May 20, 2010 at 6:11 pm EDT | by Kevin Naff
Health news in brief

Senate nearing vote on DP benefits for fed workers

WASHINGTON — The Senate could vote on a bill extending benefits to the same-sex partners of gay federal employees “within weeks,” aides to Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.) told the Washington Post this week.

Lieberman, lead sponsor of the measure, said the vote should come before July 4. The benefits would cost an estimated $310 million through 2020, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

“This legislation would cost about two-hundredths of a percent of the federal government’s overall costs for the civilian workforce,” Lieberman told the Post. “That is a very small price to pay for the improvements we would see in recruitment, retention, and morale. OPM has committed to provide an offset for the legislation before it is enacted, making it that much more reasonable.”

The offsets haven’t been announced yet. A House version of the DP benefits bill passed last year.

Gays in Asia-Pacific region denied access to HIV care

HONG KONG — Up to 90 percent of gay men in the Asia-Pacific region are denied access to HIV/AIDS drugs and medical care because of anti-gay laws in many locales, according to a new U.N. report.

Gay male sex is illegal in nearly half the region’s countries and the report says this is worsening a situation in which infection rates are climbing, the BBC reported.

The anti-gay governments were urged to reform legal systems and policing to ensure an effective response to the AIDS epidemic.

The report, produced jointly by the U.N. Development Program and the Asia Pacific Coalition on Male Sexual Health, noted that several countries including Nepal, India, the Philippines and South Korea had brought in new laws and policies to address the problem, BBC reported.

“However, these are exceptional developments and action is required to improve the legal environment in all countries,” it added.

The report said homosexuals and bisexuals can potentially account for between 10-30 percent of new HIV infections in a typical Asian country.

Nineteen out of 48 countries in the region criminalized male-to-male sex and these laws often led to human rights violations, BBC reported.

Punishments for sex between men ranged from the death penalty in Afghanistan and northwest Pakistan to whipping in Malaysia and Indonesia’s Aceh region, the report found. Even if punishments were not enforced, they provided the basis for extortion, harassment and violence, it said.

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.

  • To my understanding, the house version of this bill has only passed committee and has yet to be scheduled for a vote.

    • The House version passed last year, but the measure was not taken up in the Senate. This year is a new congress so last years passages do not count and the issue will have to be re-introduced in the House. As the membership hasn’t changed much, it is fair to predict this years outcome based upon last years vote.

  • Will this extend to gay federal retirees, such as including gay partners under a retiree’s health coverage? If not, it’s not fair.

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