New STD Rates “Shockingly High”

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Today, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released its 2010 sexually transmitted disease (STD) surveillance data.  This annual report of statistics and trends for the three reportable sexually transmitted diseases in the United States shows that STDs rates in this country are still shockingly high, particularly in communities of color and among gay men and other men who have sex with men (MSM).

“This new data shows a persistence of the same trends that we have been seeing for years—that MSM and communities of color are continuing to bear a disproportionate share of the STDs in this country,” said William Smith, Executive Director of the National Coalition of STD Directors. “We should also not lose sight of a number of new additional studies this past year on the link between STDs and acquiring HIV.  The 2010 STD data released today shows that we need to look closely at further investments in STD prevention as a means to prevent HIV as well,” continued Smith.

While the 2010 data shows that overall rates for syphilis went down compared to 2009, the first decrease in in ten years, rates among Hispanics went up just over nine percent in the last year and MSM still account for two-thirds of the syphilis in this country.  In addition, black men continue to have the highest rates of syphilis in the U.S., with young (20-24) black MSM seeing an increase of syphilis of a shocking 135 percent between 2006 and 2010.  Co-infection of those with syphilis and HIV also continues; between 25-54 percent of those with primary or secondary syphilis were also HIV positive.

“The good news is that there was a drop of 8.5 percent in the rate of black men diagnosed with either primary or secondary syphilis in 2010 compared to the year prior,” said Smith.  “While too early to definitely assess the cause for this drop, there has been a distinct appeal for several years now to help address the explosion of syphilis among black men, particularly among young black MSM, and we must keep up efforts to prevent increasing rates of STDs and HIV among this group,” concluded Smith.

Rates for Chlamydia continued to increase over the last year, as they have for twenty years.  This is in part due to increased testing which is increasingly identifying positive cases, of which there were more than 1.3 million reported in 2010.  Black women continue to have the highest rates for Chlamydia, as well as gonorrhea.  While there was only a small increase in the overall rates of gonorrhea, the rates of gonorrhea in Hispanics went up 12 percent compared to 2009.

Across all three diseases, communities of color and young people overall continue to be most affected, though even for all ages of whites, increases were seen for all three diseases in 2010.  Among whites in 2010, rates of chlamydia increased by 7.5 percent, 9.2 percent for gonorrhea, and 3.6 percent for syphilis in 2010 compared to 2009.

Smith concluded, “We hope the unacceptably high rates of STDs in this country continue to be clarion call for securing the sexual health of all people. This means that state and federal investments in STD prevention remain a critical need in these times of tight budgets and that as healthcare reform continues to move ahead, that partners in every sector ensure that the safety net for these services continues to exist.”

The full 2010 STD surveillance data can be found on the CDC website at: http://www.cdc.gov/std/stats10/default.htm.

The “Right” Responds To MT ACLU Lawsuit

The mouthpiece of Denny Rehberg, Steve Daines and Corey Stapleton, Treasure State Politics, has reacted to the ACLU appeal for same sex domestic partnerships- and, as expected, it ain’t pretty.

In fact, it’s disgusting. Excerpt:

If the ACLU wins the suit, the legislature will be forced to create a law that ensures gay and lesbian couples are given the same rights as traditional couples. This potentially means a civil union, but to be truly treated the same they would have to be recognized as married individuals, clearly not what the people of Montana decided.

Moreover it opens the legal precedent to further compromise the sanctity of marriage in Montana. If being treated the same under the law means we must recognize gay and lesbian couples, we also must recognize polygamist marriages. If a church is willing to marry traditional couples in Montana, it could be required to marry gay and lesbian couples. But these are reasons Montanans already settled this issue in 2004.

Every Montanan has the same rights, as the constitution requires. I have the right to marry a member of the opposite sex, just as these couples do; and I have the right to be in a relationship, but not to marry, someone of the same sex, just as these couples do. There is no violation of equal treatment under the law. (emphases mine)

Gay and lesbian couples are openly- brazenly- derided as undeserving of equal rights and compared to polygamists. This is an ignorant, ridiculous piece, obviously written from a bigoted and fearful perspective. The writer  has inflamed the fears and prejudice existing in good people who may not know better- or who are entrenched in their fundamentalist beliefs.

That’s not only irresponsible, it’s despicable.

I am no threat to anyone’s marriage. My desire to commit to my partner for life is being dismissed as fundamentally invalid by people who have no possible right or understanding of my life, my biology, my spirituality, my thoughts and my emotions.

Moreover, they don’t want to even try.

They just want to frighten- and keep us unmarried, unrecognized, marginalized, sleazy and freakish in the minds of their constituents.

It’s at the root of all the anti-gay bigotry in the state. A spade is a spade.

I just wish they had the balls to admit it.

 

 

MT Democrats: Rehberg’s Long Record Of Taxpayer Handouts To CEO’s

Millionaire Congressman silent on his record of Wall Street bonuses

(and his own pay raises) in latest political stunt

Congressman Dennis Rehberg is telling Montanans today that taxpayers shouldn’t provide “seed money for bonuses for corporate fat-cats,” but his record in Congress tells a different story.

Rehberg, one of the wealthiest members of Congress, actually voted against a bill that would have barred any recipient of the 2008 Wall Street bailout from paying “unreasonable or excessive” compensation to executives [HR 1664, Vote 182, 4/01/09].

“Montanans won’t tolerate being lectured by Rep. Dennis Rehberg, a millionaire developer who opposed reforms to clean up the mess on Wall Street and make sure the financial crisis never happens again,” said Ted Dick, Executive Director of the Montana Democratic Party. “After 30 years as a politician, Congressman Rehberg has a long record of putting Wall Street ahead of Montana, and no Montanans will be fooled by his lip service.”

Congressman Rehberg has also used his power to protect government subsidies for Big Oil and offshore tax corporate shelters, the proceeds of which often go to CEO bonuses [Guardian, 3/3/11].  And he’s used taxpayer dollars to enrich himself.

“If Congressman Rehberg wants to talk about taxpayer-funded compensation, he’ll have to answer for his five votes to raise his own pay,” added Dick.

Here’s some of what Congressman Rehberg has done to funnel taxpayer dollars into CEO’s pockets, and his own:

PROTECTING BIG OIL SUBSIDIES — In February 2011, Rehberg voted against an amendment that required oil companies that hold royalty-free leases allowing them to drill for free on the public’s offshore lands to renegotiate those leases so that the public is paid the standard royalty charged for drilling. (GAO estimates that closing this loophole could save up to $53 billion over 25 years). [HR 1, House Roll Call Vote #109, 2/18/11]

PROTECTING OFFSHORE TAX SHELTERS — In 2002, Rehberg voted against an amendment to stop corporations from re-incorporating in offshore tax havens, such as Bermuda, to create shell corporations as a way to avoid paying U.S. taxes.  The amendment was defeated 186-192.  [HR 4931,Vote #247, 6/21/02]

Rehberg has voted himself a taxpayer-funded pay raise five times:

  • By $3,300 in 2006. (H RES 865, Vote #261, 6/13/06; Congressional Research Service, Salaries for Members of Congress: Congressional Votes). This pay raise was later blocked by the Democratic Congress in 2007.
  • By $3,100 in 2005.  HR 342, Vote #327, 6/28/05)
  • By $4,000 in 2004. (H Res 770, Vote #451, 9/14/04)
  • By $3,400 in 2003.  (H. Res. 351, Vote #463, 9/4/03)
  • By $4,700 in 2002. (H. Res. 488, Vote #322, 7/18/02)

 

###

Contact: Chris Saeger – chriss@montanademocrats.org – 406-438-1918
PAID FOR BY THE MONTANA DEMOCRATIC PARTY;
COL. JAMES  WHEELER, U.S. ARMY (RET.), TREASURER,

 

More On Montana Domestic Partnerships Appeal

The post I put up yesterday wasn’t alone, the Montana ACLU appeal got some good coverage over at Towleroad, and I also wrote a bit more of an in-depth piece at Bilerico. Excerpt:

As Niki Zupanic, Public Policy Director for the Montana ACLU told me today:

“Montana’s Constitution is clear. Everyone is guaranteed equal protection under the law. When our plaintiffs are being denied bereavement leave, access to medical information and death benefits they are not being treated fairly under the law. Montanans support treating same-sex couples fairly and providing them with the legal recognition they need to care for and protect their families. The Montana Supreme Court is the place where we can make that happen for Montana’s same-sex couples.”The decision to go to the Supreme Court just makes sense. The Montana Constitution has an obvious discrepancy here. Fair and equal treatment of persons can’t be applied arbitrarily – it has to apply across the board – and that includes people in same-sex relationships. Judge Sherlock did not rule on the constitutionality question in April, only that he couldn’t order the legislature to make any changes. The Supreme Court is the next logical step to clarify this issue.

Hopefully, it will clarify in favor of gay and lesbian relationship recognition, and not against.

For the rest of the story- and to add comments, click here.

ACLU Asks Montana Supreme Court to Grant Legal Protection to Same Sex Couples


 

Domestic partnership recognition is necessary to uphold Montana Constitution’s right to fair treatment for all

 

The American Civil Liberties Union today filed its appeal of a Montana District Court decision dismissing the same-sex domestic partnership case, Donaldson and Guggenheim v. State of Montana, to the Montana Supreme Court. The appeal argues that the Montana Constitution guarantees fair and equal treatment to all people, including gay and lesbian couples.

“This case is about treating people fairly and humanely,” said plaintiff Jan Donaldson, a Helena nurse who has been with her partner, pediatric neurologist Mary Anne Guggenheim, for 27 years. “Mary Anne and I have appreciated the support we’ve received from fellow Montanans who understand that all families need to be able to take care of each other. We just want the dignity of having our committed partnership recognized as worthy of those legal protections.”

U.S. Census numbers released over the summer show 2,295 Montana same-sex households. Without recognition of domestic partnerships, these couples are vulnerable when they need bereavement leave, face the illness or death of their partner or are presented with any other situation in which their lack of legally recognized status puts them in a position where a married husband or wife would be protected.

The plaintiffs in the case have faced just this kind of discrimination. When Guggenheim had a hip replacement, the doctor’s office staff would not speak to Donaldson without a release. Kellie Gibson of Laurel was denied bereavement leave when her partner Denise’s father died. Mary Leslie of Bozeman lost her home because she was ineligible for worker’s compensation death benefits when her partner was killed in an accident.

“Anyone who works and pays taxes should be treated equally and fairly by our state. When two people are in a committed relationship, they should be eligible for benefits, like filing a joint tax return, regardless of whether they are a same-sex couple or a different-sex couple,” said Jennifer Giuttari, interim legal director for the ACLU of Montana.

Plaintiffs in the case Donaldson and Guggenheim v. State of Montana are Mary Anne Guggenheim and Jan Donaldson of Helena, Stacey Haugland and Mary Leslie of Bozeman, Mike Long and Rich Parker of Bozeman, MJ Williams and Nancy Owens of Basin, Rick Wagner and Gary Stallings of Butte and Denise Boettcher and Kellie Gibson of Laurel.

In addition to Giuttari, the couples are represented by Elizabeth Gill, a staff attorney with the ACLU Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Project; James Goetz and Ben Alke of the Bozeman, MT, law firm Goetz, Gallik & Baldwin P.C.; Betsy Griffing; and Ruth Borenstein and Neil Perry of the law firm Morrison & Foerster LLP.

Additional information about the case, biographies of the plaintiffs and links to videos of the plaintiffs can be found at www.aclumontana.org and www.aclu.org/mtpartnerships.

Study: Incarceration Increases Risk Of STI’s, HIV Infection

Something nobody ever seems to want to talk about: sex, prison and STD’s.

The study’s objective was to assess the link between incarceration and sexually transmitted infection, including HIV, from a social network perspective.

Data collected from a social network study in Brooklyn (n=343) were measured for associations between incarceration and infection with herpes simplex virus-2, chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis or HIV and sex with an infected partner, adjusting for characteristics of respondents and their sex partners.

“Infection with an STI or HIV was associated with incarceration of less than one year (adjusted prevalence ratio=1.33; 95 percent confidence interval=1.01, 1.76) and one year or longer (adjusted PR=1.37; 95 percent CI=1.08, 1.74). Sex in the past three months with an infected partner was associated with sex in the past three months with one partner (adjusted PR=1.42; 95 percent CI=1.12, 1.79) and with two or more partners (adjusted PR=1.85; 95 percent CI=1.43, 2.38) who had ever been incarcerated,” the results found.

There is a need for STI and HIV treatment and prevention for current and former prisoners, concluded the authors. The results provide preliminary evidence to indicate that incarceration may influence HIV and other STIs, “possibly because incarceration increases the risk of sex with infected partners.”

I love it when science follows common sense. Well, at least informed common sense…

STUDENT NON DISCRIMINATION ACT NEEDED TO PROTECT GLBT YOUTH FROM BULLYING

Kathy Baldock, www.canyonwalkerconnections.com

Casey, sixteen and gay, was being bullied by two students at his high school in Ohio. His youth pastor, a friend of mine, helped to secure a restraining order to protect him, but the principal downgraded the severity with a weaker solution.  He let Cody come to the office five minutes before classes ended and stay until five minutes after they started; Casey would then be safe from bullying in the hall-passing time.  One of Casey’s bullies was still in class with him.  Did this principal create a safe learning environment and protect Casey from abuse?  Why did it even get this far?  Why was there no policy in place to protect this child from bullying due to his sexual orientation or even his perceived sexual orientation?

No gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender (glbt) child in public schools in the United States is federally protected from bullying and harassment for their sexual orientation or gender identity. Shocked?  This is true.  No Child Left Behind (2001), soon to be re-authorized after ten years in the updated Elementary and Secondary Education Re-Authorization 2011 (ESEA), made it out of committee in October 2011 without the bipartisan support it needed to include protection for glbt students.   Currently, students are protected from bullying for: race, sex, religion, disabilities and national origin, but not sexual orientation and gender identity.

When the ESEA is brought to the floor of the Senate in either December or January, there is a push to attach the Student Non-Discrimination Act HR 4350 (SNDA) to it. SNDA includes comprehensive federal prohibitions against discrimination in public schools based on actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.  It would forbid schools with public funding to discriminate against glbt students or ignore harassing behaviors.

The bill was re-introduced, having not been added in committee in ESEA, by Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) and Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO). (watch the video, grab a tissue.)  Co-sponsored by 34 senators, it needs the approval of 60 senators to attach it to the ESEA before going to the House for a vote before it becomes law.

“Is it needed?” you may ask.  Only 13 states have laws protecting glbt students from harassment at school; this is not a surprising statistic when you also realize that 15 states do not even include sexual orientation and gender identity on the “hate crimes” list; in 29 states you can still be fired for being gay; and in 34 states you can be fired for being trans.

Come on, it is really necessary to pass another law?  Lots of kids are bullied in school; that is “just the way it is.”  Research shows highly rejected glbt youth were at a very high risk for health and mental problems when they become young adults.  Highly rejected glbt youth were:

  • More than 8 times as likely to attempt suicide
  • Nearly 6 times as likely to report high levels of depression
  • More than 3 times as likely to use illegal drugs and
  • More than 3 times as likely to be at high risk for HIV and sexually transmitted diseases *

Knowing that the primary socializing institutions for children and youth are families, schools and faith communities, should we not try to make those places safer for children?  This is not just a “family issue” forglbt youth.  Many of them are not even out in their own families.  As mysterious as that may seem, the biggest loss a child fears is family rejection so many will delay coming out to their own parents.  Churches are wellknown sources of anti-gay rhetoric, leaving many children thinking they have only one protected place: school.

Now is the time to voice to your senators and representative  that it is their duty as public servants to serve the most vulnerable of their constituents: glbt children.  Tell them to get on record now in support of the Senate bill and the version that comes to the House.  Any senator or representative that votes against the protection of vulnerable children should not hold that position of trust.

I am a Mom too, with two straight, adult children.  I am a straight, Evangelical Christian compelled by my faith to stand for justice and against oppression.  The argument of some conservative family groups and lobbies against this bill is the fear that this bill will “victimize people of faith by turning religiously-based, anti-gay comments into ‘thought crimes’ ” (Rep. John Kline R-MN).  This is fear-based rhetoric.  Anti-discrimination laws punish actions, not opinions or beliefs.

Who should care and act on this now:

  • Parents of glbt children.  There are over 350 chapters of Parents and Friends of Gays and Lesbians (PFLAG) with over 200,000 members nationwide.  Be the advocates you already are and tell your families and friends to insist on the addition of the SNDA in the ESEA.
  • Educators who see the crises and have no guidelines under which to operate when they witness bullying of glbt students.  School boards will take seriously the loss of federal funding should they not enforce the law.
  • Members of the glbt community know the damage many of them suffered for being gay or perceived as gay.
  • Christians are to take seriously the mandates of our faith to fight injustice and stand against oppression (oh, and toss in a good dose of helping the poor) Isaiah 58. A Christian who would consider blocking the protection of a child needs to consider deeply the examples of Jesus.
  • Any parent that understands the difficulty of peer bullying in schools.  Consider that the children that may not be yours suffer it more profoundly; look at those stats again for rejection of glbt youth.  Teach your children well.
  • Conservative family groups need to hold to their own missions—protecting families which include glbt youth.  The irony of Family Research Council ignoring family research and producing policies directly impacting the health and mental wellness of glbt youth is glaring.  Focus on the Family really does need to focus on families and help families with glbt youth.  Concerned Women for America should be concerned about the children of women in America.  Excluding glbt children from the mission statements of those organizations shows severe bias which places religious beliefs over a higher calling of caring for the families and children that even the names of their organizations imply.
  • Any person with even a modicum of wisdom that understands that all children desire the comforts of love, acceptance and security. Healthy children grow into healthy adults and build healthy societies.

Bottom line: who should care that the Student Non-Discrimination Act (SNDA) be voted into law as part of the Elementary and Secondary Education Re-Authorization Act (ESEA)?  All of us. Partisan politics drives me crazy.  When I see a vote that goes right down party lines, I know the public servants are voting to maintain power and money balances and have succumb to party/special interest groups pressure.  Voting for the protection of children is not a partisan issue.  Every public servant in this country should be protecting the least of these.

And what has become of Casey? Along with his youth pastor, PFLAG stepped in to protect this child. The school administration knows they are being watched and are more cautious. This is what ESEA will do for all children and in all schools; it will strengthen the federal law to include the protection glbt students against bullying.  And, after five years of blocking a Gay Student  Alliance (GSA), Casey’s school now has one and he is the president. He is safer.

Apply pressure and make your voice heard now.  There are 90 million children in this country under 18 years of age, including approximately 4.5 million that are glbt.  Speak up for their safety and insist that the non-inclusion of SNDA at the committee level be corrected when ESEA comes to Senate vote in December or January.  Insist and speak up for Casey and other glbt students.

RECAP:

Contact your senators and representatives and tell them that it is essential that the SNDA (HR 4350) become part of ESEA when it comes for vote in the Senate in December or January.  It will expand the protection from bullying based on: religion, sex, national origin and disabilities to include protection for sexual orientation and gender identity for glbt students. And stay on them, especially the Republicans who may be resistant to approve it. And big kudos to Al Franken, thank him too. 

 

*Family Acceptance Project, Dr. Caitlin Ryan, “Supportive Families, Healthy Children: Helping Families with Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Children” (2009)