Saturday, August 21, 2010

San Francisco Commemorates 20 Years of the Ryan White CARE Act

Ernest Hopkins, Legislative Affairs Director for the San Francisco AIDS Foundation

More than 60 legislative aides, care-givers, executive directors, HIV Health Services Planning Council members, and clients gathered on the steps San Francisco City Hall to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the Ryan White Comprehensive AIDS Resources Emergency (CARE) Act on August 18.

Randy Allgaier, director of the San Francisco HIV Health Services Planning Council, acted as the MC and he began the event with introductory remarks. He mentioned the presence of executive directors Brett Andrews from the Positive Resource Center, Mike Smith from the AIDS/Breast Cancer Emergency Fund, and Bill Hirsh from AIDS Legal Referral Panel. Shanti executive director Kaushik Roy and Stop AIDS Project executive director Kyriell Noon were there, as was Maitri interim executive director Tracy Teraoka, with their former executive director Tim Patriarca.

Randy Allgaier, director of the San Francisco HIV Health Services Planning Council

Allgaier lavishly praised Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the U.S. House of Representives, and her aide Dan Bernal spoke at the rally about future goals. California State Senator Mark Leno’s aide Reese Isbel and San Francisco Supervisor Bevan Dufty’s aide Alex Randoph also spoke. District 8 supervisor candidates Scott Wiener, Rebecca Prozan, and Rafael Mandelman joined the group near the podium to witness the event.

Ernest Hopkins, the San Francisco AIDS Foundation’s Legislative Affairs Director spoke emotionally about the momentous commemoration. Hopkins is also Chair of the Communities Advocating Emergency AIDS Relief (CAEAR), a vital national organization.

Ryan White client Hulda Brown spoke about how she was able to have a new life thanks to the services provided to her

Ryan White CARE Act client Hulda Brown bravely spoke about how she was able to turn her life around with funding support to alleviate her AIDS diagnosis. She said that she did not mind that people knew that she was infected and commented: “It’s not what you have, it’s what you do with it.” Sustained applause followed her remarks.

Past and present members of the CARE Council also spoke, including Cecilia Chung and Laura Thomas who referred to her ACT UP activism days. Council co-chair Steve Manley commented on his 22 years living with AIDS and he praised actress Elizabeth Taylor for shaming members of the U.S. Congress at hearings to provide funding in the early years of the pandemic. The final speaker, Shanti’s Mark Molnar, acknowledged the CARE Council members who are no longer alive.

Bigots and satirists facing off

Two anti-gay bigots, protected by barriers, kept up a steady irrational heckling of the event, but they were ignored. And two satirists stood next to them with kooky signs belittling their propaganda.

The commemoration was sponsored by the San Francisco HIV Health Services Planning Council and the San Francisco HIV/AIDS Providers Network. Further information is at

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Project Open Hand's Dessert First Party: Extreme Cocktails and Desserts for a Good Cause

Project Open Hand executive director Tom Nolan (center) with the cupcake-hatted event promoters Yay! Sprinkles

Project Open Hand presented their tenth annual “Dessert First...A Decade of Delicious” gala at the InterContinental Hotel on August 15 and it was a doubly fine event. First there was the VIP Reception that featured some of San Francisco Bay Area’s best mixologists competing for the title of “Top Mixologist.” The party was a crush of trendy upscale gay men in groups and numerous opposite-sex couples, with some butch guys with tiny cupcake hats mixed in. Those were the Yay! Sprinkles guys who won this year’s outrageous Easter Tricycle Race that started and finished at CafĂ© Flore. Cocktails have been a major attraction of San Francisco since the Gold Rush, starting with such favorites as Pisco punch, and the well-dressed guests tightly squeezed around the drink creators before they voted.

Excellent music from the LiveWire band with their beautiful young women singers welcomed guests to the large reception in the hotel's grand ballroom. The event was a tribute to some of the Bay Area’s finest pastry chefs, and luxurious desserts were displayed on tables around the ballroom. The 16 chefs included Patti Dellamonica-Bauler of One Market Restaurant, Elizabeth Falkner of Citizen Cake and Orson, Jessica Sullivan of Boulevard, and Terri Wu of Farralon.

A real treat for the chocolate lovers was a delicious confection with raspberries from The Claremont Hotel Club and Spa, and their executive chef Josh Thomsen and Janine were ready with a smile as people lined up around their table.

Chris Fentin, Jan Wahl, Ajay Herrejon and Tom Nolan

This year marks the 25th year of Project Open Hand, and there will be celebrations throughout 2010. A check of their website is a good idea. The organization was founded by grandmother Ruth Brinker because she realized that many people with AIDS were undernourished, and that it was a threat to their health. Project Open Hand has grown to be able to serve 2,600 meals a day to people who are in need.

Sponsors of Dessert First include the InterContinental Hotel, W&J Graham’s, Dow’s and Blandy’s port wines, Angove Family Winemakers, Blue Angel Vodka, Vermeer Dutch Chocolate Cream Liqueur, DRY Soda, San Francisco Magazine, and the San Francisco Business Times. There was also a silent and live auctions, wines, cheeses, and hors d’oeuvres, and it was a very well-organized party with experienced and helpful staff and volunteers presenting a wondrous afternoon for the delighted guests.

Project Open Hand executive director Tom Nolan maneuvered himself through the vast sea of guests, greeting and welcoming happy diners, as did Angela Rauch and Jared Scherer. The only complaint that this journalist heard was a yearning for a past year’s splendid chicken salad sandwiches for guests who had skipped lunch.

Project Open Hand deserves congratulations for their pleasurable benefit as they enjoy the success of a quarter century of service to the San Francisco Bay Area.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Community Forum on the Vienna AIDS Conference: Tears and Applause in Vienna, Surprise and Questions in San Francisco

Dr. Grant Colfax, moderator Jen Hecht, Dr. Susan Phillip, Dr. Albert Liu and Matt Sharp

The poster advertising an August 11 community forum and discussion about the recent International AIDS Conference held in Vienna, featured what is popularly known as a Bear Millennium Clone — an idealized, handsome young white guy with short hair and a beard and a plaid Western shirt. No one with that look showed up for the forum on August 11 at the Bank of America building on Castro Street, but 50 people managed to get a chair and almost 50 more stood or sat on the floor at the unexpectedly well-attended event.

A large number of the participants were women and men engaged at jobs fighting HIV/AIDS at various organizations and they were from diverse cultures and backgrounds. A sizable contingent from Black Brothers Esteem, an organization of African American men that is funded by the San Francisco AIDS Foundation made their presence known, and they asked some of the most exacting and detailed questions of the panelists.

The event was entitled “Ask the Experts, A Community Forum and Discussion on the Topics of PrEP, Microbiocides, STDs, and Lubricants.”

The experts included:
  • Dr. Grant Colfax, Director of HIV Prevention and Research at the San Francisco Department of Public Health (SFDPH)
  • Dr. Susan Phillip, STD Prevention and Control Services at the SFDPH
  • Matt Sharp, Director of Treatment and Prevention Advocacy at Project Inform
  • Dr. Albert Liu, Director of HIV Prevention Intervention Studies at the SFDPH
The event was sponsored by the SFDPH’s project and the Stop AIDS Project, and it was masterfully moderated by Jen Hecht, Director of Education at the Stop AIDS Project. SFDPH’s Gavin Morrow-Hall was the event contact person and there was a well-placed large man who acted as a greeter, seating coordinator, and a deterrent to anyone who wanted to disrupt the forum.

Most people at the discussion were surprised at the news from the recent Vienna AIDS Conference that a lubricant had been developed that killed 39% of the AIDS virus in a study, and that there had been a spontaneous standing ovation in the Austrian capitol and that attendees had burst into tears.

Many of the physicians, clinicians and other health workers at the conference had battled the AIDS virus — a biblical plaguevirus — since the early 80s, and for them this was such a breakthrough that they became overwhelmed with emotion. Some had patients who had come into their offices with a few Kaposi Sarcoma (KS) spots, and then they agonized as dozens and then hundreds of spots spread across their bodies in a few months and then blocked their breathing and digestion as terrifying KS growths expanded within their bodies, as the helpless doctors looked on.

Others had tried to treat patients with limited immune systems only to have them fall down and die days later on Castro Street due to undetected pneumonia or brain lesions. Other patients became resistant to the new cocktail treatments and other medicines failed to alleviate their illnesses, a heart-rending situation for doctors who are dedicated to healing.

The importance of the virus-killing lubricant became clear when the panelists spoke about people who made a decision to not use a condom, or they did not have access to condoms. Incredibly even in San Francisco there are safer-sex instructors among the over 1,000 people who sero-convert to positive for HIV every year.

What could be missed by current safer-sex education is that it is more than common horniness, alcohol or drugs that impels someone to ignore condoms next to their bed or in their jeans. It is possibly a state of pre-orgasmic delirium, something that overtakes their common sense and suppresses virtually all of their upper brain. Delirium could explain dangerous sex with dangerous people in dangerous places.

Questions about the new lubricant poured out of the audience and they were told that it needed further study. The different conditions for lubricants for vaginal and rectal use were discussed, and a generally high level of optimism for the development of even more effective lubricants and other kinds of disease protection was a theme of the evening.

Many of the guests appreciated the sandwiches, bottled water and sodas provided at the forum, since they had missed their lunch or dinner because of tight work scheduling.

Readers can learn more about the HIV-killing lubricant here.

Monday, August 02, 2010

The Marriage Equality Party at Good Vibrations: Equality Politics in a Pleasure Center

Marriage Equality USA's Molly McKay and Good Vibration's Jackie Strano

The Good Vibrations store on Polk Street hosted a benefit party for Marriage Equality USA on July 29. It was was a uniquely San Francisco event co-sponsored by the Center for Sex & Culture. Equality politics merged with the pleasure center that is Good Vibrations to create an exuberant taste of what the Bay Area is known for — unapologetic same-sex marriage, avant-garde feminist sexuality, and outrageous erotic art.

Marriage Equality USA has worked tirelessly over the last couple years to create a new acceptance and welcoming of same-sex marriage all over America. In cities, suburbia, and rural areas the groups’ activists and local allies have spread the word to citizens with a consciousness, politicians, and clergy that the time has come for marriage equality.

Marriage Equality USA’s Molly McKay, a colorful and clever attorney, spoke eloquently at the event about future goals of her organization. Judge Vaughn Walker’s impending decision on same-sex marriage was mentioned and everyone was invited to the rallies and march on "Decision Day." McKay is known for her matrimonial attire and she wore a surprisingly short bridal dress that was, of course, appropriate for the venue.

Good Vibrations Chief Operations Officer Jackie Strano then spoke intensely to the attentive throng about the company’s recognition that non-profits can affect positive social change, and that she supports Marriage Equality USA for that reason. Good Vibrations has a "Good Vibes Gives Back" program that generously funds multiple organizations.

The magic moment of the event occurred when McKay and Strano sang duets of altered Freddie Mercury and Joan Jett songs. The audience was invited to join in with the new hilarious, same-sex marriage-themed lyrics for the melodies, and they did, singing and laughing along with the beat.

Special guests included PFLAG’s Julia and Sam Thoron, and marriage equality activists and husbands Stuart Gaffney and John Lewis. Good Vibes’ Events/Publicity Manager Camilla Lambard bartended and store manager Courtney Ramey oversaw the party. COO Strano’s wife of 17 years, Shar Rednour, who is an author and filmmaker, was there to show her support. Rednour directed and Strano produced the definitive new feminism film/sexual aid in 1998, "Bend Over Boyfriend," which set a new standard for sexual equality. It is still popular today. Nationally-syndicated columnist Dan Savage has named the sex act in the film “pegging” and he patiently informs straight men almost weekly that it will not make them gay and that the women in their lives deserve reciprocity. Kline’s Deli catered and their nutty brownies were a hit.

Good Vibrations has always been more than a place to buy vibrators and condoms — numerous classes and workshops are offered to enhance the sex lives of its customers. Recent examples are sensual tantric lovemaking, improved female masturbation, challenging bondage and exciting spanking.

A multimedia erotic visual retrospective by sex educator Annie Sprinkle and her partner Beth Stephens graced the store’s gallery walls and it was a special, extravagant mixture of rapturous art and photography. The marvelous sheer joy of their appreciation for the female body and its pleasures is obvious. Sprinkle and Stephens have always been ahead of the curve, and now they are vivacious "Ecosexuals," and their engaging green dresses with attached vines and flowers were a must-see at this year’s Dyke March.

It should be noted that the Good Vibrations staff are friendly and extremely helpful, and they are some of the most striking and desirable women and men in the four neighborhoods where their stores are located.