Military experts, medical associations and HIV advocates oppose Trump DOD’s discharge policy for HIV-positive airmen

Image by skeeze from PixabayNEW YORK — Military leaders, medical associations, public health groups, and HIV advocates joined three friend-of-the court briefs filed today in support of a federal lawsuit challenging the Pentagon’s discriminatory policies, which prevent service members living with HIV from deploying to most locations outside the United States. These deployment restrictions recently resulted in decisions to discharge a number of Airmen.  The briefs being filed today in Roe and Voe v Shanahan before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit urge the court to uphold a preliminary injunction preventing the Air Force from discharging service members with HIV. “Given the assessment of military experts and the advances in HIV treatment, the Pentagon’s policy of refusing to deploy—and now to discharge—HIV-positive servicemembers who honorably serve our country is utterly discriminatory, outdated and unnecessary,” said Scott Schoettes, HIV Project Director and Counsel at Lambda Legal. “As the world’s largest employer with 2.5 million employees, it is outrageous that the Department of Defense has a harmful and unlawful policy that perpetrates stigma, jeopardizes public health, and dishonors servicemembers.”  

In the lawsuit, Lambda Legal and the Modern Military Association of America (OutServe-SLDN) represent two active duty airmen, identified anonymously as Roe and Voe, who served their country honorably for years until they were discharged in 2018 for being HIV-positive.. The briefs argue that the Pentagon’s categorical exclusion and discharge of HIV-service members is outdated, irrational and discriminatory given the strides in HIV medicine that allow people living with HIV to suppress HIV to undetectable levels, return to health, and lead full lives. The briefs further argue that the Pentagon’s policies lacks scientific support and justification, enact real world harms, and undermine broader public health—debunking erroneous claims by the government.

Truvada pills

WHO endorses the use of event-driven PrEP

MEXICO CITY — The World Health Organization (WHO) announced its updated  recommendation for pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) to include event-driven PrEP taken before and after sex – also called on-demand PrEP  – as an HIV prevention option for men who have sex with men. According to AIDSMap, the pdate was announced at the 10th International AIDS Society Conference on HIV Science (IAS 2019) in Mexico City. AIDSMap reported that event-driven PrEP involves taking a double dose (two pills) of Truvada (tenofovir disoproxil fumarate/emtricitabine) between 2 and 24 hours before sex is anticipated, and then, if sex occurs, one pill 24 hours after the double dose and another 24 hours later. If sex occurs several days in a row, one pill should be taken each day, until 48 hours after the last event. In 2015, Dr Jean-Michel Molina of the University of Paris reported that event-driven PrEP reduced the risk of HIV infection by 86% among gay and bisexual men in the French Ipergay study – equalling the protective effect of daily PrEP in the UK PROUD study, the medical news website reported.


Study: Increased risk of subjective cognitive decline in the LGBTQ community

LOS ANGELES — New research reported at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference (AAIC) 2019 in Los Angeles found higher rates of subjective cognitive decline among lesbian, gay, bisexual and/or transgender (LGBT) Americans compared to their cisgender* heterosexual counterparts. In the study, subjective cognitive decline (SCD) was defined as self-reported confusion or memory problems that have been getting worse over the past year. Another study presented at AAIC 2019 investigated the effectiveness of a first-of-its-kind Alzheimer’s intervention designed specifically to improve physical function and independence for LGBT older individuals with dementia and their caregivers. The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Washington, showed the importance of tailored interventions and strong community partnerships in designing care for LGBT individuals. “Much too little is known about Alzheimer’s disease and dementia in the LGBT community.

Truvada pills

Even when HIV prevention drug is covered, other costs block treatment

By Michelle Andrews

CHICAGO — Three years ago, Corey Walsh, who was in a relationship with a man who was HIV-positive, got a prescription for Truvada, a drug approved by the Food and Drug Administration to prevent infection with the virus that causes AIDS. Walsh, then 23, was covered by his parents’ health insurance policy, which picked up the cost of the drug. But the price tag for the quarterly lab tests and doctor visits he needed as part of the prevention regimen cost him roughly $400, more than he could afford. “I went back to my physician and said, ‘I can’t take this anymore because all these ancillary services aren’t covered,’” Walsh recalled. He ended up joining a clinical trial that covered all his costs.

More data needed on LGBTQ youth of color in child welfare, juvenile justice systems

LOS ANGELES — A collection of working papers at the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law found this week there is a lack of knowledge about LGBTQ youth of color in the child welfare and juvenile justice systems

The Williams Institute conducts research on sexual orientation and gender identity law and public policy. “We lack rigorous data on LGBTQ youth in the child welfare and juvenile justice systems and other systems, which prevents us from monitoring the well-being of this vulnerable population over time,” said co-editor Kerith J. Conron, Blachford-Cooper Distinguished Scholar and Research Director at the Williams Institute, in a press release. In April, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Children and Families announced that it will not implement an Obama-era rule that required child welfare departments to gather and report data related to the sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression of youth in the foster care system. “The data collection requirement aimed to improve our understanding of the characteristics and experiences of youth coming in and out of the system,” said co-editor Bianca D.M. Wilson, the Rabbi Barbara Zacky Senior Scholar of Public Policy at the Williams Institute. “With those data, we would be able to analyze whether there are gaps in care, whether there are certain groups experiencing disparities and whether the systems’ efforts to reduce disparities among at-risk youth are effective.”

The Institute said that existing research has found that LGBTQ youth of color are overrepresented in the child welfare and juvenile justice systems. Structural racism and LGBTQ stigma likely increase the risk of that LGBTQ youth of color will enter these systems. Once in the system, LGBTQ youth of color tend to remain longer and face an elevated risk of discrimination and violence compared to other groups of youth.


U.S. House passes bill to overturn transgender military ban

WASHINGTON — The U.S. House of Representatives has passed a bill that would overturn the Trump administration’s ban on transgender service members. The bill is an amendment from U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2020. It would codify the military’s existing equal opportunity policies to include non-discrimination protections on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, gender identity and sexual orientation. “This is a crucial moment for our elected officials to bring accountability to a reckless and lawless policy,” said Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality. This bigoted ban has brought chaos to prospective recruits, active duty servicemembers, and countless families forced to watch their dedication and duty soiled by a self-interested President.

GLAAD issues report on anti-LGBTQ activists on new State Department commission

WASHINGTON — GLAAD released a report on the records of a new human rights commission’s members on Tuesday. The commission, the organization says, is almost a who’s who of anti-LGBTQ activists. The U.S. State Department’s new commission, Commission on Unalienable Rights, is supposed to give the government an informed view of the role of human rights on foreign policy. GLAAD has said that the commission includes Mary Ann Glendon, an anti-LGBTQ activist who claimed marriage equality was a “radical social experiment,” and Shaykh Hamza Yusuf Hanson, who claimed marriage equality was “one of the signs of the End Times.”

“This ‘Commission’ is a farce and further illustrates the bold-faced anti-LGBTQ agenda of this administration,”said Sarah Kate Ellis, president and CEO of GLAAD.  ”The Trump Administration is knowingly appointing activists who have made careers out of fighting against LGBTQ progress and is now providing them an opportunity to export their anti-LGBTQ activism around the world through the U.S. State Department.”

Other members of the commission include:

Peter Berkowitz
— Criticized the Supreme Court’s 2003 ruling overturning sodomy laws as “dangerous,” writing that “Justice Kennedy’s majority opinion seemed to follow the logic of his moral and political judgments rather than the logic of the law.”

Jacqueline Rivers
— Delivered a speech at the Vatican, insisting that LGBTQ activists were “abolishing in law the principle of marriage as a conjugal union and reducing it to nothing other than sexual or romantic partnerships or domestic companionship.” She went on insist that LGBTQ activists have “unjustly appropriated” civil rights language.

Sen. Duckworth introduces bill for LGBTQ veterans’ healthcare

WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth has introduced a bill that would address gaps in the healthcare that LGBTQ veterans receive. The Military Times reported on Tuesday that the bill would address higher rates of intimate partner violence and mental illness compared to non-LGBTQ service members. The bill was introduced in the U.S. House and Senate on June 27. It was introduced in the house by by Rep. Chris Pappas, D-N.H.

“We owe all veterans who have defended our nation access to the health care and benefits we promised, and they have rightfully earned — regardless of their race, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation,” Duckworth told the newspaper. From the Military Times:

The LGBT VA Advocacy Inclusion Act would authorize the VA’s Center for Minority Veterans to address “gaps in care” that currently do not target LGBTQ service members who experience depression, certain cancers and suicidal ideation, Duckworth said.