On a final and very personal note: I was able to post six or eight times daily for many years. I can't do that now. Sometimes I can do three or four posts a day. Sometimes I can't do any. But I can elevate and report "our" news, issues and concerns to global platforms. Unfortunately it takes very many hours, days and weeks to write, report, interview, transcribe, travel and elevate your work so that you can get a "like" from MIT, SciAm, The Atlantic, EBONY, international fellowships, universities, the GLAAD Media Awards, etc. Some people can't understand that. Others are envious, resentful and spread false rumors. I'm okay with that. Sometimes you need fewer people around you—fewer "likes" and fake "friends"—if they have negative energy and try to sabotage your success. Leave them behind and laser-focus on your goals. Thanks to all who have supported me all along.
Attorney General Eric Holder delivered a major speech on LGBT rights to the parliament of Sweden—the Riksdag—today in Stockholm. The Attorney General described LGBT rights as one of the "civil rights challenges of our time"and called for an international movement to fight anti-LGBT discrimination.
Holder's remarks are only days before the opening of the Sochi 2014 Olympics. Russia's poor record on human and LGBT rights are likely to continue to dominate news coverage. Video has not yet been uploaded of Holder's speech but two highlights from the transcript:
Just as our forebears came together to overcome tremendous adversity – and to forge the more just and more equal societies in which we now live – so, too, must the current generation rise to the causes that have become the struggles of our day; the defining civil rights challenges of our time. I believe one of these struggles is the fight for equality for our lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender – or LGBT – citizens.
Holder also referenced the Supreme Court's historic decision on June 26, 2013 to strike down Section Three of the Defense of Marriage Act in United States v. Windsor. Section Three banned federal recognition of legally married same-sex couples and denies more than 1,000 benefits, such as Social Security, pension benefits and preferential tax treatment.
This marked a major victory for the cause of equal protection under U.S. law, and a significant step forward for committed and loving couples throughout the country. Today, these couples and their families are one step closer to the equal treatment, and the full recognition, to which they, their loved ones, and their children are entitled.
The speech was "perhaps the strongest statement of his career at the Justice Department in favor of expanding LGBT rights," noted the Washington Post.
The Attorney General also highlighted the Obama Administration's other accomplishments on LGBT issues, such as pushing for the end of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and protections for LGBT domestic violence victims that were added to the Violence Against Women Act.
Holder also discussed other human rights challenges such as terrorism, human trafficking and gender inequality, economic justice and racial discrimination.
Holder announced on January 10 that the Obama Administration will recognize the 1300 plus same-sex marriages that were performed in Utah—-despite that state's decision not to recognize those marriages pending a decision in the federal court system.
Sweden is generally regarded as one of the global leaders in human rights. It was the first nation to mandate a parental leave act and one of the first to ban discrimination nationwide against its LGBT citizens. Sweden became the seventh nation to mandate equal marriage in 2009 by an overwhelming vote. At least fourteen nations mandate equal marriage today—Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Denmark,France, Iceland, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Spain, South Africa, Sweden and Uruguay. Some jurisdictions in Brazil, Mexico and the USA also allow same-sex marriage. Legislation has been approved to mandate equal marriage in England, Wales and Scotland later this year.
G'morning, my loves! I'll be appearing as a contributor to "The Glenn Ellis Show" on Philadelphia's WURD 900AM at 935A/ET. My buddy Glenn Ellis is author, internationally renown health/wellness advocate and broadcaster with several radio shows. We worked together at AIDS 2010 Vienna and AIDS 2012 Washington DC.
Today is the first day of Glenn's newest show on WURD. We will analyze health news from across the Black Diaspora in this weekly segment. Listen live online HERE. The call in number is 866-361-0900.
Disturbing news from Nigeria. The president of Africa's most populous nation has defied international pressure and signed extreme anti-gay legislation that outlaws same-sex unions, "same-sex amorous relationships", public displays of same-sex relationships or homosexuality and bans pro-LGBT organizations, reports Al Jazeera.
President Goodluck Jonathan's spokesman, Reuben Abatim said on Monday that the president signed the bill because it was consistent with the attitudes of most people towards homosexuality in the west African nation. "I can confirm that the president has signed the bill into law," Abati said, without specifying a date but adding that it happened earlier this month.
Amnesty International urged Jonathan to reject the bill, calling it "discriminatory" and warning of "catastrophic" consequences for Nigeria's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.
Under the terms of the law, anyone who enters into a same-sex marriage or civil union can be sentenced to 14 years in prison while any such partnerships entered into abroad are deemed "void". It also warns that anyone who registers, operates or participates in gay clubs, societies and organisations or who directly or indirectly makes a public show of a same-sex relationship will break the law. Punishment is up to 10 years in prison, it adds.
The new law is also expected to be extremely "popular" and should help President Jonathan's re-election campaign, adds The Guardian.
As in much of sub-Saharan Africa, anti-gay sentiment and persecution of homosexuals is rife in Nigeria, so the new legislation is likely to be popular. Jonathan is expected to seek re-election in 2015 but is under pressure after several dozen lawmakers and a handful of regional governors defected to the opposition in the past two months.
The legislation also bans same sex couples from living together, bans pro-LGBT websites or groups and prosecute their friends or human rights activists. Previous versions of the bill banned gays from meeting, living together, reading LGBT websites or even going out to dinner. The comprehensive anti-gay legislation was passed unanimously by Nigeria's House of Representatives in late May 2013. It later passed the Senate.
Prosecutions related to same-sex relations were generally rare in Nigeria—but there has been an increase in arrests and prosecutions since the introduction of comprehensive anti-gay legislation in parliament in 2007.
The legislature of the Katsina State reportedly also approved harsh anti-gay legislation in December. The bill approved by the Katsina State House of Assembly mandates a 14-year prison sentence for any man or woman convicted of same-sex relations. Seven youths aged 18 to 25-years-old were arrested on "suspicion of homosexuality" in neighboring Jigawa State in November.
Meanwhile: Two teenagers were arrested October 1 "on charges of homosexual activity and released on bail pending trial" in Osun State in the southwest, reports 76 Crimes. The "suspected homosexuals" are aged 18- and 19-years old and both pleaded not guilty.
Same-sex acts are currently illegal in at least 38 of 54 African countries. Four nations—Mauritania, Nigeria, Somalia and Sudan—boast the death penalty for gays or same-sex activity. South Africa and Seychelles are the only African nations that protect LGBT rights. South Africa is the only African nation that mandates equal marriage.
You're looking what could become the next frontier in global health and medicine across the developing world: A credit-card sized "microfluidic" biochip that scans blood to detect HIV and accurate T-cell counts.
The test takes less than 20 minutes and costs about ten dollars, according to new research from scientists at the University of Illinois and Daktari Diagnostics.
The chip is designed to work in a battery-powered handheld device that would “deliver simple HIV diagnostics to patients anywhere in the world, regardless of geography or socioeconomic status,” the researchers say in the paper.
The chip, developed by researchers at the University of Illinois and Daktari Diagnostics, is enclosed in a small chamber. Because cells block electric current, passing a current through a tiny microfluidic pore causes the cells to essentially announce their size and shape. That’s enough to identify the cell by type, so the test can count CD4 and CD8 cells, types of T cells that indicate how healthy the patient’s immune system is.
Once in wide use, the reader would cost less than $1,000 and each test would run less than $10, according to project lead Rashid Bashir.
The microfluidic chip could become a tremendous asset in frontier medicine across Sub Saharan Africa. That region is home to about 70 percent of all people living with HIV/AIDS, according to AVERT. Many areas are without electrical power, telephone service, adequate roads, hospitals or clinics ... which severely impacts conventional testing and treatment strategies.
Making this year's list: The Food and Drug Administration has approved the antiretroviral medication Truvada to reduce the risk of HIV infection in uninfected individuals. That biomedical prevention strategy is known as pre-exposure prophylaxis or PrEP.
Truvada becomes the first medication ever to be approved for HIV prevention in adults, marking a major milestone in the 30-plus years of the global epidemic. But many questions remain around adherence, risk, access .. as well as the outrageous $14,000 annual price tag. Meanwhile, there are promising developments in the decades-long quest for an HIV vaccine.
A controversy has erupted in the Southern African nation of Malawi after a Muslim imam spoke out for legal protections and human rights for gays and lesbians. The speech made by Sheikh Mdala Ali Tambuli, "a respected Muslim scholar" has created "a backlash across the country’s Muslim population," reports OnIslam.
"As religious leaders, we saying nowhere in the Bible or the Qur’an is homosexuality supposed to be promoted. On the other hand, what we are saying is that people who are practicing this act are supposed to be served on three things: They are supposed to get protection, love and also we have to look after them, because they are human beings and are totally entitled to all human rights," Sheikh Tambuli said in his presentation.
"As far as Islam in concerned, homosexuality is a sin and I make no apology for that. But I’m saying that as religious leaders, we have to take care of these men who are having sex with fellow men or those who are lesbians."
Many of the leading Muslim clerics in Malawi have publicly opposed the imam's position.
"Islam doesn’t regard homosexuality as a human rights issue, we will therefore, follow the dictates of our religion to oppose any attempts to decriminalize same sex marriages in Malawi, where in the first place, it’s already illegal," [Dr. Imran Shareef] said.
In its reaction to the same, Muslim Association of Malawi (MAM) said promotion of "interests of homosexuals have no place and basis in Islam." "We would like to inform the general public and other fair minded Sheikhs in Malawi that the issue of homosexuality is clearly categorized in the Qur’an as evil and sinful acts as evidently seen in the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah during the time of Lut when such immoral practices existed," Sheikh Idrissa Muhammad, MAM’s National Chairperson said in a statement.
Islam is the second largest religion in Malawi after Christianity. About 13 percent of the country's population of 14 million are Muslim, according to the Central Intelligence Agency World Factbook. Nearly all of Malawi's Muslims adhere to Sunni Islam.
Same-sex acts are currently illegal in Malawi, as they are in at least 38 of 54 African countries. The maximum punishment is 14 years behind bars and hard labor. Malawian President Joyce Banda made international news when she promised to repeal the anti-gay laws after assuming office in May 2012. The laws have not been repealed yet but they have been suspended. Parliamentary leaders of Banda's ruling Democratic Progressive Party announced a "moratorium" on arrests and prosecutions of suspected gays and lesbians in May 2012.
Banda's move reverses the recent trend in Africa in which many LGBT persons have been increasingly singled out for prosecution. Four nations—Mauritania, Nigeria, Somalia and Sudan—boast the death penalty for gays
or same-sex activity. South Africa and Seychelles are the only African
nations that protect LGBT rights. South Africa is also the only
African nation to guarantee marriage equality. Kenya's parliament and
supreme court are considering decriminalizing its sodomy statute.
BARCELONA: After more than 30 years into the HIV/AIDS pandemic, a vaccine remains elusive—and much needed. Globally, about 35 million people are living with HIV, according to the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS or UNAIDS. In the United States, about 1.1 million people are HIV positive, and
nearly 50,000 people contract the virus each year—with African Americans
and Latinos disproportionately affected. Men who have sex with men—especially those of color—have among the highest infection rates across the globe.
AIDS Vaccine 2013 was the first public presentation of the research by
Oregon Health and Science University's Louis J. Picker, MD, originally published
in the journal Nature. Picker's study demonstrated that vaccinated
monkeys can clear simian immunodeficiency virus—SIV, the monkey
equivalent of HIV—from their bodies. Picker's research team used an
aggressive strain of the simian virus, called SIVmac239 and described as
"up to 100 times more deadly than HIV." The vaccine was effective in nine of the 16 monkeys in the study.
Picker's research team fused SIV genes to the cytomegalovirus (CMV),
which is from the herpes virus family. The immune system responded to
the infection by doing what it normally does—releasing new white blood
cells called CD8 "hunter-killer cells" that kill cells infected with
SIV. These CD8s are normally primed to target the virus, but in this
case, according to The New York Times,
they operated in "an atypical state of mid-activation" and persisted in
tissue while "eliminating their targets quietly without triggering
inflammation or even a mild fever."
This new vaccine strategy could be a "breakthrough" because HIV is
"particularly Machiavellian," said Picker. The virus constantly mutates
and hides from the body's immune system—which is why vaccine research
has so far proved largely ineffective.
AIDS Vaccine 2013 Barcelona has been described as the "world's
leading scientific meeting on HIV vaccine research" and was attended by more
than 1,000 leading researchers, funders and policy makers.
AIDS Vaccine 2013 Barcelona and the international media fellowship were sponsored the Global HIV Vaccine Enterprise—the international consortium that has pooled resources to "speed the development of a safe and effective HIV vaccine."
The Enterprise includes the USA, Thailand and South African
governments, the European Union, the Bill & Melinda Gates
Foundation, UNAIDS, World
Health Organization, the Centers for Disease Controls and Prevention,
GlaxoSmithKline, the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative, Merck,
Novartis, USAID, Sanofi Pasteur, the largest company in the world
devoted to vaccine development.
I'll be appearing this afternoon on Philadelphia's WURD 900AM at 430ET on The Nick Taliafero Show. We'll discuss the exciting breakthrough in HIV/AIDS vaccine research at AIDS Vaccine 2013 Barcelona—how it would work, how long it would take to develop and how much it would cost.