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Obama Signs Ryan White HIV/AIDS Treatment Extension Act and Announces End of HIV Travel Ban

Barack Obama signing

Filed by: Waymon Hudson- Bilerico Website

October 30, 2009 2:00 PM

President Obama announced an end to the HIV Travel and Immigration Ban during the signing ceremony for the vital Ryan White HIV/AIDS Treatment Extension Act this afternoon.

The travel ban, a legacy of Jesse Helms, has been in place since 1987. It prevented HIV+ non-U.S. citizens from traveling or immigrating to the United States unless granted a special waiver from the the Department of Homeland Security.

Here’s some of what Obama had to say (Read the full transcript here):

Twenty-two years ago, in a decision rooted in fear rather than fact, the United States instituted a travel ban on entry into the country for people living with HIV/AIDS. Now, we talk about reducing the stigma of this disease — yet we’ve treated a visitor living with it as a threat. We lead the world when it comes to helping stem the AIDS pandemic — yet we are one of only a dozen countries that still bar people from HIV from entering our own country.

If we want to be the global leader in combating HIV/AIDS, we need to act like it. And that’s why, on Monday my administration will publish a final rule that eliminates the travel ban effective just after the New Year. Congress and President Bush began this process last year, and they ought to be commended for it. We are finishing the job. It’s a step that will encourage people to get tested and get treatment, it’s a step that will keep families together, and it’s a step that will save lives.

Some details according to Kerry Eleveld over at the Advocate:

Congress passed the policy reversal last summer under the leadership of Sens. John Kerry (D-MA) and Gordon Smith (D-OR) and Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA); former President George W. Bush signed it into law, but the Administration was unable to finalize the change before his term ended.

The new regulation eliminates any travel and immigration restrictions that are tied to a person’s HIV status. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) put the wheels of change in motion in late June by publishing the proposed regulation to the federal register, which triggered a 45-day public comment period. HHS has now sent the final change to the Office of Management and Budget for approval, but the source said HHS would not be able to fully implement the new regulation for another 60 days following the president’s announcement.

In the intervening months, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has directed its officers to place holds on any decisions regarding green card applications that are based solely on an individual’s HIV status pending full implementation of the new rule.

Immigration Equality, which has been pushing for lifting the restrictions, had this to say:

We are proud to have been part of a tremendous coalition, including Senator John Kerry, former Senator Gordon Smith, and Congresswoman Barbara Lee, who have worked tirelessly to repeal this ban.  Every day, Immigration Equality hears from individuals and families who have been separated because of the ban, with no benefit to the public health.  Now, those families can be reunited, and the United States can put its mouth where its money is: ending the stigma that perpetuates HIV transmission, supporting science, and welcoming those who seek to build a life in this country.  Today’s announcement is proof that immigration laws that separate families and stigmatize communities are always destined to fail.

Also key was the extension of the Ryan White Act. The three-year extension of the lifesaving legislation funds an array of innovative and effective services that form the healthcare safety net for uninsured and underinsured Americans living with HIV/AIDS. According to the Government Accountability Office, the program helps about 500,000 annually.

The Ryan White Care Act, first enacted in 1990, is the nation’s largest federally funded program for people living HIV/AIDS.


Daniel Radcliffe Teams Up with the Trevor Project to Help LGBT Youth

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Filed by: Waymon Hudson @ Bilerico

What a magical match up!

Daniel Radcliffe, the star of Harry Potter, has made a major donation to our friends at The Trevor Project, the non-profit organization that operates the only nationwide suicide-prevention helpline for LGBTQ youth.

The 20-year-old actor joined The Trevor Project’s Circle of Hope, a community of major donors which plays an essential role in providing the financial leadership and support that makes the organization’s critical lifesaving work possible.

Radcliffe had this to say:

I am very pleased to begin my support of The Trevor Project, which saves lives every day through its critical work. It’s extremely distressing to consider that in 2009 suicide is a top three killer of young people, and it’s truly devastating to learn that LGBTQ youth are up to four times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers.

I deeply hope my support can raise the organization’s visibility so even more despondent youth become aware of The Trevor Helpline’s highly trained counselors and Trevor’s many other resources. It’s vitally important that young people understand they are not alone and, perhaps even more important, that their young lives have real value.

Radcliffe has long been outspoken about his support for the LGBT community, and often speaks out about his love for the community, whom he calls his best friends and family. Having such a high profile supporter, who has such a huge following and a cash-cow movie franchise, can only help a group like The Trevor Project and the issues around LGBT youth.

Charles Robbins, the executive director of The Trevor Project, seemed extremely excited about Radcliffe’s support:

We’re incredibly grateful to Daniel for his truly inspiring and historic generosity and support. He is setting a meaningful example for millions of young people around the world by embracing diversity and demonstrating that he cares deeply about the well-being of LGBTQ youth.

So kudos Radcliffe for putting his money and support where his mouth is. We love our allies who step up to help!


TAKE ACTION! Ryan White AIDS program terminates in 8 weeks

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Editors’ Note: Michael Rajner is a Bilerico-Florida blogger. We’re bumping this post up to Bilerico Project and crossposting it on all of our state sites. Please add the post to your Facebook page, Twitter it and/or steal it for your own blog.

AIDS Action is prompting the national HIV/AIDS community to take action and call President Obama and Secretary Sebelius to demand that Congress act to extend the Ryan White Care Act before

it sunsets on September 30, 2009. Unless Congress and the President take action, the Ryan White AIDS Program will be terminated in 8 weeks and the federal government will shut the doors of access to critical care, treatment and support services for people living with HIV/AIDS.

As America experiences a national crisis involving healthcare reform, conservative groups are actively disrupting town hall meetings for Members of Congress to listen to the challenges of people falling out of medical care simply because they are not eligible for health care coverage or they just find the system of care impossible to navigate.

TAKE ACTION: Call The White House and Secretary Sebelius and tell them to voice their support to Congress for extending the Ryan White Program. For talking points and contact numbers, click on the link for AIDS Action’s Action Alert.


NBC's 'Kings' takes up gay interpretation

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Found on: Bilerico Project:
Filed by: Matt Comer

Well… at least slightly so, that is. I watched the premiere of NBC’s allegorical “Kings” over the internet last night. Work at the paper on Sunday evening kept me away from the debut and my favorite weekly viewing pleasure, “Big Love.”

“Kings,” a modern-day retelling of the classic David story of the Hebrew Bible, is set amidst the backdrop of a modern metropolis, complete with a New York City-style skyline and contemporary issues — modern warfare, healthcare issues, the paparazzi, the “free press” and, yes, homosexuality.

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The David and Goliath, David and Jonathan, and David and Saul stories flow onto the TV screen from the pages of scriptural history (excuse my obvious Southern, evangelical phrasing — it’s the way I was raised). But NBC’s modern-day take doesn’t completely align with the stories (mainly from Samuel 1 and 2 and Kings). Despite the presence of a gay character (which the Bible also has, unless you’re reading it from an definitive anti-gay bias), “Kings” shifts the plot and story lines a bit, but what else is to be expected from 21st century media? (Picture above: King Silas and David Shepherd.)

In the TV drama, King Saul becomes “King Silas Benjamin” (a throwback to the fact that Saul was from the tribe of Benjamin). David becomes “David Shepherd” (how cute) and Saul’s son Jonathan becomes “Jack.”

But unlike the Biblical story, there’s only one gay or bisexual character. In Scripture, one can easily interpret David and Jonathan’s love for one another as a romantic relationship. In “Kings,” it is likely the main character won’t have any gay trysts. But that doesn’t rule out any longing Jack might develop for the young David.

Critics have called out NBC’s choice to portray Jack as a villain. That view isn’t entirely correct. First and foremost, the show, like the Biblical story and life, have no clear cut “heroes” or “villains” — each of the characters are complex.

While no one can argue that the character isn’t portrayed as a spoiled, royal brat, there are plenty of scenes in which Jack shows some humanity. He is a capable military leader who is tripped by the scheming and plotting ways of his royal father. He feels pain and loss after the death of his military comrades. He tries desperately to please his father, the only man he wants to please, despite having the respect of the entire military.

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Previews from critics made privy to the first four hours of the show and those who interviewed the show’s creator say give the show time: each character will have their own unique journeys. Perhaps we can attribute Jack’s seemingly villainous ways to the forced double life he must lead. In the two-hour premiere, Silas tells Jack, in no uncertain terms, that if he is to be king, he cannot “be what God made you to be.” (Picture above: King Silas calls out his son Jack on his late-night activities with other boys, after his “shows of skirt-chasing.”)

I’m excited to see what the show holds for the future. I’ve always loved the story of David, even before I came out and heard of its obviously gay interpretation. NBC’s “Kings” has promise.

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I happen to see this episode and found the show to be very compelling. It will be interesting to see where they take the characters in the future.


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