LAS VEGAS, NV – More than 130,000 people have joined a popular campaign on Change.org calling on Universal Health Services, Inc., a Fortune 500 company and one of the largest hospital management companies in the United States, to enforce new federal regulations granting visitation and medical decision-making rights to same-sex couples.

Terri-Ann Simonelli launched her campaign on Change.org after being denied the right to make medical decisions for her legal domestic partner of six years, Brittney Leon, while visiting Spring Valley Hospital in Las Vegas -- a hospital which is owned and operated by Universal Health Services.

“One of the worst days of my life was the day my partner of six years, Brittney, checked into the hospital with complications in her pregnancy,” said Simonelli, who launched her campaign on Change.org. “As her legal domestic partner in the state of Nevada, I was there to support her, and was prepared to make any necessary medical decisions if she suffered unforeseen problems. Instead, we were told that I didn’t have that right, despite a new federal regulation that protects hospital rights for same-sex couples.”

“In a moment when we were already under severe stress, the discrimination we faced left us feeling helpless,” said Simonelli. “I launched my campaign on Change.org to help others become better aware of their rights, and to ensure that no couple has to face what we went through -- ever again.”

Universal Health Services is a Fortune 500 company based in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, which owns and operates acute care hospitals, behavioral health centers, and ambulatory surgery centers in 37 states, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Each new signature on Terri-Ann Simonelli’s petition is sent via email to James M. Caponi, the Chief Compliance and Privacy Officer of Universal Health Services.

“Terri-Ann and Brittney know that they have a powerful story to tell and believe that they have a unique responsibility to tell it,” said Mark Anthony Dingbaum, Senior Campaigner at Change.org. “More than 130,000 people have joined their campaign in a matter of days, and the couple plans to keep up the pressure until Universal Health Services confirms that the new federal regulations are being enforced.”

In early 2010, President Obama issued a memorandum urging the Department of Health and Human Services to protect the visitation and medical decision-making rights of same-sex couples in hospitals that participate in Medicare and Medicaid. On September 7, 2011, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, part of the Department of Health and Human Services, updated its rules to reflect the President’s request.

Press release & photo courtesy of www.Change.org •   in the photo Terri-Ann Simonelli and Brittney Leon
 
 
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by David Cohen

With a big increasing in Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STD's), and in syphilis cases that have been documented across the country among gay and bisexual men, you might be interested in finding out that men who have sex with men accounted for 63% of primary and secondary syphilis cases in the United States. Gay often are diagnosed with other bacterial STDs, including chlamydia and gonorrhea infections.

Gay and bisexual men can be infected with HPV (Human Papillomavirus), the most common STD in the USA, which cause genital and anal warts, and can lead to the development of anal and oral cancer. Gay men are 17 times more likely to develop anal cancer than heterosexual men while HIV-positive men are even more likely to develop anal cancer.

For many years people didn't dare talking about sex or STD's as an on going conversations around the dinner table or among friends or family.  Talking about sex was a big tabu and not is a natural part of life,and not a comfortable subject to approach your friends with.

But with the liberation of 50 shades of gray, the approach to the “big talk” should be easier and less embarrassing today.  So how do we start a conversation, and should we wait and hope for the best when it happens?

The best advice is to make sex an ongoing conversation with everyone, especially with youngsters. This is one “mystery” we don’t want to solve alone. Here are some facts, figures, and few simple guidelines to help all of us get through with it.

  1. Everyone must be able to talk, and more importantly to listen! We must keep the channels of communication open and try to be understanding. This will make this confusing situation easier on all of us.
  2. Many people will never ask any question about sex, so it’s important to encourage the conversation and talk about the values of sex, and  about the outside influences which make things go way easier.
  3. By sharing our own feelings and values, we can make people to think, and then to open up  to share their feelings …while we  give them an open ear and listen closely.
  4. We should balance our approach with positive information. Talk about sex in a natural and healthy way, and make sure to address the value of good sex as the core to any loving relationships and intimacy, and how wonderful it can be in anyone's life.

Now that all of that is behind us, how do we talk or bring the use of protection into the conversation?

The best way is to talk about  the facts – and nothing but the facts. So here are some facts that might be of help to all.

  • According to the World Health Organization, there is no evidence that sex education encourages sexual experimentation or increased activity. On the contrary … if any effects of sex education were observed, almost without exception, it is the postponement of sexual intercourse and/or effective use of contraceptives.
  • When used consistently and correctly, a latex condom is the most effective barrier contraceptive available today. However, condom failure is often due to improper use. To help solve this problem, LifeStyles has introduced the new SKYN Condom with unique packaging that ensures proper use, for an easy-on correct fit.
  • The fact is, sex education provides everyone with correct information so they can make informed decisions. And, while abstinence is a sure way to prevent STDs, LifeStyles Brand SKYN latex condom is the best protection when having sex

More facts on STD's and STI's
  • One out of 4 women and one out of 5 men have no knowledge about their sexual partners’ history.
  • Two-thirds of 1,000 women age 18 to 60 knew nothing or very little about STIs (other than HIV/AIDS) in 1995.
  • The highest at-risk groups are adolescents, gays, African American and Hispanic women.
  • There are over 15,000,000 new cases of STI's a year.
  • Over 70,000 Americans have a viral STI–like genital herpes, HIV/AIDS, or Hepatitis B.
  • Individuals under 25 have two-thirds of the STI cases in the U.S.
  • 1 out of 4 teens will contract an STI.
    Rates of curable STI cases in the U.S. are the highest in the developed world.
  • There are 150 STI cases per 100,000 in the U.S. versus 3 cases per 100,000 in Sweden.
  • Over 70,000 Americans have viral STI–like genital herpes, HIV/AIDS, or hepatitis B.
  • Viral STIs such as HPV, herpes, and hepatitis B are lifelong infections.
  • Many people experience no noticeable symptoms initially, but can still pass on the infection.
  • Women are up to 5 times more likely to become infected and suffer more serious consequences.
    Over 20,000 new cases of HIV/AIDS are diagnosed each year in the U.S.
  • 62% of those cases reported before 1996 have died (319,000 Americans).
  • Women now represent 30% of new HIV/AIDS cases reported.
  • 75% of the cases are from heterosexual sex.
  • 3 out of 5 Americans with HIV were infected as teens.
  • HIV infection rates are 10 times higher when STIs are not treated properly.
    Sexual habits reinforce the need to use condoms.
  • Age of sexual maturity is decreasing; age of marriage is increasing.
  • More sex, more partners, more risk.
  • 46% of teens (14-18) have had intercourse.
  • 50% breakup rate means reentering the dating scene to deal with new health challenges

For more information visit  www.cdc.gov/msmhealth/STD.htm and www.lifestyles.com/pledge.php

 
 
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IAPAC Releases Consensus Statement on TasP and PrEP Implementation at AIDS 2012
 
“Let us allow hope to guide the way, but action to ensure millions of new HIV infections are averted,” says José M. Zuniga President of IAPAC.
 
WASHINGTON, DC – The International Association of Physicians in AIDS Care (IAPAC) announced its full embrace of two biobehavioral HIV prevention interventionstreatment as prevention (TasP) and pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) – around which there has been emerging science, and called for immediate integration of these interventions into the existing HIV armamentarium as a means of significantly impacting HIV incidence worldwide. The announcement was made during a press conference at AIDS 2012 during which two key opinion leaders in the field of TasP and PrEP unveiled a Consensus Statement entitled, “Controlling the HIV Epidemic with Antiretrovirals.”

The Consensus Statement, which was developed by an international Advisory Committee that analyzed and synthesized TasP and PrEP data presented and discussed at an IAPAC evidence summit held last month in London, identifies key challenges and opportunities to the integration of the interventions in resourced and resource-limited countries. The Consensus Statement is available in PDF format at www.iapac.org.

Integration must be guided by implementation science, said Kenneth Mayer, MD, Visiting Professor of Medicine at Harvard University in Boston; Medical Research Director at the Fenway Institute in Boston; and Chair of the IAPAC TasP/PrEP Advisory Committee.
“The way forward needs to be met with very careful implementation science studies, so called demonstration projects, around the world so that we know how best to roll out these interventions for key populations in different settings. This will not be a one-size-fits-all scenario,” explained Mayer.

Julio Montaner, MD, Director of the British Columbia Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS in Vancouver, Canada; and a Member of the IAPAC TasP/PrEP Advisory Committee, argued that with efficacy concerns allayed by the emerging evidence, wide-scale implementation of interventions such as TasP should be viewed as a global health priority.

“In view of the evidence that we [have in hand], the return on investment [if biomedical prevention is implemented] has now been increased so dramatically that we can no longer afford not to implement this approach. It is not a matter of whether we want to or whether we can, it is a matter of a responsibility to do so,” Montaner said.

IAPAC President José M. Zuniga, PhD, MPH, added that where fear may have driven an accelerated pace to scale up access to a new treatment intervention – highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) – in the mid-1990s, hope that is justified by robust evidence must drive the world to move forward with TasP, and where appropriate PrEP, implementation without delay.

“We stand a solid chance of further bending the HIV incidence and AIDS-related mortality curves in a way only imagined years ago and, perhaps – as many have advocated – of welcoming an AIDS-free generation within our lifetimes. Let us allow hope to guide the way, but action to ensure millions of new HIV infections are averted,” Zuniga said.


The International Association of Physicians in AIDS Care (IAPAC) represents more than 17,000 physicians and allied health care professionals in over 100 countries. Its mission is to improve the quality of prevention, care, treatment, and support services provided to men, women, and children living with HIV/AIDS. Visit www.iapac.org for more information about IAPAC and its global activities.

 
 
by Chad S. Johnson, Co-Founder, World AIDS Institute

Timothy Ray Brown (The Berlin Patient) Reacts To Breaking News That Two More Men Hopefully Cured Of AIDS

Washington, D.C. – With breaking news out of the 19th International AIDS Conference that two men at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston may have been cured of HIV through bone marrow transplants, Timothy Brown – The Berlin Patient – today reacted by releasing the following statement:
“Words cannot begin to express my joy that two other men may have been cured of HIV.  This reinforces my determination and belief that we must fulfill my Foundation’s central mission of investing in cutting-edge therapies and treatments to advance AIDS cure research. As I have said many times before, I want everyone to be cured of this disease.  We can only hope that this case and today’s development represents the beginning of the end of this plague.“
Timothy Brown was meeting with Democratic Leader, Nancy Pelosi, his hometown Congresswoman, when the breakthrough was announced. Earlier this week, Timothy Brown, the only person to be cured of HIV, announced the establishment of The Timothy Ray Brown Foundation with the World AIDS Institute. As the only Foundation created with the sole mission of finding a cure that leads to the end of AIDS, its central tenant is to secure funding and support cutting-edge therapies.
 
 
Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE) and HRC Applaud the Obama Administration for Taking Steps to Improve the Health of all Older Americans

The Administration on Aging announces it will issue guidance to the Aging Network allowing them to define populations of greatest social need based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

[Washington, DC] The Administration on Aging (AoA) today announced that it would release important new guidance that empowers AoA-funded aging providers to consider lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) older adults as a population of “greatest social need”—paving the way for increased services that can significantly improve their health and well-being. The Human Rights Campaign and Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE) partnered to urge AoA to provide this guidance.

"SAGE applauds this critically important step taken by the Administration on Aging to recognize that LGBT older people have acute needs and to ensure that services are available to meet those needs," said Michael Adams, Executive Director of SAGE. "We look forward to working with the Administration on Aging to continue to improve the availability of appropriate services to LGBT elders across the country."

“This step brings much-needed attention to the unique needs of LGBT older adults, and the urgent actions we must all take to preserve their dignity,” said HRC President Chad Griffin.  “AoA’s actions today are a crucial step toward ensuring that this generation has equal access to the services and resources that they deserve.  HRC applauds AoA for its leadership, and we will look forward to working with them through implementation.”

The FAQ guidance clarifies that the current definition of “greatest social need” in the Older Americans Act—the country's leading vehicle for funding and delivering services to older people nationwide—allows communities to identify populations in their service area that experience isolation for cultural, social or geographic reasons.  The guidance provides specific examples of these populations, including increased need based on sexual orientation and gender identity. 

LGBT older adults are at an increased risk for social isolation, experience poor health and health access, and face higher poverty rates than other seniors. Despite this increased need, this group is less likely to seek federal assistance and healthcare due to actual and perceived discrimination.  This FAQ guidance allows the aging networks that serve LGBT older adults and receive AoA funding to consider this vulnerable population as one with a “greatest social need.”  This designation will encourage Area Agencies on Aging (AAAs) to include LGBT older adults when prioritizing funding, engaging in outreach, evaluating unmet needs and collecting data.

This announcement is the latest action taken by the AoA to address LGBT elders’ unique needs. In January 2010, SAGE received a historic grant from the Administration on Aging to establish the National Resource Center on LGBT Aging (lgbtagingcenter.org), the country’s only technical assistance resource center aimed at improving the quality of services and supports offered to LGBT older adults. With a wealth of multimedia resources for aging providers, the National Resource Center will be a key resource for AAAs as they implement the guidance.

To learn more about the Older Americans Act and LGBT older adults go to www.sageusa.org/oaapolicybrief
To read HRC’s Issue Brief on aging issues go to www.hrc.org/resources/entry/hrc-issue-brief-aging
 
 
Hundreds of thousands of American women suffering from Vulvodynia, a painful disorder that causes inflammation and intense burning in the vulvar area. Vulvodynia can make sitting, walking, or even wearing tight clothing a torturous experience. Sexual intercourse is often impossible.

Because so many women afflicted with vulvodynia are misdiagnosed or never diagnosed, the condition remains undocumented and only few statistics are available. 
According to researcher-author Elizabeth G. Stewart from Harvard University in Boston, 16 percent of women in the U.S. suffer from some form of vulvodynia in their lifetime, and genital pain was considered to be psychosexual, as opposed to physiological.

Howard Glazer, Ph.D., a clinical professor of psychology and obstetrics and gynecology at Cornell University Medical College in New York City, uses biofeedback to treat vulvodynia. He explained that many women with this disorder also have unstable pelvic floor muscles, which can cause the vulvar area to become hypersensitive, inflamed, and painful.

Biofeedback treatment for vulvodynia allows women to heal themselves by strengthening and stabilizing these muscles as they monitor their own progress. Glazer's method involves inserting a sensor, which is attached to a biofeedback instrument, into the vagina. The instrument then directs patients when to vaginally squeeze and release the sensor, and provides feedback about the strength of each contraction and the amount of tension in the muscle when it is relaxed. This exercise, performed daily, stabilizes pelvic floor muscles and diminishes pain. After nine months, all women using this method improved to some degree, and half are pain-free.

Now in Chicagoland a research study The Treatment of Vulvodynia with Acupuncture is in progress. Women ages 18 and older are invited to join study. This confidential study will measure the effectiveness of acupuncture in treating the pain and discomfort associated with this illness. Women who qualify will receive ten free acupuncture treatments over the course of a five-week period.

“Women are suffering in silence,” comments Judith M. Schlaeger, CNM, LAc, who developed the study.  A certified nurse midwife and licensed acupuncturist who describes vulvodynia as a disease of epidemic proportions.  “Western medicine is at best ‘hit or miss’ in treating vulvodynia,” she explains, referring to treatments such as botox injections, estrogen and lidocaine creams, antidepressants, and even surgery. 

The promising results of an earlier study convinced Schlaeger that acupuncture can successfully treat vulvodynia.  However, studies with larger groups are required to quantify these findings.  Traditional Chinese Medicine considers a blocked qi to be the source of chronic pain, and it is the block in the genitals.  "Placing needles in certain acupuncture points of the body helps to unblock the qi, allowing it to flow smoothly” says Schlaeger who trained in both Western and Eastern medicine. With a unique approach to treat vulvodynia, Schlaeger feels that her perspective is unique, and it is her duty to perform this study. 

To join or learn more about the study contact Schlaeger at (708) 334-1097, or the National Vulvodynia Association in Silver Spring, MD, telephone 301-299-0775.
 
 
Photos: L: Dr. Dipnarine Maharaj   R: Cancer cells. 

From Rick Stevens Ascot Media Group

Chances are, you know someone who has been diagnosed with cancer. One out of every three women will contract the disease in their lifetime; for men the odds are even greater. Now, an exciting new protocol has received approval from the FDA and WIRB (Western Institutional Review Board) to conduct a Phase I/II clinical trial on humans for treatment of solid tumor (metastic) cancers using a treatment designed to “supercharge the patient’s immune system and “zap” the cancer cells, destroying them.”  

Leading the investigation is Dr. Dipnarine Maharaj, Director of the South Florida Bone Marrow and Stem Cell Transplant Institute in Boynton Beach, Florida. A hematologist and oncologist, Dr. Maharaj has been successfully treating patients with blood cancers for years using stem cell treatments. The clinical trials now underway target solid tumor cancers such as breast, cervical, stomach, pancreatic, lung, and melanoma.

As Dr. Maharaj explains, “A characteristic of a metastic cancer cell is the way it divides into twins. One of the twins will actually begin to form tissues while the other twin lies dormant. The standard therapy for treating metastatic tumors is chemotherapy. Chemotherapy will kill a certain number of tumor cells and those cells may shrink, so it will look as though you’re making progress, but with the immune system weak, the dormant twin can begin to form new tumors, which is why these cancers often return. 

“Our protocol is based on a 1999 study conducted at Wake Forest University by my colleague, Dr. Zheng Cui. Dr. Cui discovered a cancer resistant mouse. No matter how many times Dr. Cui attempted to infect this mouse with cancer, he couldn’t do it; the mouse’s immune system was simply too strong. Further investigation showed that the mouse’s white cells possessed granulocytes – specialty cells that sought out cancer cells and eradicated them. These same granulocytes were also found in the white blood cells of humans, specifically in the immune systems of young, healthy people around the ages of nineteen through twenty-five. Our protocol is to treat metastic cancer patients with cancer killing granulocytes donated by young healthy cross-matched donors in order to repair or supercharge the patient’s immune system." 

As promising as the new protocol sounds, there remains a funding hurdle to overcome. In recent years grant money from the National Institute of Health has been more difficult to obtain, and insurance companies do not pay for treatments during clinical trials. 

To meet the financial challenge, the Institute has just launched a new website: www.ZapCancer.org which explains the protocol, provides vital answers for cancer patients, collects tax-deductible donations to fund the clinical trial, and contains a video presentation produced by N.Y. Times best-selling author, Steve Alten, whose father died from melanoma two weeks before he was to receive the protocol. Says Alten, “Cancer is a horrible disease that affects all of us. And yet, if a million people simply donated $10, the Institute could complete the first phases of this vitally important investigation, a necessary step to one day treating patients worldwide. For the simple cost of a movie ticket or paperback book, we could help fund a potential cure for solid tumor cancers. I pray that everyone will take a look at the ZapCancer.org website, make a small donation, and spread the link around.”
 
 
Picture
Photo: State Rep. Sara Feigenholtz (center-left) with volunteers from the Junior League of Chicago (JLC) at her Women’s Health and Resource Fair.

CHICAGO – State Rep. Sara Feigenholtz (D-Chicago) hosted a Women’s Health Fair on Saturday with State Rep. Ann Williams (D-Chicago), the Lake View YMC,A and the Junior League of Chicago (JLC).

JLC walked children and their families through the “Health Train,” an interactive activity showing kids how the food pyramid can be fun while promoting healthier eating habits.

 
 
Howard Brown Health Center Appreciates Illinois Legislature Medicaid Budget Reform Legislation
Will work closely with officials to iron out details

CHICAGO, IL (May 25, 2012)Howard Brown Health Center (HBHC) commends the Illinois legislature for tackling the daunting task of Medicaid budget reform. While it was not easy, HBHC recognizes that something had to be done to save many key programs and services on which countless Illinois residents depend. Particularly People Living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA), many of which are our patients and clients, stood to be most affected.

With much work still to be done to implement the details, HBHC will work closely with Director Julie Hamos and the Department of Health and Family Services (DHFS), Gov. Quinn and the General Assembly’s Joint Committee on Administrative Rules (JCAR) to ensure that our patients and clients’ needs are addressed.

The Save Medicaid Access and Resource Together (SMART) Act (Senate Bill 2840), championed by Rep. Sara Feigenholtz, in whose district HBHC resides, was the product of months of negotiation and compromise by her and three other leaders in the General Assembly: Sen. Heather Steans, Rep. Patricia Bellock, Sen. Dale Righter, along with Director Julie Hamos and her staff. “We are thankful to Rep. Feigenholtz for hearing our concerns and for her willingness to take action. We also thank Sen. Steans, Rep. Bellock, Sen. Righter and Director Hamos for their tireless efforts and work to save vital health care programs that many of our patients rely on to remain healthy,” says Howard Brown Health Center’s President and CEO Jamal M. Edwards, Esq.

Howard Brown Health Center is highly concerned about having to obtain the State’s prior approval before prescribing certain highly effective HIV medications that have been proven to promote adherence among HIV patients and decrease transmission of the virus. The current prior approval process is complicated and needs similar reform in consideration of the complications that those with HIV/AIDS face.

HBHC recognizes that there will be changes for some of our Medicaid patients and will work closely with the Department of Health and Family Services so that our patients’ care will not be interrupted. “Failure to act and do nothing to salvage Illinois’ Medicaid program would have crippled our State’s healthcare system,” said HBHC’s Public Policy Director Clint W. Sabin.

Moreover, we’re excited about the 1115 Waiver legislation that was passed enabling special enrollment into Medicaid for additional low-income individuals. The 1115 Waiver, in particular, will open Medicaid enrollment for some LGBT and HIV-positive residents of Cook County, many of whom are not currently eligible for Medicaid benefits.

Lastly, we applaud the General Assembly’s cigarette tax increase; the revenue raised will lessen the need for additional Medicaid cuts and shift the burden where it belongs.
Source: press release from Howard Brown Health Center