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New York Governor Cuomo Announces Task Force To End AIDS Epidemic

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New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is following through on the promise he made last June to end the AIDS epidemic with the formation of a Task Force to help bring about that end. The Task Force will be supplemented by two advisory groups - The Public Official Advisory Group and The Public Awareness Ambassadors - in the near future and plan to bring the annual HIV infections down to a mere 750 per year by 2020.

The plan will doubtlessly become complex and more fully-detailed as the groups come into being, but for now the Task Force and advisory groups plan to combat AIDS and HIV infections by:

  1. Identifying people with HIV who remain undiagnosed and linking them to health care;
  2. Linking and retaining people diagnosed with HIV to health care and getting them on anti-HIV therapy to maximize HIV virus suppression so they remain healthy and prevent further transmission; and
  3. Providing access to Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) for high-risk people to keep them HIV negative.

The first meeting of the Task Force was held this past Tuesday with four more meetings planned for the future, all of which will be open to the public and can be watched online at http://www.governor.ny.gov/


Michelangelo Signorile: Burger King's 'Proud Burger' Is A Tax Evasion Cover-Up

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Writing on The Huffington Post, Michelangelo Signorile argues that companies, political donors and other entities are courting LGBT people in order to cover up criticism of unethical and questionable actions.

Signorile points out that corporate support for LGBT rights is easier for companies than it has been in the past and that many of these organizations need the support of LGBT people.

Arguing that Burger King’s recent actions hurt the economy and workers, he says that the Proud Whopper is an attempt to allow the company to remove attention from the fact that it is “fleeing to Canada, buying up Tim Hortons, following other American companies engaged in so-called tax inversions, all to avoid paying U.S. taxes."

SignorileSignorile continues that although Republican megadonor Paul Singer has given money to LGBT groups and GOP politicians who already support LGBT rights, the hedge fund billionaire is also giving millions to anti-gay candidates via right-wing groups and super PACs.

He goes on to points out that Democrats are as much to blame as Republicans, noting that although Governor Andrew Cuomo supported marriage equality in New York, his recent actions, including budget cuts, have diminished the rights of all workers, be they gay or straight.

Getting straight to the point, Signorile concludes:

“The fact that Burger King so publicly supports LGBT rights shouldn't matter. We should be past the point of being giddy over a nice wrapper. Corporations that dodge paying U.S. taxes while making billions from American consumers are wreaking havoc. We should all be sending a message to the fast-food giant that it is hurting America -- gay America, straight America, all of America.”


NY Governor Andrew Cuomo Seeks to End New York's AIDS Epidemic

New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced an ambitious plan to eradicate HIV in New York State by 2020 yesterday in a press release. Cuomo’s “Bending The Curve” initiative seeks to see a fall in new HIV infections to the point where the overall number of HIV infected individuals living in New York State is reduced for the first time. The Governor’s office is defining the end of the HIV epidemic as that point when “the total number of new HIV infections has fallen below the number of HIV-related deaths,” according to the press release.

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"Thirty years ago, New York was the epicenter of the AIDS crisis -- today I am proud to announce that we are in a position to be the first state in the nation committed to ending this epidemic,” said Governor Cuomo. “New York State has reached an important milestone in controlling the AIDS epidemic.”

“Bending The Curve” focuses on three points of action in order to reach its goal: Identifying undiagnosed HIV infected persons, ensuring access to antiretroviral treatment, and providing access to Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis for high-risk, HIV negative populations.

Cuomo’s plan would also streamline the process through which HIV tests can be requested during medical checkups and allow data gathered by the health department to be shared with healthcare providers minimizing the number of patients that go without care.

In addition to providing the necessary medical support to curtail the epidemic, Bending The Curve also seeks to provide critical quality of life support, an often overlooked aspect of HIV treatment. With “[a] 30% cap of the proportion of an HIV patient’s income that can be spent on rent,” the plan aims at eliminating situations in which people are forced to choose between health care and having a place to live.

“The goal is ambitious, but grounded in reality,” said Mark Harrington, executive director of the Treatment Action Group, an AIDS research and policy think tank. “[New York State has seen] an almost 40 percent decrease in new HIV diagnoses in the last decade, with fewer new infections each year, while nationally there has been no decline in the annual number of new HIV infections.

The plan also represents a major financial investment for the State itself. In addition to a projected prevention of 3,400 new infections, New York would also stand to save some $317 million in health care costs.


New York Removes Surgical Requirement for Changing Gender on Birth Certificates

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo's office announced today that no longer would transgender people have to prove reassignment surgery to make a gender change on their birth certificate, Reuters reports:

CuomoUnder the policy, a transgender person will still need to provide a notarized affidavit from the doctor treating them for what the American Psychiatric Association calls gender dysphoria, previously known as gender identity disorder, in order to get their birth certificate modified.

But under the policy the doctor will no longer need to affirm that their patient has had surgery, only that they are receiving "appropriate treatment."

The Empire State Pride Agenda applauded the move:

“This is tremendous news for New York and especially for the transgender community, and a great step forward to ensuring many transgender New Yorkers no longer need to undergo a process they not wish to in order to receive an identity document that truly reflects who they are,“ said Empire State Pride Agenda Executive Director Nathan M. Schaefer. “This is an issue we’ve been advocating for the past several years and are grateful for Governor Cuomo’s leadership and the Department of Health for moving us closer to equality and justice for all New Yorkers.”

“Under Governor Cuomo's leadership, New York is reclaiming its rightful place as the progressive capital of the nation and made significant progress to advance the rights of all New Yorkers, including members of the transgender community. Much work remains and this administration is committed to promoting laws and policies that are fair and just for all,” said Alphonso David, Deputy Secretary for Civil Rights for New York State.


NY To Refund Estate Taxes Paid By Same-Sex Couples Prior To DOMA Ruling

Andrew CuomoThose familiar to the case that gutted DOMA, Windsor v. United States, know that the suit was prompted by the over $300,000 in extra estate taxes that Edie Windsor was forced to pay as the result of her deceased spouse being a member of the same sex. Now that the Supreme Court has ruled in Windsor's favor, the state of New York is offering refunds to anyone else who might have found themselves in her situation. 

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the refunds Tuesday, citing the Supreme Court decision to render DOMA unconstitutional. Said refunds apply to any same sex couple considered legally married in the state of New York who were forced to pay any extra estate taxes as the result of DOMA. At present, the state has not made any estimates of exactly how much tax money will need to be repaid. 

Upon the announcement, Cuomo expressed his personal support of the refunds:

"This financial compensation is one more step toward justice for Edie Windsor, and all of the men and women who confronted similar indifference at a time of deep personal loss."

According to the Daily Journal (via AP)...

"A refund must be claimed within three years of the tax return or two years after the tax was overpaid. More information is available through the state's Taxpayer Information Center at 518-457-5387."


NY Senate Passes Landmark Gun Control Bill as Obama Prepares to Take Action Federally: VIDEO

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The New York Senate has passed a landmark gun control bill that would ban assault weapons, the NYT reports:

The state Senate, controlled by a coalition of Republicans and a handful of Democrats, approved the legislative package just after 11 p.m. by a lopsided vote of 43 to 18. The Assembly, where Democrats who have been strongly supportive of gun control have an overwhelming majority, planned to vote on the measure Tuesday...

..The expanded ban on assault weapons would broaden the definition of such weapons, banning semiautomatic pistols and rifles with detachable magazines and one military-style feature, as well as semiautomatic shotguns with one military-style feature. New Yorkers who already own such guns could keep them but would be required to register them with the state.

Also:

The legislative package, which Mr. Cuomo said he believed would be “the most comprehensive package in the nation,” would ban any gun magazine that can hold over 7 rounds of ammunition — the current limit is 10 rounds. It would also require background checks of ammunition buyers and automated alerts to law enforcement of high-volume purchases.

The legislation would increase penalties for multiple crimes committed with guns, would require background checks for most private gun sales, and create a statewide gun-registration database.

President Obama is expected to announce 19 separate executive actions he could take without the approval of Congress to limit access to guns and curtail gun violence, the NYT also reports, in a separate story:

Actions the president could take on his own are likely to include imposing new limits on guns imported from overseas, compelling federal agencies to improve sharing of mental health records and directing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to conduct research on gun violence, according to those briefed on the effort.

White House aides believe Mr. Obama can also ratchet up enforcement of existing laws, including tougher prosecution of people who lie on their background checks.

Watch Obama talk about possible executive orders on guns at his press conference yesterday, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "NY Senate Passes Landmark Gun Control Bill as Obama Prepares to Take Action Federally: VIDEO" »


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