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    In the News, October 29, 2015 issue

    By Dennis McMillan

    San Francisco Is Changing the Face of AIDS Treatment

    World Health Organization has issued new guidelines for the treatment and prevention of HIV, calling on the rest of the world to do much of what San Francisco is already doing: every HIV patient should start antiretroviral drugs as soon as they test positive rather than wait- ing for measures of immune system strength to drop, the agency said, and everyone at risk of infection should be offered preventive drugs. San Francisco adopted the first practice— “test and treat”—five years ago, and the second in 2013. The results have been striking. Last year, San Francisco had only 302 new HIV diagnoses, the lowest recorded number. In 1992, at the epidemic’s peak, there were 2,332. In 1992, the City had 1,641 deaths from AIDS. Last year, just 177 San Franciscans with HIV died,and most of them actually succumbed to heart disease, cancer or other elder-age ills.

    NCLR and HRC Release Sample Legislation to End Conversion Therapy on LGBTQ Youth

    The National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) and the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) have released sample legislation for state legislators and equality groups who want to protect LGBTQ youth from the dangerous and discredited prac- tice of conversion therapy. This first- of-its-kind sample legislation draws from best practices in the jurisdictions that have passed successful laws, the more than 20 states that have introduced similar legislation, the Therapeutic Fraud Prevention Act (a federal bill that takes a fraud-based approach to regulate conversion therapy), and the experience of legal experts working on this vitally important issue. The sample legislation comes just days after the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, an agency within the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, issued a report calling for an end to conversion therapy and urging family acceptance of LGBTQ children.

    Mayor Lee Announces New Plan to Provide Stabilized Housing for 500 Teachers

    Mayor Lee and the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD), with Board President London Breed and Supervisors Julie Christensen, Malia Cohen, Mark Farrell and Katy Tang, recently announced a new plan to build and preserve housing for 500 San Francisco educators by 2020. Mayor Lee and Superintendent Richard Carranza announced new strategies to achieve these goals: jointly finance at least one new development in the City for educator housing, develop a rental subsidy program for teachers, renew the Teacher Next Door program that provides down payment assistance to purchase homes in the City, and fund Housing Navigators–counselors to connect teachers with resources available to them through these new programs, existing Below Market Rate programs, and eviction prevention services. Mayor Lee’s plan aims to provide 200 forgivable loans through the Teacher Next Door down payment assistance program that will be renewed if the voters approve the $310 million Affordable Housing Bond measure on the November ballot. In addition, the plan calls for the joint development of educator housing for at least 100 educator households, as well as rental assistance for at least 100 educators. The plan will also provide $250,000 in housing counseling services per year for at least 100 educator households over the next five years.

    Groundbreaking CA Prison Policy Ensures Access to Gender-affirming Medical Care

    Following two landmark cases brought by Transgender Law Center, California became the first state in the country to adopt a policy for transgender people in prison to access gender-affirming surgery. The policy sets criteria for transgender people in prison to access care, including a determination of med- ical necessity by medical and mental health professionals. “By adopting this ground- breaking policy, California has set a model for the rest of the country and ensured transgender people in prison can access life-saving care when they need it,” said Kris Hayashi, Executive Director of Transgender Law Center, which represents two transgender women who sued the state after being denied medical care. “I suffered for decades as my identity, my medical needs and my very humanity were denied by the people and system responsible for my care,” said Michelle Norsworthy, one of the transgender women whose cases anticipated this announcement. “I am beyond proud to have been part of the movement to make this poli- cy happen, and I know it will change and save the lives of so many women still fighting for survival in men’s prisons.”

    AIDS Advocates Protest Pharma’s Move to Gut 340B Discount Drug Program

    AIDS Healthcare Foundation and other groups held a protest against the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America’s plan to gut funding for the 340B discount drug program. 340B provides drug price discounts to safety net providers that care for large numbers of uninsured and vulnera- ble patients. 340B is once again under assault from the industry, despite the fact that 340B represents only 2 percent of all drug purchases nation- wide. An effort had been attempted in mid-May when drug industry lobbyists tried, surreptitiously–and unsuccessfully–to insert a last-minute amendment to the 21st Century Cures Act that would have gutted the 340B program.

    SF Couple Upbeat before Hurricane Patricia Strikes Puerto Vallarta on Wedding Trip

    After nine years as a couple, Rodolfo Melgoza and Anthony Chavira planned a dream wedding with their closest family and friends in Puerto Vallarta; but little did the San Francisco men realize that Hurricane Patricia—the strongest hurricane on record in the Western Hemisphere— was going to smack the city a day before they planned to say, “I do.” Despite the threatening storm, the couple stayed calm and even upbeat. “They say rain is good luck,” Melgoza said. “So a hurricane? I mean, you know? We’re going to be together for- ever. Right?”

    Over 800K U.S. Facebook Users Came Out as LGBTQ in Past Year

    The number of people coming out as LGBTQ on Facebook is growing each year, according to new research by the social media giant. For Spirit Day last Thursday, Facebook’s Research and Data Science division published a new report detailing the increasing number of U.S. Facebook users identifying as LGBTQ. The Facebook research reported that about 6 million of Facebook’s U.S. users identify as LGBTQ and 800,000 came out in the last year. Facebook officials said that there was a spike in the number of users coming out after the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on same-sex marriage in June.

    Supervisor Wiener Introduces Code Enforcement Reform Legislation

    Supervisor Scott Wiener recently introduced code enforcement reform legislation to improve San Francisco’s code enforcement process, strengthen the City’s ability to crack down on serial code violators, and help code violators who want to correct their violations but cannot afford to do so. San Francisco’s current code enforcement process, he believes, lacks coordination among different departments charged with inspecting and enforcing codes to keep San Francisco’s building stock safe and habitable, and creates accountability gaps that prevent the city from addressing significant violations of the Buildings, Fire, Health, and Planning Codes. He reports that the legislation would grant the City Attorney’s Office and the Department of Building Inspection more tools to enforce code violations, while harmonizing code inspection and enforcement processes across different city codes to ensure greater accountability and coordination among city departments. For example, the legislation allows the City Attorney’s Office to file suit against code violators without a formal referral from a city department; currently, some departments refer almost no code violations, even serious and longstanding violations, for litigation. The legislation would also create a Code Enforcement Revolving Loan Fund, to provide low interest loans to qualifying small property owners to bring buildings up to code.

    AHF Criticizes Governor Brown for Veto of Hospital HIV Testing Bill (AB 521)

    Whitney Engeran-Cordova, Senior Director for AIDS Healthcare Foundation’s (AHF) Public Health Division, issued the following statement on California Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. veto of AB 521 (Adrin Nazarian, D, 46th District, Van Nuys), legislation sponsored by AHF that would have required every hospital, if it otherwise draws blood from a patient and the patient is admitted to the hospital from the emergency department, to offer to test that blood for HIV with the patient’s consent. “We are disappointed to learn of Governor Brown’s veto of AB 521, pragmatic public health legislation that would have gone a long way to help California address the largely unmet CDC HIV Testing Recommendations in Healthcare Settings first issued back in 2006.” He said the Governor’s statement that we should be focused on high-risk populations is contradictory to the CDC recommendations that everyone between the ages of 13 and 65 be offered routine HIV testing at least once. There are approximately 5,000 new HIV infections each year in California, and outreach and education hasn’t found those new infections. “Continuing to do nothing more than what we’ve been doing will perpetuate this epidemic, not end it,” Engeran-Cordova emphasized. “This bill would save millions more in keeping people from getting infected than it will ever cost. Unless the Governor has another plan for preventing those 5,000 new infections every year, we vow to reintroduce similar HIV testing legislation in the future.”