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AIDS ambassador speaks on value of neighborhood clinics
by Matt Simonette
2016-10-26

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Speaking at Howard Brown Health's 63rd Street Clinic on Oct. 20, Deborah Birx, ambassador-at-large for Global AIDS Efforts, said that President Obama's call for an AIDS-free generation served as a wake up call for many service providers and HIV/AIDS activists.

Birx and her colleagues knew that immeasurable hurdles would lie ahead for those looking to treat and prevent new HIV transmissions.

"In most places around the world, the governmental leadership is denying the facts," Birx said, noting that persons with HIV/AIDS—particularly sex workers, men who have sex with men and I.V. drug users—still face unrelenting stigma and discrimination. She recalled that PEPFAR sites in Tanzania were raided because they were storing and distributing lubricants, for example.

Birx called for an integration of strategies from political leaders, community activists and scientific researchers to combat the stigma. New models of care, she added, needed to be implemented at the neighborhood level, an idea that spoke to the value of the 63rd Street clinic, which opened this past summer.

Clinic medical director Maya Green, M.D., said that residents expressed gratitude for having primary care services on top of HIV/AIDS services and added that in the long run that would help reduce HIV/AIDS stigma. Howard Brown Health CEO and President David Munar noted that Green was insistent that Howard Brown be positioned as a primary care facility, not just a specialized HIV/ AIDS clinic.

"Populations that are marginalized feel like they can't go to their providers," Green said. "They can't go to their families. They can't go to their spiritual advisors. … Sometimes its like they walk in with a mask; that mask lets stigma thrive."

U.S. Reps. Mike Quigley and Robin Kelly also spoke at the presentation, highlighting government's role in ensuring accessible services for all members of the community.

"Our jobs right now are to get the funds into the right spot," Quigley said.

Judge recommends

against locker-room

injunction

By Matt Simonette

U.S. District Magistrate Judge Jeffrey Gilbert, on Oct. 18, recommended the denial of a preliminary injunction that would have banned a transgender student at Township High School District 211 from using the locker room and restroom facilities of the gender with which she identifies.

District 211, in 2015, ran afoul of Title IX rules and nearly lost federal funding when it disputed the student's facilities accommodations. It cut a deal with the government, but a group of families, in May 2016, filed a lawsuit to bar the student from using the girls' locker room and restrooms. Assuming that U.S. District Judge Jorge Alonso agrees with Gilbert's denial, she'll be able to go on using them while the matter is settled.

In a statement, John Knight of ACLU Illinois, which is representing the student, said, "Judge Gilbert's decision is welcome news, reducing some of the uncertainty experienced by our clients in this case. The Judge plainly recognized that the organizations who filed this case are unable to demonstrate any harm to their clients from sharing restrooms and locker rooms with students they perceive as different, while Student A and other transgender students would have been isolated and stigmatized if they were forced out of the appropriate restrooms and locker rooms after using the facilities without incident for several years.

"As the decision makes clear, '[h]igh school students do not have a constitutional right not to share restrooms or locker rooms with transgender students' and 'sharing a restroom or locker room with a transgender student does not create … a hostile environment under Title IX.'

"Barring Student A and other transgender students from the restrooms and locker rooms that match their gender challenges their basic identity and humanity, suggests that they should be ashamed of who they are, and puts them at serious of long-term emotional and psychological injury. We are pleased that Judge Gilbert rejected specious arguments about privacy and protected the interests of all the students."


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