’t blame any political party. It’s not the party but the individuals who are either homophobic or gay friendly.

“It’s our duty to educate them because they are ignorant.”

December 22, 2016

Missouri C.A. Vacates 30 yr Sentence for HIV’er Caught Up on Disclosure Laws

Michael Johnson - Photo: St. Charles County Police Department.
Michael Johnson – Photo: St. Charles County Police Department.
The Missouri Court of Appeals has thrown out a 30-year prison sentence and ordered a new trial for a former college wrestler accused of failing to inform some of his sexual partners of his HIV status. Michael Johnson, an HIV-positive black man with learning disabilities, was convicted last year of violating an out-of-date Missouri law that criminalizes the sexual conduct of people living with HIV.
The court of appeals’ decision is based on the state’s failure to turn over last-minute conversations recorded at the county jail that were subsequently used to obtain Johnson’s conviction. By failing to notify the defense of the evidence in their possession, the court found, the prosecution had essentially railroaded Johnson in a way that could have significantly altered the case, reports The Associated Press.
Presiding Judge James Dowd, in his ruling overturning the conviction, chastised the prosecution, accusing them of adopting a “trial-by-ambush strategy.” Johnson will now face a new trial, in which he’s been charged with one count of recklessly infecting another with HIV, and four counts alleging he exposed or tried to expose others to the virus between January 2013 and October 2013.

Prosecutors maintained throughout his first trial that Johnson had deliberately lied to sexual partners about his HIV status. During the trial, St. Charles Police Detective Don Stepp testified that more than a dozen other men had approached the department claiming to have had sex with Johnson after learning of his arrest under Missouri’s HIV criminalization statute. But Stepp also said those men didn’t want to file formal complaints, because they were not out to their families.
BuzzFeed‘s Steven Thrasher reported in 2014 that prosecutors have a form from the state of Missouri, dating back to January 2013, signed by Johnson, acknowledging that he had been diagnosed with HIV. However, Thrasher also noted in his article that Johnson was never given legal counsel when he signed the form, many months prior to his arrest, and may not have understood the legal implications of the document he was signing.
 Lambda Legal, the American Civil Liberties Union, and other LGBT and HIV/AIDS advocates have taken issue not just with Missouri’s law, but similar laws, which were written at a time when HIV diagnosis was considered a death sentence. At that time, little was known about how the virus was transmitted or what safeguards can be used to protect against infection, such as the positive partner maintaining an undetectable status, the use of PrEP for the negative sexual partner, or the use of condoms by both partners.
“Living with HIV is not a crime,” Schoettes said in a statement. “Except in the most extreme cases, the criminal law is far too blunt an instrument to address the subtle dynamics of HIV disclosure. Willingness to be open about HIV status will be created only by the destigmatization of HIV and policies that ensure people living with HIV are not singled out for discrimination or special prohibitions and punishments. Prosecutions like this — under antiquated laws like Missouri’s — take us in the opposite direction.
“Given the outdated nature and extremely punitive nature of Missouri’s law, Lambda Legal is hopeful the State will not appeal this decision, and will instead work to resolve the case without the need for another trial,” Schoettes added.
John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at

December 8, 2016

Thanks to a Deadly Corrupt Duterte Gov. HIV Rates are Out of Control ‘No Condoms No Testing’

 A friend of mine in California with friends and trips to the Philippines told me unless you work and have good insurance there are no HIV meds in the Philippines for you. He said "the government sees these people as throw aways and they are deplorable that have no redemption. The sooner they die the better off the government is.”

Policies like restricting gay men from using condoms while having sex are causing an HIV epidemic in the Philippines, Human Rights Watch said in a report released on Thursday, 8 December.

According to official statistics, there has been a tenfold rise in the prevalence of the sexually transmitted virus in the country, the 46-page report, titled "Fuelling the Philippines' HIV Epidemic: Government Barriers to Condom Use by Men Who Have Sex With Men" notes.
The group said that among all Asia-Pacific nations, the Philippines is facing one of the fastest-growing HIV epidemics. It blamed the national and local governments for failing to address the growing HIV prevalence among gay men, which emerged as the biggest source of the spread of the deadly virus in the recent past.

The report states that although President Rodrigo Duterte's predecessors took adequate measures in the 1990s to prevent HIV spread in the country, they focused only on commercial sex workers and completely ignored same sex relations. The government even ignored data from the Department of Health that indicated that 81% of the 35,000 recorded HIV cases in the country between 1984 and June 2016 have been among men who have sex with men. The first HIV case was recorded in the country in 1984.

HIV Epidemic

Human Rights Watch has warned the Philippine government of an HIV epidemic in the country due to policies preventing gay men access to condoms and HIV testing facilities

"President Duterte has inherited a legacy of failed or counterproductive policies of previous administrations that are contributing to the alarming increase in HIV infections among men who have sex with men," Carlos H Conde, a Philippines researcher, said in a statement released by the human rights group.

"Reducing HIV transmission isn't rocket science. But it does require the Duterte government to implement an HIV prevention program and remove obstacles to condom and HIV testing access so that young Filipinos – particularly men who have sex with men – can protect themselves from an otherwise preventable illness," the researcher added.

According to health department data for 2015, at least 11 cities in the Philippines have recorded HIV prevalence rates of more than 5% among gay men, with the second largest city, Cebu City, recording a 15% prevalence rate.

The overall prevalence rate for the Asia-Pacific region is 0.2% and for Sub-Saharan Africa, it is 4.7%, which are way lower than the prevalence rates recorded in the Philippines, the report notes, adding that the dismal scenario was a result of “longstanding resistance of the Roman Catholic Church to sexual health education and condom use".

December 1, 2016

In Russia Healthy Living and Family Values is giving them an Increase of Straight HIV Transmission

 Do You Know What Dec.1st is?(Even if You don’t use condoms, now there is no reason to get HIV in many countries, ask me!


- For a few weeks in 2012, Yury had a family: His wife, Katya, had given birth to a girl.

But when Yury took his ailing baby daughter to the hospital two months after she was born, he learned that she was HIV positive, and his world began to collapse. After he was tested and came up positive, he said, Katya told him that she had given him the virus -- and had known she had it while pregnant but kept it secret from him out of fear.

A month later, their daughter was dead. Katya, who refused to take antiretroviral therapy to prop up her ailing immune system, died last year.

"We didn't separate or run away from each other. We went to the end," said Yury, a 40-year-old auto mechanic from a gritty Moscow suburb who preferred not to be identified by his surname. "I've come to terms with it all. How can I blame the person who gave me a daughter?"

Russia's HIV epidemic passed a grim milestone in January as the country registered its millionth HIV-positive citizen -- double the number in 2010. About 200,000 of that million have died since HIV was first registered in Russia in 1987.

With less than one percent of the population of Russia's 142 million infected, the situation is less dire than epidemics that have ravaged Sub-Saharan Africa. And yet while the rate of new HIV infections across the world is ebbing, in Russia it is on the rise.

Russia accounts for the lion's share of infections in a Eurasian region, which UNAIDS -- the United Nations' program on HIV/AIDS -- says is the "only region in the world" where the HIV epidemic has "continued to rise rapidly." More than 93,000 new cases were registered in 2015 -- compared, for example, to 44,000 new diagnoses in 2014 in the United States, whose population is more than twice as large.

Yury does not know how Katya contracted HIV, but his own story fits into a trend that some leading experts say President Vladimir Putin's government must face up to fast: The number of Russians infected through straight sex is rising.

Vadim Pokrovsky, the longtime head of the Federal AIDS Center and an expert who has been tracking the disease's progress in Russia for almost three decades says the epidemic is advancing beyond traditional high-risk groups and spilling into general circulation.

Pokrovsky said that infections through heterosexual contact accounted for 45 percent of overall infections in 2015, compared with 10 percent 10 years ago.

He believes Russia stands at a critical juncture: The government should forsake what he casts as conservative policies that deviate from established global practice in the fight against HIV.

"I think it is now spreading into the heterosexual population," Pokrovsky told RFE/RL. "We can no longer keep on saying 'nyet-nyet' [Russian for "No-No"]. We have to urgently take measures."

'HIV Belt'

For years, the chief mode of transmission in Russia has been intravenous drug use, which boomed after the Soviet collapse as the social fabric frayed and factories shut down or slashed workers' jobs, particularly in industrial towns in the Urals and Siberia. Rampant drug abuse tore through cities on the heroin trail from Afghanistan westward in the 1990s and 2000s, forming something of an "HIV belt" across central Russia where the virus remains most prevalent today.

Pokrovsky believes the situation is moving from a "concentrated epidemic" among at-risk subgroups such as injecting drug users to a "generalized epidemic" -- defined by the World Health Organization as a situation with "HIV prevalence consistently exceeding 1 percent among pregnant women."

Pokrovsky said that in over 15 of Russia's 82 regions, more than one out of every 100 women who becomes pregnant has HIV.

"The trouble at the moment is that the number of people contracting HIV through heterosexual sex is rising," Pokrovsky said. "We cannot say that these transmissions are connected to the traditional vulnerable groups."

Other experts say there has been no major shift in the way HIV is spreading in Russia.

In e-mailed comments to RFE/RL, UNAIDS said that "the majority of the new HIV cases in Russia remain concentrated among key populations -- particularly injecting drug users and their sexual partners."

But almost all agree on the need for urgent action in Russia, where several factors -- including the persistent stigma attached to homosexuality, a strained health-care system, a lack of education about risks, government pressure on NGOs, and logistical problems that critics say have been created or aggravated by the state -- are making the HIV/AIDS problem worse.

Rising Concern?

There are some signs of new attention from the government, and the media that serve it, to an issue that was long considered peripheral.

Recently, newspapers such as Komsomolskaya Pravda, a popular pro-Kremlin tabloid, have carried stories with headlines like: "HIV can happen to anyone: go out and get tested!"

Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev declared the situation a matter of "national security" in March, and on October 20 signed off on a five-year strategy to combat the crisis through 2020. 

But despite the indications of increased concern, activists, doctors, and NGO workers fear that the new government plan remains hamstrung by the same conservative, go-it-alone approach that has stymied efforts to rein in the epidemic so far.

Among other things, the strategy prioritizes raising awareness, with the help of NGOs, among "key groups of the population." But in a common point of criticism, Pokrovsky said the strategy fails to clarify how the government plans to work with key HIV risk groups such as injecting drug users, sex workers, and gay or bisexual men.

"No one has answered the question of how we are going to warn people about the circulation of HIV among drug users -- although about 20 percent of intravenous injecting drug users already are infected," said Pokrovsky. "Nothing is said about how to prevent the infection of the remaining 80 percent."

"The same goes for sex workers," he told RFE/RL. "There is not a word about prevention among them. Everyone knows there are many of them. But there are no special programs planned for this group. The same goes for men who have sex with men."

The state "just does not pay enough attention to prevention -- prevention is very weak in Russia," Pokrovsky said, adding that this is reflected in government funding to fight HIV. "If 18 billion rubles ($278 million) are spent on treatment, only 400 million rubles ($6 million) go to prevention."

Zero Tolerance

There are no well-known state outreach organizations or programs working with high-risk groups. This is the exclusive preserve of largely foreign-funded NGOs such as the Andrey Rylkov Foundation For Health and Social Justice -- the only group in Moscow that distributes clean needles, contraceptives, and medication to drug users, the main group incubating and spreading the virus.

The Rylkov foundation receives no financing from the Kremlin and relies on grants from abroad. In July, the group was labeled a "foreign agent" under legislation signed by Putin early in his third term in 2012 that pressures and marginalizes many NGOs with foreign funding.

Foundation activists also encounter street harassment. In October 2013, police threatened to arrest activists who had traveled to a pharmacy in a rundown district in southeast Moscow where they handed out clean needles, bandages, condoms, and ointments. The police ordered them to disperse, prompting them to move to a new location where they continued their work. 

Although 1 million Russians have been registered with HIV in the last 30 years, Pokrovsky estimates there could be another 500,000 living with the virus who have not been identified -- many of them injecting drug users.

"Over half of our cases are contracted through drug use," said Elena Orlova-Morozova, a doctor at the Moscow Region AIDS Center. "It is very hard to identify HIV in this group and make progress with this group. Drug use is criminalized here and there is no talk of decriminalizing it."

“Drug users therefore are scared, of course, and cannot go to state buildings [such as hospitals] to be monitored,” she added. 

Activists also criticize Russia's refusal to legalize heroin substitution therapy which has been used widely across the world -- including in authoritarian countries such as Iran -- to wean drug users off heroin by giving them orally imbibed methadone.

Anya Sarang, head of the Andrei Rylkov Foundation, dismissed Medvedev's strategy as more of the same policy that has brought the epidemic this far. She suggested that one big obstacle to improvement is the growing prominence during Putin's third term of conservative ideas, anti-Western sentiment, and views espoused by the Russian Orthodox Church leadership.

"I guess the Health Ministry is still trying to figure out the 'Russian' and more godly way to deal with the problem since they are not in favor of internationally accepted, evidence-based prevention programs such as needle and syringe distribution and opioid substitution therapy," Sarang said.

'My Son Died Today'

LaSky, an HIV NGO that works with homosexual and bisexual men in Moscow, has not been labeled a foreign agent despite receiving money from abroad. But it has had to adapt to other restrictive legislation passed during Putin's third term.

On a November afternoon, Aleksandr, 29, a shop director who moonlights at LaSky, pasted "18+" stickers onto fliers and pamphlets about HIV and homosexuals so as to avoid being accused of violating a 2013 law that criminalizes the spread of gay "propaganda" to minors.

Rights groups and Western governments say the law marked a major setback for gay rights in Russia, encouraging prejudice and adding to the stigma attached to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community in Russia, where homosexual relations were a crime in the Soviet era.

Ilya, a 20-year-old gay man who has attended counseling sessions at LaSky, has felt the stigma firsthand since he contracted HIV in December 2015 and was disowned by his family, which is prominent in his Siberian hometown. 

When he called his mother with the news of the test result, she said "my son died today" and hung up the phone.

Ilya, who did not want his last name published, said he became depressed and fell behind on his studies at a Moscow university. When exam time came in May he asked for an extension, citing his HIV status and a doctor's note, but was swiftly expelled, he said.

"In Russia, HIV-infected people are not seen as people who need help and are sick, but as people deliberately spreading the plague," said Ilya.

Activists at LaSky say the lack of information about HIV is a major problem. Aleksandr, a gay man from a Volga River town who preferred not to be identified by his surname, said he had no idea when he contracted HIV in 2013 that sexually active gay and bisexual men are at a high risk of infection.

"This information is nowhere, no one talks about it, no one knows anything about it," he said.

Activists say sex education in schools is grossly insufficient. At his high school, Aleksandr said, there was just one lecture that talked about condoms -- and it focused on using them to prevent unwanted pregnancy.

"There was nothing specifically about HIV," he said. "No one in the regions gets that. As a rule, they say superficially that there are sexually transmitted infections and you need to use a condom."

LaSky offers support in getting around a major logistical hurdle for many HIV sufferers in Moscow: The state guarantees free medical treatment for citizens, but only in the locale whether they officially reside -- and many Russians who live in the capital formally remain residents of their hometowns.

After Aleksandr tested positive for HIV, he had to travel back home -- 400 kilometers east of the capital -- for time-consuming treatment. He tried to hold onto his job by asking in advance for time off, but eventually was forced to resign. He has now managed to get registered for treatment by registering at the Moscow Region AIDS Center with LaSky's help.

Champagne, Not Condoms

Activists criticize some of the awareness campaigns that do exist, such as state-sponsored signs at Moscow train stations that make no mention of the use of condoms as a preventive measure.

One public-service poster sponsored by the Moscow government says simply, "Ignorance puts you in the risk group," without further explanation. Another suggests that adhering to traditional family values is key, warning: "Infidelity puts you in the risk group."
Pavel Lobkov -- a TV presenter who broke a taboo last year when he disclosed his HIV-positive status on the air on World AIDS Day, December 1 -- said condoms should be far more accessible.

"They should be handing them out free of charge in clubs where there is a heightened sexual atmosphere, or at rave parties, and so on," Lobkov told RFE/RL in an interview.

"When in a normal shop a pack of 12 condoms costs as much as a bottle of Soviet champagne, a couple of 18-year-olds will buy the champagne and not those boring condoms."

Lobkov said that "there were outreach programs for many years" -- but that times have changed.

"In the 1990s, I remember in all gay clubs or rave clubs there were free condoms at the bar," he said. They've disappeared now. They should be in your face" he said.

But social conservatives who have gained influence during Putin's public push for adherence to what he and the Russian Orthodox Church cast as traditional values tend to oppose such measures.

Lyudmila Stebenkova, a long-time Moscow legislator who heads the city Duma's public health committee, called on November 15 for a ban on the distribution of free condoms.

Stebenkova, who has won awards from the church, said condoms only offer 80 percent protection from infection and that their free distribution inculcates "irresponsible sexual behavior."

In a follow-up Facebook post, Stebenkova attacked foreign NGOs whose methods she called "strange and even irresponsible: giving out one-use needles to drug addicts and propagandizing condoms, which they give out even to schoolchildren." 

“In Moscow we decided to go down a different route: the propaganda of healthy living and family values," she wrote

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