Thursday, June 12, 2014

Moving it Forward in Pride

Dallas health dept. falsifies STD records
One man reports being hounded by county even after testing negative

For one Dallas man, a negative HIV test wouldn’t stop Dallas County from contacting him.
“At the end of May, I got a call from the county health department saying I may have been exposed to HIV,” said John (he asked that his real name not be used). The county health official told him
someone who tested positive listed him as a contact. John said he was tested in April at Out of the Closet, the new thrift store on Cedar Springs Road run by AIDS Healthcare Foundation. Rapid HIV testing is available at the store. The test results came back as negative.
When the county official called again, news that the test was negative was not enough — he insisted John come in for another test. John refused. (pictured:  Abounding Prosperity CEO Kirk Myers called Dallas County’s STD tracking program valuable, but worries reports can undermine the department’s credibility.)

John’s experience is indicative of a problem at the Dallas County Health Department, which came under fire this week when the state alleged the county was falsifying records.
When someone tests positive for HIV or syphilis, the health department is supposed to find any sexual contacts to let them know they are at risk. Dallas Health and Human Services is under investigation for falsely contacting people about being exposed to syphilis and HIV.
HHS employees took names of people who tested negative and listed them as sexual contacts of people who tested positive to make it look like Dallas was doing a better job of tracing contacts.
A letter from the Texas Department of State Health Services Office of the Inspector General to Dallas HHS director Zach Thompson said Dallas is in breach of the HIV/STD Public Health Follow-up contract. Thompson would not comment.

Bret Camp, AHF Texas regional director, said when they test at his clinics or at Out of the Closet, they encourage someone with a positive test to bring in partners for testing.
Camp said HIV testing is confidential, but not anonymous. An anonymous test would allow someone to get results without giving a name; confidential testing does permit reporting the name to the county if the test is positive. That’s required of all doctors and clinics in Texas that test for STDs.
Camp said syphilis must be reported to the county within one business day; HIV, within a week.
County officials will contact anyone with positive results to ask for partners’ names, addresses and phone numbers, then they contact those partners. That’s required by the state.

When John was contacted by the county, he told the official he had already been tested and was negative. The county insisted he prove he was negative or come to the county clinic for another test.
John refused since he had only one partner over the previous year, who also tested negative.
He wasn’t sure why his name would have been on a county list. Out of the Closet didn’t report his name to the county because they only report positive results.
“Any friend of yours could have come by and given us your name,” John said the county official told him.

Camp said HIV tests used to require a sample to be sent to a lab and a written lab result was returned. “Technology has advanced beyond the protocols,” Camp said.
With a rapid test done on site, there’s no written result, so John had nothing to send to Dallas County to prove his status. Instead, Dallas County continues to harass John, telling him he must come in for a test.

Kirk Myers, CEO of Abounding Prosperity, said “Obviously if that’s occurred, it’s not acceptable. It undermines the county’s credibility with the community.”
The letter from DSHS placed Dallas County’s Health Department on probation for six months and reduced the contract for the year by $118,137, the amount of the salaries of two employees accused of falsifying records. One of those employees has already resigned.

The truth about gay clichés

You Can Tell Just By Looking And 20 Other Myths about LGBT Life and People by Michael Bronski, Ann Pellegrini and Michael Amico (Beacon Press 2013). $16; 190 pp.

The clichés are plentiful, even the positive ones. Consider the notion that gaydar is more than just intuition. While research shows that lesbians and gay men can identify other lesbians and gay men better than can straight people can, it may only be a matter of desire or empathy.

Or consider the myth that homophobia masks a straight person’s true desire. That belief came from something published more than 50 years ago; the author took the thought in a different direction, but “it became the main idea people took away from the book.”

These are the bugaboos dissected in this treatise. Among the conclusions reached by the trio of authors? Same-sex marriage does not “harm” marriage as a whole; in fact, it may “make for happier heterosexual couples.” Not all religions “condemn” homosexuality. No one race is particularly biased against it. Parenting has nothing to do with the sexuality of the mothers or fathers (“good parenting… is not a biological given”). And coming out today is not necessarily easier than it was a half-century ago.
You Can Tell Just by Looking is filled with deep-thinking research-based information and no-nonsense answers to “myths” that may or may not be widely-rumored. It’s wordy to the extreme, and — although the authors claim that LBGT readers believe myths about themselves — I often wondered if they were preaching to the choir.

There’s a whole lotta generalization goin’ on here.

Still, the authors don’t shy away from controversy; they tackle some tough ideas thoughtfully. I appreciated that lack of fear and the willingness they had to confront ill-conceived credos.
Overall, I think that if you’re searching for retorts to blanket-statements about LGBT people, this book may give you what you need.
— Terri Schlichenmeyer


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