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Navratilova has breast cancer & more



Navratilova has breast cancer, says prognosis is good

NEW YORK — Lesbian tennis legend Martina Navratilova announced last week that she’s been diagnosed with a noninvasive form of breast cancer and her prognosis for a full recovery is considered excellent.

Navratilova said in an interview Wednesday with ESPN that a routine mammogram in January found a lump, and a biopsy the following month determined it was ductal carcinoma in situ, or DCIS. The nine-time Wimbledon women’s singles champion had a lumpectomy in March and will start six weeks of radiation therapy next month, ESPN reported.

“It was such a shock for me,” Navratilova said. “It was my 9/11.”

In a subsequent appearance on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” Navratilova told Robin Roberts, also a breast cancer survivor, “It is just in that one breast. I’m OK and I’ll make a full recovery.”

More than 50,000 women each year are diagnosed with DCIS, in which abnormal cells haven’t left the milk duct to penetrate breast tissue. Only about 2 percent of DCIS patients die of breast cancer in the next 10 years, according to the National Institutes of Health.

Navratilova said she initially wanted to keep her diagnosis quiet but decided she could help others by going public. ESPN also reported that Navratilova plans to work as a commentator for the Tennis Channel during the French Open while undergoing radiation in Paris.

“I’m this healthy person, I’ve been healthy all my life, and all of a sudden I have cancer. Are you kidding me?” she said on GMA.

Navratilova won 59 Grand Slam titles, including 18 in singles, 31 in doubles and 10 in mixed doubles.

LGBT people less likely to have health insurance: report

HARTFORD, Conn. — LGBT people suffer poorer health outcomes than the general population, in part because they are twice as likely to not have health insurance, according to a report by the Public News Service.

During the eighth annual LGBT Health Awareness Week, sponsored by the National Coalition for LGBT Health, LGBT people were urged to look after six aspects of their own health: mental health; sexual health; substance use, including tobacco and alcohol; heart health; fitness, including diet and exercise; and domestic violence and safety, said Dan Millett, who is with client services of the Hartford Gay & Lesbian Health Collective.

“Domestic abuse is usually a man abusing a woman in a heterosexual relationship but, unfortunately, in a same-gender relationship, there is abuse within these relationships also,” Millett told Public News Service.
 He added that the concerns of the LGBT community are often not a priority for health professionals, so LGBT people need to take more initiative.
”Wouldn’t now be a good time to see your physician about getting a check-up or talking to someone about your fitness, or heart disease,” the report quoted Millett as saying.

Clint Walters, well-known HIV activist, dies in U.K.

LONDON — Clint Walters, a gay HIV activist prominent in the United Kingdom, died of a heart attack this week, according to a report in Pink News. He was 31.

Walters, who was 17 when he was diagnosed with the disease, died at his home in London on Sunday.

After being diagnosed, he worked to raise awareness of HIV among young people, touring schools around England, according to Pink News. He also ran the London Marathon and took part in skydiving and cycling races to raise money.

The report quoted Walters in 2007 saying, “Why do I have this nagging feeling the gay scene is losing touch with what’s really important – compassion for the safety of your fellow man. Have all the 24-hour clubs, drugs and alcohol finally [taken] their toll or was it ever there in the first place?

“So, I’ve decided to turn my positive diagnosis on its head and shout it from the roof tops. If you don’t take full responsibility and call the shots, then who will?”

U.S. seeks to reduce costs of HIV program abroad

WASHINGTON — U.S. officials have asked some AIDS clinics overseas to stop enrolling new patients in a program that provides antiretroviral drugs, in an effort to reduce the rising costs of the assistance programs, according to a report in the Boston Globe that cites interviews with doctors and official correspondence.

While “Obama administration officials say they are not capping the number of patients receiving antiretroviral drugs … they acknowledge that they are seeking to control the ever-rising costs of the program, known as the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, which has grown from $2.3 billion in 2004 to nearly $7 billion this year,” the Boston Globe reported.

The article examines the effects of budget pressures on HIV/AIDS clinics in Africa, including several in Uganda that received a memo last year stating, according to the Boston Globe: “‘The U.S. government recognizes that in the coming years, the number of patients in need of antiretroviral treatment will increase dramatically,’ it read. ‘While the US government is committed to continuing treatment for those individuals already enrolled . . . funding for HIV programs is not expected to increase in the near future. As a result, PEPFAR Uganda cannot continue to support scale up of antiretroviral treatment without a plan from the Government of Uganda on how these patients will be sustained.'”

Eric Goosby, the U.S. global AIDS coordinator, told the Globe that the letter merely asked clinics not to exceed their agreed-upon budgets, though he acknowledged that the funds do not meet the needs on the ground.

“In Obama’s first year, the growth of funding for the AIDS program slowed,” the report said. “Obama campaigned on a pledge to add $1 billion a year, but asked Congress for an increase of only $366 million for 2010 because of the recession. That has pushed thousands of people onto waiting lists for the drugs, including children, according to interviews with more than two dozen health care providers across Africa.”



Office of National AIDS Policy Director Phillips: Congress must increase funding

‘Without congressional funding we can’t get there’



The White House in 2011 (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Harold Phillips, director of the White House Office of National AIDS Policy (ONAP), said Monday that Congress must increase funding to end the HIV/AIDS epidemic, including for programs designed around the lives and needs of Americans who are living with the disease.

“We have the support of the Biden-Harris administration, and we have the support at HHS, but without congressional funding we can’t get there,” said Phillips, who delivered his remarks during the AIDS United annual AIDSWatch conference in Washington, D.C.

Phillips echoed remarks by other speakers in calling for Congress to increase appropriations funding for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program, but he also emphasized the importance of “making space for people living with HIV in other aspects of the budget.”

Consistent with the Biden-Harris administration’s focus on employing a whole-of-government approach, Phillips said stakeholders must understand that while “HIV is, yes, a public health threat,” the disease is also “the result of systemic and structural racism,” an intersectional problem requiring more than narrowly focused biomedical or public health responses.

Therefore, he said, these conversations about matters like HIV’s impact on Black lives, or considerations for aging folks who are living with the disease, must be held at places like the White House Gender Policy Council, the National Economic Council, and the U.S. Department of Labor.

“When we talk about ending HIV as a public health threat,” Phillips said, “we also want to end HIV such that it’s not the defining characteristic for people living with HIV and that they can have access to housing, access to employment, good mental health and substance abuse treatment.”

Former ONAP Director Sandra Thurman with ONAP Director Harold Phillips (Screen shot/YouTube)

Under Phillips’s leadership, data on these considerations for those living with HIV/AIDS will be measured for the first time with ONAP’s rollout of new quality of life indicators in the National HIV/AIDS Strategy Federal Implementation Plan.

“There’s an indicator in there that’s self-reported quality of life,” Phillips said, which asks respondents to consider, “how do I feel?” This is important, he added, because people living with HIV may have positive lab results but still feel poorly.

Phillips advised those AIDSWatch participants who are slated to meet with members of Congress and their staffs after hosting a rally on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol Tuesday morning to “build a common bond” with lawmakers by emphasizing the human impact of the appropriations funding for which they are advocating.

An AIDS United spokesperson told the Washington Blade by email Monday that 187 congressional meetings have been scheduled for Tuesday.

Phillips also noted that while “conversations need to happen in Washington, there’s also conversations that need to happen on the state and local level,” where “we’re finding a level of hate and stigma and discrimination that’s on course to try to either stop our progress or take us backwards.”

Speaking before Phillips, Equality Federation Public Health Policy Strategist Mike Webb stressed the importance of policies under consideration by state and local lawmakers. “Our access to PrEP shouldn’t be based on a patchwork of laws by the states,” they said, and HIV-related legislative proposals in many cases would “add criminalizing aspects.”

Laws already on the books that “criminalize the transmission of, or perceived exposure to, HIV and other infectious diseases,” the Movement Advancement Project writes, “create a strong disincentive for being tested for HIV, and result in adverse public health outcomes.”

Phillips and the Biden administration have made modernizing or repealing those laws a top priority.

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Biden budget earmarks funds for HIV along with new programs for PrEP, hepatitis C

Budget seen as preview of Biden’s reelection campaign



The White House in 2011 (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The $6.8 trillion budget unveiled by President Joe Biden on Thursday includes increased investment in existing programs to fight HIV/AIDS, along with new initiatives to expand access to HIV prevention medications and eliminate hepatitis C.

U.S. House Republicans are expected to kill the proposal, which is nevertheless seen as a possible blueprint for the major themes to come in Biden’s expected reelection campaign.

Major focus areas of the plan include deficit reduction, increased taxes for the wealthy, and increased spending on the military and other endeavors to compete with China.

The HIV + Hepatitis Policy Institute praised the budget in a press release Thursday, writing that it will “significantly increase the federal resources necessary to end both HIV and hepatitis C.”

The group’s president, Carl Schmid, said Biden “recognizes the historic role the federal government must play, and the investments needed to end infectious diseases.”

First, the plan would bolster funding for the Trump-era Ending the HIV Epidemic in the United States initiative by $313 million, bringing the total to $850 million. Second, it would debut a “ten-year $9.7 billion nationwide PrEP delivery program” and a “historic initiative to eliminate hepatitis C.”

PrEP, or preexposure prophylaxis, is a medication regimen that reduces the risk of contracting HIV. According to the HIV + Hepatitis Policy Institute, only 30 percent of patients who could benefit from the drug are taking it.

The new hepatitis C program “seeks to provide outreach, testing, and curative medications to the estimated 2.4 million people living with hepatitis C, many of whom are unaware of their infection.”

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Gov. Newsom: Calif. will not do business with Walgreens after decision to not distribute abortion pill

20 Republican state attorneys general threatened to sue Walgreens for offering mifepristone



Calif. Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Gov. Gavin Newsom (D-Calif.) announced on Monday that California will not do business with Walgreens following the company’s announcement of its decision on Friday to not distribute the abortion pill mifepristone in 20 states.

The move comes amid pressure from conservative lawmakers and threats of legal action against Walgreens and CVS from 20 Republican state attorneys general, who claimed in a Feb. 1 press release that selling mifepristone is “unsafe and illegal.”

Mifepristone is still legal in several of the states where Walgreens has decided to stop providing it in response to the specter of lawsuits from state attorneys general: Alaska, Iowa, Kansas and Montana.

Newsom’s office told NPR that California will review “all relationships between Walgreens and the state,” but declined to provide more specifics.

“California won’t be doing business with @walgreens – or any company that cowers to the extremists and puts women’s lives at risk,” Newsom wrote in the tweet. “We’re done.”

“Elected officials targeting pharmacies and their ability to provide women with access to safe, effective, and FDA-approved medication is dangerous and just unacceptable,” White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said during a briefing on March 3.

“The administration will continue to stand by the FDA’s expert judgment in approving and regulating medications. And in the face of barriers to access and concerns about safety of patients, healthcare providers, and pharmacists, we will continue to support access to this critical medication within the limits of the law,” Jean-Pierre said.

Meanwhile, Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas is expected to soon rule on a case challenging the safety of mifepristone that advocates for reproductive justice fear could lead to a nationwide injunction prohibiting the sale and distribution of the abortion drug.

Medical experts have slammed the Texas plaintiffs’ lawsuit, arguing that mifepristone’s safety and efficacy have been well demonstrated for years. Kacsmaryk, who was appointed by former President Donald Trump, is nevertheless expected to rule in their favor.

“The plaintiffs who have no legitimate standing have hand-picked him to hear this case that has no merit because they know what they’re getting with Judge Kacsmaryk,” Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) said last month.

Jean-Pierre addressed the case during a press briefing on March 1: “The decision would be unprecedented, as you know, and devastating to women’s health.  And we may find ourselves in uncharted territory,” she said.

“And so, we’re closely — closely working with the Justice Department and DHS — HHS on this, on how to be prepared for any range of outcome or potential outcomes,” Jean-Pierre added.

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