The Catholic Hierarchy: “Suffer The Little Children.”

Illinois Catholic bishops are taking their ball and going home in the face of federal non-discrimination requirements for foster care and adoption. The New York Times:

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Roman Catholic bishops in Illinois have shuttered most of the Catholic Charities affiliates in the state rather than comply with a new requirement that says they must consider same-sex couples as potential foster-care and adoptive parents if they want to receive state money. The charities have served for more than 40 years as a major link in the state’s social service network for poor and neglected children.

The bishops have followed colleagues in Washington, D.C., and Massachusetts who had jettisoned their adoption services rather than comply with nondiscrimination laws.

The vilification of LGBT persons by the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church is quickly becoming hysterical paranoia. What I find interesting is that it flies in the face of most of the opinions of people in the pews as well as the experience of many of the clergy and bishops themselves. They know gay people, they minister to gay people, and- I know this from personal experience- many of them are gay people.

Yet, this real-life, personal experience has no credibility in the face of freakishly ideological edicts from Rome. It’s absolutely backward. The experience of the people is supposed to form the church, form the hierarchy.

Not to mention the disregard for social and biological science. This is a church that would rather let the little children suffer. It saddens me.

Where’s the love, people?

Read the full story here

“The Race To End AIDS”

On Today’s Morning Edition from NPR, a story about HIV Treatment As Prevention:

AIDS Awareness

2011 has been a momentous year in the 30-year-old AIDS pandemic.

The big breakthrough was the discovery that antiviral drugs can prevent someone who’s infected with HIV from passing the virus to others. It’s nearly 100 percent effective. That led President Obama to declare earlier this month that the U.S. will expand HIV treatment in hard-hit countries by 50 percent.

As recently as last year, many of those experts were saying that just giving more people with HIV more drugs would never work. “For every one person that was put on antiretroviral therapy or treatment, we would have two to three new infections identified,” Dr. Eric Goosby, U.S. Global AIDS coordinator, says.

It looked like a losing game, but not anymore.

The new research shows that antiviral drugs not only save the lives of infected people, they also stop people from spreading the virus and causing new infections, if the drugs can be given early enough after someone gets infected. The new strategy is called “treatment as prevention.”

“So we suddenly are looking at a moment where we can treat our way out of the epidemic,” Goosby says. “That’s the turning point that we’re looking at.” Still, it’ll take decades to end AIDS, according to experts. But many say the world has to be much more aggressive about treating HIV.

But just the fact that this is being reported on and is being taken seriously is a big deal.

You can read and/or listen to the whole story here

The Real Catholic Response To LGBT Persons

…is set forth in this week’s America magazine- a journal by American Jesuits.

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After the Cardinal Archbishop of Chicago compared gays and the KKK, after all the fear-mongering anti-marriage rhetoric thrown out by the Catholic hierarchy, finally, a cautious voice of reason:

In mid-December Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made a passionate speech in Geneva on the occasion of International Human Rights Day, encouraging nations to support human rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people. Much of what she says can, and should, be supported by Catholics. Same-sex marriage has been strongly opposed by the church. But Mrs. Clinton’s speech is referring to the more fundamental right of gay and lesbian people to live without fear and without threat of death. Americans may have become so focused on the question of same-sex marriage that they overlook the dire conditions under which many gay and lesbian people live throughout the world.

In Uganda, for example, there are moves to make homosexual activity punishable by death. This is extreme, but Uganda is far from an isolated case. In Kenya conviction brings up to 14 years in prison; in Tanzania up to life in prison; and in Saudi Arabia the penalties include fines, whipping, prison and death. As Mrs. Clinton said, “It is a violation of human rights when people are beaten or killed because of their sexual orientation….” The Catechism teaches that gays and lesbians should be accepted with respect, sensitivity and compassion: “Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.” The church should continue to raise its voice in defense of our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters who suffer unjust discrimination.

Bravo, America Magazine. It’s a good reminder- and a fair beginning.

Christmas Eve 2011

From the First Reading of the Christmas Vigil Mass:

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You shall be called by a new name pronounced by the mouth of the Lord….. No more will you be called ‘Forsaken,’ or your land ‘Desolate. But you will be called ‘My Delight,’ and your land ‘Espoused.’ For the Lord takes delight in you…”
Isaiah 62.2

A God that takes delight. I love that image. On this night when we celebrate the birth of a baby who changed the world, I think it’s worth asking the question: Who among us can resist the face of a delighted baby?

Not me.

That’s the kind of delight I believe in on this night. It’s what I’m counting on. It’s the joy of a crazy universe that may not make much sense, but then again, love never does. Not really.

It’s built on a type of joy that transcends doctrine and moral posturing- that simply enjoys and revels in the craziness of creation, desperate for attention, aiming for hope, betting on simple kindness, compassion and the better nature that can’t help but smile at the face of a delighted baby.

Because it’s just that simple….

I’m in.

Petition: Cardinal George Should Resign For Comparing Gays To The KKK

I admit it- I’m a petition signer. I like adding my voice to others to make a point about something I believe in. There’s strength in numbers, and it usually only takes a minute.

I signed this petition on Change.org as a gay man, a formerly active priest and as someone deeply concerned about the message that this sends to Catholics around the world about LGBT humans. It’s patently untrue and more than patently screwed up.

Background (from the petition site):

Chicago Archbishop Cardinal Francis George foolishly compared the LGBT community to the Ku Klux Klan. He has crossed so far over the line of basic decency that he couldn’t see it with a pair of binoculars. George’s over-the-top remarks were extreme to the point where they shredded his credibility and permanently damaged his ability to serve as a respected voice of reason.  

This outrageous comparison of the LGBT community to the Ku Klux Klan was so degrading and hurtful that apologizing will not be sufficient. George’s only road to redemption is handing in his resignation. If he has a shred of dignity and a shard of class he will immediately step down.  George’s offensive remarks came during a dispute over the scheduled starting time of the annual gay pride parade in June. The event was originally set to begin at 10am, but a priest bitterly complained that the starting time would interfere with morning services.  

In an interview with Fox News in Chicago, Cardinal George said: “Well, I go with the pastor. I mean, he’s telling us that they won’t be able to have Church services on Sunday, if that’s the case. You know, you don’t want the Gay Liberation Movement to morph into something like the Ku Klux Klan, demonstrating in the streets against Catholicism. So, I think if that’s what’s happening, and I don’t know that it is, but I would respect the local pastor’s, you know, position on that. Then I think that’s a matter of concern for all of us.”

Such backward and bigoted remarks cannot stand. We must stand up, speak out and fight back against the intolerance displayed by Cardinal George. If we don’t take a stand when we are compared to the KKK – when will we? The time to act is now by demanding that George immediately leave his post.

Now I’m really not so naive to think that the Cardinal Archbishop of Chicago will look at a few thousand signatures and immediately resign his post, but it may give him something to think about the next time he opens his archepiscopal mouth to make ignorant comparisons. People expect more tolerance and compassion from the spiritual leader of a million people- at least I do- so I signed it. Because I also think Jesus would have expected better, too.
Oh, and have a very Merry Christmas. Because it’s still all about love and redemption- even when the leaders don’t represent.

Remembering Fatal Homophobia

In an excellent Op-Ed in the New York Times this morning, we are reminded that homophobia isn’t simple ignorance- in some parts of the world- as in the author’s Uganda- it’s fatal:

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The way I see it, homophobia — not homosexuality — is the toxic import. Thanks to the absurd ideas peddled by American fundamentalists, we are constantly forced to respond to the myth — debunked long ago by scientists — that homosexuality leads to pedophilia. For years, the Christian right in America has exported its doctrine to Africa, and, along with it, homophobia. In Uganda, American evangelical Christians even held workshops and met with key officials to preach their message of hate shortly before a bill to impose the death penalty for homosexual conduct was introduced in Uganda’s Parliament in 2009. Two years later, despite my denunciation of all forms of child exploitation, David Bahati, the legislator who introduced the bill, as well as Foreign Minister Henry Okello Oryem and other top government officials, still don’t seem to grasp that being gay doesn’t equate to being a pedophile.

Please read the rest here.

LGBT Student Congressional Internships Available

Shaping future political leaders is always important, shaping future LGBT political leaders is vital- it assures that the voices of LGBT persons will be involved in the political processes that have a direct impact on our lives.

If you are a student interested in political process, this could be you next summer:

For college students, an internship is key to gaining experience, insight and perspective. And for those interested in politics, an internship on Capitol Hill is a privileged opportunity to connect with our nation’s leaders and learn firsthand about the federal legislative process.For LGBT young people, it’s also a chance to witness the impact LGBT members of Congress are having each day – and learn about the barriers they’ve overcome along the way.Last summer we launched the Victory Congressional Internship to develop the next generation of out public leaders.

College students can apply for the Summer 2012 session until February 6, 2012.

Hear about the experiences of our inaugural class of outstanding LGBT college students:

Apply today for this intensive leadership program and an internship with an LGBT-friendly member of Congress.Not a college student or can’t participate this summer? Help spread the word about this incredible opportunity:
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‘Montanans With HIV’ makes the paper

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The Great Falls Tribune yesterday did a featured story on HIV in Montana with several sidebars on testing and the classification of the disease from AIDS to HIV stages 1-3. Along with Trisha Gardner of the Cascade County Health Department, Dean Wells of the Yellowstone AIDS Project and an anonymous man living with HIV in Great Falls, I was interviewed for the piece, which, among other things, focused on the stigma of persons living with HIV in the state.

Excerpt:

On average, about 20 Montanans are diagnosed with the disease every year, said Trisha Gardner, community health education specialist and HIV case manager at the Cascade City-County Health Department.

“The number of newly diagnosed cases has held pretty steady every year,” Gardner said.

Overall, the number of people in Montana living with HIV is increasing because they are living longer, she said.

While that number is on the rise, most in Montana never publicly disclose they have HIV, Gardner said.

“They don’t have to,” she said. “For the most part it’s kept a pretty private issue.”

Many who live with the disease in Montana fear losing their jobs, friends or family, and even becoming a social outcast.

“My view is that the stigma definitely reduced over the years, but it’s still there,” said Dean Wells, executive director of the Yellowstone AIDS Project in Billings. “Many of our clients live in fear of someone finding out about it.”

John, a pseudonym because he fears losing his livelihood, was diagnosed with HIV eight and a half years ago.

Trying to be honest and open after his diagnosis, John told his employer.

“It wasn’t a week later, they asked me to find another job,” he said.

Fear and stigma is still with us but there’s a lot of hope in current HIV treatment and prevention.
The key is to get tested. HIV unsuppressed in the body does damage- sometimes very significant damage- which  cannot be reversed by treatment.

HIV 2fer: Early Treatment Works and Truvada Prevents

HIV DataToday’s HIV News shelf is crowded. Two stories on the HIV front involve good news about early HIV treatment and Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis(PrEP) to reduce infection rates among high-risk persons.

A study (popularly known as the Setpoint Study) finds that people newly-infected with HIV-1 who immediately start anti-retroviral therapy are more likely to have beneficial medical outcomes than those who wait until CD4 counts fall below medically acceptable levels (currently 350-500 depending who you talk to).

“This is very welcome news,” said Frank J. Oldham, NAPWA President and CEO. “The study supplies scientific confirmation of something we at NAPWA have always believed: the closer we can come to bringing all people living with HIV into treatment, and the earlier they start treatment, the better. We already knew this is true for populations as a whole: more and earlier treatment means fewer new infections. Now we know that – on the whole – it’s also better for individuals already infected.”

The news on the HIV front just keeps getting better. The setpoint study follows on the heels of a groundbreaking study which provides proof of HIV treatment as prevention: HIV-infected persons on medication with undetectable viral levels are 96% less likely to pass on the virus.

It also accompanies Gilead’s application to offer Truvada as the first drug marketed to prevent HIV:

Gilead Sciences Inc. announced that it has submitted a supplemental New Drug Application (sNDA) to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)for the approval of once-daily Truvada (emtricitabine/tenofovir disoproxil fumarate) for pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) to reduce the risk of HIV-1 infection among uninfected adults. Truvada was approved by the FDA in 2004 for the treatment of HIV-1 infection and is currently the most-prescribed antiretroviral treatment in the United States.

If the sNDA is approved, Truvada would be the first agent indicated for uninfected individuals to reduce the risk of acquiring HIV through sex, a prevention approach called PrEP. The sNDA is based on the results of two large placebo-controlled trials of Truvada as PrEP, sponsored by the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the University of Washington. Several other clinical studies support the use of Truvada for HIV risk reduction.

“The data from these large-scale clinical trials suggest that Truvada may have a role to play in meeting the urgent public health need to reduce new HIV infections,” said John C. Martin, PhD, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Gilead Sciences. “Gilead is proud to have played a part in helping to define the use of Truvada as a potential new prevention tool and we commend the many institutions, investigators and study volunteers for their commitment to advancing this important area of research.”

Truvada is not currently labeled to reduce the risk of infection, it is labeled only for HIV treatment.

This could be an important step in slowing HIV. Around 50,000 people are still being infected with HIV every year in the U.S. according to the CDC. More than half of new infections (61%) occur among men who have sex with men, and nearly a quarter (23%) occur among women.

If Truvada can be given to high-risk persons (which includes negative partners in a sero-discordant relationship) and insurance companies will pay for it, it may, along with the groundswell of early treatment science, start a trend of slowing the progression of HIV in this country.

But only if we can get more high-risk people in for testing and treatment….

When was your last HIV test?

Wanted: Members For Montana’s HIV Community Planning Group

Are you interested in community service? Do you want to help shape Montana’s HIV policies, treatment strategies and prevention interventions?

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I have a challenge for you.

Montana’s Community Planning Group for the Prevention of HIV (CPG) needs active community voices from around the state to provide valuable input and experience regarding HIV/AIDS in Montana. I have been active in this group for the last four years, and I would encourage anyone interested to apply- especially if you are involved with HIV education, prevention, treatment and/or are a person living with HIV. From the DPHHS Website:

The Community Planning Group (CPG) is an advisory group instrumental in the planning and implementation of HIV prevention interventions in Montana. CPG helps ensure that target populations are represented in the planning of state prevention efforts. The CPG consists of 36 members and is coordinated by the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services HIV/STD Section.

Membership in the CPG requires a firm commitment.  The following is a basic outline of what this commitment entails:

  • Attend and actively participate in all CPG meetings to the fullest extent of your ability.  This usually includes 4 meetings each year. Meetings typically include a full day on a Friday and a half day on a Saturday.  Travel expenses are paid.
  • Speak for your Community Representation to the benefit of the community group.  Each member is assigned to represent a specific community group and needs to be able and willing to do so.
  • Actively participate in a workgroup.  Workgroups conduct business and meet during and possibly outside of the full CPG meetings as needed.  This work is usually conducted through e-mail or phone conferences, but may occasionally include a meeting that requires travel.

Our challenge has always been getting broad community representation from all communities affected by HIV in Montana. I’m asking you to consider this opportunity- and/or passing it on to someone you think would make a good representative.

Please click on the application link below for more information. We’d love to have you!

CPG Application 2011              Application Deadline is January 16