From the Times-Tribune online…
HARRISBURG – Mental health providers would be prohibited from counseling gay and lesbian youths to change their sexual orientation under a bill being introduced by a Luzerne County lawmaker.
Reps. Gerald Mullery, D-119, Newport Twp., and Brian Sims, D-182, Philadelphia, are seeking to ban this type of therapy for patients under age 18. They cite the precedent of a new law in New Jersey signed last week by Gov. Chris Christie. Citing studies by the American Psychological Association, Mr. Mullery said he considers sexual orientation conversion therapy to be harmful to children and causing some to even have suicidal thoughts. Conversion therapy is described as counseling and psychotherapy attempting to eliminate or suppress homosexuality. “They (patients) are being asked to change who they are,” said Mr. Mullery. “I view it like mental bullying.”
In a legislative memo, Mr. Mullery and Mr. Sims said youth need to be protected from the harm caused by sexual orientation change efforts. “Studies have concluded that there is insufficient evidence that sexual orientation change efforts are effective for changing sexual orientation, and that such efforts could result in damaging long-term effects for minors,” the lawmakers said. “Therefore, like any other harmful act that is prohibited by Pennsylvania law, we must protect Pennsylvania’s youth from sexual orientation change efforts.”
Mr. Mullery said he started researching the issue after becoming aware of the legislation moving to passage in New Jersey and Mr. Christie’s support for it. The lawmaker said he hopes Mr. Christie’s action will motivate Republican state lawmakers in Harrisburg to join as bill cosponsors.
New Jersey’s law bans state-licensed counselors, therapists and social workers from practicing conversion therapy.
A fact sheet released at the end of June by the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) warns that HIV rates, already at epidemic proportions, are continuing to climb steadily among men who have sex with men (MSM).
“Gay and bisexual men remain at the epicenter of the HIV/AIDS epidemic,” says Jonathan Mermin, the director of the CDC’s division of HIV/AIDS prevention.
The CDC notes that while homosexual men make up only a very small percentage of the male population (4%), MSM account for over three-quarters of all new HIV infections, and nearly two-thirds (63 percent) of all new infections in 2010 (29,800). “Men who have sex with men remain the group most heavily affected by HIV in the United States,” the fact sheet states.
If HIV infections among men who have sex with men (MSM) continue to rise at the current rates, more than half of college-aged homosexual men will have HIV by the age of 50. When broken down by age group, the CDC reported that new infections among the youngest MSM, aged 13-24, increased from 7,200 infections in 2008 to 8,800 in 2010, which translates into a 22 percent increase in that time span. Young black MSM continue to have the highest infection rate, according to the CDC, accounting for more than half (55 percent) of new infections among young MSM.
You can search by zip code to find free HIV testing at http://hivtest.cdc.gov.
For more information about HIV and how you can protect yourself, visit the CDC Website at http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/risk/behavior.