Sunday, December 31, 2006

Soon-To-Be Ex-Gay GOP Rep Kolbe: No Regret Over DOMA Vote

(Kolbe, left, in awful shirt, with constituent and lobbyist Matt Russell.)

Retiring gay GOP Arizona Rep. Jim Kolbe, after he was outed, did some favors on behalf of gays and lesbians, though nothing notable readily springs to mind, but, in my opinion, there's no reason we should place Kolbe in the pantheon of gay political leaders, of any party affiliation, who deserve special credit for advancing full equality for the gay community in all arenas of modern life.

When all is said and done and history evaluates Kolbe's achievements as a gay Republican Congressman, it may be said that he greatest achievement was his symbolic role as the only such person in Congress.

With his career coming to an end, Kolbe granted an interview to the Arizona Daily Star and he expressed remorse over his vote to go to war in Iraq, but absolutely no regrets over his vote in favor of the hideous Defense of Marriage Act, an act that relegates him and all gays to second class citizenship status.

On the invasion of Iraq:

Kolbe said if he'd known then what he knows now about Iraq, he wouldn't have voted to authorize going to war in 2002. But he said he still believes the best information available at that time made a good case for the invasion then.

Regarding marriage equality for gays and lesbians and his DOMA vote:

However, Kolbe said he didn't regret his 1996 vote in favor of the Defense of Marriage Act, which allows states to refuse recognition of gay marriages approved in other states. His vote on that bill prompted a gay-oriented magazine to prepare an article outing him as a homosexual, which led Kolbe to publicly declare that he is gay.

"I could make a very good argument that marriage belongs in the hands of the state," he said. "I don't think that should be changed."

So Kolbe regrets his vote on Iraq, but in his homosexual heart, he can't find room to say he's the least bit sorry for his shameful in the enactment of DOMA. Well, allow me to return the sentiment and say, as a key architect of the 1996 campaign to out him, I in no way regret working to force open Kolbe's closet door.

From the 1996 article by J. Jennings Moss in the Advocate referred to by the Arizona Daily Star:

But while Kolbe and Foley told The Advocate that a member of Congress's sexual orientation should not be an issue, activists were saying otherwise. Michael Petrelis—who gained notoriety for throwing a drink on Gunderson at a gay bar in 1991 and then publicizing the incident in an attempt to force the congressman to come out—used his computer to raise questions about several lawmakers he said were in the closet. Petrelis sent his own reports or forwarded others to a mailing list that included more than 100 activists, writers, and publications.

Goodbye, Jim Kolbe. As you leave the House of Representatives, don't let the heavy doors smack you too hard in the butt. And may the next gay Congressman from the Republican Party do a better job of articulating the need for America to embrace equality for gays, and the votes championing a gay agenda and doing no harm to the vast gay community. That isn't asking too much, now, is it?

Saturday, December 30, 2006

UK'S Pink News: Saddam Hussein and The Homosexuals

Across the pond, London's premier gay news publication Pink News today published a fascinating article about Saddam Hussein and his record on homosexuals. The article has apparently generated some criticism about the tone and content from readers, and the owner of the news service, Benjamin Cohen, responded with this statement on his site:

Since this article was posted, we have received a number of emails in relation to Saddam Hussein. I must make it clear that we were not defending this brutal dictator in any way. We were simply reporting his death as relevant to the LGBT community.

Here are several excerpts from the story:

The former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein has been executed but questions remain over his attitude towards homosexuality.

While it is true at during the 1990s Saddam's representatives at the United Nations opposed discussions of international gay rights or welcoming gay groups as observers to the UN, the actual position of gay people within the country remains sketchy at best.

During Iraq's period of isolation following the last Gulf War, it is believed that the regime tolerated an active gay night-life particularly within Baghdad. Although it is also claimed that Saddam and his ministers turned a blind eye to gay honour killings. It must be noted though that most observers now believe that killings of gay people have increased following the American lead invasion.

In an exclusive interview with earlier this year, George Galloway, the anti-war Respect MP for Bethnal Green and Bow defended Saddam's record on gay rights.

“"There are a very large number of homosexuals in the Arab world, the official rhetoric is often well short of the actual practical situation is on the ground."

He added: “We took a prominent Canadian politician, Sven Robinson [to Iraq], who made a speech which opposed sanctions, opposed the upcoming war, and then launched an attack on Iraq for a perceived witch-hunt against gays and many people said to us afterwards, if you had only have spoken to us about that you would have found out in practice that's not true at all."

Following the execution, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki said: “Justice, in the name of the people, has carried out the death sentence against the criminal Saddam, who faced his fate like all tyrants, frightened and terrified during a hard day which he did not expect.”

In a letter published before his death, Saddam said: “To the great nation, to the people of our country, and humanity,

“Many of you have known the writer of this letter to be faithful, honest, caring for others, wise, of sound judgement, just, decisive, careful with the wealth of the people and the state ... and that his heart is big enough to embrace all without discrimination.

“You have known your brother and leader very well and he never bowed to the despots and, in accordance with the wishes of those who loved him, remained a sword and a banner. [...]

He added: “I call on you not to hate because hate does not leave a space for a person to be fair and it makes you blind and closes all doors of thinking and keeps away one from balanced thinking and making the right choice.

“I also call on you not to hate the peoples of the other countries that attacked us and differentiate between the decision-makers and people ...Anyone who repents - whether in Iraq or abroad - you must forgive him [...]

The British Foreign Secretary, Margaret Beckett expressed concern over the use of the death penalty: “The British government does not support the use of the death penalty, in Iraq or anywhere else. We have made our position very clear to the Iraqi authorities, but we respect their decision as that of a sovereign nation.”

Click here to read the full story.

Friday, December 29, 2006

FOIA Request for Disclosure Forms of NIH HIV Drug Panel

[The year is coming to a close, so this FOIA request is my last one of 2006.

Some AIDS activists familiar with the NIH HIV drug Panel may wonder why I'm filing this FOIA when the Panel members, at the end of their treatment recommendations guidelines, dislosure basic conflict and financial information.

The reason for the request is to learn what exactly the members put on their forms for NIAID and compare it with what is released in the guidelines. I doubt that it is simply a list of drug companies who've showered the members with grants and honoraria, but I may be wrong.

NIAID releasing the actual forms will do much to increase transparency over the Panel and the forces that influence it.]

December 29, 2006

Karin Lohman, Acting Chief
Freedom of Information Office
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
Bethesda, MD

Dear Ms. Lohman:

Pursuant to the full provisions of the Freedom of Information Act and all its revisions, I hereby request in electronic format the most recent financial disclosure forms and conflict of interest declarations, during calendar years 2005 and 2006, by all members of the Panel on Clinical Practices for Treatment of HIV Infection, and the Panel's support staff and advisors to the body.

Here is the list of individuals whose disclosure forms I am requesting:

1. John G. Bartlett (co-chair), Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD;

2. H. Clifford Lane (co-chair), National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD

3. Jean Anderson, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD;

4. A. Cornelius Baker, Washington, DC;

5. Samuel A. Bozzette, San Diego Veterans Affairs Medical Center, San Diego, CA;

6. Charles Carpenter, Brown Medical School, Providence, RI;

7. Lawrence Deyton, Department of Veterans Affairs, Washington, DC;

8. Mark Dybul, Office of Global AIDS Coordinator, Department of State, Washington, DC;

9. Wafaa El-Sadr, Harlem Hospital Center & Columbia University, New York, NY;

10. Courtney V. Fletcher, University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, Denver, CO;

11. Gregg Gonsalves, Gay Men's Health Crisis, New York, NY;

12. Eric P. Goosby, Pangaea Global AIDS Foundation, San Francisco, CA;

13. Fred Gordin, Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Washington, DC;
14. Roy M. Gulick, Weill Medical College of Cornell University, New York, NY;

15. Mark Harrington, Treatment Action Group, New York, NY;

16. Martin S. Hirsch, Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard University, Boston, MA;

17. John W. Mellors, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA;

18. James Neaton, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN;

19. Heidi Nass, University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI;

20. James Oleske, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, Newark, NJ;

21. Robert T. Schooley, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, CA;

22. Renslow Sherer, Project HOPE, Midland, VA;

23. Stephen A. Spector, University of California San Diego, La Jolla, CA;

24. Sharilyn K. Stanley, Texas House of Representatives, Austin, TX;

25. Paul Volberding, University of California San Franscisco & VA Medical Center, San Francisco, CA;

26. Suzanne Willard, Drexel University, Philadelphia, PA

27. Debra Birnkrant, Food and Drug Administration;

28. Victoria Cargill-Swiren, National Institutes of Health;

29. Laura Cheever, Health Resources and Services Administration;

30. Mark Dybul, National Institutes of Health (Co-Executive Secretary);

31. Jonathan Kaplan, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention;

32. Henry Masur, National Institutes of Health;

33. Lynne Mofenson, National Institutes of Health;

34. Jeffrey Murray, Food and Drug Administration;

35. Alice Pau, National Institutes of Health (Executive Secretary)

If at all possible, please provide me with the requested forms and declarations for the Panel members and advisors in digital format via email.

On the other hand, if the documents are not available for transmission via email or exist only on paper and can't easily be put into PDF formatting, you can send the documents to mm through my snail mail address.

No matter what the format is for the documents, they should be readily available for quick release in response to this FOIA request, as NIAID requires such disclosure forms are regularly updated.

Should you have any questions or need clarification, contact me at 415-621-xxxx.

Sincerely yours,
Michael Petrelis

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

2007 Meeting Schedule of NIH HIV Drug Panel Requested

This letter was sent today:

Dr. Alice K. Pau
Executive Secretary
Panel on Antiretroviral Guidelines for Adults and Adolescents
Office of AIDS Research
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
Bethesda, MD

Dear Dr. Pau,

As a person living with AIDS who takes a twice-daily cocktail of drugs recommended by your Panel, after much consultation with my personal doctor and community activists, I am very interested in monitoring and influencing the important work the Panel will perform on behalf of the US government and people with AIDS in 2007.

In order to carry out those two tasks I need the following information from you:

1. Dates, times and locations of all Panel meetings will hold either at the NIH campus, or anywhere in the USA;

2. Dates and times of all monthly teleconference calls the Panel will hold;

3. For both the in-person meetings and teleconference calls, amount of time each member of the public will be allowed to present testimony;

4. Advance agendas for the meetings and calls;

5. The URLs on the NIAID web site where all the above requested information will be available for public inspection.

6. A copy of all federally-mandated rules and regulations governing the Panel;

7. An explanation of who decides the membership of the Panel, if term limits exist for Panel membership, if any members have lifetime appointments to the Panel, how to lodge complaints against members, existing mechanisms to remove a member;

8. The name of the person I need to contact to demand that all Panel members, in addition to disclosing any links to pharmaceutical or medical diagnostic companies, that they must also reveal exact dollar amounts of any grants, honoraria, stock options, reimbursements travel, lodging and associated expenses when appearing at conferences or any HIV-related meetings on behalf of a company;

In the interest of government transparency, please provide me with the requested documents and information at your earliest convenience.

A prompt reply is appreciated.

Best regards,
Michael Petrelis
San Francisco, CA

Monday, December 25, 2006

White House/DoD Photo: The Decider Dithers

Season's greetings to all. I hope you're having as wonderful an Xmas-time with dear friends and beloved families as my partner and I are having this holiday. Like hundreds of other political bloggers, I've had a light blogging load of late, but I feel the need to kick some butt about Bush's war that drags on and on in Iraq.

Seeing this official photo from the Bush war machine, of the Decider dithering on Xmas Eve with DoD Secretary Robert Gates and the Joint Chiefs' general Peter Pace, one thought came to mind:

These are not three wise men!Can anyone explain to me why the Commander in Chief needs more time to get his act together on Iraq and present us with a plan, ANY plan?

Friday, December 22, 2006

CDC-Funded HIV Group Won't Disclose IRS 990 Files

December 21, 2006

Frank Darby
Sunshine Ordinance Task Force
City Hall
San Francisco, CA

Dear Mr. Darby,

I wish to lodge a complaint against the Native American AIDS Project, NAAP, for possible violation of the city's Nonprofit Public Access Ordinance, specifically Section 12L.5 of the ordinance, which requires nonprofits receiving municipal dollars to make financial documents available to the public.

On December 14 and 15 I left voice mail messages for Ms. Joan Benoit, the executive director of NAAP, requesting copies of her most recent IRS 990 filings. The reason why I did this was because NAAP was not listed on the site, nor were it's IRS 990 reports posted on that site.

On December 19 I placed another call to NAAP and the receptionist informed me Ms. Benoit would not be returning my calls and she demanded to know why I wanted their tax returns. I told the receptionist that her group was required by both federal and city statutes to make the IRS 990's available for public inspection, and I was simply asking NAAP to comply with the law.

The receptionist then told me I had to call Mr. Ernest J. Fazio Jr, at 415-777-xxxx, extension 316.

I reached Mr. Fazio and he informed me in no uncertain terms that it "will take a court order before I give you any of our financial records." When I asked Mr. Fazio about complying with the law on behalf of his client NAAP, he told me "to go court and tell it to a judge."

Of course, I have no intention of going to court to ask a judge to issue a ruling requiring Mr. Fazio, Ms. Benoit and NAAP to make their IRS 990 filings available for public inspection.

Instead, I ask the Sunshine Ordinance Task Force to take up this complaint, as soon as possible, to force NAAP and its executives to comply with city and federal statutes.

Additionally, as you know, Section 12L.7 of the city's ordinance states: "In the event that a nonprofit organization materially fails to comply with any contract provision required by this Chapter, the City agency or department which is a party to such contract shall consider such failure a material breach of the contract."

Since NAAP has many contracts, totaling more than $300,000, with the city through the Department of Public Health's AIDS Office, and I believe NAAP is violating the law, thereby breaching the contract, as a courtesy to the DPH, I will send a copy of this complaint to Mr. Jimmy Loyce, the director of the DPH's AIDS Office. It my hope that Mr. Loyce will force NAAP to comply with all public disclosure laws.

Also, since NAAP receives money from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for some of its programs, a courtesy copy of this complaint will be sent to CDC officials, Dr. Kevin Fenton and Mr. Walter Chow, responsible for monitoring San Francisco HIV prevention contractors. Maybe between directors at SF DPH and the CDC, a message will be sent to NAAP forcing them to comply with disclosing their IRS 990s to the public.

A prompt reply is requested and appreciated.

Michael Petrelis
San Francisco, CA

Mr. Jimmy Loyce, SF DPH AIDS Office
Mr. Walter Chow, CDC HIV Prevention Project Officer for SF
Dr. Kevin Fenton, CDC Chief for HIV Prevention

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Peter Tatchell, Gay Campaigner Extraordinaire, Needs Your Vote to "Blogger of the Year" Commendation

A true hero and longtime leader of many global gay rights battles, Peter Tatchell, a man I look to for inspiration and guidance, has been nominated by The Guardian newspaper's web site as Blogger of the Year.

I hope you'll agree with me that Peter deserves such an honor from the paper's Comment is Free section and that you'll cast a vote for him.

Click here to vote for Peter, and click here to read his blog.

Voting closes at 12 noon (London time) on Friday, so go vote now, please!

Let's do what we can to give Peter some recognition by The Guardian for his years of incredible work for too many causes and people to name here. I'm sure if he wins this distinction from The Guardian, he will do what he usually does in such instances -- use it to bring attention to gay and AIDS and human rights issues too often ignored by the media and political leaders.

And a note to Peter. Dear boy, thanks so much for your decades of tireless volunteering and protesting to bring dignity and equality to gays around the globe. I'm glad you're my friend and that I've had the privilege of working with you.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

NIH Wants $538 for 5,000 Pages on HIV Drug Panel

[This letter was sent yesterday to the NIH.]

December 18, 2006

Karin Lohman
NIAID FOIA Office, Acting Chief
Bethesda, MD

Re: FOI Case No. 32469

Dear Ms. Lohman:

This letter is acknowledging receipt of the December 11, 2006, letter from your colleague Ms. Lauren Price.

That letter states the following: "At this time we have located at least 4,931 pages responsive to your request, with fees totaling $538.11. These fees may increase as the processing of your records continues, as more records may be released to you. At this time we are requesting a promise to pay the above fees before we continue processing your request."

As you know, I've requested copies of many documents related to the National Institutes of Health's Panel on Clinical Practices for Treatment of HIV infection, hereafter referred to as the "Panel," and am keen to receive all files the NIAID FOIA office has located.

However, at this point, I am requesting a fee waiver, as permitted under the provisions of FOIA, for several reasons that apply in my case.

First, I am both a news blogger and a columnist for the HIV/AIDS monthly publication POZ magazine, and as a member of the media, I ask that the processing and copy fees be waived.

You can verify my news blogger status by visiting my site: . And you can read my columns for POZ magazine at these links: POZ, August 2006 and also POZ, April 2006.

Second, I seek the records for strict non-commercial reasons and disclosure of the information is in the public interest, especially to people with AIDS, our doctors and other caregivers, and because it will contribute significantly to public understanding of the operations or activities of the government.

Third, I have previously requested of the Panel's executive secretary and Panel members that they web-post all of the documents and minutes on the NIAID web site. This request has not been met, and if it had, and the pertinent files were available on NIAID's site, for public inspection without any fee, my FOIA request for the Panel's records would be moot and unnecessary. Frankly, I believe the Panel and NIAID must reconsider its policy of not making such Panel documents available on the web, on a regularly updated basis, so that the information contained therein, will shed light on this important government function, the recommendations by federal officials to keep people with AIDS alive and well.

Fourth, I wish to amend my original request and ask that the NIAID FOIA office, to reduce or totally negate any processing and copying fees, provide me with any and all responsive records found in electronic format that can be sent to me via email, or, on CD discs, which can be mailed to me.

Fifth, and maybe the most important reason to waive all fees, I am a person with AIDS seeking these records to share with my doctor, longtime partner, friends and family, so I can make the most informed health choices in living with HIV disease.

If you wish to discuss this request for a fee waiver, please call me at 415-xxx-xxxx.

A prompt reply is requested and appreciated.

Sincerely yours,
Michael Petrelis
San Francisco, CA

Monday, December 18, 2006

AIDS Inc Salaries in SF: Too High, Just Right, Too Low?

[Revised on 12/26/06]

When San Francisco activists use the derisive term "AIDS Inc" to describe the AIDS bureaucracy, it is shorthand for the collection of nonprofit service agencies, the enormous number of DPH AIDS Office staffers, myriad HIV programs at UC San Francisco, and all the outside consultants who advise the many public panels in town set up to deal with AIDS.

AIDS Inc, in the eyes of many PWAs and health advocates, is often seen as devoted more to keeping itself afloat and the executives and staffers working within the group getting good salaries, than to meeting the many needs of PWAs.

And speaking of salaries, a friend, also gay and living with HIV, recently asked me how much a certain AIDS executive director was earning and I told him the figure was over $100,000, which seems to be the creepy norm among top AIDS careerists. My PWA pal was horrified and after he got over his shock, asked me to give a snapshot of currently available information on salaries of key AIDS executives and staffers in San Francisco. I agreed to do this for my friend.

These are the salaries for assorted AIDS executives and leaders in San Francisco, from source materials including IRS 990 filings on GuideStar, articles from the Bay Area Reporter and applications by SF DPH for federal HIV/AIDS dollars.

Some key names are missing from the list, such as Jimmy Loyce, the head of DPH's AIDS Office, and Michelle Long-Dixon, the AIDS Office's director for Ryan White CARE Act funded services. Sunshine Act requests for that information has been requested and once I have their salaries confirmed, I will add the data to this list.

I've said it before, but it needs repeating. These salaries are excessive and come at the expense of unmet needs of PWAs. As the city grapples with new restrictions on federal AIDS housing subsidies, and PWAs in SRO hotels are in jeopardy of losing a roof over their heads during this cold season, we must ask, again, that folks making over 6-figures cut their pay and divert the money to help PWAs keep or get housing.

[UPDATE, revised on 12/26/06]

I've added more names and salaries to this survey, and have also included a few gay/lesbian/bi/trans groups along with some drug and alcohol rehab organizations. Even though the gay and rehab groups don't fully devote themselves to HIV/AIDS issues, they nonetheless have substantial programs that directly impact PWAs or AIDS groups, therefore, I've put them on the list.

Looking over the who makes what, it seems as though the highest paid executive on this list is Chuck Deutschman, the head of Walden House, a large, multipurpose drug rehab/housing/AIDS services/welfare advocacy organization. Deutschman was paid $313,275 in FY04.

And in terms of the highest paid AIDS executive based in San Francisco, not providing direct services to local PWAs, the "winner" is Eric Goosby at the SF AIDS Foundation's affiliated Pangaea Global AIDS Foundation -- he took home $248,242 in FY05. Goosby served as an HIV advisor when Bill Clinton was in the White House.

It really shouldn't come as a shock that Goosby has this distinctive salary status, considering his foundation's parent organization, SF AIDS Foundation, which does offer services to local PWAs, in FY04 paid its then-executive director Lance Henderson $212,565. That makes him the top-dog of this survey.

New names and salaries are sprinkled in among the old list of names.

Here are the numbers:

Private Sector:

AIDS Emergency Fund
Mike Smith, ED

AIDS Emergency Fund
Jeffrey Johnson, Controller

AIDS Legal Referral Panel
Bill Hirsh, ED

API Wellness Center
John Manzon-Santos, ED

Baker Places Housing
Jonathan Vernick, ED

Baker Places Housing
Judith Stevenson, Operations Director

Black AIDS Coalition on AIDS
Perry Lang, ED

California AIDS Intervention Training Center
Pat Norman, ED

Catholic Charities
Brian Cahill, ED
$182,896 (versus SF AIDS Foudation's ED salary of $212,565.)
Total revenue FY 2005: $38.7 million (versus SFAF FY05 revenue of $23 million.)

Catholic Charities
Kimberly Watts, CFO

Continuum HIV Daycare Service
Tiffany Mock-Goeman, ED

Continuum HIV Daycare Services
Laura Thomas, Government Grants Coordinator

Haight Ashbury Free Clinic
Darryl Inaba, ED

Horizons Philanthropic Foundation
Roger Doughty, ED

Horizons Philanthropic Foundation
Julie Dorf, Director of Philanthropy

International AIDS Society
Donna Jacobsen, ED

Larkin Street Youth Services
Virginia Price, ED

Larkin Street Youth Services
Denise Wells, COO

Lyon Martin Women's Health Center
Doretha Williams-Flournoy, ED

Maitri Hospice
Tim Patriarca, ED

Mobilization Against AIDS
Donna Rae Palmer, ED

Native American AIDS Project
Joan Benoit; ED
No IRS 990 available on GuideStar

New Leaf Mental Health
Joseph Neisen, ED

Positive Resource Center
Brett Andrews, ED

Positive Resource Center
Pat Riley, Deputy Director

Project Inform
Martin Delaney, Founding Director

Project Inform
Ellen LaPointe, ED

Project Inform
Brenda Lein, Education Director

Project Inform
Anne Donnelly, Advocacy Director

Project Open Hand
Tom Nolan, ED

Project Open Hand
Antonio Choy-Koo, CFO

Project Open Hand
Robert Brenneman, Development Director

Project Open Hand
Michael Baroman-Coggins, Executive Chief

Project Open Hand
Frank Ladin, Human Resources

Project Open Hand
Artrese Morrison, Volunteer Services

San Francisco AIDS Foundation
Mark Cloutier, ED 2005 - 2006

Lance Henderson, Acting ED 2004 - 2005
$212,565 (versus Catholic Charities' ED salary of $182,896.)
Total agency revenue FY 2005: $23 million (versus Catholic Charities' FY05 revenue of $38.7 million.)

Steven Tierney, Public Policy Director

Daniel Crawley, CFO

Katherine Miessner, Budget Director

Fred Dillion, Policy Director

William Bland, HIV Prevention Programs

Sue Gallego, Client Services Director

SFAF's Pangaea Global AIDS Foundation
Eric Goosby, MD; Chief Medical Officer
$248,242 (versus Catholic Charities' ED salary of $182,896, and versus SF AIDS Foudation's ED salary of $212,565.)
(Comparison of FY 05 revenues: Catholic Charities: $38.7 million, versus SFAF: $23 million, versus $6.2 million for Pangaea.)

SFAF's Pangaea Global AIDS Foundation
Barbara Lawson, Project Director

SFAF's Pangaea Global AIDS Foundation
Rene Durrazzo, International Programs Director

SF G/L/B/T Community Center
Thom Lynch, ED

SF G/L/B/T Community Center
Rebecca Rolfe, Deputy Director

Shanti Project
Kevin Burns

Stop AIDS Project
Robert McMullin, ED

Tenderloin AIDS Resource Center
Tracey Brown, ED
No current IRS 990; Last available year on GuideStar is for 1997

Under One Roof
Mike Marshal, ED

Walden House (FY04 Total Revenue: $41.8 million.)
Chuck Deutschman, CEO

Walden House (FY04)
Brian Greenberg, VP Purchasing

Walden House (FY04)
Larry Nelson, Clinical Services

Walden House (FY05)
No ED or Deputy Director named.

Walden House (FY05)
Daniel Sprague, Database Manager

Walden House (FY05)
Paul Kroeger, Budget Manager

UCSF Sector:

AIDS Health Project
James Dilley, ED


Vacant, Director of HIV Prevention

Tracey Packer, Senior Health Educator

John Melichar, Health Program Coordinator
$106, 696

William Gaitan, Administrative Analyst

Lisa Reyes, HPPC Meetings Coordinator

Michael Paquette, Gay Men's Health Educator

Betty Chan-Lew, Meetings and Management Coordinator

Israel Nieves-Rivera, Health Planner

Vincent Fuqua, Gay Men's Health Educator

Joseph Imbriani, Gay Men's Health Educator

Jenna Rapues, Gay Men's Health Educator

Oscar Mascias, Gay Men's Health Educator

Doug Sebesta, Epidemiologist


Saturday, December 16, 2006

US Global AIDS Chief Mark Dybul: HIV Rates Falling in Africa, Caribbean
(From left: Mark Dybul, Laura Bush, Jason Claire, Condi Rice.)

The United States' global coordinator for AIDS, Ambassador Mark Dybul of the State Department, the openly gay man who brought his male partner Jason Claire to his recent swearing-in ceremony, at which both Secretary Condoleezza Rice and First Lady Laura Bush made glowing mention of his partner's mom as Dybul's mother-in-law, held an "Ask The White House" online chat on World AIDS Day.

He pretty much did what all Bush appointees do during such chats -- tout the administration's policies as good and working to improve the world.

What I found somewhat surprising was Dybul twice citing falling or stable HIV infection rates in resource-poor developing nations, but never said anything about America's failure to achieve similar declines in new infections.

Despite billions spent by the CDC in America, a resource-rich fully developed country, the HIV infection rate here has remained steady for about a decade, at 40,000 new infections annually. Over the past ten years, CDC officials have sounded loud alarms about alleged surges in domestic infections, giving some credence to the claim that infections are not really stable in the USA, but increasing.

Dybul did not address how nations with illiterate and uneducated populations, and lacking the many technological and informational tools available in abundance across America, can see their HIV infection drop, while in the USA HIV numbers climb or remain fixed. However, he should address this puzzling discrepancy between America's HIV rate and comparable rates in under-developed nations.

Something else Dybul might reference in the future is the anomaly of one USA city with a falling HIV infection rate -- San Francisco, of course -- while the rest of the country is not seeing similar drops.

Just in case no one has informed Dybul of San Francisco's latest HIV/AIDS epi report and data, and the good news contained therein, here it is in an excerpt from the SF DPH's latest annual surveillance summary:

2005 HIV/AIDS Epidemiology Report
Published: August 28, 2006
Lead Author: Mitch Katz, MD, SF Department of Public Health

The current HIV/AIDS epidemic is characterized by no apparent increases in HIV infection rates over the past five years, and with considerable decreases in some populations.

These are the pertinent excerpts from Dybul's online chat on December 1:

Q: Dear Ambassador Dybul: there are many who believe condoms are the best way to combat aids and many, like the Vatican, that believe condoms send the wrong signal--how does the administration deal with such conflicting views? Especially in the case of Africa? Thank you.

A: [...] We are starting to see significant declines in HIV rates in several countries and stabilization of infection in others. [...]

Q: Ambassador Dybul, Will you please take a few moments to put the Global AIDS epidemic in proper persepctive? Even today there seems to be a strong sentiment that this disease affects mainly drug users, low income persons, and third (fourth) world countries. Is it possible for you to provide a statistical break down of whom this disease affects and its costs to society as a whole on an per annum basis or at least provide a website reference.

A: [...] As I mentioned in the previous answer, new evidence shows that in additional nations in Africa and the Caribbean, people have changed their behavior to avoid HIV, causing infection rates to drop. [...]

Friday, December 15, 2006

No Popcorn String on Cheney's Xmas Tree; Symbolic Drops of Blood Instead?

I can't wait for this couple to retire from public service and their policies hit the historical dust bin.

Nice tree behind them, but it lacks a string of popcorn, which really makes a Christmas tree a thing to behold, in my opinion.

But I notice little dark red droplets or balls hanging on the tree branches. Could they be symbolic of the American and Iraqi blood spilling daily on the streets of Baghdad?

(Photo credit: David Bohrer, The White House. December 12, 2006.)

13 Months & Counting - No DPH HIV Prevention Boss. Eliminate the Job.

For more than a year the San Francisco DPH has lacked a head of HIV prevention, and there's apparently no qualified gay man in the city who will soon become HIV prevention chief, a job with a $145,041 salary and fringe benefits package.

In October 2005 openly gay Steven Tierney resigned from this position to take a job with the SF AIDS Foundation. He's now a public policy director at the nonprofit agency, earning $155,000, according to a story in the Bay Area Reporter last year. No one's taken his place at DPH. Maybe there are no gay health educators who want Tierney's old job.

(Longtime watchers of AIDS Inc know there's always been a revolving door between DPH and the AIDS foundation and all other HIV service organizations, and vice versa, making for one big happy family of bureaucrats who rotate in and out of DPH and AIDS Inc. There are no ethical rules stopping DPH bureaucrats who've been doling out millions of government dollars one day to an AIDS group, to quit and the next begin work at that private agency, but good government principles should include a one-year delay before DPH employees can work for private health agencies.)

It's safe to say not many gay men have noticed the absence of an HIV prevention boss at DPH, and if they have, there certainly hasn't been a loud cry for someone to fill the position. Seen any stories or letters in the gay press clamoring for new HIV boss, not just lately, but ever? Heard of any pressure being applied on the DPH to fill the slot?

Since San Francisco's gay community has managed to survive quite nicely all these months without such a boss, and the DPH is no hurry to replace Tierney, let's consider eliminating the HIV prevention chief's job at DPH and putting the money saved from cutting a rather unnecessary city job into rental subsidies for people with AIDS.

Can you think of a single reason why DPH should continue to fund an HIV prevention boss when the senior HIV health educator, openly straight Tracey Packer, has served in this capacity and has done an exemplary job? I can't.

She has been with the DPH for years and is cochair of the HIV prevention council. Ms. Packer's compensation from the city for her services is $117,070.

We also have the controversial and kooky Dr. Jeff Klausner, head of the STD control and prevention unit, who has considered quarantining PWAs and called for restricting gay men and PWA's access to Viagra, fulfilling his responsibilities to stop HIV and other sexually transmitted infections. I don't know Klausner's salary, but it's probably in the range of what the HIV prevention boss was making.

If DPH leaders are serious about hiring an HIV prevention chief, and I don't know why they should, they would do us all a favor by explaining why the position is necessary, when they plan to fill it and why it's taking so long to fill this supposedly important DPH position.

But just cutting out the position, and diverting the money saved to directly meet the housing needs of PWAs, would better serve the gay and AIDS communities.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

NIH FOIA Appeal Filed: Release All 1,000-plus Pages of HIV Drug Panel Records

It's been way too long since I heard from the FOIA office at NIAID regarding a request from me, so I wrote to the agency today and received a brief reply.

Now is the time for NIAID's FOIA office to finally release the requested documents. Continuing to withhold these public records is without legal merit.

The deliberations that took place prior to NIH's report on HIV treatment recommendations must be shared with me, as a person with AIDS, my doctor, and all AIDS activists.

December 13, 2006

Karin Lohman
FOIA Office, Acting Chief
National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases
Bethesda, MD

Ms. Lohman:

This letter is an appeal related my Freedom of Information Act request from April 3, 2006, to which you've assigned it FOIA Case No. 32469.

The June 27, 2006, letter from NIAID's FOIA office informed me that more than 1,000 pages responsive to my request for documents pertaining to the Panel on Clinical Practices for Treatment of HIV.

As you know, I've requested all agendas, minutes of meetings, materials distributed at meetings and transcripts of the Panel's monthly teleconference, and believe you and your office have unreasonably, and without merit, delayed release of the found records to me.

Neither the NIAID nor the NIH FOIA office have provided me with legitimate arguments as to why these records are not ready for release.

You have mentioned in several phone conversation over the past few months that NIAID's FOIA office reviewed and authorized release of the records, but that the NIH FOIA office needed to go over them before allowing their release to me.

First, as far as I know, requested documents need only pass review by only one branch of NIH before release. Second, if there is a cogent and valid argument why the records must pass an additional review, it should not take seven or more months for that review to occur.

Therefore, today I am requesting immediate and full disclosure of all 1,000-plus pages of files responsive to request number 32469, which, I need remind you, have already passed NIAID's process for release.

Please send all of those pages to me, via overnight FedEx.

Thanks for your prompt attention and response to my appeal.

Sincerely yours,
Michael Petrelis

Here is the acknowledgement I received today:

Mr. Petrelis,

This is to confirm receipt of the email you sent to me earlier today. I will check on the status of your request.



Karin N. Lohman, Ph.D.
Acting Chief, Strategic Planning and Evaluation Branch
Acting Chief, FOIA Office
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, NIH, DHHS
Bldg. 31 Room 7A-17F7
Bethesda, MD 20892

Let's hope the NIAID FOIA office gives me an early Xmas present -- all of the pages they've located responsive to my outstanding request!

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Foley Refunds Zero to HRC & Rosen; $460K Back to Donors, PACs

Has it really been only two months since the Mark Foley erupted on the national scene and he was put under lots of microscopes? Seems like ancient history now, looking back his resignation and my probing of his FEC records, particularly who donated to him.

In October I blogged about the Human Rights Campaign, the gay wing of the DNC, had donated $27,000 to Foley's PAC over the years, and HRC board member Hilary Rosen also gave him money, $2,000 to be exact.

I suggested to HRC and Rosen that they ask for their gay money to be returned, as a matter of principle, and to show some political backbone.

Lou Chibbaro at the Washington Blade asked HRC about getting their money refunded. Here's the reply from the group:
“It’s an interesting idea,” said HRC spokesperson Luis Vizcaino. “We’ll consider it.”

Apparently they considered it and dismissed the idea. Newly released FEC records for Foley's PAC posted on the PoliticalMoneyLine site show even though Foley returned $423,800 to 46 donors and $36,500 to 14 PACs, Rosen and HRC were not among them. Guess they were content to let the disgraced former Congressman keep their gay funds.

I expect so little from HRC, and they keep delivering.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Audit of CDC-Funded HIV Prevention Grants Requested

[This letter was transmitted through various means to HHS, S.F. DPH, Rep. Nancy Pelosi & Sen. Tom Coburn. Such an audit is _long_ overdue.]

December 5, 2006

Daniel R. Levinson
Inspector General
Department of Health and Human Services
Room 5541 Cohen Building
330 Independence Avenue, S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20201

Dear Mr. Levinson,

It has come to my attention that in September 2005 you conducted a much-needed audit of HIV prevention contracts and grants managed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and your overall finding was that there are "widespread deficiencies" in how the CDC oversees HIV prevention grants.

Your audit gave the following explanation for it and made some disturbing conclusions:

"During fiscal years (FYs) 1999 through 2003, the period of our audit, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) used more than $2.6 billion of HIV/AIDS prevention funds to award grants for State and local health departments and community-based nonprofit organizations to carry out surveillance, testing, counseling, research, conferences, outcome evaluations, and other related activities. These grants serve as important tools in carrying out CDC's mission of preventing and controlling HIV and AIDS. [...]

"The objective of our audit was to determine whether CDC complied with applicable laws, regulations, and departmental policies in managing its HIV/AIDS prevention grants.

"During FYs 1999 through 2003, CDC management of HIV/AIDS prevention grants did not always comply with applicable laws, regulations, and departmental policies. We reviewed PGO (Procurement and Grants Office) and Center records related to 15 grants and identified widespread deficiencies throughout the preaward, award, and postaward phases of CDC's grants management operations."

In the context of those deficiencies, I write to you today because I am very concerned about the CDC's various grants to the Better World Advertising agency of San Francisco, for the HIV Stops With Me social marketing campaign, which is underway in eight gay markets: San Francisco, New York City, Boston, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Seattle, Buffalo and across the state of Oregon.

Health officials estimate that since the campaign began in San Francisco in 2000, a little more than $3 million in CDC grants have been allocated just for this city, and the seven other regions receiving CDC money for their own local versions of HIV Stop With Me efforts have each received between $1.5 and $2 million in federal prevention funds.

It's been projected that total costs of the campaign are a minimum of $13.5 million in grants from the CDC. All of these grants in all eight regions must be subjected to your office's oversight processes.

I am requesting a full fiscal audit and an extensive performance audit of all moneys given to the Better World Advertising agency, by the CDC, for the entire HIV Stops With Me campaign, from its start date through the date of this letter. There are concerns among HIV prevention advocates that potentially inappropriate expenses from one jurisdiction of the eight regions involved, may have been charged to a different jurisdiction.

Additionally, I ask that you carefully examine every expense report and all itemized receipts from Better World Advertising submitted to the CDC, whenever the ad agency's project directors attended HIV prevention conferences throughout all of the years of the contracts, as contractually mandated in CDC's grants to the agency.

The CDC contracts with the ad agency state, in the quality assurance section: "The Project Coordinator will attend at least one HIV prevention related conference this funding cycle."

Absolutely no justification is made by CDC in the contract as to why such travel, hotel, meals, and other incidental expenses incurred attending such HIV conferences is required and helps with prevention.

Therefore, I formally request you immediately begin an audit of the Better World Advertising agency's grants from the CDC for HIV Stop With Me.

A prompt reply is requested and appreciated.

Best regards,
Michael Petrelis

Monday, December 04, 2006

After 99 Lashes, Iranian Woman Spared From Death by Stoning. Parisa Akbari is Free!

(Photo credit: Iranian Students' News Agency. Women demand equal rights at Tehran University gathering; June 12, 2005)

Through my organizing work this year on behalf of gay and lesbian Iranians, and my opposition to the death penalty in all countries, I made the acquaintance of Lily Mazahery, and Iranian-American lawyer working from Washington, DC, on behalf of all women in Iran, and especially women in the Islamic Republic facing death by stoning or any other means.

Today, Mazahery shared some good news with me. An Iranian woman who had been on death row, is now free, her stoning sentence withdrawn.

Now, attention must focus on the other women in Iran jeopardy of being stoned to death. You can find more info on these women at this Amnesty International web site. Go there and learn who and where to send appeals to in Iran, asking that they not be executed.

And click here to read a recent column by Nat Hentoff in the Village Voice about the barbaric Iranian practice of stoning women until dead.

Here's the wonderful news from Mazahery:

Parisa Akbari, one of the Iranian women sentenced to death by stoning for “adultery,” walked out of jail as a free woman today after receiving 99 lashes for having sex outside of marriage. Based on a motion filed by her new, volunteer, lawyer in the High State Court, Parisa was granted a new trial, which was held last month. At the new trial, lawyers were able to present evidence of Parisa’s innocence.

Additionally, the lawyers successfully argued that the lower court had used erroneous legal and Islamic standards in issuing Parisa’s original sentence. Based on the new evidence and legal arguments, the High State Court dismissed the original charges against Parisa and vacated the sentence of death by stoning.

According to Parisa’s lawyer, who is also representing Ashraf Kalhori (another woman sentenced to death by stoning for committing the crime of “adultery”), although the head of the Islamic Republic’s judiciary has issued an stay of execution in Ashraf’s case, Ashraf continues to remain in jail and on death row, awaiting a response to her motion for acquittal.

The lawyers representing Ashraf have been informed that her case has been sent back to the prosecutors for a new investigation in her case and they are currently working to find out more details about this new investigation.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

From DoD: Rummy in Philly, Dec. 1, 2006

Get me one of those barf bags from an airline, and quickly too! I've just seen the photo released today by the Pentagon of outgoing DoD head Rumsfeld wearing the Gold Medal awarded to him on Friday by the Union Club in Philadelphia and I feel like throwing up.

Rumsfeld should be facing a war crimes tribunal, preferably in jailhouse orange sweats, not being honored with a red, white and blue ribbon with a dangling piece of bling and the soon-to-be ex secretary of defense in a snazzy tux.

According to the AP, several handfuls of protesters voiced their opposition to him receiving the honor and his deadly policies. Thank you very much, Philly protesters, one and all! Interesting that the Union Club lays blame for the event's shroud of secrecy at Rumsfeld's feet:

About three dozen people rallied outside Philadelphia's venerable Union League to protest the organization's decision to honor departing Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

Officials at the selective private club presented its Gold Medal to Rumsfeld at a black-tie affair on Friday night, but would not discuss the reason behind the award.

"My family is traditional Republican, and they are sick about the Union League giving Rumsfeld a medal," said protester Elizabeth Doering, whose grandfather and father were longtime club members. "It's such a crass gesture."

When the league gave then-Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor its Gold Medal in 2004, the event received full press coverage. But the league kept the Rumsfeld medal cloaked in secrecy until the Philadelphia Daily News broke the story on Thursday. [...]

When asked about the secrecy surrounding the Rumsfeld medal, league spokeswoman Patricia Tobin said, "It's up to the awardee. We always try to respect the wishes of the awardee."

SF Chronicle: Pelosi, Please Disclose HIV/AIDS Earmark

Maybe with the SF Chronicle printing my letter today, Rep. Pelosi and her staff will deign to reply to the query I sent them on November 21 about this HIV/AIDS earmark.

From the Chronicle:

Letters to the Editor
December 2

Pelosi, please disclose

Editor -- Your editorial on ethics and earmarks ("Ethics -- do it right," Nov. 27) says there "is no reason to conceal the author of an 'earmark' -- the spending line-items that are now stuffed into legislation anonymously." I couldn't agree more.

Last week I sent U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, a series of basic questions about a $1.5 million earmark for an HIV/AIDS demonstration project to be conducted by the San Francisco health department. I am trying to ascertain if she is behind the earmark and would also like for her office to provide me with the contract for the project.

One way to bring much-needed ethical reform to Congress would be for Pelosi to fully disclose any and all of her recent earmarks, or if she hasn't any, to clearly state that. But if Pelosi is behind any earmarks, and the $1.5 HIV/AIDS earmark is hers, then I hope she will explain her reasons for orchestrating the grant to the city's health department.

San Francisco

Thursday, November 30, 2006

WPost Fails to Reveal Reporter Met w/Iraq Study Group

[Sent today via email.]

Deborah Howell
The Washington Post

Dear Ms. Howell:

The front-page of today's Post has an article, written by Thomas E. Ricks and Robin Wright, on the Iraq Study Group and how it is wrapping up months of interviews and deliberations, as it prepares to deliver recommendations to the President and the American public.

This is what the Post reported on who the panel has spoken with:

"Forty experts from fields such as warfare, the Middle East, reconstruction and Islamic militancy were asked to put together options for the group but did not take part in the policy debates."

If you look at the Iraq Study Group's nine-page paper listing all of the experts they consulted, you will see on page 9 that Ricks was among the chosen few to give advice to the group.

Unfortunately, the fact Ricks consulted with members of the group was not disclosed by the Post today and I believe in the interest of full media transparency, it should have been mentioned.

Do you think the Post had an ethical responsibility to inform readers that one of the writers of today's article has consulted with the group he was writing about?

A prompt reply would be appreciated.

Sincerely yours,
Michael Petrelis


On the one hand, I must apologize to Thomas Ricks and the Post for not being aware that the paper had indeed disclosed his appearance before the study group.

But on the other hand, the disclosure ran in the Post on November 12, appended to a piece I had not read.

So maybe the Post owes me an apology for not again disclosing Ricks' talk with the Baker-Hamilton panel?

Actually, what responsibility does the Post owe all readers on this journalistic transparency matter? Is it enough they told readers about Ricks' talk to the panel, in just one of his pieces on the study group, its inner workings and eventual recommendations? Should the Post be required to inform readers of this link Ricks has to the panel, every time he writes about it?

Frankly, I think the paper must disclose the link every time, as suggested by the ombudsman Deborah Howell. The burden to know about Ricks' link should not be on me, as the reader, to somehow know when reading a Nov 30 story that he disclosed the link in a Nov 12 article. The onus should be on the Post.

After all, Ricks himself, in his suggestion to me that I change my headline, that the problem is the Post's failure to repeat the disclosure.

And let's not overlook the other journalists who have spoken with the panel, such as Tom Friedman of the NY Times, George Will of the Post, George Packer of the New Yorker, Mark Danner of the NY Review of Books and William Kristol of the Weakly Standard. (Check out my previous post on them and click here.)

As far as I know, none of them have disclosed how and why they advised the Baker-Hamilton commission. If they have, and I've missed the disclosures they've made, make me aware of where and when the disclosure took place and I'll again update this post.

Finally, even though this episode started with me thinking the Post hadn't disclosed, they actually had, only I didn't know it, and now that I do, I must applaud the Post for setting a fine media example of how to make such a disclosure. May we soon have Friedman, NY Times, et al, doing the same as Ricks and the Post.

Here the reply I received from the paper's ombudsman:

Mr. Petrelis, On Nov. 12, the last time Ricks was involved in a story on
the Iraq Study Group, the paper put this tagline at the end of the story::

"Ricks, the author of "Fiasco," a book on the Bush administration's policy in Iraq, appeared before the study group at its members' request to answer questions about his book."

Perhaps it needs to be done every time.

Deborah Howell
Washington Post Ombudsman

And this came from Thomas Ricks:

Actually, my appearance before the Iraq Study Group was disclosed in the Washington Post in a tagline at the end of a story on Nov. 12:

"Ricks, the author of "Fiasco," a book on the Bush administration's policy in Iraq, appeared before the study group at its members' request to answer questions about his book."

So maybe you could fix your headline to more accurately state that:

WPost Fails to Repeat Its Note That Reporter Met w/Iraq Study Group


AP: Taxpayers Paying for Cheney's Idaho Visit; Where's the Veep?

The last update on the White House's web page for the Vice President was more than a week ago, November 22,when Dick Cheney's office announced he would visit his pals in Saudi Arabia.

Since then, not a peep out of the Veep, at least in terms of any official statements from him, according to his web page.

So is Cheney still in the Middle East, back in the USA or traveling somewhere else in his official capacity as Veep? If Google and Yahoo news searches are any indication, no one knows where he is these days. Perhaps on another hunting trip?

Even though Cheney's not been in the public eye lately, he still generates news. Have a glance at excerpts from an AP wire story today on yet another broken promise to taxpayers from GOP leaders, related to Cheney and his political travels:

COEUR D'ALENE — Local taxpayers will pay $3,500 for Vice President Dick Cheney's Nov. 2 visit to this northern Idaho city to campaign for Republican candidates, despite GOP promises taxpayers wouldn't get the bill.

Officials with the city, as well as Kootenai County, say they will not ask the Republican Party of Idaho to reimburse them for expenses generated by the event, which was not open to the public. [...]

"Not to simplify it, but we weren't doing it for the Republicans," Watson told The Spokesman-Review. "We were doing it because we were asked by the Secret Service."

State GOP Executive Director Jayson Ronk said the vice president's visit wouldn't cost Idaho taxpayers a penny. Now Ronk is declining to comment and instead referred questions about the costs to the White House. "That's just our policy," he said. [...]

"I would think that the Republican Party can come up with $3,500 dollars to pay for a campaign visit by the vice president," Democratic Party spokesman Chuck Oxley told The Associated Press on Wednesday. "If they don't, it just shows the extent of their arrogance, which we've come to expect." [...]

According to public records obtained by the newspaper, sheriff's department employees worked about 60 hours of overtime for the visit, at a cost of $2,014. That doesn't include the regular pay of 26 employees who spent time at the airport where Cheney spoke.

The Coeur d'Alene Police Department reported it spent $1,506 on the visit and would not seek reimbursement. "For $1,500 to have a vice president in this city, I don't think they would find that a huge expense," police spokeswoman Sgt. Christie Wood said.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

SF DPH Releases HIV Serosorting Slides Showing ...

Earlier this month a representative from the SF health department made a presentation on serosorting at a forum hosted by the Stop AIDS Project, in which he basically approved the practice of HIV poz guys having sex only with other poz men, as an effective means of preventing the virus from being spread to an HIV negative man.

The DPH expert used thirteen slides in his presentation, and after I filed a Sunshine Act request for them, the department shared the slides with me. All of them are posted here, in the hope they will add to the community-wide discussion about serosorting. Neither the health department nor the Stop AIDS Project post the slides on their site, and I'm not sure why they think gay and HIV activists shouldn't have easy access to the slides.

For me, the most important slide to consider is number 7, which shows new HIV infections between 1996 and 2003 of people getting tested at clinics, where the bulk of SF's HIV tests are administered, and the peak happened in 1999. The rate since then has pretty much continued on a downward trend and it is very likely due to serosorting.

Slide 7 also shows a red line representing new syphilis infections starting to climb in 1999 and reaching skyward. What's not footnoted by DPH is the fact that in 1999 the CDC launched a national syphilis elimination effort, one that significantly drove up the number of syphilis tests performed and also enhanced surveillance.

I must further note that even though SF health officials and AIDS groups were citing the surging syphilis rate and equating it with a supposed jump in HIV infections, that clearly was not the case.

Another fascinating aspect to the data in slide 7 is that the HIV incidence flattening/dropping in recent years occurred even though those same SF HIV experts were sounding alarm after alarm about barebacking, an outbreak of adult male shigellosis, bug chasing, the emergence of Lymphogranuloma venereum (LGV), gift giving parties, the spread of a nasty multi-drug resistant staph infection, an explosion of meth use, a rise in male rectal gonorrhea (due to increased testing and surveillance), the climbing syphilis numbers, and a few other scary things I'm forgetting at the moment.

One thing the DPH presenter did not address in his talk is how the heck HIV in SF could stabilize and fall, at a time when the health department saw a new burgeoning gay male sexual health crisis around every corner.

One last point, serosorting, which many HIV control expert agree is curbing new infections, has not been developed, endorsed or actively promoted by HIV prevention groups, the CDC and local health departments. Kind of says something; that if HIV poz gays are left alone to create safer ways of loving, without the interference of the prevention groups and their hostile social marketing campaigns, HIV pozzies do just fine, thank you very much, at reducing HIV rates.

Here are the slides from DPH:

No. 1

No. 2

No. 3

No. 4

No. 5

No. 6

No. 7

(See my comments above on this slide.)

No. 8

No. 9

No. 10

No. 11

No. 12

No. 13

VA Sen.-elect Webb "Tempted to Slug" Bush Over Iraq

Dear Mr. Webb, I'm no psychic, but something tells me you're channeling the wishes and deepest desires of millions of people, not just in the USA, but around the planet.

From the November 29 edition of The Hill, emphasis added:

President Bush has pledged to work with the new Democratic majorities in Congress, but he has already gotten off on the wrong foot with Jim Webb, whose surprise victory over Sen. George Allen (R-Va.) tipped the Senate to the Democrats.

Webb, a decorated former Marine officer, hammered Allen and Bush over the unpopular war in Iraq while wearing his son’s old combat boots on the campaign trail. It seems the president may have some lingering resentment.

At a private reception held at the White House with newly elected lawmakers shortly after the election, Bush asked Webb how his son, a Marine lance corporal serving in Iraq, was doing.

Webb responded that he really wanted to see his son brought back home, said a person who heard about the exchange from Webb.

“I didn’t ask you that, I asked how he’s doing,” Bush retorted, according to the source.

Webb confessed that he was so angered by this that he was tempted to slug the commander-in-chief, reported the source, but of course didn’t. It’s safe to say, however, that Bush and Webb won’t be taking any overseas trips together anytime soon. [...]

Monday, November 27, 2006

Trying to Follow Hillary Clinton's Iowa & NH Money

I'm the kind of activist who thinks there are many batches of political tea leaves to read when looking at the 2008 presidential race, such as FEC filings, funds raised, pundit chatter about setting up exploratory committees, opinion polls, blog accounts of which advisors have signed on with a given candidate and stories in the mainstream press, from the "it's a horse-race" perspective.

One batch of tea leaves not yet thoroughly gone over, at least online, are the Iowa and New Hampshire secretary of state's campaign financial disclosure records for their state's respective political parties, statewide advocacy groups and candidates for state offices.

This is because both of these crucial states on the 2008 primary calendar have lousy web sites, compared to other states' sites with voluminous and easy-to-search data, according to an analysis and rankings by the helpful folks at the Campaign Disclosure Project site.

Check out this incredible portal to follow the political money at the state level, and learn if your state is in modern web age with records online and searchable, or if your state ranks at caveman level. All is clearly explained by the disclosure project leaders.

I wanted to see if Hillary Rodham Clinton or any of her campaign and political associates and close advisors gave money this year to any candidates, or otherwise spread some dough, say, at a county dinner, in Iowa, home of the nation's first presidential caucuses, so I visited the Iowa page on the disclosure project's site as my first step.

Excerpts from their analysis:

Grade: D

Iowa has shown significant improvement this year, raising its overall grade from an F to a D, and its overall rank from 38th to 31st, with most of the gains coming in the Online Contextual and Technical Usability category.

Iowa’s disclosure law can be described as average, and requires candidates to report detailed information about almost all contributions received and expenditures made. [...]

Though the state’s grade and rank for Disclosure Content Accessibility has not changed since 2004, there has been one small measurable improvement in this area, which is that the agency reduced the price of paper copies of campaign finance reports. Otherwise, there have been few changes in data accessibility and the main deficiency is still a lack of any searchable—or even sortable—data, even though approximately one-third of the candidates are filing electronically. [...]

What a disappointment it was to read this, then link over to Iowa's lame campaign disclosure site, with an incredible dearth of public records. Never mind looking for a Hillary donation, or by any other individual for that matter, because no such basic campaign finance transparency is provided by Iowa. To compound the problem of not having easy access to the Hawkeye State's donations records, New Hampshire campaign finance transparency is even worse.

Take a look at the New Hampshire analysis and ranking from the disclosure project:

Grade: F

New Hampshire’s rank in the study dropped for the second year in a row and its disclosure program is still among the bottom ten in the nation, with poor performance in the areas of electronic filing, data accessibility, and web site usability.

New Hampshire performs best in the area of the law, and it received a B- in the Campaign Disclosure Law category. Candidates are required to report details about contributors giving $25 or more, including occupation and employer for those contributing more than $100. [...] The Secretary of State’s office previously stated it offered candidates the option of filing electronically, but clarified in 2005 that what it actually offers is downloadable forms that candidates must print, complete and return via traditional filing methods (i.e. mail or in-person delivery).

Access to campaign filings in New Hampshire is poor, as reflected in the state’s F for Disclosure Content Accessibility. [...]

Speaking of the Granite State, that nickname is totally appropriate and related to my earlier contention that states not making simple campaign finance records available on the net live in a prehistoric stone age time.

Should be a no-brainer, as 2007 approaches, that America can follow the Iowa and New Hampshire political money, and how it influences the 2008 race for the White House, in my opinion. But that just won't happen for this presidential election.

Sydney Herald: Gay HIV Infections = Sub-Saharan Rates

The November 26 edition of the Sydney Morning Herald used this scary headline, HIV infection rate rises to epidemic levels in gay community, for its alarming story on new stats released in anticipation of local AIDS groups marking 25 years of the HIV epidemic. Here's some of what the paper reported:

Last year in NSW, 954 people were diagnosed with HIV and nearly three-quarters of them caught the disease through homosexual contact. [...] "For gay men, HIV is a massive epidemic," Dr Prestage said. "If you are a gay man living in central Sydney, you are living with rates of HIV that are equivalent to sub-Saharan Africa."

In my web searches to verify that 954 HIV figure for New South Wales, I came across and read the Australian Bureau of Statistics' latest annual report, and the section on communicable diseases, provides these figures for recent annual new HIV infections for the entire country:

1996 / 900
1997 / 821
1998 / 753
1999 / 714
2000 / 755
2001 / 765
2002 / 848
2003 / 861
2004 / 886

I don't know how just New South Wales can be reporting 954 new HIV infections when the stats bureau is claiming a far lower number of new infection for all of Australia.

The report also contains important caveats about the HIV stats:
"Not adjusted for multiple reporting [...] The number of HIV/AIDS diagnoses for each year may be revised over time due to late reports, updated information on exposure and testing history for reported cases, and removal of previously unrecognised duplicate diagnoses."

In other words, some of the HIV diagnoses may initially be counted two or more times, but later reduced due to better surveillance by health officials.

Furthermore, the HIV/AIDS, viral hepatitis and sexually transmissible infections in Australia Annual Surveillance Report for 2005, makes the following claim, on page 17:

Following a long-term decline, the annual number of new HIV infections in Australia has gradually increased over the past five years, from 656 in 2000 to around 930 in 2005.

Now for the HIV infections for New South Wales, as reported in the 2005 NSW Department of Health's annual report, page 146:

1996 / 447
1997 / 421
1998 / 402
1999 / 373
2000 / 352
2001 / 338
2002 / 389
2003 / 415
2004 / 404

Clearly, HIV is rising slightly in NSW, and across Australia, but I'm not sure the 954 stat for only NSW claimed by the Sydney Morning Herald, is accurate.

As many AIDS activists in San Francisco and across the USA know, we've had our HIV experts in the past make claims of sub-Saharan rates of new HIV infections, only to have the officials backtrack on the claim, not to mention data showing HIV in San Francisco was not surging upward.

This was the original scary allegation, as printed in the June 30, 2000, San Francisco Chronicle:

``We are very concerned, and we are very worried,'' said San Francisco Department of Public Health epidemiologist Dr. Willi McFarland. ``These are sub-Saharan African levels of transmission.''

And this Bay Area Reporter story from July 9, 2000, shows the backtracking:

"The 900 number is not an official DPH number. The comparison to sub-Saharan Africa is unfortunate," Dr. Willi McFarland, an epidemiologist with DPH told the Bay Area Reporter, referring to a quote he gave to the Chronicle: "These are sub-Saharan African levels of transmission."

Six years later, McFarland gave the following quote the science journal Nature, which I blogged about last month:

"Many of us in the field have suspected that the standard methods of estimation have resulted in overestimates," says Willi McFarland, director of HIV/AIDS Statistics and Epidemiology for the San Francisco Department of Public Health.

Whenever an HIV/AIDS expert invokes sub-Saharan rates of new HIV infections among gay men, deep skepticism, and lots of verifiable HIV stats, are needed as we debate such an alarming claim.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

AP: Kolbe's Travel Tab; Barney #2 Traveler in Congress; Tammy Travels w/Spouse

Gay Democratic Representative Barney Frank is the PoliticalMoneyLine's number two in rankings of top Congressional travelers' whose tabs were picked up, in whole or part, by private non-government groups. With 71 trips under his belt, I guess congratulations are due to the gentleman from Newton who's been on the road quite a bit since 2000, according to Barney's travel records, as analyzed and made available by the PoliticalMoneyLine site.

Looking over Barney's itineraries, it's clear when he travels, it's for causes of importance to him. He's spoken to statewide gay groups fighting restrictive ballot initiatives, a Jewish AIDS nonprofit, unions, advocates for immigrants rights, and he attended the late lesbian leader and therapist Betty Berzon's memorial service. Barney's travels primarily are for liberal social issues and on behalf of organizations working for tolerance and social diversity.

How does Barney's traveling stack up against his GOP counterpart, Jim Kolbe? Just between us gay guys, Barney puts Kolbe to shame, by my liberal political standards, in terms of giving back and being there for your community and diverse constituencies, judging by their respective travel files. I can't find anything gay-specific in Kolbe's file, and I'd be hard pressed to say he's spent much time on the road talking to grassroots groups or advocacy organizations working for tolerance.

Okay, it's probably unfair to compare a liberal gay Democrat's travel records with those of a moderate gay Republican, because, after all, one would expect their travels to reflect their political leanings. But it's still interesting to examine such files, if only from a transparency in government perspective, right?.

Falling somewhere between the two gay congressman is Democratic Rep. Tammy Baldwin, and her travel documents show she's spoken before a few gay groups, like Barney Frank, and attended a forum sponsored by the Aspen Institute, just like Jim Kolbe has. Plus, Baldwin lists her partner, Laura Azar, as her spouse on her disclosure forms.

Kolbe made one trip connected to AIDS when he went to Geneva to interview for a job with the Global Fund for AIDS. Click here for Kolbe's travel info.

And as he ends his congressional tenure, Kolbe faces scrutiny from the mainstream media over his travels. The Associated Press ran this story on the wires Wednesday, when many gays were traveling or shopping. It needs some extra attention:

WASHINGTON -- Arizona Rep. Jim Kolbe may be retiring at the end of the year, but that hasn't kept him from racking up free trips abroad.

Kolbe, a Tucson Republican who announced his retirement plans a year ago, reported visiting Turkey, Italy, Poland, England, Canada, Spain and Belgium since June _ all on the dime of private groups including the Aspen Institute and the German Marshall Fund.

Kolbe took more privately paid trips in 2006 than anyone else in Arizona's congressional delegation, according to a list compiled by the independent Web site, which tracks political spending.

The value of the trips totaled almost $40,000. Most were for three to five days to participate in international summits such as the Bellagio Conference on Migration in Bellagio, Italy, in July.

One, to Geneva, was to a job interview with the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. [...]

But Kolbe took the trips after his committee approved the foreign operations bill on May 25, which is one of his key responsibilities. His first privately paid trip of the year was to Istanbul, Turkey, between May 29 and June 4. [...]

Kolbe's travel stands out in a year in which many lawmakers cut back on their privately funded trips in the wake of scandals involving congressional travel. [...]

But Kolbe took far more trips than others in the Arizona delegation. The 22-year veteran of the House ranks 39th in number of trips on PoliticalMoneyLine's list of lawmakers' privately funded travel, which covers 2000 to the present. In another ranking, only two other members of Congress took more government-paid trips between 1994 and 2006, according to the group. [...]

Other than merely getting mentioned in the press as a gay GOP representative, I don't think Kolbe did anything of much substance for us gays while he served in the House. Maybe we should just wish him luck in finding a new cushy position and be glad he's gone from the House. Even though I've certainly had my differences and spats with the gentleman from Massachusetts, I'll take a Barney Frank over a Jim Kolbe any day of the week.

(Kolbe measuring his accomplishments on behalf of gay and lesbian people while in the House?)