Filed under: AIDS
By Scottie Thomaston
Yesterday Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius spoke at the World Health Assembly, saying that people who are LGBT need greater access to health care worldwide. This is a systemic problem affecting millions of people in hundreds of countries and though everyone has a right to health care, you can still be denied medical attention simply because of sexual orientation or gender identity:
Everyone has a basic right to health care. This is a principle that all people should share and all nations should strive for.
Achieving this goal means working to break down the barriers that prevent people from getting the care they need. Sometimes those barriers have to do with resources, when people can’t afford the treatments they need. Sometime those barriers have to do with geography, for example when people live in rural areas with little access to health care providers.
And sometimes those barriers have to do simply with who people are – and that’s what we’re here to talk about today.
Today, millions of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender men and women around the globe are not getting the care they need simply because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
She noted that it takes on different forms. It isn’t always obvious discrimination. There is not always a situation in which someone is denied care because of their orientation. Instead, patients are often denied proper care simply because of unfamiliarity with the needs of patients and lack of training on those needs:
This can take the form of outright discrimination, like when people are given substandard care or are turned away from a hospital or local clinic because they happen to be lesbian or gay.
Often, the barriers are more subtle, like when doctors and nurses don’t take the time to understand the health needs of their LGBT patients
In other cases, health care providers violate patient confidentiality and disclose the sexual orientation of their LGBT patients. This can put LGBT people who are not “out” in their communities, at risk of discrimination, social exclusion, physical violence, or even death. And it leads many LGBT people to risk traveling to distant care facilities in order to prevent this from happening.
Because of this, LGBT populations are often invisible and unacknowledged. But they are there, in considerable numbers, in every country in the world.
Sebelius acknowledges that even the United States has a long way to go to correct these problems:
I know these barriers because they still exist in my own country. Every day, LGBT Americans endure violence and harassment, have difficulty finding appropriate medical care, and face bullying and exclusion.
And it’s important for everyone to work toward simply allowing more people to have more access to health care:
This is a goal that all countries should be able to get behind. Even when we have religious or cultural differences, we should all be able to agree on the fundamental principles of making sure people can see a doctor when they are injured, get medicine when they’re sick, and have access to the basic preventive care necessary to live a healthy life.
The speech follows Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s remarks on LGBT rights last year.
By Jacob Combs
On its website, the San Francisco AIDS Foundation is celebrating its 30 year anniversary with a collection of archival photos marking the three decades that have passed since HIV and AIDS sprung onto the scene as a matter of national importance and one fundamentally connected to the livelihood of the LGBT community.
Last weekend, I was lucky enough to attend the New York premiere of “How to Survive a Plague,” the powerful and passionate documentary chronicling the success of ACT UP, the AIDS advocacy group that transformed the national debate on the disease and its treatment in the 1980s and 1990s. In his review for the Hollywood Reporter, David Rooney wrote, “Words like ‘important’ and ‘inspiring’ tend too often to be meaninglessly attached to non-fiction filmmaking, but in the case of David France’s compelling snapshot of a revolutionary period in AIDS treatment, they are amply justified.”
As a young gay man who didn’t live through the worst days of the AIDS epidemic, “How to Survive a Plague” felt like the most important LGBT history lesson I’ve had since I watched “The Times of Harvey Milk.” Because director David France chooses to tell the story of ACT UP not through a narrative of the institution as a whole but rather primarily through the individual experiences of several of its founding members, the film manages to demonstrate the effect that the government’s failure to take the AIDS crisis seriously had not only socially, but also personally.
What struck me most while watching “How to Survive a Plague,” though, was how instructive Act Up’s success can be for other social change movements, including our own marriage equality effort. As France’s film demonstrates, two of the most significant elements of ACT UP’s success were its ability to foster and engage a community and its members passion for educating themselves.
I think those two elements are also what makes Prop 8 Trial Tracker so powerful, and indeed it were part of what drew me to the site back in the beginning of 2010. Before I started reading P8TT, I knew almost nothing about equal protection law, terms like rational basis and heightened scrutiny, the history of marriage law in the United States, or the complex path a case takes from a district court to the Supreme Court. Here at P8TT, people who aren’t legal experts but who are genuinely passionate about marriage rights and LGBT advocacy in general can educate themselves and engage in dialogue and debate about how we can effect action.
The power of this model has become especially clear to me through the last few weeks as the political landscape of Amendment One in North Carolina has shifted. I feel personally that I have already learned so much about North Carolina and about the nuances of a state which is much more complicated than any simplistic politicial narrative. I feel that Amendment One’s opponents have a good shot of defeating it at the ballot box if they can educate both voters and advocates about the truth of what the amendment would really do.
Amendment One is just the first of many ballot challenges that the marriage equality movement will have to grapple with this year. Each state that will take up marriage equality referenda in the fall are unique and pose distinct challenges and possibilities. But as ACT UP’s success shows us, our commitment to self-educate as a community creates the potential for us to educate others. It’s how we became so engaged with the Prop 8 trial throughout its time at the district court and the 9th Circuit. And it’s how we will continue to build upon our victories in the future.
Gay Alabama legislator Patricia Todd joins conservative Republican to repeal anti-gay sex education law
By Scottie Thomaston
Alabama’s decades-old law laying out the minimum contents that must be included in sex-education curriculum is under the microscope, as Alabama’s first gay legislator Patricia Todd joins Alabama Republican and member of Phyllis Schlafly’s conservative Eagle Forum to work on repealing it. The law has an inordinate amount of antiquated and plainly inaccurate – scientifically and legally – stipulations and references. The law states that school sex education policy should teach “[a]bstinence from sexual intercourse is the only completely effective protection against unwanted pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, and acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) when transmitted sexually.” The CDC says, of course, that condoms “when used consistently and correctly, are highly effective in preventing the sexual transmission of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.” This is not controversial, and in the fight against HIV/AIDS, it’s necessary to promote condom use along with other alternatives.
The law also suggests that teachers should emphasize “that homosexuality is not a lifestyle acceptable to the general public and that homosexual conduct is a criminal offense under the laws of the state.” In 1992, I suppose at least the first part of this could be construed as more true than it may be today. However, clearly gay and lesbian relationships are considered largely just fine to the general public. And the American Psychological Association supports ending discriminatory marriage laws that prevent gay and lesbian couples from having their relationships recognized as equal by the government and society, and has said that “homosexuality is a normal expression of human sexual orientation that poses no inherent obstacle to leading a happy, healthy, and productive life, including the capacity to form healthy and mutually satisfying intimate relationships with another person of the same sex and to raise healthy and well-adjusted children.” Anywhere from 50-54% of Americans at the national level support marriage for gay and lesbian couples. There is no gay ban in our nation’s military. Even being out as gay in Alabama itself is not as bad as it once was, as anti-bullying laws to protect gay students continue to be pushed in the state legislature and even pride events are becoming more well-attended. It’s inarguable that today, as more kids are born or adopted to gay and lesbian parents, it’s not rational to teach our kids that gay and lesbian relationships are not acceptable.
Todd says, “‘Not an acceptable lifestyle,’”[...]“What the heck does that mean? It’s like they’re trying to say we shouldn’t exist.’”
The second part of the statement in the law is even worse. Laws banning gay and lesbian couples from being intimate with each other were ruled unconstitutional in 2003 in Lawrence v. Texas. The law in Alabama is still on the books, which is a problem for reasons beyond criminalization, but it is unenforceable as a criminal law because of the Supreme Court decision. There is no reason this should be considered a statement that should be made to students in Alabama.
It’s an unlikely alliance, but both sides see possible positive gains in repealing the law. The Anniston Star the Republican, Mary Sue McClurkin, as suggesting that repeal of the law would allow local districts to teach – or not to teach – the law however they want, “There’s a long list of things we require from them,” McClurkin said. “And sex education is one topic that’s best taught in the home.”
From Todd’s perspective, says the Star, sex education is implemented too unevenly: “In some places it’s taught in science class, in other places it’s done in health,”[...]“In some places it’s taught by the basketball coach and in some places the kids aren’t getting anything.”
“I’m just telling them they shouldn’t be teaching things that are incorrect[.]”
Think Progress has noted that Todd had once pragmatically proposed removing the language suggesting that sexual relationships between gay and lesbian couples is illegal but it never went anywhere. She is hoping to get Republicans onboard by her proposal to repeal the entire sex education law.