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Gay Bathhouses Across America Threatened By Lowered Attendance, Outdated Public Opinion

70sBathhouseOriginally conceived as important bastions of sanitation in urban centers, American bathhouses became meccas for gay hook-up culture and entertainment in the 1960s and 70s. At that time, nearly 200 bathhouses were open around the country; now only 70 remain, and owners are scrambling to alter their image and attract youthful crowds of a new generation.

ABC News reports:

"Bathhouses were like dirty bookstores and parks: a venue to meet people," said Sykes, who still owns the smaller North Hollywood Spa. "Today, you can go to the supermarket..."

Privately run, gay-owned bathhouses proliferated in the 1970s, offering a haven for gay and bisexual men to meet. Clubs like New York City's Continental bathhouse and Los Angeles' 8709 Club saw a steady stream of patrons...

Amid the AIDS epidemic in the early 1980s, bathhouses were vilified for enabling promiscuity and helping spread the disease, and many either closed voluntarily or by legal pressure. Those that remained were stigmatized, and now many younger gays see them as anachronisms.

BathIn an effort to regain appeal, many bathhouses offer cheap admission prices for the younger set and amenities beyond the standard towel. Ohio's Cleveland-based Flex Spa, for example, contains luxury hotel rooms and nightclub venues; as such, it has become a fixture of gay culture beyond its sexual and social connotation, serving as the location for the Gay Games and the city's gay pride parade.

[Flex Spas CEO Todd] Saporito said more progressive views on homosexuality aren't evenly spread across the country, underscoring the need for modern bathhouses in some areas. Still, he takes nothing for granted, regardless of the location.

"Bathhouses at some level will go extinct if you don't offer something more than a towel," Saporito said.

And there is community, safe sex, and companionship to be found as well.

"You're either hooking up online or you are here, or you go to bars in West Hollywood, get drunk and hook up," said [22-year-old Brett] Sparks, acknowledging that although the bathhouse crowd skews older, it's not as risky as going home with a stranger. "Here it's a safer environment — there's condoms and other protection."

Here's hoping that bathhouses overcome the stigma and become important communal fixtures once more.


Equality California Sponsors Resolution Urging an End to Gay Blood Donor Ban - VIDEO

Ban

Equality California, the largest LGBT advocacy organization in the state, has partnered with Assemblymember Richard Bloom to advance an assembly joint resolution (AJR 50) urging President Barack Obama to compel the Department of Health and Human Services and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to introduce blood donor policies that do not discriminate against men who have had sex with other men.

Currently, the FDA prohibits men from donating blood for life if they have even once had sex with another man since 1977.

Medical organizations including the American Red Cross and the American Association for Blood Banks have called for a reevaluation and/or repeal of the policy citing its excessively broad nature and advances in blood testing.

BloomThe Williams Institute think tank estimates that an additional 130,150 men would likely donate 219,200 pints of blood each year if the ban were lifted, helping blood banks which routinely operate with a short supplies.

Bloom said:

“The FDA's archaic exclusions are both discriminatory and unwise, considering the nation’s chronic blood supply shortages. It is time for the FDA to restructure its blood donor deferral policies to reflect sound science, not outdated social prejudices.”

The resolution, which passed the Assembly Floor yesterday with a final bipartisan vote of 58-15, will now move to the Senate for consideration.

Watch a report on a blood donor protest at the University of Cincinnati's Hoxworth Blood Center last month, AFTER THE JUMP...

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Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni Signs Law Criminalizing HIV Transmission

MuseveniUgandan President Yoweri Museveni has officially criminalized the transmission of HIV, a move that many public health experts worry could ultimately exacerbate Uganda’s well documented struggles with the virus. Similar to law that sometimes appear here in the U.S. Uganda’s new HIV Prevention and AIDS Control Bill targets those individuals who willfully expose others to the virus without their knowledge. In theory provisions like these would encourage people to exercise safer sex practices. Unfortunately, that is seldom the case. Rather than fostering openness about one’s HIV status, the criminalization of HIV has been proven to be ineffective and ultimately harmful.

The circumstances under which the mandate made its way through the Ugandan legal systems are dubious at best. The law, which surfaced earlier this week, is dated to have have officially been signed in late July, closely following the nullification of Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act.

The AHA’s passing was invalidated after legal review revealed that the Ugandan Parliament did not have the quorum of its members necessary to turn the homophobic legislation into law. President Museveni has insisted that the law, which is being reintroduced the Parliament, will be gentler towards adults consensually engaging in homosexual acts. Those found in violation of the original AHA could be sentenced to life in prison but, Museveni says, the revised law focuses solely on the protection of children.

Read the full text of Uganda's law criminalizing the transmission of HIV AFTER THE JUMP...

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Gay Social Networking App Hornet Helps Users Find HIV Clinics

HornetAs mobile social networks like Grindr, Scruff, and Tinder continue to grow in popularity, the developers behind the apps race to add new features to entice users to their services. Hornet, a San Francisco-based relative newcomer to the game, is banking on a commitment to public health in order to expand its userbase. Typically used to help gay men find one another using their phones’ geo-location functionality, Hornet can now also assist its users in locating nearby HIV clinics.

Incorporating a locator tool developed by AIDS.gov, Hornet’s app will display the 10 closest clinics that administer HIV screening and counseling. Additionally, Hornet’s profile creator will emphasize the importance of knowing one’s status. Along with height, weight, and eye color, Hornet will provide users with the ability to designate their HIV status, as a part of its “Know Your Status” campaign. Once a user designates the date of their last HIV test, the application will automatically remind them to get tested again after a designated amount of time.


Robert Oscar Lopez: Same-Sex Marriage Is 'A Tidal Wave' Sweeping Up Children - VIDEO

Robert Oscar Lopez

In a July speech to the Stanford Anscombe Society, anti-gay activist and "ex-gay" Robert Oscar Lopez said that he cannot support same-sex marriage because it has become a “tidal wave” that has “swept up children,” reports Right Wing Watch.

The Stanford Anscombe Society aims “to help university students and young adults to promote the values of marriage, family, and sexual integrity to the broader popular culture” and “defines marriage as a union, until death, between one man and one woman.”

Lopez said that although he once supported same-sex marriage, many people “have chosen to yoke gay marriage and gay parenting together” which forced him into the opposing camp “because it ultimately means that in order to protect the sexual relationship between two adults, you have to shatter the relationship between a child and either his father or his mother.”

Lopez also attacked what he called “a very powerful gay lobby that has a lot of money” which works to “erase” the realities of life for LGBT people, including high rates of domestic violence in same-sex relationships,”rampant problems with depression, anxiety, eating disorders” and “the fact that HIV infection rate recently went up among boys 13 to 19.”

Watch, AFTER THE JUMP...

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HIV Testing During Dental Visits Could Become Effective New Way to Stop Virus's Spread

Dentist

The next big step in combating the spread of HIV could come from your dentist’s office. Testing and knowing one’s HIV status are crucial components to curtailing HIV, but oftentimes there exists a significant social stigma that comes with requesting a test from one’s primary physician. Dentists offices, according to University of Chicago Center for Health Administration Studies Faculty Chair Dr. Harold Pollack, provide the perfect setting for making HIV testing de rigueur. Unlike clinics geared towards sexual health, which can be few and far between depending on one’s community, dentists’ offices are widespread and more easily accessible.

In the same way that pharmacies offer tests for cholesterol, blood pressure, and vision, dentists offices could branch out their services offered. A visit to the dentist could begin with a quick swab one’s cheek and end with HIV test results without any blood work necessary.

“We don’t need anything from our primary-care physicians,” Pollack explained to Ozy. “We want nice-looking white teeth with no cavities.”

Generally speaking people visit the dentist more frequently than they do their doctors, according to Pollack’s research. He estimates that nearly 70% of high-risk individuals schedule annual dental appointments, whereas most people only go to the doctor when they are certain that something is wrong.

Dentists in Canada, Mexico, and South Korea have begun administering HIV screenings as a part of a regular checkup. In the U.S., the practice is not nearly as common, and not without significant hurdles. For all of their scarcity, HIV clinics are more than merely a place that will administer health screenings and medication. Clinic staff are trained to handle and  share kinds information that dentists don’t have to deal with very often. But Pollack is certain that HIV testing deserves to a feature of modern dentistry.

“In the U.S., we’ve done a bad job of carving oral health out, having separate insurance plans.” He insisted. “We need to have a mentality that really grasps that oral health is part of health.”


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