April 22, 2010 at 5:05 pm EDT | by Staff reports
Health news in brief

Clinical trial discrimination investigation sought

WASHINGTON — Five U.S. senators are asking Health & Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to investigate reports that gays and lesbians are being excluded from medical clinical trials.

A recent study conducted by the New England Journal of Medicine found that gay and lesbian patients were barred from participating in clinical trials, many dealing with sexual function. The letter from Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Kirstin Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), John Kerry (D-Mass.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) asks Sebelius to determine if there is any proven medical rationale behind the practice.

“The New England Journal of Medicine is the gold standard for the medical community, and their study set off alarm bells,” Kerry said. “This is more than an equality issue. It raises huge questions about the quality of medical information from flawed trials.”

Merkley noted that for years, women were excluded from participating in clinical trials of medical treatments.

“This meant that American women were not represented in medical research of diseases and treatments that were prevalent among both men and women,” he said. “Today, this trend continues with individuals being excluded on the basis of sexual orientation. This is just wrong — it undermines rigorous scientific testing and it is morally reprehensible.”

Gillibrand and Menendez also said the any forms of discrimination must be eliminated from the clinical trials.

“Discrimination is wrong in any context, but discrimination in clinical trials is particularly troubling because it limits an entire community’s access to medical care,” Menendez said. “Getting answers on this will help us make sure that these trials are open to every member of our society.”

9 porn agencies to be targeted in labor complaints

LOS ANGELES — An AIDS advocacy group said April 15 it had filed labor complaints against nine porn talent agencies for promoting actors who are willing to have unprotected sex on camera.

The Associated Press reported AIDS Healthcare Foundation President Michael Weinstein said the Los Angeles-area agencies were knowingly exposing the porn actors to sexually transmitted diseases.

The agencies should abide by state labor codes that prevent their licensing if they endanger the health, safety or welfare of their artists, Weinstein said.

“If there were a construction employment agency, they couldn’t say John Doe is available to dangle 100 feet over the ground without a harness,” Weinstein said. “That would be shut down instantaneously.”

The agencies named in the complaint sent last week to the Department of Industrial Relations are A List Talent, ATMLA, Gold Star Modeling, LA Direct Models, Lisa Ann’s Talent Management, Metro Talent Management, SpieglerGirls.com, Type 9 Models Inc. and World Modeling, according to Weinstein.

A porn performer and owner of ATMLA who identified herself as Shy Love said the risks faced by porn actors are similar to those in sports entertainment, where fighters can be exposed to blood, sweat and mucus.

The advocacy group was unfairly targeting the adult industry, Love said.

“We know the risks going in, the same way a fireman or a policeman knows the risks,” Love said. “We are adults, and it is up to us to choose what risks we face. It is not up to the government.”

In February, Los Angeles County public health director Dr. Jonathan Fielding said regulating condom use on porn sets is nearly impossible, citing typically clandestine porn shoots that require little more than a bed and a camera.

The nonprofit foundation has been pushing for mandatory use of condoms in porn films since an HIV outbreak in 2004 spread panic through the industry and briefly shut down production at several studios.

Confinement sought for N.Y. man who spread HIV

ALBANY, N.Y. — A New York man who was convicted of knowingly infecting at least 13 women with the AIDS virus has completed his prison sentence, but he may face civil confinement as a sex offender.

The Associated Press reported Attorney General Andrew Cuomo wants Nushawn Williams held under a law that allows for keeping the most dangerous sex offenders out of communities after they have served their sentences. Williams completed a 12-year sentence April 13.

Williams infected the women in western New York in the late 1990s. He had said at the time that he didn’t believe health officials who told him he was HIV positive.

The process of determining whether Williams’ mental state justifies confinement or intensive supervision could take months. Williams will be held until then. He now goes by the name Shyteek Johnson.

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