April 29, 2010 | by Kevin Naff
Health news in brief

California repeals gay ‘cure’ law

The California Assembly this week voted unanimously to repeal a law enacted in 1950 that labeled gays as sexual deviants and demanded that studies be conducted to probe supposed ties between homosexuality and crime rates, as well as “cures” for being gay.

The Assembly voted 62-0 for repeal, according to the Associated Press; the measure now proceeds to the Senate for a final vote.

Tom Ammiano, San Francisco Assemblyman (D) and LGBT rights supporter, said, “It’s time to get this phony cure off the books”.

The antiquated law was created following a string of sex crimes in the Long Beach area in the 1950s. One case involved the murder of a 6-year-old girl. At the time, gays took the blame for the crimes.

Democratic Assembly member Bonnie Lowenthal of Long Beach, originally proposed an outright repeal, but some lawmakers wanted to retain language urging research into the causes of sex crimes against children, the AP reported.

“The result will be the law as it should have been written 60 years ago, but now we’re setting it right,” Lowenthal said.

“Sexual orientation is not a matter of choice any more than one’s height, and neither can be changed,” said Geoff Kors, executive director of the statewide LGBT rights group Equality California.

China lifts ban on HIV-positive visitors

China announced this week that it has lifted a 24-year-old ban on HIV-positive visitors to the country, just days before thousands of international travelers are to begin arriving for Shanghai’s world expo, according to the New York Times.

The government also lifted a ban on travel to China by people with leprosy.

The move alters a 1986 law governing quarantines and a 1989 law regulating entry by foreigners, removing the ban related to HIV-positive people, China’s State Council, announced Tuesday.

The council approved the changes on April 19 and Premier Wen Jiabao signed decrees putting them into effect on April 24, according to the Times report.

Chinese law now bans only those with infectious tuberculosis, serious mental disorders and “infectious diseases which could possibly greatly harm the public health.”

China has temporarily lifted the ban on H.I.V.-positive travelers for major events in the past, but the revision of laws indicates that the change will be permanent, according to the Times. China Daily quoted a spokesperson for the health ministry, Mao Qun’an, as saying that the ministry had been working to permanently remove the prohibition since the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

The United States only recently lifted its own 22-year ban on HIV-positive visitors. President Bush initiated repeal of the ban, which was finalized under President Obama’s administration in January. Obama had promised LGBT rights activists that he would expedite lifting the ban.

Chicago clinic faces federal investigation

Chicago’s Howard Brown Health Center (HBHC) is under federal investigation for allegations it mishandled federal funds associated with a decades-long AIDS study, the Chicago Tribune reported.

The investigation by the National Institutes of Health involves research grant funding tied to the Multi Center AIDS Cohort Study, or MACS, an ongoing study of HIV-infected men, the paper reported.

“We recognize that the last few weeks have been wrought with questions and concerns,” Paul Fairchild, Howard Brown’s interim chief operating officer, said in the statement published by the Tribune. “We want to ensure the community that the integrity of the research surrounding the MACS or any other study at Howard Brown has not been questioned. Our staff stands ready to provide the highest quality of research and the standard of care that our community expects and deserves.”

In a press release, the center says it is cooperating with the investigation and has launched an independent audit of all federal grants. In the statement, the board said it has “no reason to believe that any funds were misappropriated for personal gain or used for purposes other than the center’s mission and services.”

Kevin Naff is the editor and a co-owner of the Washington Blade, the nation’s oldest and most acclaimed LGBT news publication, founded in 1969.

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