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National news in brief: Oct. 29

Lesbian teen gets settlement, school board member incites furor and more



School district ordered to pay legal fees for lesbian student

NEW YORK — A federal judge has ordered a Mississippi school district to pay about $81,000 in legal fees and expenses in a lawsuit filed by a lesbian student who was told she would be ejected from a prom if she brought her girlfriend, CNN reported this week.

The decision Tuesday by a federal judge may be the final chapter in the well-publicized legal battle between a lesbian teenager and the Mississippi school district.

The lawsuit against the school district in Fulton, Miss., was filed by the ACLU on behalf of Constance McMillen. The lawsuit was settled in July, and the school district agreed to pay McMillen $35,000 in damages and adopt a policy prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation. The July settlement was not part of the $81,000 payment ordered by the judge Tuesday.

The issue made national news after McMillen, the lesbian teen, was told by Itawamba Agricultural High School officials she and her girlfriend would be barred from attending the school-sponsored prom.

The prom was eventually canceled by school board officials.

At the time, support poured in for the teen. She served as the grand marshal for New York’s Gay Pride Parade, got a $30,000 college scholarship from an anonymous donor and a Facebook page called “Let Constance Take Her Girlfriend to Prom!” attracted more than 400,000 fans. (Photo on homepage is Constance McMillen)

Ark. school board member incites Facebook furor

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — A school board member on the board of Midland School District in an area about 85 miles northeast of Little Rock, Ark., shared on his Facebook page that he would only honor spirit day — an event held last week in which LGBT people and their allies wore purple in memory of the recent gay teens who’ve committed suicide — if “they all commit suicide,” according to a Towleroad report.

“Seriously they want me to wear purple because five queers committed suicide,” wrote board member Clint McCance. “The only way I’m wearing it for them is if they all commit suicide. I can’t believe the people of this world have gotten this stupid. We are honoring the fact that they sinned and killed thereselves (sic) because of their sin. REALLY PEOPLE.”

In response to comments on his status update, McCance wrote, “It pisses me off though that we make a special purple fag day for them. I like that fags can’t procreate. I also enjoy the fact that they often give each other AIDS and die. If you aren’t against it, you might as well be for it … I would disown my kids if they were gay. They will not be welcome at my home or in my vicinity. I will absolutely run them off. Of course my kids will know better. My kids will have solid Christian beliefs. See it infects everyone.”

The Midland superintendent of schools and the principal of Midland High School did not return calls seeking comment. A Facebook page has been set up calling for McCance’s removal.

D.C. groups promote 2012 global AIDS conference

WASHINGTON — The leader of a Geneva, Switzerland-based organization sponsoring the 2012 International AIDS Conference, which is scheduled to take place in Washington, D.C., joined local AIDS activists at a D.C. reception Tuesday to promote grassroots participation in the conference.

The reception, held at the John Wilson D.C. City Hall Building, was organized by the AIDS 2012 D.C. Community Coalition, which formed recently to encourage local participation in the AIDS conference.

The biennial conference is expected to attract more than 25,000 delegates from as many as 200 countries, including scientists, policy makers, and AIDS activists. More than 2,500 journalists also are expected to attend the event, according to the International AIDS Society, which sponsors the conference.

Elly Katabira of Uganda, chair of the Conference Coordinating Committee and president-elect of the International AIDS Society, welcomed D.C. government officials and AIDS activists attending the Tuesday’s reception. He encouraged the local D.C. area community to take part in what he called one of the most important conferences aimed at developing a solution to the international AIDS crisis.

Also speaking at the reception was Dr. Pierre Vigilance, director of the D.C. Department of Health, and Dr. Nnemdi Kamanu Elias, acting senior director of the D.C. HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis, STD, and TB Administration.



New CDC report finds transgender women at higher risk for HIV

More than 1,600 people in seven cities surveyed



The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta (Photo courtesy of the CDC)

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a new study report this week that revealed that restricted by employment and housing discrimination and lack of access to needed gender-affirming healthcare for transgender women increasing the risk of contracting HIV. 

Researchers reviewed data from a 2019-2020 survey, the National HIV Behavioral Surveillance Among Transgender Women, which found that the demographics of HIV/AIDS have been disproportionally high, especially among Black and Latina trans women, who had experienced employment and housing discrimination coupled with lack of access to gender-affirming healthcare.

The Jan. 25 Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report was based on data studies of more than 1,600 trans women in seven major urban locales. Participants from Atlanta, Los Angeles, New Orleans, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco and Seattle were chosen by referrals from people and community-based organizations who knew or were part of the local population of trans women.

The study’s researchers noted: “Employment discrimination occurs at the overlapping nexus of poverty, homelessness, incarceration, health insurance, disability, food insecurity and survival sex work. These issues are interconnected.”

The study stated that trans women’s inability to access quality healthcare, including gender-affirming treatment or access to PrEP, and can expose them to potential incarceration as many turn to “survival sex work” and violence, which increases the risk of contracting HIV. 

The study’s author’s pointed out: “When economically marginalized transgender women are refused employment, this refusal cyclically contributes to economic hardships. This analysis …demonstrates the importance of transgender women working and living with dignity and without fear of unfair treatment.”

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A Whole New Perspective on Well-Being

The Mather’s team recognizes that everyone’s wellness journey is completely unique to their life experiences and influences.



The Mather is incorporating biophilic design—a design approach to facilitate access to nature or things that replicate natural patterns.

It’s easy to spot the distinctive, elegant silhouette of The Mather, a Life Plan Community for those 62+ opening this spring in Tysons, Virginia. What is not apparent to the naked eye is The Mather’s unique wellness philosophy, which is literally built into the community. 

The Mather’s team recognizes that everyone’s wellness journey is completely unique to their life experiences and influences.

Nature is one of the important factors that contribute to well-being. So The Mather is incorporating biophilic design—a design approach to facilitate access to nature or things that replicate natural patterns. This can include interior spaces with sightlines to a garden, choosing natural wood and stone as interior materials, or incorporating fragrant flowers and plants indoors to spark memories and provide tactile opportunities such as gardening. 

Residents of The Mather will be able to select from plentiful amenities, programs, and other offerings to target their personal wellness goals and preferences.

“Providing biophilic design within interior settings connects residents to the natural world,” says Mary Leary, CEO and President of Mather, the organization behind The Mather. “Research shows that a connection to nature provides positive benefits to mental states and overall well-being. At The Mather, biophilic design is the intersection of buildings and programs with nature in an urban setting.”

“The Mather is attracting a diverse group of older adults,” says Mary. “As a result, we aim to incorporate wellness practices from around the world, including Wyda movement theory of the Celtic Druids, which helps people achieve harmony with nature and contentment through mindfulness.” This holistic regenerative approach is similar to Qi Gong and yoga, while born in a different part of the world. Mather Institute has a special focus on mindfulness to support older adults’ practice of present moment awareness, which can lead to increased overall well-being, compassion, and joy.

A very different example of a wellness offering at The Mather is the Gharieni Welnamis spa wave bed, which uses computer-controlled vibrational therapy and audio frequencies to train the brain to relax. “The bed increases mindfulness, concentration, and creativity—all of which support our mission of creating Ways to Age Well,SM” says Mary.

These and other personalized ways to wellness will ensure that residents of The Mather can choose from seemingly countless ways to focus on their well-being. In other words, the sky’s the limit!

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Cases of multi-drug resistant gonorrhea ‘super strain’ multiply

CDC and WHO have once again sounded alarm about STI



Gonorrhea bacterium (CDC/Los Angeles Blade graphic)

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention along with the World Health Organization  are raising red flags for the second time this year as cases multiply of a “super strain” of drug-resistant gonorrhea globally, but particularly among men who have sex with men. 

This strain of gonorrhea has been previously seen in Asia-Pacific countries and in the U.K., but not in the U.S. A genetic marker common to two Massachusetts residents and previously seen in a case in Nevada, retained sensitivity to at least one class of antibiotics. Overall, these cases are an important reminder that strains of gonorrhea in the U.S. are becoming less responsive to a limited arsenal of antibiotics.

Gonorrhea is a STI with most people affected between ages 15-49 years. Antimicrobial resistance in gonorrhea has increased rapidly in recent years and has reduced the options for treatment.

Last February, cases of XDR, or “extensively drug resistant,” gonorrhea, are on the rise in the U.S., the CDC said.

Gonococcal infections have critical implications to reproductive, maternal and newborn health including:

  • a five-fold increase of HIV transmission
  • infertility, with its cultural and social implications
  • inflammation, leading to acute and chronic lower abdominal pain in women
  • ectopic pregnancy and maternal death
  • first trimester abortion
  • severe neonatal eye infections that may lead to blindness.

This past January, Fortune reported the U.S. is experiencing “a rising epidemic of sexually transmitted disease,” Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, said with some experts referring to the issue as a “hidden epidemic.” 

Cases of gonorrhea — an STI that often shows no signs, but can lead to genital discharge, burning during urination, sores, and rashes, among other symptoms — rose by 131 percent nationally between 2009 and 2021, according to public health officials. While rates of STI transmission in the U.S. fell during the early months of the pandemic, they surged later in the year, with cases of gonorrhea and syphilis eventually surpassing 2019 levels, according to the CDC.

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