Dining Out for Life 2013

A bright and early good morning from Victor’s 1959 Cafe!

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Aside from my love of fried plantains, I’m out with two of my best friends, the Hubby and Courtney, for the annual fundraiser, Dining Out for Life.


Dining Out for Life: Dine Out, Fight AIDS!

I’ve been to several of the Dining Out for Life events and they’ve always been fun. Dining Out for Life Ambassadors are in every restaurant to give out stickers and information about the event.  In Minnesota, the funds raised go to The Aliveness Project, a community center in South Minneapolis that provides services to members of the AIDS community, and the Rural AIDS Action Network, which serves those affected by HIV/AIDS throughout Greater Minnesota.


The Aliveness Project and Rural AIDS Actions Network logos. Click on either for more information about these groups.

Dining Out for Life is a project that recruits restaurants to donate a portion of each meal sold. Cities across the United States and in British Columbia have Dining Out for Life events. Many of them are happening today, but they can occur at any time. Click on the image below to go to the DOFL website to learn when the cities below are hosting events.

DOFL Sites

In Minnesota you can find participating restaurants in many major cities: Twin Cities, Duluth, Harris, Lanesboro, Mankato, Rochester, Alexandria, Stillwater and St. Cloud!

So now for the really important question: What did we order?

Me: Dia y Noche

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Eggs, black beans over white rice, fried plantains.

The Hubby: Create Your Own Omlette

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Omelette-y goodness with wild rice, cheese and peppers. English muffin with butter

Courtney: Cuban Hash

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Ground beef, creole sauce, green olives, capers, raisins. Eggs and fried plantains.

It’s not too late to participate in Dining Out for Life. Head out for lunch, maybe grab some coworkers for happy hour, take a friend out for dinner. You can find a list of participating restaurants and the amounts of their contributions here. There are many different styles and costs – even a few coffee houses if you want to participate but don’t have a lot of cash to spare. If you can get out and want to get out, then today’s your day to Dine Out, Fight AIDS!

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The awesome Dining Out for Life ambassador for Victor’s 1959 Cafe, moi and Rena Sarigianopoulos, a KARE 11 TV anchor, reporter and Dining Out for Life supporter.

Twitter hashtag for Dining Out for Life: #DOLMN (Minnesota) and #DOFL (Dining Out For Life)

Dining Out for Life 2013

The Man Who Was Cured of AIDS

I started doing a little digging on this story about Timothy Brown, The Man Who Was Cured Of AIDS. He had a blood stem cell transplant from a donor who had a special genetic mutation that made him resistant to HIV.

Jamie Vernon posted in Scientific American about this case last August. While he is optimistic that we are making huge strides in HIV/AIDS research, he maintains some skepticism that Brown’s path will be The One True Cure.

There are several reasons why Brown’s case is not likely to be translatable to the millions of others whose lives are threatened by this disease.

First, Brown had been highly successful at controlling his infection using antiretroviral therapy.  In order to undergo leukemia treatments, he agreed to stop taking his HIV drugs.  This led to a dangerous spike in his viral load.  Fortunately, after receiving the stem cell transplant, the virus went to undetectable levels and remained so.  For the record, no one has ever stopped taking HIV drugs without experiencing a reemergence of the virus.

Second, the risk of dying from the stem cell transplant alone ranges from ~10% to as high as 40%.  This is not a risk most would accept given current success controlling HIV infection using antiretroviral drug treatments.  Third, tests on Brown’s blood revealed that he was carrying variants of the virus that were capable of infecting white blood cells without relying on the CCR5 protein.  No one knows why those viruses never infected the transplanted cells.  Finally, Brown experienced neurological and intestinal side effects from the stem cell treatments.  These complications led to temporary blindness and memory problems.  At one point, Brown was in an induced coma so doctors could deal with his complications. He continues to undergo therapy to recover his balance as well as to restore his normal speaking capabilities.

To summarize, Timothy Ray Brown is what some would call a medical miracle.  Despite the rational approach taken by Dr. Hütter, the medical science that “cured” him of HIV and preserved his life relied on some uncontrollable circumstances, like finding a tissue match with the delta32 mutation and avoiding infection of the transplanted cells.  Some would say Timothy Ray Brown is simply a lucky guy.

He goes on to theorize how the lessons learned in Brown’s treatment might be applied toward finding a less-risky, more universal treatment for AIDS patients.

number of news sources are rolling out Mr. Brown’s story again, as one doctor moves forward with cord blood transplants. From FoxNews.com:

Dr. Lawrence Petz, a stem cell transplantation specialist, as well as chief medical officer for StemCyte and president of the Cord Blood Forum, explained cord blood essentially gives doctors more leeway in regards to matching patients with donors and opens the possibility of treating many more people.

Two weeks ago, a patient in the Netherlands was the first to undergo this potentially revolutionary treatment.  As was the case with Brown, the transplant was primarily done to address another disease, but doctors specifically selected a unit of cord blood that contained the HIV-resistant gene in hopes of curing that as well.   Another similar surgery is scheduled for a patient in Madrid within the month

This is post 27 of 49 in the SSAweek Biodork Blogathon. Donate to the SSA today! Read more about my reader challenges here.

The Man Who Was Cured of AIDS

I Missed AIDS

I was born in 1979. That puts me at an age that when we all filed into the auditorium of the Robert Crown Center in Hinsdale, Illinois to learn about human sexuality, my junior high classmates and I were taught about HIV/AIDS right alongside other sexually transmitted diseases. By this time we knew how HIV was transmitted, and we knew that condoms were our best chance of avoiding sexually-transmitted HIV. We knew that both men and women could contract HIV, that it wasn’t a curse on gays, that you couldn’t catch it from a toilet seat or from kissing someone with AIDS, that it wasn’t a gay cancer. But our understanding of HIV/AIDS was still new enough that is was impressed on us how narrowly we had avoided it. We were made to understand how new this knowledge was.

I have many gay friends and some of them did have to live through that decade or so uncertainty when the gay community was being decimated by this new, unknown plague. I have watched grown men crumble 30 years later at the memory of that haunting time. I have met scientists who became scientists because of their passion to end the reign of terror that has been caused by this disease. I have friends who are social workers because they have been driven to provide care and comfort to people who are affected by HIV/AIDS. I know activists who work daily to end the stigma that is still in many ways associated with being infected with HIV.

I missed AIDS. But AIDS is still here, very much a part of our lives. Most of us have come to accept that HIV is a disease, not a curse put upon a certain portion of the population. We know how to lessen the transmission of HIV. Learn the history of HIV/AIDS and you will be as angry as I am when you hear about asshole clergymen who tell Africans that they shouldn’t use condoms, or that condoms will  increase their chances of contracting HIV. Listen to the stories of people who lived through the mid 1970s and early 1980s and lost partners, friends and family to AIDS. You’ll feel your heart break when you hear about studies showing increases in HIV infection rates in the United States and other places where we’re supposed to know better.

Anyway, what set this all off was a video about the AIDS Memorial Quilt over at Joe.My.God, which I’ve posted at the bottom of the page. The AIDS Quilt is a memorial to those who have died in the AIDS pandemic. Here’s a little history from Wikipedia:

It officially started in 1987 in San Francisco by Jones, Mike Smith, and volunteers Joseph Durant, Jack Caster, Gert McMullin, Ron Cordova, Larkin Mayo and Gary Yuschalk. At that time many people who died of AIDS-related causes did not receive funerals, due to both the social stigma of AIDS felt by surviving family members and the outright refusal by many funeral homes and cemeteries to handle the deceased’s remains. Lacking a memorial service or grave site, The Quilt was often the only opportunity survivors had to remember and celebrate their loved ones’ lives. The first showing of the The Quilt was 1987 on the National Mall in Washington, DC, The Quilt was last displayed in full on The Mall in Washington, D.C., in 1996.

Also according to Wikipedia, the quilt is still growing, and bears more than 46,000 panels celebrating and grieving the lives of over 91,000 people. The quilt is managed by The Names Project Foundation, and portions of the quilt still go on tour and are hosted by various organizations in order to remind people of the magnitude of the AIDS pandemic, and to raise funds to support AIDS service organizations.

Here it is. Have a tissue handy.

UPDATE/CORRECTION/APOLOGY (2/21/12) – After reading some of the stories that have been shared here and on my Facebook wall, I feel that I need to apologize for this sentence:

“I have many gay friends and some of them did have to live through that decade or so uncertainty when the gay community was being decimated by this new, unknown plague. “

I believe that I have been unintentionally cruel here. I have many friends – gay AND straight, bisexual and all shades of gray – who lived through the earlier days of AIDS. To all of my friends and readers who were affected by HIV/AIDS regardless of your sexual orientation – it was not my intent to diminish or forget about you or your experiences. I apologize for my thoughtlessness.

I Missed AIDS

Dining Out for Life

Dining Out for Life Minnesota is tomorrow – Thursday, April 28th.

Go out to any one of a gazillion and ten participating restaurants, and the restaurant donates a portion of your food bill to The Aliveness Project, a local nonprofit agency which each year serves one out of four people living with HIV/AIDS in Minnesota. The Aliveness Project offers an on-site hot meals program, food shelf, integrative therapies, case management, holiday baskets, HIV educational services.

I’m getting up early to have breakfast at Anodyne Coffeehouse in South Minneapolis before going in to work.

And for dinner I’m going to Joe’s Garage in Loring Park with a bunch of friends.

There’s an entire list of restaurants throughout Minnesota that are participating in Dining Out for Life.

Where are you eating?

Dining Out for Life

Reusing Condoms in Rural Kenya

Once again my First World Problems are brought into perspective.

The word is out that condoms protect against sexually-transmitted HIV. Unfortunately, the condoms aren’t out there. Demand is far outweighing supply in Kenya, as reported by PlusNewsGlobal.

Local TV channels recently showed images of men in Isiolo, in rural northern Kenya, washing condoms and hanging them out to dry; the men said the price of condoms meant they could not afford to use them just once. Other men in the village said when they had no access to condoms, they used polythene bags and even cloth rags when having sex.

Male condoms are intended for single use; washing and re-using them weakens the latex, increasing the chances of breakage and in turn, the risk of unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections, including HIV. Washing condoms in dirty water may also carry additional disease risk.

Condoms are free at government health centres, but in rural Kenya these are few and far between and supplies unreliable.

People want to have safer sex, they know that means they need condoms and they’re having trouble getting them. They’re under the impression that a dirty condom is better than no condom, but from what we know this is a baaaaaaad practice.

It sounds like Kenya needs to get its hands on more condoms by increasing the quantity and/or improving distribution, both of which are solutions being considered by the Kenya National AIDS Strategic Plan 2009-2013.

Via the RH Reality Check blog.

Reusing Condoms in Rural Kenya