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Guilt, A Short Animation

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18 Dec

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December 2012: The Law’s IMPACT*

December 18, 2012 | By |

Dear Bari,

I haven’t finished my holiday shopping, but I wanted to see if you have any insight or tips on using gift certificates and gift cards.  I bought my mom a $250 massage gift certificate three years ago, only to learn that they didn’t have a copy of it on file and she couldn’t get her massage.  Any tips on how to avoid these types of situations?

Happy Holidays,
Ken

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Hi Ken!

Happy holidays to you, too.  Tis the season… for spending money and finding out your gift has gone to waste, huh?  Well, let’s see if we can rectify that.

Under the law, generally most gift cards and gift certificates can’t expire for five years after purchase.  For store specific gift certificates, not gift cards (we’ll tackle those next), ask for a copy of the certificate to be placed on file with the merchant, particularly if it’s for services such as a massage.  Ask for the certificate to be filed under your name, and the recipient’s name.  Also, check to make sure there isn’t an expiration date printed on the certificate.  Perhaps your mom couldn’t use the certificate because it expired (and you purchased it prior to 2008-09, see below).

As for gift cards, any gift cards you purchase this holiday season cannot expire within five years of purchase.  Under the law, a retailer or financial institution that issues a gift card can’t refuse to accept it within five years of purchase or after adding value to the card (i.e. if you receive a $25 gift card, spend $10 of it, and then add $15 to it, that starts the clock over).

The federal Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act (the CARD Act) prohibits gift cards from expiring prior to five years from their issuance. (15 U.S.C. § 1693l-1(c)).  Pay attention to expiration dates for gift cards you may already have from past years, because you may still be able to use them, as these laws were just enacted around 2009.  Expiration dates can be longer than 5 years – they just can’t be shorter.

Happy Shopping!

written by Bari A. Williams

*The Law’s IMPACT is our bi-monthly advice column on topics that young professionals may encounter in their daily travels.

17 Dec

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IMPACT Your World… Winter 2012/2013

December 17, 2012 | By |

December 17, 2012

In this quarter’s newsletter, IMPACT focuses on health and wellness issues. From HIV/AIDS prevention and awareness during AIDS Awareness Month in December to  addressing the relationship between obesity and food insecurity throughout the year, these select contributors give you their take on health issues plaguing minority communities.

In this issue, Omonigho Ufomata makes a striking analogy between the popularity of hip-hop and the use of condoms. Omonigho questions stark statistics, which show African-Americans still bearing the brunt of the AIDS/HIV pandemic. Eyang Garrison argues that the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) helps combat hunger and obesity in lower-income families. With the looming fiscal cliff and other economic challenges facing the country, many social programs face potential cuts; Eyang believes that means trouble for Americans as they continue to work to curb hunger and obesity. Dr. Rani G. Whitfield, also known as “The Hip Hop Doc,” paints a picture of an HIV/AIDS-free world—a world where patients with HIV can live “normal” lives. Whitfield explains how education and public policies can make an huge IMPACT to eliminate this pandemic.   Finally, Larissa J. Estes uses interactive maps in her piece to illustrate the fight against HIV/AIDS. She highlights www.AIDSVu.org  an accessible detailed map, which shows where the highest HIV rates are–calling attention to areas in the United States where treatment and prevention is needed.

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Condoms & You: Partners in the fight
By: Omonigho Ufomata

We are the hip-hop generation—and by most standards—the most informed generation, with the greatest resources.  But are we the lost generation in the fight against HIV/AIDS? We don’t have to be.

The 1980s was the decade of hip-hop; LL Cool J, Biz Markie, Dougie E. Fresh, NWA and other groups gave us a new genre of music that would forever define our culture. The ‘80s was also a time when a new disease appeared that would go on to kill millions of people across the planet.  Since the first reported case of HIV/AIDS 31 years ago, AIDS has killed more than 33 million people globally.

HIV/AIDS  has both progressed in its strains and reach as a global pandemic, but today, we have more tools than ever to prevent and manage the disease. So why do young people age 17-39 make up the highest rate of infected persons in the United States with African Americans bearing the highest burden of infected persons?

According to the CDC, the keeper of AIDS statistics in the United States, 50,000 new infections were recorded in 2010.  When those numbers are analyzed according to race, the CDC accounts for blacks at an estimated 44 percent of those infected in spite of accounting for only 14 percent of the U.S. population.http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/resources/factsheets/us.htm

We should be unsettled by these numbers. We have the information we need to fight this disease.  HIV spreads primarily through sexual intercourse and we know that condoms are 95 percent effective at preventing HIV transmission when used properly. The reality of our generation is that we are having sexual intercourse and there is no excuse for not using a condom every time. The myths about size, tear and functionality are hindering our ability to fight HIV/AIDS and negotiate our sexual health.  The most important player in the fight against HIV/AIDS is YOU.  By making condom use a regular practice regardless of whether we are in monogamous relationships means we are taking responsibility not only for ourselves but our partners too.

Routine HIV testing should be as commonplace as getting a physical, but should occur more often – every three months rather than annually.  Our generation is not the lost generation in the fight against HIV/AIDS.  It is our personal responsibility to make condoms and testing as mainstream as the hip-hop sounds that dominate the airwaves and radio.

Omonigho Ufomata serves as Director of Global Advocacy & Policy with the AIDS Healthcare Foundation; the nation’s largest non-profit provider of HIV care.  She advocates for better policies around condom distribution; testing, treatment and care for people living with HIV/AIDS through AHF’s programs in 26 countries around the world.  Previously, Ms. Ufomata served as the Director of the Mayor’s Office on African Affairs (OAA).   Ms. Ufomata has also worked in the government affairs practice at K&L Gates, LLP and as a legislative staffer for Rep. John Barrow (D-GA) and later with the House Ways and Means Committee, Democratic Staff. Ms. Ufomata received a B.A. in Liberal Arts from Kentucky State University and M.P.A. from The George Washington University.  Born in England, Ms. Ufomata is a native of Nigeria; and resides in Washington, DC.  

SNAP Out Of It
By: Eyang Garrison

Hunger and obesity are serious problems affecting millions of children and adults in the United States with food insecurity and poverty at the most fundamental levels. In 2010,  more than 48 million Americans were struggling against hunger and more than 60 million people were living in poverty. Since the 1970s, obesity rates have more than doubled in adults and children.

While it may seem counterintuitive, hunger and obesity can coexist within the same family and community. Research shows that low-income and food insecure populations are especially vulnerable to obesity due to risk factors directly associated with poverty. One of these risk factors is the absence of full service grocery stores in urban and rural areas, also known as “food deserts.”  According to a 2009 USDA report to Congress, 23.5 million people in the U.S. are living in low-income areas that are more than one mile from a supermarket or large grocery store. Additional risk factors for obesity among low-income and food insecure populations include a lack of opportunity for physical activity, limited access to health care, and high levels of stress. As a result, vulnerable families (often minority populations) are at a greater disadvantage than their higher income counterparts.

We can see some of these disparities in recent data. Hispanics (10.4 percent) and African Americans (9.5 percent) report considerably higher rates of inadequate access to affordable fresh fruits and vegetables compared to Whites (7.5 percent), according to FRAC’s A Half Empty Plate: Fruit and Vegetable Affordability and Access Challenges in America. National data finds that African-American women (82.1 percent) and Hispanic women (75.7 percent) have higher rates of being overweight or obese compared to White women (59.5 percent). In 2010, USDA data found that African-American households (25.1 percent) experienced food insecurity at rates more than the national average (14.5 percent).

Participation in federal nutrition programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the new name for the federal Food Stamp Program, plays a critical role in reducing hunger and obesity by improving dietary intake. For instance, USDA researchers found that the boost to SNAP benefits included in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) improved the food security of millions of low-income people. SNAP also has economic benefits. The United States Census Bureau found that SNAP lifted 3.9 million Americans above the poverty line in 2010, including 1.7 million children and 280,000 seniors. And according to the USDA, every dollar in new federally-funded SNAP benefits generates up to $1.80 in economic activity.

It is clear that the program is working, yet some in Congress are trying to make harsh cuts to SNAP. The U.S. Senate’s plan for the House Agriculture Committee Farm bill includes a cut of $4.4 billion over 10 years to the program, a proposal that would trigger sizable reductions (averaging $90/month) in SNAP benefits for an estimated 500,000 households a year. The farm bill would make these same cuts and eventually end benefits completely for at least 1.8 million people, cutting the program by $16 billion. These cuts would particularly harm seniors, children and working families.

To learn more about what you can do to help protect and strengthen SNAP, visit FRAC’s Legislative Action Center.

Eyang Garrison is the school breakfast associate at the Food Research and Action Center. She works in targeted states, school districts, and schools in collaboration with national and local anti-hunger organizations to increase the number of children participating in school breakfast and the number of schools offering breakfast in the classroom free to all students. Before joining FRAC, she worked as a legislative assistant for Congresswoman Gwen Moore (D-WI). During her work on Capitol Hill, she worked to expand the School Breakfast Program, the Child and Adult Care Food Program, and to provide low-income families with greater access to federal assistance programs including the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program. In 2012, she received the “Friend of WIC Award” from the National WIC Association for her contributions in support of the WIC program. She earned a BS in Political Science from the University of Oklahoma.

The End of HIV
By: Rani G. Whitfield, M.D.

I’ve read several articles this year that discussed a possible cure for HIV/AIDS. The 2012 International AIDS Conference held in Washington DC had a “positive” theme: An HIV/AIDS-free generation. Treatment options for HIV/AIDS patients have improved significantly during the last 30 years.  The possibility of a vaccine to prevent transmission of the virus looks better, and stem cell transplants may one day provide a cure for some. Are we closer to finding a cure? Could we really end this pandemic?

HIV/AIDS remains is still one of world’s most serious health challenges. In 2011, an estimated 34.2 million people worldwide had HIV–this is up 18 percent compared to 28.9 million who were living with HIV in 2001. There were more than two million new infections in 2011, which included an roughly 330,000 children.

Globally, more than eight million people had access to antiretroviral therapy, an increase of 20 percent from 2010. A year’s supply of antiretroviral therapy costs less than $100 per person per year for the least expensive regimen, which was recommended by the United Nations Programme on AIDS. And just think, in the year 2000, the price tag was more than $10,000.

There’s no doubt medical advances have allowed us to glimpse the possibility of a world free of HIV/AIDS, but statistics still reveal alarming disparities among people living with HIV/AIDS.

There is a huge disparity among men who have sex with men (MSM). The disparity among young black MSM compared to other MSM cannot be explained by drastic differences in behavior. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other studies have dispelled the myths that black men have a greater number of sexual partners, engage in riskier sexual activity, and have higher rates of drug use than white MSM.

However, a young black MSM’s risk of contracting HIV in his lifetime is exponentially higher. The need and urgency to do research, educate, test, and treat, is heightened by these findings, but the resources, community, and public policy must be there to implement such an approach.

Despite medical advances, exclusively relying on drugs, vaccines, and stem cells will not rid the world of HIV/AIDS. HIV prevention, to be effective, must be inclusive of education, behavioral strategies, and access to quality affordable health care. The Ryan White HIV/AIDS Treatment Extension Act of 2009 along with the Affordable Care Act will be key sources of funding and support for health and social services for patients with HIV/AIDS.

Are we closer to the end? Yes, closer than we have ever been before, but we have a long way to go as long as specific populations continue to suffer and die from HIV/AIDS.

Dr. Rani Whitfield is a board certified family practice and sports medicine physician practicing in Baton Rouge, LA. He is a national spokesperson for the American Heart Association and medical director for the National Association of Free Clinics. He is affectionately known as Tha Hip Hop Doc. Visit his website at www.h2doc.com and/or follow him on twitter @ThaHipHopDoc.

Online Tools Vital in HIV/AIDS Comprehension
By: Larissa J. Estes, DrPH

Healthy People 2020 and the National HIV/AIDS Strategy challenges researchers, healthcare providers, and advocates to increase the number of people aged 13 and older living with HIV who know their serostatus from 80.6 percent in 2006 to 90 percent by 2020 (CDC, 2012).  Though the percentage of people who know their HIV status has increased, we must implement strategies to meet these nationally established goals.  Accurate and timely data is necessary for researchers, healthcare providers, and advocates to better understand populations at risk for HIV infection, implement targeted strategies, and move towards meeting national goals for HIV prevention.

As of 2012, 1.2 million in the United States are living with HIV, and 1 out of 5 are unaware of their HIV positive status (CDC, 2012), according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention .  Approximately 50,000 Americans are infected with HIV each year (CDC, 2012).  African-Americans carry the heaviest burden of HIV.  In 2009, African-Americans represented 14 percent of the U.S. population, but accounted for about 44 percent of new HIV infections (CDC, 2012).

On June 1, 2011, the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University launched AIDSVu (www.AIDSVu.org) to increase accessibility to accurate and timely data on HIV prevalence.  This free, interactive online mapping tool pinpoints the areas of the U.S. where HIV prevalence rates are the highest and identifies areas that urgently need prevention, testing and treatment services.  AIDSVu displays data at the national, state, and local levels and by different demographic indicators (e.g. age, race, and sex). Figure 1 shows the concentration of rates of HIV diagnosis in metropolitan and rural areas, and in northeast and southern states.

The 2012 update to AIDSVu adds social determinants of health indicators (e.g. income, insurance coverage, and education) comparison feature.  Not only does AIDSVu make the prevalence data readily accessible, it also provides local, geographically mapped information on HIV testing and treatment locations.  Knowing where the burden of disease lies helps prevention researchers, clinicians and advocates understand where to focus resources.  The ability to view not only accurate data but also the location of HIV testing and treatment locations gives individuals the opportunity to visually understand the impact and state of HIV on specific communities, spread the word, and get tested.

Acknowledgements:  Marcia Wolverton, HIV/STD Program Manager, Houston Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Surveillance and Public Health Preparedness; Biru Yang, Epidemiologist/Biostatistician, Houston Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Surveillance and Public Health Preparedness

References:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. HIV in the United States: At A Glance.  http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/resources/factsheets/us.htm.pdf. Published March 2012. Accessed June 29, 2012.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Healthy People 2020 Leading Health Indicators: Objective HIV -13: Proportion of Persons Living with HIV Who Know Their Serostatus.  http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/resources/factsheets/PDF/LHI-Factsheet-FINAL-6-26-12.pdf. Published June 2012. Accessed June 29, 2012.

Larissa J. Estes, DrPH is a native of Portland, Oregon. She received her B.S. in Athletic Training from Duquesne University (Pittsburgh, PA) and M.P.H. in Family and Child Health from The University of Arizona College of Public Health (Tucson, AZ) in 2003 and 2005, respectively. She served as the Vince L. Hutchins Fellow in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration, Office of Women’s Health from 2005 – 2007. Dr. Estes received her Dr.P.H. in Management, Policy and Community Health from the University of Texas Health Science Center – Houston School of Public Health. Dr. Estes is currently the Performance Improvement Manager and Accreditation Coordinator for the Houston Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Surveillance and Public Health Preparedness. Dr. Estes is an active member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc and the Ivy League Educational & Charities Foundation (Houston, TX).

10 Dec

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December 2012 – HIV/AIDS Awareness Month Spotlight: The End of HIV

December 10, 2012 | By |

By: Rani G. Whitfield, M.D.
The Hip Hop Doc

December 1st was HIV/AIDS Awareness Day and marks the beginning of HIV/AIDS awareness month. Many events will be going on around the country to raise awareness about this dreaded disease. I’ve read several articles this year that talked about the potential end to this epidemic. The 2012 International AIDS Conference held in Washington DC this year had a “positive” theme of an AIDS free generation and not without good reason. Treatment options for HIV/AIDS patients have improved significantly over the last 30 years, the possibility of a vaccine to prevent transmission of the virus looks better, and stem cell transplants may one day provide a cure for some. But is a true end for an epidemic that has killed so many really in sight?

HIV/AIDS remains one of the world’s most serious health challenges. An estimated 34.2 million people worldwide had HIV in 2011. This is up 18 percent compared to 2001 when 28.9 million were living with HIV. There were 2.5 million new infections in 2011 which included an estimated 330,000 children. Globally, more than 8 million people had access to antiretroviral therapy, an increase of 20 percent from 2010.

Notably a year’s supply of antiretroviral therapy cost less than $100 per person per year for the least expensive regimen recommended by the United Nations Progamme on AIDS (UNAIDS). In 2000, it cost more than $10,000.

There continues, however, to be a huge disparity among men who have sex with men (MSM). The disparity among young black MSM compared to other MSM cannot be explained by drastic differences in behavior. The CDC and other studies have dispelled the myths that black men have a greater number of sexual partners, engage in riskier sexual activity, and have higher rates of drug use than white MSM.

However, a young black MSM’s risk of contracting HIV in his lifetime is exponentially higher. The need and urgency to do research, educate, test, and treat, is heightened by these findings, but the resources, community, and public policy must be there to implement such an approach.

Despite medical advances, exclusively relying on drugs, vaccines, and stem cells will not rid the world of HIV/AIDS. HIV prevention to be effective must be inclusive of education, behavioral strategies, and access to quality affordable health care. The Ryan White CARE HIV/AIDS Treatment Extension Act of 2009 along with the Affordable Care Act will be key sources of funding and support for health and social services for patients with HIV/AIDS.

Are we closer to the end? Yes closer than we have ever been before, but we have a long way to go as long as specific populations continue to suffer and die to this 100% preventable disease.

Dr. Rani Whitfield is a board certified family practice and sports medicine physician practicing in Baton Rouge, LA. He is a national spokesperson for the American Heart Association and medical director for the National Association of Free Clinics. He is affectionately known as Tha Hip Hop Doc. Visit his website at www.h2doc.com and/or follow him on twitter @ThaHipHopDoc.

04 Dec

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IL: Steven Horsford

December 4, 2012 | By |

Congratulations to our December 2012 IMPACT Leader of the Month, Mr. Steven Horsford. Steven is a Democratic member and Majority Leader of the Nevada Senate, representing Clark County’s 4th Senate District since 2005, as well as congressman-elect for Nevada’s 4th congressional district. He is Nevada’s first African-American state senate Majority Leader and will be the first person of color to represent Nevada in Congress.

A devoted family man, Steven has built a strong family with his wife, Dr. Sonya Horsford, and their three children, Benjamin, Bryson and Ella. But growing up in West Las Vegas, his family life was less secure. Steven became head of his household at just ten years old. Caring for his younger siblings. Working his way through high school at Pizza Hut and cleaning kennels. Leaving college at the University of Nevada-Reno when his brothers and sister needed him at home. And helping each of his siblings make it to college themselves.

It didn’t take long for Steven to learn the meaning of responsibility and hard work. Or to find out what really matters.

Steven was elected to the Nevada State Senate in 2004 and got right to work. He wrote and passed the “Clean Energy Jobs Initiative” and authored legislation providing tax incentives to businesses that create higher paying jobs in Nevada. He was also the chief sponsor of revolutionary K-12 school reform that passed in 2011 that brings greater accountability to classrooms—so Nevada’s children get the education they need to succeed in college or career.

He led the 2008 election fight that won two senate seats and put Democrats in the majority for the first time in 18 years. He was chosen to co-chair Barack Obama’s presidential campaign in the state.

Steven was quickly chosen by his peers as their leader – and now serves as the state’s youngest and Nevada’s first African American Majority Leader. His service has been characterized by a willingness to work across the aisle with anyone who has a good idea, and the resolve to fight for what he believes in when it matters most.

INTERVIEW | Getting to Know Steven Horsford

What inspired you to pursue a career in politics and policy making?

My whole life I have committed myself to helping other people.  I do it every day at the Culinary Academy of Las Vegas training workers for employment in the hospitality industry.  I did it as a young man taking care of my younger siblings and making sure they had the chance to go to college.  And I did it in the State Legislature. It just made sense:  I could make an impact by being a voice for middle class families in Carson City, and I will be a strong voice in Congress as well.

What is the key to balancing your professional, philanthropic and social commitments?

Perspective.  It is important to keep in mind how blessed we are to have what we have, and remember the people who gave us a chance.  We have to work hard to open up opportunities for others so they have a shot at future success just like we did.

What is the biggest mistake young professionals make, especially when pursuing elected office?

Many people assume they can get everything done at once.  But if you have a steady hand, work with others, and come together on the things you can agree on, you can get a lot done.  We should always stand up and fight for what we believe in, and we should never compromise our principles, but it is important to recognize that we can find common ground with others.

What advice would you give other young professionals who desire to excel in the politics, especially elected office?

Find internships, find a good mentor, and follow your passion.  Find an issue that you care about, study it, and find out how you can make a difference.  If you find that you can make a difference as an elected official, pursue office, but never forget why you got involved in the first place, and understand that there will be setbacks along the way.  As long as you believe in what you’re doing you will be resilient.

What’s been the best experience of your career thus far (or the most rewarding)?

The best experience of my career is being able to help other people succeed and brighten their futures every day.  Whether it is working at the Culinary Academy (where we help place thousands of students each year in the hospitality industry) or working in Carson City, I find the most rewarding aspect of my work the improvement of other people’s lives.

What’s next for you in your career? What should we look out for?

I am currently the Nevada State Senate Majority Leader, and I am now running for Congress in Nevada’s fourth congressional district.  I will continue to go where I feel I can make a positive difference for Nevada families.

Lastly, give me three words to sum up Steven Horsford?

Strong For Families

Contact Steven on Twitter at @stevenhorsford.