National Coalition for LGBT Health Advocacy Brief – January 7, 2020

Facebook Responds to Criticism from LGBTQ+ Health Advocates, Disables Some Misleading Truvada® Ads

Facebook has responded to pressure from the National Coalition for LGBT Health and dozens of other LGBTQ+ health organizations, led by GLAAD, and removed misleading advertisements about a class action lawsuit against the makers of the HIV prevention drug emtricitabine/tenofovir disoproxil fumarate (Truvada®). The ads contained frightening and inflammatory language, such as warnings about “life-threatening side effects,” when, in reality, the lawsuit is mainly focused on individuals using Truvada® for the long-term treatment of HIV, not those using Truvada for PrEP® (the drug may be used for both prevention and treatment of HIV). The suit is based on the allegation that the company that manufactures Truvada® withheld the release of emtricitabine/tenofovir alafenamide (Descovy®) for PrEP, a new drug with statistically fewer bone and kidney side effects in clinical studies, in order to maximize sales of Truvada®. Nevertheless, Truvada for PrEP® is extremely safe, and is supported by the scientific and public health community. By causing individuals to not start or stop taking Truvada for PrEP®, the ads undermined the critical public health goal of ending HIV transmission.

Read more via the Guardian

Read more via the Washington Post.

Read GLAAD’s open letter to Facebook condemning the ads.

UPDATE: 17 States and the District of Columbia Object to Proposed HHS Rule Eliminating Anti-Discrimination Protections for LGBTQ+ Individuals

Seventeen states and the District of Columbia submitted a comment letter protesting a proposed rule by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which will allow any program receiving HHS funding – including HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment, and support services, and community health centers – to discriminate based on sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or religion. The letter was submitted during the 30-day public comment period for the proposed rule. The comment period closed December 19. Senate Democrats also submitted a letter condemning the rule, calling on HHS Secretary Alex Azar to uphold existing nondiscrimination protections. Last year, several states, cities, and advocacy organizations sued HHS over its proposed “provider conscience” rule, which would expand the ability of health workers – including providers and non-medical personnel, such as orderlies and ambulance drivers – to deny services on the basis of religious objections. So far, objections to the provider conscience rule have been upheld by three federal judges. Litigation could also be the next step in stopping this latest effort by the Trump Administration to legitimize anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination in federally-funded programs.

Read more via the Hill

Read more via the Bay Area Reporter

Coalition of Democratic States Calls on the Supreme Court to Review the ACA’s Legality

A coalition of Democratic states and House lawmakers separately called on the Supreme Court last week to review a lower court ruling undermining the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) this term. Last month, a federal appeals court ruled that the individual mandate (the requirement that everyone in the U.S. maintain health insurance) is unconstitutional because it can no longer be read as a tax. When the ACA passed in 2010, the individual mandate carried with it a tax penalty for individuals who failed to maintain health insurance. However, in 2017, Congress voted to reduce this tax penalty to $0. Since Congress is no longer using its powers of taxation to uphold the mandate, the appeals court ruled there is no alternative constitutional provision that justifies Congress enforcing this portion of the law. Although the December 2019 ruling is a blow to those who rely on the ACA for health care access, the court did reject a previous ruling by a lower court judge that the law as a whole is invalid without the individual mandate. The appeals court opted to send the case back to the lower court judge to review and determine what parts of the ACA – such as protection for those with pre-existing conditions and assistance for those who cannot afford health insurance – can survive without the individual mandate. However, in two separate petitions filed January 4, 20 Democratic states and the District of Columbia, and House lawmakers called on the Supreme Court to review the appeals court ruling without waiting for input from the lower court. The crux of the argument for expediting a Supreme Court ruling is that it will limit uncertainty for patients and providers. It is estimated that 17 million people could lose their insurance if the ACA is repealed, and as many as 50 million people with preexisting conditions, such as HIV, could face discrimination, including denial of coverage and unfair pricing, from their insurers.

Read more via CNBC

Read more via the Washington Post.

LGBTQ+ Older Adults are More Likely to Suffer From Social Isolation and Dementia, Report Finds

A new report from the University of California San Francisco found that LGBTQ+ older adults are at greater risk of developing dementia, and are more likely to experience social isolation – a risk factor for dementia and other physical and mental health problems – compared with their hetereosexual, cisgender counterparts. The disparity in self-reported cognitive decline among LGBTQ+ versus heteosexual, cisgender individuals persisted after adjusting for differences in age, income, and race. “While we do not yet know for certain why sexual or gender minority individuals had higher subjective cognitive decline, we believe it may be due to higher rates of depression, inability to work, high stress, and a lack of regular access to health care,” said Jason Flatt, PhD, MPH, the lead author of the study. The authors of the report emphasized that the results point a need for increased screening and treatment options for LGBTQ+ older adults, as well as training for health care providers on how to create a welcoming and affirming geriatric care environment for LGBTQ+ patients. These findings come at a time when actions by the Trump Administration and conservative lawmakers threaten to undermine access to care for LGBTQ+ individuals. In particular, a proposed rule allowing programs funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to discriminate based on sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity, and the “Fairness for All Act,” which extends protections for religious liberty at the expense of LGBTQ+ people and other protected groups, have the potential to negatively affect access to care for all LGBTQ+ folks, including older adults.

Read more via RVA Mag

The Virginia State Legislature is Likely to Ratify the ERA. What Does this Mean for LGBTQ+ Rights? 

Along with the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, the Virginia State Legislature is back in session this week and the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) is among the items on its docket. Written in 1923 and passed by Congress in 1972, the ERA has yet to be ratified by the 38 states required to amend the Constitution. Last year, there was a failed push in Virginia to become the critical 38th state to approve the amendment, but this year – with Democrats making up the majority of the state legislature and occupying the governor’s mansion for the first time in more than 25 years – ratification appears imminent. What does this mean for LGBTQ+ rights? Although the amendment was devised by suffragists and pushed through Congress on the winds of the women’s liberation movement, the ERA does not solely prohibit discrimination against women, but instead prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex. This crucial difference opens the door for the ERA to protect not only women, but all gender and sexual minorities. There is already a legal precedent backing this interpretation, as multiple federal courts have ruled discrimination against transgender individuals and discrimination based on sexual orientation constitutes sex-based discrimination.

Learn more via NPR.

Read more via Advocate.

Join the National Coalition for LGBT Health at SYNChronicity (SYNC) 2020, May 10-12, 2020

SYNChronicity (SYNC) 2020 brings together medical professionals, service providers, government officials, and health advocates to sync effective approaches to address HIV, HCV, STI, and LGBTQ+ health in the changing and dynamic health care landscape, with a focus on underserved racial/ethnic minorities and LGBTQ+ communities. The conference is organized by HealthHIV, HealthHCV, and the National Coalition for LGBT Health with the guidance of a diverse planning committee.
This year’s LGBTQ+ Health track will contain four dynamic sessions focused on improving health care access for LGBTQ+ communities, using data to advance quality care and identify gaps in care, advocating for smoking cessation practices and programs to reduce smoking rates, and advancing sexual health and other allied health programming to promote health equity.  Additionally, SYNC 2020 will offer a Transgender Health Institute providing learning and engagement opportunities to promote integration of transgender health in practice. Plus, there for will be a poster hall and vendor exhibits.

The conference is an opportunity to connect with your colleagues and peers to discuss LGBTQ+ health advocacy, education, and health services research! You can register now to attend the conference May 10-12, 2020 at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Washington, DC.

ACTION: Register Today!

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