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Archive for December, 2007

hink Before You Drink at the Gym

Posted by pozlife on December 29, 2007

More HIV Testing for Babies

by Tom Hester, Associated Press

HIV testing will soon become part of routine prenatal care and be required for some newborns in New Jersey under a new law that supporters say is putting the state in the forefront of the national fight against HIV transmission to babies.

Acting Gov. Richard J. Codey signed the measure into law Wednesday at University Hospital in Newark. The law will take effect in six months.

"We can significantly reduce the number of infections to newborns and help break down the stigma associated with the disease," Codey said. "For newborns, early detection can be the ultimate lifesaving measure."

Codey, the acting governor while Gov. Jon S. Corzine is out of the country this week for the holidays, sponsored the bill as the Senate president.

Meanwhile, a ban in Washington, D.C., against using city money for needle-exchange programs was lifted Wednesday, a move officials say will help reduce the soaring rate of AIDS and HIV there.

A provision allowing the city to fund needle exchanges was included in the $555 billion spending bill signed by President Bush on Wednesday. Federal spending packages dating back to 1998 had previously blocked such programs.

The New Jersey bill allows women to opt out of the HIV testing, but critics contend the screening will deprive women of their right to make medical decisions.

According to the Kaiser Foundation, a nonprofit research organization focusing on U.S. health care, New Jersey is the first state to push HIV testing for both pregnant women and newborns.

Arkansas, Michigan, Tennessee and Texas require health care providers to test a mother for HIV, unless the mother asks not to be tested, while Connecticut, Illinois and New York test all newborns for HIV, according to the foundation.

New Jersey has required providers only to offer HIV testing to pregnant women. Under the new law, HIV testing will be part of routine prenatal care for all pregnant women, and doctors will provide pregnant woman with information about HIV and AIDS. It also requires newborns to be tested when the mother has tested positive or her HIV status is unknown.

Riki E. Jacobs, executive director of the Hyacinth AIDS Foundation in New Brunswick, the state’s largest AIDS service agency, said the law won’t help the women who don’t get prenatal care.

"We need to focus on getting people into care and keeping them in care," Jacobs said. "That is our most potent prevention weapon."

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended all pregnant women be tested for HIV, though it has said testing should be voluntary. The CDC also found medical intervention during pregnancy can cut mother-to-child HIV transmission from 25 percent to 2 percent.

New Jersey has about 17,600 AIDS cases, according to the Kaiser Foundation. Women represent 32.4 percent of the cases – the third highest rate in the nation. The national average is 23.4 percent.

The state has about 115,000 births per year and had seven infants born with HIV in 2005, according to state health department officials.

The American Civil Liberties Union and some women’s groups contend the bill deprives women of authority to make medical decisions.

"Women’s privacy rights and choices are as constitutionally valid as any other citizen, regardless of reproductive status," said Maretta J. Short, New Jersey’s National Organization for Women president.

In Washington, Mayor Adrian M. Fenty said in a statement Wednesday that needle exchanges will be included in a larger city program to reduce AIDS and HIV infections. About $1 million will be devoted to the exchanges.

About 128 of every 100,000 Washington residents have AIDS, compared to 14 cases per 100,000 people nationwide, according to a recent study.

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DC To Fund Needle Exchange To Fight HIV

Posted by pozlife on December 29, 2007

by The Associated Press

Posted: December 27, 2007 – 4:00 pm ET

(Washington) A nine-year ban on city funding for needle-exchange programs in the District of Columbia has been lifted, a move city officials say is key to reducing the soaring rate of AIDS and HIV infections in the country’s capital.

U.S. President George W. Bush on Wednesday signed a $555 billion federal spending bill that includes a provision allowing the city to spend its own money on programs that provide clean hypodermic needles to drug users. Federal spending packages dating back to 1998 had blocked such programs.

Eleanor Holmes Norton, the city’s congressional delegate, said the ban has contributed to Washington’s AIDS rate, which is higher than any other major city in the country, according to a recent report on the epidemic.

Mayor Adrian Fenty said in a statement the city plans to include needle exchanges in a larger program to reduce AIDS and HIV infections. About $1 million will be devoted to the exchanges.

About 128 of every 100,000 Washington residents have AIDS, compared with 14 cases per 100,000 people nationwide, according to the study released in November.

Rates are highest among the city’s black population, and HIV and AIDS are spreading the fastest among black women. The city estimates that 20 per cent of transmissions are between intravenous drug users who share dirty needles.

Needle-exchange programs offer clean needles to drug users in return for their used syringes. Advocates say the programs also cut down on the transmission of other diseases such as hepatitis. The programs are used by cities countrywide.

But in 1998, Rep. Todd Tiahrt, R-Kan., and then-Sen. John Ashcroft, R-Mo., inserted language in the federal spending package that blocked the district from funding needle exchanges.

Tiahrt and Ashcroft cited Canadian studies that suggested the programs failed to stop the spread of HIV and may have contributed to a rise in drug overdoses. The authors of the studies said congressional officials misinterpreted their report.

The ban persisted in subsequent federal spending bills, forcing private funding of exchange programs in the city. But Norton said the shift in power in Congress from Republicans to Democrats this year allowed for the elimination of the local funding ban.

D.C. Council member Jim Graham, the former head of a city clinic that focuses on AIDS and HIV, said a city-funded needle-exchange program will have a significant impact on the district’s high rate of infection.

“This program will save lives,’’ he said.

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Arizona Gays Face Growing Number Of Syphilis Cases

Posted by pozlife on December 29, 2007

by 365Gay.com Newscenter Staff

Posted: December 27, 2007 – 4:00 pm ET

(Phoenix, Arizona) Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano has approved a $100,000 campaign to urge gay men to get tested for syphilis after state health officials warned the disease is reaching crisis proportions.

"The gay community, especially in Maricopa County, is where the bulk of the epidemic is now," Wil Humble, the state’s assistant director of public health, told Capitol Media Services.

Maricopa County, which includes the city of Phoenix, is one of the worst hit said Humble. The number of cases for the first six months of 2007 was 25 times higher than it was seven years earlier he said.

The majority of the cases was among men who have sex with men.

The money for the ad campaign targeting gay men will come from the state’s Health Crisis Fund. Most of the money will be spent on brochures that will be placed in gay bars and clubs throughout the state.

Untreated syphilis can have devastating health consequences, including impairment of the ability to walk, permanent vision loss, permanent hearing loss, and brain damage.

The disease is treatable with antibiotics.

"Unless they know they’re infected, they don’t go in and get treatment," Humble told Capitol Media. "That means spoon feeding them the locations for clinics where they could get screened and treated."

Because syphilis is associated with unprotected sex it is regarded as an early indicator of a likely rise in HIV cases/

Nationally the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said last month there has been a marked increase in syphilis and other STDs.

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Gay Health Group Given Grant To Fight Meth Use

Posted by pozlife on December 29, 2007

by 365Gay.com Newscenter Staff

Posted: December 28, 2007 – 1:00 pm ET

(New York City) Gay Men’s Health Crisis, the world’s oldest HIV/AIDS organization, has been awarded $303,000 in federal funds to fight the growing role of crystal methamphetamine use in the HIV/AIDS epidemic on a national level.

The appropriation, signed by President Bush, was sponsored by Senators Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Hillary Clinton (D-NY).

Studies have shown rising rates of crystal meth use among gay men and men who have sex with men over the last few years. Various studies show a clear link between crystal meth use and unsafe sex.

In a 2004 study conducted by the National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors and the National Coalition of STD Directors, crystal meth users were more than twice as likely to be HIV infected, nearly twice as likely to contract gonorrhea, and five times as likely as non-crystal users to be diagnosed with syphilis.

Though crystal meth is most commonly smoked, injection use is on the rise. This is disturbing because of the increased potential for HIV transmission through shared needles, said Dr. Marjorie J. Hill, GMHC’s Chief Executive Officer.

Hill said that GMHC views its first-ever federal appropriation as a unique and unprecedented opportunity in the agency’s work to reach out to individuals who are struggling with crystal meth use and provide them with the information and tools to help them prevent becoming infected with HIV and other STIs.

“HIV diagnoses among men who have sex with men in the United States are up 13% since 2001. In New York City, infections among young MSM are up by one third.

Crystal meth is one factor fueling this rise in HIV infections among gay men,” said Janet Weinberg, Senior Managing Director of Development and Legislative Funding.

“This funding will allow us to warn people of the risks of crystal meth before they start using and to get users into treatment.”

The legislation also flat-funded domestic abstinence-only-until-marriage education at $176 million for Fiscal Year 2008. The administration had sought an additional $28 million for the program.

“We’re disappointed that this omnibus bill still contains millions for harmful and ineffective abstinence-only-until-marriage education and still contains the restriction banning the use of federal funds for syringe exchange,” said Sean Cahill, Managing Director for Public Policy, Research and Community Health at GMHC.

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Study: Depression Worsens HIV Treatment

Posted by pozlife on December 22, 2007

by 365Gay.com Newscenter Staff

Posted: December 21, 2007 – 2:00 pm ET

(San Francisco, California) The largest study to examine the effect of depression on HIV treatment has found that depression significantly worsens a patient’s adherence to highly active antiretroviral therapy and clinical measures.

It also found that effective antidepressant medication can reverse this outcome.

The study was done by the Kaiser Permanente Division of Research and the Group Health Cooperative and appears in the current online issue of the Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes (JAIDS).

The researchers looked at 3,359 HIV-infected patients from seven Kaiser Permanente regions nationwide and Group Health in 2000 to 2003 to measure the effects of depression — with and without selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI) use — on adherence and changes in viral and immunologic control in patients starting a new highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) regimen.

The researchers studied the patients’ HAART adherence, viral loads, and changes in CD4 T-cell counts over a 12-month period. 

They found that depressed patients — 42 percent of the patient group — had a lower adherence rate and worse viral therapy response compared to non-depressed patients. But depressed patients who were prescribed SSRI medication and adhered to it had the same outcomes as non-depressed patients.

“The take-home point of this study is that depression carries a worse prognosis for HAART in HIV patients. However, we also found that SSRIs can reverse this and improve outcomes for HIV-depressed patients,” said Michael A. Horberg, MD, MAS, FACP, Director of HIV/AIDS for Kaiser Permanente and the lead author on the study.

“HIV and depression often go hand in hand. If you are HIV-infected, you should be screened regularly for depression, and if you are depressed and you are going to go on HAART, it’s very worthwhile to treat your depression.”

Kaiser Permanente and Group Health are the second largest provider of HIV care in the United States, caring for more than 17,000 patients annually.

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University of Minnesota Researchers Plan Trial of Web-Based HIV Prevention Program

Posted by pozlife on December 21, 2007

December 21, 2007

Researchers at the University of Minnesota plan to begin a clinical trial to test a Web-based software program that aims to fight the spread of HIV by reducing risky behaviors that can spread the virus, ANI/Malaysia Sun reports.

The research team — led by Joseph Konstan, a professor of computer science and engineering at the university, and B.R. Simon Rosser, a professor in the university’s School of Public Health — has worked for more than five years to create a program that assesses risky behaviors among men who are seeking sex with other men through online networks. The team currently is testing an online intervention program that aims to reduce risky sexual behaviors that contribute to the spread of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections.

The software program asks users questions about body image, self-esteem, sexual health and risky behaviors and then provides information about HIV/AIDS. The team’s research, which is part of an interdisciplinary project called the Men’s Internet Study, has found that seeking sex partners is the most popular Internet activity for high-risk groups, such as men who have sex with men. According to the researchers, the online model can be used for other health purposes, such as cancer prevention, substance abuse intervention and obesity prevention. The researchers said they hope the trial finds that the tool is effective in preventing risky behaviors.

According to Konstan, the "goal of this research is to create a genuine online experience that promotes healthier sexual behavior and encourages people to take fewer risks in sexual encounters." Konstan added that it is important to use the Internet for HIV prevention programs. If HIV prevention outreach is not conducted properly "or in a way that’s most responsive, we’re going to have a new HIV epidemic," he said, adding, "There’s enormous urgency in addressing gaps in HIV prevention" (ANI/Malaysia Sun, 12/19).

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Risky Sexual Behavior Among MSM in Europe Increasing Number of Syphilis Cases, Health Officials Say

Posted by pozlife on December 21, 2007

December 21, 2007

An increase in risky sexual behavior among men who have sex with men has been linked to a resurgence of syphilis cases in Europe, some health officials have said recently, the AP/International Herald Tribune reports. According to the AP/Herald Tribune, most syphilis cases in Europe are occurring among MSM, although the sexually transmitted infection also is increasing among heterosexual men and women.

During the last 10 years, syphilis outbreaks have been recorded in countries across Europe, the AP/Herald Tribune reports. In England, syphilis incidence increased from one case per 100,000 men in 1997 to nine cases per 100,000 men in 2006, according to the country’s Health Protection Agency. In France, there were 428 syphilis cases in 2003 — almost 16 times more than in 2000 — and in the Netherlands, cases doubled between 2000 and 2004. Similar trends were recorded in Germany and Amsterdam. These increases have in part been associated with advances in antiretroviral drugs and the proliferation of dating Web sites that allow people to find sexual partners more easily, according to the AP/Herald Tribune.

Marita van de Laar, an expert in STIs at the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, said that the "evidence points to an increase in unsafe sexual behavior since antiretrovirals for AIDS came along in 1996." She added that after decades of being instructed to use condoms and limit the number of sexual partners, some people are suffering from "safe sex fatigue," which has contributed to the increase in syphilis cases. Jonathan Elford, an HIV/AIDS epidemiologist at City University London, said, "Networks of HIV-positive men to find other positive men have sprung up on the Internet."

In response to the resurgence of syphilis cases, health workers at the Terrence Higgins Trust have launched an Internet campaign, the AP/Herald Tribune reports. THT health workers log into Internet chat rooms on a popular British gay dating Web site to spread awareness of safer sex messages and answer questions from MSM. "We know that men are arranging hookups for sex online," Mark Thompson, deputy head of THT’s health promotion, said adding that the group "decided to tap into cyberspace to try reaching them before unsafe sex might happen." Van de Laar said that it is "definitely worth trying," adding, "If we don’t do enough to stop syphilis in the [MSM] community now, we could potentially be dealing with a much bigger risk in the future" (AP/International Herald Tribune, 12/20).

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Navy priest’s case raises host of legal concerns

Posted by pozlife on December 21, 2007

John20 spacer Lt. Cmdr. John Thomas Matthew Lee, 42 (second from right) seen under a jacket, is escorted in shackles from his general court martial at Marine Corps Base Quantico in Quantico, Va., on Dec. 6. (Photo by Jacquelyn Martin/AP)
Sodomy, HIV charges against chaplain reveal gap between civilian, military laws

The case of a local HIV-positive Navy chaplain who pleaded guilty last week in military court to seven violations of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, including forcible sodomy, raises a hornet’s nest of legal and religious questions, many of which have ramifications for sexually active gay men.

Lt. Cmdr. John Thomas Lee, 42, of Burke, Va., was sentenced to two years in prison on Dec. 6 after admitting he had sex with an Air Force officer without disclosing he was HIV-positive and forced himself on a Naval Academy midshipman, according to wire reports confirmed by the Marine Corps Base in Quantico, Va., where Lee was tried.

Lee, who faced life without parole if he’d been convicted on all charges, according to the Army Times, a military newspaper that quoted Lee’s attorney, saw his sentence reduced substantially by entering a pretrial agreement with the government.

Lee pleaded guilty to violation of a lawful general regulation, consensual sodomy, forcible sodomy, aggravated assault, conduct unbecoming a military officer, indecent acts with another and fraternization.

Because the Uniform Code of Military Justice is different from civilian law, Lee was eligible for some charges a civilian wouldn’t face. Some aspects of Code law have been denounced by gay activists.

In addition to fighting for a repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” the military’s policy that prevents gays from serving openly, Servicemembers Legal Defense Network has been lobbying the military to overturn Code article 125, which outlaws sodomy. The Supreme Court ruling in Lawrence vs. Texas overturned the nation’s remaining sodomy laws for U.S. civilians in 2003.

“A lot of [Code] law is very similar to what it is for civilian society,” said Kathi Westcott, deputy director for law at SLDN. “Things like breaking and entering, murder, perjury — these are all the same … but some are broadly written and out of date.”

Antonio Agnone, public policy advocate for military issues at Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest gay advocacy group, is a former U.S. Marine and said civilian and Code law exist for different reasons with the latter typically lagging behind the former when it comes to updates.

“It definitely hasn’t evolved as quickly,” Agnone said. “There’s a natural resistance built into it so that everything works slower.”

Agnone said the military’s rigid, structured nature has resulted in some laws — adultery for example is outlawed by the Code — that are considered social anachronisms by some.

“The structure itself is difficult and requires many people to make the same decision. All decisions have to move up the chain of command to higher-ranking officers before they become policy,” Agnone said. “The bigger the change, the higher it must go in the chain of command. Changing something like military law is considered a huge decision. Therefore, the [Code] has not kept up with civil society and its ideals.”

Other nuances between civilian and Code law are apparent in Lee’s case. Lee was charged with forcible sodomy instead of rape because sodomy implies anal penetration while Code law restricts rape to vaginal penetration. Code sodomy laws are gender-neutral and don’t specify what body part or instrument is used for penetration, according to Westcott, who added that she thinks Lee’s case has little to do with “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

“He went far beyond the conduct ordinarily used for a recommendation of separation under ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’” she said.

Lee was dismissed from the Navy during sentencing, according to a statement from the base in Quantico.

Lee was relieved of his religious duties in June, according to a statement from the Archdiocese for the Military Services of the Catholic Church. The statement said he was suspended by the Archdiocese after he informed them Naval authorities were investigating sexual misconduct allegations involving adults. The Archdiocese of Washington also suspended Lee. He was ordained in Washington in 1993. He had been a chaplain with the Naval Academy since 2003.

Lee’s case is significantly different from the priest abuse scandals that have haunted the Catholic Church in that Lee is not alleged to have molested children. Some Catholics, though, have said the church’s celibacy requirement for clergy is part of the problem in both scenarios.

“The problem is how do we grow to be healthy, astute gay people when the church teaches not only that gay sex is sinful, but you have these gay priests who have never developed a healthy sense of their sexuality,” said Bob Miailovich, a long-time board member of Dignity Washington, a Catholic group that advocates for acceptance of gay Catholics.

Dignity’s stance on celibacy for clergy is that it should be optional. Others agree. A 2002 Catholic University of America study found that 56 percent of priests said celibacy should be optional. A.W. Richard Sipe, a former Benedictine monk who studies celibacy and was quoted in a January Associated Press story about the issue, said he guesses about half of Catholic clergy are sexually active, a figure that has drawn criticism from some church leaders.

In the same article, Rev. Donald Cozzens, author of “Freeing Celibacy,” argued that making celibacy optional would help in multiple areas, from boosting declining numbers of men entering the priesthood to curbing abuse scandals.

“I don’t think it’s fair to say that mandatory celibacy is a clear cause of clergy abuse, but it may be a factor in a number of cases,” Cozzens told the AP.

“The real issue is there are Catholic priests dealing with some very repressed sexual issues and the secrecy exacerbates these issues so you wind up with this kind of fellow,” Miailovich said, referring to Lee.

In 2005, Lee learned he was HIV-positive, according to various media accounts. He admitted in military court he had sex the following year with an Air Force lieutenant colonel at the colonel’s house in Fairfax, Va. Lee testified that he met the man online and lied when directly questioned about his HIV status.

Under military law, concealing his HIV status constituted a risk of “grave physical danger or death” and is considered an aggravated assault under military law (the forcible sodomy incident was alleged to have happened in 2004; nobody who testified in the trial claimed to have contracted HIV from Lee).

HIV disclosure laws vary

Civilian HIV disclosure laws vary wildly from state to state.

“Some are very specific and nuanced while others are totally vague and ambiguous,” said David Webber, a Philadelphia attorney who specializes in HIV law and is author of “AIDS and the Law.”

Webber said military Code law is much more specific in this area but the ramifications for civilian gay men and HIV disclosure are significant.
“Some of these lawmakers haven’t taken the time to study all the nuances, so they’ve just put all kinds of restrictions on it basically saying if you’re HIV-positive you shouldn’t be having sex which is completely unrealistic,” Webber said. “I mean, let’s face it.”

Incidents of gay men being convicted under HIV-disclosure laws are not uncommon. And while some feel that anyone who has unprotected sex while knowing he or she is positive should face charges, the laws are controversial in that they don’t always specify what constitutes sex, factor in various sexual acts based on how HIV experts rank them in terms of risk factor or consider whether condoms were used.

Since there are only a few hundred such convictions across the country each year, Webber said the chances of getting charged with such a crime “is extremely remote.”

Local laws vary from non-existent to moderate according to Dan Bruner, director of legal services for Washington’s Whitman-Walker Clinic.

John Thomas Matthew Lee had been a chaplain with the Naval Academy since 2003. He pleaded guilty to seven violations of the Uniform Code of Military Conduct last week. (Photo by Susan Walsh/AP)

The District of Columbia has no HIV disclosure statute, though Bruner said there have been cases where similar charges have been used against someone charged with something more serious.

“It tends to be in situations where someone is charged with something violent and the prosecution wants to add charges and, essentially, throw the book at them,” Bruner said.

Maryland has a law that says knowingly transferring or attempting to transfer HIV is a misdemeanor punishable by $2,500 or three years in prison or both.

“Where this gets tricky is how do you prove legally that someone planned to transmit the virus and is that really how it happens?” Bruner said. “I think most of the time when [HIV is transmitted], it’s because someone was reckless or misinformed — I wouldn’t say very often that they intentionally tried to infect another person.”

Bruner said the Maryland law, passed in 1989, hasn’t been used often, though he didn’t know exact numbers.

Virginia’s law is more complex and states that if a person has HIV, syphilis or Hepatitis B and has sex with the intent to transfer via vaginal intercourse, anal intercourse, anallingus (rimming), fellatio or cunnilingus, it’s a felony crime. Exposing someone to the virus without disclosing HIV-status but not specifically “intending to infect” them, is a misdemeanor in Virginia. The law dates to 2000 but was amended in 2004 with the misdemeanor clause.

Neither Maryland nor Virginia’s law mentions insertive or receptive partners or gay versus straight sex.

“The danger with these laws is that there’s so much prosecutorial discretion,” Bruner said. “There’s nothing to prevent, say, a homophobic prosecutor prosecuting such cases only against gay men or something like that.
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Huckabee rankles AIDS activists

Posted by pozlife on December 21, 2007

Mike2001 spacer Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee this week refused to ‘recant or retract’ statements he made in 1992 that appeared to advocate quarantining AIDS patients. He denies wanting to ‘lock people up who have HIV/AIDS.’ (Photo by AP)
Surging GOP contender stands by 1992 remarks that patients should be ‘isolated

A growing chorus of voices this week called on Republican presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee to recant “deeply disturbing” comments he once made about AIDS and those suffering from the disease.

Log Cabin Republicans, Human Rights Campaign and the AIDS Institute all called on the former Arkansas governor to apologize after he declined to repudiate comments he made in 1992 while running for the U.S. Senate.

“If the federal government is truly serious about doing something with the AIDS virus, we need to take steps that would isolate the carriers of this plague,” he wrote in response to an Associate Press questionnaire at the time.

“It is difficult to understand the public policy toward AIDS. It is the first time in the history of civilization in which the carriers of a genuine plague have not been isolated from the general population, and in which this deadly disease for which there is no cure is being treated as a civil rights issue instead of the true health crisis it represents.”

When asked Dec. 9 on “Fox News Sunday” about the comments, Huckabee said “in the late ’80s and early ’90s” that “we didn’t know as much as we do now about AIDS,” and responses then were governed “more out of political correctness” than “normal public health protocols.”

He also noted that he “didn’t say that we should quarantine,” but instead observed that health officials “didn’t isolate the carrier.”

“Now, would I say things a little differently in 2007?” he said. “Probably so. But I’m not going to recant or retract from the statement that I did make because, again, the point was not saying we ought to lock people up who have HIV/AIDS.”

But gay Republicans were quick to note that Huckabee’s “deeply disturbing” comments from 1992 “were far outside the mainstream and inconsistent with public health standards from that time.”

In a statement, Log Cabin also noted Huckabee’s old comments were “in sharp contrast” to the official 1992 Republican platform position on AIDS.

“We are committed to ensure that our nation’s response to AIDS is shaped by compassion, not fear or ignorance, and will oppose, as a matter of decency and honor, any discrimination against Americans who are its victims,” the platform stated.

Patrick Sammon, Log Cabin’s president, said Huckabee must offer “a more credible explanation for his comments” than what was given on Fox News.

“Gov. Huckabee shouldn’t try to revise history to explain away his comments from 1992,” Sammon said. “He ought to do the right thing and admit he was wrong.”

Dr. David Reznik, Log Cabin’s healthcare policy adviser, said Huckabee should have been better informed about AIDS in 1992.

“We knew a great deal about HIV and AIDS by 1992 — certainly enough to know there was no need to isolate those who are infected,” Reznik said.

‘Ignorance and fear’

The AIDS Institute and Human Rights Campaign also called on Huckabee to repudiate his old comments.

In a letter signed by Joe Solmonese, HRC’s president, and A. Gene Copello, the AIDS Institute’s executive director, the activists tell Huckabee that Ryan White and his family were “ridiculed, shunned and ostracized” after it was revealed in 1984 that the Indiana teenager had AIDS.

“We have a moral obligation as a nation to never allow ourselves to repeat the shameful mistakes of the past,” it says. “And we cannot sit idly by when a candidate for president of the United States tries to lead us back down that path of ignorance and fear.”

Solmonese and Copello also offered to arrange for Huckabee a meeting with Ryan White’s mother, Jeanne White-Ginder.

Huckabee told reporters in Iowa on Tuesday that he “would be very willing” to meet with White-Ginder, and would tell her “we’ve come a long way in research, in treatment.”

The response did not sit well with Solmonese, who said “the mother of Ryan White, for whom the Ryan White CARE Act is named, doesn’t need to be schooled about how far we’ve come in HIV/AIDS research and treatment.”

Former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani still ranks first among GOP contenders in a new Washington Post-ABC News poll with 25 percent, but that number is down from 34 percent last month. Mike Huckabee appears to be the beneficiary of Giuliani’s decline. (Photo by Frank Franklin II/AP)

James Driscoll, a former member of the President’s Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS and Log Cabin’s former AIDS adviser, said Huckabee’s refusal to recant his old comments could destroy his viability among gay Republicans.

“I think it should because it tells us a lot about his attitudes toward people with AIDS and toward gay people,” he said, “which I would say are not — he doesn’t understand us very well.”

Driscoll said Huckabee must recant if he’s to win any gay votes in the primary.

“Apologize for the remarks and indicate that he made a serious mistake and wouldn’t do this kind of stuff in the future,” Driscoll said. “He doesn’t seem to be someone who thinks things through very well.”

Huckabee’s record in Arkansas is undergoing renewed scrutiny this week after a series of new polls showed the once dark horse candidate is now surging in popularity with the Iowa caucuses just three weeks away.

A Washington Post-ABC News poll released Wednesday shows that Huckabee’s support nationally has more than doubled since just last month, with 19 percent of likely GOP voters and Republican-leaning independents backing him. Former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani still ranks first with 25 percent, but that number is down from 34 percent last month. Several recent polls in Iowa show Huckabee in first place there, with former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney slipping to second.

Huckabee’s past statements on gays were also criticized this week. He once referred to homosexuality as “an aberrant, unnatural and sinful lifestyle.”
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Syphilis On The Rise In Europe

Posted by pozlife on December 20, 2007

by 365Gay.com Newscenter Staff

Posted: December 20, 2007 – 1:00 pm ET

(London) There has been a marked increase in the number of new cases of syphilis in Europe health authorities said Thursday, warning it could be an indication of an impending spike in the number of people contracting HIV.

"Syphilis used to be a very rare disease," Dr. Marita van de Laar, an expert in sexually transmitted diseases at the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control told the Associated Press. "I’m not sure we can say that anymore."

Most of the new cases van de Laar said were in gay men, adding that it indicated more risky sex.

In Britain, syphilis cases have increased more than tenfold in the past decade to 3,702 in 2006, according to the Health Protection Agency. Among men in England, the syphilis rate jumped from one per 100,000 in 1997 to nine per 100,000 last year.

In Germany, the rate among men was fewer than two per 100,000 in 1991; by 2003, it was six per 100,000.

In France, there were 428 cases in 2003 — almost 16 times the number just three years earlier.

In the Netherlands, cases doubled from 2000 to 2004. In Amsterdam, up to 31 men per 100,000 were infected, while the rate was much lower in other regions.

Similar trends have been seen in the United States.

In 2000, syphilis infection rates were so low that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention embarked on a plan to eliminate the disease. But about 9,800 cases were reported in 2006.

Between 2005 and 2006 the rate rose from 2.9 cases per 100,000 people to 3.3, a 14 percent increase.

Syphilis is passed through direct contact with a syphilis sore during sexual activity. Contrary to popular belief, the disease cannot be spread through contact with toilet seats, doorknobs, swimming pools, hot tubs, bathtubs, shared clothing or eating utensils.

Many people infected with syphilis do not have any symptoms for years, yet remain at risk for late complications if they are not treated.

The increase in syphilis shows a decline in condom use. Because symptoms for syphilis show up sooner than HIV researchers warn that an increase in risky sex is likely to produce a higher number of cases of HIV.

Research in the US and Europe indicates many gay men are suffering from "safe sex fatigue." Gay men in particular are seen to believe that modern drugs have made the disease "manageable" and no longer a threat to life.

The increase in hookups via the internet is also seen as promoting risky sex.

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