Howard Dean, Fred Karger, Advocacy Groups Support #TestMe #June 27

One of the most exciting, proactive things to come out of Netroots Nations 13 is #TestMe, which encourages people to get tested for HIV on National HIV Testing Day, and to share photos and observations about the testing on various social media platforms using the #TestMe hashtag. Since 2005, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended that all Americans ages 13-64 be tested at least annually. Those Americans at high risk, particularly gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men including transgender women, should be tested every three months. And out over the 1 million people infected with HIV in the US, the CDC estimates that 20% are unaware that they are HIV+.

Howard Dean, the former governor of Vermont and founder of Democracy for America, endorses #TestMe, saying:

We stand at a unique time in the history of the HIV epidemic. We have the ability to stop the spread of this virus in its tracks, but the first step to doing that is getting people tested. Right now, 20 percent of people living with HIV are unaware of their infection and that makes them much more likely to transmit their infection, get sick or die. Sadly, the epidemic is exploding again in the men who have sex with men risk category, so I particularly encourage my friends who are gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men, as well as transgender women, to get tested on June 27. Knowledge is power, but silence still equals death.

Zach Wahls, an author and advocate for the LGBT community endorses the #TestMe project, as does former Republican presidential candidate–and first openly gay presidential candidate–Fred Karger.  Also on board, Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) National. Jody M. Huckaby, executive director of PFLAG said:

PFLAG National is proud to be a part of this broad coalition sharing the #TestMe National HIV Testing Day message on June 27. Organizationally, our history is inextricably tied to the early days of the HIV/AIDS epidemic and the activism surrounding it. Individually, PFLAGers are committed to protecting the health and well-being of their LGBT loved ones; encouraging HIV testing is a part of that commitment.

Rea Carey, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force said:

Nearly 1 in 5 people with HIV do not know they are infected. On National HIV Testing Day we encourage everyone to help raise awareness by spreading the word with #testme and getting tested yourself.

Derek Geirson, founder of Equalize Youth explains:

Getting tested is the basic requirement to end this epidemic that has hurt our community in multiple ways, for far too long.  To know my status is a responsibility not only to myself but also to my community. There’s no excuse. Test me!

Heather Cronk, co-director of GetEQUAL said:

While many people think of that as ancient history, the epidemic is still killing our friends and neighbors at alarming rates. The #TestMe campaign is a great way for folks to play a simple but profound role in ending this epidemic once and for all — and I encourage everyone across the country to join in.

These advocates said it far better than I can. I’m getting tested, and I urge everyone else who is sexually active to get tested as well. Knowing your status–and getting tested before you switch partners–is vitally important. Your pre-sex date should be a trip to your local (anonymous) HIV testing center for a  rapid test, followed by dinner.

#TestMe!

Palin, Fleetwood Mac, Justin Timberlake, Bono: Now Starring in Charitable Causes

victangelcherub_lg.thumbnail.jpg* Sarah Palin unwittingly helped Planned Parenthood raise over $1 million during the presidential campaign when the e-mails asking for donations in her name spread virally in September and October. The e-mail directed people to Planned Parenthood’s Web site to donate in Palin’s name, and money went to the Planned Parenthood branch located in the same ZIP code as the giver.  Donors could then have that branch of Planned Parenthood send Palin a card announcing the gift.

When asked about the fund-raising campaign yesterday, Alaska’s Frost Lady responded:

I have boxes of thank-you notes from people associated with Planned Parenthood thanking me for the donations. Same with some anti-hunting groups, they’re doing the same thing right now. It’s political theater–it’s great theater I guess for some.

Planned Parenthood Alaska–which received $5000 in donations during the email push– said they would earmark the money to help women access birth control, and that the funds would not be used to fund abortions. Palin is vehemently opposed to abortion as well as Plan B (the morning-after pill), but told Katie Couric she was:

all for contraception..all for preventative measures that are legal and safe.

Planned Parenthood provides sex and STD education,  STD care, women’s gynecological health care, and birth control along with abortion counseling and services. In response to yesterday’s query about Planned Parenthood  Palin said:

But on the issue of Planned Parenthood and abortion, at least Planned Parenthood, officials there and, I, we agree on a mission here that we’d like to see fewer and fewer abortions. And I, embracing the culture of life, have perhaps a different approach in how I would like to see that goal reached.

Here’s a pro tip for Gov GILF: Abstinence doesn’t work.

*  To help parents meet their children’s educational needs, the supergroup Fleetwood Mac is auctioning off VIP tickets and meet-and-greets with Mick Fleetwood as a fundraiser. The auction benefits Hilltop Nursery School in Silver Lake, California, a parent-participation, cooperative pre-school founded over 50 years ago. Pairs of tickets for each show on the band’s Unleashed tour–plus face time with Fleetwood–are up for auction on eBay now and the charity auctions will continue throughout the tour.

*  Justin Timberlake joined Bill Murray, Ray Romano, Kevin James, and Michael Bolton on the golf course at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, helping to raise over $6 million dollars for a number of charities including schools, arts programs, services for the blind and senior and food banks.

*  In an essay in Elle magazine, Bono discusses a trip to Africa he took six years ago and the changes he has seen since there has been an increase in awareness and funding in HIV/AIDS care on the continent:

Our science and technology, it turned out, were more advanced than our conscience. We in the West had the means to save lives, but we lacked the resolve.

What can we do? Well, the short answer is: a lot. At the time of that trip, only 50,000 Africans had access to ARVs [anti-retrovial drugs]. That figure today is 2.1 million. That’s because a lot of people have been doing a lot of things, in Africa and all over the world. In the face of the AIDS emergency, we’ve got to gang up on the problem.

Bono points out the effect of conscious consumerism, specifically the (RED) brands–everyday consumer goods from coffee and wine to clothing and electronics–that benefit the Global Fund to Fight AIDS. Since its inception (RED) has raised $120 million for prevention and counseling programs as well as treatment, and is now the thirteenth biggest contributor to the Global Fund, giving more than some countries. Explains Bono:

The companies involved don’t mark up their products to get you to pay a premium. They take a piece of the profits from every (RED) thing you buy, and they use it to buy lifesaving medication for those who can’t afford it. 

Charities and non-profits are feeling the economic chill, and sadly–between the markets, Madoff and budget cuts–it looks like it’s going to get colder. Celebrities help draw attention and money (maybe giving some of their own cash in the process) to causes, hopefully helping to maintain or increase donations as the need for services is on the rise. 

Hey, Mr. President, America Has Some Ideas!

eleggua.thumbnail.jpgSo there’s this great thing on change.gov called the President’s Briefing Book, where real folks can write up an idea which gets voted on, and the most popular ideas will be brought to Obama.  Lots of them are really good, and show the wide range of concerns held by the American people from light rail transportation to the Employee Free Choice Act.

 There are a lot of things I’d like to see implemented in this country, a lot changes made, and from reading what I write you pretty much know that marriage equality is a huge issue for me, and there are several suggestions in the briefing book including the repeal of  DOMA. I voted on ideas important to me and then I…uh, wrote up one myself.

Rather than be redundant and draw away from the many articulate ideas I share with others who had posted their  (far less typo-ridden) thoughts, I wrote something new something I hadn’t really gone into before, which like Civil Marriage Equality, won’t cost the government very much money, won’t raise taxes and will benefit millions of citizens: Opening scientific medical research exchange with Cuba. I know it’s a tiny weird idea, but Cuba’s CIM, the Center of Molecular Immunology, has made some amazing strides in immunology research projects  focused on cancer immunotherapy, especially the development of molecular vaccines. Yeah, cancer vaccines.

In the United States cancer is the second leading cause of death, with some half a million people dying every year from that disease. Cancer knows no political boundaries, the immune system is not a political entity, and scientific research–like art–is both inspiration and hard work.

But in 2003 the  Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control ("OFAC") established a regulation stating that publishing works–articles, short stories, research papers–from Cuba, Libya, Sudan and Iran was in violation of the embargos imposed on those countries, and required a license in order to publish anything from poetry to scientific articles. Those who did not comply with the regulation could have been fined up to $50,000 and sentenced to 10 years in prison.

A group of publishers and editors quickly filed suit and the matter was thankfully resolved in 2007. Now I’d like to see that embargo further lifted to allow scientists from the US and Cuba to  inspire and work together in laboratories.

Opening the door for Cuban researchers to work with their American compatriots in the field of immunology allows for the exchange of ideas and information that can help speed cures and vaccines, not only for cancer, but for diabetes, hepatitis C, diabetes, allergies and HIV/AIDS. Unlocking the secrets of the immune system can lead to lowered health care costs; better, cheaper drugs in the pipeline; and and overall growth of scientific research. And yes, an end to cancer and other immune system disorders.

 So have fun in the Briefing Book, write up your own ideas, vote for what’s important to you and enjoy this new way of making our thoughts and concerns known to our new administration.

Ignorant Rick Warren’s Ugandan BFF is Dangerously Crazy

In a pre-election video, Rick Warren,who says he would never endorse a candidate but on moral issues makes it really clear whom he prefers–once again fondles a favorite rotting corpse of lies, that "for 5,000 years in every religion marriage has been one man and one woman." Then in an astounding leap of linguistic faith Pastor Rick says that:

There are about 2% of Americans who are homosexual or gay and lesbian people. We should not let 2% of the population change the definition of marriage.

This is not even just a Christian issue. It’s a humanitarian and human issue.

WTF?!  You wanna talk humanitarian issues, Pastor Rick? Let’s talk about your BFF  and partner in the fight on AIDS in Africa, Martin Ssempa who has appeared on stage at Saddleback Church twice and who moved your wife to tears as she declared

You are my brother, Martin, and I love you. 

Ssempa has burned condoms in the name of Jesus, called on newspapers to publish the names of known homosexuals and urged the imprisonment of gays.  And Ssempa is hugely crazy, one of the many evangelized African pastors dangerously obsessed with witchcraft.

As Max Blumenthal writes, Ssempa, who has a room set aside for exorcisms–when interviewed by  Dr. Helen Epstein, author of The Invisible Cure: Why We’re Losing The Fight Against AIDS In Africa–told the public health expert

that Satan worshipers hold meetings under Lake Victoria, where they are promised riches in exchange for human blood, which they collect by staging car accidents and kidnappings.

Blumenthal reports that Ssempe is a close friend with Uganda’s First Lady Janet Museveni, who on New Year’s Eve 1999 rededicated the country to the "lordship" of Jesus Christ during a stadium revival meeting. She was joined on stage by a pastor who announced:

We renounce idolatry, witchcraft, and Satanism in our land! 

Sounds a bit like Kenyan pastor Thomas Muthee who cast out witchcraft for Sarah Palin in her Wasilla church.

Last May in Kissii Kenya, 11 elderly people were killed and 50 houses torched as a mob went looking for witches. Residents accused the witches of causing their children to perform poorly in school.  Njoroge Ndirangu, the commissioner in charge of Kisii Central district said:

These people identified who is to be killed by accusing their victims of bewitching their sons and daughters.

Both a part of the continent’s history, traditionally "witchcraft" in Africa differed from sorcery. Witchcraft was an accidental inability to control magical powers, an involuntarily wandering evil eye, while sorcery was directed magic.  There were–and still are–also "witch doctors," sorcerers who cure people of both bewitchments and provide cures for illnesses using local herbs–and yes sometimes these are the same thing. And of course there are charlatans who claim magical powers and like many pastors, will take a fee for removing curses and witchery.

Since the 19th century, evangelical Christianity, which has grown more frantic and fanatic since the influx of billions of dollars in HIV funding, has muddied the difference and witches are seen everywhere.  Pastors tell parents that their children, some as young as nine months, who have fevers or cry are possessed and need to be delivered from witchcraft at a price.

Often pastors promise that children and women afflicted with witchery can be "delivered,"  that exorcised of the ability to bewitch, for  a price. But many times the children are abused and abandoned.

Helen Ukpabio, a wealthy Nigerian evangelist filmmaker and president of Liberty Gospel Church, claims to have done 20,000  "deliverances"  in Nigeria and America.

If you don’t deliver a witch, the family can never be at peace. Let us deliver the people who are witches. We should not allow sentiments to come in here, because witchcraft is real…Witchcraft in not only practised in Nigeria. When I went to North Carolina in the United States, there were very many witches. They came to me asking, "Please can you deliver me? Can you deliver me? Please deliver me."

Ukpabio made a popular video showing children allegedly eating corpse and being inducted into a coven.  She told AllAfrica that the film

warns parents to beware of the greed in their children as greedy children who receive everything they see from other children at school or the playground can easily be contaminated.

"Contaminated" by witchcraft. And how does witchcraft tie into HIV/AIDS education and prevention? Pastor Joe Ita, the preacher at Ukpabio’s Liberty Gospel Church explains:

But we cannot attribute all things to witches, they work on inclinations too, so they don’t create HIV, but if you are promiscuous then the witch will give you HIV.

HIV/AIDS activist Reggie Jerrison of Nata Botswana claims he was resurrected from death by Bishop Dr. Barnabas Lekganyane. Jerrison–who takes antiretrovirals after being diagnosed with HIV and works as a peer counsellor advocating condoms and testing–refuses to admit that he got HIV through sexual intercourse, blood transfusion and needle sharing. He says he got HIV through witchcraft.

"I have not been infected by this virus because I had an affair. It is all witchcraft. It is not because I slept with an HIV positive person."

Even after intense questioning on why he blames his infection on witchcraft, he is adamant that someone has bewitched him.

Western church groups need to continue educating people about the real causes of HIV/AIDS–and those causes aren’t witchcraft. European and and American churches working on African HIV/AIDS education–hello, Pastor Rick!–need to turn African evangelicals away from the insanity of riculous accustations which lead to the repulsive abuse of children and the elderly, often at a profit by pastors. To use Rick Warren’s words:

 This is not even just a Christian issue. It’s a humanitarian and human issue.

Imagine: John Lennon Speaks From Beyond the Grave for One Laptop Per Child

Okay this is sorta creepy: John Lennon, who was shot and killed 28 years ago, has been resurrected to speak out for the first time since his death. And the subject: One Laptop per Child, a campaign to deliver solar-powered XO laptop computers to the world’s poorest children (no word yet whether internet accessibility will be filtered). The ad which digitally synthesized Lennon’s voice and face, was approved by Yoko Ono.

The reconstituted Lennon, whose image is seen briefly speaking, says:

Imagine every child no matter where in the world they were could access a universe of knowledge. They would have a chance to learn, to dream, to achieve anything they want. I tried to do it through my music, but now you can do it in a very different way. You can give a child a laptop and more than imagine, you can change the world .

A spinoff from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the One Laptop per Child Foundation started producing the XO laptop late last year at a manufacturing cost per machine of less than $200.  They’d like folks to donate to provide kids everywhere with a computer. Which is real nice, except potable water, food and vaccines are a more pressing concern for kids in under-developed and developing nations.

Melissa Etheridge Writes About Warren

melissaetheridge300.thumbnail.jpgOn the heels of her wife Tammy Lynne Michaels’ blog about Rick Warren, Melissa Etheridge posted her feeling about Pastor Rick on HuffPo.

After eloquently explaining the struggle for equal rights and her preconceptions of Pastor Rick, Etheridge describes her phone conversation with Warren:

He explained in very thoughtful words that as a Christian he believed in equal rights for everyone. He believed every loving relationship should have equal protection. He struggled with proposition 8 because he didn’t want to see marriage redefined as anything other than between a man and a woman. He said he regretted his choice of words in his video message to his congregation about proposition 8 when he mentioned pedophiles and those who commit incest. He said that in no way, is that how he thought about gays. 

She goes on to say that maybe instead of marching on his church

we can show up en mass [sic] and volunteer for one of the many organizations affiliated with his church that work for HIV/AIDS causes all around the world. Maybe if they get to know us, they won’t fear us.

Well, okay…not to nit pick, but his church doesn’t believe in condoms or family planning for HIV/AIDS prevention, and works hard in Africa to proselytize his message of Jesus and abstinence, using HIV outreach as an evangelical tool. His church believes that gays who are actively practicing homosexuality are not welcome as members. And Warren says gays should suppress their urges the same way other people suppress anger or shyness.

Melissa, Warren and his ilk aren’t "afraid" of gays: They think gays are sinners who are convertible to their belief system, which includes no gay sex and straight sex only in marriage. 

If you can get Warren to believe that civil marriage equality  does not mean a religious marriage..right on. If you can get him to expand his vision to have marriage be more than just a religious concept, that would be awesome. And, btw, he’s wrong about 5,000 years of marriage being solely between one man and one woman. There are plural marriages still in Islam, as there have been for 1500 years, as well as in the past history of the Mormon church and in current Mormon sects which allow for polygamy…

Many pray daily that closed minds like Warren’s are opened, that the scales will fall from the eyes of Pastor Rick and his ilk. But thinking that "they" are afraid is a wrong move. This type of Christian think they are right, and that (their) God is on their side. And there’s too much at stake in terms of worldly power and wealth to make a sudden sea change. But I do share Melissa’s view that:

…we are headed in the direction of marriage equality and equal protection for all families.

I just don’t share her views that Rick Warren could be a vehicle for that. But hey, if he gets Divine Revelation and sees the light–halla-freakin’-lujah!


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