“Ex-Gay” Reparative Therapy Thoroughly Debunked

From The Maddow Blog:

We have gotten some nice feedback about Wednesday’s segment (after the jump) on the ex-gay movement and Dr. Robert Spitzer’s controversial 2001 study asserting that reparative therapy can change some gay people to being straight. Dr. Spitzer is now on the record as saying he wishes he had never published the study in the first place. Our segment was inspired by Gabriel Arana’s piece in The American Prospect called “My So-Called Ex-Gay Life.” Arana first broke the news about Dr. Spitzer’s desire to retract his study. If you haven’t read his piece yet, you should. It’s great. He also talked with Rachel on Wednesday about the study and about his own experience in reparative therapy.

After the show, the American Psychoanalytic Association sent this e-mail:

This issue deserves coverage in the news as long as individuals and the “ex-gay movement” use faulty science and bias to advance their agenda. APsaA states in its 1999 position statement on reparative therapy that efforts to “convert” or “repair” an individual’s sexual orientation are against the fundamental principles of psychoanalytic treatment and often result in substantial psychological pain by reinforcing damaging internalized homophobic attitudes. We emphasize that anti-homosexual bias, just like any other societal prejudice, negatively affects mental health and contributes to feelings of stigma and low self-worth. Reparative therapy is nothing more than quackery fueled by bias.

Keep an eye out for a followup to Wednesday’s segment. We’re working on another story about Dr. Spitzer’s study and how it’s being used currently — even though Dr. Spitzer wishes he’d never published it — to further anti-gay causes.

Full post and video here.

AIDS Outreach Names New Executive Director

AIDS Outreach, a local HIV prevention, testing and support organization announces that D Gregory Smith, MA, will be its new Executive Director.

Smith, a Montana native (Twin Bridges) and local mental health therapist, is excited about the opportunity and challenges the position offers.

“We have the opportunity to do some real good here,” he said. “Despite popular belief, HIV is in Montana. There is a tremendous need to inform people at risk, help them protect themselves and to get people tested- to give them that crucial information about their health. There is also a need to support persons living with HIV here. I believe as a community we have a duty to assist those in need- and people with HIV are often economically disadvantaged. It’s about human dignity, and I want to help AIDS Outreach be at the forefront in Gallatin, Park and Madison counties.”

Smith has been involved in HIV/AIDS awareness work since 1994, and was an original member of the Montana Governor’s AIDS Advisory Council in 2000. He continues to serve on the Montana State Community Planning Group for HIV Prevention, and has written articles and abstracts for national publications and organizations and given numerous presentations on HIV/AIDS, especially HIV in rural communities.

Founded in 2006 and based in Bozeman, AIDS Outreach is a 501(c)3 organization offering free HIV testing, HIV prevention and educational materials, as well as assistance and a support group for HIV+ persons.

For more information, please call (406) 451-5718, write info@AIDSOutreachMT.org or visit http://www.AIDSOutreachmt.org

Today- Canadia!

Calgary Tower, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

Calgary Tower, Calgary, Alberta, Canada (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As I embark on my Spring Trip to Calgary, I will try to put content up whilst I am away, but no promises- after all, this is supposed to be a vacation. As usual, I’ll let you know what/where I eat/drink/dance in the beautiful Cowtown that is Calgary. With my guide, Nicole, I’m sure it will be amazing.

See you next Tuesday!

Study: Preventative HIV Dosing Could Be Cost-Effective

Science Daily reports that giving preventative doses of the HIV drug Truvada to high-risk groups could prove to be cost-effective:

A once-a-day pill to help prevent HIV infection could significantly reduce the spread of AIDS, but only makes economic sense if used in select, high-risk groups, Stanford University researchers conclude in a new study.

The researchers looked at the cost-effectiveness of the combination drug tenofovir-emtricitabine, which was found in a landmark 2010 trial to reduce an individual’s risk of HIV infection by 44 percent when taken daily. Patients who were particularly faithful about taking the drug reduced their risk to an even greater extent — by 73 percent.

The results generated so much interest that the Stanford researchers decided to see if it would be cost-effective to prescribe the pill daily in large populations, a prevention technique known as pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP. They created an economic model focused on men who have sex with other men, or MSM, as they account for more than half of the estimated 56,000 new infections annually in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Promoting PrEP to all men who have sex with men could be prohibitively expensive,” said Jessie Juusola, a PhD candidate in management science and engineering in the School of Engineering and first author of the study. “Adopting it for men who have sex with men at high risk of acquiring HIV, however, is an investment with good value that does not break the bank.”

Although getting Congress to pass this- the same Congress who killed needle-exchange- is far from realistic. Even though (maybe even especially because) it makes sense.

Gay Bozeman Couple Report Assault

On Sunday evening, two gay men claim to have been assaulted inside a Bozeman bar with the assailants repeatedly using gay slurs. The two men required medical attention at the local hospital.

One of the alleged victims told me,”We simply asked a guy to stop some annoying behavior and he said ‘Don’t tell me what to do, faggot’ and cold-cocked me. It’s all a little fuzzy from there. A woman accused (the other man) of assaulting her and the next thing I know, we’re in the back of the patrol car.”

The man insists that he and his boyfriend were not being antagonistic and denied assaulting anyone. “We just went in to have a beer”, he said.

Both men were released from the Gallatin County Detention Facility today. Both men are facing charges- misdemeanor assault and disorderly conduct, and an investigation is ongoing. Local  media have not yet picked up the story- although I was contacted by a local reporter late today.

Editorial comments: I didn’t speak to any of the alleged assailants, law enforcement, medical personnel or bar management. I did however speak to several friends and acquaintances of the two gay men and they all concurred with one who said, “If he assaulted anyone, it would be so completely uncharacteristic of him, I simply can’t imagine.”

I want to caution people to not rush to judgment until all the facts are known and an investigation is complete.

I’m writing about this incident because I’m simply worried that if prejudice and hate were in any way involved that it not be discounted- because whatever happened, hitting people and repeatedly calling them faggots is not acceptable.

If you were a witness or have further information, I would encourage you to contact law enforcement immediately.

And finally- please be careful out there.

“Abstinence Isn’t Working”

…Salon.com backs it up:

Earlier this week, when the CDC announced a record low in the teen birth rate, it listed two possible causes: “The impact of strong pregnancy prevention messages” and “increased use of contraception.” The Guttmacher Institute came out with an even stronger message: “The most recent decline in teen births can be linked almost exclusively to improvements in teens’ contraceptive use,” the organization said in a press release, which pointed to another CDC study for evidence.

But that hasn’t stopped conservatives from claiming that the drop is a result of, you guessed it, abstinence education and, paradoxically, an increase in abortions.

Janice Crouse of Concerned Women for America expressed her outrage over the CDC analysis: “They don’t even mention the fact there’s been a tremendous increase in effectiveness and pervasiveness of abstinence education. They don’t mention the fact that teen sexual activity, by their own admission, is down.” As Think Progress noted this week, teen birth rates are actually highest in states with abstinence-only policies. Not only has it been widely documented that such programs are largely ineffective, it’s also been shown that such programsmay prevent contraception use.

Now, it’s true that teens — specifically 15- and 16-year-olds — are delaying sexual activity, but the change in contraceptive use over the years has been much more profound, and there has been no significant change in sexual activity among 18- and 19-year-olds. What’s more, there was no change in sexual activity among teens, period, from 2008 on, says Laura Lindberg, senior research associate at Guttmacher, so the recent decline in teens births certainly can’t be attributed to abstinence. Also, it should be noted that abstinence can be the result of any number of social influences, not necessarily abstinence-only education. (Consider research showing that teens who receive sex educationare much more likely to delay sex.)

Full story here:

ACLU Asks Montana Supreme Court to Recognize Relationships of Same Sex Couples

The fight in Montana for domestic partnership recognition for same-sex couples reached the state’s top court today, where lawyers for the American Civil Liberties Union appealed a district-court ruling that had dismissed the case.

American Civil Liberties Union

American Civil Liberties Union (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“The Montana Constitution guarantees fair and equal treatment to all people, including gay and lesbian couples,” said lead attorney, James Goetz, of the Bozeman, MT, law firm Goetz, Gallik & Baldwin, who is acting as a cooperating attorney in the case. “This case is about giving loving, committed couples the recognition they deserve and ensuring that all families can thrive in Montana. Domestic partnerships are a way for the Montana Constitution’s guarantees of human dignity and protection for all people to be upheld for same-sex couples.”

“We love each other and want to be able to take care of one another and our family, just like everyone else,” said plaintiff Jan Donaldson, who has been in a committed relationship with her partner, Mary Anne Guggenheim, for 29 years. “We would never try to tell other people how to live their lives, and we’re just asking for the same respect.”

Without domestic partnership recognition, the plaintiffs in the case have been denied the ability to take care of each other and their families. WhenGuggenheim had a hip replacement, the doctor’s office staff would not speak to Donaldson without a release. Denise Boettcher of Laurel was denied bereavement leave when her partner Kellie Gibson’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.

Sixty-six Montana religious leaders signed onto an amicus brief supporting the ACLU’s appeal, stating that the couples in the case “have formed the kinds of partnerships that nourish, strengthen and stabilize congregations and communities… they deserve to have their relationships and families recognized and protected by the state.”

“It isn’t the government’s place to stand in the way of someone’s happiness just because some people may be uncomfortable when it comes to same-sex couples,” said ACLU of Montana Public Policy Director Niki Zupanic.

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 Goetz, the couples are represented by Jon Ellingson, legal director of the ACLU of Montana; Elizabeth Gill, a staff attorney with the ACLU’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Project; Ben Alke of 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 andwww.aclu.org/mtpartnerships.

Stem Cells: Killing HIV

From Science Daily:

Human Immunodeficiency Virus (public domain)

Expanding on previous research providing proof-of-principal that human stem cells can be genetically engineered into HIV-fighting cells, a team of UCLA researchers have now demonstrated that these cells can actually attack HIV-infected cells in a living organism.

The study, published April 12 in the journal PLoS Pathogens, demonstrates for the first time that engineering stem cells to form immune cells that target HIV is effective in suppressing the virus in living tissues in an animal model, said lead investigator Scott G. Kitchen, an assistant professor of medicine in the division of hematology and oncology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and a member of the UCLA AIDS Institute.

“We believe that this study lays the groundwork for the potential use of this type of an approach in combating HIV infection in infected individuals, in hopes of eradicating the virus from the body,” he said.

Full story here.

Chronicle Reports on HIV In Gallatin County

From Today’s Bozeman Daily Chronicle:

Map of Montana highlighting Gallatin County

Map of Montana highlighting Gallatin County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

While Missoula County is dealing with an outbreak of new cases of HIV, health officials say the situation is a lot different in Gallatin County.

Missoula County officials recently reported that the county saw 12 new documented cases of HIV in the last five months, enough to classify it as an outbreak.

However, in Gallatin County there have been only seven new cases reported in the last five years. There was one new case last year, two in 2010, three in 2009, none in 2008 and one in 2007.

“It’s nothing, thank goodness, at all like what Missoula has seen recently,” said Gallatin City-County Health Director Matt Kelley.

AIDS Outreach, a Bozeman nonprofit that offers services to people living with HIV and AIDS, estimated that about 80 people have reported living with HIV and AIDS in Gallatin County.

According to the Missoulian, all 12 new cases in Missoula involve adult men who contracted the virus through situations ranging from presumed monogamous relationships to anonymous sexual encounters.

A similar outbreak happened in Yellowstone County a year ago. Six new cases were reported in less than a month between March and April.

There still need to be a lot of people tested here, though. From what I know and understand, there are people at risk who are not getting tested or who are positive and not actively revealing their status to their partners- both gay and straight.

So get tested- and protect yourself. Asking HIV status and using condoms may keep you healthy for years to come. Not doing so may result in a lifetime of financial and social difficulty. Believe me, I know.

Testing, safe sex kits and information available at AIDS Outreach www.AIDSOutreachMT.org 

Full Chronicle story by Whitney Bermes is here.

ACLU Presents Montana Supreme Court Appeal Friday For Same-Sex Domestic Partnerships

The American Civil Liberties Union will appear before the Montana Supreme Court Friday for oral arguments on behalf of six committed same-sex couples seeking domestic partnership recognition.

The case, Donaldson and Guggenheim v. State of Montana, was filed in July 2010 and seeks protection for same-sex Montana couples and their families under the Montana Constitution’s rights of privacy, dignity and equal protection under the law. The goal of the lawsuit is to ensure that same-sex couples have access to the legal protections and obligations they need to take care of each other and their families.

In 2011, District Court Judge Jeffrey Sherlock dismissed the case. Friday’s oral arguments are part of the appeal of that decision.

WHAT:       Oral arguments in the appeal of Donaldson and Guggenheim v. State of Montana.

WHO:          Arguments will be heard by the Montana Supreme Court.

Plaintiffs available for comment will be Jan Donaldson and Mary Anne Guggenheim, Mike Long and Rich Parker, Rick Wagner and Gary Stallings, Denise Boettcher and Kellie Gibson, and Stacey Haugland and Mary Leslie.

Cooperating Attorney James Goetz, ACLU and ACLU of Montana attorneys will be available for comment.

WHEN:        Friday, April 13, 2012
9:30 a.m. MST

WHERE:     University Theater
University of Montana
Missoula, Montana

More information is available at www.aclumontana.org and www.fairisfairmontana.org.