Thursday, December 30, 2010

SF DPH Stats: 
New HIV Infections Down 25%

[Correction: A friend informs me my math was off: "The decline is 36% over two years. Divide the decline (354 cases) by the baseline number (975 cases." I stand corrected and happily note the drop is larger than I thought.]

The new 2009 annual HIV/AIDS epidemiology report from the San Francisco Department of Public Health was released on paper in the summer, but was only posted to the web in the past two weeks. Such a delay may be due to the workload of city webmasters, and I'm just glad the new yearly stats are on the web for all to see.

Thankfully, the 2009 summary is more of the same good news with rates of new infections dropping still, as we have seen in other recent annual stats from DPH. The repetitive nature of the falling numbers is rather boring, year after year, and I can't believe I just wrote that continuing fewer HIV diagnoses is dull. We should have more of it. The banality of HIV epidemiology.

A word about my headline. Where I see the 25% drop is in the incidence estimates and confidence intervals from CDC methodology. The stats in my second citation go from 975 in 2006, down to 621 for 2008, giving us the 25% number.

The HIV figures are sliced and diced more ways than you can imagine, and all of the pieces add up to lots of positive developments in controlling and preventing HIV transmissions. Let's get to the top items of interest.

From page 4:
The number of new HIV diagnoses remained relatively stable between 2006 and 2008 and declined in 2009. The numbers are lower for cases in recent years due to reporting delay.

From page 7:

Using a statistical methodology developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, we estimated the number of incident or new HIV infections in San Francisco by year. Blood from standard HIV tests from newly diagnosed HIV cases is retested using a laboratory assay (called BED) that classifies individuals as having either a recently acquired HIV infection (within the past six months) or a longer-standing infection. Results from this test are used with a statistical adjustment for HIV testing patients to calculate HIV incidence.

Applying this methodology in San Francisco in 2006, 2007 and 2008, we find that the number of new HIV infections is declining (Table 1.5). While this decline is encouraging and corresponds with a similar drop in number of new HIV diagnoses, the confidence intervals overlap from year to year indicating that the declines are not statistically significant.

HIV Incidence Estimates
Year of HIV Infection / Number of New Infections / 95% Confidence Interval
2006 / 975 / [801 - 1,082]
2007 / 792 / [552 - 1,033]
2008 / 621 / [462 - 782]

From page 41:

[Figure 8.3] Trends of cases diagnosed with HIV infection between 2006 and 2009 indicate that there is a decline among white MSM [men who have sex with men], while the number of cases for other race/ethnicity groups was fairly stable.

If I didn't know any better, I would suspect the SF DPH of tardiness in the web publication of the latest HIV rates happened just so the gay community could have a nice big gift of stats and charts, brimming with excellent news at this holiday time. Whatever the reasons for the publication delay, let's honor and laud the continuing reductions, all the factors driving down the numbers, and the sexually-active and sexually-responsible gay men responsible for the lowered rates.

'Rare Exports':
Fun Anti-Santa Film, Sexy Grizzlies Too

A few days before Christmas last week, I was suffering a mild case of the "bah humbug blues" and chose not to fight it.

I went off to the Lumiere Theater and caught a bargain matinee showing of "Rare Exports," the new black comedy from Finland. More than forty people were in the audience, ready for lots of laughs and diversions from the commercialization of the holiday and glorification of Santa Claus as a benevolent, child-loving character.

The premise is simple. In a frigid, blustery region of Finland, two boys spy on an evil American corporation's mysterious excavation of a highly-protected mountain. Local children soon go missing, reindeer are slaughtered for no apparent reason, and the town's electric heaters start disappearing. Throw into the mix Nordic tales of Santa as a child-snatching figure and dozens of elves who are elderly and gnarly, and you have a wickedly fun story.

In addition to the comedic elements to hold my interest, the film is studded with handsome grizzly fathers and hunters. They would be right at home at the Lone Star Saloon. Here's a still of the main pieces of mature, fuzzy-faced eye candy, that should please many in the gay bear community:

"Rare Exports" is so funny, a few times I laughed out loud. Just the right length, too, with an 80-minute running time. Not sure when was the last time I saw a comedy in a theater, with an audience giggling at the jokes and sharing collective laughs, then applauding when it was over, but this was one such occasion.

I'm recommending this off-beat flick to anyone who likes humorous movies, hirsute he-men or re-imagining the Santa Claus myth. Catch "Rare Exports" in a theater and an audience tuned in to its wavelength. Here's the trailer:

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Season's Greetings From Mike + Mike;
Judy, Barbra & Tarkovsky Too

Here in San Francisco today, it's a gray and chilly day, with heavy rain falling outside, but in the house of Mike and Mike it's warm and cozy. We're sharing the joys of the season together, speaking with friends and family, and counting our many blessings.

I'm sharing this great photo of my husbear and I, taken earlier this month by our friend Bill Wilson at rally for global gay solidarity, because it captures just a small portion of our love and happiness together.

Greetings of the season to one and all, and let's be totally honest about one tradition we share with lots of other gays. It's just not the holiday season without listening to Judy Garland sing a song or two to brighten the spirits.

Here she is performing that classic duet with Barbra Streisand of the "Get Happy" and "Happy Days Are Here Again" medley from her short-lived TV show in the 1960s:

Finally, on a more serious note, I also want to share a clip from Andrei Tarkovsky's masterpiece of longing and hope "Nostalghia". It's the scene in which the protagonist, in a single nine-minute take, lights a candle and crosses an empty pool, in a profound act of spirituality:

I give the last word to Tarkovsky and the message of his films, a message that resonates especially today, in our house:

"In all my films, it seemed important to me to remind the audience to the fact that they are not alone, lost in an empty universe, but that they are connected by innumerable threads with their past and present, that through certain mystical ways, every human being realizes the rapport with the world and the life of humanity."

Merry Christmas and belated solstice blessings to everyone!

Friday, December 24, 2010

WikiLeaks & Gays: Sarkozy Lobbied Putin;
Complaints Against Mariela Castro

At the end of October I blogged about Duncan Osborne's reporting for Gay City News about cables in a WikiLeaks document dump shed light on how the U.S. knew about the torture and murder of gay men in Iraq in 2005, but little was done to confront the situation.

In November, reports surfaced about another gay angle in the WikiLeaks cache, this time about a gay politician in the United Kingdom, Alan Duncan, the shadow pensions minister for the Conservative Party and a Member of Parliament. A dossier was compiled on him by the U.S. embassy in London earlier this year, in case the Conservatives came to power, the U.S. wanted to know if he'd play a key role should the party form a government.

Since last month, there doesn't seem to be any other gay-related stories appeared connected to the millions of U.S. Department of State cables, so I searched WikiLeaks this week for additional gay content and found these items.

I believe the most significant find is this cable from our embassy in Paris, dated June 7, 2007. This is the first I've read about the French leader broaching gay rights in Russia with that country's president:

In their meeting, Sarkozy had raised with Putin human rights concerns, including the situation in Chechnya, the violent repression of a recent gay rights parade in Moscow, and the assassination of Anna Politkovskaya. Putin reacted by attacking human rights (prison conditions) in France.

Also from Paris, but in May of 2007, was this minor notation about another French politician:

Social conservative Christine Boutin has been named Minister for Housing and Cities. [...] Boutin rose to  national prominence for her opposition to the 1999 legislation which provided a range for civil union, tax benefit, inheritance and surviving partner rights to gay and lesbian couples. After losing that battle, Boutin ran for the presidency 2002, obtaining just over 1 percent of the first round vote.

The U.S. embassy in Berlin sent a cable in September 2009 to the State Department containing general information on a leading out-of-the-closet politician:

[German Foreign Minister Guido] Westerwelle is openly gay. He has said that this was not a problem at home since he was raised to be self-confident and his family was very liberal. In addition, Bonn, where Westerwelle went to university was a liberal town. Westerwelle officially came out rather quietly in the political world in 2005 at Merkel's 50th birthday party when he brought his partner, Michael Mronz, a sports manager, to the party. Mronz is currently a steering board member of the 2009 Berlin World Track and Field World Championships.

Ironically, Westerwelle is conservative on gay rights. He is keen to protect the special status of marriages and families under German law. He opposes adoption by same sex couples but says that he wishes he could have children.

Our embassy in Madrid saw fit to make passing reference to a gay matter in a May 2008 cable about a rising political figure:

Fernandez Bermejo will manage and attempt to inject change into a judicial system in which some "conservative" judges have not been supportive of GOS-sponsored initiatives, including homosexual marriage and autonomous community statutes.

Related to Spanish politics, but from our Vatican City embassy, was a July 2006 cable about the Pope's visit to the country:

While making his points on the relevant "family" issues clear, Benedict himself was keen to accent the positive during the conference. When asked by reporters about the legalization of gay marriage in Spain, the pontiff said he preferred to encourage heterosexual families, while at the same time offering help and respect to homosexuals. Monsignor Paolo Gualtieri (protect throughout), Vatican MFA Country Director for Spain, told us Benedict wanted to avoid direct criticism of the Spanish government.

In June of 2009 the U.S. embassy in Lisbon relayed a cable including small details about a leftist party in Portugal:

On social issues like abortion, divorce, and gay marriage, PS [Socialist Party] policies are in line with European norms, but alienate the country's socially conservative Catholics, a key voting bloc.

From the U.S. embassy in New Dehli was a very detailed February 2010 cable about advances for the gay community across India. This is the most extensive gay-content cable that I could find, and I'm pleased it's regarding a number of positive steps for local gays, and it's related to love and Valentine's Day:

February 14 marked the first time some couples were able to paint the town pink in India. On July 2, the Delhi High Court overturned some provisions of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, a colonial-era law that outlawed same gender sex between two consenting adults. The GOI allowed the historic ruling to stand after deciding not to appeal it. Over six months later, Archie’s, India’s largest greeting card company, gave the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community another cause for celebration by selling cards targeted for the community in 500 stores across New Delhi and major Indian cities to celebrate Valentine’s Day. 

Archie’s spokesman Yohan Arya told the Times of India that the company had been considering making available several LGBT cards for some time. They decided the time was right after the July 2 high court judgment. “The court judgment ...clearly said that it’s legal to be gay... so we felt this was the right time to add these cards,” Arya added. (It is not yet known how well these new cards sold.) New Delhi also embraced the LGBT community by focusing on them as customers for Valentine’s Day celebrations. A Peaceful Valentine.

The U.S. special interests section in Havana transmitted a June 2007 cable addressing a few gay concerns, and their larger context in Cuba:

THE BATTLE FOR PRIVATE SPACE: Besides the parts of the cultural community who challenge the status quo, and those who are working towards racial integration, there are other not officially sanctioned groups trying to address social issues. They don't view their work as related to the political opposition. These include advocates for homosexual rights and those trying to work on women's issues. The homosexual advocates, while welcoming statements against prejudice by Mariela Castro, the daughter of Raul Castro who heads the Center for Sexual Education, are upset that she says nothing about employment discrimination and police harassment.

Finally, from Brasilia our embassy made reference to gay rights and Brazil's foreign policies in a January 2010 cable:

With both sides unwilling to promote distinctive alternatives to prevailing economic policy in a pre-election environment, Brazil's two principal rival parties - President Lula's Worker's Party (PT) and front-running presidential candidate Jose Serra's Brazilian Social Democratic Party (PSDB) - are increasingly eager to air their differences on foreign policy.
The PSDB and PPS also have exhibited strong socially liberal streaks in their foreign policy statements, frequently criticizing Iran and other authoritarian governments for their positions on gay rights, abortion, and other issues that the PT is reluctant to address even domestically. 

If there are other gay references in other WikiLeaks cables, please let me know as I want to track as much of the gay content in the documents as possible.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

BAR Owner's Political Giving
Omitted from Paper's Endorsements

Thomas E. Horn, the publisher of the Bay Area Reporter (pictured, on the right), in addition to running the newspaper likes to contribute significant amounts of cash to politicians straight and gay, many of whom are frequently subjects of coverage in his paper or receive its endorsement at election time.

If only the BAR would disclose the contributions every time they write about or endorse a politician accepting checks from Horn there would be no ethical dilemma. But there is a problem because the paper omits any mention of Horn's political donations, and they're quite hefty.

For the November 2010 election, the BAR endorsed Barbara Boxer for the U.S. Senate, Nancy Pelosi in the House of Representatives, Gavin Newsom for lieutenant governor, Kamala Harris for attorney general, and Tom Ammiano for the assembly.

However, the endorsement editorial omitted some facts. Horn in previous races has donated to those candidates. He's given Boxer $4,000; Pelosi $8,000; Newsom $7,750; Harris $2,750; and Ammiano $1,400. Of the money given to Harris, $1,500 was for her successful AG campaign.

Who else has received campaign cash, and how much, from Horn? Mark Leno has accepted $3,000; Carole Migden $1,250; Willie Brown $3,750; Dianne Feinstein $7,000; Barack Obama $500; Dennis Herrera $1,750; Bevan Dufty $300; Sean Elsbernd $1,000, and Jose Cisneros $500.

At the municipal level, Horn has doled out a total of $14,650 since 1998, while for state races he's donated $23,500. For federal candidates and PACs, his contributions come to at least $32,000 since the early 1980s, when he donated $1,800 to the Human Rights Campaign Fund.

Adding up those three levels of political largess comes to $70,150, a robust sum indeed.

I emailed the BAR editor Cynthia Laird, posing a few questions about the serious lack of disclosure about the publisher's generous political giving, and she has not replied. Silence and failure to disclose the Horn donation seriously undermine the journalistic integrity of this paper.

Maybe in 2011 we'll see transparency in the pages of the BAR about the publisher's donations.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Partying Like We're at Peace:
Rummy, Rice + Kissinger

(L-to-R: Jim Baker, Condolezza Rice, Birthday Boy Shultz, Henry Kissinger. Credit: Michael Mustacchi.)

At first I was annoyed reading the San Francisco Chronicle's society reporter's account of a recent fancy celebration, at an disclosed location, for 90-year-old George Shultz, the former Secretary of State and other titles. No political insight whatsoever from the Hearst-owned paper - just the glam and hammy facts.
But upon some reflection, I was grateful for the ultra-soft touch approach to the December 13 soiree with so many of Shultz's rotten pals, a few of whom ought to be sitting in The Hague awaiting war crime trials, because it is the only account of the swellegant evening that I know of, and I'm happy to witness how the GOP elite get down and boogie.
The economy in a ditch? The war for oil in Iraq? American blood continuing to fall on the soil of Afghanistan, pursuing a failed nation-building effort? Taliban rulers comfortably waiting for U.S. forces to depart?
Forget about all that. The guests and society columnist only agenda is having and reporting on a fab-u-lous time, and it disgusts me to see criminals leading their lives without any punishment for the deaths and destruction they have unleashed on the world.
A few excerpts from the Chronicle puffery:
So some 300 family, friends and colleagues turned out at a private club to celebrate him as his wife, resplendent in a red gown, led the troops to dinner with a surprise assist from the 1st Marine Division Band at Camp Pendleton. [...]
Ah, just think. Soon there will be gays and lesbian in that band entertaining at similar events, as if that's the kind of equality a queer peacenik can be proud of, but I digress.
And "Beach Blanket Babylon" producer Jo Schuman Silver dreamed up detailed, toe-tapping, big-hatted musical skits of Shultz's life [...] "With so many politicos here, I was nervous how they'd respond to some of the skits," Schuman admitted. "So it was a relief when I saw (former Secretary of Defense) Donald Rumsfeld laughing his head off."
Good to know Rummy still has his head and can laugh, while hundreds of thousands of Iraqi and Afghan civilians, not to mention a few thousand American soldiers, are all dead because of his war mongering lies and deceptions.
Among a razzle-dazzle roster of Republican Party pooh-bahs (and a few good Dems): three former secretaries of state - Kissinger, James Baker, Condoleezza Rice; former Defense Secretary William Perry; former Treasury Secretary Nicholas Brady; former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker; former Gov. Pete Wilson and former Sen. Sam Nunn. [...]
All partying as if the reality-based community, alias the real world, were at peace and prospering. These people have no shame.

Fein: UN Restores Gays 
to Anti-Execution Resolution

(Activists demanded UN protections for gays on December 11. Credit: Bill Wilson.)

Permit me to toot the horn of San Francisco's gay community, for staging the only public street protest over the abominable anti-gay United Nations vote in November. We went to UN Plaza on December 11 to demand the global institution reverse that vote and to speak up for protecting the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons around the world.

As we all know now, the UN did the right thing on Tuesday, and my friend longtime gay artist and political activist Clinton Fein, has posted an essay about this positive development. I'm cross-posting it from his blog. Thanks, Clinton, and everyone who came to the recent rally and everyone around the globe who expressed anger over the November vote.

Clinton wrote:

Yesterday, as reported by Tanya Domi, the UN voted in favor of restoring “sexual orientation” to the UN General Assembly resolution on extra judicial executions, by a margin of 109-41, with 35 abstentions.

This followed a resolution last month that had deliberately stripped sexual orientation from the resolution, essentially paving the way for the UN sanction of gay executions without cause.

The US ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice, stated the resolution sent a "clear and resounding message" that justice and human rights was not precluded on the basis of sexual orientation.

Following the vote last month, Michael Petrelis – a San Francisco based activist organized a well-attended solidarity protest at UN Plaza on December 11th, the day after International Human Rights Day, which included a statement from State senator Mark Leno (read by veteran global gay activist Tate Swindell).

The rally was emceed by Supervisor and mayoral candidate, Bevan Dufty. Aside from myself, other speakers included author Davina Kotulski, transgender AIDS activist Veronika Cauley, Michael Petrelis, and veteran LGBT marriage equality advocate Molly McKay.

Two workers from the Department of Public Work lowered the UN flag and tied the rainbow flag underneath it, then raised both flags.

I spoke as a former South African, decrying South Africa’s embarrassing involvement in voting in favor of the removal and appealing to South Africa to vote in favor of the restoral of “sexual orientation” in order to resume the leadership role she assumed following the abolishment of apartheid, rather than stain the efforts of Nelson Mandela with homophobia and discrimination.

Much to my satisfaction, and most South Africans, South Africa changed her mind, voting in favor of the resolution.

However, the homophobia on display, clearly outlined on Tanya Domi’s article published on The New Civil Rights Movement blog, is more than a little disturbing.

"We will not have it foisted on us," Zimbabwe's UN ambassador, Chitsaka Chipaziwa, stated, according to Reuters. "We cannot accept this, especially if it entails accepting such practices as bestiality, paedophilia and those other practices many societies would find abhorrent in their value systems.

"In our view, what adult people do in their private capacity, by mutual consent, does not need agreement or rejection by governments, save where such practices are legally proscribed."

Robert Mugabe's henchman. A real charmer. Perhaps more disturbing than anything else, is that old, senile, racist lunatics like Mugabe have a voice at the United Nations.

Images of the San Francisco protest can be found here.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

New Yorker Omits 
Scary HIV Ads Research Links

Michael Specter is the longtime science reporter for the New Yorker and he's friends with Larry Kramer, so it's not surprising he's written about Larry's latest rants lauding the controversial fear-driven creepy 30-second HIV prevention ad from the NYC Department of Health, and the piece is favorably biased toward Larry and his 1980s-era hysterics.

Picking up on that alarm, Specter also invokes bathhouses and the tired notion that shutting them equals good prevention.

Those biases aren't my main concern, though. Here's the big part irritating me:

Nasty messages are unpleasant and they don’t always work. But they do work sometimes, and there is research to suggest in cases like this, where it has become easy to shrug off the truth, harsh reminders are particularly effective. (You can find a series of exchanges that stakes out the positions of each side in great detail here.)

Ok, where are the links to the research showing that fear-driven HIV prevention social marketing campaigns targeting gay men are effective? How does Specter define effectiveness? Is it more HIV testing rates, increased condom usage, fewer HIV infections, other measurable outcomes?

These questions were posed to Specter in an email, but I've not heard back from him. Given the holiday season, he may not be checking email often, and if he eventually replies, I'll post his response.

My recent effort to persuade Project Inform's executive director Dana Van Gorder to produce studies he says exist proving deep loneliness among San Francisco gays, and his failure to make the research available, is related to the issues I'm having with the New Yorker and its writer.

Notice that Specter omits links to any research backing up the effectiveness claim, but he does link to a chat-board containing one Kramer email, a note from a gay doctor backing him up and a press release from GMHC/GLAAD. That link helps inform the debate about HIV prevention today, but there's no link to any of the research he says exists.

The public discussion over the alarmist NYC DOH ad is put at a great disadvantage with hard research omitted by Specter. I'm not saying a fear-driven campaign can't work. It might, but I would like the backers of such campaign to produce their evidence with links to studies.

Finally, allow me to say, as a 51-year-old gay man who has dealt with too many personal and political fears in my lifetime, especially in the past 29 years of the AIDS crisis and the fear of me as a fag with AIDS by many medical professionals, the effing last damn thing I want is for a discussion about gay health between poz and negative men is for it to be based on fear.

The New Yorker's headline, "When Fear is Good," is outrageous and no community - be it women, Latinos, blacks, immigrants - should ever be asked to accept fear as a healthy basis for the foundation to effective health care and sexual choices.

Monday, December 20, 2010

BAR Fdtn: $10M in Assets, 
SF Ballet Top Grant Recipient

The Bob A. Ross Foundation is a major San Francisco-based gay philanthropy, that disburses a robust 6-figures in grant dollars annually to dozens of nonprofits. BARF was founded in 2001, is named after the late founder of the Bay Area Reporter, who died in 2003, and is controlled by attorney Thomas E. Horn, who is also the publisher of the BAR.

I think it's beneficial to have BARF making large donations to local charities, but I also am concerned that with it giving out money to so many orgs, and other groups wishing to receive a grant, that there's a chilling effect. What nonprofit would want to publicly criticize the city's leading gay paper, knowing the publisher also wears a philanthropic hat?

The BAR too often doesn't disclose donations from BARF to an organization when the paper reports on the organization. Last week I sent off a few questions to the editor Cynthia Laird, just about disclosure concerns. I asked her if the BAR should disclose the donations in every story where it's pertinent, or maybe do a yearly disclosure to readers, say, when the newest IRS 990 for BARF is available for public inspection.

I pointed out to Cynthia that the current BAR contains a story about the Horizons Foundation, which gets BARF money, and the disclosure was lacking. What were her thoughts?

Am forwarding your email to our general manager.

Huh? No idea why she was passing the buck. I emailed the BAR general manager, then this reply arrived from Cynthia, that was attributed to the publisher:

The Bay Area Reporter and the Bob Ross Foundation are totally separate and distinct legal entities. The two have a separate board of directors and no officers in common. Legally, a nonprofit owner cannot interfere in the day-to-day operations of a for-profit enterprise.

Therefore, it is not the policy of the Bob Ross Foundation to influence editorial policy.

None of my disclosure questions were addressed by the editor, and the statement doesn't acknowledge that the president and CEO of BARF is also the BAR publisher.

I chose to examine the four most recent IRS 990 filings of BARF because the assets were in the $10 million range.

The BARF gave out $409,950 in 2006, $495,700 during 2007, $377,500 in 2008 and $322,250 for 2009, for a four-year total of $1,605,400.

Here's the list of the top grantees and their four-year cumulative amounts:

1. SF Ballet

2. AIDS Emergency Fund

3. Frameline

4. Larkin Street Youth Services

5. SF Arts Commission

6. Richmond/Ermet AIDS Foundation

7. Face to Face (Sonoma County food bank.)

8. Horizons Foundation

9. AIDS Legal Referral Panel

10. Meals on Wheels

11. Open House (Gay senior housing project.)

12. ACLU

13. Glide Memorial Methodist Church

14. Alliance Franciase

15. Tenderloin Health

Dozens of other gay, AIDS services orgs and arts institutions in San Francisco also shared in the BARF's largess including Project Inform, Positive Resource Center, Transgender Law Center, Maitri Compassionate Care, LYRIC, Chanticleer, UCSF AIDS Health Project, New Conservatory Theatre, Gay Straight Alliance Network, and the SF Gay Men's Chorus.

I believe BAR readers deserve a full explanation about the publisher's relationship with the BARF, and that there should be disclosure in the paper when it covers agencies that have received funding from the foundation. Let the gay sunshine in!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

SF's Anti-HRC Protest: 
50 Braved the Rains

To be brutally honest, I expected 5-6 people at today's dual protest against the Human Rights Campaign taking over the lease of the store on Castro Street that once was Harvey Milk's community center/camera shop, and to oppose the sit/lie law. Imagine how delighted I was that over the duration of the 45-minute speak out, more than fifty people attended some portion of it.

The weather did not cooperate. Sure, it was just a gray sky when we started, but there were showers that were intermittent as we protested and sang songs. I thank everyone who braved the rains to be there.

Now, on to the photos:

 Activists spread plastic sheeting on the sidewalk to show their objections to the sit/lie sidewalk legislation that recently went into effect. Harvey's spirit, represented in the painting of him at the center top of the photo, literally hovered over our action.

At the bullhorn is Nicky Trasvina, the mother of A.J. Trasvina, a local gay youth who passed away last year. She called on HRC to provide social services to young LGBT persons. Next to Nicky is Beck, a young trans person who lives in the Tenderloin. 

This is trans youth person of color and radio producer Taino Vasquez, who called for the gay agenda to embrace full healthcare coverage and affordable housing for LGBT people. He wants the HRC space to live up to the phrase "action center."

This old street activist queen said she's waiting for HRC to democratize itself, starting with a public forum at the old camera shop - to discuss the leasing controversy. Channeling goddess Sinead O'Connor, the queen called out, "Fight the real enemy!" Then she tore up the paper HRC icon.

Trans labor activist Gabriel Haaland in his fetching yellow fisherman protective rain gear, speaking about his years of fighting HRC over their anti-transgender maneuvers.

The desecrated paper version of HRC's equality symbol logo laying in front of the soap box. Tommi Avicolli, in red, made it in homage to the one Harvey used when he preached in the neighborhood.

Allan Baird, a straight union leader who worked with Harvey on the boycott against Coors beer, talked about how Harvey used his camera shop to hold meetings and organize the bar owners and patrons, creating gay power in the process.

Oakland-based KTVU sent a crew to cover the protest. It should air on tonight's 10 O'Clock News broadcast.

He said his name was Richard Moorhead, and told me that he saw no reason why HRC should talk to activists about what it will do with their store. As if his large HRC button and the group's repeal DADT tee shirt weren't enough to scream HRC supporter, he is holding an HRC thermos.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Anti-HRC Soap Box Protest:
Harvey's Camera Shop - Rain or Shine

The Bay Area is getting soaked tonight, with lots more rain promised for the weekend, including tomorrow, but fear not folks who want any of the following important evolutions, listed in no particular order of importance: 1) Joe Solmonese of the Human Rights Campaign must resign; 2) All executives and board members step down; 3) HRC closes up shop; 4) A reckoning with HRC and other Gay Inc groups; 5) Gay liberation and federal protections.

Our promised protest on December 18 at noon at 575 Castro Street, the location of Harvey Milk's old camera shop, will happen regardless of the weather. We have activists ready to speak out against the HRC's move into the shop and myriad other bones of contention with the org, and folks who oppose the sit/lie sidewalk prohibition.

We'll be ready with umbrellas and a tarp for at least a press conference, maybe more activities depending on the crowd and rain. Like Harvey when he wanted to grab a wider audience and used a soap box from which he spoke with his bullhorn, Tommi Avicolli is bringing a soap box tomorrow. And we'll do Harvey one better with the bullhorns. We'll have two. Join us.

And if you haven't signed the Joe must go petition, go here for more info, then endorse the resignation call.

NYC's HIV Stats Fell 33%
From 2001 to 2008

One important factor has been missing from the heated debate this week over a new controversial HIV prevention ad from the New York City Department of Health: HIV stats.

The DOH has posted eight years worth of annual HIV statistics as PDF's, and I've looked at them and calculate that the raw numbers have dropped 33% from 2001 to 2008. Look at the stats for total HIV diagnoses:

2001: 5,684
2002: 5,091
2003: 4,570
2004: 4,186
2005: 4,195
2006: 4,030
2007: 3,965
2008: 3,809

The health department's surveillance reports further breakdown the stats by HIV diagnoses with and without concurrent AIDS diagnoses, and those tables show corresponding declines.

Looking for an informed devil's advocate to view these stats and my contention that the NYC HIV stats have dropped, I turned to longtime Gay City News reporter Duncan Osborne for his opinion. He said:

When you look at rates of HIV infection in New York City you will see that the rate among gay/bi men is stable and eight to ten times higher than any other group and that the rates among all other groups are declining. Then within gay/bi men, the rate among subsets of men by age or race probably vary as well.

The story at the link gives you a snapshot of this, though how I figured this is not the best way to measure incidence.

If we assume that 3.7 percent is the incidence rate, and that is in line with earlier estimates here in the city, then after just five years at that rate 18.5 percent of the population being tested is infected. The five year estimate is reasonable. That's one out of five men. That's a disaster by any measure.

And remember that it is possible to have declining or stable rates in one group of gay men and increasing rates in another group of gay men. For example, it may be that older white gay men have a stable or even falling rate while the rate among young African-American and Latino men is through the roof. 

The declining overall NYC HIV stats in the past eight years, coupled with the additional info and stats from Duncan, illustrate some of the complexities involved in determining rates of infections and in diverse populations. All of these figures, and the inherent nuances of them, ought to be key components when the health department and the gay community are developing social marketing campaigns.

I would like for the NYC DOH to publicly discuss the falling HIV stats, why they're down, and how best to keep the numbers of infections stable or declining further.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Solmonese Must Go List Has 55 Names;
HRC Protest on Saturday 

[UPDATE #1: We're beyond the number in the headline. Now up to 60, and this italicized line will change as names are added.]

When I started a list last week of folks who in one fashion or another, had called for Joe Solmonese of the Human Rights Campaign to resign, I was unaware of a similar effort launched by Ethan August. His petition is posted here, and folks can either sign it, or email me to add their name to the list.

Ethan and I spoke on the phone and quickly decided to merge our lists into one, thus bringing the combined number of folks who want to see Solmonese leave HRC to 55. We'll both be at this Saturday's protest at Harvey Milk's old camera shop at 575 Castro Street in San Francisco. It starts at noon. Rain or shine, we will be there.The protest will address myriad accountability issues with HRC, and oppose the sit/lie law.

Here are excerpts from Ethan's post from this morning, detailing a few of his concerns:

The only action performed in an HRC Action Center is that of taking out your wallet and parting with some of your hard earned money. The HRC has taken Harvey Milk’s legacy hostage and will milk every dollar from that legacy that they possibly can. [...]

Some will argue that the presence of the HRC in this Castro Street space is better than any other alternative corporate retailer. It is irrelevant to me whether the sweaters sold at this historical site have no logo or the equality logo - it is a complete misuse of the power of this location and disrespectful to Harvey Milk's legacy. [...] They clearly arrived at this [leasing] decision without any thoughtful debate or input from the community.[...]

It pains me to criticize an organization I have followed so faithfully for over a decade. However, I can no longer support an organization that lacks the vision and leadership to take this movement to the next level. I’ll now work with others to effect change in this organization until it has occurred.

Good to have Ethan joining the campaign against HRC and its leadership. This is the latest edition of our lists, and we welcome more folks putting their names on the list:

Andres Almeida: Co-founder,
Ethan August: Gay comedian, Palo Alto
Paul Barwick: Plaintiff, 1971 gay marriage lawsuit, SF
Dustin Lance Black: Liberal writer, Los Angeles
B. Daniel Blatt: Conservative pundit, California
Paul Brown: Gay businessman, San Francisco
J. Bulsara: Mansfield, OH
Denise Eaker-Hoover: Community builder, Missouri
Maria F.: Verona, Italy
Clinton Fein: Gay political artist, San Francisco
J. Todd Fernandez: Gay activist, New York City
Paulo Sant-Filh: New York City
Echo G.: Ashland, OH
Rick Garcia: Equality Illinois, Chicago
Chase Gentry: Old Hickory, TN
Clifford Gooden: Davenport, IA
Stephen Greene: Ellerbe, NC
Glenn Greenwald: Gay Salon writer, DC
Jeri Hughes: Transsexual woman, DC
Marc Forrest Kaplan: Activist, North Carolina
Ken Howard: LCSW, Gay Mental Health Provider, LA
M. Vernon Hunt: Reverend/activist/writer, Ohio
Cia Jackson: Aurora, CO
Alex Jory: Valley Village, CA
C.D. Kirven: Activist and writer, Texas
Melissa Kleckner: Writer & straight-ally, New Jersey
Susannah Kegler: San Pedro, CA
Will Kohl: Radical pundit, Ohio
Bridgette LaVictoire: Writer, LezGetReal, Vermont
Brian Martin: Tipton, IN
George Martin: Loule, Portugal
Tom Maxwell: Los Angeles, CA
Rory McCarron: Ashburn, VA
Melanie Nathan: LezGetReal blogger, California
Michael-in-Norfolk: Moderate writer, Virginia
Ingrid Peeters: Torremolinos, Spain
Justan Peterson: Activist, Utah
Michael Petrelis: Radical activist, San Francisco
Robbie at Malcontent: Liberal pundit
Charles Milne: Person w/HIV activist, Oregon & Utah
Chael Montgomery: Gay blogger, Iowa
De Andre Nickens: Los Angeles, CA
David Phillips: 26 yrs out, 28 yrs w/HIV
Fritz Rathmann: Gay activist, Georgia
Katrina Rose: Attorney & blogger, ENDABlog
Allen Roskoff: Political advocate, New York City
Joelle Ruby Ryan: Transgender professor and writer
Gregg Simmons: Gay advocate, New York City
Pam Spaulding: Liberal writer, North Carolina
Cristi Sturgill: Mount Vernon, KY
Andrew Sullivan: Conservative blogger, DC
Josephine Marie Thane: Transgender woman, Georgia
Carlee Trent: Springfield, OH
David Waterson
Lynn Weaver: Livingston, MT
Nicole Weber: Pasadena, MD
Jennifer White: Community activist
Cathi Woodward: Activist, Colorado
Nude Woody: Queer community activist, San Francisco
Scott Wooledge: Clarknt67@Daily Kos, New York City

[Update #2: I want to call attention to the addition of two names to the list. First, longtime smarty-pants Glenn Greenwald sent a note with his endorsement that lifted my spirits: "Michael - Please add my name to your Joe Solmonese list - add it as many times as you want." Second, my good pal, the super-sexy no-pants Nude Woody is throwing his backing our way. Much gratitude to all working on getting rid of Joe.]

Kramer Says Yale Expert
Backs His View of Scary HIV Ads

This is the third in an on-going series of exchanges about New York City's Department of Health's recent launch of a fear-driven HIV prevention campaign. Click here and here for previous posts. My view is that an already over-stigmatized population, the gays, should not have to accept that the best method of starting a discussion about sensitive sexuality and health issues is from controversy and alarm.

Larry Kramer contacted his Yale buddy and researcher yesterday, prompting this note:

Here is Peter Salovey's response below. in every way it supports what i am saying, that scare tactics can work best, "especially for early detection behaviors." You can plow your way through his two papers attached (they are very technical), but they too support in essence the same game plan. [See the 1997 paper here, and the 2003 findings here.]

and the first salovey paper sean sent me also pretty much supports my agument against you as well. sean, i dont know how you were able to pluck out of it just what you wanted. this paper says over and over again that all research into prevention strategies, and its success or lack of it, is weak, is ot strong enough, is not based on big enough samplings, and is open to being challenged.

i think it is time once and for all to stop this argument and get to work, to roll up our sleeves and try to eliminate hiv as best we can once and for all. marjorie's "dream-world" prose below is just tragic, as is the claptrap from glaad. gay men, or MSM as we are now so euphoniously called, definitely are part of the problem and to deny this is to just prolong the rising numbers of infections around the world. that one out of five gay american men are now hiv positive should prove without any doubt that all prevention efforts have thus far failed mightily.
these nyc department of health public service announcements are in fact not strong enough! How about trying this one on for size (pun intended):

men, what you carry between your legs is a potential lethal weapon!
it can murder people.
before you stick it anywhere

i bet you'll get better results with this one.

And this is the note Peter Salovey emailed to Larry:

It is true, many people don’t like what psychologists call “loss-framed messages” (messages focusing on the negative consequences of not taking a health action). Nonetheless, there are many situations in which they are effective. In general, the more “uncertainty” or “psychological risk” associated with a behavior, the better the loss-framed messages work. So, we are definitely NOT against loss-framed messages in these situations.

I’ve attached the original paper we did laying out this idea as well as one most relevant to HIV. That one was focused on testing rather than condom use, but it showed that for people who were uncertain of their HIV status, loss-framed messages (emphasizing the negative consequences of not being tested)motivated more testing than gain-framed messages (emphasizing the positive consequences of being tested).

I should also mention that our study focused only on low-income women, so we also need to be careful about over-generalizing from these data. Nonetheless, our findings suggest that especially for early detection behaviors, loss-framed messages work best. (Our data are especially strong in other health areas such as mammography and pap testing.)

If anyone knows of other studies among women that have or can be used to make arguments about gay male health, please lemme know about them. I'm not sure it's best to extrapolate findings from female health research, and apply the work to the gay community, but I remain open to hearing counter-arguments.

And I disagree with Larry equating the cock with lethal weapons and murder. Gay men should adore and appreciate the cock, treat it with respect, and be taught proper and healthy ways to do that, without inflammatory and alarmist messages.

Maybe everyone in this debate can agree that debating these issues are healthy, and will pledge to keep the discussion going.

BAR: GetEQUAL = Amateur Hour

(Heather Cronk, GetEQUAL's co-founder and co-director.)

The editorial page in the Bay Area Reporter today slams the Astroturf group GetEQUAL, for a number of problems:

[A DADT-related] release, issued by managing director Heather Cronk, [started] out with the sentence: "I have to be honest – I just vomited a little inside my mouth."

At that point, we stopped reading – and we're likely not the only ones who did. Thankfully, we had not just eaten.

Aside from the unlikely honesty of Cronk's statement (and even if it was true, announcing it to the world is too much information), what is the point? Does her opener draw in supporters of repealing DADT? No. Does it show that GetEqual is a major player in the LGBT civil rights movement? No. What it does show is that Get Equal, which has been in existence for almost a year, is not ready for prime time. [...]

And lest you think this is much ado about nothing, consider this: GetEqual's e-mails go out to thousands of people. GetEqual leaders have met with political figures, including administration officials. In other words, it's important that they are seen as professional and committed activists; but the statement from Cronk fell short. GetEqual has also started asking for financial donations from the community. If it expects to raise sufficient funds to continue operating in 2011, it must adopt a more mature press operation. No one wants to throw money away on an inarticulate, immature organization, not when so many deserving groups are hurting for funds. [...]

Good of the BAR to take GetEQUAL to task about their press operation and fundraising efforts, but something is missing from the editorial. What measurable outcomes were achieved by the GetEQUAL crew? I'm not sure what they accomplished with an estimated $700,000 or so in donations.

At the same time, I question what the NGLTF or HRC accomplished this year with their much larger budgets, and the BAR might address this matter in a future editorial.

Finally, speaking about no one wants to throw gay dollars at an immature group, that is a legitimate concern, but such thinking about effective use of money shouldn't be a question only when discussing GetEQUAL. We should all be wondering why so many gay community dollars are wasted on more mature organizations that comprise Gay Inc.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Sean Strub v Larry Kramer:
Fearful HIV NYC Ad

My utmost hope is that the debate swirling around the release of a controversial and alarmist social marketing campaign for HIV prevention among gays, and the exchange below, is of interest beyond the usual circles of AIDS advocates and gay men's health experts.

I've blogged in the past about my objections to the fear-based, stigmatize the person with AIDS campaigns in San Francisco, for many reasons starting with I think poking someone in the eye, shouting at them, and demanding they pay attention to a health message is not a healthy way to talk to anyone about sexuality and infection issues.

Regarding the debate between my two friends, Larry and Sean, I'm in Sean's camp. As someone who links to stats and studies to make my points about ads or stats, unlike Dana Van Gorder of Project Inform who maintains there are studies about the loneliness of the SF homosexual yet can't produce the studies, I give Sean extra points for providing an excerpt from a study and a link to it.

Let's get to the exchange, beginning with Sean addressing Larry:

I just saw Michael's post about comments you made concerning the NYC DOH campaign.

There is plenty of literature addressing the inefficacy, over the long-term, of fear-based social media campaigns seeking to change sexual behaviors, such as this:
On page 291, the report states the following:
Finally, threatening health messages may elicit other negative reactions along with fear. The risk in trying to induce fear in an attempt to persuade is that HIV prevention messages may engender other unintended affective responses such as anger or sadness. These various emotions may in turn initiate different action tendencies that may compete with or contribute to persuasion. For instance, it has been shown that participants experiencing a sad mood perceive themselves as less able to carry out health-promoting behaviors but as more vulnerable to diverse negative health outcomes (Salovey & Birnbaum, 1989). Threat appeals arousing sadness as well, especially those calling upon death or suffering, may be counterproductive in that this state leads to decreased self-efficacy in terms of the behavior promoted and, hence, a greater reluctance to adopt safer behaviors despite greater perceived vulnerability.

You may dismiss these findings, but I don't, because they support what I see and hear from young people who turn off or are demoralized by fear-based messages.  What will empower them is real HIV prevention and harm reduction education, the facts they can use in assessing risk and modifying behavior.

I agree with you that fear is a powerful motivation and it was definitely played an important role earlier in the epidemic in changing behavior.  But that wasn't because people were told to be afraid, it is because they felt fear driven by their own experience, what they witnessed first-hand. 

Imagine how much more effective it would be if NYC DOH spent this money educating young gay men about post-exposure prophylaxis?  That would prevent infections immediately and it could be measured. Here are some more citations concerning efficacy of fear-based behavioral change campaigns:

I would like to see some of those who are such advocates of this kind of campaign to provide some studies supporting why they believe they will work.

Larry's reply to Sean:

i could not disagree with you more. this stuff has not worked so it's time to try something else. ironic that the study comes from yale and peter salovey, who is a friend. i shall contact him.

your "something else" is unrealistic and a huge pipe dream and will cost a zillion dollars and is what we have been asking for since the beginning and no one would then or is now going to fund. better i now think to show the dire consequences which will hopefully provoke the curiosity for real fact that you are rightly claiming are lacking to them. the fact that the bard kids were so dumb is the awfulness of the enormous failure all prevention efforts have reaped so far and what i am talking about. the utter failure of all education about aids.

peter salovey is now provost of yale. he is one of the happiest, cheeriest slap you on the back fellows you will ever meet. he will probably be the next president of yale. i can see how a personality such as his would determine his results before he even dreams up the study. in reading just the paragraph you excised, showing that sadness and depression result if you tell the truth, so fucking what? for this we let one out of every five gays get infected because if we told them the truth they would get sad and depressed. excuse me, but these studies were done before the plague became the plague.

Here is what Sean said back to Larry:

You might check out the Sigma Research report on the ineffectiveness of scare tactics in HIV prevention campaigns.

It provides a summary of some research, but there are stacks of such studies. The best that I can see coming out of the DOH campaign is a generic greater awareness of HIV being a pain and possibly an increase in HIV testing. But the research shows it isn't likely to change the behaviors of the intended audience. Those who are already protecting themselves--and those who've lived through the trauma of the epidemic--are much more likely to like and "respond" to the campaign, but not those whose behavior we need to change.

What I propose is not a pipe dream. Much of it we have had in the past and other parts, like post-exposure prophylaxis, there's never been any serious effort to promote. I helped a young guy create a website,, to provide education and access to PEP. We're just now starting to promote it.

But to get PEP at most ERs in NYC is a nightmare, if you can get it at all. Read Louis Jordan's account of his PEP nightmare that we published in POZ.

Why doesn't the NYC DOH mandate a protocol for ERs to expedite access to PEP for those who present themselves at having been just exposed? Why don't we distribute three-day "starter kits" for young gay men to have in their medicine chests and available when the condom breaks at 3 am or they do something they quickly regret? Then they could start treatment immediately and buy some time until they can talk to their doctor or someone to assess risk and decide if they should go on the entire 28 day protocol or not? Why doesn't DOH or GMHC or other groups provide a 24 hour PEP delivery service?

Larry's response to Sean:


And based on info supplied by Sean, Larry sent this apology to the executive director of the Gay Men's Health Crisis, Marjorie Hill:

MARJORIE, sean strub has forwarded me a number of studies that support your assertion that scare tactics do not work in changing behavior. at the same time several people have criticized them. ironically i happen to be a friend of the author of one of the main studies, peter salovey at yale, and i am hoping to discuss this issue with him when he is free. (he is now the provost.) so i apologize for calling you a liar on this issue. i do think that these studies were done so long ago that i wonder if in light of their own failure to be effective tools of prevention, they can be questioned as useful today.

That radical idea of Sean's to have the Department of Health or a service org deliver the PEP drugs is something I endorse, as something that could prevent a new infection. From San Francisco, I say, let the debate continue . . .

Gay Vet's New P.R. Ploy: Hospitalization;
Who 'Owns the Movement'?

With the failure of Don't Ask, Don't Tell repeal in the news, and a new effort underway in Congress for a stand-alone bill, I have wondered where in the world is the gay veteran martyr Dan Choi (pictured). He just can't live without mega-doses of attention, especially when repeal in getting air-time and ink.

I give the man his due in capturing the media's gaze and thrusting himself into the glare of the camera lights, always ready for his close-up. And I know to stay alive to not stand in Dan's way when a camera is near, or I risk serious harm.

If I'm not mistaken, this year Dan has crucified himself on the White House fence three times, gone on a hunger strike, tried to reenlist on-camera at the Times Square armed forces recruitment office, accepted every offer to speak for a fee or appear on TV, zapped Harry Reid and given up a piece of jewelry, joined the celebrity advisory board of the American Foundation for Equal Rights, and lots of other stunts and actions I'm forgetting at the moment.

How has Dan injected himself back into the repeal discussion, on the eve of a possible stand-alone House vote? He's announced his hospitalization for mental distress and traumatic experiences.

In keeping with his quest for martyrdom, he released an explanation for his mental condition that opened thus:

I did not initially want to publicize this but I now realize it is critical for our community to know several things [...]

Oh, how he forced himself to tell a supposed truth about the gay community that he thinks few have thought of before - we have mental health issues up the wazoo to deal with.

Wishing Dan the best in his medical recovery, and I hope for his health and sanity, that he not watch any TV, cruise the web, receive or send texts about DADT.

In other news about Dan, he gave an "exclusive" interview to the New Era News site last week, and stereotyped all gay folks 30-and-above into one category that he dismisses:

“No revolution for social justice ever went backwards,” he said. “As young people, you can say to those over 30, yeah, you might have the Rolodex, but I own this movement.”

Gee, someone should tell this ego-maniac that lots of gay seniors would like to share the movement's "ownership" and build bridges across generational divides, and that plenty of 30-plus LGBT persons performed important community activism, and still do.

A day after that interview appeared, Dan tweeted the following, in case there was any doubt about who he thinks has purchased the movement:

We, under 30, own this movement. @NewEraColorado

For another critical view of Dan's hospitalization, check out this blog post by gay writer Lyndon Evans, who addresses his concerns to Dan:

My question is, in spite of your reasoning, if you “didn’t want to publicize this” then why are you? The real kicker for me is when Choi also writes in his “open letter” the following, "If you could share the info and sentiment I’d be most grateful."

My guess is his speaking engagement rate will now go up and there will be yet another book in the future .. “How Being A DADT Activist Took Its Toll On Me”.

Sorry Dan-O, no sympathy from this writer for a publicity hound such as yourself. If you really mean what you said above you would have gone in, got some help and then, perhaps discuss why you went into the hospital.

Yeah, but then he would not have been able to parachute into the latest round of maneuvers on Capital Hill to repeal DADT and generated more attention for himself.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Berlin Acts Up for Walter Trochez;
Poles Push Gay Campaigns 

I am a member of the international network dedicated to securing attention and justice for Walter Trochez, the murdered gay from Honduras, and my colleagues in Germany have sent word about their marking of the first anniversary of his extrajudicial killing by forces aligned with rightwing coup leaders. Their report and images:

December 13 Protest at the
Honduran Embassy in Berlin

(Credit for both Berlin photos: Denise Redder.)

Human rights activist group „Walter Tróchez Queer Alliance“ rallied in front of the Honduran Embassy in Germany to call attention to the continued human rights violations in this Central American country. They handed over a wreath in memory of murdered human rights activist Walter Tróchez, a 27 year old activist who fought for human rights of persons living with HIV and of transgender persons.

Walter was shot dead on December 13, 2009, in Tegucigalpa. Walter’s murder as well as the assassination of dozens of other citizens, including transgender persons were related to the June 28th, 2009, coup d‘ état. To this day, the murders have not been resolved and the criminals have not been brought to justice.

An open letter was directed to the Honduran Ambassador appealing for a thorough investigation and an end to state support crime against its citizens.

I extend hearty thanks from San Francisco and thumbs up to the German gays for their advocacy this week on behalf of Walter Trochez, and for providing the global gay community with photos and a written report.

In other international news, this time from Poland, gay community organizer Wojciech Szot sent me info on the expansion of social marketing campaign, along with public actions, pushing for greater acceptance of LGBT people in the heavily Catholic country. I don't know about you, but I am pleased as pansy punch that our brothers and sisters over there are visible, out and proud in the town of Inowroclaw. We are indeed everywhere! Read on:

Polish campaign for same-sex civil partnerships „Love Does Not Exclude”, which started in November in Warsaw and Łódź, will be continued in smaller cities and towns in Poland. The locations are being selected by Internet users, and campaign organisers tailor the advertising presentation to each one. Unfortunately already in the first location, the town of Inowroclaw in the Kujawsko-Pomorskie region, we have encountered censorship obstacles.

In larger Polish cities tolerance and understanding for LGBT rights are rather widespread, and political correctness seems well grounded; in smaller cities and towns, however, LGBT persons often face homophobia. We are therefore convinced that this is precisely where the campaign should be visible, to communicate with the straight majority – but also to tell young LGBT persons that they are not left alone.

Poland has 16 administrative regions and in 16 months we plan to visit one town in each of them. More info about campaign on our website.

On 20th November – one day before local government elections – a demonstration was organised in front of Warsaw University as part of the campaign „Love Does Not Exclude”. In the most popular weekend venue of our city we spoke about same-sex partnerships and presented our huge banner saying "We demand civil partnership law".

More praise and laurels from me, to the Polish gays for their important work. The Poles and German activists make me proud to be a card-carrying member of the International Homosexual Conspiracy! Act up! Fight back!

Larry Kramer Likes Scary NYC HIV Ad;
I Give it Thumbs Down

I'm not crazy about the controversial new HIV prevention of campaign from the New York City Department of Health. To my weary San Francisco gay PWA eyes, which have seen too many alarmist print social marketing campaigns that go out of their way to stigmatize people with AIDS, and use Fear! Alarm! Shock! to reach a gay audience, the NYC ad is a continuation of SF's lousy campaigns.

However, my pal writer and activist Larry Kramer has a few things to say about the campaign, and those who are objecting to it. Here's his statement:

Here's the ad: 

to the nyc dept of health:
thank you. it's about time. this ad is honest and true and scary, all of which it should be. hiv is scary and all attempts to curtail it via lily-livered nicey-nicey "prevention" tactics have failed. dr hill knows this and her remarks below, once again, show her to be living on another planet. and since when is GLAAD in the hiv-prevention business? god help us if it is. gmhc is bad enough.

can we finally get real here? we are in the 32nd year, more or less, of a plague.


these are appalling statistics.

And dr hill and some dude at glaad is telling me that prevention efforts, as they are presently constituted, are working.

of course people have to get scared. i have said this since day one and i say it today.  they need to be scared into using condoms. into getting tested, into being responsible human beings. nothing so far has been able to bring a sufficient result to these requirements. why can't anyone see that? why can't our oldest aids organization see that? to say as dr hill does  below that "studies have shown that using scare tactics is not effective"  is, i believe,  an out and out lie. i have never seen such research. if it exists, then it is as irresponsible as dr. hill and mr/s glaad.

i see a lot of doctors regularly during the course of looking after my own health. every single one of them is telling me that they are seeing more and more young and usually white men who are educated and should  know better, sero-converting.

and with all the hoopla over hiv negative people taking this new once-a-day truvada "miracle cure" just so they can have sex without a condom, is going to be a nightmare of the highest order. i firmly believe this.

just as i firmly believe that NO prevention efforts can be rendered with the sugar coating it has been receiving since 1981.

i congratulate the nyc board of health for finally getting real. i look forward to even more and scarier public service announcements.

larry kramer

ps. i dont have email addresses for whomever runs the nyc department of health, or for dr. tom friedan at cdc or peggy hamburg at the fda. perhaps someone could forward this to them, dr. fauci perhaps.

NYT's Nagourney on Omission 
of Homeless L.A. Voices

Yesterday's front-page of the national print edition of the New York Times ran a story by Adam Nagourney, about the Los Angeles region's efforts to reduce homeless people living on the streets. Plenty of politicians and nonprofit executives were quoted and allowed to opine on what's best for the homeless folks. Since I'm acquainted with Adam, I sent him a note asking why not one homeless person was quoted in his piece.

Here's his reply:

If I had set out to do a in-depth profile of the homeless community in LA – an absolutely legitimate and important story – I would have no doubt quoted many homeless people, and spent a lot of time moving around with them, to get a sense of who they are now, how they became homeless, why they are here. That is very well a story I might do here at some point; but that was not this story.

This was a story about how at a time other communities have made significant progress in finding housing for homeless, LA has not: that it has by every measure the worse homeless problem in the country. The story is intended to look at why that is, how it’s happened, how come it’s so intractable here and what LA is now trying to do about it. A profile of the community itself – in particular, the number of homeless veterans – is a separate but also important topic, that in my opinion should be addressed in future stories.

I grant Adam's his points regarding the focus of his piece, and I have no issue with him giving space to homeless experts and such, but there is still a legit reason why members of the affected homeless population should have been allowed to weigh in on the LA proposals. After all, the plans will directly impact that population and their situation.

My view is that just as I would expect Adam and the Times to quote a gay person or a Democrat if the story were about gay liberation or control of the U.S. Senate, I want them to include the voices of homeless people in related articles. Let's hope the future stories he mentions soon appear.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Solmonese Wanted Obama Administration Job

Just how the hell did the American homosexual movement get to such a low point, where the collective gay groups in Washington still ain't delivering shit in 2010 and there is no viable alternative on the horizon? In case I have not made the point in my decades of kvetching against the Human Rights Campaign and Gay Inc, let me make one thing perfectly clear. We suck at affecting political change.

Except for when AIDS was cutting its wide swath, and no safe treatments were available, and our righteous fury was directed at radically forcing the federal government to meet our specific demands for drugs and trials, our national agenda has utterly failed to provide significant progress.

The plague years saw a blossoming of fierce and fabulous outsider activism and insider lobbying, and both gay and AIDS agendas were the better for it. But now, Gay Inc's chickens have come home to roost, and we are not going anywhere until we once and for all recognize the 800-pound gorilla in the room.

HRC is our biggest obstacle to not only lasting change, but also real advances beyond being able to see a partner, if he or she were in the hospital. That executive memo by Obama was nice, but akin to allowing blacks to sit at integrated lunch counters, while keeping them out of the polling station.

I cannot accept the argument of HRC is vital to the gay agenda. It is destroying the agenda, all for the executives and board members and the advances they're most interested in - their own careers.

Consider the following from Richard Grenell, a gay Republican blogger at HuffPo:

Solmonese, a seasoned Democratic Party activist who at first maneuvered for a political appointment in the Obama administration, couldn't even move Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, who represents the gayest district in the country, to put DADT or gay marriage up for a standalone vote in the House.

He angled for a personal appointment. Gee, guess Joe wasn't pressing the president on the community's behalf, not when he wanted to work for the commander-in-chief. I don't imagine the HRC board, whose directors were also probably looking for gig with Barry O, had any problem with the executive director pushing his resume over to the West Wing.

The problem before us is not just that Joe must go, along with other executives, and the board too, or their shameful attempt to cloak themselves in Harvey Milk's activist grassroots legacy, or HRC's happy homo lapdog routine for the Democratic National Committee.

It is in HRC's genetic code to FAIL. Expect nothing for the gays until the organization is dissolved.