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ESPA Wades into Uncertain Waters

Marriage at the top of the agenda- but in the courts or in the legislature in Albany?


When the historic decision granting same-sex couples marriage rights was overturned by Republican Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s appeal this month, there were no demonstrations in the streets or even press conferences decrying the reversal.

“We anticipated a negative decision,” said Alan Van Capelle, executive director of the Empire State Pride Agenda, New York’s leading LGBT lobby group. After consulting with Lambda Legal and the American Civil Liberties Union, the group decided “having a protest was not the tactic that would be most helpful,” drawing more attention as it would to a setback.

Gay City News

Alan Van Capelle, the Pride Agenda’s executive director, talked about the group’s strategy for 2006 with editors and reporters from Gay City News last Friday.

In an interview with Gay City News last Friday, Van Capelle and the Pride Agenda’s communications director, Joe Tarver, laid out a quieter, on-the-ground strategy for obtaining the right to marry and other advances for the LGBT community this coming year in an unpredictable political and legal environment in the state.

While Van Capelle said that they plan “nothing different” from the work they have been doing for the past two years on the marriage issue, more emphasis will be placed on it if only because of the events unfolding in the courts and in surrounding states. He noted that when the Court of Appeals, the state’s highest, finally rules on same-sex marriage, likely in 2007, the judges could not just affirm or deny that right, but also have the choice of throwing it to the Legislature to craft a solution that could be marriage or something short of it such as civil unions.

New York is one of the few states without a Defense of Marriage Act, though one is pending in Albany along with legislation granting equal marriage rights to same-sex couples. Van Capelle called marriage the “only acceptable mechanism” for granting full equality to lesbian and gay partners and pledged “we will not stop fighting unless we get marriage.”

In one sense, the Pride Agenda is hoping for a win on a prayer through the expansion of its Pride in the Pulpit project that has it coalescing religious support for LGBT rights. Many—though not all—of the roughly 500 religious leaders in the program support marriage rights for gay couples.

The group is also training Marriage Ambassadors around the state to raise the visibility of the issue in their local communities and to their elected representatives. In 2006, they are aiming to line up in-district visits with 100 members of the Legislature on marriage. (The State Assembly has 150 members, the Senate 61 and some number of those legislators, particularly in New York City, are already on board for gay marriage.). . .

-On the GAY USA Links page, click on the Gay City News link for the complete story (12/22/05)!


Drug Companies are not selling new AIDS drugs in Africa.


Abuja - Newer AIDS drugs and formulations of existing drugs are urgently needed in Africa but are not available because brand companies are choosing not to sell them and there are no generic versions, according to the medical humanitarian organisation Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF).
At the International Conference on AIDS and Sexually transmitted infections in Africa (ICASA) in Abuja, Nigeria, the World Health Organization (WHO) laid out new HIV/AIDS treatment guidelines, which included several drugs unavailable in Africa.
One example is the antiretroviral (ARV) medicine lopinavir/ritonavir, marketed by the US pharmaceutical firm Abbott as Kaletra.  Abbott recently launched a new formulation of the drug which, unlike the old one, does not require refrigeration.  Although this new version would be very useful in most African settings, it is not available on the continent.
"To date Abbott has not communicated any plans to market this new drug here or in other countries in Africa," explains Philomena Orji, MSF Nigeria pharmacist.  "Considering the hot temperatures and constant blackouts in Lagos this new formulation could really make a critical difference."
The new WHO guidelines also add tenofovir to the list of recommended drugs. Tenofovir has significantly fewer side effects than some older treatments, but is also not available in Africa.
Gilead, the company that markets this drug claims that it is available at a discounted price in 98 countries, but according to the World Health Organization, the company has only managed to register the drug in six developing countries.
Although Gilead first announced a lower price for some developing countries in April 2003, in South Africa, the registration process was not properly submitted until September 2005.
Price remains a huge challenge.  In South Africa, MSF pays US$194 per patient per year for standard first-line therapy.  However, with side effects and the natural development of drug resistance, many patients eventually need to change to a newer, second-line treatment, which is eight times more expensive, costing US$1,661 per patient per year.
MSF's project in Khayelitsha, South Africa, is an indicator of future trends elsewhere in Africa. Seventeen percent of patients that have been on treatment for four years require second-line treatment.
"Khayelitsha is a window into the future of AIDS treatment," explains Dr Eric Goemaere, head of mission for MSF in South Africa. "If we don't get access to these newer drugs at reasonable prices, the result could be catastrophic for Africa.  Patients whose lives had been saved by first-line treatment will be abandoned the moment they need second-line drugs.  We need more affordable drugs produced by more companies."
This week, access to affordable sources of new medicines was further restricted by a World Trade Organization decision to establish complex procedures for exporting generic versions of patented drugs.
MSF currently provides ARV treatment to over 57,000 people living with HIV/AIDS in 29 countries. In Nigeria, MSF is treating more than 950 patients with ARVs in a comprehensive care clinic in Lagos.
-press release Medecins Sans Frontieres 12/08/05  



presented by

The Signature Theatre Company


Extended! Six additional weeks!
Now through February 19, 2006 (NYC) 


by 1994/95 Playwright-in-Residence Horton Foote

Directed by Harris Yulin

With Devon Abner, Meghan Andrews, Jim Demarse, Hallie Foote, Frank Girardeau, Gene Jones, Sam Kitchin and Lois Smith

Carrie Watts longs to return to her childhood home of Bountiful,Texas, where she hasn't been in thirty years. Despite her failing health, she grows more determined to escape from the tiny Houston apartment she shares with her soft-spoken son and watchful daughter-in-law. Finally she gets her chance to head homeward, and it is the journey of a lifetime.

-On the GAY USA Links page, click on the Signature Theatre Company link for more information! 

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