Monday, April 30, 2007

Gay Bloggers Andrew Sullivan, Dan Savage on HIV Serosorting = Good Prevention
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The word about the fabulous effectiveness of HIV serosorting; positives having sex only with other positives, and how it's reduced new infections by a projected 33% in America's AIDS Model City, a.k.a. San Francisco, is spreading around the gay blogosphere, thanks to this little blog getting the good news ball rolling.
Over the weekend, from Washington, DC, gay conservative Andrew Sullivan blogged about the very large estimated reduction of new HIV transmissions because of serosorting.
And today, gay Democrat and sex advice columnist Dan Savage weighs in the topic, with a great headline, "Sero-Sorting Works," from The Stranger's blog up in Seattle:
And who deserves credit for this “prevention success”? Average, rank-and-file, commonsensical gay men that adopted the practice without any “institutional support.” Credit shouldn’t go to AIDS prevention orgs—at least not until they adopt sero-sorting.
Hey, Andrew and Dan, thanks for using your platforms to bring attention to serosorting as a valid means of HIV prevention. I'm most pleased Dan dishes some deserved criticism at the AIDS groups.

Now if only the HIV prevention groups would finally speak honestly about serosorting, we'd probably see even further drops in new HIV infections.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Second Meeting w/Straight Mormon Recruiter; Kushner's "Angel" Characters

The day before U.S. AIDS Ambassador Mark Dybul spoke at the main branch of the San Francisco public library, I went there to meet a friend and do some research on old MSM stories on HIV not available on the web.
Who should I run into, by himself with his recruiting partner nowhere in sight, but none other than that very attractive beefy straight young male Mormon I attempted to recruit for the gay community back in March.
Elder Adams was using a free Internet-access terminal on the first floor and he stood out like a sore thumb in his dark gray business suit, clean white shirt and tie, and name tag hanging from his breast pocket. I wondered where his Mormon buddy was since I thought these recruiters were required to always travel the streets in pairs.
He remembered me from last month and seem to welcome the chance to chat again. I asked what he was doing at the library and he said doing research on the area where he was being sent to next for his church. Unlike the last time we met, this time he didn't speak about his religion and I didn't try recruiting him into the gay lifestyle.
And since I had my camera with me, I requested another photo of Elder Adams. He smiled and said, "Sure, snap away." Hmmm, for a straight Mormon guy he sure has no problems with a gay man taking his photo!
This second chance encounter with Elder Adams, in which we just made friendly small talk, struck me as a rare and weird opportunity to again simply dialogue with a person so different from me, across religious and political barriers. What are the odds of running into him again, I mean, not at his recruiting location, the BART station at 16th and Mission streets?
I don't know the answer to that question, but I can tell you that my two chats with this young Mormon man reminded me of two characters from Tony Kushner's play and HBO movie "Angels in America." If you've seen or read it, you may recall the closeted gay Mormon lawyer from Utah, Joe Pitt, coming to terms with his homosexuality, and his off-beat and abusive relationship with Louis Ironson, an openly gay Jewish New York legal word processor.
Yes, I see some of Elder Adams in Joe Pitt and much of my politics in Louis Ironson, so in a very small way, my two chance meetings with him are just a reminder of how life can sometimes imitate a tiny portion of the cultural arts.
If I meet up with Elder Adams a third time, I must remember to ask him his first name. I just can't get used to calling such a young man by a very formal title.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

(Ambassador Mark Dybul)

There were so few people in the Koret auditorium at the San Francisco main library yesterday, about 15, for the forum with Ambassador Mark Dybul, the U.S. envoy for HIV/AIDS, that I thought I was in the wrong room.
Several of the audience members were executives from the SF AIDS Foundation or staffers from the State Department, and besides myself, the only community member in attendance was black transgender activist Veronika Cauley. Don't know why more people weren't in attendance.

(Activist Veronika Cauley)

In any event, during the Q&A I asked Dybul what he was doing to lift the U.S. HIV travel and immigrant ban, which, I pointed out, was implemented under President Clinton, and he was eager to respond.
He said he was working within the constraints of the law to enact a "blanket waiver" and that the State Department is communicating with the executive branch about the HIV ban. Dybul's response was very diplomatic and his vocal tone contained much earnestness. Nothing newsworthy came from him.
But of course, I was pleased to deliver a message to him and the State Department, that at least one AIDS activist in San Francisco cared enough to show up for the forum and raise the issue of the deplorable HIV ban.

(Bureaucrat Dr. Eric Goosby)

I also berated Dr. Eric Goosby, executive director of the SF AIDS Foundation's Pangaea Global HIV/AIDS Foundation and former top HIV advisor to the Clinton White House, who was a member of the panel on the stage with Dybul.
Goosby made $248,242 as head of Pangaea, according to the group's FY 2004 IRS 990 tax report, which I pointed out was not his current salary that could only assume was more than what he earned two years ago, and that such a pay-scale level was shameful, given that so many PWAs lack basic things like drugs and access to drugs.
He stared intently at the microphone in front of him as I made reference to a report in the New York Times last week about criticism over the salaries of two aides to Paul Wolfowitz at the World Bank.
A large amount of the discontent over Mr. Wolfowitz has focused on his top aides, Robin Cleveland and Kevin Kellems, both of whom worked with him on defense issues in the Bush administration. Bank officials have claimed that they have been given too much power and that their salaries, in excess of $200,000, are too high.
Goosby choose not to respond to my criticism, which is standard practice for the over-paid, in my opinion, leaders at the SF AIDS Foundation and its Pangaea affiliate.
Finally, after the forum ended I spoke privately with Dybul and said he should aggressively push inside the Bush administration to lift the HIV ban. And I said thanks for bringing his family members, including his partner Jason Claire and his mother-in-law to his swearing in ceremony, a symbolic but nonetheless step forward for gays at the State Department.

Friday, April 27, 2007

SF DPH: AIDS Cases, Deaths Drop Again; HIV Falls 33%

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This new graph from the HIV epidemiology department of the San Francisco Department of Public Health, released on Thursday, while certainly encouraging and showing full-blown AIDS cases and deaths from the disease continue their dramatic fall, it gives a false impression that both categories are at or near zero. (Click on the graph to enlarge it and view it in better detail.)
I don't understand why DPH doesn't expand the graph to more accurately reflect that cases and mortality are in the low hundreds, an issue I will bring up with the DPH.
The latest quarterly AIDS summary was web-posted yesterday and the data below is from Table 9 of the report:

AIDS Cases/AIDS Deaths

3 / 0

26 / 8

99 / 32

274 / 111

557 / 272

859 / 531

1236 / 807

1629 / 876

1762 / 1036

2161 / 1273

2048 / 1362

2283 / 1495

2327 / 1633

2074 / 1584

1784 / 1584

1561 / 1475

1082 / 981

806 / 413

692 / 396

580 / 352

549 / 340

501 / 318

488 / 319

524 / 299

443 / 300

412 / 246

297 / 200

2007 (Jan - Mar)
21 / 35
Even if we are mindful of the reporting delays of data in recent years, which means slight increases will be included in future AIDS epi reports, there is no denying a legitimate downward trend.
I am, of course, very happy to be alive to see these declines continuing and fully expect them to steadily drop even more, because of the HIV cocktails that keep viral loads down in many people with AIDS to undetectable levels, and also thanks to the community-driven and community-created practice of serosorting.
Now, there are skeptics who will read the AIDS stats and say while they're important and reflective of where the epidemic has been, we should be very worried about new HIV infections.
To address their concerns, I must point out an article the National Alliance of States and Territorial AIDS Directors newsletter of February 2007, written by two of the top HIV prevention experts at the San Francisco DPH, about a serious decrease in new transmissions:
While there was a ten percent decrease in total estimated new [HIV] cases, this seemingly modest decrease is actually a much greater prevention success than it appears.

From 2001 to 2006, the estimated number of gay men living in San Francisco increased from 46,800 to 58,343.

The increase was likely due to real growth in the gay community and, potentially, in part the result of an underestimation of the population size in 2001.

When the effect of the increase in the population size of MSM is taken into account, new infections have decreased by an estimated 33 percent. [Emphasis added]
If you want even more good news about the control and decline of HIV in San Francisco, and the practice of serosorting, check out this excellent, but buried deep in the local section, story in today's SF Chronicle. The paper reports on two new studies documenting that HIV serosorting is more widespread then previously thought.
No matter how you slice the HIV/AIDS data and research on serosorting in San Francisco, the news is, you should pardon the expression, positive.

Bush's Gay Global AIDS Chief Talks in S.F. Today

President Bush's openly gay global AIDS coordinator, Mark Dybul, speaks today at the main branch of the San Francisco public library.
You may recall that when Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice swore him in as America's ambassador for HIV/AIDS issues, she and First Lady Laura Bush warmly welcomed Dybul, his family, including his companion Jason and his mother-in-law, at the ceremony.
From the State Department's transcript of the ceremony:
SECRETARY RICE: Thank you. Thank you very much. I am truly honored and delighted to have the opportunity to swear in Mark Dybul as our next Global AIDS Coordinator. I am pleased to do that in the presence of Mark's parents, Claire and Richard; his partner, Jason; and his mother-in-law, Marilyn. You have wonderful family to support you, Mark, and I know that's always important to us. Welcome.
He's speaking at a forum organized by Rep. Tom Lantos and I plan to be there to hear what both men have to say. Let's hope questions and comments will be allowed from the audience.
From the Congressman's press release:

“The San Francisco Bay Area knows the devastation of AIDS like no other place in America,” Lantos said. “From our dawning awareness in the 1980s through the heroic efforts of researchers and caregivers to address the crisis, we have been in the vanguard of responsiveness to this public health challenge. Sadly, HIV and AIDS are still among us in this country, but they have wreaked unprecedented destruction abroad. The United States has taken the lead in every aspect of the fight against HIV/AIDS, and the people of our region should take part in the discussion of what is being done – and what the next steps could be.”

The co-author of the 2003 legislation that funded the $15 billion Global AIDS program, Lantos will spearhead the effort to reauthorize the program next year. One of the legislation’s provisions created a Global AIDS Coordinator position at the State Department. The new coordinator, Ambassador Mark R. Dybul, will be the featured speaker at the event, along with experts in the field.

The forum will be held from 2 to 4 p.m. at the San Francisco Main Library, 100 Larkin Street (at Grove). Members of the public can get further information from Congressman Lantos’ office at 650-342-0300.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

SF Chron: Bush is Reading Book About Arnold Rothstein, Gambling Kingpin

The Taliban is resurgent in parts of Afghanistan and Osama bin Laden lives undetected in the caves bordering Pakistan. In Iraq, the White House surge of U.S. troops isn't working as planned and American soldiers, along with Iraqi civilians, continue to die. Here at home, George W. Bush's promise to rebuild the great city of New Orleans is as deep and meaningful as Britney Spears' commitment to marriage. Oh, and dozens of Americans die every day because they lack affordable housing and access to health care.

I would think those problems, and hundred of others worth addressing full-time, would take up not only a good deal of the president's official business day, but also his private down-time and what he chooses to read. Boy, was I wrong. It's business as usual for Bush and his reading material these days reveals how pressing world and domestic issues are not taking up all of his time.

From the SF Chronicle this morning:

"[Chronicle reporter Joan Ryan was at the White House Correspondents Dinner this weekend and her husband,] Fox sportscaster Barry Tompkins, positioned himself [near President Bush] to take a photograph.

"Your husband has a great tuxedo," the president said.

Ryan informed Bush that Tompkins, being a sportscaster who covered a lot of boxing, owned many tuxedos.

Bush lit up.

"I'm reading a book now on Arnold Rothstein," the president said. Rothstein was the gambling kingpin most known for fixing the 1919 World Series, the infamous Black Sox scandal.

"They say he fixed the Dempsey-Tunney fight!" Bush gushed.

The two men then joked for several minutes about characters in boxing ...

As of today, it is only 636 days until Dubya leaves office. And when he does, he'll have even more time than he does now to read for fun, and tend to chores on his ranch, then now, when he should be reading more serious tomes, ones that might guide the country and some of the world to take care of the messes he has visited upon us all.

For some historical perspective about Bush's reading materials, have a look at what one of his top advisors said about the him and the Iraq Study Group book of recommendations. From the December 6, 2006, broadcast of PBS's "News Hour":

RAY SUAREZ: Has the president read the report of the Iraq Study Group?

DAN BARTLETT: I can't say that he's read it completely. We've given him a pretty full day today, but he did have a very constructive conversation with the members of the commission.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Gay Russian Leader Praises Yeltsin For Sodomy Law Repeal

The death of former Russian leader Boris Yeltsin yesterday jogged my memory about something positive he did for gays, and that was to decriminalize sodomy.
Almost 14 years ago, on April 29, 1993, Yeltsin signed a decree that repealed Article 121.1 of the Russian criminal code from the books, which banned consensual homosexual relations. One news account from that time said gay men in prison for violating the sodomy were to be released from penal institutions.
In May 2006, the head of the Human Rights Watch's gay unit, Scott Long, traveled to Moscow to participate in a controversial gay rights march organized by Nikolai Alekseev, and Long had an interesting take on Yeltsin's rapid repeal of Article 121.1:
[It] may have been unfortunate for Russia’s LGBT movement (however fortunate for Russian society as a whole) that Yeltsin repealed the sodomy law so early and so quickly, by decree. There had been little domestic mobilization against it. The movement was deprived of the one issue that could have given it unity and direction. And Russian lesbians and gays were given the partly illusory feeling of freedom, able to lead their lives without immediate fear of arrest, to visit bars and websites and construct cocoons of consumer satisfaction without facing the deeper forces of prejudice and patriarchy in their society and families and homes.
Yeltsin's passing is, of course, being noted by Russia's bravest gay leader Nikolai Alekseev, who issued the following statement on his GayRussia web site:

On Monday 23 April we lost first President of Russia Boris Yeltsin, a man who, risking his life, gave freedom to us, a man, who underpinned democratic values of contemporary Russia.

Russian gay community will always remember Boris Nikolaevich Yeltsin as a man who put an end to almost sixty years of criminal prosecution for male homosexual relations. The law that he signed in April 1993 came into force on 27 May 1993. This day entered into Russian history of LGBT movement. 27 May was chosen as the date for the conduct of the first ever gay pride march in Moscow last year.

Boris Yeltsin is a whole epoch in Russia’s history. He is a man who will always be remembered by our descendants, irrespective of the future development of Russia.

His name is forever written into the history of free and democratic Russia.

When such people as Boris Yeltsin leaving this world everything is shaking inside. Democratic Russia is losing its best people. It is sad that no one is coming to replace them.

First President of Russia made enough mistakes during his long political career but he found strength to apologize to his country. Who else left the highest position in the country with his own will? Who else in Russia said sorry for the political mistakes? Boris Nikolaevich had courage almost alone not only to destroy totalitarian system but also to ask for forgiveness for everything that was not done properly, for the promises that were not realized.

It is frightening to lose such people, it is twice more frightening to lose such people in one of the critical turning points of Russia’s history, when the country is once again at the crossroads of democracy and dictatorship.

Boris Yeltsin gave Russian people freedom, but people, unfortunately, did not learn how to value it. And still there is a hope that Russia will not turn from the democratic way though it is becoming more and more obvious that the country reached some kind of irreversible point which the first Russia’s President, devoted to liberty, was not able to outlive.

Let him rest in peace! Boris Yeltsin will always stay in our hearts!

Monday, April 23, 2007

Taxpayer-subsidized US House Chaplain Promotes Homo-hater Rev. Dobson

Our nation's political and legal doctrine of maintaining a strict separation of church and state should, in my opinion, mean that both the Senate and the House should not open every day with a prayer or sermon from a religious figure, but that's a somewhat naive expectation. Both chambers begin the people's business, when the politicians are actually working, with a few words from their respective chaplains.
The most recent challenge to end the Congressional chaplain offices was in 2004, but US District Court for Washington, DC, rejected the lawsuit. Hence, the taxpayers continue to subsidize two religious figures, and their agendas. Click here for a concise summary and history of these offices.
The Rev. Barry C. Black, a Navy vet and Seventh-day Adventist minister, is the Senate's chaplain, and his annual salary is $143,000. Black is the first African American to hold this position. His web page is basic, with no archive of his opening prayers, list of activities or names of any guest preachers starting the Senate's day.
His House counterpart, the Rev. Daniel P. Coughlin, a Roman Catholic, and he maintains a comprehensive site, complete with an archive of opening prayers, roster of guest chaplains, local places of worship and a dose of promotion for upcoming religious events. Coughlin's yearly pay is $163,700.
To put those salaries in perspective, the Sunlight Foundation notes that the base pay for members of the Senate and House is $168,000.
What's got me irked is that Coughlin is using public dollars to publicize a National Prayer Day event at the Capitol next week, and notorious homo-hater Dr. James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family, along with his equally bigoted wife, Mrs. Shirley Dobson.
Come celebrate America's 56th annual National Day of Prayer. The National Observance will take place Thursday, May 3rd, from 12:00 noon to 3:00 p.m. at the Cannon House Office Building on Capitol Hill.
Featured speakers include: Honorary Chairman Dr. Charles Swindoll, NDP Chairman Mrs. Shirley Dobson, Focus on the Family Founder Dr. James Dobson, Admiral Timothy Keating, Mississippi Supreme Court Chief Justice James W. Smith, Worship Leader Charles Billingsley, Musical Guest Ernie Haase & Signature Sound.
Admission is free and open to the general public. Doors open at 11:30 a.m. Seating is limited so it is recommended that you arrive early.
Here's a bit of interesting cultural trivia about invited speaker Mr. Smith that I picked up from his Wikipedia entry:
Smith had a minor appearance in the 2006 comedy mocumentary Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan when he was present at the same revival meeting that Borat attended, where he was depicted stating that "The bottom line is, we are a Christian nation now, we were a Christian nation in the beginning, and we'll gonna always be a Christian nation until the good Lord returns". It is unknown what effect this had, if any, on his public image.
Oh, what I would give to have Borat return to the USA, cover this prayer event next week and ask why gay American tax dollars, or any American's taxes, are being used to promote the bigoted Dobson's and their political agenda.
Not only that, but I think it's time for renewed scrutiny of the two Congressional chaplains, their salaries, money for staffs and offices and other expenses, role in guiding lawmakers and their speeches on the Senate and House floors.

If we can't rid our national legislative chambers of this religious incursion into the state's business, let's at least have as much sunshine beaming in on the chaplains.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Gay Eyes Only: Muscle Cub/Iraq War Vet Protester At Gonzales Hearing

As America endures the ever-declining less-than two years remaining on the debacle known as the Bush presidency, and a clown like Gonzales professes the memory of a San Francisco pot head before the US Congress and the country's proud citizens who want their democracy back, it does my queer eye good to have delicious sigh-inducing young men to look at.

The fine furry fella in the pics is Adam and he's from a group called Iraqi Veterans Against the War. Adam caught a few photographers' attention at Gonzales's appearance on Thursday.

From the AP:

This ran in the NYT:

And this is from Code Pink 4 Peace:

It's gonna take many Adams and Steves and Eves to get to January 20, 2009 - the day we inaugurate a new, more competent, American president.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Agenda: April 19 NIH AIDS Advisory Council

I'm keeping my fingers crossed that there are other people with AIDS and/or non-AIDS Inc types at this important meeting tomorrow. This advisory council is in desperate need of hearing directly from people living with HIV and advocates not part of the AIDS establishment.

That being said, no matter who is there from the general public, those individuals will be providing two very necessary components to HIV research at the NIH - transparency and accountability. Hope to see you at the meeting.

From the Federal Register announcement:

National Institutes of Health


Office of the Director, National Institutes of Health; Notice of Meeting

Pursuant to section 10(a) of the Federal Advisory Committee Act, as amended (5 U.S.C. Appendix 2), notice is hereby given of a meeting of the Office of AIDS Research Advisory Council.

The meeting will be open to the public, with attendance limited to space available. Individuals who plan to attend and need special assistance, such as sign language interpretation or other reasonable accommodations, should notify the Contact Person listed below in advance of the meeting.

Name of Committee: Office of AIDS Research Advisory Council.
Date: April 19, 2007.
Time: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Agenda: The meeting will focus on HIV-related Complications including Malignancies, Cardiovascular Disease, and Metabolic Complications. An update will be provided on the OARAC Working Groups for Treatment and Prevention Guidelines.

Place: National Institutes of Health, 5635 Fishers Lane, Rockville, MD 20852.

Contact Person: Christina Brackna, Coordinator, Program Planning and Analysis, Office of Aids Research, Office of the Director, NIH, 5635 Fishers Lane MSC 9310, Suite 4000, Rockville, MD 20852, (301) 402-8655,

Any member of the public interested in presenting oral comments to the committee may notify the Contact Person listed on this notice at least 10 days in advance of the meeting. Interested individuals and representatives of organizations may submit a letter of intent, a brief description of the organization represented, and a short
description of the oral presentation. Only one representative of an organization may be allowed to present oral comments and if accepted by the committee, presentations may be limited to five minutes. Both printed and electronic copies are requested for the record. In addition, any interested person may file written comments with the
committee by forwarding their statement to the Contact Person listed on this notice. The statement should include the name, address, telephone number and when applicable, the business or professional affiliation of the interested person.

Information is also available on the Institute's Center's home page:, where an agenda and any additional information for the meeting will be posted when available.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

"Don't Be a Bitch" HIV Ads Targeting Young Black Women & Men Defended by SF DPH

The editor of the BAR, Ms. Cynthia Laird, has graciously granted me written permission to reprint this old story on my blog.

I want to share it with people because as the national debate continues over that idiot Imus and his racist, sexist comments against the brave young women of Rutgers' woman basketball team, I hope the discussion soon expands to a frank talk about government-funded disrespectful language and imagery used in some HIV prevention social marketing campaigns.

Click here to view one of the awful pages from the offensive campaign.


'Homoboy' serves as latest crusader in fight against HIV
by Matthew S. Bajko
Bay Area Reporter
January 27, 2005

Shirtless, the young black man is decked out in baggy jeans and a beanie cap, grabbing his crotch. Around his neck hangs his bling; a plastic necklace fashioned to resemble diamonds that spells out his moniker “homoboy.” His message: don't be a bitch - use a condom.

Just who or what is a homoboy? He is the latest effort by San Francisco health officials to convince, in this case young gay men of color, to protect themselves from HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases by wearing a rubber during sex. A bitch - a word bandied about within hip-hop culture that can mean anything from a prostitute to a prisoner's submissive sexual partner - in this case refers to a man who engages in unsafe sex.

"If you are weak, submissive then you are the bitch. You do whatever you are told to do kind of thing. We are saying don't put yourself in that position, be strong and take care of yourself, take responsibility," said Les Pappas, whose agency Better World Advertising created and designed the campaign for the Department of Public Health. "If you have your shit together then you are going to do the right thing. You are going to be smart about sex and use a condom. If you are a mess and don't care then you are going to be a bitch and not stand up for yourself and demand a condom be used."

The provocative new campaign began surreptitiously this month with ads in local gay papers showing only a young man's chest and the homoboy necklace. The full campaign hit the streets this week, with the pasting of posters around the city's gay neighborhoods, the launch of the Web site, and Castro stores handing out free homoboy bling.

"It's sort of a real street oriented thing and also word of mouth," Pappas said of the campaign's guerrilla marketing tactics.

While black men have been featured in past HIV prevention campaigns funded by the city, the new initiative is the first to be specifically targeted to young men of color and appropriate their cultural references into the campaigns' message and imagery. It also prominently features a young transsexual woman in the ad and on the Web site.

To those who do HIV prevention work within the black community, the ad and its appropriation of hip-hop and gangsta rap imagery, such as using a rottweiler, flat screen television, and pimped out car as icons on the Web site, is startling at first. But while they see the campaign's tone and over the top portrayal of hip-hop culture leaning toward stereotyping, they nonetheless welcome the city's first foray into targeting young black men with HIV messages.

"I am not feeling this Web site. It just seems kind of, my first initial impression is it seems culturally exploitative toward black folk. It is too bling-bling, too much," said Rickey Williams, coordinator of the Our Love Program, the black men's program at the Stop AIDS Project. "It in some level reinforces some stereotypes."

But Williams, 26, said the site's directing guys to places to go for HIV and STD testing and treatment, as well as where to get free condoms is valuable. In looking at the site, he said he also liked its multicultural aspect - the campaign features both a Latino and Asian guy as well as a black guy and transsexual woman.

"I like the catch phrase 'don't be a bitch use a condom.' It is talking about taking self-responsibility for your body," he said. "On some level people dealing with HIV and STDs might take offense to that but I think it in fact is a positive message of taking care of your body."

Francis Broome, 30, the program manager for the Black Coalition on AIDS' Many Men, Many Voices, a group for gay black men age 21 and over, said after thinking about the campaign his reaction is "a positive one."

"It's about time DPH is opening up their prevention messages to a diverse group of people. Historically they have been very gay, white men focused. This ad will broaden the scope of people that the prevention draws in," said Broome.

However, he cautioned that not everyone would embrace the ad, particularly those men of color who do not attach the word gay to their sexual identity.

"It kind of is startling in the sense it is very stereotyping of the hip-hop culture in the black community. I don't think everyone will associate with it. It will bring some people in but turn some people off," he said. "The title 'homoboy' particularly with black men and Latino men, not a lot of people identify with this terminology. We use different terminology. We don't use gay, we use same-gender loving. Our social marketing material is very different now."

As with its “Crystal Mess” campaign last fall, which depicted men strung out on speed and also provoked strong reactions, the health department's latest campaign is also meant to be attention getting.

"This campaign is designed to get people talking," said Steven Tierney, the health department's director of HIV prevention. "When we spend money on social marketing now it has to be a little more targeted and we have turned up the volume a little bit. People have complained that health messages have gotten a little boring and they don't pay attention to them."

Nonetheless, Tierney said at first he questioned the campaign's use of the word “bitch” and requested the ad agency retest it with focus groups to ensure the targeted group would embrace the message.

"It is not language I would have chosen, but it was field tested. I am a 53-year old white guy. It did not make sense to me, but it wasn't supposed to," said Tierney. "It's designed for African American youth and it was designed through a series of focus groups with youth. The young people we are trying to speak to we want to get them to think about risk behavior. They are young folks who don't listen to traditional health messages."

With black men disproportionately impacted by HIV within San Francisco compared to white men, Tierney said it is important that the city find ways to connect with this population group.

"This is a group that hasn't been effectively brought into services. This is an attempt to speak to them in the language they shared with us in focus groups," he said. "What we know about prevention messages is it is best if they are spoken in the vernacular of the community we are trying to reach."

The campaign cost $49,000 to develop and $49,000 to implement.

So far, those young people Tierney has heard from like the campaign. Marcus Mahto, who helped work on the campaign as an intern with the ad agency, said his circle of friends has so far embraced the ad and its use of hip-hop symbols.

"I am going to be wearing the necklace and I am going to get some of the necklaces for some of my friends. I already had a couple friends ask where they can get it," said Mahto, who is 25 and HIV-positive. "I think it is really great compared to other campaigns. People are totally nude in some campaigns I have seen at the bar but you don't have to be that vivid."

As for the imagery and ethos of the homoboy, Mahto said the persona the ad projects can be a good role model for young men to emulate.

"If they want to be that model or that person it shows them they can do that without getting an STD, and if they get an STD where to go to get checked," he said.

With younger generations of gay men utilizing the Internet as a part of their social lives, the campaign also includes homoboy screen savers and buddy icons people can download from the Web site.

"It will give you something to remind you in your face on your computer for you to get tested every couple of months," said Mahto. "Or with the buddy icon, it might prompt people to ask their partner if they have an STD or might intrigue them to get tested before they have sex. That is really needed in this community."
BAR: HRC Should Organize a Presidential Debate on LGBT Issues

There's an excellent, thought-provoking editorial in today's Bay Area Reporter:

The Human Rights Campaign has been under fire in recent weeks from gay bloggers and media (including this space) for wide ranging issues like failing to publicly acknowledge Republican state lawmakers who are supportive of same-sex marriage; the golden parachute given to former President Cheryl Jacques; and the methods it uses to count its members. As arguably the largest LGBT organization in the country, HRC wields political clout, even if that power has been underemployed during the Bush administration.

Now, however, there is a prime opportunity for HRC to flex its muscle and get its groove back: it should urge the 2008 presidential candidates to agree to a debate that would focus primarily on LGBT issues. With the first debate for the Democratic candidates coming up at the end of the month, and more scheduled, now is the time to create such a forum. And we're not talking about campaign surrogates or the candidates' gay staffers – we want to hear from the candidates.

Beyond hosting pricey dinners and closed-door meetings for its members (like when it gave political cover to Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, who addressed the group but whose visit was announced only after her appearance), HRC should demand the candidates attend a public forum where our issues are debated. The candidates – at least the Democrats, from what we've seen so far – want our vote ...

Will the leaders at HRC heed the advice of this editorial and organize a gay debate for the candidates? If they do, it would benefit all gays and such a debate might even advance an agenda for equality.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

The Fog: San Francisco DPH Wants to Hire Don Imus for Shocking HIV Prevention Campaigns

The Fog
April 11

From Fog staff writers:

The head of San Francisco's health department, Dr. Mitch Katz, wants to recruit shock jock Don Imus to help create new social marketing campaigns to prevent new infections of HIV. Some in the gay and African American community expressed horror that Imus, who is facing a firestorm over his racist and sexist comments about Rutgers' women basketball team, is up for consideration as an adviser to the department of health.

"We've spent millions of taxpayer dollars on shock marketing campaigns, like the 'Don't Be a Bitch' ads which appropriated hip-hop culture and language as a central component to the HomoBoy outreach effort to increase condom usage among young black men and women," said Katz. "Les Pappas, our sub-contractor for that and all our controversial campaigns advises me that Imus would be an asset to HIV prevention in San Francisco. We invented disrespectful language and images, using millions of government grant dollars, to generate discussion over stopping AIDS in the black and gay communities. Imus is guaranteed to meet the singular goal of San Francisco HIV prevention social campaigns - get people talking."

The health department in February 2005 launched the HomoBoy campaign, which immediately drew criticism from experienced progressive activists upset that young black men were being called "boy," the word "bitch" was employed to engage young black women and effeminate black male youths, and an image of a pit bull effectively drove home the message that "bitches" are dogs or homoboys.

When objections were raised because of the multitude of racist, sexist and homophobic aspects of "Don't Be a Bitch," the health department, local HIV nonprofits and the creative force behind it, Les Pappas' Better World Advertising agency, declared the outrage from community members, black and white, of many genders and sexual identities, proof of success in promoting healthy HIV messages, even if a handful of people objected to them.

"I wish I could light a fire of national conversation like Imus has," said Pappas, who has designed many intentionally offensive HIV prevention ad campaigns and ignored longstanding complaints against his methods and slurs. He relishes media attention, and often gets it, mistaking the coverage for productive discussion about complex health concerns.

Pappas is secure that his backers, the Centers for Disease Control's HIV prevention branch, along with San Francisco health department, aren't weak like Imus' advertisers and about to drop his multi-million dollars contracts.

"From insulting the faggots with my 'Who Gives A Fuck' campaign, made with city money, to designing the 'HIV Stops With Me' multimedia push thanks to a huge CDC grant, and ending with my ad agency pissing people off with the 'Don't Be a Bitch' message, I've modeled my approach to public health after Imus' effort to get America talking about race and gender issues," said Pappas.

(The ads are genuine, but the story is satire.)

Tuesday, April 10, 2007 2005 NYC Super HIV Fears Exaggerated by Media

Let's take some time today for an important HIV history lesson.

In February 2005 a gay man in New York City was reported to have developed a rare drug-resistant super strain of HIV, and many media outlets, especially the NY Times, and AIDS prevention leaders seized upon the case to sound many loud alarms about risky gay sex, meth use and alleged apathy in the gay community about AIDS. Quite a few mainstream HIV prevention groups used the story to call for more funding and scarier social marketing campaigns, claiming that an epidemic of patients with super HIV was about to hit clinics and hospitals.

I was one of just a few skeptics who questioned the alarm back then, including getting some detailed answers from the NY Times about its sensationalistic coverage. This case generated many fears and stereotypes of the drug-addled, sex-crazed homo and his threat to public health.

One reporter, Duncan Osborne of Manhattan's Gay City News, stayed on top of the story and in August 2006 wrote a superb follow up to the brouhaha of early 2005. From Osborne's story:

Nearly 18 months after it announced the case of a gay man who was infected with a multiple-drug resistant strain of HIV and had rapidly progressed to AIDS, the city health department released a report on the case that reached no conclusions about how the man was infected, if he infected anyone else, or what caused his rapid progression ...

Richard Jefferys, basic science, vaccines, and prevention director at the Treatment Action Group, an AIDS organization, said, “There’s clearly no evidence that this was transmitted on... This idea of a super virus, which created so many headlines, there’s not a single piece of evidence that suggests anything like that.”

Fast forward to today's news about the case, as reported on the site:

Public health officials in the city raised the alarm, and US newspapers reported that a new, highly aggressive drug-resistant strain of HIV was at large in the city's gay male population.

But now, two years later, the first comprehensive report on the case in a medical journal shows that almost all the initial media - and public health - assumptions about the case turned out to be wrong.

Ongoing analysis of the “New York City patient” has now suggested that he may have been initially infected by a dual-(CXCR4 and CCR5) –tropic virus, rather than having developed it himself, and that the case was highly unusual ...

The newly published report by Gary Blick (the source patient’s physician, who reported on the case at the 2005 IAS conference) and team provides further detail, and advances some possible answers to unanswered questions from 2005.

It now appears virtually certain (from subject interviews) that the NYC patient was infected on October 22, 2004. The NYC patient’s initial AIDS diagnosis and status as a “rapid progressor” were solely based on CD4 counts: he showed no major clinical signs of disease progression other than fever, sore throat, weakness and fatigue, and a 4kg weight loss.

Questions arose at the time as to whether primary infection could have explained the rapid CD4 count drop, as counts often drop dramatically in the first three months after infection, recovering as the infection enters its chronic phase ...

The source patient was also reportedly nonadherent to his antiretroviral treatment, which could potentially have driven the switch in tropism ...

The commentators “believe that existing evidence continues to suggest that superinfection… is uncommon after the first few years of infection, and this report should not lead to the abandonment of serosorting as one strategy to reduce HIV transmission. However, this case is an important cautionary tale that drug-resistant HIV truly can be transmitted to a chronically HIV-infected partner.”

Nice of the folks to note the initial assumptions of the media and public health officials were wrong. Now, I wonder how many newspapers, like the cheer leading NY Times, and TV news outlets and screaming health experts will either do follow up stories or issue further explanations about the report today.

If history is any indication, none will be so brave as to correct the false alarms raised in 2005.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Blogosphere Nanny-wannabe Tim O'Reilly Gave $2,000 to Sen. "White N-word" Byrd

Okay, so new electronic media mogul Tim O'Reilly is setting himself up, with the help of the NY Times, as the blogosphere's nanny, calling for a civil code of conduct for bloggers and all that we do.

Fine, it's still a relatively free country with constitutionally guaranteed rights to speech, even speech one doesn't like, and O'Reilly is more than entitled to make his nanny-ish proposals, that I don't expect will get very far.

In the Times this morning, reporter Brad Stone ended his story on O'Reilly's crusade with this money quote:

Mr. O’Reilly said the guidelines were not about censorship. “That is one of the mistakes a lot of people make — believing that uncensored speech is the most free, when in fact, managed civil dialogue is actually the freer speech,” he said. “Free speech is enhanced by civility.”

For me, free speech is enhanced by my right to publish what I want on my blog, be it civil or otherwise. Don't like what I post? Get your own blog and respond, is my attitude. And how O'Reilly defines civility may lead even to a small encroachment on free speech for the web.

But what about Tim O'Reilly's federal donations, and do they shed any light on his political beliefs and if he holds politicians to a high standard of civility, or any standard, before giving them any cash?

Federal Election Commission files
reveal O'Reilly's donated $2,000 to Sen. Robert Byrd, D-WV, back in 2005. He's also gave $1,000 to last year.

Hmmm, while two-thousand clams ain't all that much, I find it curious, to say the least, that of all the politicians in Washington, the only one to warrant a contribution from O'Reilly is the Senator who was a member of the KKK and uncivilly used the n-word in 2001 on, where else, the Fox News cable outlet.

From Byrd's Wikipedia entry:

On March 4, 2001, Byrd said this about race relations:
"Are much, much better than they've ever been in my lifetime.... I think we talk about race too much. I think those problems are largely behind us ... I just think we talk so much about it that we help to create somewhat of an illusion. I think we try to have good will. My old mom told me, 'Robert, you can't go to heaven if you hate anybody.' We practice that. There are white niggers. I've seen a lot of white niggers in my time. I'm going to use that word. We just need to work together to make our country a better country, and I'd just as soon quit talking about it so much."[30]

To be fair and balanced to the Senator and Tim O'Reilly, I must point out that after Byrd was lambasted for his remarks, he soon apologized for use of the racial slur and expressed regret for over support and membership in the Klan.

Still, before O'Reilly's civil coduct proposals gain more traction or MSM attention, people should be made aware of his contributions to Byrd. Just want to make sure bloggers consider everything that turns up on his paper trail. Now that's not being uncivil, is it?

And maybe it's time for O'Reilly to call for civil dialogue, at all times, from his favorite Senator.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Tragedy of Gay Teens Hanged by Iran is Now an Opera

Iran's barbaric hanging of two gay teenagers in July 2005 has generated much controversy in gay communities and political circles across the globe, and last July gays, human rights advocates and opponents of the death penalty gathered in dozens of cities and countries to commemorate the hanged teens. We also issued a demand an end to all capital punishment and increased respect for gays everywhere.

A story in the latest issue of Southern Voice reports on one young gay man's creative way of processing his grief and concern about the hangings -- with an opera. Read on:

SINCE THE 1979 ISLAMIC REVOLUTION in Iran, an estimated 4,000 people have been executed for the crime of lavaat, or sex between two men.

One particular execution captured the attention of R. Timothy Brady, a 21-year old music composition major at Emory University, while he was studying abroad in Italy during the summer of 2005. It was the case of Mahmoud Asgari, 17, and Ayaz Marhoni, 16, who were publicly hanged in Edalat Square on July 19, 2005, after they were accused of being lovers. [...]

A year later, when choosing a topic for his senior honors project, the boys’ story still haunted Brady, and became his inspiration for the project, “Edalat Square: Opera in One Act.” [...]

To prepare for the composition of the opera, Brady immersed himself in Persian culture. He listened to Persian music, read Suffi poetry, and spoke to many local Iranians. However, Brady was cautious not to simply appropriate what he learned.

“I didn’t want to take their music and put it in the opera and say, ‘Okay, this is mine,’” he explains. “What I wanted to do was incorporate their aesthetics.”

In January, Brady attended the Iranian Human Rights Symposium in Toronto, organized by IRQO, the Iranian Queer Organization, a grassroots effort to “defend the rights of Iranian LGBT people against social and civil injustice.” [...]

WHILE BRADY HAS FOUND some support in the Persian community, he has also received e-mails from some who feel the opera is anti-Islamic. He is quick to note that his work has no anti-Islamic sentiments, but is instead a political piece commenting more on the strict Iranian government who, according to Brady, has hijacked Islam. [...]

“I hope people will walk away being spiritually affected, not just emotionally, but I want something deeper,” he explains. Brady hopes that Asgari and Marhoni’s story will continue to live within the audience “long after the lights go down, long after the music is forgotten.”

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Is Dick Cheney A Card-Carrying Member of Parents & Friends of Lesbians and Gays?

If Mrs. and Mr. Cheney have not joined P-FLAG yet, they may want to consider becoming members of this fine group. From the Veep's web page today: Radio interview with Ann Compton of ABC News on April 4:

Q And former senator from Wyoming, wrote about two weeks ago in The Washington Post that he has changed his mind on "don't ask, don't tell." He wrote, "My God, we'd better start talking sense before it's too late." Has your thought on "don't ask, don't tell" evolved and changed at all?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Not really. My view of it is, more than anything else, determined by what our senior military leadership thinks is required, that the task of the military specifically is to fight and win wars. And the "don't ask, don't tell" policy is one that was devised with the leadership of the Pentagon some years ago. It's worked reasonably well, and I have not advocated changing it.

Q You are about to have a grandchild born next month, I think --


Q -- into a family that won't necessarily have the same legal standing in every state, in every legal respect. Do you think there will be changes or that, or should there be changes, legal changes in some of the laws around the country to better provide for a family?

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

BAR: Sunshine Task Force Rules Against CDC HIV Panel

There was an important victory for sunshine last week in San Francisco, one that has reverberations beyond the city's borders.

The reason why is the complaint was against a federally-mandated health advisory panel, in this case an HIV council, and there are many such bodies across the country, all of which need to be reminded that the photography and taping of their meetings is protected activity.

By the way, the HIV Prevention Planning Council is an arm of the CDC and funded with federal dollars.

Congratulations to Cynthia Laird and Rick Gerharter for reinforcing existing sunshine principles!

From the BAR edition of March 29:

The city's Sunshine Ordinance Task Force has found an HIV policy body to be in violation of the city's and state's open meetings laws due to its restricting the ability of photojournalists to document its meetings.

The task force voted Tuesday, March 27 that the health department's HIV Prevention Planning Council, which sets policy and recommends how the city allocates federal HIV prevention funds, violated both the California Brown Act and the local sunshine ordinance by requiring photographers to receive permission to photograph its monthly sessions from the HPPC co-chairs prior to its meetings. [...]

The Bay Area Reporter challenged the HPPC's rules after the policy body told B.A.R. freelance photographer Rick Gerharter he could not take photographs at its September 14 meeting because he had not requested permission to do so prior to the afternoon meeting. B.A.R. news editor Cynthia Laird, who filed the paper's complaint with the task force late last year, said she challenged the restrictions on taking photos because it impedes the newspaper staff's ability to do their work. [...]

HPPC Co-Chair Tracey Packer, the health department's interim HIV prevention director, defended the restrictive policy as necessary to protect HPPC member's privacy rights. [...]

"We know we must allow it but ask for approval to let our members know to protect their safety," said Packer, who said the co-chairs did not ask Gerharter to leave but simply pointed out the policy to him. She said approval "can be [granted] right there before the meeting starts."

But the argument did not sway the eight task force members; [...] They voted unanimously that the HPPC was in violation of open meeting laws and recommended that the HPPC include a warning on its agenda that its meetings may be photographed.

"The B.A.R. of all people is really interested in the issue. It should not have happened," said task force member Sue Cauthen.
First Anniversary of NIH HIV FOIA Request: Where Are the Docs?

Let me put two disclosures up at the front of this post. I'm a person living with HIV who didn't have good numbers at all, except for one vital measurement, on his last labs. Everything to do with HIV research at NIH and what drugs it recommends I take to stay alive are of vital interest to me. Second, as a columnist for POZ magazine, I'd eventually like to write a column about the NIH HIV drug advisory panel.

That being said, let the record show today marks the one-year anniversary since I filed a FOIA request for documents from my federal government, documents created with my tax dollars. See the full request below.

It's an effing shame that the NIH HIV drug panel is not already open to the PWA community, our allies and advocates, and that the records created from the panel, created mind you with our tax dollars, are not already in the public sphere.

I received a reply today from the Public Health Service, parent agency to NIAID, NIH, HHS, all the sub-agencies where my FOIA requested been bounced and pass on to someone else.

Nice to hear from the PHS FOIA person, but it is incredibly depressing to learn my request, after being shuffled from NIAID FOIA office to NIH FOIA office to HHS FOIA office and then PHS FOIA office is now before the Office of General Counsel for PHS.

Just how many hoops is one person with AIDS/citizen of USA supposed to jump through before he gets public records that may help him make the most informed health choices with his doctors and other caregivers?

Rest assured, this year-long delay will be on the agenda at the OARAC meeting at NIH on April 19.

Click here
and also here for my previous posts on the documents I want and battles with NIAID/NIH.

This is the email from PHS FOIA that came today:

In a message dated 4/3/2007 8:37:22 A.M. Pacific Daylight Time, writes:

Mr. Petrelis:

I apologize for the delay in responding to the message you left on my office voice-mail regarding the processing of your appeal. Because of our time difference, I thought email was the best way to respond in this instance. I do understand your urgency to get a final response from the Agency. Please be assured that I am working as quickly as possible to provide you with a final response.

Your appeal is now being reviewed by the Office of the General Counsel (OGC). I have advised OGC that you are anxious to receive a final response and have asked them to expedite their review. After I receive the file back from OGC, if there are no changes or questions that need to be resolved, I will forward the file to the Deputy Assistant Secretary's office for final review and signature.

I anticipate that it will be at least another two weeks before you receive a final agency decision. If you have any questions regarding the continued processing of your appeal, please do not hesitate to contact me. And, again, I apologize for my delay in responding to your telephone message.

Darlene Christian
Division of FOIA Services
301-443-0925 (Fax)

And this is my year-old original FOIA request:

April 3, 2006

Freedom of Information Office, NIH
Building 31, Room 5B35
9000 Rockville Pike
Bethesda, MD 20892

Re: Panel on Clinical Practices for Treatment of HIV Infection files

Dear Sir or Madam:

Under the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act, I hereby request copies of, or access to, the following documents and records pertaining to the Panel on Clinical Practices for Treatment of HIV Infection, hereafter referred to as the “Panel,” a component of the National Institutes of Health’s Office of AIDS Research Advisory Council.

Going as far back to 1995 and up to the date of letter, I request copies of the following records from the Panel:

All meeting agendas and print materials distributed to Panel members;

All minutes from any and all Panel meetings;

All transcripts of the Panel’s monthly teleconferences.

I am a news blogger and AIDS journalist working on important HIV/AIDS stories of crucial interest to the American public and I ask that you grant this FOIA request expedited processing status. Additionally, as a working reporter, I ask that searching and copying costs be waived.

If you have questions or need clarification on any aspect of this request, please contact me at 1-415-621-6267.

I look forward to your response within the 10-day period stipulated by law. Thank you in advance for your prompt attention and reply to this request.


Monday, April 02, 2007

Imporant AIDS Research Meeting at NIH on April 19

It may seem like a fairy tale, but once upon a time much of the NIH's work related to HIV research was open to public scrutiny and involvement.

One of the most important HIV panels under the control of the NIH, the Panel on Antiretroviral Guidelines for Adult and Adolescents, which issues official government recommendations for people with HIV and AIDS and their doctor on how best to avoid contracting opportunistic infections and stay alive, adamantly refuses to allow PWAs or other members of the general public to attend their meetings. This panel also continues resisting my efforts to have their agendas and minutes released under FOIA and open to community sunshine.

But in a few weeks, one of the dwindling chances to publicly interact with the top NIH and National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases researchers and decision-makers will take place.

On April 19 there will be a one-day meeting of Office of AIDS Research in Rockville, MD, and I will be in attendance to both observe the proceedings, and speak as a person with AIDS who wants better treatment options.

If you're at all interested in AIDS treatment research and how it's conducted by the NIH and its many partners throughout the USA and around the globe, please join me at this very important meeting.

I believe 2007 must be the year in which more PWAs and AIDS activists not receiving Big Pharma money should demand more open meetings at NIH, release of the NIAID HIV treatment panel's agendas and minutes, along with opening their meetings to the public, and a renewed interest by everyone concerned with AIDS into NIH's research agenda.

Please make the effort to be at this meeting:

The next meeting of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Office of AIDS Research Advisory Council (OARAC) will be held Thursday, April 19, 2007. This one day meeting will be held at 5635 Fishers Lane, Rockville, MD 20852 in the Terrace Level Conference Center. The meeting will focus on HIV-Related Complications including Malignancies, Cardiovascular Disease, and Metabolic Complications. An update will be provided on the OARAC Working Groups for Treatment and Prevention Guidelines. Time will be allowed for public comment at the end of the meeting. For additional information, contact Christina Brackna at (301) 402-8655.

And click here for much more information about OARAC, such as its purpose and mandate, members of the council and agendas and minutes from previous meetings.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

April 1, 2007
The New York Times
The Caucus Blog

HRC Hires Gay Ex-GOP Rep Gunderson as Co-Director
By Adam Nagourney
The Human Rights Campaign, the world's largest gay equal rights political advocacy group with 666 million dues-paying members, stunned the capital's open and closeted gay powerbrokers and gays everywhere when the group's leader announced today that former gay GOP Congressman Steve Gunderson has accepted the newly created position of co-director.
Joe Solmonese, president and executive director of HRC, explained in a phone interview from his limo that he and the board of directors decided now was the ideal time to hire Gunderson, a lifetime Republican with effective lobbying skills who knows exactly how to persuade GOP House members to maneuver passage of legislation into law.
Asked why HRC took this unprecedented step Solmonese said, "We needed a gay or lesbian Republican advocate to match my longstanding and impeccable credentials as a Democratic gay leader. That person is my good fried Steve Gunderson."
When reached for comment, Gunderson expressed strong enthusiasm for his new partnership with HRC.
"It's an honor to accept the co-director position and work with Joe. We're going to make a fabulous dynamic duo, able to work both sides of the political aisle, all to the benefit of gay Americans, regardless of party identification," Gunderson told The Times.
The former Congressman, who once represented a Wisconsin district, was outed in the early 1990s when independent gay watchdog Michael Petrelis confronted him in a Virginia gay bar and tossed a Coke on him. Gunderson was not then open about his gayness, but voters in his district always reelected him, rumors of his homosexuality apparently no detriment to his successful political career.
Speaking from the San Francisco medical marijuana dispensary where he volunteers, Petrelis reacted to the development.
"This is so shocking I need to smoke some medicine," he said, over coughs and the bubbling water of his bong. "One thing I can say about Gunderson is, unlike thin-skinned Solmonese, his skin is not only thick, it's positively splash-proof."
On the other end of the gay blogger spectrum, conservative Beltway-based Andrew Sullivan who's written extensively on HRC's transparency and credibility problems, opined thus: "Blimey, I had no bloody idea the HRC chaps were genuinely keen to work with people they don't like or respect. Maybe they'll also now address my questions on their membership numbers."
And black lesbian writer Pam Spaulding, who resides in North Carolina, and whose views fall in the moderate middle of the diverse gay and lesbian political blogger community, was pleased with HRC's new hire. "My advice to HRC is to join the modern age and begin blogging. Start interacting respectfully with gays and lesbians deeply worried about the course of the gay political agenda in DC."
Further stunning stalwart critics of HRC, the organization's Vice President for Programs, Strategy, Branding, Marketing and Profiteering, David M. Smith announced they are starting quarterly town hall style meetings at their Washington headquarters, with their state-of-the-art communications facilities ready to air the meetings on radio streaming and through web-casting, and at no cost to community members and news reporters.