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Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Advisory Committee
Minutes of the, July 15, 2008 Meeting

Committee Members Present: Commissioner Cecilia Chung, Jane Aceituno, Rene Astudillo, Samer Danfoura, Bill Doggett, Winston Dong, Jr., Ted Guggenheim, Justin Jones, Poonam, Allison Laureano, Mark Murphy, Yvette Pannell, Greg Shaw, Alic Shook, and Lindasusan Ulrich.

Committee Members Absent: Commissioner Mark Dunlop (excused), Commissioner Julius Turman (excused), Saurabh Bajaj (excused), Dora Balcazar, Alex Baty (excused), Paul Klees, Martin Rawlings-Fein (excused), and Brad Vanderbilt.

Staff Present: Larry Brinkin, Ellise Nicholson, Alana Chazan (intern), and Annick Persinger (intern).

Guests Present: Evan Block, Dr. Grant Nash Colfax, Dennis Crader, Dr. Susan Galel, Anne Guiltinew, Anthony Hebert, Brooke Krannich, Dr. Kim-Anh Nguyen, Suchi Pandey, Dr. Paul Volberding, and Taylor Xavier.

1. Call to Order and Roll Call:

Commissioner Chung called the meeting to order at 5:30p.m. Mr. Brinkin called the roll.

2. Approval of April 15, 2008 minutes and May 20, 2008 minutes (Action Item):

Ms. Ulrich moved to approve the April 15, 2008 and May 20, 2008 minutes as written. The motion was seconded and passed unanimously.

3. Public Comment for Items Not on the Agenda:

No public comments were made.

4. Introduction of Summer Interns:

Larry Brinkin introduced Ellise Nicholson, staff member in the LGBTH Division.  Ms. Nicholson will be staffing the LGBTAC Outreach Task Force.  The LGBTH Division has several wonderful summer interns.  Annick Persinger introduced herself as a second year law student at UC Hastings, and said that during her summer internship at HRC, she is working on a project researching reasonable accommodations under the ADA for HIV positive persons who also have mental illnesses.  Alana Chazan will be starting her third year of law school at CUNY this fall.  Her summer project is working on a panel presentation and report on whether the FDA ban on blood donations from men who have had sex with men is discriminatory and, if so, what role the HRC might have in remedying this discrimination.  Christina Borjas, also an HRC intern, was not able to attend the meeting but Mr. Brinkin stated that Ms. Borjas will be a third year law student at University of San Francisco law school beginning this fall.  Ms. Borjas is working on developing a diversity training curriculum for the HRC.   

5. Panel Inquiring as to Whether the FDA Policy on Blood Donations From Men Who Have Sex With Men is Discriminatory:

Alana Chazan framed the issue and introduced the panelists.  Ms. Chazan explained that the panelists will address whether the FDA's lifetime ban on blood donations from men who have had sex with men (MSMs) is discriminatory and, if so, what actions the HRC might take to address this discrimination. 

Dr. Volberding spoke first.  Dr. Volberding is a leading AIDS expert nationwide and Professor and Vice Chair of the UCSF Department of Medicine, Chief of Medical Service of the SF Veterans Affairs Medical Center, and Co-Director, UCSF-GIVI Center for AIDS Research.  In 2005, Dr. Volberding and several of his colleagues met with the FDA in an effort to persuade the FDA to remove the ban, arguing that HIV testing has changed and that the current policy is outdated.  Early on in the epidemic, the MSM community was urged to voluntarily defer from donating blood.  This voluntary deferral was very successful in improving the safety of the blood supply.  With the introduction of antibody testing around 1985, the safety of the blood supply even more dramatically improved.  The continued lifetime ban is an unfortunate although understandable reminder about the early years of the epidemic.  With increased sensitivity of HIV testing over the years, the risk of HIV transmission from blood donations has continued to decrease.  There is still a short window from the time that someone is first exposed to the virus and the time that antibodies appear in the blood such that the HIV blood test registers positive.  During that time, the blood may be infected but even the most sensitive test will not result in a positive test result.  Regardless, it is clear beyond any doubt that the lifetime ban policy put in place decades ago is dated and should be changed.  If there is any risk of allowing blood donations from MSM's, it is a fairly narrow window.  Dr. Volberding believes that there should be a limited ban on donations from the time of an MSM blood donor's last known sexual encounter and the time of donation.  Based on the most updated science, Dr. Volberding would recommend a one year deferral period that would be applied to anyone in a "risky" situation, which would include those in heterosexual relationships.  He added that the public generally has a hard time accepting any risk in the blood supply even though some significant risk are acceptable when it comes to other kinds of medicine. In deference to the heightened public concern about the safety of the blood supply, Dr. Volberding thinks it is reasonable to consider agreeing to one year ban on blood donations from MSMs.  The current lifetime ban simply does not make sense, and Dr. Volberding urges the HRC to take this position. 

Dr. Kim-Anh Nguyen, Medical Director of the Blood Centers of the Pacific, spoke next.  Dr. Nguyen passed out a handout of data compiled by Dr. Michael P. Busch, a leading AIDS expert and Professor of Medicine at UCSF and Director of the Blood Systems Research Institute, indicating historic HIV transmission risk levels.  Figure 2 of the handout presented a summary of risk of HIV transmission through blood.  Before 1985, at its height, the risk of transmission was quite high - 1.5% per pint of blood.  Dr. Nguyen thanked gay community in San Francisco for participating in voluntary deferral in the early 1980s, which significantly reduced the transmission risk at that time.  Dr. Nguyen noted that the risk factors for HIV have changed over the years.  Currently, the risk of HIV transmission among the MSM population and the heterosexual population is nearly equal, and the tests to determine HIV infection are much more sensitive.  The blood banking community agrees that the time for change in the policy has come.  The blood banks issued a joint statement supporting revision of the ban from a lifetime ban for MSMs to a one year deferral period. 

The FDA has resisted liberalizing the ban because of the recognized higher incidents of HIV among the MSM segment of population.  But even the FDA recognizes that given current testing mechanisms, the current risk is low.  The FDA is also considering what actions other countries are taking regarding MSM blood donation policies.  Canada, Finland, and the UK have decided to maintain the lifetime ban on MSM blood donations, whereas other countries such as Italy and Brazil have eliminated the ban.  Dr. Nguyen reported that she is encouraged by the FDA's current willingness to reevaluate the ban, and that the Blood Centers of the Pacific are continuing to push the FDA to liberalize the ban and are working to provide data to help push the FDA in this direction.  Additionally, the American Medical Association recently issued a statement supporting a stepwise progression liberalizing the ban.  Dr. Nguyen believes that the Commission could take a leadership role by supporting blood donation.  Other organizations have been banning blood drives in order to protest the lifetime ban on MSM blood donations.  Dr. Nguyen discourages the Commission from taking this action.  She explained that San Francisco has a shortage of available blood - currently San Francisco does not even have enough blood to serve its own population.  Second, Dr. Nguyen encouraged the Commission to critically evaluate the scientific data and contact the FDA to express the Commission's position on the ban.  Dr. Nguyen said that the FDA welcomes direct communication, and that she will provide the appropriate contact information.  Finally, Dr. Nguyen encourages the Commission to get the word out and support blood donation in any way possible, such as distributing boilerplate letters to all deferred blood donors encouraging them to write to the FDA encouraging the agency to change its policy. 

The final speaker, Dr. Grant Nash Colfax, Director of HIV Prevention & Research, San Francisco Department of Public Health, stated that the lifetime ban on MSM blood donations is discriminatory and the central question is whether the discrimination is justified.  Clearly, it is not.  For example, under the current policy, a man who had receptive oral sex with another man in 1977 can never donate blood in his lifetime.  In contrast, a woman who had intercourse yesterday with a man known to have HIV can donate blood 365 days later.  The current testing can pick up HIV in blood within ten to twelve days of infection.  False negatives of these tests are one in two million.  The lifetime ban on blood donations from MSMs is an example of science discriminatorily applied. 

Several committee members inquired as to whether the MSM blood donation policy might be revised to take into consideration the risk factors for particular MSM activity rather than barring donation across the board for any same sex male sexual activity.  While there was no definitive answer given to this question, one commentator stated that it is too complicated for blood banks to screen for particular sexual acts. 

Another commentator noted that San Jose State University and other schools have banned blood drives on their campuses in protest of the FDA's MSM policy, and stated that this approach harms patients, and that we can work to change the policy without causing such harm.  A more effective approach, she said, would be for groups like the HRC to urge the FDA to revise the policy.  Lisa Bloc of the Blood Centers of the Pacific agreed and added that Berkeley students took a positive approach and created a campaign urging non-MSMs to donate blood in the place of MSMs.  The campaign served to educate donors about the MSM ban and encouraged them to submit a petition to the FDA supporting reform of the ban.  Stanford University took a similar approach and created a flyer about the ban to distribute at blood drives. Ms. Bloc added that a statement from the HRC supporting blood donation and urging the FDA to change its position on the lifetime MSM ban would be valuable.  Dr. Nguyen reiterated that the Blood Centers of the Pacific has publicly urged the FDA to change its position, and added that there is a lot the community in San Francisco can do to influence this issue, including talking to schools and universities to urge them to continue to support blood drives. 

Regarding the question of whether the FDA could be persuaded to revise the MSM policy by emphasizing the public health risk of a limited blood supply, all of the panelists agreed that this is an important consideration.  Dr. Volberding pointed out that because the test is so amazingly sensitive, even abolishing any deferral for MSMs would only increase the risk of HIV transmission very minimally.  The HIV Medicine Association (HIVMA) of the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) in 2005 approached the FDA to urge it to change this policy but was unsuccessful at that time.  The current Executive Director of HIVMA, Christine Lubinski, is a great activist and it is likely that HIVMA will soon re-approach the FDA on this issue. 

Ms. Chazan thanked panelists for their time and valuable perspectives.  All three panelists welcomed Committee members to email them with any additional questions. 

6. Debriefing of S.F. Pride Day Activities (Discussion Item):

Larry Brinkin reported that about thirty-five people marched with the Human Rights Commission contingent in the LGBT Pride Parade on June 29, 2008.  Mr. Brinkin expressed appreciation to participants and especially to committee member Justin Jones for securing a vehicle from Zipcar.  Committee members offered the following thoughts and recommendations for future Pride Parades:  1.  The 3"x5" wallet cards were popular and it was suggested that we consider translating the cards into Spanish and Chinese before next year's parade; 2.  larger and bolder font on the placards; 3. a t-shirt decorating night; 4. having music and/or a float in the HRC contingent.  Committee member Allison Laureano has expertise in float building and suggested that the Committee could fundraise and build a float for under $1,000 next year.  Committee member Lindasusan Ulrich suggested that if we decide to include music, we consider having human rights related songs.  Mr. Brinkin said that he hopes we can come up with some great chants for next year.  Commissioner Chung told members that if they have additional suggestions they should bring them to the Outreach Work Group meetings. 

7. Work Group Reports:

Anti-Racism:  Mr. Brinkin reported that the Anti-Racism Work Group did not meet in July because Commissioner Dunlap was away.  Mr. Brinkin is working on contacting the Merchants of Upper Market & Castro (MUMC) to begin the work group's efforts to work with businesses in the Castro and elsewhere to talk about diversity of patrons and employees.  The Work Group decided it was best to begin this process by meeting with merchant organizations.  Committee member Winston Dong, Jr. suggested it would be a good idea to speak with the Castro Community Benefit District (CCB).  Allison Laureano mentioned the Work Group's desire to renew its efforts regarding the We Agree Project to reach out to Castro businesses about diversity.  The next meeting of the Anti-Racism Work Group is Tuesday August 12, 2008 at 5:30 p.m. in the HRC main conference room. 

Youth:  Committee member Justin Jones reported that staff member Nadia Babella spoke to Kevin Gogan, the head of San Francisco Unified School District's services for sexual minority youth.  Mr. Gogan informed Ms. Babella of an extensive study that was conducted last year with respect to LGBT issues for youth in the schools and said that the results of the study, which will be released after the start of the 2008-2009 school year, are astonishing.  Mr. Gogan will be coming to speak to the Committee at the September, 2008 meeting. The Work Group is not meeting in July, but will be meeting in August on a date yet to be determined.  Commissioner Sohcot is working on putting together a hearing to investigate San Francisco's high school graduation rate, and the Work Group is considering how to collaborate efforts. 

Outreach:  Committee member Poonam reported that at its last meeting, the Outreach Work Group discussed ideas about overall strategy to promote the HRC and the LGBT Advisory Committee.  The Work Group is considering outreach from two angles: media and non-media.  With respect to media outreach, ideas include revamping HRC's website by evaluating current use and determining needs by surveying committee members so we can develop a strategic approach to upgrading the website.  Staff member Ellise Nicholson, who will be staffing the Work Group, will circulate and collect surveys from Committee members.  The Work Group asked members to respond to this solicitation promptly.  Regarding non-media outreach, the Work Group is considering a partnering program in which each Committee member would partner with another member, each would attend each others' community event, and then report back to the committee in a 7x7-like format.  "Community events" are defined broadly and would include not only non-profit organizational events but community events such as brunches and other gatherings.  Work Group member Samer Danfoura explained that the idea of the partnering is to promote enhanced cultural understanding and knowledge.  The Work Group changed its meeting time and will now be meeting on the first Tuesday of the month.  The next meeting is scheduled for August 5, 2008 in the HRC's main conference room.  Commissioner Chung stated that the group welcomes new members and prior members who wish to rejoin. 

8. Commissioner Report:

Commissioner Chung reported that the Commission had a really exciting month in June and that we are at the brink of history, including the same-gender marriage decision by the California Supreme Court and the unveiling of Harvey Milk bust.  She also noted that we will be paying close attention to the upcoming Proposition 8 ballot initiative, and asked members to inform the Commission and staff of any issues that are important in relation to the Initiative.  Commissioner Chung was recently invited by Chinese media to participate in a debate with ??? [LB, do you recall with whom she is debating?].  The Commission is electing a new chair and vice chair at end of the month.  Lindasusan Ulrich noted that bisexual activists are challenging the No on 8 campaign to stop using exclusive language (e.g. "lesbian and gay couples").  Commissioner Chung agreed and stated that this issue will be discussed at the next Bisexual Disability Work Group, which will be meeting on Thursday, July 17, 2008 at 5:30. 

9. Staff Report:

Larry Brinkin reported that he will be attending a conference of the International Association of Human Rights Agencies in Detroit in September where he will be leading an LGBT-related workshop and maybe a plenary session.  The association consists of individuals working on civil rights issues throughout the country but it has not had a strong LGBT presence.  Mr. Brinkin is hoping to help change that.  HRC staff have been conducting LGBT cultural competency and legal trainings at the Department of Parking and Traffic, including parking control officers and managers.  HRC has several new staff members, including a new member of the Housing Division, Lupe Arreola, who is a Spanish speaking, experienced housing activist.  Several HRC staff volunteered with City Hall to help with the recent marriages after the California Supreme Court ruling upholding same-gender marriage.  Mr. Brinkin stated that it was a wonderful experience for all who participated.  Mr. Brinkin will be attending a conference in New York in October focusing on LGBT senior issues, where he will present a workshop on San Francisco's experience addressing the lack of sensitive services to the LGBT community by mainstream senior service providers. 

10. Old/New Business:

Mr. Brinkin reported that the stigmatization letter will be on the agenda next month.  Committee member Jane Aceituno inquired about a work group on lesbian neighborhoods.  Mr. Brinkin explained that this issue will be taken up as a panel discussion and that whoever would like to work on putting the panel together is welcome to do so.  He added that staff will send out the schedule of panels for 2008-2009 as soon as possible.  Committee member Lindasusan Ulrich inquired about recycling, and Mr. Brinkin stated that staff will recycle any papers left behind after meetings. 

11. Announcements:

Committee member Ted Guggenheim mentioned that tomorrow is his two week wedding anniversary.  Mr. Brinkin mentioned that Mr. Guggenheim's wedding was part of a joint wedding celebration sponsored by the East Bay Express and that the story will be published tomorrow.  Committee member Justin Jones is working for a united ENDA which hopes to introduce a more inclusive version in 2010 that includes transgender discrimination protections.  He added that there will be upcoming volunteer opportunities including writing opinion/editorial pieces.  Mr. Jones noted that he will be getting married on August 7, 2008.  Mr. Brinkin would like to bring materials regarding the united ENDA to his upcoming conferences.  Commissioner Chung mentioned that this Saturday, July 19, she will be attending the Gay Asian Pacific Alliance (GAPA) 20th Anniversary "Runway Platinum" Mr. and Miss GAPA pageant at the Herbst Theater, which she described as a fun, camp event.  Tickets are relatively inexpensive and can be purchased at  Committee member Poonam stated that her friend was attacked in a hate crime incident in the Castro recently.  She asked how Castro Community On Patrol gathers information about hate crimes and communicated and responds to such information.  Mr. Jones, who is involved in Castro Community On Patrol, said that the purpose of the patrol is to act as a deterrent to would-be crime and that the patrol uses crime data to determine the locations that they patrol.  He added that the best way to get data to the patrol is to report incidents to police.  Mr. Brinkin suggested that hate crime incidents also be reported to Community United Against Violence (CUAV) at 415/777-HELP (4357).  Commissioner Chung added that for future meetings, she would like to agendize the issue of hate crimes in San Francisco to discuss and investigate issues that the HRC might consider addressing.

12. Adjournment:

The meeting was adjourned at 7:30 p.m.