Sunday, July 20, 2014

EI in PGN: Equality Day?

July 17, 2014

by Heshie Zinman

Recently we celebrated Independence Day, marking the day that the Declaration of Independence was signed, July 4, 1776. The Declaration says that, “… all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Back then, not all men and women were free or treated as equal.

After the signing of that document, a war had to be fought to win independence from the British. Despite winning that war, the free and equal parts still remained to be fulfilled. Slavery was legal and took almost 100 years to end.

The equality part has taken somewhat longer to fulfill. So, when will we truly be able to celebrate “Equality Day”? Should we just declare equality, as we did independence?

City offers assistance with applying for benefits to residents

by David Griffith

In an important step in making public benefits more accessible, the City of Philadelphia has opened six new access locations to assist Philadelphia residents in applying for federal, state, and local benefits. Individuals can now visit BenePhilly Centers across the city to learn about the public assistance programs that they may qualify for and to receive help in enrolling in relevant programs. These BenePhilly Centers have been opened through an initiative of the Mayor’s Office of Community Empowerment and Opportunity in partnership with the Benefits Data Trust and Solutions for Progress. 

The press release from the Mayor’s Office indicates that the BenePhilly Centers will provide support for enrollment in the following benefits:
  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP);
  • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF);
  • Health insurance like CHIP, Medicaid and Medicare;
  • Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP);
  • Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC);
  • Child Care Tax Credit; and
  • State and City property tax credits, including the Homestead Exemption.

BenePhilly Centers are located at the following locations:
  • Catholic Social Services, Casa Del Carmen, 4400 North Reese Street, Philadelphia, PA 19140;
  • People’s Emergency Center, in the Families First building, 3939 Warren Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104;
  • Philadelphia FIGHT, 1233 Locust Street, Philadelphia, PA 19102;
  • Project HOME, 1515 Fairmount Avenue, Philadelphia, PA  19130;
  • Utilities Emergency Services Fund, 1617 JFK Blvd, Suite 840, Philadelphia, PA 19103;
  • United Communities Southeast Philadelphia, in the Houston Center, 2029 S. 8th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19148.

To schedule an appointment at a BenePhilly Center or to receive assistance over the phone, call 844-848-4376.

The full announcement from Mayor Nutter’s Office can be read at

Employment assistance for LGBT older adults

A special introduction to SAGEWorks will be held on Thursday, July 24, 2014 at 12:00 pm. SAGEWorks is an employment assistance program for LGBT adults (40+) that provides access to online work search sites, job coaching, resume building, career workshops and free computer training courses.

This introduction will provide you with information about the program and how you can become involved. Registration is required. For more information or to RSVP, please contact Ed Miller at William Way LGBT Community Center: 215-732-2220 or

CDC reports on the health of LGB people in the U.S.

by David Griffith

A newly-released report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has provided new information on the health of lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) individuals in the United States. The data was collected through the National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), which this year included questions to measure respondents’ sexual orientation for the first time in the survey’s 57-year history. The NHIS is conducted yearly by the CDC and the U.S. Census Bureau and is the primary source of health data collected by the federal government.

In the 2013 NHIS data, 1.6% of respondents identified as gay or lesbian, 0.7% identified as bisexual, and 1.1% identified as “something else,” “I don’t know the answer,” or refused to answer. 96.6% self-identified as straight.

Some of the noteworthy findings of the data include:
  • Lesbian, gay and bisexual individuals were more likely to be current cigarette smokers than were straight individuals. LGB respondents were also more likely than straight respondents to report having had five or more drinks in one day at least once in the past year.
  • Women who identified as gay or lesbian were less likely than straight women to repot being in “excellent” or “very good” health.
  • Bisexual adults were the most likely to report experiencing significant psychological distress in the past month.
  • Straight men were more likely to be obese than gay or bisexual men. Bisexual women had higher rates of obesity than straight women.
  • 81% of gay men and 54% of bisexual men received an HIV test in the past year.
  • Bisexual men and women and lesbian women were less likely than straight adults to have a usual place to go for medical care.
  • Bisexual men and women and lesbian women were more likely than straight individuals to fail to receive necessary medical care because of cost.   

The report acknowledges that even with the NHIS’ large national sample, the number of adults self-identifying as LGB is relatively small, and may thus provide unreliable estimates of certain health indicators. Continuing to collect this data over multiple years should lead to more accurate estimates. Additionally, it will be necessary for the NHIS to include questions about gender identity in future versions of the survey, in order to collect much-needed information on the health status and needs of transgender and gender nonconforming individuals. Still, this study marks the first time that a large-scale government survey has sought to collect information on the health needs of LGB people. It is an important step as the Department of Health and Human Services focuses on the goal of reducing the health disparities experienced by LGBT people."

The full CDC report is available at

New online cultural competency training tool from HHS

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Community Living (ACL) has recently introduced a new online educational tool designed for staff of long-term care (LTC) facilities and other aging service providers. The “Building Respect for LGBT Older Adults” training was created to increase awareness of issues faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals living in LTC facilities. Service providers who complete the training will become better equipped to help create safe, welcoming and inclusive services for LGBT older adults in LTC facilities.

The free, easy-to-navigate training tool is offered in six modules, each approximately 10 minutes in length. The training was created based on the input of several groups including the SAGE National Resource Center on LGBT Aging, the FORGE Transgender Aging Network, the National Center for Transgender Equality, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, the Human Rights Campaign Foundation, and the National Senior Citizens Law Center.

To access the “Building Respect for LGBT Older Adults” training, or to share it with an aging services provider, please visit 

Friday, June 20, 2014

HIV+ older adults: social isolation, dating & disclosure

by David Griffith

The 15th Annual Prevention and Outreach Summit was held on Wednesday, June 18, 2014, at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia, PA. The Summit was hosted by Philadelphia FIGHT as part of AIDS Education Month. The LGBT Elder Initiative (LGBTEI) hosted a panel discussion titled, “Social Isolation, Dating and Disclosure, & POZ People of Age.”

Moderated by LGBTEI Board Chair, Heshie Zinman, the panel featured Jay Segal, a psychologist in private practice specializing in the mental health needs of LGBT individuals; Rebecca Richman, a paralegal at the AIDS Law Project of Pennsylvania; and Terri Clark, the Coordinator of Prevention Services at ActionAIDS.

For HIV positive older adults, fear of disclosing one’s status to friends, family or dating and sex partners can lead to social isolation, contributing to depression, anxiety and other negative health effects. The panelists emphasized the importance of staying engaged with the community in order to avoid social isolation. Suggestions for getting or staying socially connected included volunteering, participating in faith and religious groups, or joining networks of other HIV+ older adults. These opportunities for social engagement may help in meeting new people, making friends and finding prospective romantic partners. Establishing trust in these relationships will make it easier to disclose one’s status.

The panel stressed the importance of self-acceptance before pursuing dating and romantic relationships. Improving self-acceptance – feeling comfortable with one’s self - will also make disclosure easier.

While emphasizing that how and when to disclose is a personal choice, the legal ramifications of not disclosing a positive status were also discussed. Pennsylvania does not specifically criminalize HIV transmission. However, there are still ways that HIV+ people can be targeted through the legal system (such as charges of “reckless endangerment” or “aggravated assault”). It was advised that HIV+ individuals can protect themselves by documenting their disclosure to their sex partners, such as by accompanying a partner to the partner’s medical provider so that the disclosure can be added to the partner’s medical file. Saving texts and emails with partners where HIV status is discussed can also serve as protection for an HIV+ individual. If meeting sex partners online, a screenshot of a profile that includes HIV status can serve as documentation.

To learn more about Philadelphia FIGHT and other upcoming AIDS Education Month events, visit