AMA Wire

Thursday, Aug. 2, 2012

News for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Physicians

Lawmakers, AMA file amicus briefs in Defense of Marriage Act case

Lawmakers, AMA file amicus briefs in Defense of Marriage Act case

More than 130 House Democrats have filed an amicus brief in a case challenging the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act's restriction of coverage for a woman's wife under the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program. The case is pending in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Karen Golinski, a federal employee, won at the district court level but is appealing because the court's narrow decision did not extend coverage to other similarly situated couples. The brief does not speak for the House of Representatives as a whole and makes clear that Congress is far from united on the law's validity.

The brief was one of 13 filed on Golinski's behalf, including one by the AMA in collaboration with the American Psychological Association, the California Psychological Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the National Association of Social Workers, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Psychoanalytic Association. The AMA's brief focused on the deleterious effects the Defense of Marriage Act can have on gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender health, as well as access to coverage and care.

Is an AIDS vaccine finally within reach?

Despite U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Margaret Heckler's claim in 1984 that a vaccine for the AIDS virus would soon be available, the disease continues to rage, and continues to disproportionately affect the gay community.

But there is new hope that a vaccine is possible and within reach, according to a news report by Reuters. Barton Haynes, MD, a leading AIDS researcher, explains that medicine finally understands the complexities of the virus, which he describes as being far more "crafty" than the average virus, Reuters reports. After years of setbacks, a 2009 study combining two vaccines cut HIV infections by 31.2 percent, not quite effective but surprisingly positive results, Reuters reports.

Researchers have worked off these results and are preparing a follow-up trial testing a stronger version of the vaccine among heterosexuals in South Africa and men who have sex with men in Thailand, Reuters reports. The vaccine has already proved effective in protecting monkeys from virulent strains of HIV.

Dr. Haynes hopes to start effectiveness studies in human trials by 2016. This trial will test one of a handful of promising vaccines being developed by other researchers that will hopefully also yield promising results in the next few years, Reuters reports.