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Elton John And Michael Stipe Rally Behind Abused Trans Georgia Inmate Ashley Diamond: VIDEO

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Elton John and Michael Stipe have issued a joint statement calling on the Georgia Department of Corrections (GDC) to provide safety and hormone therapy to transgender women housed in male prisons in the state, according to the Guardian.

Earlier this month it was reported that transgender inmate Ashley Diamond has been denied access to her hormones, assaulted and raped at least seven times by other inmates.

Diamond filed a lawsuit against the GDC in February after years of unsuccessfully trying to convince corrections officials to provide her proper medical treatment and protection.

Last week, the US Justice Department voiced support for Diamond, calling the state’s denial of hormone therapy for gender dysphoria “cruel and unusual punishment”.

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has filed a federal lawsuit against the GDC on behalf of Diamond.

The statement by John and Stipe reads in part:

John_stipe“We applaud the US Department of Justice for supporting Ashley Diamond and the trans community in arguing that Georgia’s policy of denying transgender inmates their medically necessary hormone treatment is unconstitutional. But we must do more to end the culture of violence and discrimination surrounding gender identity and expression. We urge the state of Georgia to embrace desperately needed changes to their correctional system.”

Watch a SPLC report on Diamond, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Elton John And Michael Stipe Rally Behind Abused Trans Georgia Inmate Ashley Diamond: VIDEO" »


Colorado Republicans Block Ban On 'Gay Conversion' Therapy For Minors: VIDEO

Owen HIll

A Colorado Senate committee has killed a bill that would have banned gay conversion therapy for minors, reports the Denver Post.

GaynotgayThe bill was opposed by a vote of 3-2.  Voting against were Republicans Ray Scott, Jerry Sonnenberg and Owen Hill (above). Democratic Senators Andy Kerr and Pat Steadman voted in favor of the ban.

The bill had been sponsored by Rep. Paul Rosenthal (D-Denver) and Rep. Dominick Moreno (D-Commerce City).

Following the Senate State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee vote, Rosenthal said:

“I think it’s shameful what the Senate Republicans have done. The bill was designed to protect children from a harmful practice that is not based in science. Maybe in the next nine months until the next session they will reconsider their decision."

Yesterday, President Obama announced his support for a "We the People" petition urging the government to "Enact Leelah's Law to Ban All LGBTQ+ Conversion Therapy" after it reached more than 120,000 signatures.

A number of states have recently considered bans on gay conversion therapy.

Watch Hill's campaign video from last year, AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Colorado Republicans Block Ban On 'Gay Conversion' Therapy For Minors: VIDEO" »


Williams Institute Planning A Massive Study Of Trans Health Needs

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The Williams Institute at UCLA is partnering with Columbia University and the Fenway Institute to conduct what they hope will be one of the most comprehensive studies of the US’s transgender and gender non-conforming populations to date. “TransPop: U.S. Transgender Population Health Survey,” as the research team is calling it, plans to gather vital information about the health concerns of the trans community, and create a more representative model of just what our trans population looks like.

“Timely and accurate data about the transgender population is crucial for designing evidence-based public health and policy interventions,” said TransPop’s lead researcher Ilan H. Meyer, a senior scholar of public policy with the Williams Institute. “With awareness about transgender people growing in the public and among researchers and policymakers, there are new opportunities to establish policies that address the needs of transgender people in the United States.”

One of the biggest obstacles impeding the creation of more widespread initiatives to provide health and social services to the trans-community is the fact we don’t collect a lot of information about them. The information that we do collect, according to the researchers behind this new study, tends to be shot through with a certain degree of statistical inaccuracies due to research methodology.

Most large-scale, survey-based studies of LGBT-identified people are distributed through organizations queer social networks and organizations. While gathering information that way is incredibly useful and effective volume-wise, it runs the risk of skewing sample data by not pulling from a pool that accurately reflects the broader population.

For example, if you weren’t in a position to take advantage in your city’s trans-outreach efforts or if your city simply didn’t have them, there’s a strong chance that you could be missed by a targeted study. That’s one of the issues facing the oft-cited, but rarely understood populations of “at-risk” trans-youth, many of whom are made virtually invisible to studies like these by the fact that they aren’t connected to larger LGBT social networks.

Rather than specifically targeting the trans-population directly through trans-rights organizations and community organizers, TransPop’s researchers plan to work their way from the top down, partnering with Gallup to initially survey about 350,000 over the course of a year.

By starting with a comparatively large sample population and whittling it down to those who identify as trans or gender non-conforming, TransPop aims to draw a more accurate picture of what the US’s trans community looks like and what it is that they need. Ultimately the TransPop team estimates that they’ll gather responses from about 300-500 people, but the responses that those people give could change the way that we think of the trans-population.


Syphilis Rates in Chelsea Are 6 Times the NYC Average And Are Being Driven Primarily By Gay Men

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The rate of syphilis transmission in Chelsea has skyrocketed to more than six times the city's average infection rate - a rise that the city's health department says is primarily being driven by gay men having unprotected sex.

In 2013, the neighborhood had 93.3 syphilis infections per 100,000 people. The city average is 14. Chelsea's infection rate is higher than any city in the nation. 

DNAinfo reports:

ChelseaAnthony Hayes of AIDS service organization GMHC said that because syphilis is difficult to detect early on, the disease spreads rapidly.

"In those areas you have a sexual network that are likely unaware that they have syphilis. When you have sexual networks that are unaware that they have something, it is easy for it to multiply more quickly," he explained.

"More people are having unprotected sex ... the other thing is it’s really easy to get, you don’t have to just engage in intercourse. You can get it through oral sex,” he added, saying GMHC offers free testing at their West 29th Street clinic.


FDA Approves Further Study Of Promising Gene Therapy HIV Treatment

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Experimental stem cell gene therapy that could act as functional cure for HIV infection has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration to move into early human test trials. Unlike other treatments that use healthy stem cells from uninfected donors, this form of therapy uses cells harvested from a positive person’s own body. The stem cells are genetically manipulated to develop into white blood cells that are missing the key cellular receptors that the HIV virus uses to insert its genetic code into healthy cells. The modification effectively models a HIV-positive person’s white blood cells after the cells of people who have a natural resistance to HIV.

After introducing the modified white blood cells into a positive person’s bloodstream, researchers reason, the cells would naturally proliferate, effectively revitalizing their immune system to be able to fend off the virus indefinitely. A small testing pool of 12 volunteers have undergone the therapy in controlled trials being conducted by Calimmune, a California-based pharmaceutical research firm.

The preliminary results have been promising, with uncompromised white blood cells remaining present in test subjects’ bloodstreams for up to four years. In theory, later versions of the treatment would result in permanent rejuvenation of healthy cells after a single round of treatment.

The FDA’s authorization of further tests means that a larger group of people will be able to participate in a future study exploring the therapy’s efficacy. As of now trials are planned for California’s City of Hope medical research center with funding help from the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine.

“This kind of work is too important to just try one method at a time and sit back and wait to see if it is effective,” CIRM board chair Dr. Jonathan Thomas explained to Imperial Valley News. “We have a mission to find treatments for patients in need. By trying several different approaches, taking several shots at goal at the same time if you like, we feel we have a better chance of being successful.”


23AndMe Aims To Cure Diseases By Developing Its Own Pharmaceutical Drugs

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23AndMe is in the process of reinventing itself as a pharmaceutical research firm powered by the unique pieces of genetic information provided by its vast customer base. In the eight years since the company’s founding, it’s collected unique genetic data from over 800,000 different people. Going forward 23AndMe plans to mine that valuable data (with its owners explicit consent) as it develops its own pharmaceutical drugs.

“People want to see a cure,” 23AndMe CEO explained to Forbes. “And cures don’t magically appear.”

“Cures come from pharma, and biotech. And so part of what I think we can do is by making sure that the consumer really is at the forefront, that they are informed, that they know what’s going on, I’m hoping that they can really do a meaningful service for them by helping to develop those types of therapies.”

When the Mountain View-based company first launched, its core products were focused on providing people with access to relatively cheap genotyping. With a simple at-home saliva test 23AndMe claimed to be able to give people a better idea about who they were genetically.

The test offered information about predispositions for certain diseases and physical developments hard coded into a person’s genes. In 2013 23AndMe was ordered to cease offering its services (which are considered medical devices) in the US by the FDA after failing to secure the necessary approvals. That initial setback appears to have inspired the startup to reevaluate its approach to disrupting the medical industry.

Between a high-profile partnership with the Michael J. Fox Foundation and poaching noted drug research Richard Scheller from Genentech, it’s clear that 23AndMe’s new direction is more than a mere shift in product focus. It remains to be seen what, if any, drugs 23AndMe will end up bringing to market. Their mere entrance in the pharmaceutical field, however, could change the way that we develop life-changing drugs.


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