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Activists Disrupt 'Stoli Guy' Pageant in NYC in Protest Against Russian Vodka: VIDEO

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ACT UP New York and Queer Nation activists disrupted another Stoli event last night protesting the promotion of Russian vodka. Stoli, which is produced by SPI group has denied that it is a Russian-owned company since it is based in Luxembourg and bottled in Latvia but has said that its ingredients and production are sourced in Russia.

Gay City News reports:

Five demonstrators affiliated with ACT UP New York and Queer Nation stormed the stage at Marquee New York in Chelsea at the start of the Most Original Stoli Guy national finale, which brought together the winners from competitions in 12 cities. Blowing horns and holding up signs with messages including “Dump Stoli,” the group –– Mark Milano, Brandon Cuicchi, Terry Roethlein, Piro Rexhepi, and Chris Kohler –– brought the show to a halt for about a minute, before they were dragged from the stage by the club’s bouncers.

As the men were hauled away, one of the evening’s hosts said, “We are very lucky to live in a country where we can speak freely.” The host added, “And one of the things we are celebrating tonight is the passion that is the Stoli brand, and that is passion.”

Watch the video, AFTER THE JUMP...

In July, another Stoli event at Splash bar was disrupted byt the same group of activists.

Continue reading "Activists Disrupt 'Stoli Guy' Pageant in NYC in Protest Against Russian Vodka: VIDEO" »


ACT UP Protests Lack Of PrEP And PEP Outside New York Department Of Health

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Taking a break from their recent protests of human rights atrocities taking place in Russia, members of ACT UP in New York City took to the streets in front of the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) this past THursday, August 15, to protest the lack of funding and education surrounding PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis) and PEP (Post-Exposure Prophylaxis) as effective means to prevent the transmission of HIV. Approximately 25 group members were gathered that afternoon, carrying signs with slogans such as “D’OH! I refused to fund PEP. Now 1000’s of NYers will get HIV,” “The ‘Healthcare’ Mayor Missed HIV,” and “Pozitively FRAUDulent & Absolutely NEGligent.”

ACT UP, best known for their pivotal roles during the initial outbreak of HIV and AIDS and the documentary How To Survive A Plague, organized the demonstration as a response to rapidly-increasing infection rates among young gay men and trans women. They allege that DOHMH committed "negligence and fraud" by failing to collect data on these new infections, and by presenting condoms as the only effective method for preventing the spread of HIV. Several ACT UP members could even be heard yelling  “Give us data! Give us numbers!” ACT UP activist Jim Eigo expanded on DOHMH's alleged negligence in the group's incendiary press release: 

“ACT UP has told DOHMH to start an information campaign to tell New Yorkers about PrEP. Their answer? DOHMH is afraid that such a campaign would create demand for the drugs in advance of a network of doctors equipped to oversee their safe and effective use. What a vicious cycle of ignorance and inaction!”

The group previously protested outside of Mt. Sinai Medical Center, after a man entered its emergency room asking staff for PEP after a possible exposure to HIV. ER staffers allegedly had no idea how to treat the patient. In their report, Out magazine went on to explain precisely how the two treatments work:

"Typically prescribed as thirty daily doses of the antiretroviral drugs Truvada and Isentress, PEP medication is used to prevent HIV infection from taking root in the body after an exposure to HIV, typically in the form of condomless sexual contact with a partner who is HIV-positive or of unknown status. The exact mechanism of PEP is unknown, but Truvada and Isentress are also used to prevent the virus from multiplying in already-infected patients. PrEP is similar to PEP except that it is given prior to possible exposures, typically only to patients who have taken PEP before or who have a history of high-risk sexual behavior, to prevent any exposures to HIV from turning into an actual full-blown infection."

Actup-signDOHMH responded to ACT UP's allegations in an email response to Out, in which a spokesperson promised that:

"The Health Department plans to expand information about biomedical HIV prevention interventions for at-risk populations, as well as information for clinical providers both on its website and in a format that can be disseminated easily by funded sites...In 2013, DOHMH spent $22.4 million on programs specifically for HIV prevention. Funding supported HIV testing, free female and male condom distribution, treatment adherence for HIV infected persons, biomedical prevention, including PEP for uninsured New Yorkers with clinically appropriate exposures, behavioral risk reduction, syringe exchange, harm reduction, and mental health screening...

"We stand by the favorable results we have achieved in reducing citywide morbidity and mortality associated with HIV and in the quality of our data. Since 2005, we have seen an increase in the proportion of people diagnosed with HIV who are in treatment, a decrease in the number of HIV-related deaths, and an increase in life expectancy for people with HIV. From 2001 to 2011, the number of new HIV diagnoses in New York City declined by 40%."

You can read more exceprts from the department's statement on Out.com.

Dr. Alan Stein, an infectious-diseases specialist who treats many HIV/AIDS patients, disagrees with ACT UP, arguing that, while PrEP and PEP do play a role in reducing transmission, he still believes that condoms should be used as the first and primary line of defense:

“The way to curb the epidemic is to get more people tested. Then, once they are tested, getting them into treatment and staying on treatment. If you can do that, that will reduce the community viral load and the risk of transmission. Putting people on PrEP isn’t going to do that much to prevent further transmission of the disease. It’s more like individual protection. It’s not really a public health concept... While PrEP is important, and I do believe in it, I think it’s useful in select cases: someone who’s going to be compliant and adherent. It shouldn’t just be given willy-nilly to people who want to get it.”


BREAKING: Photos Of Russian Consulate Protest Hit The Web

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Yesterday, Queer Nation and RUSA LGBT announced that the two organizations would be holding a joint protest of anti-gay violence and legislation outside of the Russian Consulate in Manhattan today. Now, according to Joe My God, "100 activists are demonstrating outside the Russian consulate". They've also apparently been joined by members of ACT UP, and photos are now hitting the web thanks to the Memeographs Facebook page and the ACT UP New York Twitter Account.

View some of the photos AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "BREAKING: Photos Of Russian Consulate Protest Hit The Web" »


UPDATED: ACT UP Disrupts Stoli Event At Splash In New York - VIDEO

  Most Original Stoli Guy
Less than a dozen members of ACT UP / NY stood up in front a crowd of roughly 150 at a "Most Original Stoli Guy: New York" event taking place at Splash Bar in Chelsea yesterday, and began shouting and displaying signs with slogans such as "Russia Kills Gays" and "Dump Stoli". Most of those in attendance viewed the demonstration in "bewildered silence", according to Gay City News. The show's drag queen host was the only one who vocally supported the Russian vodka brand, quipping, "This is what happens when you drink Absolut".

As security began tearing some of the group's signs and escorting them out of the building, the host went on to add, "Look at those assh*les being taken out of the bar. This is America, not Russia!" 

While ACT UP's demonstration turned out to be brief, one of the group's organizers, Mark Milano, was still pleased. "I think it was great," he said. "They were totally taken off guard. There were Stoli executives in the room who saw their event crashed." Another ACT UP member, Brandon Cuicchi, told Gay City News that “Stoli was doing an event they could not do in Russia. You’re not LGBT-friendly marketing to gay people while saying nothing in your home country. 

Act UpACT UP, an HIV awareness and activism group, first started making headlines during the late 1980's, at the height of the AIDS epidemic. Now, the group is expressing its concern that Russia's new anti-gay "propaganda" law might cause harm to groups seeking to combat HIV in the country:

"The ACT UP demonstrators voiced specific concern that under the new Russian legislation, dissemination of safe sex education, condoms, and AIDS treatment drugs will be targeted as 'homosexual propaganda,' something that could cripple effective prevention efforts. The group is calling on UN AIDS to condemn the new Russian law."

Stoli's parent company, SPI Group, has already decried the Russian vodka ban and expressed its support for the international LGBT community. Many human rights activists, including the likes of Dan Savage, remained steadfast in their efforts to "dump Russian vodka". Last night's demonstraton no doubt serves as a reminder of that fact. 

UPDATE: Video footage of the protest has hit the web. Watch it AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "UPDATED: ACT UP Disrupts Stoli Event At Splash In New York - VIDEO" »


Check Out These Stunning Interactive Maps of the State of HIV/AIDS in America

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Writing today in the Washington Post, pioneer AIDS activist Peter Staley calls for the LGBT community to recommit itself to fighting HIV and AIDS after this week's landmark wins for marriage equality at the Supreme Court:

[I]n our exaltation over wedded bliss, we are forgetting another kind of “til death do us part”: the bonds that tie us together as a group, across social strata, race and generations — the same bonds that helped us fight AIDS.

During the worst years of the AIDS crisis, from 1981 to the advent of effective medications in 1996, the gay community forged a new definition of love: It encompassed traditional romantic love, but it went beyond the love between two people. 

Today, though, we’re so caught up in the giddiness of the marriage-equality movement that we’ve abandoned the collective fight against HIV and AIDS.

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Staley notes that the country's largest LGBT rights groups have pivoted almost exclusively to marriage equality, pointing out that the most recent annual reports from the three largest organizations--the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF)--make no mention of the words 'HIV' or "AIDS.'

It's true that advances in HIV treatment have helped HIV-positive individuals live long, healthy lives.  But 15,000 people die of AIDS every year in the United States, and more than 1 million people in this country are living with the disease.  The issue continues to be more acutely felt in the LGBT community specifically--as Staley points out, more than half of today's college-aged gay men will be HIV-positive by age 50 if current infection rates remain constant.

In light of those numbers, AIDSVu has a fantastic and eye-opening new set of interactive maps that show the density of people living with HIV across the U.S. on a county-by-county basis.  You can play around with the maps by looking at individual states and even some major cities, as well as filtering results based on factors like age, race, sex, education, income and health insurance.

Here's the AIDSVu map for New York City.  Hopefully these data will be seen widely and will help spur a conversation in our community about the importance of highlighting HIV and AIDS as ongoing issues that affect all LGBT Americans.

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(photos courtesy of AIDSVu)


ACT UP NY Members Hold 25th 'Reunion' in West Village

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NY Mag's Tim Murphy posted a slideshow of an ACT UP NY reunion which was held over the weekend at 49 Grove, in the West Village.

Writes Murphy:

But when one of the veterans, Jim Eigo, took the mike and started the old chant, "Act up, fight back, fight AIDS!" there were more than a few less-than-dry eyes in the house. Eigo is among the first-wavers who've started going back to the classic Monday night ACT UP meetings at the LGBT Community Center to address scary stats showing that HIV continues to rise at high rates among young gay men. Even ACT UP godfather Larry Kramer was there, despite frail health. The night's new joke slogan? "Act up, fight back, fight age!"

Check out his slideshow, with interviews, here.


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