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HIV/AIDS News Digest: July 5, 2011

July 5, 2011

Here is a quick look at a few HIV/AIDS stories recently reported in the media:

Latina Transgender Beauty Queens Raise Awareness for HIV/AIDS (From Colorlines)

There's more to Orange County, Calif., than Bravo's reality show The Real Housewives of Orange County. While the O.C. is considered to be one of the most conservative counties in the U.S., it's also home to one of the nation's oldest gay and lesbian centers. And for almost 20 years, the Center Orange County has been holding a beauty pageant specifically targeting transgender Latinas. "Miss Hermosa y Protegida" (Beautiful and Safe) is one of the longest-running, all-Latina transgender beauty pageants in the country.

Colorlines reported:

These mujeres strut down the stage in gowns and bathing suits in front of some tough judges -- health care professional. In order to win Miss Hermosa y Protegida contestants have to deliver a compelling 3-minute HIV/AIDS-prevention message that counts for 75 percent of their total score.

Messages that are desperately needed in a county that is home to many of the country's most conservative ethnic enclaves. recently completed a short film following contestants in this years Miss Hermosa y Protegida. The mun2 digital production is available online.

Director and producer Daffodil Altan says she's committed to covering LGBT issues "especially as they relate to the multi-American experience."

Watch the clip of the "Miss Hermosa y Protegida" here.

Sex Offender Registration for Sex Workers Ends in Louisiana (From The Huffington Post)

Last December, in our "HIV/AIDS Community Spotlight: People Who Made a Difference in 2010," Kenyon Farrow wrote about activist Deon Haywood and her organization Women With a Vision, which advocates for improving the lives of women, including HIV-positive women, in New Orleans. One of the major issues that Haywood was tackling was trying to get the laws changed around making sex workers have to register as sex offenders.

Farrow wrote:

In 2006, Haywood found that sex workers in particular were in tremendous need. In order to appear as though New Orleans had its "criminals" under control, the city resurrected a 203-year-old crimes against humanity law that had originally been created to prohibit gay sex. This law now requires women who have ever been arrested for prostitution to register as sex offenders for a maximum of 10 years, to have the words "sex offender" printed on their photo identification cards and endure a number of other penalties.

"There are even some women who had been charged 10 or 20 years ago, who have lost their jobs and homes because they were now registered sex offenders," noted Haywood.

Haywood and other activists' hard work has paid off, because on June 29, Governor Jindal's office announced that he had signed into law a bill, sponsored by Louisiana State Representative Charmaine Marchand Stiaes, that effectively moves prostitution convictions back to the level of a misdemeanor. This decision will deeply impact the most marginalized women throughout the state.

The Huffington Post reported:

The majority sentenced under the law were indigent women of color and transgender women of color. Once convicted, they were also forced to register as sex offenders, which brought a long list of restrictions and requirements, including having the words "sex offender" printed in large letters on their driver's license, and the obligation to send a post card to all of their neighbors informing every one of their conviction.

The new law does not eliminate the "Crime Against Nature" category entirely, but it makes the penalties equal to the misdemeanor-level prostitution charge.

New Vertex Ads Focus on Disease, Not the Actual Treatment (From The Boston Globe)

Instead of focusing on its new hepatitis C medicine, Incivek, which is expected to bring in $2 billion in sales, Massachusetts pharmaceutical company Vertex has decided to focus more on educating the community about the disease.

The Boston Globe wrote:

An aging rocker, guitar in hand, peers from a poster mounted inside MBTA buses. "I survived disco," the text reads. "I can fight hepatitis C."

On the radio, a reassuring voice says: "Hepatitis C is a serious disease, but it can be cured. You can fight it. Now there's a program to help you get ready."

The poster and radio spots appear to be public service messages about a liver-destroying virus few are aware of. But if you look or listen carefully, you'll notice the name of the sponsor -- Cambridge biotechnology company Vertex Pharmaceuticals Inc., which recently won federal approval to sell a new hepatitis C drug.

Vertex's vice president, Pamela Stephenson, believes that promoting information is crucial, especially given that 3.2 million Americans believed to carry the virus don't realize they are infected. She said, "Three quarters of the people don't know they have the disease, and most of the people who know don't get treated."

Pharmaceutical giant Merck & Co., which has a competing new hep C drug called Victrelis, has the same approach for its ads.

Other HIV/AIDS Articles in the Media

Haiti, Dominican Republic have 80 Percent of the Caribbean's HIV/AIDS (From Dominican Today)

HIV Disrupts Blood-Brain Barrier: Cellular Study Suggests Way Virus May Cause Neurological Deficits (From Science Daily)

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Will Collect Sexual Orientation Data by 2013 (From a HHS press release)

Kellee Terrell is the former news editor for and

Copyright © 2011 The HealthCentral Network, Inc. All rights reserved.

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