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November 18, 2011

Judge halts new rules for state AIDS drug program

Columbus--A judge has issued a temporary restraining order against the implementation of new Ohio AIDS Drug Assistance Program regulations that would allow the state to ration health care and change thresholds for receiving aid.

The suit, filed on behalf of Eddie Hamilton, William Booth and David Baker on November 2, saw the restraining order issued the following day.

The suit alleges that the changes to the policy give the director of the Ohio Department of Health unilateral and arbitrary control to change guidelines.

“The medical and financial criteria that are at the heart of these rule changes in Ohio are murder by proxy, plain and simple,” said Booth, who is with Miami Valley Positives for Positives. “While not every program can be secured with dollars, the cost containment procedures and restricted medical eligibility are forcing Ohio into a system where the state Department of Health will be deciding who lives or dies. That is why we have filed this legal action: to halt such a draconian - and what we believe illegal - action.”

The rule would lower ADAP thresholds so patients would need a CD4 count of 200 or less; it currently stands at 350. It also allows the director to set the financial requirement at the federal poverty level--$11,000 income annually, when a single prescription could cost $12,000 or more per year.

The changes were issued at the last minute, and were not included clearly in the actual text, but rather in appendices, so that is one of the legal bases for the suit, along with the state’s failure to hold public hearings on the changes.

The case is in front of the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas.

IRS agrees with court: SRS is deductible

Washington, D.C.--The Internal Revenue Service indicated earlier this month that it agrees with a court decision that sex reassignment surgery is tax-deductible.

The change comes in the case of Rhiannon O’Donnabhain, who fought for nearly 10 years to get $5,000 deducted from expenses incurred making her body match her identity.

Last year, a federal tax court ruled in her favor, and the IRS conceded the point this month. They still will not, however, let her deduct breast augmentation surgery, since they say that it was to improve her appearance, not to treat her gender dysphoria.

There was a great deal of politicization in the ruling and its dissent. One of the concurring judges issued his own opinion, lamenting the entry of the tax code into the “culture wars.” Some of the dissent showed open hostility to O’Donnabhain.

O’Donnabhain underwent gender reassignment surgery in 2002, and was audited the following year. She filed suit in 2006.

DeGeneres named special AIDS envoy

Washington, D.C.--Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton announced on November 8 that she has named Ellen DeGeneres as special envoy for global AIDS awareness.

“By lending us your energy, compassion, and star power to serve as our Special Envoy for Global AIDS Awareness, your words will encourage Americans in joining you to make their voices heard in our campaign to achieve an AIDS-free generation,” Clinton said in an address at the National Institutes of Health. “The enormous platform of your television show and your social media channels will enable you to reach millions of people with the strong and hopeful message that we can win this fight.”

DeGeneres, following in a long line of lesbians in the forefront of the effort to end the plague, noted, “The fight against AIDS is something that has always been close to my heart. And I’m happy that I can use my platform to educate people and spread hope. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to look up what ‘envoy’ means.”

Ohio gets $30 million in HIV funds

Columbus--Ohio will receive over $30 million in federal grants for HIV care and medications, although that presents a tiny fraction of the total emergency funds being released by the Department of Health and Human Services.

The HHS announced the release $1.89 billion at the end of September, so Ohio’s share is just over 1.5 percent of that.

Ohio will get just over $25 million for its Ryan White Part B program, with another $1.2 million going to the AIDS Drug Assistance Program, to help low-income people get HIV medications.

In addition, metropolitan Cleveland will get $4.4 million for the Ryan White Part A program. New York City will get $120 million and Sacramento, California gets $2.6 million, so Cleveland is at the low end of the range. Those funds are targeted for core medical and support services in metropolitan areas with the highest number of people living with HIV or emerging care needs.

Second student is attacked in school

Westerville, Ohio--A second student has been attacked in an Ohio public school in less than two weeks.

On November 1, a Westerville South High School Student was called “fag” and “faggot” while being punched in the head, and was taken to the hospital to be tested for a concussion.

The student does not identify as gay, but his lesbian sister was also harassed at the Columbus-suburban school for four years.

Unlike Union-Scioto High School near Chillicothe, where the earlier attack on another student occurred, Westerville has a bullying policy that includes protections based on sexual orientation.

The Westerville student’s mother told Equality Ohio, “Ever since fifth grade we’ve been dealing with the bullying and harassment. The school is brushing off its responsibilities by just suspending the bully.”

The ACLU is representing the victim of the October 17 assault in Chillicothe, mulling a range of legal responses to the attack as well as sending a letter to the school district and inviting them to discuss solutions before they file suit.

The Union-Scioto High School assault was recorded on a cell phone and video was posted online. A couple days earlier, the attacker posted a comment on a photo on the victim’s Facebook page, writing, “Check out the definition of a fag.”

Couple’s house is vandalized

Grove City, Ohio--Two men awoke on November 9 to discover that they were the targets of anti-gay vandalism.

The word “fag” was scrawled on their fence, garage door and the side of their house during the night. Police in this Columbus suburb are investigating.

“This kind of crime is intended to send a message of hate and feat to the two men and their neighbors,” said Gloria McCauley, executive director of the Buckeye Region Anti-Violence Organization in Columbus. “All too often these crimes go unreported and people are left with cleaning up and restoring their sense of safety and security all on their own.”

“It is sad that Ohio is still facing this kind of crime so often,” she noted. “This is truly an exhibition of ignorance.”

Burned torso is identified as TG teen

Detroit--A burned torso found on the city’s east side has been identified as that of transgender teen Henry Hilliard Jr., 19.

Hilliard, also known as Shelley and Treasure, disappeared on October 23. The body was identified because of a tattoo of cherries on her upper right arm.

Police are investigating the death as a homicide.

The identification came after a Detroit Free Press article accused the police and medical examiners of a lack of communication in regards to missing persons reports, so often bodies in the morgue would go unidentified. Because of the article, the police began sending detailed reports to the medical examiner’s office, leading to Hilliard’s discovery.

New anal gel can block HIV

Los Angeles--Researchers at the University of California--Los Angeles believe they have formulated a gel that can be used anally to block the transmission of HIV.

The gel, which uses a new drug called UC781, reduced the incidence of infection and seemed to have few or no side effects. A previous microbicidal gel trial using the drug Tenofovir had uncomfortable side effects for some users.

Vaginal gels have already proven safe and effective, but receptive anal sex is 20 to 2,000 times riskier for HIV transmission than vaginal, so an effective anal gel was considered a major goal of prevention researchers.

The UC781 gel has already proven safe and effective at two different concentrations for vaginal use, and the tests for its anal use incorporated the same applicators as the earlier tests. Part of the study examined single-use effects, and the other part used daily applications for a week.

Marriage foes can’t hide their donors

San Francisco--The groups that paid $40 million to pass Prop. 8, California’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, do not get to hide their donors because they are not a “fringe organization” with an unpopular view, a federal judge has ruled.

The written ruling by U.S. District Judge Morrison England followed his October 21 decision dismissing a lawsuit that sought to exclude the committees behind Prop. 8 from laws requiring them to divulge the names of everyone who donated over $100.

England pointed out that, since 7 million Californians voted for the amendment, they could hardly be called a “fringe organization.”

The Supreme Court has ruled that groups like the Socialist Workers Party in the Cold War era, or the NAACP in the South during segregation, could hide their donors for fear of frightening away potential funders, or because of safety issues.

An attorney with the National Organization for Marriage said on November 7 that he would appeal the ruling. The anti-gay group has sued against campaign finance laws in a number of states, and has never revealed any of their contributors.

James Bopp, NOM’s attorney, presented 58 declarations by Prop. 8 supporters saying they were harassed. England pointed out that the same evidence was presented in 2009, and those few incidents of threats and violence were reported to the police. The rest he called excesses undertaken by both sides in a contentious campaign, like vandalizing campaign signs, and legally protected activities, like economic boycotts of businesses whose owners supported Prop. 8.

Compiled by Brian DeWitt, Anthony Glassman and Patti Harris.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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