Gay What ?
Rest of site back up shortly!

3 more dead from bacterial meningitis strain

Michael Weinstein, AIDS Healthcare Foundation, gay news, Washington Blade

Michael Weinstein, executive director of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, said the L.A. Department of Public Health was ‘insensitive’ in responding to a meningitis outbreak.

LOS ANGELES — The strain of bacterial meningitis that infected 22 gay men and killed seven in New York City starting in 2010, continues to be a small but lethal public health risk with eight more having contracted it this year in Los Angeles County. Three died and all were men who had sex with men, the Associated Press reports.

Last week, the county’s Department of Public Health urged gay men who have had HIV or multiple partners to get vaccinated against invasive meningococcal disease, the AP said.

However, the department said the three men who died didn’t have any direct contact with each other. The disease still is considered rare and sporadic and the department is shying away from declaring any outbreak in the gay community, the AP said citing authorities.

Four of the eight people who came down with the illness had sex with other men and three were HIV positive. The three who died in February and March were 27 or 28 years old and two were HIV positive, according to the department.

Of the other five people who fell ill, four are out of the hospital and one is hospitalized but recovering, the AP said.

The agency was “insensitive” for failing to announce the deaths earlier, Michael Weinstein, executive director for the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, told the Los Angeles Daily News.

About a third of the 32 bacterial meningitis cases reported in the county since October 2012 involved men who had sex with men, the Daily News reported.

That population is most at risk right now, said Dr. Robert Bolan, medical director for the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center.

The county health department is “paying attention” and acting “in a timely manner” by urging vaccinations for members of the gay community, he told the newspaper.

10
Apr
2014

Truvada’s use as HIV prevention drug raises concerns

Truvada, Gilead, gay news, Washington Blade

Drug resistance to established regimens can be a major concern. (Photo courtesy of Gilead)

NEW YORK — Debate persists in the gay community over the use of Truvada, a drug hailed as a lifesaver for many with HIV, about its use and effectiveness as a prevention technique for uninfected men who have gay sex without condoms, the AP and other news outlets report.

Many doctors and activists see immense promise for such preventive use of Truvada, and are campaigning hard to raise awareness of it as a crucial step toward reducing new HIV infections, which now total about 50,000 a year in the U.S., the AP reports.

Yet others — despite mounting evidence of Truvada’s effectiveness — say such efforts are reckless, tempting some condom users to abandon that layer of protection and exposing them to an array of other sexually transmitted infections aside from HIV.

“If something comes along that’s better than condoms, I’m all for it, but Truvada is not that,” Michael Weinstein, president of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, was quoted as having said by the AP. “Let’s be honest: It’s a party drug.”

Truvada, produced by California-based Gilead Sciences, has been around for a decade, serving as one of the key drugs used in combination with others as the basic treatment for people who have HIV. However, the drug took on a more contentious aspect in 2012 when the Food and Drug Administration approved it for pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP — in other words, for use to prevent people from getting sexually transmitted HIV in the first place, the AP said.

Since then, critics have warned that many gay men won’t heed Truvada’s once-a-day regimen and complained of its high cost — roughly $13,000 a year. Truvada’s proponents say most insurance plans — including Medicaid programs — now cover prescriptions for it, and they cite studies showing that the blue pill, if taken diligently, can reduce the risk of getting HIV by more than 90 percent, the AP said.

A town hall panel discussion on PrEP is planned for April 28 from 7-9 p.m. at the GLBT Community Center of Baltimore. Visit glccb.org for details.

10
Apr
2014

Anti-gay public health director in Pasadena confronted

Eric Walsh, Pasadena, gay news, Washington Blade

Dr. Eric Walsh (Photo public domain)

PASADENA, Calif. — Dozens of gay rights advocates from the AIDS Healthcare Foundation flooded Pasadena City Council chambers Monday to express concern about recently surfaced comments made by Public Health Director Dr. Eric Walsh in religious sermons posted online according to an article by Pasadena Star News.

Six people spoke against Walsh’s statements, which condemn gays, single mothers, Muslims and popular culture, among other groups.

“As an HIV positive homosexual man, I find Dr. Walsh’s remarks frightening and extremely offensive,” AIDS Healthcare Foundation activist Joseph Jimenez was quoted as having said. “I believe Dr. Walsh is not able to provide compassionate care for patients like myself and others. I beseech all of you to consider appointing a director who has more understanding of the LGBT community.”

AIDS Healthcare Foundation President Michael Weinstein also decried Walsh’s anti-gay sentiments, saying they went against the kind of city Pasadena should strive to be.

Walsh is on paid administrative leave during an investigation into whether his religious views impacted his job performance, the Star News reports.

Links to his sermons, many of which were from before he came to Pasadena in 2010, were distributed to the media last week after Walsh was announced as the commencement speaker for Pasadena City College, the article said.

07
May
2014

AIDS groups praise CDC recommendations on PrEp

Truvada, Gilead, gay news, Washington Blade

AIDS groups are praising CDC recommendation that gay and bisexual men not in non-monogamous relationships should take Truvada. (Photo courtesy of Gilead)

HIV/AIDS groups are jointly praising new recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control encouraging gay and bisexual men to take medication designed to block them from contracting HIV.

In a joint statement on Thursday, 68 groups announced their “strong support” for the CDC guidance promoting use of oral pre-exposure prophylaxis, also known as PrEP for those vulnerable to HIV infection — including gay and bisexual men not in monogamous relationships who have had sex without a condom.

“PrEP has the potential to help many individuals in the U.S. and around the world protect themselves from HIV,” the statement says. “Failure to strategically, effectively and responsibly implement this scientifically sound strategy as part of comprehensive prevention and treatment programs in our fight against HIV would be a true catastrophe.”

Among the signatories to the statement are amfAR, the AIDS Institute, the National Minority AIDS Council and the New York City-based Gay Men’s Health Crisis.

On Wednesday, the CDC issued new recommendations on PrEP, saying health care providers should consider advising use of the drug for uninfected patients who are at substantial risk of infection, including men who have sex with men.
CDC PrEP Screen Shot

According to both the HIV/AIDS groups and CDC, PrEP can reduce the risk of HIV infection by more than 90 percent when taken daily as directed, although inconsistent use results in much lower levels of protection.

CDC Director Tom Frieden said in a statement PrEP can be an effective tool to stop contraction of HIV when used with other prevention methods.

“HIV infection is preventable, yet every year we see some 50,000 new HIV infections in the United States,” Freiden said. “PrEP, used along with other prevention strategies, has the potential to help at-risk individuals protect themselves and reduce new HIV infections in the United States.”

The recommendations from the CDC come two years after the U.S. Food & Drug Administration approved the oral drug Truvada for HIV prevention. The agency reviewed data from multiple, multinational clinical trials of PrEP use among individuals with different risks for HIV infection.

Donnica Smalls, a CDC spokesperson, said the guidelines are meant to replace interim guidance CDC has issued through the years as trial results showing efficacy have become available and are the first formal recommendations offering comprehensive information about PrEP.

But not every AIDS group is happy with the CDC recommendations. Michael Weinstein, president of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, which has already taken hits for objecting to the FDA’s approval of PrEP, issued a statement saying the CDC recommendations are “ill-advised.”

“This is a position I fear the CDC will come to regret,” Weinstein said. “By recommending widespread use of PrEP for HIV prevention despite research studies amply chronicling the inability to take it as directed, and showing a limited preventive effect at best, the CDC has abandoned a science-driven, public health approach to disease prevention — a move that will likely have catastrophic consequences in the fight against AIDS in this country.”

Weinstein said the recommendations will lead individuals to engage in sex without condoms, which could make them vulnerable to other sexually transmitted diseases, such as syphilis, which has shown to be on the rise and with new infections mostly among men-who-have-sex-with-men.

“The CDC would be better advised to put its weight behind HIV testing and linkage to treatment for the estimated 20 percent of the 1.3 million people living with HIV in this country today who have never been tested for the disease,” Weinstein said.

According to the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, only about 10,000 individuals have been prescribed once-daily Truvada as PrEP to reduce the risk of HIV transmission. It’s also an expensive drug; it costs $13,000 a year, although many insurers already cover it, according to the New York Times. Moreover, Gilead, the manufacturer of Truvada, doesn’t advertise the drug as a prophylactic, although it does advertise the medication for HIV treatment.

But the 68 groups that jointly praised the CDC recommendations also criticized Weinstein, saying his assertion that PrEP will lead the way to sex without condoms isn’t based on sound science.

“In fact, initial studies suggest the opposite, and Weinstein’s assertion underestimates the capacity of informed individuals to make decisions about their health and sex lives,” the groups said. “We all must do more to reinvigorate the approach to correct and consistent condom use and underscore that PrEP and condoms are complimentary interventions to the prevention of all STDs, including HIV.”

The groups say Weinstein fails to realize condoms aren’t consistently or correctly used “for a host of reasons” and PrEP now provides “an additional option that also provides significant protection against HIV.”

The Boston-based LGBT and HIV/AIDS organization known as Fenway Health issued its own statement praising the CDC for the guidance, saying it was involved with PrEP research since the first safety studies were conducted in the United States more than five years ago, and was one of two iPrex study sites in the country.

“As rates of HIV infection continue to increase in gay and bisexual men, we need to make sure we are using all of the tools available to us to combat that increase. PrEP is a proven and important new tool that should be part of those efforts,” Boswell said. “The CDC guidelines are helpful, since they clearly suggest that PrEP should be part of a comprehensive national prevention strategy.”

15
May
2014

Use of HIV prevention pill ‘sluggish’ in D.C. area

Truvada, Gilead, gay news, Washington Blade

Truvada (Photo courtesy of Gilead)

An official with Whitman-Walker Health, D.C.’s largest AIDS treatment and service organization, said that similar to current nationwide trends, a relatively small number of people at risk for HIV infection in the D.C. area are taking a drug approved for preventing them from contracting HIV.

Dr. Richard Elion, Whitman-Walker’s director of clinical research, told the Washington Blade that fewer than 50 Whitman-Walker clients have signed up so far for the prescription drug Truvada, a daily pill approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as a pre-exposure prophylaxis, or “PrEP,” to greatly reduce the chances of becoming infected with HIV.

“So the uptake on PrEP is that the District has been sluggish at most places,” Elion said in discussing the local demand for taking Truvada as a prevention pill.

“It’s important to have a lot of educational efforts on this because this is a prevention strategy that to me has not really gotten the recognition and the press that it deserves,” he said.

Officials with at least three other local organizations that provide AIDS-related services and prevention programs targeting gay and bisexual men – Us Helping Us, SMYAL, and Metro Teen AIDS – said they, too, believe PrEP is an important new prevention strategy that should be encouraged for people deemed at high risk for HIV, especially young gay and bisexual men.

“Us Helping Us fully supports PrEP and will publicize it to our clients through meetings and social media,” said Ron Simmons, the group’s executive director. Us Helping Us reaches out to black gay and bisexual men in the D.C. area on AIDS prevention and other AIDS-related programs.

Adam Tenner, executive director of Metro Teen AIDS, and Andrew Barnett, executive director of SMYAL, each said they are encouraged over the potential PrEP has for their clients, who range in age from 13 to 21. But the two said they have yet to determine whether PrEP is appropriate for youth as young as 13 through 17.

“We are encouraged over the effectiveness of the treatment in preventing infection,” Tenner said. “But we are going to be very cautious about PrEP for adolescents. For kids 18 and older there are fewer questions,” he said.

Tenner and Barnett each said they are awaiting guidance from experts, including pediatricians, on the advisability of prescribing Truvada to people as young as 13 or 14. According to Tenner, youth of that age often are sexually active and at risk for sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV.

He said Metro Teen AIDS sponsors HIV prevention programs targeting youth in that age range but has yet to embrace PrEP for young teens without having access to more information.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which earlier this month issued new guidelines advocating the wider use of PrEP for HIV prevention, and the American Academy of Pediatrics didn’t immediately respond to an inquiry from the Blade about the advisability of PrEP for youth between 13 and 17 years old.

The Los Angeles-based AIDS Healthcare Foundation, the nation’s largest AIDS service and treatment organization, which has facilities in D.C. and Maryland, has expressed strong opposition to PrEP, saying it has the potential to discourage condom use.

Michael Weinstein, the organization’s CEO, has pointed to studies showing that large numbers of people enrolled in the studies failed to take the Truvada pill on a daily basis as prescribed, placing them at risk for HIV infection.

Weinstein told the Blade that although AIDS Healthcare Foundation opposes the widespread use of PrEP, it believes it should ultimately be up to a patient and his or her doctor as to whether to enroll in PrEP. He said his organization’s medical clinics, including the one in D.C. and Temple Hills, Md., would not refuse to prescribe Truvada to people who specifically request to go on PrEP.

Sex workers who choose to have intercourse without using a condom would be especially suited for enrolling in PrEP, he said.

Elion disputes claims by AIDS Healthcare Foundation that large numbers of people on PrEP, men who have sex with men, are likely to stop using condoms.

“In the studies that have looked at over 12,000 patients we’ve not seen an increase in STDs in any of the people on PrEP,” Elion said. “And so I think that lack of an increase in STDs is indicative that they are not doing more risky behaviors once they start taking PrEP.”

Weinstein said a lack of an increase in sexually transmitted diseases in people on PrEP doesn’t necessarily mean they aren’t engaging in risky behaviors. He said sexually transmitted diseases other than HIV are at epidemic proportions in the U.S. for gay and bisexual men or MSM.

“The baseline is already very high,” he said.

28
May
2014

Queery: Michel ‘Mike’ McVicker

Michel ‘Mike’ McVicker, gay news, Washington Blade

Michel ‘Mike’ McVicker (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Friday is National HIV Testing Day and one local person passionate for the cause is Michel “Mike” McVicker, a linkage specialist at AIDS Healthcare Foundation’s Blair Underwood Clinic in Washington.

McVicker is an early intervention specialist working with new-to-care and returning-to-care clients as she walks them through the system, answering their questions and concerns and making sure they understand what the Foundation calls “their responsibilities to their health care.”

“HIV has come such a long way and it can be a manageable condition with the right medicine,” the 37-year-old Greenville, S.C., native says. “That’s why getting people the medicine they need to live is the central focus of AHF. I’m so proud to be a part of an agency that is on the frontline of this issue all over the globe. And I’m proud to be part of the LGBTQ community who took up the fight against HIV from the beginning and hasn’t quit over the course of this 30-plus-year war.”

To locate an HIV testing station near you, send a text message with your ZIP code to KNOWIT (566948), or visit HIVtest.org. To find out more information on the Foundation, visit aidshealth.org. Testing is available at the Blair Underwood Clinic (2141 K St., N.W.) or at the AHF Healthcare Center in Temple Hill, Md. (4302 Saint Barnabas Rd.).

McVicker came to Washington two-and-a-half years ago. She and her wife, Alyssa Weaver, live in Brightwood with their dog, Penny. McVicker enjoys adventure cycling, working out and playing the guitar and ukulele in her free time.

 

How long have you been out and who was the hardest person to tell? 

I came out to friends when I was 15 but I’ve been obviously gay probably since I was 5. I didn’t really come out to my mom, she found out; but she definitely took it the hardest. I was raised Southern Baptist. It was a big struggle for her to find where acceptance fit in her faith, but I think we’re closer now than we’ve ever been before.

 

Who’s your LGBT hero?

That’s hard because there are so many. But maybe Ellen DeGeneres because she had the breasticles to come out on television back when it wasn’t cool to be gay and she kept a sense of humor about it, too. Oh, and she has a banging wife.

What’s Washington’s best nightspot, past or present? 

Gay Bash party at Black Cat, hands down. I love the dark industrial, goth drag and the DJ makes me dance like I danced when I was 22.

 

Describe your dream wedding.

I had my dream wedding last October. Very DIY. Our friends and family all kicked in to make it the perfect day. It was bicycle themed and so many people from the wee corners of the world came together that day. We had our ceremony and reception in Greenville, S.C. Bicycled from San Diego to L.A. and back for our honeymoon. And then had our civil ceremony in D.C.

 

What non-LGBT issue are you most passionate about?

Probably recycling and reusing. I can’t stand throwing things away that can be reused. I have a closet full of empty boxes. My wife tolerates it because she agrees, but I take it a little to the extreme.

 

What historical outcome would you change?

I wish that instead of becoming extinct, dinosaurs had just become miniature so that we could have them as house pets.

 

What’s been the most memorable pop culture moment of your lifetime?

In grad school, me and five other girls in our cohort choreographed and performed ’N Sync’s “Bye Bye Bye” in drag for an HIV hospice benefit. I was the only LGBTQ member. We spent more time practicing our routine than we spent on any other project in grad school. It’s still on YouTube, search for NSTYNC at the Palace.

 

On what do you insist?

A sense of humor. We take ourselves too seriously and it causes stress which takes years off our lives and contributes to the collective bad mood. I always want to laugh, even if it’s a stupid joke. Especially if it’s a stupid joke!

 

What was your last Facebook post or Tweet?

I shared “The Whittington Family: Ryland’s Story” YouTube video about a young transgender child whose parents recognized, accepted and supported his transition at the age of 5.

 

If your life were a book, what would the title be?

It would be a pop-up book and it would be called “The Larger than Life Adventures of Magic Mike.”

 

If science discovered a way to change sexual orientation, what would you do?

If it was a pill and it was time released, I’d slip it to bigots randomly to make them gay for a day.

 

What do you believe in beyond the physical world? 

I don’t really. I don’t have any evidence to base a belief on. I think this life is good enough to live for and this world is good enough to strive to make better. This planet is so majestic. My motorcycle trip across the U.S. was probably the closest I’ve ever felt to nirvana.

 

What’s your advice for LGBT movement leaders?

Don’t let the T in LGBT be a tag-along. If you’re going to speak for the community, speak for all of us.

 

What would you walk across hot coals for?

My wife, my dog, my nieces and nephews and a lifetime supply of good beer.

 

What LGBT stereotype annoys you most?

The U-Haul. But it’s true.

 

What’s your favorite LGBT movie? 

“Hedwig and the Angry Inch.” I can’t wait to see it on Broadway!

 

What’s the most overrated social custom?

Not questioning authority. I think we are taught from the time we start exploring our world that someone always knows better than we do and even if they don’t, we shouldn’t challenge the people who are in control. But seriously, if we all followed that rule, change would never happen.

 

What trophy or prize do you most covet?

Winner of the pie-eating contest during the Gay Games. That’s a real thing right?

 

What do you wish you’d known at 18?

That marriage equality would be a reality in my lifetime. I spent a lot of time angry at the world because I thought it wouldn’t change, but it was changing all along. I was just stuck in a really stubborn part of the country.

 

Why Washington?

Marriage equality, bike lanes, cultural diversity and Southern charm. Oh, and Obama!

25
Jun
2014

Gay porn actor tests positive for HIV

Rod Daily, pornography, HIV, gay news, Washington Blade, Next Door Studios

Porn actor Rod Daily and his girlfriend tested positive for HIV. (Photo courtesy Next Door Studios)

LOS ANGELES — A second porn star who’s straight but works exclusively in gay porn said last week that he recently tested positive for HIV two weeks after his girlfriend, who also works in the porn industry, was infected, the Pasadena Star News reported citing a report from the Los Angeles Daily News.

Joshua Rodgers, 32, who works in gay porn under the stage name Rod Daily, told the Daily News last week that he was infected sometime in the last month. Last month, porn actress Cameron Bay said she tested positive, which led to a weeklong shutdown of adult film production in the San Fernando Valley area where much of it is produced, the Daily News said. Rodgers said he’s worked exclusively in gay porn since 2010 on sets that require condoms.

The AIDS Healthcare Foundation, a Los Angeles-based company, said in a statement to the Daily News that it’s “gravely concerned” that “the porn industry continues to endanger its workers by ignoring prudent health and worker safety laws by shooting adult films without condoms.”

11
Sep
2013

Calendar through September 26

Buck Angel, gay news, Washington Blade, transgender

Filmmaker and transgender advocate Buck Angel will be at Secret Pleasures on Wednesday for a workshop on gender and sexuality. (Photo courtesy Secret Pleasures)

Friday, Sept. 20

DJ Joe Gauthreaux spins at Cobalt (1639 R St., N.W.) tonight. Free rail vodka drinks from 11 p.m.-midnight. Cover is $10. Admission is 21 and up. For more information, visit cobaltdc.com.

Town (2009 8th St., N.W.) hosts Bear Happy Hour tonight from 6-11 p.m. There is no cover charge and admission is limited to guests 21 and over. For more information, visit towndc.com.

Gay District meets at The D.C. Center (1318 U St., N.W.) tonight from 8:30-9:30 p.m. The facilitated group discussion covers building understanding of gay culture and personal identity and awareness of community events for LGBT men between the ages of 18 and 35 in the D.C. area. For more details, visit thedccenter.org or gaydistrict.org.

SMYAL hosts “Vogue Night” (410 7th St., S.E.) tonight from 5-7 p.m. Learn the art of voguing and practice your moves at this event designed especially for youth. For more information, visit smyal.org.

Saturday, Sept. 21

Burgundy Crescent, a gay volunteer organization, volunteers for the Lost Dog and Cat Foundation at PetSmart (6100 Arlington Blvd., Falls Church, Va.,) from 11:45 a.m.-3 p.m. today. For more information visit burgundycrescent.org.

The Library of Congress holds its 2013 National Book Festival on the National Mall (10th St., N.W. and Constitution Ave., N.W.) today from 10 a.m.- 5p.m. and Sunday from noon-5:30 p.m. Have books signed and meet best selling authors including the Food Network’s Giada De Laurentiis, co-host of “Today” Hoda Kotb and author of “The Kite Runner” Khaled Hosseini. For details, visit loc.gov/bookfest.

Wolf Trap Ball and the Embassy of France host “Joie de Vivre” on the Filene Center Stage (1645 Trap Road, Vienna, Va.,) tonight at 7 p.m. Honorary hosts include Speaker of the House John Boehner, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Ambassador of France François Delattre. Proceeds benefit Wolf Trap Foundation’s arts and education programs. RSVP required to laurenw@wolftrap.org. For more information, visit wolftrap.org.

Layla Lounge (501 Morse St., N.E.) hosts an “Elite Boyz” dance party tonight from 10 p.m.-3 a.m. Admission is limited to guests 21 and over and is free before midnight and $10 afterward. For more information, visit layladc.com.

Sunday, Sept. 22

Black Fox Lounge (1723 Connecticut Ave. N.W.) hosts “Tula’s Drag Cabaret Show,” a lip-synch performance by local drag performers, tonight from 8-11 p.m. Admission is free. For details, visit blackfoxlounge.com or call 202-482-1723.

Perry’s (1811 Columbia Rd., N.W.) hosts its weekly “Sunday Drag Brunch” today from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. The cost is $24.95 for an all-you-can-eat buffet. For more details, visit perrysadamsmorgan.com.

Rainbow Families D.C. hosts a family picnic at Meadowbrook Park (7901 Meadowbrook Lane, Chevy Chase, Md.,) today from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Activities and games for both kids and adults. Bring own picnic lunch and snack or dessert to share. For details, visit thedccenter.org.

Adventuring, an LGBT outdoors group, hosts a Fall Equinox Night Hike through Old Rag today at 1:15 a.m. to watch the sunrise at 7 a.m. Meet at the East Falls Church Kiss and Ride lot at 1:15 a.m. Hike begins at 3:30 a.m. Cost is $25. Bring a head lamp, beverages, bug spray, sturdy boots and gloves. For experienced hikers only. For more information, visit adventuring.org.

Gay author Manil Suri will read selections from his novel “The City of Devi” today at 12:55 p.m. at the National Book Festival on the National Mall. Details at loc.gov/bookfest. Also look for him on Sept. 27 at 4:30 p.m. at George Mason University’s “Fall For the Book Festival” in Fairfax. Details at fallforthebook.org.

Monday, Sept. 23

D.C. celebrates its first “Bi Pride Day” in the first floor conference room at The Residence at Thomas Circle (1330 Massachusetts Ave., N.W.) today from 6:30-8 p.m. The program includes a panel discussion with two elders in the D.C. bisexual community. Refreshments served. Open to the public. For more details, email lorainehutchins@starpower.net.

Dotgay LLC hosts a town hall discussion and reception about using the domain .gay on the fourth floor of the NGLCC Supplier Innovation Center (729 15th St., N.W.) from 6-8:30 p.m. tonight. Topics include new opportunities .gay will create for the community, community funding initiatives and more. Featured speaker is CEO and co-founder of dotgay LLC Scott Seitz. Event is free. Refreshments provided. Dress casual. Please RSVP to info@dotgay.com. For more details, visit facebook.com/dotgaycom.

The Mankind Project has a “Special GBTQ New Warrior Training Adventure” tonight from 7:30-9:30 p.m. at Cedar Lane Unitarian Church (rooms 30-31) at 9601 Cedar Lane in Bethesda. It’s free.

Tuesday, Sept. 24

SMYAL (410 7th St., S.E.) provides free and confidential HIV testing drop-in hours today from 3-5 p.m. For more information, visit smyal.org.

Bachelor’s Mill (1104 8th St., S.E.) offers all drinks half price tonight until 2 a.m. Enjoy pool, video games and cards. Admission is free. Must be 21 and over. For more details, visit bachelorsmill.com.

AIDS Healthcare Foundation hosts free STD testing at the University Medical Building (2141 K St., N.W.) from 5-7:30 p.m. For details visit freestdcheck.org.

Wednesday, Sept. 25

The Lambda Bridge Club meets tonight at 7:30 p.m. at the Dignity Center (721 8th St., S.E.) for duplicate bridge. No reservations required and new comers welcome. If you need a partner, call 703-407-6540.

Secret Pleasures hosts “Sexing the Transman with Buck Angel” tonight at 7 p.m. Includes interviews with trans men and people who love trans men. Cost is $25. For more information or to buy tickets, visit secretpleasuresboutique.com.

The D.C. Ambassadors of the Trevor Project have a “cocktails and conversation” event this evening from 6-8 p.m. at 9½, the upstairs video bar of Number Nine (1435 P Street, N.W.). Drinks are two-for-one. A $10 donation is suggested. Attendees will discuss the Trevor Project’s “Talk to Me” campaign as it relate to LGBT youth in connection with National Suicide Prevention Month.

Thursday, Sept. 26

Gays and Lesbians Opposing Violence (GLOV) hosts its monthly meeting at the D.C. Center (1318 U St., N.W.) tonight at 7 p.m. The organization works to reduce violence toward LGBT people through community outreach, education and monitoring legal cases to ensure the dignity of LGBT victims. For more information, visit glovdc.org.

The D.C. Center and Pros in the City host speed dating for lesbian and bisexual women at Chi Cha Lounge (1624 U St., N.W.) tonight from 7-9 p.m. Dating is approximately one hour. After enjoy a mixer with fellow speed daters. Cash bar. Check in is at 7 p.m. and dating begins at 7:20 p.m. Complimentary valet parking offered to anyone who purchases two drinks or other items from the bar or restaurant. Cost is $30. For details, visit thedccenter.org.

Whitman-Walker Health provides free HIV testing at Miriam’s Kitchen (2401 Virginia Ave., N.W.) today from 4-6 p.m. For more information, visit whitman-walker.org.

Rude Boi Entertainment hosts “Tempted 2 Touch,” a ladies dance party, tonight at the Fab Lounge (2022 Florida Ave., N.W.). Doors open at 10 p.m. Drink specials $5 and vodka shots $3 all night. No cover charge. Admission limited to guests 21 and over. For more details, visit rudeboientertainment.wordpress.com.

Gay singer/songwriter Tom Goss is performing with full band accompaniment tonight at The Dunes (1402 Meridian Pl., N.W.). Goss will be joined by fellow out performer, Jeremiah Clark. Doors open at 7 p.m. and the show starts at 8 p.m.  Tickets are $12 and can be purchased at www.tomgossmusic.com.

19
Sep
2013

High price for Hep C drug sparks controversy

Carl Schmid, Hep C, drug, Gilead, the AIDS Institute, gay news, Washington Blade

Carl Schmid, deputy director of the AIDS Institute, said Sovaldi is expensive, ‘but this is remarkable progress and the cure rate is extremely high.’ (Photo courtesy of Schmid)

The pharmaceutical company Gilead Sciences received praise earlier this month for bringing to market a newly approved drug capable of curing the potentially fatal liver disease Hepatitis C without the serious and debilitating side effects caused by the existing drug used to treat the disease.

Experts say 20 percent of people with HIV are co-infected with Hepatitis C, which over a period of years can lead to death through liver cancer and liver failure. Physicians treating people with HIV, including Whitman-Walker Health’s medical director, Dr. Richard Elion, have called Gilead’s new drug a major breakthrough.

But at least two organizations that advocate for people with HIV and Hepatitis C have denounced Gilead for setting the wholesale price for its new drug Sovaldi at a level they consider exorbitant and which they say could lead to further escalating prices for AIDS drugs.

The AIDS Healthcare Foundation, the nation’s largest private organization providing medical services for people with HIV/AIDS, and the Fair Pricing Coalition, which advocates for affordable prices for prescription drugs for people with serious illnesses, called Gilead’s decision to set a wholesale acquisition cost of $84,000 for a 12-week treatment regimen of Sovaldi unprecedented.

“There can be no better example of the unbridled greed of the pharmaceutical industry than Gilead’s latest move: pricing its new hepatitis drug at $84,000 per 28-tablet bottle or $1,000 per pill,” said Michael Weinstein, president of AHF.

Lynda Dee, co-chair of Fair Pricing Coalition, called Sovaldi a “very safe and highly effective drug” but noted that it must be used in combination with other drugs to treat different Genotypes, or strains, of Hepatitis C.

She said that although the other drugs – pegylated interferon and ribavirin – are not as expensive as Sovaldi, the price tag for combination therapy with Sovaldi comes to $93,000 and $168,000 for various treatment regimens for a single person living with Hepatitis C.

“Gilead has set the bar dangerously high as other companies determine prices for similar Hepatitis C drugs as they enter the market,” Dee said.

In a statement released at the time the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Sovaldi for patient use on Dec. 6, Gilead said it had put in place a patient assistance program to ensure that people with Hepatitis C have access to Sovaldi regardless of their ability to pay for it.

The statement said the program provides assistance to “patients who are uninsured, underinsured or who need financial assistance to pay for the medicine.” The program, called Support Path, will provide Sovaldi “at no charge for eligible patients with no other insurance options,” according to the statement.

While praising Gilead for offering such a program, which is common within the pharmaceutical industry, critics say the high price for Sovaldi would likely prompt other companies to put in place similarly high pricing policies for other promising drugs about to be released for the treatment of both Hepatitis C and HIV/AIDS.

Some Wall Street analysts suggested Gilead’s price for Sovaldi may be justified when taking into consideration the amount it spent to bring such a beneficial drug to market. Bloomberg business news service reported that Gilead, which didn’t invent Sovaldi, paid $11 billion in 2011 to buy Pharmasset, Inc., the company that developed Sovaldi and other Hepatitis C drugs expected to be approved soon.

Bloomberg cited pharmaceutical industry observers who said the Hepatitis C drugs Gilead obtained through this purchase could pull in as much as $20 billion by 2020.

Clinical trials with patients monitored by the Food and Drug Administration demonstrated that Sovaldi had a cure rate of more than 90 percent for patients with the Genotype 2 strain of Hepatitis C following a 12-week regimen with the drug ribavirin. Patients with Genotype 3, another strain of Hepatitis C, had a similarly successful cure rate following a 24-week regimen of Sovaldi and Ribavirin, the trials showed.

For patients with Genotype 1 or 4 of the Hepatitis C infection, the Sovaldi treatment needed to be combined with pegylated alfa interferon, the drug of choice for Hepatitis C before the development of Sovaldi and other new drugs nearing completion of clinical trials, statements by Gilead and the FDA said. Interferon causes serious and debilitating side effects for most patients, forcing some to stop using it before the Hepatitis C virus can be eliminated, according to medical experts.

The good news, according to those monitoring Hepatitis C treatment developments, is that Gilead and other pharmaceutical companies are close to releasing other new drugs capable of effectively curing patients with the Genotype 1 and Genotype 4 strains without the need for Interferon.

“I believe that Sovaldi will have a major impact on public health by significantly increasing the number of Americans who are cured of Hepatitis C,” said Dr. Ira Jacobson, chief of the Division of Gastroenterology at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City, who served as a principal investigator in the clinical trials of Sovaldi.

Carl Schmid, deputy director of the AIDS Institute, which advocates for people with HIV, said the ability of Sovaldi to actually cure patients with Hepatitis C makes it different from HIV drugs on the market, which keep most patients healthy but cannot cure HIV/AIDS.

“Yes, it’s expensive,” he said of Sovaldi. “But this is remarkable progress and the cure rate is extremely high.”

23
Dec
2013

Rose Parade gay wedding inspires controversy

An Orange Grove float in the 2009 Rose Parade. (Photo courtesy Wikimedia)

An Orange Grove float in the 2009 Rose Parade. (Photo courtesy Wikimedia)

A planned float in the Rose Parade that is slated to feature the theme “Love is the Best Protection” and atop which two Los Angeles men plan to get married on New Year’s Day has inspired controversy, the Pasadena Star News reports.

Because of the cake-shaped float sponsored by AIDS Healthcare Foundation, a San Diego woman is calling for a boycott, the Star News said.

“Gay marriage is illegal in over 30 states,” the paper quoted Karen Grube as having said. “Why would they promote something that is blatantly illegal? That’s just stupid.”

She also lamented what she called a “political agenda” in the parade.

“It used to be a family thing, to get up on New Year’s Day morning and watch the parade,” she was quoted as saying. “It no longer is.”

Danny Leclair plans to marry his long-time partner Aubrey Loots, the paper reports. About 68 million are expected to see it on TV. As same-sex marriage is now legal in California, AHF President Michael Weinstein said he hopes boycotters will respect “the law of the land.”

Tournament of Roses officials said they welcome the entry and the wedding.

The Pasadena Star News has more here.

29
Dec
2013