Submissions on petition to reverse convictions for consensual homosexual acts close tomorrow

Bert and Ernie

Submissions on a petition in front of the Justice and Electoral Select Committee to reverse past convictions for consensual homosexual acts and issue an official apology to those convicted close tomorrow (Thursday 6 October 2016).

You can submit online here.

My submission:

I support this petition to reverse the convictions of people who were convicted of consensual homosexual acts and for the Government to officially apologise to them.

I strongly disagree with Justice Minister Amy Adams who has said that the process would be a hugely complicated task. It would not be onerous for the Government to set up a process to proactively review conviction files to void convictions for consensual acts which would be legal today.

Implementing the above would work towards restoring the human rights of those whose mana and dignity has been tarnished.

Image credit: See-ming Lee

MOH recommends HPV vaccine for men who have sex with men, but PHARMAC doesn’t fund it

Vaccine vial
Not the HPV vaccine

Update 30 May 2016: PHARMAC is currently consulting on a proposal to widen funding for the HPV vaccine to everyone under the age of 26.

PHARMAC currently funds the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine for all girls under 20. The intention is that through ‘herd immunity’, males will be protected too. However, herd immunity does not help males who exclusively have sex with other males (and herd immunity doesn’t kick in for males at all until female vaccination rates are above a certain percentage).

The Ministry of Health’s Immunisation Handbook even recommends the HPV vaccine (and the Hepatitis A vaccine) for men who have sex with men (MSM). MSM are at higher risk for HPV infection, anal cancer and high-grade anal intraepithelial neoplasia. They are more likely to acquire HPV compared to other males. But they’d need to pay around $500 to buy the vaccine’s three doses themselves.

In August 2013, the Pharmacology and Therapeutics Advisory Committee recommended that the HPV vaccine for males aged between 9 and 26 years who self-identify as having sex with other males be listed in the Pharmaceutical Schedule (aka funded) with a high priority.

The application’s status is now ‘ranked’, which PHARMAC describes as “prioritised; PHARMAC has assessed the application and has ranked it against other funding options”. It has had this status since November 2013, well over two years.

It is preferable to vaccinate people at a younger age to reduce the chances of exposure to HPV strains prior to vaccination–the younger people are vaccinated, the stronger the immunogenicity. PHARMAC sitting on this means that for some people the vaccine will be less effective when it is eventually funded than if they received it today.

The Human Rights Act 1993 is meant to protect New Zealanders against this sort of discrimination, but it would be much easier if PHARMAC just did the right thing.

Below: PHARMAC’s response to an Official Information Act request on this topic. The funding of medicines is a numbers game so naturally all mentions of relevant dollar figures have been redacted by the agency.

In the interests of full disclosure, I filed a Human Rights Commission complaint about this issue last year.

In 10 Years Time…

History

on marriage equality
Natasha Leggero: If you say you are against this in 10 years time you’re going to look like the people who didn’t want black people to use their drinking fountains. You’re going to look so stupid.

Steven Price sez:

The wrong side of history

Shane Ardern (N); Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi (N); David Bennett (N); Chester Borrows (N); Simon Bridges (N); Bill English (N); Christopher Finlayson (N); Nathan Guy (N); John Hayes (N); Phil Heatley (N); Brendan Horan (NZF); Colin King (N); Melissa Lee (N); Asenati Lole-Taylor (NZF); Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga (N); Tim Macindoe (N); Tracey Martin (NZF); Todd McClay (N); Mark Mitchell (N); Alfred Ngaro (N); Damien O’Connor (L); Simon O’Connor (N); Denis O’Rourke (NZF); Winston Peters (NZF); Richard Prosser (NZF); Ross Robertson (L); Eric Roy (N); Tony Ryall (N); Mike Sabin (N); Katrina Shanks (N); Su’a William Sio (L); Nick Smith (N); Barbara Stewart (NZF); Lindsay Tisch (N); Anne Tolley (N); Louise Upston (N); Andrew Williams (NZF); Michael Woodhouse (N); Jian Yang (N); Jonathan Young (N)

How much contact did Anne Tolley have with students when she was the Minister of Education?

Image credit: Phil Manker

“WHY DO I HAVE TO TAKE MY HAT OFF?”

“In Massachusetts many banks agreed that their customers must remove their hats and sunglasses once they crossed a bank’s threshold. Of these branches, only 3% were robbed.” – The Economist

Perhaps the bank version of the “please turn off your digital devices” policy on planes is the no hats (or hoodies, or helmets, or sunglasses) policy.

Mr Delancaster-Swinbank-Slack is annoyed that the staff at his local ANZ branch continually ask him to remove his hat when he visits.

The sign at the door clearly indicates the policy, but Mr Delancaster-Swinbank-Slack is 83 and is no “young thug”, so he chooses to ignore it.

He puts ANZ staff into a difficult position because they can’t apply the policy discriminately to just the people they think look a bit dodge.

He notes that staff “usually relented because of his age and non-menacing appearance”. He puts the other staff working in the branch into an even more difficult position. Say someone else comes into the branch. Maybe they look dodgy, maybe they don’t. They’re also wearing a hat.

How do you explain to them that you’d like them to remove their hat when a couple of metres away Anthony is over there rocking his sports hat? Do you choose to ask the person who just walked in, potentially really offending one of your customers with the insinuation that they look suspect? Or do you not ask, knowing that the large majority of bank robbers cover their face/head in some way?

 This post represents my views, not my employer’s.

The War On Youth: Pak’nSave Responds

Pak'nSave shoppersTheir reply to “Random” Pak’nSave Bag Searches. No comment on women with handbags or what happens if I did have something in my bag that I had bought from another supermarket.

Dear Matt,

I can confirm that our bag policy is applicable regardless of a customer’s age and is simply designed to prevent an ongoing shoplifting issue which we are trying to manage. We have a prominent sign in-store which clearly states that ‘We reserve the right to check all bags and may require you to leave large bags with a staff member while shopping.’

While I do appreciate having your bag checked is an inconvenience, unfortunately due to the level of shoplifting we experience in-store, it is an unavoidable part of how we are forced to do business, we would certainly prefer to not check customer’s bags but sometimes even with cameras and other security measures we are left with no option. I apologise if you felt you were unfairly treated and I hope you will continue to shop at my store.

My staff remain committed to giving our customers the best possible shopping experience, and by endeavouring to keep shoplifting to a minimum we hope we can deliver the lowest everyday prices.

Kind regards,

Steven McDonald
Owner
PAK’nSAVE Riccarton

Image credit: Naomi

The War On Youth: “Random” Pak’nSave Bag Searches

Trolley outside shop

Update: Pak’nSave responds.

An open letter.

Dear People of Pak’nSave Riccarton,

On 15 December I shopped at Riccarton Pak’nSave with a group of other young people.

After purchasing items at a self-checkout directly in front of one of your staff (really, she was right beside me), she requested to search my bag. I had not touched the bag during my visit so this request was not based on any actual evidence that I had attempted to steal something, like from a store detective or a camera.

It was extremely obvious that this was not a random search, as she called it. It was because of my age. Three other people from our group were selected for a “random” search. I wonder how many women with handbags were searched that day? I know my friend that came through the self-checkout after us wasn’t.

I declined the request.

I waited for the rest of our group and left the store. I was followed by a store manager who put his arm touching up against me, and tried to stop me from leaving. I declined again, which I have the right to do, no matter your signage, and walked away.

It’s disgusting to treat your paying customers like this.

Do you consider that bags contain personal possessions? That most people wouldn’t decline your request to search, because it makes them look and feel like a criminal? That searching personal possessions could reveal, say, a private medical condition?

I wonder what the purpose of these “random” searches are. Say I did consent to the search, I had items in my bag that I didn’t buy or steal from Pak’nSave, but that you sell. I didn’t have the receipt. What would happen then? Would you accuse me of stealing those items? Would you call the police on me? If not, why are you searching young people? Scare tactics? That isn’t the definition of a reasonable search.

If it is your policy to target young people or people with backpacks (read: young people), it needs to change. It is discriminatory and wrong.

If you weren’t the only supermarket at Westfield Riccarton, I wouldn’t shop with you again.

Kind regards

Matt Taylor

Image credit: bfick

Update: Here’s Aliza Eveleigh on bag searches (click for larger version): The Star Aliza Eveleigh bag search

Bad Blood

In 2009 the New Zealand Blood Service (NZBS) changed their deferral criteria for donating blood based on a 2008 review. The men who have sex with men (MSM) ban was reduced from 10 years to five years—“You must not give blood for: five years following oral or anal sex with or without a condom with another man (if you are male)”. There will be another review of the criteria in 2013.

Other deferral criteriaBlood donor

About 12% of people who try to donate blood are deferred. The NZBS has a full list of deferral criteria on their website.

A one year deferral is in place for a woman who has had sex with a MSM, and for those who have had sex with a person who carries the hepatitis B or C viruses, or an injecting drug user, a sex worker, a person with haemophilia or related condition, or with a person who has lived in or comes from a country with high HIV prevalence. People who have worked as sex workers only in New Zealand can’t give blood for a year.

People who have worked as sex workers outside of New Zealand or who have lived in a country with a high rate of HIV (including sub Saharan Africa and parts of Asia) can’t give blood for five years.

People who have injected/snorted non-prescription illegal drugs or who have lived in the UK, France or the Republic of Ireland for a total of six months or more between 1980 and 1996, because of possible exposure to Creutzfeld-Jakob disease, are permanently deferred from giving blood.

New Zealand sex workers aren’t considered to be a high HIV risk because: “there have been only 20 women diagnosed with HIV who were known to be sex workers and three to four men who were reported to be infected by a sex worker in New Zealand.”

MSM bans around the world

New Zealand isn’t as strict as other countries. Hong Kong, Singapore, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Sweden and the UK have a lifetime ban on MSM donating blood. The US, Canada and Switzerland effectively do too, banning any men who have had sex with men after 1977.

Australia and Japan have a one year ban, South Africa has a six month ban, and Spain and Italy ban on behavior rather than the sex of sexual partners. Spain has a 12 month exclusion for anyone who has had more than one sexual partner in the last 12 months. The interpretation of Italy’s exclusion based on risky behavior is unclear and inconsistently applied—some centers still exclude MSM.

Blood safety

“Once a potential donor presents there is a three tier combination approach to safety: a questionnaire on behaviour followed by an interview, tests that are highly sensitive and specific are carried out on the donated blood, and (for manufactured plasma products) the use of physical and/or chemical methods to inactivate infectious agents.”

The HIV concerns that remain even though donated blood is tested relates to the early period following infection where the infection doesn’t show up on tests and relates to the risk that established infections aren’t picked up by testing or that infected blood is identified but fails to be removed from the system. The early “window period” for HIV averages to be about 12 days using Nucleic Acid Testing, which the NZBS tests with. A short deferral period of a year would eliminate the risk of window period infections. Longer deferral periods reduce the risk established infections present.

It’s thought that people with a higher risk of having HIV would also have a higher risk of having an “unknown or untested for infectious [agent]”.

The risk of the test system failing to detect an infection where “the marker is present” is very low because of the features of modern testing equipment used and because NZBS tests for each major virus twice. However “the test system may be unable to detect a rare form of the virus”.

“No transmissions have been documented in New Zealand since routine testing was introduced for these viruses… however… the low levels of risk are achieved by a combination of measures and are not solely due to the effect of blood donation testing.”

Australia’s one year deferral

About a decade ago, Australia dropped to a 12 month deferral for donors who have had male-to-male sex.

“Surprisingly in Australia, with a one-year deferral for MSM, though MSM are still over represented, the prevalence of HIV is only 4 per million donations, less than in New Zealand (11 per million donations). This suggests that there is either greater adherence to deferral criteria in Australia, or a higher rate of clinical HIV testing and therefore fewer undiagnosed infections, or the figures from Australia are incomplete.”

A study in Australia found there was no evidence of a significantly increased risk of transfusion-transmitted HIV subsequent to implementing the one year deferral period for MSM. In the one year deferral data the five MSM with HIV infections would have been excluded had they been honest and provided a complete history.

“We found no evidence that the implementation of the 12-month deferral for male-to-male sex resulted in an increased recipient risk for HIV in Australia. The risk of noncompliance to the revised deferral rather than its duration appears to be the most important modifier of overall risk.”

Harm

Donating blood is a valued social activity and the restriction based on sexual partners is indirectly homophobic which creates social exclusion and adds to stigma on the basis of male-to-male sex. In the US there is a group who have a “HIV prevalence 17 times that of their comparator: black versus white women”. There’s no call for a ban on that group from donating blood. Are we more sensitized to racism than homophobia?

“It does not distinguish between sexual acts… or whether a man has been in a monogamous relationship, but stigmatises any male same sex contact.”

But would a one year ban, like Australia’s, be any less discriminatory? There is an ethical requirement to protect the recipients of blood because they’ve been thrown into their situation. For indirect discrimination to be truly removed, there would have to be no ban on MSM. That’s unlikely until medical advances make it safe for the recipients of donated blood.

Image credit: Dave Herholz