People Aren’t Taking This Miracle AIDS Drug, And That’s a Big Problem for Philly

Photo by Jeff Chiu/AP

Photo by Jeff Chiu/AP

The eyes of Damon Jacobs were slowly filling up with tears.

It was a warm and busy day in late June, and at a national HIV conference in Philadelphia, Jacobs was talking about the time that he first learned about AIDS. He was 14, and Rock Hudson, a movie star known for his all-American good looks and sense of humor, had contracted the disease.

“There was lots of media coverage contrasting this healthy 1950s heartthrob image with a very ill, very thin and sick man,” says Jacobs. That portrayal made Jacobs and his fellow gay friends afraid that if they came out of the closet, they might someday end up unhealthy and frail like Hudson. From the summer of 1985 until 2011, Jacobs says, he carried that fear on his shoulders.

After 26 years, pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, lifted that burden—but only briefly. Better known as Truvada, PrEP is a pill that can prevent HIV if taken once a day. When Jacobs first read about it after seeing dozens of friends die from AIDS, he was sure that people would flood the streets with joy. But the opposite happened: “Nobody was talking about it,” he says.

Jacobs is now a family therapist who works in AIDS research in Manhattan. He says he regularly sees young men in his practice who have tested positive for HIV, but who have never heard of PrEP. Jacobs blames this on primary care physicians and government agencies alike. “I encourage us all to think about how to get information to the people who need it the most,” he says.

According to the most recent statistics, there are more than 17,000 people living with HIV in Philadelphia, 12,000 of whom have full-blown AIDS. There is no data tracking exactly how many people use PrEP in the city. But national statistics are troubling: A study by the American Society of Microbiology found that white people, who make up 27 percent of new HIV cases in America, account for 75 percent of PrEP’s user base. Conversely, African-Americans, who make up 44 percent of new HIV cases in the nation, only constitute 10 percent of PrEP’s users; Hispanics, who make up 23 percent of new HIV cases, represent 12 percent of users.

In a majority-minority city with a HIV high rate, that’s a major cause for concern. And at least two measures show that PrEP is being underutilized in Philly: Philadelphia FIGHT, the city’s largest AIDS service organization, counts just 250 active PrEP users on its rolls. Meanwhile, only 170 people are taking advantage of the Philadelphia Department of Public Health’s free PrEP program, though nearly 700 have been referred to it. Read more »

Kenney to PPA: Target Worst Offenders Parking on Broad Street Median

Photograph by Claudia Gavin

Photograph by Claudia Gavin

Everyone who parks a car in the median on South Broad Street is breaking the law, but traditionally, the Philadelphia Parking Authority has looked the other way.

If you are a Philadelphian who has logged onto the World Wide Web in the last few weeks, you’ve heard about this. Ever since the median was cleared for the Democratic National Convention, there’s been a push to enforce the parking ban year-round. And it’s been led partially by the 5th Square, an urbanist PAC that believes keeping the median clear is a matter of safety and respect for public space.

Mayor Jim Kenney, a South Philly native, has been publicly noncommittal about the practice, saying that 5th Square and other supporters should win over South Philly residents before any permanent changes are made. But privately, he’s encouraged the PPA to step up its ticketing of the most egregiously misparked cars.

“The mayor, the PPA and members of the administration met to discuss the median parking issue a few weeks ago, before the administration met with 5th Square this week,” Kenney spokeswoman Lauren Hitt said on Wednesday. “In that meeting, we agreed that PPA should ticket in the median when a car is fishtailed, in the turning lane, and in the crosswalk. We also agreed that any other changes should be community-driven.” Read more »

Will Threat to Jewelers Row Finally Unite Preservationists?

Photo via

Photo via

On one hand, it looks like a losing battle for preservationists. The five buildings on Jewelers Row that a developer wants to tear down and replace are not on the city’s Register of Historic Places, which would give them some protection from the wrecking ball. And the developer has already started pulling permits, meaning it’s legally too late to put the buildings on the register.

On the other hand, it might be just the battle that preservationists need.

Since news of the proposed development was reported by the Inquirer Thursday afternoon, advocates have jumped into action. A petition to stop the demolition, created by the Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia and directed to Anne Fadullon, the city’s Director of Planning and Development, has gotten more than 400 signatures. Something called The Keeping Society of Philadelphia has popped up to lobby for protecting the city’s old architecture. Paul Steinke, who became director of the Preservation Alliance earlier this year, has encouraged people on social media to sign the petition, while others, including some unfamiliar faces in Philly’s preservation community, have noted that the loss of so much of Jewelers Row would be particularly painful. Read more »

Here Are the Latest Details About Philly’s First Open Streets Event

Cyclists take to the streets during the “Pope Ride” Saturday. | Photo by Jesse Delaney

Cyclists take to the streets during Pope Francis’s visit in 2015. | Photo by Jesse Delaney

On September 24th, the city’s inaugural Open Streets event, known as “Philly Free Streets,” will cover a seven-mile course from the corner of Front and South streets to Sweet Briar Park. From 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., those streets will be closed to traffic and Philadelphia residents will have the chance to participate in fitness activities and explore the city’s roadways. Read more »

This App Fights Hunger in Philly in a Surprisingly Simple Way

Mayor Jim Kenney and a screenshot of what the new Food Connect app looks like.

Mayor Jim Kenney and other city officials announced today a new app that makes it easier for restaurants and caterers to donate leftover food to local shelters and food pantries will be made permanent.

The Food Connect app, which was originally called Operation Food Rescue, was supposed to only run through the Democratic National Convention. It was such a success, however, that a coalition of anti-hunger organizations and the city have decided to keep it functioning year-round.

In eight days leading up to and including the DNC, the app collected 11,239 pounds of food. It has already been downloaded 300 times. Read more »

Dept. of Second Thoughts: Neighborhood Group Will Drop “Newbold” From Its Name


The South Philly Tap Room in the neighborhood Image | Google Street View

There’s no clearer sign that a neighborhood is being gentrified than when a group of new residents carves out a little portion of it and gives it a new name. That’s what happened in Newbold, the sliver of Point Breeze that stretches from Broad to 18th and Washington Avenue to Wolf Street.

But now it looks as though some residents are trying to un-ring the bell. Last week, the Newbold Neighbors Association voted to take “Newbold” out of its name, though they haven’t decided what to replace it with just yet, Passyunk Post is reporting. Read more »

Hey, Mayor, How ’Bout Making That Broad Street Parking Ban Permanent?

Photo: Holly Otterbein

Photo: Holly Otterbein

The South Philly parking catastrophe that some feared after the city’s decision to enforce the ban on parking in the median of South Broad Street during the Democratic National Convention has failed to materialize. And that in turn has led to a call for Mayor Jim Kenney to make enforcement of the ban permanent.

“I’m a South Philly resident myself. I live two blocks off of Broad Street,” said Jake Liefer, co-founder and treasurer of the 5th Square, a political action committee that seeks to advance an urbanist agenda for City Hall. The group launched a petition drive on July 26th to persuade the mayor to continue the ban after the convention. “Over the past three days, I’ve been able to park my car on my block easily — and even park right in front of my house.” Read more »

The Really Important Criminal Justice Conversation You Missed

The Atlantic panel on criminal justice reform included (left to right) Anne Morrison Piehl, District Attorney Seth Williams, WIlliam Cobb, Keir Bradford-Grey and moderator Ron Brownstein.

The Atlantic panel on criminal justice reform included (left to right) Rutgers professor Anne Morrison Piehl, District Attorney Seth Williams, Redeemed founder William Cobb, Keir Bradford-Grey of the Defender Association of Philadelphia, and moderator Ron Brownstein.

The one discussion this week that will probably impact Philadelphia the most in the not-too-distant future took place in a bar on Tuesday afternoon.

Mayor Jim Kenney and District Attorney Seth Williams were among a handful of city officials who participated in “Rethinking Crime and Punishment: A Next America Forum,” hosted by the Atlantic in the Field House, that spot you absentmindedly walk past all the time on Filbert Street across from Reading Terminal Market. Read more »

Police: Actually, No One Has Been Arrested at the DNC Yet

Supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., march during a protest in downtown Philadelphia, Monday, July 25, 2016, on the first day of the Democratic National Convention. On Sunday, Debbie Wasserman Schultz announced she would step down as DNC chairwoman at the end of the party's convention, after emails presumably stolen from the DNC by hackers were posted to the website Wikileaks. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

Supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., march during a protest in downtown Philadelphia, Monday, July 25, 2016, on the first day of the Democratic National Convention. | Photo by John Minchillo/AP

Some media outlets have reported that protesters were arrested outside the National Democratic Convention in Philadelphia tonight.

But according to the Philadelphia Police Department, no activists have been arrested so far — in all of Philly. And there’s a reason for that.

Police say 54 people were given code violation notices (a/k/a $50 tickets) for disorderly conduct Monday outside the convention at Wells Fargo Center. No one was arrested Sunday or Monday as of 6:44 p.m., a police spokesperson told Philly Mag.
Read more »

Here’s Where Philly’s First Nine Community Schools Will Be Located

Photo | Jim Kenney

Photo | Jim Kenney

Mayor Jim Kenney hosted a press conference on Monday to announce the first nine community schools, which the city hopes to transform from education-only facilities to multipurpose community services centers over the course of the next year.

The first nine schools are located in South, Southwest, North, and Northwest Philly. The Mayor’s Office of Education selected the first cohort of schools from a number of applications, using input from residents at community meetings and neighborhood health and safety data. Five of the schools in the first round exceed the citywide rates for child poverty, asthma, obesity, and diabetes. Five schools are also located in police districts with the highest rates of gun violence and four schools have 20 percent or more ESL students.  Read more »

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