Activists wary of report that AZT may harm minority AIDS patients
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By DEBORAH MESCE
FOR THE NEW VOICE
WASHINGTON (AP)—AIDS activists
are cautioning blacks and Hispanics not
to read too much into a new study that
suggests minorities may be harmed by
early treatment with the anti-AIDS drug
The study findings, though inconclusive, also illustrate the need to get more
minorities into clinical trials where
drugs are tested and to study how intravenous drug use, access to routine health
care and other factors affect treatment,
the activists said Feb. 15.
"You have to test the drugs in the population that is going to be taking them,"
said Mark Harrington of the New York-
based AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power,
known as ACT UP. which has pushed for
expanding clinical trials and including
more women and minorities.
"People used to stigmatize our desire
for inclusion of all affected populations
as somehow a political imperative:' he
fold a Food and Drug Administration advisory committee. "But it's not. ... It's a
medical, it's an ethical, it's a scientific
and a political imperative!'
The Veterans Affairs Department
study, released Feb. 15, indicated that
early treatment with AZT may not benefit, and may even harm, blacks and Hispanics infected with the human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV.
For whites, the study supported earlier
studies that found early treatment
slowed progression of the disease.
Based on those earlier studies, the
FDA last year said AZT could be recommended for adults infected with the virus
that causes AIDS when they have mild
or no symptoms of the disease.
Members of the FDA advisory committee said the findings of the new VA study
were disturbing but not strong enough to
warrant changing the government's
Some on the panel, however, said they
would inform their minority patients of
the findings and that the information
should be made available to other physicians immediately, rather than wait si;
to eight months for the findings to be
"The findings may be a fluke, but I'm
concerned they might not be,' said Dr.
Richard O'Brien, a researcher at the federal Centers for Disease Control.
Dr. Wayne Greaves, head of the infectious disease division at Howard University and a consultant to the panel, said
that while he agreed the evidence was
not strong enough to re-label AZT, he
would tell his minority patients about
"I will tell them the data contradicts
earlier studies, that early AZT therapy
may not be useful and may even be harmful to minority patients," he said. The
study "is preliminary and will need to be
Leaders of the National Minority
AIDS Council and the National Gay and
Lesbian Task Force cautioned that it
would be premature to draw any definitive conclusions from.the study and said
they were concerned it could send the
wrong message to blacks and Hispanics
carrying the virus.
'We are concerned that misinterpreta
tion of this study will add yet another potential for discrimination against people
of color with HIV and AIDS, not to mention discouragethem from seeking AIDS
drugs!' said Belinda Rochelle, a lobbyist
for the National Gay and Lesbian Task
Paul Kawata, executive director of the
National AIDS Minority Council said his
concern was that "we must not send people of color with HIV infection underground. This study has the potential to
take away hope for infected minorities."
The VA study was small, with 338 participants, and the results were inconsistent with other, larger studies, the activists and committee members noted. It also was not designed to measure racial differences, and therefore might not be an
accurate reflection, they said. It did not
distinguish between blacks and Hispanics, but rather lumped them into a single
In addition, the VA study was not able
to measure the importance of other factors, such as socioeconomic status, lifestyle and access to routine medical care.
visory committee. "But it's not. ... It's a to eight months for the findings to be "We are concerned that misinterpreta- style and access to routine medical can
Couples flock to S.F. City Hall to register as domestic partners
SAN FRANCISCO (AP)—More than 275 after 8:00 a.m. by the Board of Supervisors. The issue flyers about the law in the city's predon
couples, most of them gay and lesbian, About a dozen same-sex couples were was put on the ballot after a petition cam- nantly gay Castro district, and his ait
SAN FRANCISCO (AP)-More than 275
couples, most of them gay and lesbian,
walked into City Hall as single people on
Valentine's Day and left as officially registered "domestic partners" under a new
San Francisco voters approved a domestic partners proposal in last November's election. Other cities with similar
laws include Santa Cruz and West Hollywood in California, Seattle and Madison,
"It's a real milestone, not only in our relationship, but for the gay community,"
Chris Minor said Feb. 15 after he and
Richard Mulholland became San Francisco's first official domestic partners.
Minor was on the steps of City Hall at
5:30 a.m. The couple, in matching leather
jackets and boots, paid their $35 fee and
became legal domestic partners shortly
About a dozen same-sex couples were
waiting when City Hall opened. They included Christmas Leubrie, a 41-year-old
nurse, and her lover of six years, Alice
Heimsoth, 39, a city health worker. They
wore pastel silk outfits and flowers in
"We worked hard on this," said
Leubrie, who was active in the campaign
to get the law approved by voters. "It's
about love and recognition of relationships."
The Rev. Charles Mcllhenny, pastor of
the FirBt Orthodox Presbyterian Church,
said earlier, "City Hall is playing fast
and loose with God's creation ordinance."
He was among religiouB leaders who
led a referendum campaign in 1989 to
overturn a similar ordinance approved
by the Board of Supervisors. The issue
put on the ballot after a petition campaign and narrowly failed.
Voters passed the law in November after narrowly rejecting a similar ballot initiative in 1989. The city's Board of Supervisors had adopted a domestic partners ordinance in 1982, but former Mayor Dianne Feinstein vetoed it as too costly.
Under the new law, couples file their
declaration with the county clerk. There
is no ceremony..
But late Thursday afternoon. Feb. 15,
about 100 couples took part in a special
multi-denominational ceremony recognizing their new status, with their names
announced as they descended City Hall's
San Francisco Supervisor Harry
Britt's staff had handed out thousands of
flyers about the law in the city's predominantly gay Castro district, and his aide,
Jean Harris, said the supervisor's office
was flooded with calls from people planning to register. Britt was the prime backer of the legislation.
The new law is narrower in scope than
the earlier proposals. It does not provide
any benefits for domestic partners, only
letting them declare that they have an intimate relationship, that they have lived
together at least six months and that
they will be jointly responsible for living
Denmark is the only country to permit
same-sex marriages by law; Sweden is
considering a similar law that would give
gay couples the same rights as married
people in areas such as taxation, inheritance and divorce.
The San Francisco ordinance applies
to gay as well as heterosexual couples.
Mississippi House approves AIDS testing for rapists
By GINA HOLLAND
FOB THE NEW VOICE
JACKSON, Miss. (AP)—The Mississippi
House voted on Feb. 12 to require AIDS
testing for convicted rapists with the results being sent to the victim.
The bill which would include testing
for anyone sentenced to a Mississippi
prison passed 122-0 with little debate. It
now goes to the Senate.
Rep. Ed Buelow of Vicksburg questioned whether the bill should be expanded to include all sex-related offenders,
not just rapists.
Rep. Ed Jackson of Cleveland, chairperson of the House Penitentiary Committee, said rapists posed the biggest
The tests would be conducted by the
state Department of Health.
Any positive AIDS or AIDS virus test
results would also be reported to the victim's spouse and to the spouse of the person who is convicted of the sex offense,
The state Department of Health now
performs random testing of state inmates for AIDS and the AIDS virus
Louisiana receives $13 million for AIDS programs
BATON ROUGE, La.(AP)-Louisianawill
receive $1.3 million in federal money to expand and improve programs for people with
AIDS, Gov. Buddy Roemer said Feb. 14.
The money, which will be in hand in
April, will be used for home health care, to
buy the life-prolonging drug AZT for AIDS
patients who cannot afford it, and for support services for people who teBt positive for
the HIV virus and live outside of the New
Orleans area, Roemer said.
The grant is named in memory of Ryan
White, an Indiana youth who died from
AIDS last year after receiving international attention for his battle with the fatal dis
ease, which he contracted from a blood
"The Ryan White ... grant will benefit
HIV-infected citizens and their families
throughout the state by providing more
readily available health care and support
services," Roemer said.
Roemer said some of the money, which
will be administered by the Department of
Health and Hospitals, will also be used for
case management and primary care for
At last count, there were 2298 Al DS cases
in the state, with more than half of them
concentrated in the New Orleans area.
The New Voice