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10 pharmacies named to new AIDS network

Officials say no disruption in prescriptions expected

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Gregory Pappas, gay news, Washington Blade

Dr. Gregory Pappas said the changes being put in place would provide an ‘enhanced quality of services’ to patients. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

The D.C. Department of Health on Monday released the names of the first 10 pharmacies to join a new city-run network of pharmacies certified to dispense prescriptions for patients enrolled in the city’s AIDS Drug Assistance Program or ADAP.

Dr. Gregory Pappas, director of the department’s HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis, Sexually Transmitted Disease, and Tuberculosis Administration (HAHSTA), said a DOH overhaul of the pharmacy network would require some patients to switch pharmacies to refill their prescriptions over the next month or two.

But he said the changes being put in place would provide an “enhanced quality of services” to patients while saving money for the city.

“During the transition period — from July 1, 2012 through August 31, 2012 — all eligible and enrolled clients will continue to have access to life-saving medications,” a statement released on Monday by DOH says.

“The transition aims to enhance and expand the services currently provided by initiating a new network of selected pharmacy providers throughout the District,” the statement says.

The DOH announcement came at a time when some AIDS activists and an official with Care Pharmacies, a local private pharmacy network that has operated the city’s ADAP prescription program for more than a decade, predicted that too few pharmacies would join the new network in time to refill prescriptions for patients in the month of July.

DOH announced earlier this year that it decided not to renew Care Pharmacies’ contract to administer the ADAP pharmacy network, saying it would be more efficient and cost effective for the DOH to run its own pharmacy network.

DOH officials initially said they would release the names of the pharmacies participating in the new city-run network on June 15. But the DOH did not meet that deadline, raising concern among some that the new system would not be ready in time for patients to renew their prescriptions beginning July 1, when the Care Pharmacies contract ended.

“The salient factor for patients – and this is very, very important – is no one is going to be denied anti-retroviral [AIDS drugs],” Pappas told the Blade in an interview Monday. “No one’s ADAP status is going to change. No one’s medication status is going to change,” he said.

The new 10-member pharmacy network replaces a Care Pharmacies network that was said to have had at least 24 participating pharmacies. Pappas said the DOH expects the new network to expand over the next month or two.

A DOH spokesperson said eight of the ten pharmacies that joined the new network were among the 24 pharmacies participating in the Care Pharmacies network.

“Every pharmacy in good standing in the District of Columbia that’s got a license, that’s up on their taxes and has a Medicaid certification, can participate,” he said. “This is a very open, equitable system.”

“The DOH procurement team is in the process of inviting all registered pharmacies in the District of Columbia to participate in the new network,” the DOH statement released on Monday says. “The new DOH pharmacy network will be fully operational by Sept. 1, 2012.”

Pappas said that over the past year the city has transferred as many as 1,000 ADAP patients into the city’s Medicaid program under the Affordable Care Act, the new health insurance reform law initiated by the Obama administration and upheld last week by the Supreme Court. He said the transfers left about 800 D.C. HIV/AIDS clients remaining in the ADAP program.

One pharmacy missing from the list of participating ADAP pharmacies released this week by the DOH is the one operated by Whitman-Walker Health, a development that surprised AIDS activists.

Last month, Whitman-Walker executive director Don Blanchon told the Blade that Whitman-Walker was serving as many as 400 ADAP patients in its pharmacy under the existing network. He said Whitman-Walker planned to join the new city-run network.

DOH spokesperson Najma Roberts said on Tuesday that as of June Whitman-Walker had actually been serving “about 200 ADAP beneficiaries each month.”

Pappas told the Blade he hoped Whitman-Walker would become part of the network soon during the DOH’s next enrollment period. He declined to comment on why Whitman-Walker wasn’t admitted in the first round.

Whitman-Walker spokesperson Chip Lewis said Whitman-Walker expects to apply for admission to the network in the next round of enrollments, which he expected to take place in the next few days.

“We’re going to apply for that and we fully expect to be added to the list of pharmacies,” he said.

Asked why Whitman-Walker didn’t enroll in the first group of 10 pharmacies, he said, “I think it’s just been the challenges of the transition process.”

Lewis said that during the short period in which Whitman-Walker is not a member of the new pharmacy network it will likely have to refer its current ADAP pharmacy patients to one or more of the other pharmacies in the network.

Lewis said Whitman-Walker ordered extra drug supplies in anticipation of “issues” that might surface in the transition period but said he wasn’t sure if the clinic’s pharmacy could use those drugs to fill prescriptions if the pharmacy wasn’t yet admitted to the new network.

Asked if the new network could accommodate as many as 200 patients from Whitman-Walker along with patients from other pharmacies that chose not to join the new network, DOH’s Roberts said, “The existing network of 10 pharmacies has the capacity to serve clients during the months of July and August.”

Pappas and Gunther Freehill, a DOH official involved in the ADAP program, each said they expect a smooth transition for patients who learn this month that their current pharmacy will no longer fill their ADAP prescription.

“There is a central database repository that has ADAP eligibility information on it and it tells each pharmacy who is eligible for each program,” Freehill told the Blade. “If the client has a current prescription and/or a pill bottle that has refills left on it they can simply go to one of those [pharmacies on the list] and get the bottle filled.”

Added Pappas: “They should take their pill bottle to one of the pharmacies on the list and they will be able to get their medication without delay.”

Following is the list of pharmacies released on Monday by DOH where ADAP patients can go to obtain or refill their prescriptions:

AIDS Healthcare Foundation
Blair Underwood Healthcare Center
2141 K St., N.W., Suite 606
202-293-8695

Apex Care Pharmacy
3839 Minnesota Ave., N.E.
202-388-1900

H Street Care Pharmacy & Wellness Center
812 H St., N.E.
202-621-9667

Morgan Pharmacy
3001 P St., N.W.
202-337-4100

Pharmacare @ DC
651 Florida Ave., N.W.
202-387-1600

Seat Pleasant Pharmacy
350 Eastern Ave., N.E.
202-396-3400

Sterling Care Pharmacy
1647 Benning Rd., N.E., Suite 101
202-399-7876

Super Pharmacy and Medical Equipment
1019 H St., N.E.
202-388-0050

Community, a Walgreen’s Pharmacy
1325 14th St., N.W.
202-332-8811

Walgreen’s Pharmacy
1217 22nd St., N.W.
202-776-9084

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Commentary

Asian American and LGBTQ: A Heritage of Pride

May is Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander Heritage Month

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Glenn D. Magpantay (Photo courtesy of Glenn D. Magpantay)

Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (APIs) are the nation’s fastest growing racial minority group by 2040, one in 10 Americans will be of Asian ancestry. And, while many Americans think that anti-Asian hate and racism towards Asian Americans has disappeared, the community disagrees.

The Asian American Foundation which found that Asian Americans are continually subjected to hate, violence, and discrimination, baldly reveals that disparity. 

  • 33 percent of Americans think hate towards Asian Americans has increased in the past year, compared to 61 percent of Asian Americans themselves.
  • In the past year, 32 percent of Asian Americans across the country reported being called a racial slur; 29 percent said they were verbally harassed or verbally abused.
  • Southeast Asian Americans report even higher incidences of being subject to racial slurs (40 percent), verbal harassment or abuse (38 percent), and threats of physical assault (22 percent).
  • Many Asian Americans live in a state of fear and anxiety with 41 percent of Asian American/ Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander (AANHPI) believing they will likely be the victims of a physical attack due to their race, ethnicity, or religion. These numbers are disturbing.  

I serve as the only Asian American Pacific Islander member on the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. And, I am the first and only queer AAPI on the U.S. commission. I am deeply honored to both serve my country and represent my Asian Americans and Pacific Islander community.    

Last year, the commission investigated the Federal Response to Anti-Asian Racism in the United States. With congressional authorization, the report documented the experiences of AANHPIs in the U.S. since the dubbing of COVID-19 as the “China Virus” infecting people with the “Kung Flu” by government leadership. Words matter, as this report shows.

This report has a deep personal connection for me. I am the survivor of a hate crime of 25 years ago for being gay, and the victim of a hate crime for being Asian 25 months ago 

The Stop AAPI Hate Coalition reported that bias incidents against individuals who are Asian and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer (LGBTQ) were most prominent between 2019 and 2022, highlighting the intersectional nature of these incidents. For example, two transgender Asian women stated: 

“I was with my new boyfriend at a restaurant. When we walked in the server started calling me names … a b—h, ch—k, tra—i.e. … He said I have a big fat p—s, and told me to go back to China. Then my boyfriend proceeded to walk in the restaurant and when I took a step forward, the server hit me, so I left.” 

“Left a restaurant with friends in the Asian district of town. A man began to follow me calling out ‘Hey you f—got c—k!’ and ‘Come here you virus!’ I began to walk fast towards a crowd until he stopped following me.”

To address these and other equally appalling experiences, I helped shepherd the bipartisan Commission on Civil Rights recommendations to the president, Congress, and the nation that: 

  • Prosecutors and law enforcement should vigorously investigate and prosecute hate crimes and harassment against Asian Americans, as well as Asian Americans who are LGBTQ.
  • First responders should be trained to understand what exactly constitutes a hate crime in their jurisdiction, including the protections of LGBTQ people.
  • Federal, state, and local law enforcement and victim services should identify deficiencies in their programs for individuals with limited English proficiency

Greater language access will make an enormous impact for the Asian American community as one in five Asian individuals speak a language other than English at home. A third (34 percent) is limited English proficient. The most frequently spoken languages are Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, Tagalog, Thai, Khmer, Bengali, Gujarati, Hindi, and Punjabi.   

For me, this report comes full circle. Since 1988, I’ve lobbied for passage of LGBTQ-inclusive federal and state laws to prevent hate crimes. Since 2001, I’ve supported South Asian and Muslim victims of post 9/11 violence. In response to the shootings at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla, in 2016; Atlanta Spa in Georgia in 2021; and Club Q in Colorado Springs, Colo., in 2022, I‘ve trained over 3,000 lawyers, law students, and community leaders on hate crimes law.  

And yet, our work is not yet done. 

May is Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. June is LGBTQ Pride Month. Despite these challenges, we are resilient. Let us join together in celebrating our Heritage of Pride 

Glenn D. Magpantay, Esq., is a long-time civil rights attorney, professor of law and Asian American Studies, and LGBTQ rights activist. Glenn is a founder and former Executive Director of the National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance (NQAPIA). He is principal at Magpantay & Associates: A nonprofit consulting and legal services firm. In 2023, the U.S. Senate (majority) appointed Glenn to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights to advise Congress and the White House on the enforcement of civil rights laws and development of national civil rights policy. 

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Health

CDC issues warning on new ‘deadlier strain’ of mpox

WHO says epidemic is escalating in Congo

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JYNNEOS mpox vaccine (Photo courtesy of the CDC)

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued a health advisory regarding a deadlier strain of the Mpox virus outbreak which is currently impacting the Democratic Republic of Congo.

According to the CDC, since January 2023, DRC has reported more than 19,000 suspect mpox cases and more than 900 deaths. The CDC stated that the overall risk to the U.S. posed by the clade I mpox outbreak is low.

The risk to gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men who have more than one sexual partner and people who have sex with men, regardless of gender, is assessed as low to moderate the agency stated.

While no cases of that subtype have been identified outside sub-Saharan Africa so far, the World Health Organization said earlier this week that the escalating epidemic in Congo nevertheless poses a global threat, just as infections in Nigeria set off the 2022 outbreak according to a WHO spokesperson.

The spokesperson also noted that as Pride Month and events happen globally, there is more need for greater caution and people to take steps at prevention including being vaccinated.

The CDC advises that while there are no changes to the overall risk assessment, people in the U.S. who have already had mpox or are fully vaccinated should be protected against the type of mpox spreading in DRC. Casual contact, such as might occur during travel, is not likely to cause the disease to spread. The best protection against mpox is two doses of the JYNNEOS vaccine.

The CDC also noted the risk might change as more information becomes available, or if cases appear outside DRC or other African countries where clade I exists naturally.

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Commentary

Journalists are not the enemy

Wednesday marks five years since Blade reporter detained in Cuba

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The Hungarian Parliament in Budapest, Hungary, on April 4, 2024. Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and his government over the last decade has cracked down on the country's independent media. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Wednesday marked five years since the Cuban government detained me at Havana’s José Marti International Airport.

I had tried to enter the country in order to continue the Washington Blade’s coverage of LGBTQ and intersex Cubans. I found myself instead unable to leave the customs hall until an airport employee escorted me onto an American Airlines flight back to Miami.

This unfortunate encounter with the Cuban regime made national news. The State Department also noted it in its 2020 human rights report.

Press freedom and a journalist’s ability to do their job without persecution have always been important to me. They became even more personal to me on May 8, 2019, when the Cuban government for whatever reason decided not to allow me into the country.  

Washington Blade International News Editor Michael K. Lavers after the Cuban government detained him at Havana’s José Marti International Airport on May 8, 2019. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

‘A free press matters now more than ever’

Journalists in the U.S. and around the world on May 3 marked World Press Freedom Day.

Reporters without Borders in its 2024 World Press Freedom Index notes that in Cuba “arrests, arbitrary detentions, threats of imprisonment, persecution and harassment, illegal raids on homes, confiscation, and destruction of equipment — all this awaits journalists who do not toe the Cuban Communist Party line.” 

“The authorities also control foreign journalists’ coverage by granting accreditation selectively, and by expelling those considered ‘too negative’ about the government,” adds Reporters without Borders.

Cuba is certainly not the only country in which journalists face persecution or even death while doing their jobs.

• Reporters without Borders notes “more than 100 Palestinian reporters have been killed by the Israel Defense Forces, including at least 22 in the course of their work” in the Gaza Strip since Hamas launched its surprise attack against Israel on Oct. 7, 2023. Media groups have also criticized the Israeli government’s decision earlier this month to close Al Jazeera’s offices in the country.

• Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, Washington Post contributor and Russian opposition figure Vladimir Kara-Murza and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Alsu Kurmasheva remain in Russian custody. Austin Tice, a freelance journalist who contributes to the Post, was kidnapped in Syria in August 2012.

• Reporters without Borders indicates nearly 150 journalists have been murdered in Mexico since 2000, and 28 others have disappeared.

The Nahal Oz border crossing between Israel and the Gaza Strip on Nov. 21, 2016. Reporters without Borders notes the Israel Defense Forces have killed more than 100 Palestinian reporters in the enclave since Hamas launched its surprise attack against Israel on Oct. 7, 2023. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Secretary of State Antony Blinken in his World Press Freedom Day notes more journalists were killed in 2023 “than in any year in recent memory.”

“Authoritarian governments and non-state actors continue to use disinformation and propaganda to undermine social discourse and impede journalists’ efforts to inform the public, hold governments accountable, and bring the truth to light,” he said. “Governments that fear truthful reporting have proved willing to target individual journalists, including through the misuse of commercial spyware and other surveillance technologies.”

U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator Samantha Power, who is a former journalist, in her World Press Freedom Day statement noted journalists “are more essential than ever to safeguarding democratic values.” 

“From those employed by international media organizations to those working for local newspapers, courageous journalists all over the world help shine a light on corruption, encourage civic engagement, and hold governments accountable,” she said.

President Joe Biden echoed these points when he spoke at the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner here in D.C. on April. 27.

“There are some who call you the ‘enemy of the people,'” he said. “That’s wrong, and it’s dangerous. You literally risk your lives doing your job.”

I wrote in last year’s World Press Freedom Day op-ed that the “rhetoric — ‘fake news’ and journalists are the ‘enemy of the people’ — that the previous president and his followers continue to use in order to advance an agenda based on transphobia, homophobia, misogyny, islamophobia, and white supremacy has placed American journalists at increased risk.” I also wrote the “current reality in which we media professionals are working should not be the case in a country that has enshrined a free press in its constitution.”

“A free press matters now more than ever,” I concluded.

That sentiment is even more important today.

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