Speed Read: Tuesday 3 December 2013

1-    MARKING PROGRESS: President Obama, at a White House ceremony Monday marking World AIDS Day, noted that his administration has cleared the waiting lists of people with HIV and low incomes seeking assistance buying medication. “At one time, the need was so great that over 9,000 people were on the waitlist,” said the president. “We vowed to get those numbers down.  And I’m proud to announce that, as of last week, we have cleared that waitlist. We are down to zero. And we’re going to keep working to keep it down.” The president also announced that the National Institutes of Health would re-direct $100 million in funds over the next three years toward research seeking a cure for AIDS. And he said “we need to keep focusing on investments to communities that are still being hit hardest, including gay and bisexual men, African Americans and Latinos.”

2-   LOOMING CONCERNS: AIDS Institute official Carl Schmid said the re-direction of $35 million in funding to the AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP) two years ago did “really help” clear the waiting lists. But Schmid said AIDS activists are still concerned about budget cuts generally and the looming sequestration cuts that could hit as soon as January. Many analysts are predicting those cuts could be much more dramatic than the first round of sequestration cuts that took place this year. Schmid also expressed concern about what he called “the unknowns of the Affordable Care Act.” Schmid said it’s not clear how much money will be needed for ADAP in the future because “there will be cost-shifting as current ADAP clients, if eligible, transition to Medicaid and private insurance in the exchanges.  Just can’t forecast all of this now.”

3-   CDC SOUNDS ALARM: There was other disturbing AIDS-related news during the past week, specific to the LGBT community. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported last Friday that, among men who have sex with men (MSM), “Unprotected anal sex at least once in the past 12 months [has] increased from 48% in 2005 to 57% in 2011.” Also in 2011, said the report, MSM “accounted for at least half of persons diagnosed with HIV in all but two states.” The two states were Pennsylvania and South Dakota, where MSM still accounted for between 46 percent and 49 percent of HIV infections.

4-   VIRGINIA AG IN RECOUNT: Republican attorney general candidate Mark Obenshain Monday formally petitioned the state elections division to perform a recount of his 165-vote loss to Democrat Mark Herring. Obenshain would be a much more aggressive defender of the state’s ban on allowing same-sex couples to marry. The ban is being challenged by two lawsuits in federal courts in Virginia.

5-   VIRGINIA “DECONFORMS”: Virginia’s current attorney general, Republican Ken Cuccinelli recently advised the state department of taxation to “deconform” to the federal standard it has used for many years when it comes to directing married couples how to file their state tax forms. A November 8 bulletin from the state tax department advised same-sex couples who filed as married on federal tax returns “will be required to file their Virginia income tax returns as single individuals.” The U.S. Internal Revenue Service announced August 29 that legally married same-sex couples “will be treated as married for all federal tax purposes.”

6-    MALONEY VOLUNTEERS: Openly gay U.S. Rep. Sean Maloney (D-NY) volunteered at a soup kitchen in Middletown, N.Y., on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, according to the Times-Herald Record. St. Margaret’s Soup Kitchen is a project of Grace Episcopal Church in Middletown.

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