See The 10 Montana Senators Who Want Gays To Be Criminals

From Cowgirl:

 

On Tuesday, the Montana Senate voted, finally, to erase our “anti-sodomy law” which makes it an imprisonable crime to be gay.  Although invalidated by our state supreme court in 1997, the law has remained on our books because Republicans have always refused to go along with efforts to scrap it.

 

But yesterday, SB 107, a measure to strike the offensive language from our statutes finally passed the senate.  That said, the vote was far from unanimous.  Ten Republicans voted no.

To see them, click here.

8 Tips To Lower Holiday Stress

I wrote this a few years ago- but I think it’s still good information- so I revised a few things and thought I’d offer it again (Also published on The Bilerico Project)

Feeling stressed and/or depressed lately? You’re not alone. The Holiday Season is reported to be “problematic” for about forty-five percent of the general population, and there may be added concerns for LGBTIQ persons.

A Christmas tree inside a home.

There is often so much pressure to be joyous and to share “the most wonderful time of the year”. It can be especially hard for those of us who feel wounded by the various Ghosts of Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa Past. Family and work dynamics can be hard at the best of times, during the holiday season it can reach a torturous crescendo:

“I can’t stand so-and-so, and they’re going to be at Grandma’s for dinner.”

“I do not want to go to Midnight Mass with the family, but I’m more upset by the thought of dealing with the fallout of not going.”

“I just know that Bible-thumper at work thinks I’m going to hell. The office party is always a nightmare.”

“I’m going to have to fend off all the questions of why I’m not married.”

“If they knew the truth, I’d be fired (disowned, disgraced, etc.).”

“I don’t have enough money for gifts. Shopping is so much pressure. I feel inadequate compared to….”

“I’m bringing my partner, and this is the first time. I’m worried that they’ll say or do hurtful things.”

Yep. All familiar. But there are some things to keep in mind when dealing with the stresses of the Holiday Season….

First, remember, you’re not alone.

“Forced fun” with co-workers, family and extended circles of families and friends happens to everybody. Many people, straight, gay and otherwise feel that they aren’t part of the celebration because they don’t feel particularly festive or “in the Christmas spirit”. The pressure to have fun, be nice and ignore grudges and difficulties can result in the completely opposite effect.

Not out to family, co-workers or friends? This can dramatically increase holiday stress. Maintaining a front and keeping secrets is hard- especially at a time of year that focuses on kindness and generosity. Constantly protecting yourself can be exhausting. Constantly worrying about safety, acceptance, integrity and livelihood is excruciating- especially at a holiday party.

It can be even worse if you’ve been rejected by your family or friends because of your sexuality or gender identity.

For many of us, our day-to-day lives are lived with people who care for and support us emotionally. We’ve created our own families. We’ve created routines that encourage and nurture us. We’ve developed our own beliefs

The holidays can totally upset that.

Even the mentally healthiest among us can be challenged by relatives and parents, regardless of acceptance or support. Ram Dass once said, “If you think you’re enlightened, go spend a week with your parents.”

And even if we are out, during the holidays we’re often surrounded by people who may be biologically related or who share the same work, but who do not support us, or who are even openly hostile. Whether this is true or simply a suspicion or feeling, it still causes anxiety, which in turn causes increased stress levels- often leading to some very depressing thoughts. A very slippery slope mentally….

What to do? If your particular situation seems to be causing problematic stress or depression, please seek out professional help. But for those relatively-minor-once-a-year issues, below are a few suggestions I have found helpful.  Please feel free to add your own:

  • Be aware of your anxiety. Notice when your tension levels are rising, and let yourself feel them. Feelings never hurt anybody- the actions resulting from those feelings are the real kicker, and quite often those actions happen because feelings are so bottled up that the pressure forces an explosion. Often, simply noticing and naming the anxiety can calm it.
  • Breathe. Under stress, the breath is often shallow, keeping oxygen levels at a minimum which just adds more stress. As simple as it sounds, three deep, conscious breaths can bring instant relief, slowing the heart rate, reducing hypertension- and anxiety levels.
  • “Is that true?” That question has been my lifesaver in many situations. My brain can run amok with fantasies of what people will say or do in response to me- things that I can’t possibly know for certain. Anxiety levels rise in the face of uncertainty. This simple question slows my thoughts and brings me back to the facts.
  • Be here now. Most stress involves either the past or the future- both are perspective distortion agents. Staying in the here and now reduces stress.
  • Resist the urge to self-medicate. Most people eat and drink more and exercise less than they normally would at this time of year.  If you’re prone to depression already, (and even if you’re not) a hangover and love handles won’t help. Plus, alcohol, a depressant, may seem to help for a while, but usually worsens depression and stress symptoms later on. It also reduces inhibitions, making hurt feelings, disagreements and fights much more likely.
  • Give yourself an out. If you have to spend an extended amount of time with family, work some down time into the schedule. Removing yourself from the situation can be vital, and it can be done gracefully. “I just need some alone time” is something that almost anyone will respect. There are lots of reasons to be alone- get creative. A short walk, a hot shower, a nap, an AA meeting, or even extended time behind the locked door of a bathroom can do amazing things to renew self-confidence, perspective and energy.
  • Remember, this is temporaryMost of us can survive anything for a few days. If you’re in a situation that you feel you may not be able to handle well, by all means, get out! But if staying will do less damage to yourself and others than leaving, remembering the finite nature of the visit may help.
  • Take care of yourself. You know what you need to do to be healthy. Eat well, exercise, hydrate, rest, play and give yourself permission to be human.

No matter what the situation, my greatest stressor is this:

Worrying about something I have little or no control over.

Recognizing that is key.

People are going to think what they think, and my thoughts or actions will probably not change that- especially in the short amount of time I have to spend with them during the holiday season. Whether they approve of me or not is none of my business. My business is to be happy, honest, kind, and healthy.

And I can do it. I do it by knowing myself and taking care of myself- even under the pressure of Midnight Mass.

CDC Analysis: 4 out of 10 HIV-Diagnosed Not In Care

An analysis of epidemiological data by the Centers for Disease Control has arrived at a startling conclusion: as many as 4 out of 10 persons diagnosed with HIV do not remain in care.

Despite all the medical evidence which advocates early HIV treatment for a healthy life, people are still not accessing care. The specific reasons are unclear, but the National HIV Treatment Guidelines are very clear: Persons with HIV are to be tested for Viral Load and CD4 counts ever 3-4 months, unless they are considered “virus-suppressed” (usually with an undetectable viral load and normal CD4 count with no medication changes over a period of time), then it is every 6-12 months.

So, what’s happening?

In surveillance data from 13 regions, only 59% of people recently diagnosed with HIV had had a test for viral load or CD4-positive T-cell count within the previous year, according to Irene Hall, PhD, head of the CDC’s HIV incidence and case surveillance branch.

The finding implies that the remaining 41% are not under a physician’s continuing care, Hall said in a teleconference during the 2011 National HIV Prevention Conference in Atlanta.

The two tests are a “marker for being in care,” Hall told MedPage Today.

Maybe it’s time to start talking seriously about barriers to proper care, including discrimination, poverty, cultural issues and race.

At a time when we know treatment is prevention, it’s important that the members of our communities who are HIV infected receive the care they need.

I’m wondering if it’s about support. Many of the people in my HIV+ support groups help each other with their health care- talking honestly about issues, sharing resources- even giving each other rides to doc or lab visits. They stay on their meds, talk realistically about their health, exercise, pay closer attention to nutrition and reducing stress. They do it because they have people they can speak to honestly about their disease- people who know firsthand what it’s like. And, for the most part, they’re having incredible, fulfilling lives.

In my experience, it’s the people who are trying to deal with HIV on their own who don’t do so well.

Depression and fear can play an enormous part in healthcare apathy- and it’s a well-documented fact that fear and depression are alleviated by concern and compassion from family and friends- and involvement with others who share similar circumstances.

So, in the interest of trying to understand this better, I have a couple of questions:

Do you know anyone (maybe it’s you) with HIV who is not getting care for their disease? What can be done to get them into care?

I’d like to follow up with your responses- so feel free to contact me at Dgsma@hotmail.com if you are uncomfortable leaving a response in the thread.

Low Vitamin D Levels Associated With Rapid HIV Progression

From AIDSMeds.com:

HIV-positive people with very low vitamin D levels were more likely to develop AIDS and to die than people with higher vitamin D levels, according to a study published online January 25 in the journal AIDS.

Low vitamin D levels have been found in numerous studies in HIV-negative people to be associated with serious illnesses, including cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes and kidney failure. What’s more, a number of recent studies have found that the proportion of people with HIV who have low vitamin D levels is quite high, with fewer than a quarter in some studies having ideal levels.

…and so it’s always a good idea to have your Vitamin D level checked regularly with your doctor, whether you’re HIV+ or not. More on Vitamin D can be found here.

And  read the full story from AIDSMeds.com here.