Letters from a Country Doctor

A new strategy for GAPHR’s future

Over the last month or so, there have been many discussions among the board and several concerned GAPHR members about the future of the organization. As those of you who have been following my monthly columns probably know, two months ago I felt very discouraged by the task of keeping GAPHR going. I was frustrated by the lack of very active members who were willing to help with the day to day work of the organization. I felt overwhelmed by the number of responsibilities I had taken on. I now have good news. Through these discussions and planning meetings, we have come up with some plans for the new year that I believe will make GAPHR a stronger organization.

Dan and I have decided to work together next year as co-presidents. This will allow us to more evenly share the responsibilities of the job, and will help prevent burnout. We feel we both have leadership strengths and weaknesses that complement each other well. We will be able to accomplish more and should complete tasks such as getting the newsletter out in a timelier manner. Dan will be primarily responsible for writing the newsletter, but we will both write articles for it. So you will see a new newsletter style next month. I will be responsible for the Southern Voice column (“The Doctor is Out”) and for maintaining membership lists. This should free up more time for Ricky and I to work on the email newsletter and to add a referral guide component to the web site.

We will also be redefining of some of the other board positions in order to delegate and hopefully streamline several GAPHR functions. This should improve our response to regular mail and voice mail. We will announce these board changes at the December meeting. However it is still not too late for anyone who would like to get involved in the board for next year. Please contact me if you are interested in participating.

Some of our members have also volunteered to help organize some community projects and some services for our members or other physicians. An important goal is support and educate LGBT youth. One suggestion is to offer a health education night at Youth Pride. Also, the president of PFLAG of Georgia has suggested that we have some interaction with them to provide positive, professional, role models to LGBT teens. I have mentioned several times that I believe that offering an easy to access (e.g. web-based) LGBT-friendly physician guide would be one of the most useful community service we could do. I have a volunteer to help me with that next year. If we can find more members willing to work on these projects, they should be quite successful.

One of the biggest problems we have had in the last few years has been that the newsletter is chronically late. This is usually because of a sum of factors. It is often very difficult to find hosts for the meetings. Often I have had to go through the telephone list, calling until I get someone to agree to host the meeting. This is time-consuming and frustrating. I am encouraged that we actually have volunteers for all meetings through February. Certainly if we can keep this going, the promptness of the newsletter should improve. Even after the newsletter is written, there are numerous other delays along the path of sending it to the printer, proofreading the copy, printing it, picking it up, and mailing it. It takes about 2 weeks from the time that the newsletter is written until it is ready to mail. Recently I have started an email list, for people who want to get an e-copy of the newsletter in advance. As this grows, it should greatly improve the meeting notification time. If you are interested in signing up please email me at With some of these changes, hopefully you will see the timing of the newsletter improve.

GAPHR is currently undergoing some positive change. We have several ideas for making our administrative activities more efficient. I am encouraged by some of the new energy and enthusiasm I have seen from several of our members lately. If this energy can continue, we should have a more active and more effective GAPHR next year.



Making Schools Safe

Making Schools Safe is an ACLU program (in cooperation with GLSEN and PFLAG) to ensure Georgia's gay and lesbian youth have a safe educational environment in the schools, free of harassment or violence due to their sexual orientation or perceived sexual orientation. A team of one student, one ACLU attorney, and one teacher hold an in-service training with school administrators and teachers. The student tells how it felt being harassed or beaten in school, the lawyer explains the legal liability to the school district and individual teachers if they do nothing to stop the harassment, and the teacher conducts role-playing scenarios to teach the teachers how to stop harassment in its tracks.

The program has a 2-year commitment from the ACLU of Georgia. If you would like to contribute to this cutting edge program, write a check to ACLU of GA and write “for MSS” on the check. Send it to:

ACLU of Georgia

142 Mitchell Street, Suite 301

Atlanta, GA 30303


LGBT Medical Watch

FDA Declines to Lift Ban on Homosexual Men as Blood Donors. Josefson, Deborah. British Medical Journal. 2000 Sept; 321:722

In 1985 the FDA created and enforced a ruling that men cannot donate blood if they have had sex with another man at least once since 1977. The rule remains in effect. Recently, an advisory panel of the FDA narrowly voted to maintain the ban by a 7-6 vote. In addition, the American Red Cross formally opposes any changes. The proposal under consideration was to change the blood donation rule to ban only men who had sex with another man within the past five years. The proposal originated from concerns that the ruling is discriminatory and outdated. Noted in the arguments was that other high risk groups such as prostitutes, intravenous drug users, and promiscuous heterosexuals are banned from donating blood only one year from their last high risk encounter. The argument that the ruling is outdated stems from the fact that there are much more sensitive HIV screening tests, and the population with the highest prevalence of HIV infection is no longer homosexual men.

The concern of HIV transmission is based on the imperfections of even the best screening tests used today. Of 12 million units of blood donated each year, 10 HIV infected units slip through the screening processes, resulting in two to three cases of donor transmitted HIV infections per year.

HIV and Lesbian Sex. Reynolds, Gary. The Lancet. 1994 August;344:544.

The authors discuss a study performed to assess the risk of HIV transmission through lesbian sex. The study included 18 lesbian couples; one of whom was HIV (+), and the other HIV(-). The couples kept a three-month log of sexual activity, and were followed for six months. At the end of the study, there was no evidence of HIV transmission from the seropositive woman to her partner. The original authors suggest there is a non-existent risk of viral transmission in HIV discordant lesbian couples engaging in sex acts that have a high transmission risk.

The concept of this study was interesting, but the critical reader must take into account the small sample size, which markedly reduces the power of this study. In addition, the short duration of follow up was inadequate, and could miss a significant number of seroconversion events. As behavior modification is the only means to combat HIV transmission, it is dangerous to draw conclusions regarding the risk of HIV transmission in this poorly executed study.


GAPHR Legacy and Outreach Fund

Please consider a donation to GAPHR’s Legacy and Outreach fund. This fund is earmarked to fund service and outreach to our community and to other doctors. The fund helps send medical students to LGBT medical conferences, pays for GAPHR exhibits at medical conferences, and allows us to help other groups such as LCI with LGBT health related projects. Without your donations, these important functions can not continue. Help us expand GAPHR’s outreach to LGBT physicians and patients.