April 28, 2011
Here is a quick look at a few HIV/AIDS stories recently reported in the media:
Thanks to the release of the study "Growing Older With the Epidemic: HIV and Aging," by the Gay Men's Health Crisis, the graying of HIV has made its way back onto people's radars in the past few months. Recently, Monica Gray, a video blogger for HyperVocal, tackled the issue with an interesting entry point. She writes that while one of the most visible people over 50 living with HIV is Magic Johnson, he isn't really the best representative for the graying of HIV.
The fact that Magic is living with HIV/AIDS in his 50s is hardly unique. In fact, about one-third of people who have the disease in the U.S. are 50 or older. This figure will grow to one half by 2015. The reasons are partly encouraging, such as improved treatments, but also discouraging -- the number of new HIV cases in older people continues to grow.
Magic is perhaps the most public example of someone living with the virus at 50+, but his image can glamorize the realities of what it's like to grow older with the virus. For "ordinary" people across the country within the growing HIV+ 50+ cohort, day-to-day life means dealing with all of HIV/AIDS's associated stigmas while also confronting the regular challenges that go along with aging.
In the video below, Gray interviews advocates in the D.C. area about issues that seniors living with HIV may face.
HIV-Positive Man in Buffalo Faces Felony Charges, the Positive Justice Project Urges Media to Report Fairly and Accurately (From Housing Works AIDS Issues Update)
The Associated Press reported that a Buffalo, N.Y., man, Darryl Fortner, faces reckless endangerment charges after police say he failed to disclose his HIV-positive status to at least four sexual partners. The 20-year-old was arrested last week, but investigators won't confirm whether the women contracted HIV from Fortner or if they have even been tested.
Because the media doesn't do the best job of providing nuanced stories, the Positive Justice Project is speaking out against sensationalist media coverage about criminalization -- with this particular case in mind. In a press release, it collected the voices of people in the community reminding journalists to be mindful of a few things:
"Rushing to judgment and demonizing a young black man on the basis of his HIV status has a horrible impact not only on people who already are diagnosed with HIV, but on all of those in my community who are afraid to get tested," said Kali Lindsay, a public policy expert at Harlem United and a person living with HIV. "No one is going to get tested for HIV if they think that knowing their status will land them in jail."
Fortner's arrest is one in a long line of cases across the country where HIV-positive persons, often African American, are facing criminal charges and disproportionately long sentences for otherwise-legal behavior on the basis of their HIV status. Intent to transmit or intent to expose others to HIV is rarely -- if ever -- a consideration in these cases, which typically turn into a credibility battle in which the person who has first discovered he or she is HIV positive is assumed to be dishonest.
As most states are making serious amendments to their budgets, across the nation there is serious concern that these cuts will negatively affect people living with HIV. According to the Westport News, as a means of addressing their Medicare funding deficit, South Carolina senators have approved a budget measure that will make it more difficult for people living with HIV and those who suffer from mental illness to access name-brand medications.
But lawmakers are clear: Any people who are stable on their name-brand drugs will still have access to them.
South Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Director Tony Keck told the newspaper, "The whole idea is to save the department money while getting the best results. We don't want to do anything if a patient's on a stable drug that makes them unstable." He added, "When someone decompresses and loses stability that ends up costing us many, many times more than the drug costs because they end up in the emergency room, they end up in psychiatric admissions, and in terms of cancer, they end up with allergic reactions. There are all sorts of things that cost us money."
Supporters of this change claim that the shift to generics could yield savings of $991,000 and that generic drugs are just as good as name-brand ones.
Whitman-Walker Drops "Clinic" From Its Name (From The Washington Blade)
HIV Increases the Risk for Heart Failure in Some HIV-Positive Men (From The AIDS Beacon)
The Right to Have Comprehensive Sex Education in a Florida City Sparks Lively Debate (From The Daytona Beach News-Journal)
Kellee Terrell is the former news editor for TheBody.com and TheBodyPRO.com.
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