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Trump hails deal with Gilead for PrEP donation as ‘great news’

President says agreement will help end HIV epidemic

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President Trump hailed a deal with Gilead for PrEP donation as “great news.” (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

President Trump hailed on Thursday a deal with Gilead for the donation of PrEP for HIV prevention for the uninsured as “great news.”

Trump, who announced during his State of the Union address a plan to beat the HIV epidemic by 2030, took to Twitter to declare his pleasure the agreement with the drug manufacturer.

“Great news today: My Administration just secured a historic donation of HIV prevention drugs from Gilead to help expand access to PrEP for the uninsured and those at risk,” Trump tweeted. “Will help us achieve our goal of ending the HIV epidemic in America!”

Trump quotes other tweets from Secretary of Health & Human Services Alex Azar, who outlined the general contours of the deal with Gilead and said it consists of a ”historic donation of #HIV prevention medication for up to 200,000 individuals each year for up to 11 years.”

“The agreement will provide pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) to treat individuals who are at risk for HIV and who are uninsured, including in the states and counties identified as priority areas in @POTUS’s plan to #EndHIVEpidemic in America.,” Azar added.

Drawing on statistics showing only small portion of individuals vulnerable to HIV infection, including gay men, are on PrEP, Azar adds the majority of Americans “who are at risk and who could protect themselves with PrEP are still not receiving the medication.”

Gilead confirmed the donation to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention in a statement, calling the agreement among the largest ever in the United States.

“We are proud to partner with CDC to dramatically expand access to medication that can help prevent new HIV infections,” Gregg Alton, Chief Patient Officer for Gilead Sciences said. “We believe today’s donation, combined with efforts to address the root causes of the epidemic, such as racism, violence against women, stigma, homophobia and transphobia, can play an important role in ending the HIV epidemic in the United States, particularly in parts of the country with the highest burden of disease.”

The Trump administration plan seeks to reduce new HIV diagnoses by 75 percent within five years, and by 90 percent within 10 years by targeting 48 counties in the United States, D.C., and San Juan, Puerto Rico, as well as seven states where the epidemic is mostly in rural areas.

Carl Schmid, deputy director for the AIDS Institute, hailed the deal with Gilead in a statement as “a very significant development” in the effort to achieve that goal.

“It will free up the federal government from having to spend potentially billions of dollars over the next 11 years for the purchase of PrEP for the uninsured,” Schmid said. “Now, we have to focus on making sure people who need PrEP are aware of it and adhere to it.”

The deal was announced one day after Gilead announced a generic version of PrEP would be available beginning in September 2020, one year earlier than anticipated.

Further, the deal comes on the same day the Democratic-controlled House Appropriations Committee approved an increase of $490 million for domestic HIV programs. The allocation surpasses the $300 million the Trump administration sought to combat HIV as part of its annual budget request in addition to rejecting the proposed $424 million cut to AIDS research at the National Institutes for Health.

“After the House Appropriations Committee approval yesterday of an increase of nearly $500 million for domestic HIV programs, today, with this announcement, the administration’s Ending the HIV Epidemic initiative just received another boost and is now closer to reality,” Schmid added.

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Virginia

Va. Senate subcommittee tables anti-transgender student athlete bill

Virginia Beach Republican introduced SB 766

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(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

A Virginia Senate subcommittee on Thursday tabled a bill that would have banned transgender students from joining school sports teams that are consistent with their gender identity.

Senate Bill 766, which state Sen. Jennifer Kiggans (R-Virginia Beach) introduced on earlier this month, would have required “each elementary or secondary school or a private school that competes in sponsored athletic events against such public schools to designate athletic teams, whether a school athletic team or an intramural team sponsored by such school, based on biological sex as follows: (i) ‘males,’ ‘men,’ or ‘boys’; (ii) ‘females,’ ‘women,’ or ‘girls’; or (iii) ‘coed’ or ‘mixed.’”

“SB 766 (trans sports ban) was passed by indefinitely (it died!) after a long line of speakers testified against it, affirming trans students’ rights to participate in sports just like their cisgender peers,” tweeted the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia after the vote. “Trans students belong in sports. Period.”

Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin during his campaign said he does not support allowing trans children to play on sports teams that are consistent with their gender identity.

The General Assembly’s 2022 legislative session began on Jan. 12 with Republicans in control of the House of Delegates. Democrats still control the Senate by a 21-19 margin.

A bill that would have eliminated the requirement that school districts implement the Virginia Department of Education’s trans and non-binary student guidelines died in a Senate subcommittee on Thursday. The Senate General Laws and Technology on Thursday also tabled a religious freedom measure that would have undermined Virginia’s LGBTQ-inclusive nondiscrimination law.

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Virginia

Two anti-LGBTQ bills die in Va. Senate

Democrats maintain 21-19 majority in chamber

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The Virginia Capitol (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Two anti-LGBTQ bills died in the Virginia Senate on Thursday.

A Senate Education subcommittee voted against state Sen. Travis Hackworth (R-Tazewell County)’s Senate Bill 20, which would have eliminated the requirement that school districts must implement the Virginia Department of Education’s transgender and non-binary student guidelines.

The Senate General Laws and Technology Committee in an 8-7 vote tabled state Sen. Mark Peake (R-Lynchburg)’s Senate Bill 177, a religious freedom measure that critics contend would have allowed anti-LGBTQ discrimination in housing.

Virginia’s statewide nondiscrimination law includes sexual orientation and gender identity. Peake’s bill would have removed “the provision of the exemption for religious organizations under the Virginia Fair Housing Law that denies such exemption where the membership in such religion is restricted on account of race, color, national origin, sex, elderliness, familial status, sexual orientation, gender identity, military status, or disability.”

The General Assembly’s 2022 legislative session began on Jan. 12 with Republicans in control of the House of Delegates. Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin took office three days later.

Democrats, who maintain a 21-19 majority in the state Senate, have vowed to block any anti-LGBTQ bill.

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Russia

State Department reiterates concerns over Chechnya human rights record

Anti-LGBTQ crackdown continues to spark outrage

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(Public domain photo)

The State Department on Thursday reiterated its concerns over Chechnya’s human rights record that includes an ongoing anti-LGBTQ crackdown.

“We reject Chechnya Head Ramzan Kadyrov’s baseless attempts to malign human rights defenders and independent journalists and we urge him to end authorities’ targeting of those who dissent, LGBTQI+ persons, members of religious and ethnic minority groups, and others, including through reprisals against their family members,” said spokesperson Ned Price in a statement. “We call on Russian federal authorities to refrain from enabling repressive acts, including acts of transnational repression, originating in Chechnya and to bring those responsible for continuing egregious human rights violations in Chechnya to justice consistent with the law of the Russian Federation and Russia’s international human rights obligations.”

Price in his statement also said the U.S. “is troubled by continuing reports of abductions and arbitrary detentions carried out by authorities in Russia’s Republic of Chechnya, including dozens of reported abductions and arbitrary detentions in recent weeks targeting the relatives of Chechen human rights defenders and dissidents.”

“In addition to cases within Chechnya, there have been numerous instances of individuals being detained in other parts of the Russian Federation and forcibly transferred to Chechnya, such as Zarema Musayeva, the mother of human rights lawyer Abubakar Yangulbayev. Musayeva was taken from Nizhny Novgorod last week,” said Price. “We call for the immediate release of all who have been unjustly detained. We are also concerned by reports that Chechen authorities are using such pressure tactics against the relatives in Chechnya of dissidents living outside the Russian Federation. Such acts, which harm entire families, is an especially pernicious form of repression.”

The anti-LGBTQ crackdown in Chechnya continues to spark worldwide outrage.

Chechen authorities in April 2020 arrested two brothers, Salekh Magamadov and Ismail Isaev, after they made a series of posts on Osal Nakh 95, a Telegram channel that Kadyrov’s opponents use. Magamadov and Isaev were reportedly forced to make “apology videos” after they were tortured.

The Russian LGBT Network helped the brothers flee Chechnya, but Russian police last February arrested them in Nizhny Novgorod. Chechen authorities brought them back to Chechnya.

Magamadov and Isaev last month reportedly began a hunger strike after a judge denied their request to have another court hear their case. The Crisis Group “North Caucasus SOS” that represents the brothers said the Supreme Court of Chechnya on Wednesday denied their request for a different venue.  

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