Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Best Wishes

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Rock The Vote

It is important to know the stance policy makers have towards health care regarding HIV/AIDS all of the time, but with just less than one year to go before the next president of the United States is elected, it is now vital to get a firm handle where each candidate stands on the issue. Right now every political pulpit is filled with a candidate rifling off policy proposals and new policy ideas. However there are feelings that the next election could have the greatest impact on the fight to end HIV/AIDS yet.

Housing Works, Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC),<> and the AIDS Foundation of Chicago, three of the nation’s leading HIV/AIDS organizations, have polled the 16 presidential hopefuls for 2008 in regards to HIV/AIDS policy and for the first time in one place have compiled a comprehensive report comparing the two parties – Democrat, Republican – on the subject.

"World AIDS Day is this Saturday, but you could also say that World AIDS Day is Election Day 2008. That's because our next President will have the opportunity and the responsibility to end AIDS," said Charles King, President and CEO of Housing Works. "She or he will have the tools to treat 33 million people living with HIV—including over a million Americans—around the planet, as well as the tools to stop the spread of the virus. We're here to build the political will to make that happen."

What is most important is to be aware of those candidates that fail to see the importance of ending the stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS as a means to ending it’s strangle hold on the world’s population.

The National Association of People With AIDS (NAPWA) in a December 10, 2007 press release highlighted some of Senator Mike Huckabee’s health policy regarding HIV/AIDS. “Twenty six years into this epidemic, such outrageous ideas as quarantine for all people with HIV/AIDS have no place in serious public policy debates of a free and enlightened society,” said Frank Oldham, Jr. NAPWA’s Executive Director. “This rhetoric only serves to heighten already severe stigma and discrimination against HIV-positive people and deter our collective efforts to engage the community in voluntary HIV testing, treatment, and other vital services.”

Kali Lindsey, NAPWA’s Director of Federal Government Affairs went on to day “Sentiments such as Huckabee’s that suggests isolation of persons with the HIV virus, further illustrate a clear disregard for the humanity of those communities who have experienced the greatest impact by this disease and the lack of a true investment in making a difference.”

Jeanne White-Ginder – the mother of the late Ryan White, an Indiana teenager who died of AIDS related causes in 1990 at age 18 – expressed her desire to meet with Huckabee to discuss his comments and agenda on HIV/AIDS.

I too would like to meet with any politician, especially one who is running for the office of president to discuss these matters. I’m sure we would agree on one thing: there is much more work to do in the fight against this disease.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Empowering Youth Through Media Platforms

It isn’t something that you haven’t heard before. The sooner people know they have HIV, the sooner they can benefit from life-extending treatment and reducing the risk of infecting their partner. Well, that depends on whether they have health insurance or even access to health care but that is a different discussion.

In the US, there is an estimated 1 million people who are living with HIV and each year there is an estimated 40,000 new infections. Half of those new infections occur in those under 25 years of age.

The Millennia’s are equal to the numbers of Baby Boomers and yet it can be argued that, in large part, the HIV/AIDS messaging used to reach Baby Boomers the past 26 years has not changed that drastically as we try to reach today’s young adults.

We talk about youth and the future they represent. Corporations spend large amounts of money researching how to reach today’s youth as a market and a community but the non-profit sector has been slow to follow suit until the last few years.

Motorola knows about messaging and reaching today’s youth market. They are continually innovative and cutting-edge in their approach and execution. They have always been tremendously supportive of both Cable Positive and its mission. I think that is a large part of why I am excited that The Motorola Foundation is taking the fight to protect our youth head on by supporting the creation of The Youth AIDS Media Institute (YAMI), Cable Positive’s newest program, with the largest grant Cable Positive has ever received in its 16 year fight against HIV/AIDS.

YAMI’s mission is to teach young people how to communicate HIV/AIDS awareness messages to their peers and empower them to make a tangible impact in their communities regarding HIV and AIDS education, prevention and awareness. With Motorola’s help we are excited to instruct students at YAMI to use the power of multi-platform media campaigns.

Most teens either own or have access to a cellular phone, with the help of Motorola, there is no telling what kind of innovations we can accomplish in the fight against this disease. “The growing use of text messaging provides an important opportunity to link people with simple and portable health information,” said Dr. Kevin Fenton, director of the National Center for HIV/AIDS.

The details of YAMI will be unveiled at later today (Dec. 6th), along with a panel discussion exploring empowering youth through media advocacy, at the Paramount Pictures Screening Room in the Viacom Building in Manhattan. Later this month, the program will be launched on Cable Positive’s website and I encourage everyone to keep an eye out for that as it is truly an exciting new chapter in Cable Positive and its approach to addressing the epidemic.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007


Saturday is the 20th International recognition of World AIDS Day, and it comes on the heels of headlines about UNAIDS overestimating the number of people who are HIV positive worldwide by some 15 percent.

Tragically, the dramatic news of an over count of 6 million people, sucks the air out of the daily truths that AIDS caregivers cannot flinch from.

This week brought two powerful sets of such truths from the gritty neighborhoods of Washington, DC and the tropical shores of Palm Beach County, Florida. Both truths were the same.

In the nation's capital, the first major study ever done on HIV in the District of Columbia--done over a 5-year period of time--was remarkable for the size and complexity of the epidemic which it measured in DC.

According the Washington Post story, not only were 80 percent of the HIV cases reported among black men, women and children, but 9 out of every 10 women who tested positive were African-American. Strikingly, there were more heterosexual cases of transmission--37 percent--then there were cases of HIV attributable to men having sex with men--a figure down to 25 percent in DC.

"It blows the stereotype out of the water," said the head of DC's HIV/AIDS Administration Shannon Hader. "HIV is everybody's disease here."

Statistical cynics might be quick to point out that since Washington, DC has an overwhelmingly African-American population, of course the statistics would reflect that large numbers of HIV infections were among Blacks. How then, do they explain the same statistics occurring in Palm Beach County, Florida, where Blacks account for only 15% of the population, but make up 65% of the number of people infected with HIV?

In fact, according to the Palm Beach Post, Florida's AIDS case numbers are the 3rd highest in the nation, with 80 percent of the Sunshine State's nearly 2,000 pediatric HIV/AIDS cases being among Black children.

Palm Beach County's Health Director, Dr. Jean Malecki, points out that health education programs in local schools reveal how to avoid acne, but not how to avoid HIV.

"Flinching from the truth accomplishes nothing," Dr. Malecki says.

One Florida community leader not flinching from the truth is Bishop Lewis White of the United Deliverance Church.

"Other pastors have said I'm promoting sex when I hand out condoms," said Bishop Lewis. "I'm sorry to tell them that is not true. People are having sex with or without condoms. I'm promoting life."

Wednesday, November 21, 2007


This week’s news that UNAIDS—the leading UN agency charged with fighting AIDS around the globe—lowered it estimates downward of the number of people worldwide infected with the HIV virus from 39 million down to 33, was greeted with mixed reactions.

Of course, its cause for celebration to learn that 6 million less people may be infected with HIV than the UN previously thought. Even one less infection is cause for celebration, at a time when—in many parts of the world—HIV infection is grounds for being cast out of a community or being violently attacked.

However, let’s not give thanks just yet. We’re still talking about staggering levels of disease, with 6,800 people becoming infected with HIV each day, fueling an AIDS catastrophe in far too many places. Even the Harvard School of Public Health’s Daniel Halperin, an expert on HIV infection rates who questions UNAIDS estimates of HIV infections several years ago, was quick to add that “this doesn’t mean the epidemic is going away and everything is fine and now forget about it—not at all.”

“There are still about 10 countries in Southern Africa that are real nightmares,” Halperin told the New York Times.

The corresponding danger here—in addition to a virus that is still raging out of control worldwide—is that people will begin to let their guard down in the fight against HIV/AIDS. We still have far too much work to do to let that happen.

First, while the UNAIDS global figures for new infections may have dropped, the number of people living with the disease worldwide has increased because people with HIV are living longer, thanks to increased access to anti-retroviral drugs. The good news is that people are living longer with the disease; the challenge is to keep improving the quality of their lives, to protect their jobs and livelihoods and to keep them safe from violence aimed at them because of their HIV status. HIV positive people from around the globe still cannot travel easily to the United States, where the immigration laws are squarely lined up against them.

Secondly, this constantly morphing epidemic is not lessening in intensity, but simply shifting gears again. Infection rates may be lower than previously thought, but the lack of information about HIV status, the US’ refusal to fund domestic and international programs that teach prevention techniques other than abstinence, lack of access to quality and affordable healthcare for too many infected people abroad and in the United States, and the growing stigma and discrimination toward people living with HIV have combined to make this a powerful perfect storm of enormous proportions.

It would be a huge mistake for anyone—governments, heads of state, private funders, or NGOs, like Cable Positive, to pull back based upon UNAIDS new figures of global infections, or to pat ourselves on the back for There is still a tremendous amount of work to be done.

“There’s still a huge epidemic out there that still needs huge resources to win the battle,” said Paul Zeitz, head of the Global AIDS Alliance. With 6,800 new infections occurring each day—and the majority of them in the US in the under 25-year old age group—we still have much work to do.

Thursday, November 15, 2007


The United States Conference on AIDS (USCA) which convened in Palm Springs, California last week integrated the upscale desert community like it had never been diversified before.

More than 3,000 delegates gathered for the biggest AIDS conference in the United States, and the majority of us were Black, Hispanic, Asian/Pacific Islander, female or gay. The National Minority AIDS Coalition (NMAC) assembled the meeting around the theme “One Family, One Voice, One Spirit,” with a particular focus on HIV/AIDS as a crisis in African American communities.

“We speak with many voices and many faces,” said Ravinia Hayes-Cozier, head of Government Relations & Public Policy at NMAC. “But, whether we are focused on black gay men or the issues facing heterosexual African-American women, we speak and work with the same goal in mind: reducing and eliminating HIV/AIDS from our communities.”

Cable Positive joined forces with the A/PI Wellness Center of San Francisco in presenting a workshop aimed at communicating messages of education, awareness and prevention to communities of color. We shared a powerful cross-section of our past and present PSAs with conference attendees, a short documentary of celebrities behind the scenes working to fight AIDS, and a movie trailer for the upcoming documentary “Positive Voices: Women& HIV” which will be aired on Showtime Networks on November 30. The A/PI Wellness Center, represented by its Policy Director Lina Sheth, presented a detailed case study, demonstrating the effectiveness of the joint campaign between Cable Positive and the Center over the past 3 years. This year’s PSAs aimed specifically at A/PI communities across the country featured actors BD Wong & Jose Llana.

Cable Positive also met with representatives from AIDS Service Organizations from across the country and provided information about our targeted and national awareness campaigns, and our Tony Cox Community Fund which has formed more than 275 AIDS organization/cable system partnerships in local communities across 40 States.

Famed singer, entertainer Nancy Wilson—the newest Board member of NMAC—summarized the commitment of conference participants to continue to battle the epidemic. “ I thought after 55 years as an entertainer, I would be able to retire, and just enjoy being a grandmother,” Wilson said. “But I learned that there was much work still to be done. Young people need to know how to take responsibility for their health, and feel empowered to make the right choices.”

Cable Positive’s new, youth-oriented media campaign and our message that we “still have much work to do,” was perfectly in sync with HIV/AIDS leaders across the country.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Sex, Living And The Law

Millions of HIV positive individuals face injustice each day because of their status. The important and informative website is dedicated to raising awareness and supplying resources regarding HIV/AIDS.

The link below sheds some light on the issues of justice and fairness for the people living with HIV or AIDS.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

South in Need

Six short months from now the cable community will again come together for The National Cable Show, this year to be held in New Orleans, Louisiana, the first time the NCTA has been held there since Hurricane Katrina devastated whole portions of the city and the region. Yet, there is another killer storm that is ravaging New Orleans and 14 other southern states including Washington D.C. – that killer is HIV/AIDS. Those states now account for 45% of new U.S. HIV cases and 50% of all AIDS related deaths, according to the CDC.

Cited in the POZ Magazine article below and according to the Kaiser Family Foundation “more than 21,000 people living with HIV/AIDS in Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi were affected directly by Hurricane Katrina.” Medical coverage – even access to anti-retroviral drugs – became non-existent. Even the local AIDS Service Organization, New Orleans AIDS Task Force, a Tony Cox Community Fund grantee, had to temporarily relocate to Houston Texas. When we convene in New Orleans in May, Cable Positive will organize industry volunteer efforts to work with the New Orleans AIDS Task Force, where devoted workers staffed our exhibition booth at the last NCTA convention held in the city. Now, however, it’s our turn to help even more.

The cable industry has a vast presence throughout the southern region of the U.S. and has the best “educational vaccine” delivery system for messages of HIV/AIDS awareness, in towns and communities from Maryland to Mississippi and Florida to Texas. As the POZ article demonstrates, we have a lot more work to do fighting AIDS in communities across the south and throughout the country.

Nov 2007

The South Shall Rise Again

by Jimmie Briggs

In the two years since POZ last charted AIDS in its new U.S. epicenter—the South—infection rates have continued to rise in the region. In 2005, the South accounted for 41 percent of people with HIV in the nation; today, it’s home to 45 percent of new AIDS cases. The regional epidemic is further complicated by the lingering effects of Hurricane Katrina and an unnatural disaster: poor federal AIDS funding.

When POZ last toured the American South, in 2005, the region accounted for 41 percent of all HIV infections in the U.S. Dozens of prevention workers, educators and people living with AIDS in the 16-state region (which includes Washingon DC) told us then that they felt that federal health officials had given up on the area—even though it had emerged as the epicenter of the epidemic in the U.S. “We’ve got to figure out how to level the playing field [in the South], or we’re always going to be struggling,” Kathie Hiers, the head of AIDS Alabama, said at the time. “The status quo is going to kill Southerners.”

Read The Entire Article Here

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Grace Under Pressure

It's difficult not to think of Jim Robbins this week. The day he died, I was in Denver, where the Cable industry was gathered to honor its leaders. Jim's sudden absence from his hundreds of friends and colleagues at the Cable Center was acutely felt, so much so, that some--like Ann Carlsen--were too shaken to be among all of us who had honored Jim the year before at the same event.

Two years ago, when Cable Positive was preparing to honor Jim and Cox Communications for their outstanding work in communities across the country in the fight against HIV/AIDS, I was in Atlanta at Cox headquarters, when Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, and watched the Cox team--led by Robbins--mobilize to do all it could to help its employees and customers who had been forced out of their homes.

This week, with my own family members being evacuated from their homes in Southern California as firestorms rage across a swath of 150 miles, I'm in Atlanta again as the Cox team--led this time by Pat Esser--moves into nationwide action to help families like my own through yet another life and death emergency. Appropriately, there are two memorial services being held for Jim Robbins in Atlanta this week, but the most fitting tribute to the man who personified JFK's definition of courage as being "grace under pressure," is being carried out right now across the country by the amazingly talented and caring team of individuals he put in place at Cox--and were always the first Jim would credit with any success.

When Cable Positive honored Jim Robbins in 2006, he expressed to me several times how embarrassed he was by the recognition. "I don't deserve this," he would repeat, as if it were a mantra. "My team does; they're the ones who made me realize how important it was to use our resources to fight AIDS." That, I said to Jim, was precisely why he deserved to be honored. It takes a courageous leader, with a good deal of personal grace and strength, to act on that, and to make his people's passions become his own.

Jim Robbins personified service, commitment and courage and he brought those powerful traits, and many more admirable ones, to any cause--in any circumstance--in which he was involved. No matter how briefly he may have touched our lives, we are better people for having been graced by his presence.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Pencils, Notebooks and Condoms

According to a recent report by NPR’s Weekend Edition Sunday, on October 7, 2007, “Today’s generation of college students has lived with HIV all their lives. For that reason, it may be understandable that it’s not at the top of the list of things they worry about.”

This should raise two questions. One, why does a generation that has lived with the disease for its entire time on earth account for half of all new HIV infections in the United States? And two, why are mainstream media outlets not doing more to raise awareness for this generation which is increasingly more dependent on the content they provide?

In a survey done by the American College Health Association, the infection rate for HIV in the 12 months prior to the survey, in colleges was roughly equal to the rate of infection of the general U.S. population. Students exposed to a wealth of information about HIV/AIDS, that kind of willful ignorance is even more unacceptable.

Colleges and Universities located in high risk areas such as Washington D.C. –an area with an infection rate higher than many African countries, one person for every 20 – require immediate action beyond the basket of free condoms left out in the campus nurses office.

Cable Positive has been a long time supporter and a partner of organizations who target young people in their HIV/AIDS awareness efforts such as the Black AIDS Institute, which recently sent 25 African American students to Washington D.C. to train as HIV/AIDS advocates. We’ve conducted comprehensive HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention campaigns across the country not only with the Black AIDS Institute, but with the Latino Commission on AIDS and the Asian/Pacific Islander Wellness Project.

Right now Cable Positive is continuing our role as partner in order to further the work of organizations like Living Beyond Belief and Hopes Voice, two organizations that specifically target the younger generation in their HIV/AIDS awareness efforts.

Together, we all know there’s a lot more work for us to tackle.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

October 15 - National Latino AIDS Awareness Day

October is a busy month in terms of diversity. Next Monday, October 15, is National Latino AIDS Awareness Day (NLAAD) - a day where the Latino community across the country comes together to recognize the need for awareness regarding HIV/AIDS.

Today, Hispanics comprise 14 percent of the U.S. population – an impressive number. But, with growing power comes an acknowledgement of growing problems – the community accounts for some 20 percent of all AIDS cases in the U.S.

Clearly, in the Hispanic communities around the country, when it comes to HIV/AIDS, we have work to do.

The rapidly growing Hispanic community has translated into a rapidly growing cable and communications industry, one that now has tremendous resources, access, influence and reach to do something about the epidemic in the communities they serve.

For the last several years Cable Positive has been working with the leaders in this industry – like Univision and Telemundo – to combat the rapid spread of this disease among the Hispanic population.

Working closely with the National Latino AIDS Commission, Cable Positive created, produced and distributed Spanish Language PSAs to 350 markets and 1,000 AIDS organizations across the U.S., Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, with the active participation of many Spanish Language networks and systems – but there is still more work to do.

We need to join each other in the fight against this disease now, more than ever, because we have so much more work to do. We need to find “new reservoirs of compassion,” as the Latino AIDS Commission eloquently says in their campaign, to increase our political voices and confront many of the difficult issues deemed unmentionable for generations among Latinos, including drug use and sexuality.

In Puerto Rico, for example, 49 percent of HIV transmissions are a result of injection drug use, despite the perception that AIDS is still a gay disease. Such stigma forces some families to change the cause of death on death certificates, and costs many young Latinos their lives because they are too ashamed to get tested for HIV or get the medicines that can save them.

Networks and systems that are specifically targeting the Hispanic communities have a tremendous power: the power to save lives. They have the power to correct the misperceptions among Latinos when 31 percent of the population believes that HIV is transmitted by touching a toilet seat; when 38 percent believe HIV can be contracted by kissing, and 23 percent believe you can get HIV by sharing a glass of water.

Together, we have much work to do in improving the lives of Hispanics, to educate our communities all about HIV/AIDS.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Too Often Overlooked

October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month and a perfect time to remind us that HIV and status is a disability under the law.

Too often, HIV and AIDS are overlooked when addressing disabilities in the workplace. Whether it is due to the stigma that still surrounds the epidemic 25 years later or the lack of a comprehensive understanding of HIV and AIDS as a disability status, along with the potential needs and requirements of those HIV positive people in the workplace, there is still work to be done.

In June of 1998, the US Supreme Court ruled that people infected with HIV were entitled to protection under the Americans with Disabilities Act, regardless of there systems or lack of systems. The landmark decision for people with HIV came about from a simple visit to the dentist.

In September of 1994, Sidney Abbott visited the dentist to have a cavity filled. The dentist, Dr. Randon Bragdon, refused to perform the procedure when Ms. Abbott disclosed on a form that she was asymptomatic HIV positive. Bragdon agreed to fill the cavity if he could perform the work in a hospital setting, but that Abbott would have to pay for the expense of being admitted and using the facility. Abbott sued Bragdon on grounds of discrimination, citing the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.

At the time, Ms. Abbott’s experience was one of a growing number of discriminations by doctors and dentists who refused to treat HIV positive people, fueling the controversy and resulting in the historic United States Supreme court case.

As it currently stands, the ADA states the HIV positive person has rights and protections from discrimination based on HIV disease. The rights and provisions provided by the ADA are protected by Federal law and confirmed and backed by The United States Supreme Court. Because both symptomatic and asymptomatic HIV infected people are protected by the ADA, employers must make reasonable accommodations for the infected person. Additionally, this means an HIV positive person is also entitled to workplace accommodations that allow him or her to perform the jobs efficiently, while protecting the health of the employee.

For instance, under the ADA, employers must allow time away from work to seek medical care such as doctors' visits, trips to the pharmacy to pick up medication, and time to take that medication in a private setting. In addition, employers must make reasonable accommodations regarding schedule modification, reassignment to vacant positions that are better suited to the person's limitations, and must provide equipment that will allow the person to better perform his or her job.

A number of companies in the cable industry who are taking great steps to ensure that they have a comprehensive HIV/AIDS anti-discrimination workplace policy, provide HIV/AIDS education training to their managers, and employees, and encourage volunteerism to develop more understanding and compassion around the issues of people living with HIV/AIDS. There is even greater opportunity to make more of impact if those companies wish to.

When I first became involved in the fight against HIV/AIDS, the first thing that I realized was the power one person has to make a difference. The power one person has to help educate, influence, and empower a person be a self-advocate and be an advocate in their community.

Think of what a company can do. It can educate employees, influence vendors to do the same, and empower the communities that they live and work it to recognize their contributions and strive to make the same contributions where they work and live.

In the end, disability employment awareness does not stop at those who are HIV positive but it should not fall short of it either. With 1.2 million people living in this country infected with HIV/AIDS and 1 out of every 2 new infections occurring in those under the age of 25, HIV/AIDS is very much a workplace issue as well as a human issue.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

On Diversity, Much More Work To Do

Last week, was Diversity Week within the Cable industry. If one statement crystallized how much more work needs to be done in the area, it was MTV President Christina Norman’s bold assertion that even MTV—long considered an industry leader in creating a more diverse workplace—was still “only rounding second base.”

For people with a disability—like HIV—and for gays and lesbians, sitting on second base would be a pretty lofty perch, when just getting on the playing field is frequently an issue. Throughout the two days of the NAMIC conference, the terms “the disabled,” or “GLBT” were rarely mentioned, if at all, as qualifications for the definition of “diversity.” Of all the major speakers throughout the week, only ESPN/ABC’s George Bodenheimer, who received the Kaitz Foundation’s corporate diversity award on behalf of his network, expressed an inclusive vision of diversity when he said that his network would continue to be sensitive to issues of “race, gender, orientation and disability.”

True, the pre-printed, 2007 calendar that NAMIC handed out at the end of its conference included one month (October) devoted to recognizing the disabled, and one month (June) to acknowledging the pride of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual & Transgender communities. But, it would be a bold step toward genuine diversity during “Diversity Week,” when the Multi-ethnicity in NAMIC’s good name is replaced with “More diversity.” Neither gays, lesbians, nor people with a disability—whether from HIV or the loss of an eye in Iraq—comprise an “ethnicity.”

The irony is that particularly in communities of color—Black, Latino, Asian—being gay or being HIV positive, can be dangerous to one’s health. Black men would sooner have their families believe that they contracted HIV through IV drug use then through unprotected sex with other men, because the stigma toward being gay is, in some parts of the community, more hostile than the stigma toward being a drug-user. Black & Latino churches—after decades of leading the nation to the high ground on civil and human rights matters of life, death and survival, have, in some cases, become hotbeds of homophobia, driving gay Black & Latino men deeper into the closet, and keeping HIV positive men and women of color away from getting the medical care they need, until the disease is too far advanced. And, in Asian/Pacific Islander communities across the nation—and around the world—a culture of shame surrounding sexuality has pushed teen suicide to record levels.

No less a life-long fighter for civil and human rights than Julian Bond, Chairman of the NAACP, has recognized the urgency for traditional civil rights & diversity organizations to lock arms with GLBT groups, to halt hate together. In a recent full-page advertisement for the NAACP in Roll Call, an influential Capitol Hill publication, Bond insisted that the Hate Crimes Bill before Congress include “sexual orientation,” resisting the sinister strategy of some to split off historic civil rights organizations from their gay and lesbian brothers and sisters.

In the ad, Bond and the NAACP herald a clarion call to battling all types of hate:

“Somewhere in America a hate crime occurs every hour. Churches are burned because of the people in attendance or the God worshipped within. People are attacked because of who they are, who they love, what they look like, and where they were born.”

It’s long past time, for the Cable industry’s outstanding diversity organizations—and the industry’s top corporate leadership—to act on the message of Julian Bond and the NAACP, and leave no group—bearing the scars of discrimination and exclusion—behind. True commitment to diversity dictates nothing less.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Protection For All

I am a great believer in protection.

I believe in the protection of the people you love, as much as is humanly possible from meanness, pain, and the randomness of life. I believe in the protection of co-workers, colleagues and staff from injustice and abuse of any kind. I believe in the protection of the civil and human rights of all people, regardless of race, age, sex, faith, ethnicity or sexuality.

And I believe strongly in the very practical protection provided by condoms for a healthy sex life, free of worry over HIV, STDs, or unwanted pregnancies. It’s the reason why I am passionate about Cable Positive’s PSAs always communicating messages about HIV/AIDS awareness, education and prevention it’s the reason why I applauded Trojan’s bold public advertising campaign promoting condom usage as a sign of being an “evolved” human being. Condoms save lives, are a more realistic reflection of human behavior than abstinence, and have effectively reduced the rate of HIV infection in countries where there is full government and community support—and a lack of stigma—for their usage.

In my enthusiasm to support Trojan’s bold, socially responsible marketing of condom usage—a move toward getting Americans to think and act more maturely, sanely and safely about sex—I was particularly concerned that the parent companies of two of Cable Positive’s biggest supporters—Fox and CBS—whose cable holdings have donated millions of dollars of cash and pro-bono airtime to our fight against HIV/AIDS— were reported to have refused to air the condom ads. ( I later learned from Trojan, that several Viacom and Fox Cable networks did run the ads, including BET, Comedy Central, FX, MTV, Spike and VH1—all cable networks; none broadcast.)

In that context, I was particularly sensitive to the mention of any of Cable Positive’s long-time cable supporters in a negative light in the continuing condom story.

Two major Cable systems, Cox and Comcast—who have been huge supporters of Cable Positive’s work in the area of HIV/AIDS awareness, education and prevention, nationally, and in local communities across the country—were mentioned in a New York Times story as having rejected the Trojan ads. My mistake was relying upon the Times story as fact, rather than checking with Cable Positive’s friends at each of those Cable systems to verify the report.

As the good folks at Cox Communications in Atlanta pointed out to me, the Cox TV station referred to in Pittsburgh that refused to run the ad, was a Cox broadcast affiliate, not a cable station. In an age of increasing cross-ownership of cable and broadcast properties, the average consumer could be understandably confused, between which station is broadcast and which cable. That’s unfortunate, because cable—as evidenced by the $18 million and billion dollars of airtime donated to Cable Positive—far out-distances broadcast, satellite and telephone companies in the fight against HIV/AIDS.

Comcast’s circumstances were a bit more complex. In two of the Trojan test markets of Pittsburgh and Seattle, the cable system would not allow the condom company to purchase local ads for “Adult Swim”, but did agree to permit “Adult Swim” to purchase national advertising, as well as several other networks.

So, “protection” was not only my concern. Cox and Comcast were appropriately concerned with protecting their good brand names, the local autonomy of their affiliates, and their solid reputations as strong supporters of Cable Positive’s work in the areas of HIV/AIDS awareness, education and prevention.

In my determination to advance the cause of sexual health “protection”, I should have exercised more care in protecting the reputations of two important sources of safer-sex information for millions of people across the country. It just underlines how much more work we all have to do in fighting HIV/AIDS.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

One of The People I Admire Most

At a time when there are so many excruciatingly bad examples of leadership in public life, it's an uplifting elixir to be reminded of the extraordinarily good people among us. No one is more "among us" at Cable Positive, and within the Cable industry as Dennis Mangers, President of the California Cable Television Association, past Chairman of Cable Positive's Board of Directors, present Executive Committee member of Cable Positive and the recipient of Cable Positive's first Brad Wojcoski Award for Community Leadership in the fight against HIV/AIDS. Not only has Dennis been a powerful presence within the leadership of Cable Positive and in the fight against HIV/AIDS for at least 15 years, but he is with us each day, inspiring us to do better, and constantly raising the standard of how a human being can live a life that matters, in service to others.

The article reprinted below, from this Sunday's Sacramento Bee is a sparkling tribute to Dennis as a public leader, and as a person. I am proud to count him as a friend, colleague and confidant, and as one of the people I admire most.

Marcos Bretón: Role model for politicos with a secret

By Marcos Bretón - Bee Columnist
Published 12:00 am PDT Sunday, September 9, 2007

A conservative politician is branded as gay. His "outing" causes anguish in a man with 1950s sensibilities.

Such is the quagmire of Larry Craig, the tortured Idaho Republican busted in an airport men's room by a cop who thought Craig was soliciting him for sex.

The ensuing national debate has stayed in the toilet, reeking of homophobia -- the last frontier of socially accepted bigotry in America.

In conservative circles, Craig is condemned as "sick in the head." In liberal enclaves, people sneer at a family-values hawk caught cruising for sex in a public men's room.

But we can't be too smug in Sacramento because it's only been since 2002 when the first openly gay men were elected to the state Legislature.

The pioneers -- Democratic Assemblymen Mark Leno and John Laird -- are from San Francisco and Santa Cruz, two of the most liberal cities in America.

If there is a gay man elected from conservative country in California, he's hiding in the closets of the state Capitol.

But if he ventured out, Dennis Mangers would be there to help him.

"For men like this poor, tortured senator -- men who were married or in politics and are gay -- people send them to me," said Mangers from his office across the street from the state Capitol.

Mangers is an equally significant role model for those of us who are straight. He is an openly gay man who walks with respect in the corridors of political power. He built a life of achievements while discarding soul-destroying secrets. He isn't defined by his sexuality, but isn't ashamed of it either.

Mangers knows something about being an elected official with a secret.

At 67, Mangers is five years older than Craig. He's a Democrat from ideologically conservative Orange County. He was the eldest son of a macho dad, an Eagle Scout and just like Craig, a student body president in college.

Mangers married the homecoming queen, had children, served in the Navy, became a teacher, a principal and then in 1976, a state assemblyman.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Numbers and Dollars

Last week, two books about the AIDS epidemic accused the UNAIDS organization of pumping up its figures of HIV/AIDS infections in order to "dramatize the epidemic" and "increase donor funding.” Estimating the number of people who are HIV positive in any community--especially in under-developed countries where stigma against the disease can cost an HIV positive person his or her life--is a slippery slope. Because of that difficulty, one of the authors, James Chin, agreed with UNAIDS that the debate should be more about how to spend scarce resources than on the numbers of people infected.

One thing that is not under scrutiny is how big a role the media plays in educating the public on health topics ranging from obesity to important HIV/AIDS. According to recent Kaiser Family Foundation reports, over 70% of the American public gathers the majority of their health information from one or more media outlets. Maybe the public should do more than just listen.

Maybe consumers should question how much of their money is actually going to fight the disease when they invest in a product driven by a cause marketing campaign, but that’s a whole other blog. The bottom line is consumers do care about the fight against HIV/AIDS, it is evident in the great number of Cable Positive supporters and the great number of people you see wearing Red branded products walking down Seventh Avenue in Manhattan on any given day. Any measures that discredit the struggle to stop the spread of this disease in the eyes of the consumer costs more than money – it costs lives.

While we strongly believe that widest distribution of resources is paramount, we thought that a special look at UNAIDS methodology of estimating cases of HIV/AIDS was merited, especially since how the media reports this story could directly effect whether or not a person with AIDS receives anti-retroviral drugs.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Killing Them Softly

This week markes the 80th anniversary of the executions of two Italian immigrants for a murder they did not commit. Nicola Sacco & Bartolomeo Vanzetti were put to death, not because evidence proved them guilty, but because they were different.

Born in a foreign land with customs, foods, clothing, language, religion and politics most Americans found alien, Sacco & Vanzetti became human sacrifices to intolerance, ignorance and hate. Today, DNA evidence might have exonerated them and saved their lives, but intolerance, ignorance and hate aren’t as easy to eradicate with scientific proof.

If those plagues could be cured by a steady dose of facts, HIV positive people would not be banned from entering the United States, as is the case in 2007. The ban on HIV positive immigrants—enacted by Congress in 1993—is the reason why no international AIDS conference—like the one held last August in Toronto, Canada, and scheduled for next year in Mexico City—can ever be held just across those borders in the U.S.

Since there is no valid public health reason for the American jihad against HIV positive immigrants, what’s behind it? The immigration law’s exception—reinforced by the Clinton-era Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA)—gives us an answer. An HIV positive person can seek a waiver of the ban if his or her citizen or permanent-resident spouse affirms that the HIV positive partner will be cared for without public support. DOMA bolted the door shut to HIV positive gays & lesbians in a relationship with an American citizen or permanent resident by defining “spouse” to be heterosexual only.

It may be 80 years since hate harshly killed two Italian immigrants for the crime of being different, but it still does its dirty work—quietly, softly, daily—by declaring HIV positive people to be latter-day lepers, especially if they are gay.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007


When the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation gave its one million dollar Global Health prize to the former Health Minister of Thailand, they did it because he handed out millions of condoms over the past 30 years.

Mechai Viravaidya, once known as “Mr. Condom” in Thailand, persuaded Bangkok’s traffic police to give condoms away in a program tabbed “Cops & Rubbers.” In the worldwide fight against AIDS, Viravaidya achieved something few others have: he got people to discuss sex openly, and he saved lives while doing it. As reported in the Boston Globe, a World Bank analysis estimated that an additional 7.7 million Thais would have been HIV positive, if the country had not acted so aggressively.

In receiving the prestigious Gates Foundation Award, the Thai leader pointed out the limitations of the ABC method (abstinence, be faithful, use condoms) promoted by the U. S. around the world. “You’ve got to start off not with A, or B, but start off with S—Sex,” Viravaidya said. “You’ve got to understand what drives human beings regarding sex, and how to control it if you can.”

Gates Foundation’s Global Health Program President Tachi Yamada noted that the strategies employed by the Thai visionary could be used elsewhere to fight AIDS, particularly those programs that “have allowed women to make choices or a sex worker to feel strong enough to demand that the customers use condoms.”

Thailand’s effective safer sex campaign was supported by the Government, religious leaders, and the media, a partnership approach that put the small, Southeast Asian nation far, far ahead of the United States in fighting HIV/AIDS. And what is Mechai Viravaidya doing today now that he is no longer a government official? Lobbying for a large pharmaceutical firm? Not quite. He’s running his non-profit Population and Community Development Association, and funding it from the proceeds of his business—a Bangkok restaurant named “Condoms & Cabbages,” where patrons eat delicious Thai food, look at condom-covered lamps and tables, and always leave with protection.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007


There was no shot of a woman bearing her breasts, nor of a man dropping his draws. No, it was a picture of an anthropomorphic pig that gave some of our network and cable system colleagues palpitations.

A clever and entertaining condom commercial for Trojan was recently deemed too controversial for airing—even during late night programming—for Fox and CBS networks, and a few cable systems around the country, despite the commercial’s pro-social message of, “Evolve: Use a condom.” Apparently, the networks and a few systems didn’t think their viewers were “evolved” enough.

“It’s so hypocritical for any network in this culture to go all puritanical on the subject of condom use when their programming is so salacious, “said NYU Professor and media critic Mark Crispin Miller. But, go puritanical they did, despite research that indicates that only one in every four sex acts in the United States are protected by a condom, a rate of unsafe sex rivaling those in under-developed countries.

The message of the Trojan ad was clear: being prepared makes you more desirable, particularly when it shows you’re thinking about your own health and the health and safety of your partner. Anything less, makes you a pig.

Killing the condom ads ignores all of the data on the effectiveness of regular condom usage in reducing the rate of STDs, and the transmission rate of HIV. It also closes the public’s eyes to the fact—well documented by the CDC and UNAIDS—that one out of every two new HIV infections are occurring in the under 25 year old age group.

Trojan’s creative team chose not to sugarcoat the truth like the spider in Charlotte's Web did in promoting another pig. It’s just too bad they didn’t pitch it as a joint commercial with Budweiser, where the beer-swigging pig could have been told to “drink responsibly.” That sure would have made everyone feel a lot better.