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News & Notes

October 1997

Di's AIDS Legacy | Global Issues | Irving Cooperberg | Condom Burger | Women's Infection Rate | Michael Jackson Giveaway | Positive Doctors | Organ Transplants

Nick Patridge, chief executive of the Terrence Higgins Trust, had this to say concerning the legacy of Diana, Princess of Wales who died tragically in a car crash on September: "She is irreplacable in the fight against AIDS." The Terrence Higgins Trust is one of the AIDS charities mourning the loss of Princess Di in the fight against AIDS. "Her inolvement legitimised the care people with AIDS need -- legitimised the care any person with a fatal disease should be entitled to." Princess Diana won the gratitude, respect, and love of people with AIDS and their supporters when she visited PWAs, demonstrating to the world that AIDS was not communicable by shaking a PWA's hand or holding a PWA in your arms. Through these simple acts, she was able to educate people at a time when myths were flourishing about how AIDS is transmitted, often fueled by the media's focus on sensational rather than factual reports. Patridge said, "It's difficult to remember just how shocking AIDS was in the 1980s, and just how scared and ignorant people were of it. She didn't just meet victims of AIDS, she embraced them in defiance of a tabloid press which taught that they were unclean." Her actions helped to to save lives in Britain by smoothing the way for safer sex health campaigns. She was able to shift almost effortlessly between "common" people and the British government, winning the attention of both concerning her AIDS work. Even up to the day of her death, she was championing the cause of AIDS by beginning to expand her involement to the global level. She had set her sights on the United Nations' AIDS programme. "She was determined to continue to highlight the spread of AIDS worldwide." The extent and quality of the news coverage of her funeral around the world was a testament to the impact she had on people. Hopefully, the humanity that she lived concerning people with AIDS, cancer, and the horror of minefields will continue in the hearts and actions of people around the world.

International Developments

Four deaths in a Jamaican prison are reportedly the result of possible condom distribution and homphobic hysteria. The St. Catherine District Prison in Kingston is just one penal institution where rioting and deaths occured as a result of a proposal by John Prescod, the Commisioner of Corrections, to distribute condoms to inmates in the prison system to decrease HIV transmission. Homophobic inmates and prison guards took action to demonstrate exactly what they feel about homosexuality. In August, inmates at St. Catherine's set one man on fire, stabbed another man, and injured 12 others who they suspected were homosexuals. Prison guards went on strike and called for Prescod's resignation alleging that he implied they were homosexuals by making the proposal. Prescod said that he made the proposal in an attempt to put something in place to replace a mandatory testing system that ran out of funds two years ago... In Papua New Guinea, young women represent approximately 90 percent of all HIV infections. According to Ludger Mond, the Health Minister, "Our figures show that girls between the ages of 15 and 25 are the most vulnerable group and I make a plea to all teenagers, especially girls: 'Please be careful.' These are future leaders of our country. The rate at which we are going is exactly the same as what countries in Africa went through." Africans are estimated to represent up to 70 percent of the world's HIV infections with sub-saharan Africa having one of the highest infection rates in the world... India's Prime Minister, I.K. Gujral ("Gooj-Raal") is featured prominently in a new health campaign. Television and print campaigns pair the Prime Minister with a child infected with HIV to help reduce discrimination against PWAs based upon the Indian population's fear that HIV is a contagious virus. This approach can't help but bring to mind Princess Diana and how her touching people with AIDS made a difference to dispel irrational fears about contagion in Britain. Hopefully India's Prime Minister will have the same kind of success in his country.

Lesbian & Gay Center Founder Dies

The founder of the Lesbian and Gay Community Service Center in New York City, Irving Cooperberg, died on Wednesday, August 20, of AIDS-related cancer. He was 65 years old at the time of his death. The Center was founded in the early 1980s and Cooperberg served as its president from 1983 to 1987. Today, the Lesbian and Gay Center provides a variety of social, educational, and other community-oriented functions. It is a vital and important resource to individuals in the Greater New York area. Cooperberg also lead one of the largest gay and lesbian synagogues in the world.


One Big Mac Condom Please

Imagine biting into your Big Mac burger and tasting a condom. That's exactly what happened to Jeff Bolling in Alabama on October 6, 1995. Mr. Bolling claims that he ordered a Big Mac from the drive-up window, bit into his burger, and then became ill due to his discovery. He is suing McDonalds and its parent company, CLP Corp. MacDonald's says that they "had absolutely nothing to do with it." Both the franchise and CLP Corp. claim total innocence and feel that somebody outside the restaurant must have tampered with the hamburger. The case began in August 1997. Jeff and the condom have both been tested. HIV has not been found in either one.

Michael Jackson Gives Out Free Condoms

According to a report by Reuters/Variety Entertainment, fans at Michael Jackson's Belgium concert were given free condoms that had AIDS prevention messages provided in 9 different languages. Remed Pharma, a condom manufacturer, provided them to help Belgium with an AIDS-awareness campaign and to help market their product. A speaker for the company explained that the concert provides access to many young people who need to receive prevention messages. Sixty-thousand fans were expected to attend.

Male-to-Female Infection Rate Higher

Woman with a heterosexual HIV-positive partner are eight times more likely to become infected by their male partner than a man will be his heterosexual HIV-positive female partner. This is one of the findings of a large study conducted by researchers at the University of California from 1985 to 1995. The study focused on 82 HIV-infected women and their male partners and 360 HIV-infected men and their female partners. Rates of infection and risk factors were measured. The risk factors included were no condom use, anal sex, injection drug using and the presence of sexually transmitted disease (STD). According to Nancy Padian, the study's principal investigator and assistant professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences, "We now know many of the risk factors that affect the likelihood of transmission between infected individuals and their heterosexual partners. Elimination or modification of these factors would result in reduced transmission of HIV." The complete study has been published in the August issue of the American Journal of Epidemiology.

Why Go To Med School?

Even though the likelihood of an HIV-positive physician or some other health care worker infecting a patient is rather low, many health care practioners still find that they are unable to successfully perfrom their duties. According to Dr. Paul Scoles, who was diagnosed with HIV six years ago, "Good people, talented people -- people who want to work -- are being kept from working." Scoles made this comment at the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association conference in San Francisco in August.

What are some of the barriers that interfere with HIV-positive medical personnel being able to meet their job obligations in their chosen medical area? Naphtali Offen, who coordinates a gay medical association for gay and lesbian doctors, says "It's not a medical issue, it's a public relations and a legal issue." He cited two cases that are problematic: One concerns a medical student who has not been allowed to draw blood, and the other, a physician's assistant located in Utah who is only allowed to perform secretarial work. "I am hard pressed what to tell them," he said. "They are basically treated like pariahs." The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is reviewing their guidelines that discourage people with HIV or hepatitis from performing "exposure-prone procedures" that medical associations and the CDC admit are hard to define.

New Therapies Prompt Organ Transplants

Until recently, people living with HIV just were not under consideration as viable recipients for organ transplants. It was just last year that AIDS activist Jeff Getty received a baboon bone marrow transplant. Early last month, doctors at the University of California in San Francisco (UCSF) announced that they will be offering organ transplants to people who are HIV-positive. Physicians cited combination therapies prolonging the lives of people with HIV, as a major reason for this decision. This development has leveled HIV with other long-term diseases like heart problems and various types of cancer. People with these diseases are eligible to receive transplants, so why not people living with HIV? Nancy Asher, M.D. said that there are some guidelines the UCSF will observe, including keeping eligibility for transplants only open to HIV-infected individuals who are healthy and have no other diseases; organs that will be used will be ones that were already offered to other people needing transplants who turned them down, and some of these may have come from people who are HIV-negative but were considered to be participating in high-risk behaviors. There are physicians who find UCSF's decision highly questionable. A surgeon at Davis Medical Center had this to say: "I'm not quite sure it is the best use of a precious organ."

Back to the October 1997 Issue of Body Positive Magazine.

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This article was provided by Body Positive. It is a part of the publication Body Positive.