Facebook has started pulling ads with misinformation regarding PrEP and Truvada after more than 50 LGBTQ organizations signed an open letter addressed to Chairman and CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
On December 9, HIV/AIDS and public health organizations called on Facebook to remove dangerous and misleading ads. As of Dec. 30, nearly 70 organizations are listed as signatories. The newest organizations to participate include AIDS Alabama, Fenway Health, Housing Works, New York City AIDS Memorial, and U.S. People Living with HIV Caucus. A full list is here.
The Washington Post broke the news of Facebook’s action this morning.
“After a review, our independent fact-checking partners have determined some of the ads in question mislead people about the effects of Truvada,” Facebook spokeswoman Devon Kearns said, referring to the name of the drug. “As a result we have rejected these ads and they can no longer run on Facebook.”
“It’s gratifying to see one of Facebook’s fact-checkers backing up the overwhelming consensus of AIDS, LGBTQ, and HIV medical groups that these ads are misleading. But the question remains – why is Facebook taking money from these ambulance-chasing law firms for ads that are helping the spread of HIV?” said Peter Staley, a co-founder of the PrEP4All Collaboration.
“But Facebook has put a warning on only one ad thus far, with many more unaffected,” he continued, adding: “If this is their official response, after ignoring us for months, then it’s a mess.”
“Removing select ads is a strong first step, but the time is now for Facebook to take action on other very similar ads which target at-risk community members with misleading and inaccurate claims about PrEP and HIV prevention,” said Sarah Kate Ellis, GLAAD President and CEO.
“The time is now for Facebook to take action on other very similar ads which target at-risk community members with misleading and inaccurate claims about PrEP and HIV prevention.” https://t.co/QqupUEy1r0
— Sarah Kate Ellis (@sarahkateellis) December 30, 2019
Adding, “Dozens of organizations have told Facebook that the safety and effectiveness of PrEP to prevent HIV transmission is unequivocal. The pervasiveness of these ads and the subsequent real world harm should be catalysts for Facebook to further review how misleading and inaccurate ads are allowed to be targeted at LGBTQ and other marginalized communities.”
The CDC states that “studies have shown that PrEP reduces the risk of getting HIV from sex by about 99% when taken daily,” however, public health officials cite the Facebook and Instagram ads with creating dangerous barriers to PrEP usage.
Earlier this month, Senator Elizabeth Warren tweeted support of the campaign to get Facebook to remove the ads and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo also issued a statement of support. On December 20, Sen. Bob Menendez, a senior member of the Senate Finance Committee that sets national health policy, also sent a letter to Zuckerberg calling the decision to allow the misleading ads to run “particularly egregious.”
The letter can be found here and excerpted below.
“Using Facebook’s and Instagram’s targeted advertising programs, various law firms are attempting to recruit gay and bisexual men who use Truvada PrEP as an HIV preventative to join a lawsuit, claiming that the drug has caused harmful side effects in this patient population, specifically bone density and kidney issues. By focusing on “Truvada” and PrEP — rather than “Tenofovir Disoproxil Fumarate” (or TDF) and HIV positive individuals who use it as an antiviral — the law firms’ advertisements are scaring away at-risk HIV negative people from the leading drug that blocks HIV infections. This is despite numerous studies underscoring the safety of TDF in HIV-negative PrEP users.
Leading public health officials, medical professionals, and dedicated PrEP navigators and outreach coordinators have shared that these advertisements on Facebook and Instagram are being directly cited by at-risk community members expressing heightened fears about taking PrEP. This issue goes beyond misinformation, as it puts real people’s lives in imminent danger.”
Three medical and HIV prevention experts recently wrote an op-ed calling out the ads, noting: “As public-health leaders, we are concerned that these often misleading and inflammatory advertisements are causing people to decide not to start PrEP or, in some cases, stop PrEP altogether. PrEP is a critically important component of the national plan to end the HIV epidemic in the United States by 2030.”
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Starbucks Union Announces Strike Over Alleged Pride Decoration Ban
The Starbucks union announced on early Friday morning that stores across the United States would strike over an alleged ban on Pride decorations in stores.
“STRIKE WITH PRIDE! Seattle Roastery leads nationwide Starbucks strike over Starbucks’ hypocritical treatment of LGBTQIA+ workers. Over 150+ stores and 3,500 workers will be on strike over the course of the next week,” the Starbucks Workers United union tweeted.
The Seattle Roastery is one of the company’s flagship stores in its hometown. In a strike letter also posted Friday, the Starbucks union says that the corporation doesn’t recognize the union and has refused to bargain with it. The letter also is more specific about its demands.
“We are taking collective action in response to the company’s unlawful decision to unilaterally alter or terminate store Pride decoration policies without negotiating with our union. We are also striking over numerous unfair labor practices, including but not limited to the company’s refusal to negotiate over a first labor contract,” the letter read.
Starbucks denies that its policies on Pride decorations has changed, according to NBC News. Though the Starbucks union says workers at some stores were told that there weren’t “labor hours” available to spend decorating, or that blocking windows with flags was a safety concern, Starbucks refutes these allegations.
“We unwaveringly support the LGBTQIA2+ community. There has been no change to any policy on this matter and we continue to encourage our store leaders to celebrate with their communities including for U.S. Pride month in June,” Andrew Trull, a spokesperson for the company, told NBC News.
“We’re deeply concerned by false information that is being spread especially as it relates to our inclusive store environments, our company culture, and the benefits we offer our partners,” Trull continued. “There has been no change to any policy on this matter and we continue to encourage our store leaders to celebrate with their communities including for U.S. Pride month in June.”
The Starbucks union cited posts on social media from Starbucks workers sharing that they were told to take down Pride decorations or that they weren’t allowed to put them up in the first place.
Starbucks Corporate is denying any change to their policies on Pride this year – but if that were true, why are there countless stories where workers are claiming the opposite?
Here's just some of what's been sent to us on social media: pic.twitter.com/anAqX6RTw7
— Starbucks Workers United (@SBWorkersUnited) June 13, 2023
The union also posted a video showing workers taking down the decorations, and another with Pride flags stored in a bucket during Pride Month.
At this store in Wisconsin, Starbucks partners were told Pride decorations were okay – only to later have their District Manager demand they be taken down for "not being welcoming to everyone." pic.twitter.com/sol4oRmlQG
— Starbucks Workers United (@SBWorkersUnited) June 13, 2023
Starbucks does sell Pride merchandise, including a new line of tumblers designed by a LGBTQ artist. However, it’s unclear from the company’s website if any proceeds go to any LGBTQ charities or causes. The company also touts its support of LGBTQ causes with an official “History of LGBTQIA2+ Inclusion” timeline on its site.
Though Starbucks may back Pride celebrations at a corporate level, the pro-labor organization More Perfect Union says it obtained emails showing that executives moved to cancel Pride celebrations at stores across three states.
“I know there has been some concerns around not decorating for Pride this year,” a store manager in Oklahoma City wrote to workers early June, according to More Perfect Union. “The decision was made last year on a regional level to create consistency from store to store.”
The strike is set to last until 11:59 p.m. on Sunday, when the Starbucks union promises to “unconditionally return to work at that time.”
Featured image by GoToVan via Wikimedia Commons under Creative Commons licence.
Hockey Commissioner Bans All Special Jerseys After Rainbow Uniform Row
The National Hockey League issued a ban this week on specialty jerseys—including special rainbow ones for LGBTQ Pride Nights–after some players objected to wearing them.
Gary Bettman, NHL commissioner, said that the jerseys had “become a distraction,” according to LGBTQ Nation.
“All of our clubs host nights in honor of various groups or causes, and we’d rather they continue to get the appropriate attention they deserve and not be a distraction,” Bettman said.
He confirmed that Pride nights, as well as other theme nights, would still happen. The difference is that players will wear their standard jerseys during the games. Similarly, teams can make themed jerseys to sell, but players can’t wear them on the ice.
Before the new rule, theme nights—including nights for military appreciation as well as special anti-cancer events—often had players wearing special jerseys. Similar to how Pride jerseys are festooned with rainbows, military appreciation jerseys are usually in military drab with camouflage print. Lavender jerseys were worn for the Hockey Fights Cancer nights.
The news about the hockey jerseys comes a week after Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred advised teams to not wear Pride-themed uniforms because it made some players “uncomfortable.”
“We have told teams, in terms of actual uniforms, hats, bases that we don’t think putting logos on them is a good idea just because of the desire to protect players: not putting them in a position of doing something that may make them uncomfortable because of their personal views,” Manfred said.
This year, a few NHL players have refused to wear the Pride jerseys. This January, Ivan Provorov of the Philadelphia Flyers said wearing one would be against his religious beliefs. Two months later, San Jose Shark James Reimer said the same thing.
In March, the Chicago Blackhawks said they wouldn’t wear Pride jerseys at all, blaming Russian President Vladimir Putin’s ban on LGBTQ “propaganda.” The Blackhawks said they wanted to protect their Russian players.
Though all specialty jerseys are banned, it does not appear that any players objected to any of the other promotions.
The decision has been panned by many. You Can Play, a group promoting inclusivity in professional sports, said that prior to this decision the NHL was “a leader among major sporting organizations” in terms of “advancing visibility and acceptance” of the queer community.
“Today’s decision means that the over 95 percent of players who chose to wear a Pride jersey to support the community will now not get an opportunity to do so,” the organization said in a statement.
Canadian LGBTQ activist Fae Johnstone shared her disappointment on Twitter.
“When I was growing up as a closeted queer kid who loved hockey, it would’ve made my day to see teams wearing Pride jerseys. Would’ve sent a powerful message to my teammates too. Shame on the NHL Board of Governors for caving to bigotry,” she wrote.
Sports agent Allan Walsh also had harsh words for the NHL.
“The NHL’s decision to ban players from wearing specialty jerseys in pre-game warms up is gutless. Pride Night, Military Appreciation, Hockey Fights Cancer, Black History. 99% of players had no issues wearing a specialty jersey. Typical NHL, going 60 Miles per hour in reverse,” he said.
Stock photo from Pexels used under Creative Commons License.
Trans Man Says Walgreens Pharmacist Refuses to Give Him His Hormone Prescription
An Oakland, California transgender man says one of the pharmacists at a Walgreens refused to hand over his hormone replacement medicine, even though the prescription was ready for pickup.
Roscoe Rike posted his story and a video to Reddit’s r/Oakland forum on Tuesday. Though the text of the post has since been deleted, according to KRON, Rike said he had the specific prescription filled for three years at the Telegraph Avenue location. He also said he’d been going there for other medications for the past decade, and never had a problem before.
This time, though, an unfamiliar pharmacist was behind the counter. When Rike asked to pick up his prescription, the pharmacist, he says, asked what it was for.
“I told him I was pretty sure that it wasn’t any of his business,” Rike said, according to KRON.
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In a followup comment on the Reddit post, he added that since Rike wouldn’t tell him, the pharmacist tried calling Rike’s doctor—though Rike doesn’t know if he was able to find anything out.
The pharmacist then told Rike that he couldn’t fill the prescription “due to his religious beliefs.” This is when Rike took out his phone and recorded the video that can be seen in the Reddit post above. In the clip, Rike asks “So right now you’re telling me that you’re going to deny me my medication because of your personal religion, you’re not my f***ing doctor? So you think you know better than my doctor, that’s what’s going on?”
“I just need to know the diagnosis,” the pharmacist replies.
“Why? That’s none of your f***ing business,” Rike counters. “I’m going to let you know right now that I’m going to be reporting this, by the way, what’s your name?”
The pharmacist replies “Malik Tahir,” and Rike says that he’s going to report him for discrimination. Tahir says Rike can come in at noon, but Rike says he wants it now.
“Always the religious people who have the most f***ing hate in their hearts. You’re disgusting,” Rike says, and Tahir repeats that Rike can come in at noon. Rike reiterates that he wants his medication now, and the video cuts off.
In comments, he said that he’d “never yelled at a stranger before that day.” He then asked to see the manager, KRON reports, who “apologized profusely,” Rike said, and gave him his prescription.
Walgreens told KRON it would “review the matter.”
“Our policies are designed to ensure we meet the needs of our patients and customers, while respecting the religious and moral beliefs of our team members. In an instance where a team member has a religious or moral conviction that prevents them from meeting a customer’s need, we require the team member to refer the customer to another employee or manager on duty who can complete the transaction. These instances, however, are very rare,” a Walgreens spokesperson told the station.
Rike says he’s reached out to the Transgender Law Center and hopes to hear back in the next two weeks.
“My main concern is making sure I do everything I can to keep this guy from doing what he did to me, to anyone else. That comes first. If I can get a settlement out of it, great! But it’s not my priority. I just want peace for myself and other trans people trying to live their lives,” he wrote on Reddit.
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