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News & Notes

August 1999

Stonewall 30-Gay Pride 1999 | GMHC Sexual Health Survey
$90.2 Million Budget Shortfall Projected For ADAPS

Stonewall 30 -- Gay Pride 1999

Throughout New York City, the thirtieth anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising was observed in exuberant fashion, with the traditional parade and rally, religious observances, ceremonies, parties, and, more soberly, an AIDS vigil.

With a bow to Judy Garland, whose funeral earlier that day is considered by some to have been a catalyst for the resistance shown when the Stonewall Inn was raided, the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine presented Stonewall 30: A Sacred Celebration. The service traced the history of what has become the modern fight for equal rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals in a series of "Timeline" presentations.

These were interspersed with prayers, performances, and a speech by openly gay Congressional Representative Barney Frank (D-MA). Urging activists to make their demands felt through the ballot box, Frank said, "We're winning the cultural battle, but we're not following up." Performers included The Lavender Light Gospel Choir singing "We Magnify You," "We Shall Overcome," and "Light in My Window" and The New York City Gay Men's Chorus, singing "Elegy for Matthew."

The Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine is the mother church of the Episcopal Diocese of New York and the largest cathedral in the world. According to its Mission Statement, it is "a house of prayer for all people and a unifying center of intellectual light and leadership [that] serves the many diverse people of our City, Nation and World."

The annual Pride Shabbat Service of Congregation Beth Simchat Torah, New York's LGBT synagogue, was held at the Ethical Cultural Society, where keynote speaker Alan Hevesi, New York City's Comptroller, was joined on the podium by Representative Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) and liturgical composer Debbie Friedman.

Before lighting and blessing the Sabbath candles, Nadler discussed the status of legislation he had drafted to protect religious freedom but that is now bogged down in dispute about its potential impact on laws forbidding discrimination based on sexual orientation. Nadler has worked with other Members of Congress to draft amendments that address the problem areas. He pledged that, unless one of these amendments is attached to the bill, he will work for its defeat.

This has been a busy year for CBST, which recently began sharing worship space with the Episcopal Church of the Holy Apostles, having outgrown its former loft space in Westbeth Artist Housing. In addition, for the first time, the synagogue was allowed to march behind its own banner in the 1999 Salute to Israel Parade.

This year's Heritage of Pride Parade drew an estimated 700,000 participants. Besides the usual floats, banners, bands, and rainbow flags, this year's parade was notable for the political attention it attracted. Mayor Rudy Giuliani showed up, to a less-than-wholehearted welcome. The Mayor and the Log Cabin Republicans, a gay political organization, joined the parade in the middle of several organizations of people of color, although they had been scheduled to march in a different section of the parade. When members of Brooklyn's Audre Lorde Project, which was marching in its assigned location, objected to suddenly finding themselves next to the Mayor's contingent, police ejected them from the parade. Two women were arrested.

More warmly received was Chuck Schumer, who ousted long-time Republican Senator Alfonse D'Amato last year and who became the first United States Senator to participate in a Gay Pride Parade. Also in the march were stalwarts openly gay, openly HIV-positive State Senator Tom Duane and out lesbian Christine Quinn, who succeeded Duane in his former City Council seat.

On a more somber note, a group of about 150 people marched down Christopher Street to the river in memory of those who have died from AIDS. Accompanied by the wail of bagpipes and the voices of the Lavender Light Gospel Choir, participants read poems and invoked the names of their loved ones who have died, and a memorial wreath was tossed into the water.

GMHC Sexual Health Survey

Findings from a sexual health survey conducted by the Gay Men's Health Crisis were released on June 27 and reveal some striking patterns in gay men's HIV testing and prevention behaviors, while confirming that gay men of color are hardest hit by the virus.

Gay and bisexual men are testing at much higher rates than New Yorkers generally, with 89 percent of the men surveyed saying they had been tested for HIV, 80 percent of them within the past three years. Rates and place of testing differed according to age and race or ethnicity. Blacks and Latinos were twice as likely as whites to have tested in a hospital; Asian/Pacific Islander men were less likely than other races or ethnicities to have tested; and men under 24 and over 60 were less likely to have tested than those between those ages.

Estimates of 50 percent infection rates among gay men, based on data from San Francisco in the mid-'80s, do not reflect New York City realities today. Consistent with the findings of other, smaller surveys, the overall rate of HIV infection among the men surveyed was 13 percent, with higher rates among black and Latino men and lower rates among Asian and Pacific Islander men.

Unlike other surveys, this survey asked men to distinguish between unprotected anal intercourse -- without a condom -- and unsafe anal intercourse -- without a condom and with someone whose HIV status is different or unknown. The purpose was to generate hard data against which to judge recent anecdotal reports of a widespread return to unsafe sex among gay men. According to the GMHC survey, reports of a rampant return to unsafe sex, and "barebacking parties" where men switch partners without either using condoms or discussing serostatus, appear not to match most men's realities.

Fifty percent of the men surveyed reported either no anal sex or only with a condom, while 39 percent reported having had unprotected anal intercourse in the past year. The majority of that sex, however, appears not to have been "unsafe" according to the survey definition. Rather, men appear to be approaching risk strategically, even when not using condoms, but having had unprotected anal intercourse only with those whose serostatus they believed was the same as their own, by limiting the number of partners, and, in the most risky anal sex, adopting the roles deemed least risky, with HIV-negative men more often on top and HIV-positive men more often on the bottom.

The survey, conducted in consultation with the New York City Department of Health and Sigma Research in London, is the largest done among gay men in New York since the start of the AIDS epidemic. "This provides by far the clearest picture yet of gay men's sexual practices in New York City, and some desperately needed data for the fight against HIV," says Joshua Lipsman, M.D., GMHC's Executive Director.

Over 7,000 men, of every race and from every borough of New York, completed the survey, which also included data on drug use during sex, exposure to HIV prevention programs, and target populations at highest risk.

$90.2 Million Budget Shortfall Projected for ADAPs

The success of state AIDS Drug Assistant Programs could be threatened by a $90.2 million projected shortfall in federal funding for FY2000, even after substantial increases in federal and state funding over the past several years. In a briefing on Capitol Hill on June 22, directors of two state ADAPs and an infectious disease specialist from Johns Hopkins University explained that such a shortfall, coupled with an increase in demand, could imperil the program that is a lifeline for thousands who live with HIV and AIDS.

"Today, more people are seeking care for HIV than ever before. Advances in HIV therapy and easier access to medications over the past three years have led patients to seek treatment earlier, resulting in 40 to 50 percent increases in demand for outpatient care at some HIV clinics," explained Dr. Richard Moore, an infectious disease specialist and associate professor at Johns Hopkins. "While costs for HIV treatments have increased dramatically, they are offset by significant drops in hospitalizations, costs to treat AIDS-associated opportunistic infections, and an actual decrease in AIDS death."

But, according to experts, more federal support is needed to ensure that all patients get the life-extending medications they require if these unprecedented drops in HIV-related deaths are to continue. A widely respected budget model developed by the ADAP Working Group, a coalition of AIDS advocacy organizations and pharmaceutical companies, predicts that without an additional $90.2 million in federal funding for FY2000, increased enrollment and demand for medications may overwhelm the program and threaten its success.

"Congress has been remarkably responsive to the increased needs of ADAP in recent years," says Bill Arnold, Co-Chair of the Working Group. "But each year more and more people turn to this program for help and strain resources even further. This increase is critical if we want to continue to improve the lives of Americans with HIV and AIDS."

Even with increased federal funding, many state ADAPs are still forced to limit access or curtail coverage for patients when funding levels begin to fall below demand. Last year 26 states cut ADAP services or faced budget shortages, according to the 1999 National ADAP Monitoring Report, a joint project of the National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors and the AIDS Treatment Data Network. These emergency cost-containment measures have included:

  • Eleven states capped program enrollments and also maintained waiting lists for entry to ADAP.
  • Six states reported that they were forced to maintain waiting lists for access to protease inhibitors or other antiretroviruses.
  • Two states (Arkansas and South Dakota) did not, and continue not to, cover any protease inhibitors because of budget constraints.

The study also found that most states continue to experience significant growth in the numbers of patients seeking assistance from ADAP each month. From July 1997 through June 1998, the number of people served by ADAPs increased by 22 percent. In addition, eighteen states reported increases in expenditures of 50 percent or greater.

Experts fear that without further increases in federal funding more states will have to institute or reinstitute caps in enrollment and establish waiting lists for patients.

Last year, the Centers for Disease Control reported that the death rate from AIDS fell 44 percent from 1996 to 1997 and that AIDS is no longer the leading cause of death among Americans aged 25 to 44. States are continuing to experience these unprecedented results; New York recently reported that AIDS deaths had fallen for the fourth year in a row. Furthermore, last year marked the first time since 1985 that New York experienced fewer than 2,000 deaths from AIDS.

Back to the August 1999 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.