Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Philadelphia Gay News: N.J. couple shares their life with dementia at LGBTEI forum

November 20, 2015

Tim Kaufman returned from a business trip to Denver in early 2010. He tried to tell his boss at an Internet hosting company in Delaware about the trip. But he couldn’t.

“Suddenly, I couldn’t get my words out,” said Kaufman, 58. “I was starting to mumble. I couldn’t remember the words.”

He called his doctor in Philadelphia, who told him to come to the office right away. Kaufman had experienced a stroke and had several smaller ones over the next two years. Sometimes he would lose vision in one eye and started having trouble making decisions and plans. He used to dismiss the issues as stress-related.

It wasn’t until spring 2012 that Kaufman received a full diagnosis: frontotemporal dementia, called FTD.

“I had to go to so many doctors’ visits,” he said. “It was hard to get a diagnosis. Because of my age, nobody wanted to admit it could be dementia.”

Throughout, Kaufman’s partner of nearly 20 years, Ron Bongart, advocated for him. Bongart pushed doctors to consider every option and started going to therapy with Kaufman. He said it helped both of them to discuss if he could become Kaufman’s caretaker.

“You really have to search your soul if you’re going to be someone’s caretaker,” said Bongart, 62. “It really is the hardest thing I’ve ever done."

“Our life has changed. It’s going to continue to change,” he added. “I really feel as though Tim always will be my soul mate. I love him dearly.”

The couple lives in a 55-and-older community in Southampton, N.J.

Kaufman and Bongart spoke with PGN before sharing their story this month with dozens gathered at the United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey for “Aging Mind 102: Dealing with Dementia,” hosted by the LGBT Elder Initiative.

Medicare open enrollment period ends December 7th

Medicare health and drug plans can make changes each year—things like cost, coverage, and what providers and pharmacies are in their networks. During the Medicare open enrollment period, all people with Medicare can change their Medicare health plans and prescription drug coverage for the following year to better meet their needs. Consumers can review their benefits and costs for 2016, compare alternatives and decide whether to keep or change plans until the open enrollment period ends on December 7th, 2015.

Medicare is a health insurance program for: people age 65 or older, people under age 65 with certain disabilities, and people of all ages with End-Stage Renal Disease (permanent kidney failure requiring dialysis or a kidney transplant). The Medicare website can help you determine if you are eligible. Enrollment during the open enrollment period will ensure coverage beginning January 1st, 2016.

Consumers can find Medicare plan information or compare plans by calling 1-800-MEDICARE or by visiting Medicare.gov. The Medicare website also helps users to search for plans and compare costs and coverage.  

USA Today article profiles rise of STDs among MSM

Reprinted from USA Today

CDC: 'Alarming' increase in STDs

November 18, 2015

Sexually transmitted diseases like chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis increased dramatically in 2014, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

In 2014, 1.4 million cases of chlamydia were reported, accounting for the highest “number of annual cases of any condition ever reported to the CDC,” according to the report released on Tuesday.

The CDC estimates that nearly 20 million new STD infections happen each year in the U.S., with the majority affecting 15 to 24-year-olds.

Reports of gonorrhea and syphilis also increased in 2014. There was a 2.8% increase in chlamydia since 2013, and reports of syphilis, which has three stages, increased for the most infectious stages of the disease by 15.1%.

There was a particularly “troubling” increase in syphilis infections among men, according to the report.

“While rates have increased among both men and women, men account for more than 90 percent of all primary and secondary syphilis cases,” according to the report.

Gay and bisexual men are most at risk for syphilis infections, according to the report. Men who reported that they had sex with other men accounted for 83% of male cases where the partner’s sex was reported.

"STDs affect people in all walks of life, particularly young women and men, but these data suggest an increasing burden among gay and bisexual men,” Jonathan Mermin, director of CDC’s National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and Tuberculosis Prevention, said in a statement.

The CDC report noted that STDs like chlamydia and gonorrhea many times have no symptoms, so testing is key to a diagnosis. According to the report, “undiagnosed STDs cause more than 20,000 women to become infertile each year.”

The increase in STDs is in many ways a result of cuts in funding to public health clinics, Gail Bolan, director of CDC’s Division of STD Prevention, told NBC.

"Most recently, there have been significant erosions of state and local STD control programs," Bolan said. "Most people don't recognize that the direct clinical care of individuals with sexually transmitted diseases is supported by state and local funds and federal funds." 

Pennsylvania budget impasse hurting seniors

The following action alert was released by the Pennsylvania Association of Area Agencies on Aging. The original action alert can be viewed here.

Budget Action Needed!
November 10, 2015

P4A is joining with the Senior Support Coalition (a statewide coalition of organizations dedicated to the provision of community and in home services necessary to permit seniors to remain in their own homes for as long as possible) to take action and contact the legislature and Governor regarding the budget impasse.

We are hearing that an agreement may be in progress toward a final budget, however these kinds of agreements can fall through. The time is now for all P4A members who  are able, to contact legislative leadership and the Governor’s office. By focusing our efforts, we hope to get a strong message to the leadership that a budget is needed now. We strongly urge you to share this request with your Board of Directors, leadership councils, staff, consumers, and others in support of services to seniors.

Talking Points:
1.  News reports indicate that a budget agreement is in process. Please ensure that this agreement moves forward and that services for seniors are protected.
2. Without a budget, services funded by the lottery are not being paid for.
3. Services are being provided to seniors but providers aren’t being paid and are at their breaking point.
4. We need to pass a budget now to ensure that seniors continue to receive these vital services.

If you e-mail, please lead with something like…”[I am/We are] joining with other senior advocacy groups in the Senior Support Coalition to urge passage of a state budget immediately.  Senior services are in jeopardy.  Area Agencies on Aging and providers are not receiving payments and are nearing their breaking point.”  [YOUR ORGANIZATION’S NAME]  located in ___________ County, a member of the PA Association of Area Agencies on Aging, urge you [as a leader of the Pennsylvania State Legislature OR as the Governor] to end the stalemate now.

Mike Turzai
House Speaker
Dave Reed
Republican House Leader
Frank Dermody
Democratic House Leader
Joseph Scarnati
President Pro Tempore Senate
Jake Corman
Republican Senate Leader
Jay Costa
Democratic Senate Leader
Tom Wolf
Please feel free to also contact your local legislators, however we ask that you start with the leaders identified above. You can determine your local legislator by clicking here: www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/legis/home/findyourlegislator.

Register Now for "HIV & Aging: Improving Health and Wellness"

Thursday, November 19, 2015

"Gettin' On" in PGN: We are all long-term survivors

from the LGBTEI’s “Gettin’ On” column in Philadelphia Gay News
November 20, 2015

by Ed Bomba

All members of the LGBTQ communities, and our allies, are long-term survivors of HIV/AIDS. The roles that each of us have played during the three and a half decades of the crisis have shaped the course of our lives, the components of our personalities, and the contexts of our relationships. The impact has affected each of us as individuals and collectively as a community.

Early on, some feared that communities would disappear, that so many would die that our culture and history would be lost. Far too many in our communities did die. And indeed, too much was lost.

All of our communities did survive and emerged stronger. Social, medical, financial, and political support structures, unimagined at the beginning of the 1980s, now exist in large part because of our response to the AIDS crisis. Our culture has broadened and become richer. Our history has grown exponentially and become more important.

As a community, our long-term survival has demonstrated our vitality, our resilience, our interdependence, and our connectedness. As individuals, our long-term survival has demonstrated our courage, compassion, and a complex network of personal relationships that helped us through those darkest of times.

All members of our communities, whether infected with the virus or not, are long-term survivors. Survivors who were not infected included spouses, family members, friends, caregivers, service providers, advocates, activists, and so many others. They have all been changed and shaped by the epidemic.

The array of issues resulting from their experiences throughout the epidemic has altered their lives. The loss, the guilt, the fear, the joy, the success, the helplessness, and the rage: the impact cannot be ignored and should not be denied. Rather, it should be embraced, discussed and understood. No individual has escaped the epidemic and the history of its impact on all members of our communities should be recognized, recorded and remembered. For the emotional health of all in our communities, the effects should be addressed.

Those long-term survivors who are infected with the virus face the same issues, and, obviously, many more. Compromised immune systems and side effects of life-saving medications cause known, and some still unknown, damage. Decade after decade, the impact grows and manifests itself physically, psychologically, emotionally, financially, socially, and spiritually. While life may not have been cut short for these individuals, for many it has been shattered.

The cost of long-term survival for some is permanent physical impairment and pain. For some the cost is a financial burden that challenges their quality of life. For some the cost is a constant, crushing sense of fear and loss that saps whatever joy survival might otherwise be expected to bring. And for some, it brings discrimination, stigma, isolation, and loneliness.

But the remarkable fight against HIV/AIDS, against the establishment’s inaction and indifference, has produced a stirring, life-affirming alternate reality for many long-term survivors, infected or not. We have all been significantly and permanently changed by the disease and the crisis it caused. We all now benefit from the structures that were built to deal with the crisis in our communities. We all now benefit from the knowledge and experience that we gained in fighting the disease and in fighting the society that allowed it to grow into the global calamity that it became.

Because of those fights, we have made major strides toward visibility and equality that would have taken decades longer to achieve.

To help assess and address those impacts for LGBTQ older adults, the LGBT Elder Initiative (LGBTEI) has, for several years, focused attention on the unique issues and challenges facing LGBTQ older adults. During the coming year, the LGBTEI will expand its education, information dissemination and referral efforts to better meet the evolving needs of LGBTQ long-term survivors. The EI’s efforts will include a series of community forums and networking opportunities called, “HIV & Aging Updates.” The series will address issues including medical care, relationships, disclosure, and financial stability.

The first program in this series will be held on Saturday, December 5, 2015, at the Center in the Park at 5818 Germantown Avenue. “HIV & Aging: Improving Health and Wellness,” will cover strategies to better manage health issues and improve medication adherence and safety. All “HIV & Aging Updates” are free and open to the public and are sponsored by the City’s AIDS Activities Coordinating Office (AACO) and the Philadelphia Gay News. For more information, or to register for this program, please call the LGBTEI at 215.720.9415 or write to info@lgbtei.org

Ed Bomba is a volunteer with the LGBT Elder Initiative. You can visit the LGBTEI at www.lgbtei.org.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

International Transgender Day of Remembrance to be recognized on November 20th

The International Transgender Day of Remembrance is an opportunity to celebrate the progress made in Trans* communities while also mourning the losses of life suffered this year. Recognized each year on November 20th, the Transgender Day of Remembrance memorializes those who were killed due to anti-transgender hatred or prejudice. Events around the world raise awareness of hate crimes against transgender people and honor the lives that have been lost. This day also provides an opportunity to call all communities to action to stand against hate and intolerance and to celebrate the resilience of Trans* communities.

In Philadelphia, the International Transgender Day of Remembrance will be recognized with an event at the William Way Community Center, 1315 Spruce St, from 6:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. on Friday, November 20th. The program will include remarks by Nellie Fitzpatrick, Mayor Michael Nutter's Director of LGBT Affairs. The names of the Trans* identified individuals who have lost their lives during the past year in acts of violence will be read and their memories honored with a candle lighting ceremony. Entertainment and light refreshments will conclude the program, which is free and open to the public.