AstraZeneca Aims For 30 Million UK Vaccine Doses By September

Top health officials say the U.S. will begin making booster shots for COVID vaccines available for folks 8 months after they become fully vaccinated

AstraZeneca plans to make as many as 30 million doses of coronavirus vaccine available to the U.K. by September and has committed to delivering 100 million doses this year.

The U.K. would be the first country in the world to get access to the AstraZeneca vaccine.

From Bloomberg News:

The vaccine being developed at the University of Oxford will get 65.5 million pounds ($79 million) of funding, U.K. Business Secretary Alok Sharma said today in a statement.

The inoculation is already being studied in humans and could reach late-stage trials by the middle of the year. Another 18.5 million pounds will go to Imperial College London as trials accelerate.

Drugmakers are scaling up to make a Covid vaccine before the shots are fully tested, so inoculations will be ready as soon as possible. No vaccine exists yet for Covid-19, which has killed more than 312,000 people globally and infected 4.7 million.

The U.K. has the second-deadliest outbreak after the U.S.

Video: Sassy Firefighters Shade Anti-LGBTQ Twitter Trolls

When firefighters in the UK added a Pride flag to its Twitter profile last year, the first responders received several ugly, homophobic comments.

In response, the South Yorkshire firefighters have clapped back with a cheeky video reciting many of the actual hate tweets they received while rainbow flags, socks, and hats are surreptitiously included in the background.

A hunky fireman recites in a droll tone, “I don’t see or understand why you feel the need to celebrate,” as Pride flags wave and confetti rains down.

Another fire official tells the camera, “Constantly going on and on about who wants to shag who shouldn’t be a fire service priority,” while an eggplant emoji floats on a TV screen in the background.

In between the mini-scenes, the firefighters make their point with the statement:

LGBT+ people still face prejudice at home and at work. We celebrate LGBT+ pride in solidarity with all those we serve and employ. Fires don’t discriminate, neither do we.

In a statement on the South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue website, Chief Fire Officer Alex Johnson wrote, “We fully expect the video will have a mixed reaction but some of the comments we received last year were awful and totally unacceptable.”

Johnson explained the heroes had a couple of reasons for producing the video.

“Firstly we wanted to support the month and let our staff, and communities, know that we are proud to employ and serve them, regardless of those comments,” said Johnson.

“Secondly, we wanted to demonstrate that we are a genuinely inclusive organisation that values the contribution of all our staff, whatever their LGBT+ status.”

Crew Manager Rebecca Savin, who acts as the South Yorkshire Fire Brigades Union LGBT rep said she was “really pleased with the video.”

“It’s great that, as an employer, SYFR wants to challenge these comments and stand up for its staff and the people it serves.”

Check out the deliciously defiant video below.

UK Sees Dramatic Decline In New HIV Infections

A new report from Public Health England shows HIV infection rates in the UK have taken a steep decline since 2012.

According to the figures released today, new infections among gay and bisexual men have dropped from 2,800 in 2012 to 800 in 2018, which represents a 71% decrease.

Health authorities attribute the decrease to a number of factors.

For one thing, encouraging the use of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) has become a focus for health officials. Studies show the once-a-day pill is almost 99% effective in preventing HIV infection.

PrEP is currently available for high-risk patients in Wales and Scotland, but the BBC reports “many in England have had to wait until they can gain access to an impact trial that first began in September 2017.” That trial is scheduled to end later this year.

Also aiding in reducing new infections is a public campaign encouraging people to get tested regularly for HIV.

And when new infections are discovered, those patients are immediately placed on HIV medications to bring their viral load down to undetectable levels, which means the virus can’t be passed on to others.

Of the estimated 103,800 people believed to be living with HIV in the UK in 2018, 93% of those had been diagnosed and 97% of those diagnosed were receiving treatment.

Among the HIV patients on medications, 97% were found to have undetectable viral loads.

Contrast that with the United States where the Centers for Disease Control estimate 83% of folks living with HIV have been diagnosed and just 63% have been deemed to be virally suppressed.

However, Debbie Laycock, head of policy at the Terrence Higgins Trust, noted the new report isn’t all good.

Laycock told BBC News that 43% of new diagnoses are being discovered at a late stage, particularly with men who identify as straight and those over 50 in age. Late-stage infections result in a much higher risk of death compared with early detection.

And, there have been slight increases in new HIV infections among black people and south Asian men.

But Health Secretary Matt Hancock told the BBC he feels the UK is on track to reach its goal of ending HIV transmission by the year 2030.

“HIV has brought untold hurt and suffering to so many, so it is encouraging to see transmissions continue to fall across the UK,” said Hancock.

First UK Chick-Fil-A Location Set To Close One Week After Opening

Following the opening of the first UK branch of Chick-fil-A restaurants last week, the eatery is already facing closure.

The controversial fast-food chain, which has attracted negative attention for years due to donations to anti-LGBTQ organizations, opened its first outlet at The Oracle shopping center in Reading, Berkshire.

When the news was announced on a local Facebook page, the comments got pretty heated with many familiar with the restaurant’s history of supporting homophobic organizations chiming in.

“Not a company I would want to support regardless of what their food tastes like!” wrote one commenter. “Shame they are choosing our fabulously diverse town to ‘test’ in!”

“I totally agree with you!” added another. “I’m American and cannot support this business. It is anti-gay… anti-LGBT.”

“You have literally got to be kidding me,” declared a Reading resident. “You do know just how blatantly homophobic they are? I’m ashamed of all involved in allowing this to happen, honestly. Utterly unacceptable.”

“Vile won’t be eating there sadly until they stop their discriminatory and hate-filled policies!”

A spokesperson for Chick-fil-A issued a statement following the opening:

“We opened a pilot licensed location at The Oracle Centre of Reading on October 10 and we are pleased by customer response. Chick-fil-A is a restaurant company focused on serving great food and hospitality. We are represented by more than 145,000 people from different backgrounds and beliefs and welcome everyone.”

But today, the BBC is reporting a spokeswoman for The Oracle shopping center says “the right thing to do” was to not extend the fast-food outlet’s lease past the “six-month pilot period.”

“We always look to introduce new concepts for our customers, however, we have decided on this occasion that the right thing to do is to only allow Chick-Fil-A to trade with us for the initial six-month pilot period, and not to extend the lease any further.”

After statements in 2012 by CEO Dan Cathy who responded “Guilty as charged” when asked about opposing marriage equality resulted in much unwanted bad press, the company shared on its Facebook page it would change course and focus on chicken leaving the “policy debate over same-sex marriage to the government and political arena.”

But ThinkProgress reports the company has continued to donate to anti-LGBTQ organizations like the Salvation Army and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

(source: BBC, ThinkProgress – image via Depositphotos)

UK’s New Prime Minister Boris Johnson Promises UK Will Leave EU By October 31

Prime Minister Boris Johnson

Newly-elected UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson told the people of Britain in his first official speech that his country will – “do or die” – definitely leave the European Union by October 31.

Via Reuters:

Johnson, who has been hailed by U.S. President Donald Trump as Britain’s Trump, is sending the strongest message yet to the EU that he will be taking a distinctly tougher approach to negotiating the Brexit divorce deal.

He enters Downing Street at one of the most perilous junctures in post-World War Two British history – the United Kingdom is divided over Brexit and weakened by the three-year political crisis that has gripped it since the 2016 referendum.

“We are going to fulfill the repeated promises of parliament to the people and come out of the EU on October 31, no ifs or buts,” Johnson, 55, said after arriving at his new residence, No.10 Downing Street.

“We can do a deal without checks at the Irish border,” Johnson said, watched by his girlfriend Carrie Symonds and his staff. “It is of course vital at the same time that we prepare for the remote possibility that Brussels refuses any further to negotiate and we are forced to come out with no deal.”

One of Britain’s most prominent Brexit campaigners, Johnson has repeatedly pledged to leave the EU by Oct. 31 – “do or die” – and to inject a new optimism and energy into the divorce, which he argues will bring a host of opportunities.

Photos Of UK Man Beaten Unconscious In Hate Crime Attack Go Viral

A gay man in the UK was knocked unconscious and severely beaten requiring medical attention at a hospital.
Ryan Williams of Preston, Lancashire

A gay man in the UK was knocked unconscious and severely beaten requiring medical attention at a hospital.

Ryan Williams, of Preston, Lancashire, shared his story along with graphic photos of his injuries from the attack on social media.

“I never thought in my life that I would get beaten up for being GAY!,” wrote Williams on his Facebook page. “Wtf has this world actually come too, you’re all vile and disgusting!”

“I want people to understand that being gay isn’t a choice and I can’t help it,” he added. “I’m sorry that you can’t deal with it but hey ho no need to knock someone out because of it!

He closed his post writing, “I seriously can not believe that a homophonic attack happens! Which it does and it’s wrong! Stand strong and love yourself, this isn’t gonna stop me from being fabulous! Being gay is OK!”

Williams told The Mirror he and some friends were headed to McDonalds for a bite to eat after an evening out on July 13.

“There was a group of people nearby in the street and they started calling me and my friends gay,” explained the 22-year-old. “We went over and told them it’s not okay to say things like that.”

But as Williams walked away, he says he was hit in the back of the head and fell to the ground. Stunned from the attack, he was then kicked repeatedly in the face until he blacked out.

He was taken to Royal Preston Hospital where he was treated for injuries to his face.

Police told The Mirror they are treating the attack as a hate crime.

Study Shows 48% In UK Would Feel Uncomfortable Kissing Someone HIV+

A survey from the UK shows 48% of respondents say they would be uncomfortable kissing someone who is living with HIV, even though 97% of those diagnosed in the UK are virally supressed thanks to modern antiretroviral medications.

The survey, commissioned by the Terrence Higgins Trust (THT) and executed by YouGov, found high levels of stigma still abound when it comes to HIV.

Multiple studies have shown that people living with HIV and on effective treatment report viral levels as ‘undetectable’ which means the virus can’t be passed on to sexual partners.

The PARTNER study, published in 2016, followed 58,000 instances of sex without a condom where one partner was HIV positive and one was HIV negative.

The resulting research showed there were zero cases of HIV transmission where the HIV+ partner was on effective treatment reducing viral levels to ‘undetectable.’

The PARTNER 2 study, released in May 2019, found zero cases of HIV transmission among 782 serodiscordant couples having condomless sex when the HIV+ partner had undetectable levels of HIV.

Dr. Michael Brady, Medical Director for the Terrence Higgins Trust, says “We are now saying with confidence – and without doubt – that people living with HIV who are on effective treatment cannot pass the virus on to their sexual partners.”

But the survey found only 19% of British respondents are aware of that fact. A surprising 41% believe the virus can be passed on even with the virus suppressed in the patient.

Also from the survey:

• 38% would feel uncomfortable going on a date with someone living with HIV

• 64% say they would feel uncomfortable having sex with someone living with HIV

• People aged 35-44 were most comfortable with the proposition of kissing someone with HIV (43%) while older respondents (55+) were much less comfortable (25%)

A campaign by the THT, titled ‘Can’t Pass It On,’ aims to tackle outdated beliefs regarding HIV and the stigma/discrimination associated with the virus.

While noting that condoms are still the most effective way to avoid all sexually transmitted diseases, the campaign hopes to ensure that people know the facts about HIV and effective treatment.

For more info about the THT/YouGov survey, click here.

Pride In London Releases Moving LGBTQ History Lesson with #PrideJubilee Video

Pride In London recently released its Pride Jubilee video in anticipation of Pride events this month and their huge Pride Parade on July 6.
(image via Pride In London)

Pride In London recently released its Pride Jubilee video in anticipation of Pride events this month and their huge Pride Parade on July 6.

The video journeys through history to highlight key moments that have made Pride what it is today, as chosen by the LGBTQ community.

Earlier this year Pride in London put out an open call to the community and its partners to nominate the moments, stories and landmark events that have defined the Pride movement. The moments that came up the most were then used as the basis of the film.

With 2019 being the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall uprising on June 28, 1969, the video encapsulates 5 decades of activism, protests and victories in the UK LGBTQ movement.

Over that time, the community faced Stonewall, the AIDS epidemic, the hideous Section 28 and more. While there were certainly bleak, difficult times, the video ends on an upbeat tone.

Pride in London says, “We want to mark the moments and the people behind them.”

The organization says it used an entirely LGBTQ cast in addition to actual audio and video news footage for authenticity.

Pride in London lists these key moments in history that are depicted:

• 28th June 1969 – Queer people of colour lead the the Stonewall Uprising in New York, where members of the LGBT+ community at the Stonewall Inn rise up against continued oppression by the police and society in general

• 1st July 1972 – The first official UK Gay Pride Rally takes place in London

• Early 1980s – London is hit by the AIDS crisis, with thousands diagnosed with HIV over the course of the next decade

• 9th April 1987 – Princess Diana opens the UK’s first purpose built unit for the treatment of HIV patients, shaking the hands of AIDS patients without gloves

• 9th October 1987 – Margaret Thatcher delivers anti-gay speech at Conservative Party Conference, widely seen as setting the foundations for Section 28

• 23rd May 1988 – Lesbian activists storm the 6 O’Clock News to protest the enactment of Section 28

• 12th January 2000 – The ban is lifted on lesbian, gay and bisexual people openly serving in the British Army

• 30th November 2000 – Equal age of consent for homosexual couples is finally passed after being blocked multiple times by the House of Lords

• 17th July 2013 – Same-sex marriage is passed in England and Wales

• 2019 – As anti-trans protestors continue to hijack Pride events globally and attacks on trans people treble in ten years, the fight for trans rights continues

British Lawmaker Comes Out As HIV+ In Moving Speech

Labour MP Lloyd Russell-Moyle comes out as HIV+

During a debate today in the House of Commons, Labour MP Lloyd Russell-Moyle courageously came out as is HIV positive, making a personal appeal in advance of World AIDS Day to tackle the stigma still associated with HIV/AIDS.

Russell-Moyle becomes the first lawmaker to announce his HIV status in the Commons, and only the second MP to share their HIV+ status with the public.

According to The Guardian, the 32-year-old parliamentarian shared that he was first diagnosed with HIV ten years ago, and thanks to advances in HIV treatments he is able to live entirely unaffected by HIV.

“I wanted to be able to stand here in this place and say to those who are living with HIV that their status does not define them,” Russell-Moyle, the MP for Brighton Kemptown since 2017, said in a speech that drew tributes from many other MPs.

“We can be whoever we want to be, and to those who have not been tested, maybe because of fear, I say to you: it is better to live in knowledge than to die in fear.”

As he finished his speech, his fellow Labour members stood to applaud him even though applause is normally prohibited in the chamber. However, as you can see in the video below, the half dozen Tories in the chamber sat silent.

With the world observing the 30th anniversary of World AIDS Day on Saturday, Russell-Moyle said the day “gives us pause to reflect how far we have come, and to remember those we have lost.”

“But such events are also deeply personal to me. Next year I will be marking an anniversary of my own – 10 years since I became HIV positive,” he continued. “It has been a long journey, from the fear of acceptance and today, hopefully, advocacy, knowing that my treatment keeps me healthy and protects any partner that I may have.”

“I have a perfectly healthy life,” he added. “So my announcement here today should go totally unnoticed.”

Russell-Moyle later tweeted:

Former Labour minister Chris Smith, elected to the Commons in 1983 and the first openly gay MP, announced he was HIV+ shortly before leaving Parliament in 2005.

Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the Labour Party, later honored Russell-Moyle saying, “Lloyd has shown enormous courage today. I know the whole Labour party is proud of him.”

(h/t The Guardian)

Father Gets 5 Years In Prison For Forcing Son To Have Sex With Step-Mother As ‘Gay Cure’

(stock photo via Depositphotos)

When Richard Dowling’s son, Daniel, was 11-years-old, he forced him to have sex with his step-mother in an attempt to make sure his son wouldn’t be gay.

His father also forced him to watch porn and engage in three-way sexual encounters with himself and the step-mother.

Although the incidents took place in the 1990s, charges were only recently brought against the father and step-mom.

Richard Dowling, now 62-years-old, has been sentenced to five years in prison on one count of cruelty to a child and two counts relating to sexual offenses involving a child.

The former step-mother, Annette Breakspear, 62-years-old, received an eight year sentence on three counts of indecent assault.

Now 36, Daniel has shared his story with the Sunday Mirror in an effort to help others raise their voices in similar situations.

The initial abuse began while playing a board game one night. Richard suggested the loser remove their clothing. Soon, Breakspear was naked and the father encouraged Daniel to kiss and fondle her breasts.

At the time, 11-year-old Daniel says he justified the abuse in his head because, “Dad was encouraging me to do it so I thought it was OK.”

“I think that night was a tester of how I’d react because intercourse started after that,” he added.

Daniel says that he was a bit “feminine” when younger and that possibly led his dad to take these actions.

Daniel tells the Sunday Mirror that not only did Breakspear take his virginity soon after, but she would engage in sexual abuse at least ten times over the next three years.

In one instance, after returning home from Scouts, his father told him to go give his step-mom a “good night kiss.” But when Daniel entered the bedroom, Breakspear was naked and handcuffed to the bed.

She instructed him to kiss her, and things eventually led to intercourse. During the incident, the father came and joined in.

In another episode, Richard made Daniel watch pornography with him before the dad engaged in oral sex with Breakspear telling Daniel, “That’s how you do it.”

There were also times when all three would be in bed participating in some form of three-way sex. Other times, the father wouldn’t be present for the episodes.

Today, Daniel is openly gay but the damage done at such a young age persists.

“I was sexualised at such a young age that sex means nothing to me now,” he says. “The few positive memories of my childhood are tarnished by memories of the abuse. When I smell someone wearing her perfume, or see that board game in a shop or on TV, it brings the memories back.”

The repercussions of the abuse resulted in mental health issues including depression and an attempted suicide.

The abuse came to an end when Richard ended his relationship with Breakspear in 1996. The father and son moved to Weymouth, Dorset, where at age 16 Daniel became the victim of another pedophile.

It was during interviews with a psychologist that that the earlier abuse came to light.

But nothing came of the revelation as the father claimed his son was a liar and simply “seeking attention.” Daniel also told the Sunday Mirror that the police treated him “shoddily” during that time and a constable even mocked him.

It would take 17 years before Daniel would eventually find justice. On September 6, 2015, he recorded a phone call wherein the dad admitted the abuse. Daniel took the recording to the police, and this time he was taken seriously.

During Richard Dowling’s trial at Reading Crown Court, the father says his intentions were “to try and steer him in the right direction and not to go to the way of being gay, because there was like, sort of, tendencies for him to be gay”.

The father says he was concerned about Daniel turning out “the right way.”

Judge Maria Lamb admonished Richard Dowling in court saying, “Your warped sense of right and wrong allowed him to be exploited by your then partner not just once but again and again.”

“You’ve failed to protect him from the sexually predatory behavior of your co-defendant,” the judge said. “The damage is incalculable. The abuse of trust is monstrous and the reality is that one of you was involved in active sexual abuse and the other connived at it.”

And regarding Breakspear, Judge Lamb was direct and unflinching in her criticism: “For your own perverted sexual gratification, you initiated this boy into a world far beyond anything to which he should ever have had to be introduced at those tender years.”

The Sunday Mirror reports Daniel was not able to tell his story until today for legal reasons.

But he now shares that he has not spoken to his father for over two years, saying: “Dad threw me under the bus instead of admit his guilt. He is dead to me now.”

(h/t Sunday Mirror)