City and County of San FranciscoHuman Rights Commission

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Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Advisory Committee

Minutes of the January 15, 2008 Meeting



Committee Members Present: Commissioner Mark Dunlop, Rene Astudillo, Dora Balcazar, Blue Buddha, Billy Curtis, Ryan Fuimaono, Ted Guggenheim, Robert Hill, Allison Laureano, Anthony Philip, Ren Phoenix, Martin Rawlings-Fein, Miko Thomas, Lindasusan Ulrich, Morningstar Vancil.


Committee Members Absent: Commissioner Cecilia Chung (excused), Greg Shaw (excused).


Staff Present: Nadia Babella, Larry Brinkin, natoyiniinastumiik, Domenic Viterbo.


Guests Present: Randy Allgaier, Grant Colfax, MD, Reid Condit, Ryan Fuimaono, Ken Hodnett, Kris Larson, John Newmeyer, MD, Michael Petrelis, Alex Randolph (Mayor’s Office).


1.      Call to Order and Roll Call:


Commissioner Dunlop called the meeting to order at 5:35 p.m. Mr. Brinkin called the roll.


2.      Approval of November 20, 2007 minutes (Action Item):


Ms. Laureano moved to approve the minutes as written. Ms. Ulrich seconded. The motion passed unanimously.


3.      Public Comment for Items Not on the Agenda:


No public comments were made.


4.      Panel Discussion: HIV-Related Public Health Campaigns such as Serosorting: Prevention or Stigmatization:


Commissioner Dunlop framed the issue and asked the panelists to introduce themselves: Grant Colfax, MD, Director of the HIV Prevention and Research Section at the AIDS Office, began his post last September; John Newmeyer, MD, epidemiologist at the Haight-Ashbury Free Clinic, has been monitoring the epidemiology among injection drug users and men who have sex with men and others since 1983 and has authored published papers on this subject; Randy Allgaier, a member of the HIV Services Planning Council and the HIV Prevention Council. He also has worked for five years in public policy at the San Francisco AIDS Foundation on federal and state issues.


Dr. Colfax defined serosorting in terms of people choosing what they do with certain partners based partly on serostatus. Serosorting is not a new phenomenon; over the course of the AIDS epidemic since HIV testing was introduced, serosorting has been a community-based response in terms of reducing sexual risk since many people are no longer responding to old messages of having to ‘use a condom every time.’ He felt it was important to come up with a Department of Public Health campaign that includes condom use, but also gives people a menu of options to choose from that were community-based and can be used to reduce risk. He described DPH’s recent campaign, the Disclosure Campaign, and the basis of which is knowing your status, getting tested, discussing your status with your partner(s), and making informed decisions about what you may/may not want to do sexually. In terms of evidence, using data from the past 25 years of the AIDS epidemic, it has become clear that those who might serosort more than others have lower risk behaviors if they’re HIV-positive; however, data have been less conclusive for those who are HIV-negative. The term ‘seroadaptation’ has also been discussed which is considered to be a broader category in terms of the range of options in which serosorting is a subcategory. The term is not just about making decisions based on one’s HIV status, but also about making decisions in terms of what one will do sexually. Since the Disclosure Campaign has ended, the AIDS Office is currently working on their five-year plan for the CDC and welcomes input from the committee in terms of where to take it.


Dr. Newmeyer said that a campaign to universalize condom use among gay men was an unsuccessful one. He added that the data show that they’ve fallen short in terms of condom usage among non-monogamous gay men. Though there may have been many ways in which the campaign failed, he emphasized two: first, the asymmetry of gay relationships should have been recognized – that tops are different from bottoms and that the ownership should’ve been the top’s from the start. It should’ve been the responsibility of the top to have the condom, bring up the subject, know how to use it, and to actually use it. The bottom needs to say that if a condom is not worn, they will not have sex. The second aspect is that condoms are technically inferior making it sex-negative to many because it falls short of the ideal. He feels that condoms should be ‘made to order’ and to not treated as something to be given away for free. He feels that serosorting is a community phenomenon and was used 20 years ago by those who didn’t like condoms, but feels there ought to be harm reduction for those who choose to serosort. It’s also important to talk about the kinds of gay partnering (i.e. monogamous partners, one night stands, and regular non-monogamous partners) and that trust plays a strong role. He recommends that agencies that perform HIV testing change from individual testing to couples testing and to ensure confidentiality. Along with HIV, testing should cover other STDs such as syphilis, gonorrhea, etc.


Mr. Allgaier was diagnosed with AIDS in 1999 and has been with his partner for 20 years. When they met, he was HIV-positive, and his partner, HIV- negative, and remains so. He said that because of their serodiscordant status, they’ve often been central to the serosorting debate. During an interview for the Bay Area Reporter (B.A.R.), he said that the term, serosorting, bothered him in that he found it limiting to living one’s life. He was quoted in the B.A.R. then later in POZ Magazine that if he had serosorted 20 years ago, he wouldn’t have met the man he’s been with for 20 years and couldn’t imagine limiting that and what that might mean to others. After having conversations with other HIV-positive men about serosorting, the subject of personal ads on websites was discussed. He viewed the language used in such ads which include expressions such as ‘disease-free’ or ‘bug-free’ as hurtful, divisive, and destructive. He was concerned about the negativity since prevention includes self-esteem issues. Also at this time he joined the Points of Integration Committee just as the topic of seroadaptation was being discussed in depth and it was clear that serosorting had organically developed within the community. He feels that the language used when discussing this issue is very important; how it’s discussed, the words used, how they are defined and perceived can make all the difference between a thoughtful and useful dialog and a strident, combative argument. The term ‘seroadaptation’ is a term pertaining to a variety of choices that individuals can make about their sexual practices. He feels that the term is less inflammatory than serosorting because it’s less divisive in language and more inclusive of behaviors.


Commissioner Dunlop feels that ‘serosorting’ divides people into ‘negatives’ and ‘positives’ with a potential for discrimination. He’s also concerned that there hasn’t been a study to find that serosorting does prevent HIV. Copies of various DPH campaign ads were distributed to the Committee members which he said that they divide the community, that the research is questionable, and that there is some real potential for violation of people’s human rights and spreading an atmosphere of fear.


Michael Petrelis said that the community needs to be included in this discussion and referred to the DPH ads as offensive and divisive. He feels that the conversation should start by asking what gay community activists want in terms of prevention that is respectful.


Dr. Colfax said that he has made a commitment to having community involvement with the HIV Prevention Planning Council as they move forward with their five-year plan.


5.      Discussion of New Member Recruitment:


Mr. Guggenheim announced that the press release was sent to the members and to the media and various organizations. He reported that all of the African-American committee members will not be returning to serve in the next term and urgently asked members to seek out people of color to apply. Mr. Brinkin said that so far, he has received only two applications. Mr. Guggenheim reminded the departing members that they can continue to work on subcommittees. He asked for a status report from the other committee members: Mr. Thomas reported that he contacted three people at the Native American AIDS Project; Ms. Vancil sent the flyer to an LGBT veteran’s organization; Ms. Balcazar had someone in mind at Aguilas; Mr. Buddha contacted several people at UCSF; Mr. Astudillo reported that he also reached out to the National Gay and Lesbian Journalists Association who put the press release in their monthly e-newsletter; Ms. Ulrich reported that she hasn’t contacted the Bay Area Bisexual Network yet, but said that there have been announcements in St. Francis Lutheran’s bulletins for the past few weeks; Commissioner Dunlop reported that he will contact the teacher at the high school he’s speaking at and has been in contact with an interested applicant from Positive Peddlars and said he would send an email to members of the Ryan White Care Council. Ms. Phoenix said that she has someone in mind to apply and would like to have a more knowledgeable person’s help in answering some specific questions. Mr. Brinkin said to have them contact him with any specific questions about the Committee; Mr. Guggenheim reported that he contacted a Dutch/Indonesian Jewish applicant; Mr. Arana said that he contacted two prospective applicants: a Native American artist and a Mexican American transgender (FTM) trainer. Mr. Guggenheim reminded members that the deadline to receive applications is by close-of-business Thursday, January 24. Mr. Brinkin said that a copy of the press release was faxed to the Bay Area Reporter and hopes that it’ll be printed in this week’s issue.


Parts of a DVD were shown including a PSA that was broadcast on Channel 26 as well as a 20-minute interview by Mr. Rawlings-Fein featuring Commissioner Chung, Mr. Thomas, and Ms. Ulrich as part of outreach. Links to the PSA and interview will be emailed to the committee.


6.      Discussion on Topics for an Upcoming Community Meeting:


Mr. Guggenheim reported that a long-awaited meeting will (possibly) take place this year and would like to hear from members regarding discussion topics. Ideas included racism within the LGBT community, bisexual invisibility, a community dialog on ENDA and other federal level issues, and loss of queer a community or neighborhood. Mr. Brinkin said that a date to have the community meeting as well as what will be discussed can be discussed during the committee retreat in April which would include the input of the new members.


7.      Work Group Reports:


Anti-Racism: Mr. Buddha said that the work group has been inactive since there hasn’t been consistent members coming to meetings plus some current members will be departing from the committee. They talked about finishing up the “We Agree” project but are unsure when this will happen. He said that it ought to go back to the full committee once the new members are on board and to figure out how to take it to the next level. He said that it might be easier to get connected with other groups who are doing work on racism, such as the Pride Committee. Mr. Brinkin said that regarding the “We Agree” project, he contacted the president of the board of the Merchants of Upper Market and Castro who seems to be interested in collaborating. He hopes to have a business forum to create some sort of statement for business owners to display welcoming everyone to their business.


Outreach: Mr. Guggenheim reported that the HRC has registered to have a booth at this year’s Chinese New Year Celebration Community Festival. The event will take place on Saturday and Sunday, February 23 and 24, and will be a great chance to let the community know who we are and what we do. Some materials are being developed by staff and once completed, will be translated into Spanish and Chinese for this event. Commissioners, committee members, and staff will sign up for 1-hour timeslots to staff the booth.


8.      Commissioner Report:


Commissioner Dunlop reported that their last meeting was cancelled, but said that he and Commissioner Chung, along with Commissioner Sweet and some staff members attended the California Association of Human Relations Organizations’ (CAHRO) annual conference in Sacramento, January 7-8, and feels that there wasn’t a lot of buzz around LGBT issues. Mr. Brinkin, the secretary of CAHRO, said that it’s a good chance to meet others around the state doing the same sort of work, but the basic difference is that human relations commissions do a lot more work in the community (e.g. schools, hate crimes issues, etc.) and we’re more regulatory (e.g. complaint work, contract compliance, equal benefits, etc.). He hopes that more resources could be made available to do more community work.


9.      Staff Report:


Mr. Brinkin reported that the ENDA letter and the Department of Fair Employment and Housing letter were both passed by the Commission. He reported that he attended today’s swearing-in of three new HRC Commissioners: Doug Chan, a former Police Commissioner; Victoria Ruiz, businesswoman; and Julius Turman, co-chair of the Alice B. Toklas Democratic Club and an employment attorney. Mr. Brinkin reported that Kabir Hypolite, member of the LGBTH Division, has accepted the position of Director of the Alameda County AIDS Office and will be leaving the HRC on Friday, January 25. Three positions are open on staff (Contract Compliance Officer I, Contract Compliance Officer II, and Representative) and encouraged interested applicants to apply; however, due to severe City and State budget deficits, no requisitions are being signed to fill any open positions, including the three mentioned. Mr. Brinkin acknowledged Ms. Babella for her help on the CAHRO conference and for her assistance in putting tonight’s panel together.


10.  Old/New Business:


No Old/New Business was discussed.


11.  Announcements:


Mr. Rawlings-Fein announced that he is doing another film entitled “Ger”, about converting to Judaism and would like to interview queer people who are Jews by choice. Mr. Brinkin said that for Committee members who’ve decided to step down that the February 19 meeting is their last meeting and he would like to schedule an exit interview with each of them.


12.  Adjournment:


The meeting was adjourned at 7:25 p.m.