On August 4, a coalition of 12 AIDS organizations, including Project Inform, the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, and the San Francisco HIV/AIDS Provider Network, issued a joint statement expressing concern about the ADAP (AIDS Drug Assistance Program) crisis nationwide, while voicing unanimous praise for Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosiâ€™s leadership on HIV/AIDS issues and her efforts to secure increased funding for ADAP. In the same statement, the coalition denounced the AIDS Healthcare Foundationâ€™s (AHF) plan to stage a mock â€śfuneralâ€ť outside Pelosiâ€™s San Francisco home.
Coalition members said in their statement that Pelosi did not deserve such treatment and continued, â€śâ€¦we express our deep gratitude and appreciation for Speaker Pelosiâ€™s tireless leadership on behalf of people living with HIV/AIDS since the day she took office. As a member of the Appropriations Committee, she always prioritized funding increases for HIV services even in the most hostile political and challenging fiscal periods. Her efforts have created and sustained programs that have kept hundreds of thousands of people with HIV alive and healthy. Since becoming Speaker of the House of Representatives, she has continued to demonstrate her fierce commitment by leading efforts to lift the ban on federal funding for syringe exchange and the travel ban for people with HIV/AIDS, reauthorize the Ryan White Program, dramatically increase funding for NIH research, establish our nationâ€™s first National HIV/AIDS Strategy and, most notably, pass comprehensive health care reform legislation which will significantly expand access to care for people with HIV/AIDS. Last month, the House Labor-HHS Education Appropriations Subcommittee approved a funding bill that provides an increase of over $84 million for the Ryan White program, including a $50 million increase for ADAP. This is $30 million more than the amount proposed for ADAP in the Presidentâ€™s budget.â€ť
Soon after the coalition statement was released, NAPWA (National Association of People with AIDS) joined in the denouncement of the AHF protest, saying, â€śThe funeral is in completely poor taste and is an unconstructive attack on the Speaker, who has been a leader to the HIV community ever since being elected to office.â€ť Matthew Lesieur, Director of Public Policy at NAPWA said, "I am unclear what AIDS Healthcare Foundation thinks they will accomplish by targeting the Speaker in this most distasteful way. While we must demand accountability from our elected officials, and this crisis is unprecedented in its scope, we must find more constructive and meaningful ways to communicate with elected officials who have been our friends than to engage in this kind of behavior."
Both NAPWA and the coalition urged AIDS advocates to work productively with Speaker Pelosi and their other elected officials to see that Congress adequately funds ADAP and other HIV/AIDS programs.
On July 26, Tibotec Therapeutics submitted a New Drug Application (NDA) to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for TMC278 (rilpivirine), an HIV non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor (like Sustiva). TMC278 continued to show good results in data presented at the International AIDS Conference held in Vienna in July. Results from two large Phase 3 studies found TMC278 to be non-inferior to the kingpin Sustiva. These are 48-week results from 1,368 study participants. They started out with a median (half above, half below) viral load of 100,000 and T-cells of 256. Tibotec also has a non-nucleoside medication currently on the market, Intelence (etravirine).
On August 4, Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker issued his decision to overturn the California ban on same-sex marriage known as Proposition 8, ruling that California's denial of marriage licenses to same-sex couples violates the Equal Protection Clause and the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment.
The decision came as a result of a lawsuit filed in January 2010 by two gay couples and the city of San Francisco that charged that the law was unconstitutional and infringed on the civil rights of gay men and lesbians.
According to a Reuters report, attorneys on both sides planned to appeal if the judge ruled against them. In fact, a coalition of religious and conservative groups that was behind Prop 8 in 2008 immediately filed a legal brief asking that the decision be stayed so that gay and lesbian couples could not marry while an appeal was ongoing.
Bernard Cherkasov, CEO of Equality Illinois, an LGBT rights organization, said, â€śThis exciting development brings us one step closer to full LGBT equality, but the final outcome in the matter may still be years away and same-sex couples in every corner of the country are still being denied federal recognition of their relationships.â€ťAn appeal of the decision would first go to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. A further appeal would then go to the Supreme Court, if the justices agreed to hear it.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) has officially launched the Personal Responsibility Education Program (PREP), setting aside $55 million in federal funding which, for the first time, will pay for comprehensive sex education. The DHHS is also making $50 million in funding available to support Title V abstinence-only-until-marriage programs. Both PREP and Title V were authorized and funded as a part of the recent health care reform package.
â€śPREP is a direct result of tireless advocacy for comprehensive sex education by parents, educators, health professionals, and young people over the last decade,â€ť said James Wagoner, president of Advocates for Youth. â€śThe continued funding of abstinence-only- until-marriage programs, in contrast, is an effort by members of Congress to appease social conservatives.â€ť
To date, the United States has spent more than $1.5 billion on abstinence-only-until-marriage programs that contain false and misleading information and have been shown to have no impact on teen behavior. These programs explicitly prohibit the teaching of potentially life-saving information about condoms and contraception, leaving young people in ignorance and at risk. Â
According to DHHS, the purpose of PREP is to â€śprovide age-appropriate information for youth between the ages of 10 and 19 on both abstinence and contraception for the prevention of pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections, including HIV/AIDS.â€ť This comprehensive approach to sex education is supported by more than 100 scientific and medical associations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Society of Adolescent Medicine, and the American Medical Association.
On July 30, Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) introduced a bill (S.3680), known as the Family and Medical Leave Inclusion Act, to amend the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA). The bill would permit leave to care for a same-sex spouse, domestic partner, parent-in-law, adult child, sibling, or grandparent who has a serious health condition.
In his statement to the Senate, Durbin said the bill would â€śextend the important protections of the Family and Medical Leave Act to same-sex couples in America. Under current law, it is impossible for many employees to be with their partners during times of medical need.â€ť
Durbin quoted the late Senator Edward Kennedy, who once said, â€śIt is wrong for our civil laws to deny any American the basic right to be part of a family, to have loved ones with whom to build a future and share life's joys and tears, and to be free from the stain of bigotry and discrimination.''
Earlier this summer, the U.S. Department of Labor issued guidance clarifying that an individual serving as a parent, but who may not have a legal or biological relationship to a child, is eligible to take FMLA leave to care for that child or to attend a birth or adoption. As Labor Secretary Hilda Solis noted, â€śNo one who intends to raise a child should be denied the opportunity to be present when that child is born simply because the state or an employer fails to recognize his or her relationship with the biological parent. The Labor Department's action today sends a clear message to workers and employers alike: All families, including LGBT families, are protected by the FMLA.''
Durbin said, â€śI applaud the Labor Department and the Obama Administration for sending this important message, but unfortunately, the FMLA statute still does not allow an employee to take leave to care for a same-sex partner. We must act to truly make these important protections available to all families.â€ť
The bill has been referred to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.