This week, the Philadelphia Inquirer ran an article headlined, “Sheriff sale ads: A bonanza for the politically connected in Philly.” The paper is the city’s second-largest recipient of sheriff’s ads, at $1,613,157, only behind the Legal Intelligencer at $1,812,244 annually.

The articled conflated two issues: the private-contractor system by which sheriff’s ads are placed in Philadelphia-area publications, and the fact that minority news organizations receive those same ads.

PGN places sheriff’s ads in its pages through a relationship with political operative and ad broker Ken Smuckler. The Inquirer did not disclose its own relationship with Smuckler and his connection to Gerry Lenfest, the Inquirer’s funder.   

But most important is how the Inquirer exploits a 1976 law for which it lobbied to enhance the paper’s own profits at the expense of minority and LGBT media.  

The Inquirer benefits from the law, which requires that sheriff’s ads be placed in a general-interest newspaper and a local legal publication. But circulation rates in that general-interest paper have declined over the years and, in its place, smaller news outlets targeting specific populations have filled in the gaps of local, independent journalism, all while remaining profitable (as PGN is).

The substance of the Inquirer’s article looking at whether middle brokers are needed to replace ads is undermined by the snarky and dismissive tone the reporters used toward multicultural media outlets.

Despite the overwhelming advantages enshrined in the law, the Inquirer’s current survival is sustained not by paying customers, but by Lenfest literally donating The Inquirer, Philadelphia Daily News, and Philly.com to the Institute for Journalism in New Media so that it can receive funding beyond the sheriff’s ads.

PGN survives by its journalism. Why can’t the Inquirer? n

If someone already has an STD, s/he has an increased chance of getting HIV over someone who is STD-free, according to the Centers for Disease Control. That’s because the behaviors that put someone at risk for an STD (not using condoms, multiple/anonymous partners) can elevate the risk for HIV. An STD-related sore or break in the skin also facilitates HIV entering the body.

This week, we report on a possible breakthrough in HIV research that may help researchers pinpoint elusive, infected cells. Thirty-three Philadelphians are going to participate in a $26-million study led by the Wistar Institute that could impact HIV research globally.

The question for HIV researchers these days is why the virus returns after therapy is stopped. The new study will look for clues to find those latent cells that roar back after therapy. If the cells could be pinpointed, it would allow medical professionals to go down and target a specific area, rather than the scorched-earth treatments that affect the entire body.

What all this means is that, while people with HIV live longer and better, it remains a deadly and unpredictable virus. Younger people who did not live through the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s did not see the effect a rampant virus had on a generation. That does not make HIV/AIDS any less dangerous today. Hence the need for more and better information for the public, not only the risks but what it means to be diagnosed.

In a recent interview with PGN, Antar Bush, the education coordinator for the Department of Health in Philadelphia working on STD prevention, recounted a story while doing testing in a mobile clinic: “We were parked by one of the clubs trying to convince people to get tested. There was one young guy visiting from Ohio, he’d just come here to visit his friends and have a good time, and I really pressured him to get tested before he went into the club. He tested positive, and I felt so terrible having to give him the news. I’ll never forget the look on his face when I told him. He was only 21, and so young and carefree.”

Carefree no more. More education, more testing and more of a presence in the community are needed to stop HIV before it starts.

This week, PGN covered the story of Gov. Tom Wolf and allies calling for the state legislature to vote on the Fairness Act, which would expand existing nondiscrimination provisions in employment, housing and other areas to include sexual orientation and gender identity.

While Pennsylvania lacks legislation to adequately protect LGBT rights, particularly in terms of equal access to healthcare, the good news is that hospitals and other healthcare facilities are making it a priority anyway. 

The Human Rights Campaign’s Health Equality Index issued its rankings for 2018. Pennsylvania ranks fifth nationwide in its number of LGBT Healthcare Equality Leaders. A total of 34 health facilities participated in the survey, with 19 earning the leader status.

“Many of these facilities are going well beyond the basics of nondiscrimination policies and are on the cutting edge of LGBT policies and practices,” the HRC said in its summary of Pennsylvania. Mazzoni Center, despite a year of turmoil and transition, earned a score of 100 out of 100, as did Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Hospital, Temple University Hospital and Einstein Medical Center.

Yet the hospital with the largest footprint in the Gayborhood, Jefferson University Hospital, only scored a 70, up from last year’s dismal 55 (it was a perfect score of 100 in 2016). What’s going on at Jefferson? We asked, but a spokesperson would only say, “Thomas Jefferson University Hospitals has set a goal to be an LGBT Healthcare Quality Leader on the HRC’s annual Healthcare Equality Index.” Jefferson “plans” to do more, said the spokesperson, but as of now… isn’t?

It’s not unreasonable for a hospital with such a dominant presence in this city to equip its staff to treat LGBT patients with as much expertise and knowledge as anyone else. Apart from being the right thing to do, it’s a sound business decision. Jefferson: do better. 

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