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in the news/4

Volume 15/Issue 24

New Orleans To Build AIDS Monument

New Orleans will be home to one of the very first monuments in the country honoring those who have died from AIDS.

The New Orleans AIDS Monument will be located at the juncture of two historic areas of the city-the French Quarter and the Faubourg Marigny-on the Esplanade Ave. neutral ground across from the old U.S. Mint building. The monument will be lighted and landscaped and will include a memorial walkway listing the names of persons who have died from AIDS.

The goal in building the New Orleans AIDS Monument is to raise community awareness, provide an outlet for loss and grief, and acknowledge the devastating effect of HIV and AIDS in the New Orleans community.

Well-know glass artist, Tom Tate, designer of the New Orleans AIDS Monument, was selected from a national call for artists. Tate, who is HIV positive, calls his work The Guardian Wall. "This wall will represent thousands of persons in New Orleans who have lost the AIDS battle. Also, this monument will provide a place of healing for the many individuals who have lost someone to AIDS and the strength to continue our fight against this disease," said Tate.

Susan Levingston and David Kiviaho are Co-Chairs of the New Orleans AIDS Monument Committee. Members of the New Orleans AIDS Monument Committee are: Paula Berault, Dwanne Biagas, Glade Bilby, Joe Bravo, Roberta Brown, Philip Dynia, Otis Fennell, Christine Gallatig, Rosa Langley, Ted Luquette, Philip Manuel, Charmaine Neville, and Martha Robbins. Mayor Marc H. Morial and Councilman Troy A. Carter are Honorary Co-Chairs.

The Committee has worked for over a year choosing a site, finding an artist and planning for the creation of the monument. Now, the group's efforts are geared toward fund-raising and supporting the completion and maintenance of the monument. The Committee hopes to break ground in May, 1998.

National AIDS Policy Center To Be Established Through $1.4 Million Geffen Gift

A IDS Action announced on Nov. 6 that it had received a $1.4 million gift from The David Geffen Foundation to establish a more permanent presence in the nation's capital. AIDS Action, the national voice of AIDS representing over 2,000 community based AIDS service organizations throughout the country, will use the gift to purchase a headquarters building from which to ensure a strong national response to the ongoing challenges associated with AIDS.

The gift will bolster AIDS Action's leadership role in securing and expanding the Federal government's response to AIDS-over $3.0 billion in FY1998-by educating elected officials, the media, and the general public about disease. This national effort includes working to provide Medicaid coverage for low-income people with HIV/AIDS and other chronic illness as well as support for prevention, research, treatment, housing and anti-discrimination provision on behalf of HIV-positive people nationwide.

"As people with AIDS are living longer, we need to be sure that all of their health needs are being met," said Daniel Zingale, AIDS Action's executive director. "David Geffen's gift comes at a critical time and will ensure that people with AIDS continue to have a strong voice in Washington."

"Today there is a growing hope that new AIDS treatments will help save the lives of people with Aids," said David Geffen. "But our hope is tempered by the realization that America's most vulnerable HIV-positive people still lack access to adequate health care. Every time Washington decision makers drive by AIDS Action's national center, they will be reminded of their duty to everyone affected by HIV and AIDS."

Especially important is AIDS Action's initiative to expand Medicaid eligibility to people living with HIV who are poor enough, but not yet sick enough, to qualify for access to lifesaving new AIDS therapies through Medicaid. Mr. Geffen's contribution will support AIDS Action's effort to expand the Medicaid program to include HIV-positive people who do not have an AIDS diagnosis; ensure that Medicaid provides a meaningful set of benefits without financial barriers to care; and, ensure consumer protections within the federal Medicaid program and within state Medicaid managed care systems.

As a result of Mr. Geffen's gift, AIDS Action's prevention initiative will also be expanded to promote more effective, aggressive community-based HIV prevention that is adequately funded, client-centered, and targeted to communities currently most at risk: women, communities of color, young gay men, and intravenous drug users.

The headquarters will not only be a home for AIDS Action, but also a permanent meeting place for its national advocacy partners to develop policy and strategy. "This is a gift to all AIDS community-based organizations committed to lending their voice to national AIDS policy," said Kirk Bragg, executive director of AIDS Project of Central Iowa. "The headquarters will be the cornerstone of the growing AIDS Action network." AIDS Action convenes NORA (National Organizations Responding to AIDS), a coalition of 175 professional, business, labor, religious and advocacy organizations.

This contribution to the war on AIDS builds upon Mr. Geffen's history of commitment to AIDS service providers including gifts of $2.5 million each to Gay Men's Health Crisis and AIDS Project Los Angeles, and $1.5 million to God's Love We Deliver in recent years.

I5th Anniversary Observance
of the International AIDS
Candlelight Memorial & Mobilization-May 17,1998

T he l5th International AIDS Candlelight Memorial and Mobilization will be held on May 17, 1998 in over 300 cities and towns in over 40 countries. The annual grassroots event, coordinated worldwide by Mobilization Against AIDS, commemorates the lives lost to AIDS, demonstrates support for people living with HIV/AIDS, and mobilizes community-based response to HIV/AIDS.

The theme of this year's International AIDS Candlelight Memorial and Mobilization is "Rekindle the flame; renew the fight for a global end to AIDS." According to International Program Coordinator, Rebecca Hensler, "This is a chance for all of us to affirm or re-affirm our commitment to the fight against AIDS. The struggle is not over until the epidemic is over for all people around the world."

Local Coordinating Organizations, which are often community-based AIDS organizations, religious groups, or coalitions of people living with HIV/AIDS, will plan and produce Candlelight events in their areas. Many will include elements such as reading the names of those lost to AIDS, personal remembrances by those mourning a loved one, educational or inspirational performances or speeches and a candlelit procession, march or religious service. Hensler explains, "This is a grassroots event; Mobilization Against AIDS provides support and resources to each local coordinating organization, then they create an AIDS event that fits the needs of their community."

Over 50 Local Coordinating Organizations worldwide are already registered to participate in the International AIDS Candlelight Memorial and Mobilization. Organizations and individuals interested in coordinating observances of the International AIDS Candlelight Memorial and Mobilization of volunteering for their local coordinating organization are invited to contact Rebecca Hensler at 415.863.4676 or at

Elton John Wins CARE Award

T he CARE international relief agency, which provides AIDS services in 10 countries, on November 17 awarded its Oliver Kiss International Humanitarian Award to Elton John for a substantial contribution from his Elton John AIDS Foundation to CARE's Living With AIDS program in Thailand. John said his foundation will be extending its current work in the U.S. and Britain into Lesotho, Niger and Thailand in 1998. CARE, which was founded primarily to feed the hungry, presented the award at a $500-a-plate dinner with a menu of wild mushroom and duck soup, salmon roulade, basil mashed potatoes, and white chocolate mousse.

AIDS Benefit Calendar-Two Men Will Move You!

M ost people are really surprised to find out that this is just a two person organization," says Jeff Palmer. "During calendar season, from September to February, it's not unusual for us to work sixteen hour days, six or seven days a week." Jeff Palmer and Joe Pascale created the AIDS Benefit Calendar in 1990 in an effort to stay involved with the AIDS/HIV communities while escaping the restrictions of employment at the (then) San Diego AIDS Project. Joe Pascale remembers, "in the earliest days of AIDS and HIV, gay men were called on all the time to give that time, we (gay men) were the only ones being approached to support the efforts of HIV/AIDS organizations. We saw our calendar as a way to give something back for your of the things we hope we have given back is a positive image of men and men together." Palmer adds, "The earliest messages from the establishment' were sex-negative, which in some ways translated into intimacy-negative...we wanted to combat that with beautiful celebratory images of men and male couples."

The message of the calendar has remained virtually unchanged since the first edition in 1990-Focus On A Future Without AIDS. A call to caring people everywhere to mobilize the energy, goodwill, resources and generosity necessary in the fight to stop AIDS/HIV. The is not over. Our future depends on it."

Jeff Palmer's 1998 AIDS Benefit Calendar is now available in general release. The 11" x 22" month-at-a-glance calendar features thirteen black and white photographic images including powerful and beautiful images of men alone and men with men-sensual and erotic, but non-sexual-all celebrating the beauty of men and men together. Proceeds from the sale of the calendar are distributed to agencies across the U.S. that provide direct services to people living with HIV and AIDS. More than $400,000 has been distributed since the first calendar issue in 1990.

To receive the 1998 AIDS Benefit Calendar, send $13. plus $3. shipping and handling to: AIDS Benefit Calendar; Dept. NO; PO Box 230034; Encintas, CA 92023-0034. Contact the AIDS Benefit Calendar on the Internet at

Navy Times Sinks Anti-Gay Military Policy

A n op-ed from the November 10 Navy Times by a 10-year Marine officer using the pseudonym "Buster Pittman" rails against the costly and aggressive attack on lesbians and gay men in the military. "The ban that prevents gays and lesbians from serving openly in the U.S. military is an unjustifiable violation of the principles of freedom upon which this country was established," he says. "Once upon a time, the Defense Department banned gays and lesbians because the department believed [they] posed a security risk. After the Pentagon's own studies concluded that gays and lesbians were less likely to violate security regulations than heterosexuals, Department of Defense dropped that line of reasoning and resorted to the nebulous assertion that `homosexual is incompatible with military service.' Under close scrutiny, that is as ludicrous as the old policy," he notes, pointing to the exemplary records of many gay servicemembers who have come out, from Leonard Matlovich to Margarethe Cammermeyer.

"Change the rule. The rule is wrong. We have had rules in the past that were wrong and our leaders had the moral courage to change them," he says. "Like it or not, you already shower and live with homosexual men and women. Gays and lesbians have been in the military since Alexander the Great, and will continue to be in the military as long as recruiters keep their doors open."

Lastly, he says, "According to the General Accounting Office, the cost of discharging gay servicemembers from 1980-1995 was $606,346,192, not adjusted for inflation. If we had changed the rules in 1980, we could have built new barracks, bought more jets, upgraded our communications equipment and outfitted our Marines with top-quality packs, helmets, sleeping bags and boots."

The Navy Times should be commended for allowing this important and articulate indictment of "Don't ask, don't tell" and the other anti-gay military policies which preceded it. The fact that "Buster Pittman" has to use a pseudonym speaks volumes to how difficult it is for military officials to speak out against the policy and the real fear of retribution they face.

Let the Navy Times know that they should continue this dialogue now that it has begun, with a full investigation into the supposed merits of discrimination against lesbians and gay men in the military. Contact: Mail Call, Navy Times, Springfield, VA 22159-0170, -mail: [from GLAAD]

Smart Magazine, Foolish Advice

I n the November 1997 issue of Ebony Magazine, the "Ebony Advisor" answers a question from a woman concerned about HIV by trotting out inaccurate information about bisexuals. The woman, who identifies herself as 23 years old, states that a "little voice inside me is telling me I have AIDS.... My life would be over and everything I've worked for would be a waste."

The Advisor tells the woman to seek counseling, and says there's no reason for her to think she may be HIV-positive if she has not engaged in risk behavior, "including unprotected sex with partners who are high risk, such as...bisexuals." The Advisor then goes on to suggest the woman be tested, and do some research on transmission.

The mention of bisexuals as a "high-risk group" was frequently heard in the early years of the AIDS crisis, when risk groups were often vilified and demonized by the press and the public, who knew little about how HIV was transmitted and assumed that bisexual men, more "promiscuous" than the general population," would infect heterosexual women with the virus. As HIV education has taken the place of ignorance, it is now understood that it is not the sexual orientation of a sexual partner but the unprotected activities you engage in that matter. The continuing stereotypes and lack of information around bisexuality obviously got the best of Ebony Advisor.

Instead of taking the opportunity to educate this woman about condom use and safer sex, the Advisor shirks its responsibility and promulgates the misguided and hurtful belief that bisexual men are somehow more "risky" than others. This is even more alarming when viewed in light of Ebony's past record on lesbian and gay issues, which has been quite good.

Tell Ebony that subscribing to myths about bisexuals helps no one, and hurts many. Contact: Lerone Bennett, Jr., Executive Editor, Ebony 820 S. Michigan Ave., Chicago IL 30305-2103, fax 312.322 .9375. [from GLAAD]

Report: Adults Fail To Protect Students
From Anti-Gay Harrassment

S afe Schools, a Washington statewide coalition of 90 organizations, released a study recently revealing the profound failure of many adults in schools to address the anti-gay harassment faced by students. In the past 4 years, 91 incidents were reported, including 8 gang rapes, 19 physical assaults, 14 cases of physical harassment and/or sexual abuse short of rape and 34 cases of ongoing verbal or physical harassment. Eight of the cases involved adults who were approached for help, but who then offended the youth or actively contributed to their harassment.

One teacher told a young man, after his classmates spit on him, "Maybe you should do more push-ups. What's the matter, don't you like girls?" In incidents where teens or children were targets, about one-fourth had adult witnesses.

According to Beth Reis, from the Seattle-King County Department of Public Health and author of the report, "In half of those cases, the adults stood by in silence. What young people are telling us, loudly and clearly, is that they feel abandoned by the very adults whose job it is to protect them." [from GLAAD]

School News, High & Low

J efferson County, Kentucky: Student testimony persuaded a Jefferson County Public Schools committee to recommend keeping the works of bisexual African-American novelist E. Lynn Harris available in English teacher Dee Hawkins' classroom in Louisville's Central High School - but to actually read one of his books, students will have to get a parent to read a synopsis and give written permission. Two parents had complained about sexually explicit content in the books, one who brought two ministers to the school to denounce homosexuality as a sin, and another who denies that homosexuality is the issue, pointing instead to the explicit content more generally as inappropriate for her 14-year-old child.

A number of junior and senior students vocally supported the Harris novels Invisible Life, Just As I Am and This Too Shall Pass, praising them for dealing with "real life issues" of race, class, homophobia, violence, and AIDS. In addition, one teacher from another school described his copy of Invisible Life being read by so many students - including one who'd never read a novel before, but raced through this one - that the book fell apart. Another teacher testified that Invisible Life motivated one student to go to the library for the first time in her life.

The committee's recommendation will go to the Superintendent, who will make his own recommendation to the school's own council, where the question will ultimately be decided. Hawkins was gratified by the students' effectiveness in speaking up for diverse texts in the classroom.

Georgia: Student activism is also paying off in Georgia, according to a feature in the Atlanta-based LGBT newspaper Southern Voice. Open lesbian Samantha Ryan, 16, last month formed what's believed to be the first extracurricular gay/straight alliance club in a Georgia public school, Decatur High - in a state that considered (as Utah did) banning all extracurricular clubs in order to prevent gay and lesbian groups. At Pope High School in Cobb County - the heart of Newt Gingrich country - Noah Saunders, 17, outlasted the former principal (who vehemently opposed the idea) to establish support groups for LGBT youth that have run for a year now through the counseling department there. Cobb was the first in a series of Southern counties to pass a resolution specifically rejecting what it called "the homosexual lifestyle" as contrary to community values (and paid for their action when the Atlanta Olympic Games shunned them in response).

Both young pioneers have been approached by students at other schools for advice and support in forming still more groups. Adult gay and lesbian organizations in both areas have been eager to support the school-based activities, but they cannot proceed without the active leadership of a student brave enough to take a stand.

Spanish Fork, Utah: National media in full force, as well as some 200 local residents, showed up for the November 13 meeting of the Nebo School District as it prepared to deal with the lawsuit filed by psychology teacher and former coach Wendy Weaver. With the support of the American Civil Liberties Union, Weaver is protesting a gag order the rural district's school board placed on her discussing her lesbian orientation-even in her private life.

A new parents group calling itself Nebo District Citizens for Moral and Legal Values handed the board a petition with well over 2,600 signatures from adults in the district, calling for the district to "uphold the moral standards of our community." A counter-petition with less than 200 signatures, many from staff and faculty at Utah Valley State College, called on the school district to reflect diversity and on the community to stop "badgering, censoring and threatening" Weaver.

Among those speaking up at the meeting were many who had known Weaver as the coach of four state champion volleyball teams - a post she was removed from when her sexual orientation became known to her employer as a result of her former husband's remarks - who were enthusiastic about her work and abilities, as well as others who agreed she is an excellent teacher. Yet they were outnumbered by those who insist they will not leave their children in a classroom with the veteran tenured faculty member. At this meeting, the board was merely accepting input without making any decisions in the matter. [from NewsPlanet]

Southwest States Grapple With Issue Of Gay Parenting

W hile in Texas, child welfare officials are defending a policy allowing gay men and lesbians to be foster and adoptive parents, in Arizona, the governor is questioning gay foster parenting, saying gay people do not fall into her definition of a livery normal, stable family." Last week, Texas Child Protective Services (CPS) spokeswoman Linda Edwards said that the primary criteria for qualifying to be foster and adoptive parents is an ability to "nurture and parent a child," not sexual orientation. The explanation comes as another CPS employee, Rebecca Bledsoe, threatened a lawsuit against the department after being demoted for violating numerous CPS policies by removing a foster child from the care of a lesbian couple, citing the state sodomy law. Meanwhile, in Arizona, Child Protective Services do not currently inquire about an applicant's sexual orientation, and Governor Jane Hull is calling for an examination into the criteria for foster parent selection that may deny gay people the chance to be foster parent.

"It's tragic that some politicians haven't examined the facts about gay and lesbian parents," said Tim Fisher of Gay and Lesbian Parents Coalition International (GLPCI). "We applaud the Texas Child Protective Services for realizing that the children must come first. Every child has a right to a loving home, regardless of a parent's sexual orientation." [from GLAAD]

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