Gay Ugandan activists hope Pope Francis will speak on their behalf during visit

By : Wire Report
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KAMPALA, Uganda (AP) — Gay activists are hoping Pope Francis will preach tolerance toward homosexuals, and even go so far as to condemn violent attacks against gays during his upcoming visit to Uganda. Church leaders, however, are praying he’ll avoid the issue altogether.

The divergent expectations underscore the acrimonious state of the gay rights debate on a continent where homosexuality remains taboo and homosexuals are greatly despised. In Uganda, where homosexuality is illegal and where attacks against gays have forced many to seek refuge abroad or lead secret lives at home, gay leaders nevertheless hope Francis when he comes on Friday will weigh in with a firm message of tolerance.

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As World AIDS Day approaches, philanthropic organizations adjust to changing times and perceptions in the world of HIV

By : Billy Manes
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A little over a year ago, Orlando resident Logan Donahoo, 33, was frightened into a new reality. After receiving the typical glossing over on issues of STDs and HIV/AIDS from primary care physicians throughout his adulthood, the awkward nudges toward using protection during sex that ring in distant absolutes as if to brush the subject away, he got a clearer view.

“I got my annual physical done, and for my first time, even though I’ve been tested for HIV over and over again throughout my life. I finally got tested for [sexually transmitted diseases] and I got tested for HIV,” he says. “I got a little STD scare when the health department called me and gave me the scary news. Even though I knew that was within the realm of possibility, and I knew about partner notification, finally getting that phone call and knowing what that feels like made it hit home. So, I was like, ‘OK, if I can never have this happen again, and I can know that it’s something non-life threatening, then I will.’

Finally, he opened up with his doctor.

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Suspect in India Clarke’s murder charged with second killing

By : Wire Report
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Tampa (AP) – Authorities say a southwest Florida man charged in the shooting death of a transgender woman has been charged in a second killing.

Keith Lamayne Gaillard, 18, is currently being held on a first-degree murder charge in the death of 25-year-old India Clarke. Officials say Gaillard’s DNA was found under Clarke’s fingernails. Detectives also reported finding a condom with Gaillard’s DNA inside Clarke’s car, which was found nearby. Her body was found July 21.

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Condom portrait of Pope Benedict blasted by archbishop

By : Wire Report
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MILWAUKEE (AP) – The Milwaukee Art Museum has handled dozens of complaints from angry Catholics and others over its plans to display a portrait of Pope Benedict that’s made from 17,000 condoms.

Milwaukee Archbishop Jerome Listecki says the museum’s decision to display the art piece called “Eggs Benedict” is insulting and callous. Some patrons have dropped their membership and at least one donor has ended financial support of the museum.

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Missouri man accused of ‘recklessly infecting’ 2 with HIV on trial

By : Wire Report
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ST. CHARLES, Mo. (AP) — A man who prosecutors say recklessly endangered other gay men by having sex with them and not revealing he was infected with the virus that causes AIDS is on trial in Missouri.

Gay rights activists and some legal reform groups say Michael L. Johnson’s case highlights outdated laws. They say such laws in Missouri and more than 30 other states criminalize a medical condition and deter those at risk of infection from seeking help.

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Fringe Out Loud: Jeff Jones and Miss Sammy celebrate the rebirth of Movies Out Loud with a look at some of Fringe’s gay-themed shows

By : Jeremy Williams
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Orlando – Jeff Jones and Miss Sammy are two of Central Florida’s funniest and most beloved people who like to talk about other people (especially when other people are listening). So who better to take the stage first when Watermark Media and the Orlando International Fringe Festival join forces to launch the second coming of Movies Out Loud later this year?

What is Movies Out Loud?

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An Undetectable HIV status is good news, but still a step away from ‘cured’

By : Steve Blanchard
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“Undetectable” is appearing more often when a person describes his or her HIV status. Whether it’s in medical labs, in person or on social apps, “positive” and “negative” are no longer the only options when it comes to disclosing one’s HIV status.

According to the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI), two recent, international studies spanning two years found that none of the positive participants with undetectable viral loads passed along the virus to their partners. The studies included both opposite-gender and gay male couples.

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Not quite – Truvada helps prevent HIV, but doesn’t replace condom use

By : Steve Blanchard
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Suddenly, Truvada is getting a lot of attention. But that’s not because it’s a new drug. It’s because new studies have shown the HIV drug helps inhibit the transmission of HIV, meaning it can help reduce infection in those who are negative.

In a controlled study with strict adherence by participants, Truvada was nearly 96% effective in reducing HIV transmission rates. However, another study shows that healthy gay men who use condoms can lower their risk of becoming infected up to 42%. That second study incorporates real-world factors like forgetting to take the medication, not using condoms and other factors.

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Watermark readers react to our “bug chaser” story

By : Jamie Hyman
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Due to the overwhelming response to our Bug Chaser cover story from Watermark‘s last issue, we’ve compiled a round-up of reader reactions.

Read them all after the jump:

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To ‘achieve’ a positive HIV status, some gay men proudly practice risky behaviors

By : Steve Blanchard
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Sitting in a Tampa coffee shop, “Brandon” is visibly excited about his upcoming weekend plans. The 23 year old, a customer service representative for a cell phone carrier, hopes to achieve a very important goal on the upcoming Saturday night.

“I’m going to finally get HIV!” he says with a smile. “I’ve tried before, but this is the first time I’m really boosting my chances.”

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Delayed Ripples: Most Important Thing You’ll Read in 2012

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â┚¬Å”No matter who you are, no matter what you did, no matter where you’ve come from, you can always change, become a better version of yourself.â┚¬Â â┚¬â€¢ Madonna

The past weekend was the Out of the Darkness Community Walk to benefit the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and I participated for the second year in a row. A wonderful, positive event and â┚¬â€œ please keep this between the two of us â┚¬â€œ I wasn't in the mood for it.

I have no idea what was up my butt, but couldn't wait to make the trek around Lake Baldwin and hop on my bike to get home. Every conversation I overheard sounded like the most inane dribble to me; I'm sure I made record time around the lake as I tried to get away from various pockets of chatter. A group of elementary school teachers who would have been right at home backing up Moon Zappa on â┚¬Å”Valley Girl,â┚¬Â a cluster of ex-frat boys who talked loudly about â┚¬Å”Eye of the Tigerâ┚¬Â as they played it a little too loud (â┚¬Å”Who doesn't like â┚¬ËœEye of the Tiger'?â┚¬Â Uh, present.)â┚¬Â¦

I could go on, but why give further evidence of what a giant ass I was being? Participating in a suicide prevention charity event, trying to resist the urge to flippantly mutter â┚¬Å”I'm going to stab myselfâ┚¬Â is an embarrassing thing to confess â┚¬â€œ in fact, I'm not sure why I am admitting it. I took my vile disposition home immediately after the walk, even foregoing the traditional releasing of the doves which, you might recall, I loved last year.

Out of the Darkness raised over $25,000 and $115 of that was from me. As I rode my bike home, hoping to leave my attitude alongside Corrine Drive somewhere, my thoughts were consumed with how to raise more money next year. I had intended to raise $500 and falling short didn't sit well with my Mr. Poopy-Pants within.

Take a look at some photos from the walk here. To find out more about the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and their important work, click here.

You're used to Rippling on Monday, so I hope this doesn't completely throw your week out of whack. I wish I could say I'm so important that I didn't have time yesterday, but the truth is I just didn't budget my time well. These Ripples are too good to wait until next Monday, so let's get to it.

Sam Branson is Smokin' Hot
Antarctica log 11 – Occupy World Street
If I were filthy rich, I would want to be like the Branson family of Virgin fame. They live a great life, but also do an admirable amount of good with their money. Here's an illustration Sam Branson (@BransonSam) recently tweeted: â┚¬Å”100% of all Virgin Atlantic’s profits are invested into research and development of clean fuels. We’re trying very hard to make it clean.â┚¬Â Richard Branson is blogging about his current trip to Antarctica to learn more about climate change; in this posting, he relays an idea from same to create an Occupy World Street movement.  An excellent idea that should be embraced, before it's too late.

29 is the New 30?
Love in Action
I’m getting this to you a bit late, but there’s still most of the month left. Take Part has a cool project that you can join in on. For each day in February, they provide you with a task that will make the world a better place. You can even receive a text letting you know what the task is for that particular day. Along the way, you may find activism a bit more exciting than you anticipated â┚¬â€œ you'll buy condoms, you'll say F*ck on Twitter, and the world will be better for it. I am a little confused as to why it is called â┚¬Å”30 Ways in 30 Daysâ┚¬Â when there are 29 days in February 2012. If you figure it out, let me know.

Forget = Death
AIDS Memorial Park
I was unaware that there is a movement afoot to create an AIDS Memorial in New York City, ground zero for the epidemic in our country. The winning concept, called â┚¬Å”Infinite Forest,â┚¬Â has been selected by a panel that includes the likes of Kenneth Cole and Whoopi Goldberg. Knowing of it now, I will follow its progress and look forward to absorbing its energy one day.

A Must Read
One Town’s War on Gay Teens
This fantastic piece of journalism from Sabrina Rubin Erdely in Rolling Stone may be the most important thing you read all year. An incredible account of how homophobia has taken a deadly toll on the youth of one town. As with any good slice of the journalism pie, this piece couldn't be more timely. Think of what our raging debates about marriage equality is saying to our youth. Politicians spewing sound bites of homophobia that half the time I figure they don't even believe. What are the long range effects of that hate? If you only read one Ripple this week, read this one, and share it.

Study: Pill helps gay men avoid HIV infection

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AIDSPillAvoidHIVAbstr_651445393.jpgScientists have an exciting breakthrough in the fight against AIDS. A pill already used to treat HIV infection turns out to be a powerful weapon in protecting healthy gay men from catching the virus, a global study found.

Daily doses of Truvada cut the risk of infection by 44 percent when given with condoms, counseling and other prevention services. Men who took their pills most faithfully had even more protection, up to 73 percent.

Researchers had feared the pills might give a false sense of security and make men less likely to use condoms or to limit their partners, but the opposite happened — risky sex declined.

The results are “a major advance” that can help curb the epidemic in gay men, said Dr. Kevin Fenton, AIDS prevention chief at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But he warned they may not apply to people exposed to HIV through male-female sex, drug use or other ways. Studies in those groups are under way now.

“This is a great day in the fight against AIDS … a major milestone,” said a statment from Mitchell Warren, head of the AIDS Vaccine Advocacy Coalition, a nonprofit group that works on HIV prevention.

Because Truvada is already on the market, the CDC is rushing to develop guidelines for doctors using it for HIV prevention, and urged people to wait until those are ready.

“It’s not time for gay and bisexual men to throw out their condoms,” Fenton said. The pill “should never be seen as a first line of defense against HIV.”

As a practical matter, price could limit use. The pills cost from $5,000 to $14,000 a year in the United States, but only 39 cents a day in some poor countries where they are sold in generic form.

Whether insurers or government health programs should pay for them is one of the tough issues to be sorted out, and cost-effectiveness analyses should help, said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

“This is an exciting finding,” but it “is only one study in one specific study population,” so its impact on others is unknown, Fauci said.

His institute sponsored the study with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Results were reported at a news conference Tuesday and published online by the New England Journal of Medicine.

It is the third AIDS prevention victory in about a year. In September 2009, scientists announced that a vaccine they are now trying to improve had protected one in 3 people from getting HIV in a study in Thailand. In July, research in South Africa showed that a vaginal gel spiked with an AIDS drug could cut nearly in half a woman’s chances of getting HIV from an infected partner.

Gay and bisexual men account for nearly half of the more than 1 million Americans living with HIV. Worldwide, more than 40 million people have the virus, and 7,500 new infections occur each day. Unlike in the U.S., only 5 to 10 percent of global cases involve sex between men.

“The condom is still the first line of defense,” because it also prevents other sexually spread diseases and unwanted pregnancies, said the study leader, Dr. Robert M. Grant of the Gladstone Institutes, a private foundation affliated with the University of California, San Francisco.

But many men don’t or won’t use condoms all the time, so researchers have been testing other prevention tools.

AIDS drugs already are used to prevent infection in health care workers accidentally exposed to HIV, and in babies whose pregnant mothers are on the medication. Taking these drugs before exposure to the virus may keep it from taking hold, just as taking malaria pills in advance can prevent that disease when someone is bitten by an infected mosquito.

The strategy showed great promise in monkey studies using tenofovir (brand name Viread) and emtricitabine, or FTC (Emtriva), sold in combination as Truvada by California-based Gilead Sciences Inc.

The company donated Truvada for the study, which involved about 2,500 men at high risk of HIV infection in Peru, Ecuador, Brazil, South Africa, Thailand and the United States (San Francisco and Boston). The foreign sites were chosen because of high rates of HIV infection and diverse populations.

More than 40 percent of participants had taken money for sex at least once. At the start of the study, they had 18 partners on average; that dropped to around 6 by the end.

The men were given either Truvada or dummy pills. All had monthly visits to get HIV testing, more pills and counseling. Every six months, they were tested for other sexually spread diseases and treated as needed.

After a median followup of just over a year, there were 64 HIV infections among the 1,248 men on dummy pills, and only 36 among the 1,251 on Truvada.

Among men who took their pills at least half the time, determined through interviews and pill counts, the risk of infection fell by 50 percent. For those who took pills on 90 percent or more days, risk fell 73 percent. Tests of drug levels in the blood confirmed that more consistent pill-taking gave better protection.

The treatment was safe. Side effects were similar in both groups except for nausea, which was more common in the drug group for the first month but not after that. Unintended weight loss also was more common in the drug group, but it occurred in very few. Further study is needed on possible long-term risks.

What’s next?

All participants will get a chance to take Truvada in an 18-month extension of the study. Researchers want to see whether men will take the pill more faithfully if they know it helps, and whether that provides better protection. About 20,000 people are enrolled in other studies testing Truvada or its component drugs around the world.

The government also will review all ongoing prevention studies, such as those of vaccines or anti-AIDS gels, and consider whether any people currently assigned to get dummy medicines should now get Truvada since it has proved effective in gay men.

Gilead also will discuss with public health and regulatory agencies the possibility and wisdom of seeking approval to market Truvada for prevention. The company has made no decision on that, said Dr. Howard Jaffe, president of Gilead Foundation, the company’s philanthropic arm. Doctors can prescribe it for this purpose now if patients are willing to pay for it, and some already do.

Some people have speculated that could expose Gilead to new liability concerns, if someone took the pill and then sued if it did not protect against infection.

“The potential for having an intervention like this that has never been broadly available before raises new questions. It is something we would have to discuss internally and externally,” Jaffe said.

Until the CDC’s detailed advice is available, the agency said gay and bisexual men should:

—Use condoms consistently and correctly.

—Get tested to know their HIV status and that of their partners, and get tested and treated for syphilis, gonorrhea and other infections that raise the risk of HIV.

—Get counseling to reduce drug use and risky sex.

—Reduce their number of sexual partners.