Chris Sanders

  • published BoroPride 2022 2022-05-20 09:26:53 -0500

    BoroPride 2022

    We are pleased to announce that BoroPride takes place on September 17 this year.  Please, find the various sponsorship and vendor levels and benefits in the graphic below. When you have selected your level, use the form at the left to make your payment.

    Vendors and attendees must adhere to CDC COVID-19 guidelines. By making your payment, you agree to follow the guidelines that will be provided to you prior to the event. Vendors will be notified of the guidelines in follow-up communication.

    Note: The word "donation" may appear on this page or in your receipt. It refers to your payment for your sponsorship or vendor space. If you wish to pay by check, you will have to make special arrangements by contacting [email protected] .

    BoroPride2022.jpg

    Donate

  • Take action on discriminatory bills week of April 25

    We still have time to speak out against discriminatory bills as some advance and some are delayed. Take action with these campaigns and events. More may be added in the coming days.

    APRIL 25

    The House of Representatives has scheduled floor votes for the discriminatory student pronoun bill and the anti-trans college athlete bill for April 25 starting at 5:00 p.m. Central Time.

    Email: Use this easy form to generate a message to your own state representative against both bills.

    Attend: Zoom phone bank against the discriminatory student pronoun bill at 6:30 p.m. Central Time. Facebook event linked here.

    APRIL 26

    The Senate Finance Committee takes up the anti-trans student pronoun bill. There are two meetings of the committee that day--9:00 a.m. Central Time and 1:30 p.m. Central Time. Both meetings take place in Senate Hearing Room 1.

    Email: Email the Senate Finance Committee opposing the discriminatory student pronoun bill with this easy form.

    Call: Make calls against the bill using the script and numbers at the link.

    ANY DAY

    Call: Call Governor Lee and urge him to veto and speak out against anti-trans legislation with the number and script at the link.


  • Take action on discriminatory bills week of April 18

    We are down to about three big bills that are still moving. Take action with these campaigns and events. More campaigns may be added in the coming days.

    APRIL 18

    Attend: Zoom phone bank on the student pronoun bill. Facebook event with Zoom link here.

    APRIL 19

    The student pronoun bill is up for consideration in the Senate Finance Committee at 2:30 p.m. Central Time in Senate Hearing Room 1 and up for consideration in the House Finance Committee at 1:00 p.m. Central Time in House Hearing Room 1. The House Finance Committee is also considering the anti-trans college athlete bill at this meeting.

    Email: Use this easy form to email the Senate Finance Subcommittee and tell them to vote NO.

    Email: Use this easy form to email the House Finance Subcommittee and tell them to vote NO.

    Call: Make calls to the Senate Finance Committee with the scripts and numbers at the link.

    Call: Make calls to the House Finance Committee with the scripts and numbers at the link.

    Attend: Come to the committee hearings in the Cordell Hull Building. Facebook event page linked here.

    ANY DAY

    Call: Leave a message with the Governor and urge him to veto and speak out against anti-trans legislation with the number and script at the link.


  • Take action on discriminatory bills week of April 11

    We are down to four big bills that are still moving. Three of them are on notice the week of April 11. Take action with these campaigns and events. More campaigns may be added in the days ahead.

    APRIL 11

    The anti-trans college athlete bill and the bill that withholds funds from school districts that don't discriminate against trans athletes are on the Senate floor at 4:00 p.m. Central Time.

    Email: Use this easy form to contact your own state senator about both bills.

    Event: Join the Zoom phone bank at 6:30 p.m. Central Time as we make calls for bills that are still in committee.

    APRIL 13

    The anti-marriage equality bill is back before the House Civil Justice Committee at 9:00 a.m. Central Time in House Hearing Room 3.

    Email: Use the easy form to contact the committee and urge them to vote NO.

    Call: Leave phone messages with members of the committee using the numbers and scripts at the link.

    The anti-trans college athlete bill is back before House Finance Subcommittee at 2:00 p.m. Central Time in House Hearing Room 3.

    Email: Use this easy form to contact the subcommittee members and urge them to vote NO.

    Call: Leave phone messages with the members of the subcommittee with the numbers and scripts at the link.

    APRIL 14

    The marriage bill is back on the Senate floor at 8:30 a.m. An email campaign will be added in the coming days.

    ANY DAY

    Call: Call Governor Lee and urge him to oppose anti-LGBTQ bills with the number and script at the link.

     


  • Take action on discriminatory bills week of April 4

    More bills are stalling or heading to the floor of the Senate or House, but a few still have committee hearings coming up. Take action with these campaigns and events for the week of April 4. Note: More campaigns may be added in the days ahead.

    APRIL 4

    Call: Join us for our Zoom phone bank at 6:30 p.m. Central Time. Find the Facebook event with Zoom information linked here.

    APRIL 5

    The House Finance Committee will take up the student pronoun discrimination bill at 3:00 p.m. Central Time in House Hearing Room 1.

    Email: Use this easy form to contact the committee and urge the members to vote NO.

    Call: Leave messages for members of the committee using the numbers and scripts at the link.

    APRIL 6

    The House Finance Subcommittee takes up the anti-trans college athlete bill at 11:00 a.m. in House Hearing Room 3.

    Email: Use this easy form to contact the subcommittee and urge the members to vote NO.

    The House Civil Justice Committee takes up the anti-marriage equality bill at 12:30 p.m. Central Time in House Hearing Room 3.

    Email: Use this easy form to contact the committee and urge the members to vote NO.

    The Senate Judiciary Committee takes up the school library censorship at 2:30 p.m. Central Time in Senate Hearing Room 1.

    Email: Use this easy form to contact the committee and urge the members to vote NO.

    APRIL 7

    The anti-marriage equality bill is on the Senate floor at 8:30 a.m. Central Time.

    Email: Use this easy form to contact your own state senator about the bill. (new campaign as of April 6)

    Email: Use this easy form to contact your own state senator about the bill. (old campaign)

    ANY DAY

    Call: Call Governor Lee and leave a message urging him to work against discriminatory bills with the script and number at the link.


  • Take action on discriminatory bills week of March 28

    The final battles are shaping up as discriminatory bills stall and advance. Take action with these campaigns and events the week of March 28, which coincides with the Week of Transgender Visibility. Your action has already made a big difference. Don't let up in the final critical weeks. Note:

    MARCH 28

    Email: The misleading school library censorship bill is on the House floor. Use this easy form to send an email to your own state representative.

    Attend: Zoom phone bank at 6:30 p.m. Central Time. Facebook event is linked here.

    MARCH 29

    The Senate Education Committee will take up the student pronoun bill, two anti-trans athlete bills, and a school library censorship bill.

    Email: Use this easy form to send an email to the members of the committee urging them to vote NO.

    Attend: Go to the committee hearing at 10:30 a.m. Central Time in Senate Hearing Room 1. Facebook event is linked here.

    Call: Leave messages with members of the Senate Education Committee on the bills using these scripts and numbers.

    MARCH 30

    The House Civil Justice Committee will consider the anti-trans college athlete bill and the strange anti-marriage equality bill.

    Email: Use this easy form to send an email to the members of the committee urging them to vote NO.

    Attend: Go to the committee hearing at 12:30 p.m. Central Time in House Hearing Room 3. Facebook event is linked here.

    Call: Leave messages with members of the Senate Education Committee on the bills using these scripts and numbers.

    The Senate Education Committee will consider the anti-trans college athlete bill and the student pronoun bill at 1:30 p.m. in Senate Hearing Room 1

    Email: Use this easy form to send an email to the members of the committee urging them to vote NO.

    Call: Leave messages with members of the Senate Education Committee on the bills using these scripts and numbers.

    MARCH 31

    The bill fining school districts if they don't discriminate against transgender student athletes is scheduled for a House floor vote. Use this easy form to send an email to your own state representative.

    The anti-marriage equality bill is on the Senate floor the same day. Use this easy form to send an email to your own state senator.

    ANY DAY

    Call: Leave a message with Governor Lee asking him to speak out against discriminatory legislation with the number and script at this link.


  • Take action on discriminatory bills week of March 21

    Discriminatory bills are advancing, stalling, and getting amended. Your advocacy matters. Take action with these campaigns and events for the week of March 21. More campaigns will be added in coming days.

    MARCH 21

    Attend: Zoom phone bank at 6:30 p.m. Central Time. Facebook event linked here with Zoom link.

    MARCH 22

    The good birth certificate gender amendment bill and the bad parental bill of rights bill are up in the House Health Subcommittee at Noon Central Time in House Hearing Room 2.

    Email: Send a message to the subcommittee on both bills using this easy form.

    Attend: Go to the subcommittee meeting. Facebook event linked here.

    Call: Leave messages for the House Health Subcommittee to support the birth certificate bill with the numbers and scripts at the link.

    The strange anti-marriage equality bill is up in Senate Judiciary Committee at 1:30 p.m. Central Time in Senate Hearing Room 1 on March 22 and the House Children & Family Affairs Subcommittee on March 23 at 2:00 p.m. Central Time in House Hearing Room 2.

    Email: Send a message to both committees on the marriage bill using this easy form.

    MARCH 23

    The Senate Health & Welfare Committee is taking the so-called parent bill of rights legislation at 10:00 a.m. Central Time in Senate Hearing Room 1.

    Email: Send a message to the committee urging them to vote NO.

    The Senate Education Committee is taking up five key bills at 1:00 p.m. Central Time in Senate Hearing Room 1.

    Email: Send a message to the committee urging them to vote NO on all these bills with this easy form.

    Attend: Go to the hearing on the bills in the Cordell Hull Building. Facebook event linked here.

    Call: Leave messages for the members of the Senate Education Committee on all the bills. Best to call nights and weekends!

    Any Evening

    Call: Leave a message for Governor Lee and urge him to oppose discriminatory bills.

     


  • Take action on discriminatory bills week of March 14


  • Take action on discriminatory bills week of March 7

    Key bills affecting Tennessee's LGBTQ community continue to move the week of March 7. Take action with these campaigns and events. We will continue to add campaigns and events as available over the coming days.

    MARCH 7 at 6:30 p.m. Central Time

    *Zoom phone bank against discrimination. Bring your phones; we supply the scripts and numbers. Facebook event with Zoom link located here.

    MARCH 8

    1. HB2835, the attack on gender-affirming care for trans youth is back in the House Health Subcommittee. HB2451, which represents itself as a parental bill of rights, is also up in the same subcommittee. Noon Central TimeNote: These bills are far down on the calendar and the subcommittee may not get to them.

    *Use this easy form to send an email to the members of the House Health Subcommittee.

    *Attend the subcommittee meeting. Facebook event link is here.

    2. HB2691, which allows people to change the gender marker on their birth certificate, is also on the House Health Subcommittee calendar, along with the items in the entry above. Noon Central Time.

    *Use this easy form to send an email to the members of the House Health Subcommittee.

    *Attend the subcommittee meeting. Facebook event link is here.

    *Make calls for the bill using the scripts and office numbers linked here.

    3. HB2316, which bans transgender college student athletes, is back before the House Higher Education Subcommittee. Noon Central Time.

    *Use this easy form to send an email to the members of the House Higher Education Subcommittee.

    *Attend the committee meeting. Facebook event is linked here.

    *Make calls against the bill using the scripts and office numbers linked here.

    4. HB800, which bans LGBTQ materials in our public schools, is up for a vote in House Finance. 3:00 p.m. Central Time.

    *Use this easy form to send an email to the members of the House Finance Committee.

    *Attend the committee meeting. Facebook event is linked here.

    5. HB2633, which allows school personnel to disregard student pronouns, is back before the House K-12 Subcommittee. 4:30 p.m. Central Time.

    *Use this easy form to send an email to the members of the House K-12 Subcommittee.

    *Attend the subcommittee meeting. Facebook event is linked here.

    *Make calls against the bill using the scripts and office numbers linked here.

    6. SB2440/HB2569, which would would have many negative effects such as gutting local government programs for women and minority contracting, is up before Senate and House committees on the same day.

    *Use this campaign from our partners at We Decide TN to contact the Senate State and Local Government Committee.

    MARCH 9

    1. SB2360, which represents itself as a parental bill of rights, is up in the Senate Education Committee. 1:00 p.m. Central Time in Senate Hearing Room 1 of the Cordell Hull Building.

    2.HB233, which is a caption bill that will carry anti-marriage equality language, is up for a vote in the House Children & Family Affairs Subcommittee. 2:00 p.m. Central Time.

    *Use this easy form to send a message to the subcommittee.

    *Attend the subcommittee meeting. Facebook event is linked here.

    *Make calls against the bill using the scripts and office numbers linked here.

    3. SB2696, the attack on gender-affirming care for trans youth, is back in the Senate Health & Welfare Committee. 3:00 p.m. Central Time.

    *Use this easy form to send an email to the members of the Senate Health & Welfare Committee.

    *Attend the committee meeting. Facebook event is linked here.

    *Make calls against the bill using the scripts and office numbers linked here.

    4. HB1944, which attempts to label school library materials as obscenity, is before the House Criminal Justice Committee. 3:30 p.m. Central Time.

    *Use this easy form to send an email to the members of the Criminal Justice Committee.

    *Attend the committee meeting. Facebook event is linked here.

    *Make calls against the bill using the scripts and office numbers linked here.

    MARCH 10 at 4:30 p.m. Central Time

    Happy Hour Advocacy Social at Alchemy in Memphis. Facebook event is linked here.


  • Take action on discriminatory bills week of Feb 28

    Discriminatory bills are moving the week of February 28. Take action with these campaigns and events. More campaigns may be added on February 24 and 25.

    FEBRUARY 28

    *Zoom phone bank against discriminatory bills at 6:30 p.m. Central Time. Facebook event with Zoom link here.

    MARCH 1

    1. HB2835 by Rep. Ragan in House Health Subcommittee at Noon Central Time.

    *Send a message to the members of the subcommittee using this easy form.

    *Show up for the hearing on the bill. Facebook event is linked here.

    *Make calls against the bill using the scripts and phone numbers at the link.

    2. HB2316 by Rep. Ragan in House Higher Education Subcommittee at Noon Central Time. Update: The bill is being deferred for one week. So we will redo the campaigns for next week.

    *Send a message to the members of the subcommittee using this easy form.

    *Show up for the hearing on the bill. Facebook event is linked here.

    *Make calls against the bill using the scripts and phone numbers at the link.

    3. HB2633 by Rep. Cochran back in the House K-12 Subcommittee at 4:30 p.m. Central Time.

    *Send a message to the members of the subcommittee using this easy form.

    *Show up for the hearing on the bill. Facebook event is linked here.

    *Make calls against the bill using the scripts and phone numbers at the link.

    MARCH 2

    1. HB800 by Rep. Griffey in House Finance Subcommittee at 11:00 a.m. Central Time.

    *Send a message to the members of the subcommittee using this easy form.

    *Show up for the hearing on the bill. Facebook event is linked here.

    2. SB2696 by Sen. Bowling in Senate Health and Welfare Committee at 1:00 p.m. Central Time.

    *Send a message to the members of the committee using this easy form.

    *Show up for the hearing on the bill. Facebook event is linked here.

    *Make calls against the bill using the scripts and phone numbers at this link.

    3. HB1895 by Rep. Ragan in House Education Administration Committee at 3:30 p.m. Central Time.

    *Send a message to the members of the committee using this easy form.

    *Show up for the hearing on the bill. Facebook event is linked here.

     


  • published Fight back the week of February 21 in Blog 2022-02-16 19:33:36 -0600

    Fight back the week of February 21

    Several discriminatory bills are up for a vote the week of February 21. Here are some ways to fight back.

    February 21: Phone bank against discrimination. We provide the scripts and the phone numbers. You leave messages with legislators on key pieces of legislation. 6:30 p.m. Central Time on Zoom. Find the Facebook event with Zoom link here.

    February 22:  Two bills are up for a vote in the House K-12 Subcommittee. One would allow school personnel to disregard a student's pronouns. The other directs the TN Education Commissioner to withhold funds from school districts that do not discriminate against transgender student athletes.

    *Use this easy form to send an email to the members of the House K-12 Subcommittee.

    *Make phone calls to members of the subcommittee using the office numbers and scripts at the link.

    *Attend the subcommittee meeting at 4:30 p.m. Central Time in the Cordell Hull Building. Facebook event linked here.

    February 23

    1. The bill attacking gender-affirming care for transgender youth is up for a vote in the Senate Health and Welfare Committee.

    *Use this easy form to send an email to the members of the Senate Health and Welfare Committee.

    *Attend the committee meeting at 1:00 p.m. Central Time in the Cordell Hull Building. Facebook event linked here.

    *Make phone calls to members of the committee using the office numbers and scripts at this link.

    2. HB1944, a bill that attempts to label materials in school libraries obscene, is up for a vote in the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee.

    *Use this campaign from the Tennessee Library Association to urge the subcommittee to oppose the bill.


  • published In the news 2022-02-15 01:00:59 -0600

    In the news

    TEP IN THE NEWS

    March 2022

    March 4 Op-ed quoting TEP comments in Dallas Voice.

    March 4 Announcement of TEP board member Dakerri Rhone's appointment as community engagement and volunteer manager at Nashville CARES in The Nashville Register.

    March 3 Op-ed by former TEP Upper Cumberland Chair Dr. R.G. Cravens in The Tennessean.

    March 3 Comment on bill to ban LGBTQ materials in schools with WPLN.

    March 1 Op-ed by TEP board member Brendon Holloway in The Tennessean.

    March 1 OpenLine discussion about anti-LGBTQ bills. Part 1. Part 2. Part 3. Part 4.

    February 2022

    February 22 Coverage of Jace Wilder's legislative testimony in WBBJ story on Tennessee anti-trans bills.

    February 14 Interview with Out & About Today. Part 1. Part 2. Part 3.

    February 11 in Advocate.

    February 11 in Los Angeles Blade.

    February 9 Op-ed by TEP board member Brendon Holloway in Times-News.

    February 2 Jace Wilder interviewed by WMC.

    January 2022

    January 31 in The Hill.

    January 25 Jace Wilder interviewed by WBIR.

    January 11 TEP Shelby County Chair Shahin Samiei interviewed by The Daily Memphian.

    December 2021

    December 2 Jace Wilder interviewed on OpenLine. Part 1. Part 2. Part 3. Part 4.

     

     


  • published TEP Legislative Watch 2022 in Blog 2022-02-06 19:47:18 -0600

    TEP Legislative Watch 2022

    2022 may set a record for the number of discriminatory bills affecting Tennessee's LGBTQ community. There are also some positive bills to track this year. For questions, additions, or corrections, contact us at [email protected] . This list is a first draft; bills may be added or removed as the legislative session continues.

    Note: The language used to describe each bill comes from the General Assembly's legislative summary.

    Bills from 2021 that could move in the 2022 session

    SB562/HB233 by Sen. Bowling and Rep. Leatherwood

    As introduced, deletes statutes on marriage licensing and ceremonies; limits the jurisdiction of circuit courts and chancery courts in cases involving the definition of common law marriage to the principles of common law marriage. Deferred to summer study.

    SB193/HB372 by Sen. Bowling and Rep. Casada

    As introduced, prohibits a government entity from requiring an employee of the entity to attend or participate in a training, seminar, or continuing education which the employee objects to on the basis of the person's morals, ethics, values, or religious beliefs. Taken off notice on March 17, 2021.

    SB657/HB578 by Sen. Bowling and Rep. Ragan

    As introduced, prohibits the provision of sexual identity change therapy to prepubescent minors; prohibits the provision of sexual identity change therapy to minors who have entered puberty unless a parent or guardian has written recommendations for the therapy from at least three physicians; punishes violations as child abuse; designates violations by healthcare professionals as professional misconduct.  Deferred to Special Calendar to be Published with Final Calendar in Health Committee.

    SB1216/HB800 by Sen. Niceley and Rep. Griffey

    As introduced, prohibits the state textbook and instructional materials quality commission from recommending or listing, the state board of education from approving for local adoption or from granting a waiver for, and LEAs and public charter schools from adopting or using textbooks and instructional materials or supplemental instructional materials that promote, normalize, support, or address lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, or transgender issues or lifestyles. Assigned to Senate General Subcommittee on March 23, 2022.

    SB1238/HB1177 by Sen. Pody and Rep. J. Sexton

    As introduced, specifies, for the offense of observation without consent, that a person has a reasonable expectation of privacy from members of the opposite sex in a single-sex multi-person use bathroom, locker room, dressing room or shower; defines a person's sex as the sex listed on the person's birth certificate and makes other related changes. Has not moved in 2022.

    SB659/HB1535 by Sen. Bowling and Rep. Weaver

    As introduced, prohibits teachers from using supplemental materials that are not approved by the state board. Failed in Senate Education Committee on February 23, 2022.

    New constructive bills in the 2022 session

    SB2066/HB2257 by Sen. Campbell and Rep. Harris

    As introduced, authorizes an applicant who files a petition for a name change and who reasonably believes that publication of the petition would result in harassment, embarrassment, or abuse of the applicant to file the petition under seal and use a pseudonym for publication purposes. Failed in Senate Judiciary Committee on March 22, 2022.

    SB2603/HB2691 by Sen. Campbell and Rep. G. Johnson

    As introduced, allows amendments of birth certificates to reflect the individual's gender identity. Failed in House Health Subcommittee on March 22, 2022.

    New bills in the 2022 session that are directly discriminatory or could have discriminatory implications

    SB2696/HB2835 by Sen. Bowling and Rep. Ragan

    As introduced, enacts the “Youth Health Protection Act.” Assigned to Senate General Subcommittee on March 9, 2022.

    HB1758 by Rep. Ragan

    As introduced, prohibits healthcare providers from providing medical treatment to minors without parental consent; provides exceptions for minors seeking treatment under certain conditions. WITHDRAWN

    SB1861/HB1895 by Sen. Hensley and Rep. Ragan

    As introduced, requires the commissioner of education to withhold a portion of the state education finance funds that an LEA is otherwise eligible to receive if the LEA fails or refuses to determine a student's gender, for purposes of participation in school sports, by the student's sex at the time of birth; exempts an LEA that fails or refuses to determine a student's gender, for purposes of participation in school sports, by the student's sex at the time of birth if the LEA's failure or refusal to do so is required by a court or other legally binding order. Signed into law by the Governor.

    SB2153/HB2316 by Sen. Hensley and Rep. Ragan

    As introduced, prohibits males from participating in public higher education sports that are designated for females; creates a cause of action for violations that deprive a student of an athletic opportunity or that cause direct or indirect harm to a student at the middle school, high school, or postsecondary level. Passed by both House and Senate, heading to the Governor for his action.

    SB1862/HB1894 by Sen. Hensley and Rep. Ragan

    As introduced, prohibits males from participating in public higher education sports that are designated for females; creates a cause of action for violations that deprive a student of an athletic opportunity or that cause direct or indirect harm to a student at the middle school, high school, or postsecondary level. WITHDRAWN

    SB2777/HB2633 by Sen. Bell and Rep. Cochran

    As introduced, specifies that a teacher or other employee of a public school or LEA is not required to refer to a student using the student's preferred pronoun if the pronoun does not align with the student's biological sex; insulates a teacher or other employee of a public school or LEA from civil liability and adverse employment action for referring to a student using the pronoun aligned with the student's biological sex instead of the student's preferred pronoun. Passed House on April 25, 2022, on notice in Senate Finance on April 26.

    SB2006/HB1723 by Sen. Bell and Rep. Casada

    As introduced, requires an LEA's policy on the inspection of school instructional materials by parents and legal guardians of students enrolled in the LEA to allow a student's parent or legal guardian to check out from the student's school one set of the instructional materials used in the student's classroom for a period of no less than 48 hours to allow the parent or legal guardian time to inspect the materials. Assigned to Senate General Subcommittee on March 23, 2022.

    SJR862 by Sen. Bowling 

    Constitutional Amendments - Proposes an amendment to Article I of the Constitution of Tennessee to protect fundamental parental rights. No action since January 2022.

    SB1944/HB1944 by Sen. Hensley and Rep. Cepicky

    As introduced, excludes local education agencies, public schools, and employees and private contractors of LEAs or public schools from the exception to certain obscenity offenses if the LEA, public school, employee, or private contractor possesses obscene material that is harmful to minors on public school premises; prohibits an LEA or public school from making obscene materials or materials harmful to minors available to students in the school libraries controlled by the LEA or public school. Deferred to summer study on April 6, 2022.

    SB2407/HB2154 by Sen. Johnson and Rep. Lamberth

    As introduced, enacts the "Age-Appropriate Materials Act of 2022"; requires each public school to maintain, and post on the school's website, a list of the materials in the school's library collection; requires each local board of education and public charter school governing body to adopt a policy to establish procedures for the development and review of school library collections. Signed by the Governor.

    SB2360/HB2451 by Sen. Bowling and Rep. Weaver

    As introduced, enacts the "Parent Bill of Rights Act," which requires LEAs to permit parents to have access to certain information, including the names of instructors, titles available in the school library, teacher manuals, and curriculum; requires parents to provide written consent before a student can participate in any extracurricular activity, family life lesson, field trip, school assembly, or guest speaker event; prohibits certain healthcare practitioners from providing medical treatment to a minor without parental consent or an appropriate court order. Assigned to Senate General Subcommittee on March 23, 2022.

    SB2292/HB2454 by Sen. Bell and Rep. Weaver

    As introduced, redefines "obscene" to include material that has educational value; makes various changes to the internet acceptable use policy LEAs are required to adopt; requires providers of digital and online resources to ensure that users cannot access certain obscene material; requires a local board of education to establish a mechanism for parents, legal guardians, or students to report failures of the technology selected by the LEA to filter, block, or otherwise prevent access to pornography or obscenity through online resources and to submit an annual report to the state board of education regarding same. Transmitted to the Governor for his action on April 26, 2022.

    SB2283/HB2417 by Sen. Bell and Rep. Smith

    As introduced, prohibits employees of, and courses of instruction or units of study at, public institutions of higher education from compelling or addressing certain tenets; creates a cause of action and loss of state funding for violations. Taken off notice on February 22, 2022.

    SB2290/HB2670 by Sen. Bell and Rep. C. Sexton

    As introduced, prohibits a public institution of higher education from taking certain actions with regard to divisive concepts and the ideologies or political viewpoints of students and employees; revises the duties of an institution's employees whose primary duties include diversity; requires each institution to conduct a survey of its students and employees to assess the campus climate with regard to diversity of thought and the respondents' comfort level in speaking freely on campus and to publish the results on the institution's website. Signed by the Governor.

    SB2440/HB2569 by Sen. Bell and Rep. Ragan

    As introduced, prohibits the state from discriminating against, or granting preferential treatment to, an individual or group based on the individual's or group's race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in the operation of any aspect of public employment, public education, or public contracting. Assigned to General Subcommittee on March 23. 2022.

    SB2298/HB2313 by Sen. Pody/Rep. Griffey

    As introduced, prohibits a person from requiring an individual, employee, or applicant for employment to complete or participate in training, orientation, or any other instructional or informational program that promotes certain discriminatory concepts. Deferred to summer study on February 23, 2022.

    HB2584 by Rep. Leatherwood

    As introduced, redefines secondary education from including grades seven through 12 to including grades nine through 12. This bill has no Senate sponsor at this time. We are tracking it because of the effect on GSAs in public schools.

     

     

     

     

     


  • published Legislation attacking student pronouns filed in Blog 2022-02-02 13:33:43 -0600

    Legislation attacking student pronouns filed

    Today Rep. Cochran filed HB2633. According to the legislative summary, the bill "specifies that a teacher or other employee of a public school or LEA is not required to refer to a student using the student's preferred pronoun if the pronoun does not align with the student's biological sex; insulates a teacher or other employee of a public school or LEA from civil liability and adverse employment action for referring to a student using the pronoun aligned with the student's biological sex instead of the student's preferred pronoun."

    In other words, this bill protects school personnel who discriminate against transgender and non-binary students. Research shows that school policies that affirm a student's gender identity yield better health and academic outcomes.


  • Putting a target on school libraries in Tennessee

    There has been a growing effort to label content about race, sexuality, and gender in school libraries as obscene and remove it from the shelves. See this compelling piece from The 19th.

    Tennessee now joins the ranks of states where these battles will rage in 2022. Rep. Scott Cepicky has filed HB1944, which, according to the official summary, "excludes local education agencies, public schools, and employees and private contractors of LEAs or public schools from the exception to certain obscenity offenses if the LEA, public school, employee, or private contractor possesses obscene material that is harmful to minors on public school premises; prohibits an LEA or public school from making obscene materials or materials harmful to minors available to students in the school libraries controlled by the LEA or public school."

    We will have to watch to see how the discussion unfolds about what counts as obscene. But if action around the country is any guide, LGBTQ materials are among the targets.

    January 31 update: Rep. Willaim Lamberth has filed HB2154. Here's the summary: "As introduced, enacts the 'Age-Appropriate Materials Act of 2022'; requires each public school to maintain, and post on the school's website, a list of the materials in the school's library collection; requires each local board of education and public charter school governing body to adopt a policy to establish procedures for the development and review of school library collections." 


  • published New anti-trans athlete bills filed in Blog 2022-01-20 12:24:06 -0600

    New anti-trans athlete bills filed

    The Tennessee General Assembly's new session has just started and, to no one's surprise, discriminatory bills are back.

    There are a number of bills we are already watching, but there are two new anti-transgender student athlete bills that were filed today.

    HB1894 and HB1895 by Rep. John Ragan would bar trans women and girls from participating in women and girls' athletics and would punish school districts that refused to comply. 

    We will need everyone's help to fight discriminatory legislation this year. If you would like to volunteer as a district captain, use this quick form to let us know. District captains meet with their own legislators to advocate for the LGBTQ community.

    February 1 update: Yesterday HB1894 was withdrawn. But it has been refiled as SB2153/HB2316 by Sen. Hensley and Rep. Ragan.


  • Notes from the TN Dept of Health: Addressing inequalities and HIV

    The following information was written by and is provided in partnership with the Tennessee Department of Health:

    World AIDS Day is observed on the first of December every year. Established in 1988, this day has been committed to raising awareness of the HIV/AIDS epidemic and mourning those who have died of the disease. According to World Health Organization (WHO), the theme for the 2021 observance is “End inequalities. End AIDS”. WHO and its partners are spotlighting the many inequalities in access to vital HIV services. They are calling on global leaders and citizens to challenge the inequalities that drive the AIDS epidemic and to extend support to people who are not receiving essential HIV assistance. They are placing a special focus on “reaching people left behind.”

    Inequalities are pervasive in our world, and WHO has a series of key messages for this year’s World AIDS Day observance to help focus on those which impact people living with HIV and their care significantly:

    1. Re-commit to end HIV
    2. Tackle HIV and COVID-19 together
    3. Focus on equality
    4. Concentrate on those left behind 

    What does it mean to re-commit to ending HIV?

    The public health community has reported that at every level (local, state, regional, and national) there are a constellation of obstacles to engagement in HIV care and treatment, substantially hampering the effectiveness of concerted efforts to improve health outcomes for those living with HIV. For individuals with HIV who experience poor access to comprehensive healthcare services, the benefits that come with undetectable equals untransmittable status (U=U) — a long life free from complications due to their HIV — are not in their reach. People need to be able to learn that they have HIV quickly after exposure, to be connected to treatment as soon as possible after learning their status, and to be securely engaged in a care regimen that will be lifelong. 

    In Tennessee in 2019, only 61% of people diagnosed with HIV were linked to care within 30 days.  Being linked is just the beginning of the story; people living with HIV need ongoing access to care to achieve the undetectable status that will most benefit their health. For people diagnosed within a year, 59% had two sets of labs run by their HIV medical providers in 2019 and 65% achieved viral suppression (Tennessee Department of Health). 

    When looking at who is getting into HIV care quickly and who is not, there are significant disparities. Non-Hispanic Black people and young people (ages 15-24 years old) had consistently lower rates of linkage to care compared with their peers living with HIV. While Hispanic people in 2019 who were diagnosed with HIV had higher rates of linkage to care, they were the least likely to stay engaged in that care (where engagement is measured by at least two visits to a provider with lab work in a year) and the least likely to achieve viral suppression within a year. And while newly-diagnosed men living with HIV who have sex with other men were the most likely to achieve viral suppression in 2019, Black people living with HIV (men included) were less likely to enjoy that positive health milestone (Tennessee Department of Health). 

    This does represent modest improvement over the last five years. For Tennesseans in their first year living with HIV, there are higher rates of rapid linkage to care (within 30 days of diagnosis) and of viral suppression in the first year for people of every age, race, ethnicity, and gender as compared with 2015.  

    Re-committing to ending HIV means refusing to be satisfied with progress and continuing to push for the rapid linkage to care, ongoing and active engagement in care, and viral suppression outcomes that demonstrate that Tennesseans living with HIV are able to enjoy long, healthy lives free from HIV-related health consequences and fear that they will pass it to their partners.

     

    What does it mean to tackle HIV and COVID-19 together?

     

    In Tennessee, 1.3 million people have contracted COVID-19 and ~17,900 people have lost their lives to it. Hospital systems in every part of the state have been overwhelmed with patients fighting COVID since the pandemic began, and health care systems have felt that impact from the hospital to the clinic level. The last three years have been marked by dramatic shifts in how people come together, and the changing social distancing recommendations and practices caused by the pandemic have impacted HIV prevention and care activities for better and worse. In 2021, more people living with and vulnerable to HIV have access to telehealth and virtual peer support than ever before — but this access is not universal; it is also true that there are fewer in-person opportunities for peer support, HIV testing, HIV prevention, and in some cases longer wait times for HIV care appointments now than pre-pandemic. According to the Tennessee COVID-19 Unified Command Data Dashboard, only ~50% of people in our state are vaccinated, leaving many Tennesseans at risk for the foreseeable future.

     

    Some people living with HIV are at higher risk for severe complications from COVID-19 than others. If their HIV is poorly controlled, their weakened immune system puts them in this higher risk category. People living with HIV may also have one or more additional health concerns that puts them in this category. They might be at higher risk because of their age (65 and up), or because of where they live (in long-term care facilities or in incarcerated settings). CDC has more information about how COVID-19 impacts people living with HIV here. Everyone living with HIV needs ready access to the vaccine and to medical providers they trust who can answer their questions with accurate information. In Tennessee, HIV Centers of Excellence are all places where people living with HIV can get access to testing, information, and vaccinations. To best protect themselves from COVID-19, all people living with HIV should be fully vaccinated and receive the recommended additional dose. 

     

    People who are not living with HIV have a role to play here as well. Regular testing, removing yourself from social situations when sick, vaccination, and masking in public spaces all help control the spread of COVID-19 and mitigate the harm it brings for people living with HIV. 

     

    What does it mean to focus on equality in our efforts to end HIV?

     

    Issues of equality outside of access to health care can and do create significant barriers to HIV prevention and success in HIV treatment. One obvious and well-demonstrated example is housing. A person who lacks stable housing is more likely to contract HIV if they do not have it and less likely to succeed in HIV treatment if they do. Recent homelessness doubles a person’s risk of contracting HIV, and groups of people who experience homelessness at higher rates (including LGBTQ youth, parenting youth, and transgender adults) also experience increased risk of contracting HIV. Housing instability is the most reliable predictor that a person will delay HIV testing, and that people will struggle at every step once diagnosed with HIV. For more information about all the research related to HIV and homelessness, click here. For information about the Tennessee Department of Health’s HOPWA Program, which provides federal housing assistance for people living with HIV, click here.

     

    Beyond housing, poverty itself has a profound impact on what living with HIV is like for Tennesseans. According to the 2019 State of Tennessee HIV Epidemiologic Profile, the median household income in Tennessee is significantly less than the national average ($53,320 versus $62,843), and our state “continues to experience racial and ethnic disparities in household income, with white households reporting higher median income ($56,725) compared to Black and Hispanic households ($38,791 and $43,885, respectively).” 

    Low-income Tennesseans are more likely to be diagnosed with HIV. Black and Hispanic households struggle with lower incomes and Black and Hispanic people living with HIV have poorer outcomes in HIV care. Young adults, parenting young adults, gay, bisexual, and same-gender loving men, and transgender people also often work with fewer financial resources and are more likely to struggle to attain HIV viral suppression. Aging Americans, and especially LGBTQ seniors, experience higher rates of poverty and homelessness, and people living with HIV are aging with it (SAGE, 2021).

    People living with HIV who are impacted by poverty are more likely to make decisions about their health that reflect compromises due to their lack of resources. While people living with HIV in Tennessee who are enrolled in the Ryan White program are more likely to be in care by the end of the first year (99% compared with 80% for people with HIV outside the program), more likely to be engaged in their care (76% versus 41%), and more likely to be virally suppressed (80% versus 50%), for some this comes with a significant trade off: their HIV care under Ryan White is exceptional, but ~28% remain uninsured. 

    One way to shift our efforts that address equality for people living with HIV is through the Ryan White Part B Insurance Assistance Program. People who are a part of the Ryan White Part B program can get comprehensive health insurance paid for, which greatly expands their access to medical services beyond just what is needed to treat and control their HIV. While most Ryan White clients have taken advantage of this benefit, more than one in five are still uninsured. Ryan White Part B clients can explore this option with their case manager. 

    What does it mean to concentrate on those left behind?

    We know that when it comes to HIV, different types of people are left behind in different ways. Young people still lack access to HIV testing, are taking longer to get connected to care, and are struggling to achieve viral suppression. Black and Hispanic people in Tennessee living with HIV are less likely to be engaged in care and virally suppressed. We know that transgender people living with HIV in Tennessee are a large group with significant challenges, but we do not have enough data to paint a clear picture about exactly what those challenges are. People aging with HIV need care that is focused on more than just their HIV, and often struggle with securing the basic daily needs (like housing and food) that contribute to their overall quality of life.  

    As we move into 2022, concentrating on those left behind means increasing access to HIV prevention and care, working strategically with groups of people who have historically struggled to control HIV, and changing what it means for someone living with HIV to be supported in their healthcare. 

    When it comes to HIV Prevention, Tennesseans can access free condoms, free rapid HIV testing, and free education about and support accessing PrEP. For people without health insurance, there are several resources that cover the prescription costs for PrEP (click here to learn more and/or contact your local PrEP navigator). For people with health insurance, PrEP’s grade A recommendation from USPSTF means that insurance providers must waive all costs including co-pays and deductibles associated with it. For Tennesseans struggling with opioid use, there are more syringe exchange and harm reduction support services now than ever before. There is a significant statewide effort to coordinate support for HIV, STIs, substance use disorder, and Viral Hepatitis that now includes new resources and new agencies funded to support the work. In Memphis, there are new resources and new agencies joining the fight to end HIV through the Ending the Epidemic Initiative

    For people living with HIV, the option to use take advantage of Ryan White to obtain comprehensive health insurance is a game-changer. This allows people living with HIV to access the expert support of a Ryan White case manager, their local HIV Center of Excellence, and the resources to prioritize their health concerns beyond just their HIV. 

    In 2022, it is time for all of us to recommit our efforts to ending HIV by expanding the fight beyond the narrow scope of the virus itself, making sure no one is left out of the work, taking the necessary steps to fight COVID-19 along the way, and using every available resource at our disposal.


  • published TEP Gumbo Contest Sponsorships 2022 2021-12-09 19:17:46 -0600

    TEP Gumbo Contest Sponsorships 2022

    The 10th Tennessee Equality Project Gumbo Contest will be held on Sunday, September 25, 2022 from 4:30 to 7 PM at Memphis Museum of Science and History (MoSH)/Pink Palace Museum. TEP's annual Mardi Gras celebration brings together teams from near and far to compete for the best gumbo in Memphis. Gumbo contestants will be awarded prizes by an appointed panel of judges and by individual tasters like you in the People’s Choice competition.

    TEP's annual Mardi Gras gumbo competition draws large crowds who support the LGBTQ community of the Mid-South and draws many public and elected officials. 

    You can support this year’s event and the work of TEP to advance and protect equality in Tennessee as a host or in-kind sponsor. Here are the steps:

    1. Review the sponsor information below and select the right level for you on the left. If you prefer to write a check for your sponsorship, mail a check to "TEP Foundation", c/o Shahin Samiei at 4125 Hilldale Avenue, Memphis TN 38117
    2. If you choose a Flaming or Hot sponsorship, you will be assigned a VIP Table closest to the dance floor in the event space in the order that sponsorship are completed. Sponsors will receive tickets by mail to the purchaser within a few weeks of the event. 
    3. Sponsors must submit event program ads and organizational logos for the sponsor reel (300+ dpi image) to Chaz Fowler at [email protected] by September 1, 2022 to guarantee ad placement. Contact us about ad specifications. 

    HOST SPONSORSHIPS

    How spicy do like your gumbo? Gumbo contest sponsors may contribute as hosts for this event at the Flaming, Hot, Medium or Mild level as individuals, organizations or businesses:

    INFERNO SPONSOR

    Inferno sponsor giving $3000 or more will receive:

    • Event naming rights
    • VIP Table (8 seats) with complimentary King Cake (while supplies last). After making your sponsorship donation, you will be prompted to choose a VIP table nearest the stage and dance floor. 
    • 8 gumbo tasting tickets for the People’s Choice competition which includes live music and 8 beer/soft drink pass wristbands. 
    • Promotional advertisement of your business on the event web page. 
    • Promotion of your business or organization on the TEP Gumbo contest website and in the event program (full page ad - 5.5 x 8.5”), event announcements, event advertising poster, and two individual slides on the sponsor reel display.*

    🔥FLAMING SPONSOR🔥

    Flaming sponsors giving $1000 or more will receive:

    • VIP Table (8 seats) with complimentary King Cake (while supplies last). After making your sponsorship donation, you will be prompted to choose a VIP table nearest the stage and dance floor. 
    • 8 gumbo tasting tickets for the People’s Choice competition which includes live music and 8 beer/soft drink pass wristbands. 
    • Promotional advertisement of your business on the event web page. 
    • Promotion of your business or organization on the TEP Gumbo contest website and in the event program (full page ad - 5.5 x 8.5”), event announcements, event advertising poster, and two individual slides on the sponsor reel display.*

    HOT SPONSOR

    Hot sponsors giving $500-999 will receive:

    • VIP Table (8 seats) with complimentary King Cake (while supplies last). After making your sponsorship donation, you will be prompted to choose a VIP table nearest the stage and dance floor. 
    • 8 gumbo tasting tickets for the People’s Choice competition which includes live music and 8 beer/soft drink pass wristbands.
    • Promotional advertisement of your business on the event web page. 
    • Promotion of your business or organization on the TEP Gumbo contest website and in the event program (full page ad - 5.5 x 8.5”), event announcements, and an individual slide on a sponsor reel display.*

    MEDIUM SPONSOR

    Medium sponsors giving $250-499 will receive:

    • 4 gumbo tasting tickets for the People’s Choice competition which includes live music and 4 beer/soft drink pass wristbands. 
    • Promotional advertisement of your business on the event web page. 
    • Promotion of your business or organization on the TEP Gumbo contest website and in the event program (half page ad - 5.5 x 4.25” or 2.75 x 8.5”), and a shared slide on the sponsor reel display.*

    MILD SPONSOR

    Mild sponsors giving $100-249 will receive:

    • 2 gumbo tasting tickets for the People’s Choice competition which includes live music and 4 beer/soft drink pass wristbands.
    • Promotion of your business or organization in the event program (quarter page ad - 5.5 x 2.125” or 2.75 x 4.25”) and on a shared slide on the sponsor reel display.*

    *Sponsors must submit event program ads and organizational logos for the sponsor reel (300+ dpi image) to Chaz Fowler at [email protected] by September 1, 2022 to guarantee ad placement. Click here for sponsor level link for ad specifications.

    Click the "Continue" button on the left to contribute your desired sponsorship level based on the above table. 

    IN-KIND SPONSORS

    In-kind gifts of decorations, beer, or other supplies used in the event may be donated. In-kind sponsors will receive 2-8 gumbo tasting tickets (which includes live music and one beer or soft drink ticket per admission) and promotion of your business in the event program. In-kind gifts of $500 or greater will receive a VIP Table with 8 seats. In-kind gifts are tax-deductible to the fullest extent allowed by law.

     In-Kind Sponsor Donation (Tickets Given)

    $100 (2)
    $200 (4)
    $300 (6)
    $400 (8)
    $500 (VIP Table)

    Laissez le bon temps rouler!

    For more information or to volunteer for this event, contact Shahin Samiei at [email protected] / 901-491-7127.

    Why should your business or organization sponsor the TEP Gumbo Contest?

    Tennessee Equality Project Foundation, a 501(c)(3) organization, provides educational projects and programs which advance the well-being of LGBTQ people and their families here at home in Tennessee. Unlike other organizations that advance equality, every dollar contributed to TEP Foundation is spent here in Tennessee.

    A diverse group of over 500 LGBTQ people and their allies attend the TEP Gumbo Contest each year. Attendees receive a program with sponsor ads and information and will see the event sponsor reel on the projection screen during the event. Our PRESENTING sponsor and FLAMING sponsors will be thanked from the main stage during event announcements.  

    Your sponsorship will be advertised through the TEP Gumbo Contest Event web page, Facebook event page and email list (20,000+ contacts). Tennessee Equality Project social media reach extends deeply in the Mid-South and the State of Tennessee:

    Donate

  • Notes from the TN Dept of Health: June and the history of the fight against HIV

    This information in this post was written by and is provided through a partnership with the Tennessee Department of Health:

    For people living with, affected by, or working to fight HIV, June is a month of historical and personal significance. June 5, 1981 was the day when the first five cases of what would later be known as AIDS were reported in the United States. Every year on June 5th, people around the world celebrate HIV Long-Term Survivors Awareness Day. On June 27, 1982 the first “safer sex” pamphlet in response to the AIDS epidemic was created by a gay activist group in San Francisco and distributed at the International Lesbian and Gay Freedom Day Parade. June 27th is now recognized as National HIV Testing Day, which is both a day when many people get their annual HIV test and when staff and volunteers gear up to run large outreach and testing events. 

    June is a month when our HIV history and present collide, making it an ideal time to reflect on how far we’ve come and where we are going. This year, the theme for HIV Long Term Survivors’ Day was “What Now?” In four decades, a lot has changed. 

    Treatment for HIV has certainly come a long way. What started as palliative care to make people comfortable with a disease without a name is now treatment that is so effective, people can live with HIV without symptoms and without fear of passing it to another person during sex. 

    “The science is clear. Numerous studies have shown that people living with HIV who take their medications as prescribed and get and keep and undetectable viral load have effectively no risk of transmitting HIV.” - Pamela Talley, MD, MPH, Medical Director of the HIV/STD/Viral Hepatitis section at Tennessee Department of Health, World AIDS Day 2019 Press Release

    Treatment has evolved significantly, becoming easier to take over time. What was many pills a day in a complicated regimen is now one pill a day for many people. For people new to living with HIV, there is a network of professional case managers, health care providers, and community-based organization staff trained to help arrange medical appointments, assist in the transition to daily medication, and support people in sharing their status with friends and loved ones. 

    Access to treatment has expanded dramatically in the four decades since we first discovered HIV. The Ryan White Care Act was first passed into law in 1990 and has grown significantly since then to include medical care and other services to help people living with HIV achieve and sustain an undetectable viral load for years at a time. Ryan White Part B funds the Insurance Assistance Program, which allows eligible people living with HIV access to medical coverage for their whole health---not just their HIV. Through the Insurance Assistance Program, people living with HIV who qualify for Ryan White can pick from a set of insurance coverage options and then Ryan White will help cover the costs of their premium, copays, and deductible. This allows people living with HIV to access their healthcare the same way other Americans do, supports other aspects of their health, and gives them additional privacy related to their health. For Tennessee residents who receive Ryan White Part B benefits, the special enrollment period for the Insurance Assistance Program runs until August 15th. Click here for more information or ask your Ryan White Part B case manager.   

    As we approach National HIV Testing Day (June 27) we can all celebrate how much has changed when it comes to getting an HIV test. People who want to know their HIV status can find a provider in their area who will give them a no-cost rapid HIV test and support if the result is positive. Many of these providers are now able to give people the choice to either take a rapid test in the office, or to take a test with them to do in the privacy of their own home. While HIV tests used to mean weeks of waiting on a result, rapid tests can now tell a person their HIV status in 20 minutes or less. For those people looking to celebrate National HIV Testing Day with others at an event, signing up for the statewide HIV weekly email and following testing providers on social media are great ways to learn more about upcoming celebrations.

    How we think about HIV has changed dramatically in the four decades since we named it. AIDS was an unknown syndrome, but is now known, screened for, and treated worldwide. HIV was once a death sentence but is now a chronic condition. HIV was an illness people were so afraid of sharing that receiving a diagnosis meant a fundamental life change. It is now a part of a person’s health that does not stop them from starting new relationships, having children, and making future plans. It was once the case that people living with HIV could receive world class treatment for it but still not have access to care for their other health concerns. It is now a health issue that people can manage while getting access to standard health insurance coverage. A person’s HIV status was a question that required searching through providers to make an appointment for a test that would take weeks to yield a result, but is now as easy as signing up for a rapid test at a local agency or picking up a test to take at home. 

    This June as many of us get our vaccines and leave our homes to enjoy Pride events and gatherings with friends and family, we can all take some pride in the part we’ve played in changing what it means to live with HIV in Tennessee. 


  • Notes from the TN Dept of Health: U = U and dismantling stigma

    The following information was written by and is provided through a partnership with the Tennessee Department of Health:

    On November 27, 2019, Tennessee Department of Health became one of the first state health departments in the Southern U.S. to join the “Undetectable Equals Untransmittable” (or “U=U”) campaign. The U=U campaign raises awareness about the fact that people living with HIV who stay on treatment and maintain an undetectable viral load cannot transmit the virus through sex and are much less likely to transmit it through needle-sharing. 

    For a person living with HIV, being undetectable means that the amount of HIV virus in their blood is so small that it is “undetectable” to HIV viral load tests. When this happens, the person is incapable of transmitting HIV via sex. This has enormous health benefits for the individual as well. Staying undetectable can help a person living with HIV avoid the health complications from the virus and live a longer, healthier life.

    Getting to undetectable status is a health goal for people living with HIV. To achieve and maintain an undetectable viral load, people need consistent access to treatment without fear. The fear that stigma creates can build barriers between medical providers and their clients.

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention define stigma as “discrimination against an identifiable group of people, a place, or a nation.” This identifiable group of people can be a group of people who all share the experience of living with a health condition. For people living with HIV, stigmatization is a shared fear and, unfortunately, one grounded in reality.

    According to Needs Assessment 2020 Special Study conducted by the Tennessee Community HIV/AIDS Partnership, one out of every three people living with HIV in Tennessee lives with the fear that their HIV status may be discovered by someone living in their community (Tennessee Community HIV/AIDS Partnership. "Needs Assessment Special Study). One in five experienced stigma related to their HIV status while receiving medical services

    In deep dive interviews, people living with HIV in Tennessee reported choosing and staying with one provider and/or avoiding medical treatment altogether to avoid potential HIV stigma. Stories about stigma demonstrated that people living with HIV might be stigmatized because of their HIV status and because of their race, gender, and sexual orientation. 

    One important dimension of stigma is that it provokes a fear response where fear is not needed or helpful. Study respondents described fear from people who lived in their community and from medical professionals in situations where HIV transmission was not possible. This fear made them more likely to limit their own options for treatment and in some cases served as a barrier to treatment itself. 

    In 2021, we understand that treatment is a key cornerstone of prevention. Our state is healthier when everyone living with HIV has easy, uninterrupted access to treatment. Over the years, many barriers to such access have been dismantled in Tennessee; people living with HIV can get treatment even if they are uninsured and cannot afford it through the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program. To help people get access to HIV treatment early and stay in care, services like transportation, housing, and psychosocial support are in place. Expert case managers are available to help people new to this network of support navigate to the services they need. But even with all of those resources, stigma can make a person living with HIV think twice about taking advantage of them. 

    Ensuring that all Tennesseans, not just people living with HIV, understand that HIV treatment substantially reduces the risk of transmission fights stigma. When people living with HIV take their medications as prescribed and maintain an undetectable viral load, their efforts benefit their personal health and protect their community. 

    All of us, whether we live with HIV or not, can play a role in dismantling stigma. If you or someone you love is living with HIV, here are some resources you can use to help a person achieve undetectable and untransmittable status:

     

    • Get into care (if you aren’t in care already) by connecting with a Ryan White Medical Case Manager. A case manager can tell you whether or not you qualify for Ryan White services and can answer any questions you have about your diagnosis and your options. Click here to find a case manager near you.

     

    • Get back into care after a lapse, a move, or any other type of care interruption with the help of an Early Intervention Services (EIS) specialist or a Re-engagement specialist. Click here to read more about EIS services in Tennessee or here to connect with a Re-engagement specialist.

     

    • Identify and overcome your barriers to daily medication. Maintaining an undetectable viral load requires people living with HIV to stay on a daily medication regimen. If that is something you haven’t had to do before, it can be challenging. Identify what makes it hard to take your medication daily and share your concerns with your case manager and/or medical provider. Click here to learn more about all of the supportive services Ryan White offers to help people maintain stable access to care. 

     

    • Set up a system of social support. Living with HIV can be challenging, especially if you are living in fear that people will discover your health status. One way to fight this fear is by telling the people in your life about your health. Planning a disclosure can be difficult, but there are lots of professionals and peers in Tennessee that can help. Your Ryan White medical case manager can support you in planning a disclosure. For people new to living with HIV, Anti-Retroviral Treatment and Access to Services (ARTAS) linkage coordinators can help you get into care and plan a first disclosure. Healthy Relationships is a series of workshops for people new to living with HIV that uses a peer model to help people get comfortable and good at talking about their HIV status. Click here for more information about ARTAS and Healthy Relationships.

    HIV stigma has its roots in a time when we didn’t know what HIV was, how it spread, or how to treat it. Stigma alienates people living with HIV and is often part of a person’s thought process when considering care. No one should be afraid to do something good for their health, especially when it will also benefit their community. We all have a role to play in eliminating HIV stigma in our communities. Spread the word about U=U, bring up HIV and educate your friends and family, and spread the word about all of the resources people living with HIV in Tennessee have to maintain their health.

     


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