News Briefs: December/January 2012-13

Portland scored 100 points on the Human Rights Campaign’s Municipal Equality Index. Photo by Izzy Ventura
Portland scored 100 points on the Human Rights Campaign’s Municipal Equality Index. Photo by Izzy Ventura

Oregon’s HIV/STD Hotline on the chopping block

By Erin Rook, PQ Monthly

The Oregon HIV/STD Hotline, which has connected Oregonians to life-saving resources for the past 25 years, may shut down on April 1 due to a lack of funding. According to Michael Anderson-Nathe, director of prevention and education services for Cascade AIDS Project, the Oregon Health Authority told him it did not intend to renew the hotline’s contract when it expires March 31 and encouraged him to seek other funding sources. Anderson-Nathe says the state has declined to provide a timeline or a final decision date.

“The reality is that this is a long-standing program serving all Oregonians in the state and funding from the state makes the most sense,” Anderson-Nathe says. “We would be hard-pressed to get other funding sources to cover this as an ongoing program expense.”

The hotline, which has one paid staff member and 15 volunteers, receives $75,000 from the state and more than 800 callers a year. To those who argue the cost-per-call (about $90) is excessive, Anderson-Nathe points out that the hotline also serves thousands on its website (oregonaidshotline.com), via online resources and a live web chat.

“The hotline has become so much more than a phone line. We knew that the trend was shifting and that more and more folks access sexual health information via technology,” Anderson-Nathe says. “As our call volume has decreased, our online work has drastically increased — last year we had over 6,000 online visits/encounters.”

In light of the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force’s recommendations calling for universal HIV testing, as well as the proliferation of home HIV tests, Anderson-Nathe anticipates a growth in need for confirmatory testing, counseling, and care resources.

The hotline’s most sought-after referral is for HIV testing sights, though it also offers guidance on ways to reduce the risk of HIV infection. If even one of these interventions prevents an HIV infection each year, the hotline pays for itself. According to the CDC, each new infection costs more than $379,668.

“Over the last year we have seen a lot of shifts in HIV prevention and for the first time ever we are really talking about how we have the science and tools to end HIV — that we have turned the tide and are at the beginning of the end of AIDS,” Anderson-Nathe says. “In order to make this a reality we have to greatly expand our HIV testing for all Americans. This means that Oregonians need to find out where they can get tested, get their questions answered, and if HIV positive, get linked to care. The hotline is best situated to be that resource.”

LOCAL

Allan Fonseca, who works at the Macy’s Lancome counter at Clackamas Town Center, is being praised as a hero and a “gayngle” for his efforts to guide customers to safety during a deadly shooting there on Dec. 11. Fonseca told ABC’s “Good Morning America” that he used his knowledge of the mall’s exits to escort multiple people out of the building. The Clackamas Town Center shooting, and the Dec. 14 mass killing at a Newtown, Conn. elementary school that followed, have prompted candlelight vigils as well as efforts to enact gun control legislation. Members of Ceasefire Oregon found 12 co-sponsors Dec. 14 for a bill to ban military-style assault weapons. Sen. Rod Monroe (D-Portland) and Rep.-elect Jeff Reardon (D-Portland) were the first to sign on. Both represent districts that include Clackamas Town Center.

Equity Foundation is sponsoring a new scholarship for LGBTQ rights activists who attend Portland State University. The David M. Crawford Memorial Scholarship was created in memory of former Equity Foundation Treasurer and PSU alum David M. Crawford by the deceased’s partner, Scott Mason.

The Northwest Gender Alliance gives the Laughlin family the Ellen Summers Award at its annual holiday gala. Photo by Julie Cortez, PQ Monthly
The Northwest Gender Alliance gives the Laughlin family the Ellen Summers Award at its annual holiday gala. Photo by Julie Cortez, PQ Monthly

The Northwest Gender Alliance awarded its inaugural Man of the Year Award to Rev. David Weekley Dec. 9 at its annual gala. Going forward, it will be known as the Rev. David Weekley Man of the Year Award. Other award recipients included Emily Pittman Newberry (Harriet Stites Woman of the Year Award); Rhonda, Mike, and Sander Laughlin (Ellen Summers Award); Norma Ballhorn (Olivia Perala Debutante Award); and Cheryl Hall and Sheryl Weiler (Ronni Lang Service Award).

Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber issued a proclamation declaring December as Transgender Youth Awareness Month, following a request from TransActive Education & Advocacy, a Portland-based non-profit serving families of transgender and gender nonconforming children and youth worldwide. It is the first time a state has officially recognized the needs of transgender children and youth.

Oregon Health & Science University — the largest employer in Portland — recently announced that it will work to remove barriers to healthcare access for its transgender employees and extend trans-inclusive healthcare coverage. The university and teaching hospital joins the ranks of Nike, Intel, New Seasons, Multnomah County, and the City of Portland.

The Democratic Party of Oregon voted 12-1 to adopt a resolution in support of banning so-called reparative therapy for minors Sunday, Dec. 9 at its Platform and Resolutions Committee Meeting. The resolution comes as California grapples with a ban recently passed by the state legislature that is being challenged on First Amendment grounds.

Portland received a 100 point rating (the highest possible score) in the Human Rights Campaign’s new Municipal Equality index — a scorecard that rates municipalities based on the how friendly they are to LGBTQ people. Salem got a C (76 percent) and Eugene got an A- (91 percent). The average score for Oregon cities in 89 percent. Olympia, Wash., received 64 points (Vancouver was not rated). Evaluated categories include non-discrimination laws, relationship recognition (with married and domestic partnerships/civil unions weighted equally), the municipality’s employment practices, inclusiveness of city services, law enforcement, and municipal leadership. The index was released in cooperation with the Equality Federation Institute and the Gay and Lesbian Victory Institute.

NATIONAL

The U.S. Supreme Court has announced it will take up two marriage equality cases — United States v. Windsor (the constitutional challenge to Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act) and Hollingsworth v. Perry (California’s Proposition 8 case). Though trial dates have not yet been set for either case, the briefing schedule for Windsor calls for most briefs to be in by the end of February.

LGBTQ advocates in Illinois say they are close to having enough votes to pass a marriage equality bill during the legislature’s lame-duck session. According to the Chicago Tribune, the bill’s chief sponsors — Sen. Heather Steans and Rep. Greg Harris — are planning to push for a vote before Jan. 9. If the bill passes, same-sex marriage could be legal by summer 2013.

A group of scientists is promoting a theory that posits homosexuality may be caused by genetic epi-markers passed on by opposite sex parents that affects in utero exposure to hormones. The markers are thought to persist because they provide evolutionary (reproductive) benefit to the parents in utero, if not their unwitting fetuses.

WORLD

The Ugandan parliament has ended its 2012 session without voting on a bill that could call for life imprisonment or even death for LGBTQ people. The parliament may vote on the bill after the recess in January, though The Advocate reports that it has moved from the top spot on the seventh. There is reportedly significant support for the bill in parliament, though LGBTQ advocates say they are prepared to challenge the bill in the Supreme Court if it gets signed into law.