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Bear60
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Reged: 12/21/05
Posts: 1390
More Evidence
      09/14/06 07:21 AM

More Evidence of the USA's mishandling of the HIV/AIDS funding is shown in this article:
The New York Blade
12/09/2006

By VINCENT MACISAAC

"I'M FRIGHTENED ENOUGH that talking to you makes me nervous," a senior
official at an American health organization tells me in an interview that
is-for the most part-off the record.

"I'm an American. We have free speech," he continues, as though this is a
fact he needs to remind himself.
We're talking about AIDS. Specifically, the epidemic among gay and bisexual
men in Thailand, where infection rates in Bangkok have surged by more than
50 percent in two years to a 28.3 percent increase last year, according to
studies by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention.

What I want to know is whether the U.S. government's "ABC" prevention
strategy-abstinence, be faithful in relationships, and condoms-is hindering
efforts to contain this epidemic.

I'm not qualified to answer the question, but I can say with certainty that
almost every time I ask it the conversation veers "off the record." "In the
age of the Internet, everything has to be sanitized," says the American
health official, referring to safe-sex information.

This is because congressional interns and fanatics are surfing for evidence
that U.S. tax dollars are being spent on gay sex, infidelity, prostitution
and even sex-change operations in the world's poorest countries.

He mentions an e-mail he received from a senior government official after a
Thai newspaper misquoted a transvestite saying her U.S.-funded
AIDS-prevention group gave "counseling on surgery." Within three days the
question, "Are you promoting sex-change operations?" arrived in his inbox.
It was the level of scrutiny and how rapid the response was to a comment at
the bottom of an article" that caught him off guard. "There are people out
there who are just looking for an excuse to attack us," he says.

STILL, AT THE center of the prevention effort lies a paradox, perhaps a
lethal one. American health agencies are pioneering the response to the
epidemic among gay, bisexual and transgender Asians. These are people
facing an epidemic that is being ignored by their own governments and
societies.

The first signs of an epidemic among gay men in Bangkok can be traced back
to 1999, when data from an anonymous testing clinic found the rate of
infection had risen to 11 percent. Seven years later, gay and bisexual men
have yet to be included as an "at-risk group" in the country's national
AIDS prevention strategy.

American groups, like Family Health International and Population Services
International, and government agencies like USAID and the CDC, are funding
the Thai organizations that are trying to raise awareness about this
epidemic. They have been instrumental in setting up Thailand's first
legally registered group for gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender
people, called Rainbow Sky.

AMERICAN AGENCIES have the expertise and money to upgrade detection
systems, launch tailored prevention programs and provide access to
treatment.

They are also staffed with people who treat those at risk with respect.
They advocate on behalf of Asia's most stigmatized groups-"queers, junkies
and whores," as one organization's worker put it. But in some cases they
are imposing constraints on the groups they fund that are so outrageous
they would have the Log Cabin Republicans embracing ACT-UP.

Would organizations working in America tolerate funding conditions that
require outreach workers to advise men who cruise parks and saunas to
consider abstaining from sex? Would they put up with conditions that
require a group helping sex workers to propose abstinence and fidelity as
"choices" for preventing infection? Would they tolerate restraints on
images and language in safe-sex brochures and pamphlets that are so
stringent that they make the materials banal?

Perhaps if Thailand had a politically active gay community the situation
would be different. But Rainbow Sky was only formed in 2001 and most of its
members are younger than 30.

In the West, gay activism preceded the epidemic, providing an
infrastructure on which effective AIDS prevention and advocacy groups could
be built. Here, there is no history of activism. They have to rely on us.
We aren't helping enough. Even off the record.

Vincent MacIsaac is a Canadian journalist based in Southeast Asia with 20
years of involvement in gay and lesbian groups. He can be reached at
vince_macisaac@yahoo.com.


--------------------
6 ft tall poz bear in Philadelphia

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