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Kagan’s record, sexual orientation draw scrutiny

LGBT groups mixed on Supreme Court nominee



Solicitor General Elena Kagan, a U.S. Supreme Court nominee, could be asked to address past comments on ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ and same-sex marriage during her confirmation hearings. (Photo by Lawrence Jackson; courtesy of White House)

President Obama’s nomination of Solicitor General Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court is inspiring varied reactions, ranging from excitement to caution, as questions linger about her record on LGBT issues.

Many LGBT advocacy groups are pleased that Kagan opposed military recruitment on Harvard’s campus because “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” violates university non-discrimination policies, but others are waiting for her to clarify her positions on LGBT issues in congressional testimony before the Senate.

Meanwhile, questions about Kagan’s sexual orientation distracted attention from her record this week, as some anti-gay conservatives — along with more than a few LGBT bloggers — speculated that she is a lesbian.

Obama nominated Kagan to fill the seat that will be vacated at the end of the term by retiring Associate Justice John Paul Stevens. If the Senate confirms her to the position, there would be three women sitting on the Supreme Court, the most women the bench has seen in its history.

Prior to her tenure as solicitor general, in which she defended federal law before the Supreme Court, Kagan was a clerk for former Associate Justice Thurgood Marshall, an associate White House counsel for former President Bill Clinton and dean of Harvard law school.

In a statement, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said the Senate would consider Kagan’s nomination this summer and should confirm her nomination before the August recess.

Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, in a statement, praised Obama for selecting Kagan to serve on the bench.

“We applaud President Obama for choosing Elena Kagan to become our nation’s next U.S. Supreme Court Justice,” Solmonese said. “We are confident that Elena Kagan has a demonstrated understanding and commitment to protecting the liberty and equality of all Americans, including LGBT Americans.”

Doug NeJaime, a gay associate law professor at Loyola Law School, expressed similar excitement over the nomination of Kagan, whom he called a “fantastic” choice to serve on the bench.

In 2008, NeJaime said he attended a Harvard gay and lesbian caucus conference where Kagan moderated a panel with sexual orientation law scholars. He noted that Kagan “was clearly really knowledgeable about these issues.”

“I think she’ll do a good job in dealing with them and hopefully having conversations with other justices — getting them more on board with what LGBT legal issues entail,” NeJaime said.

But Hayley Gorenberg, deputy legal director for Lambda Legal, was more cautious about embracing Kagan’s nomination and said she was awaiting the Senate confirmation process.

“She’s just been nominated, and we are studying everything that we can on her,” she said. “We’re looking toward the confirmation hearings so that we can learn more about her positions on legal areas that are core to the right of LGBT people and people with HIV.”

In particular, Gorenberg said she’s looking to see whether Kagan will separate herself from the Justice Department’s legal briefs defending challenges to the Defense of Marriage Act and “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” which occurred under her watch during the Obama administration.

“Those briefings give us concern, and we certainly voiced it with the Obama administration,” Gorenberg said. “So, what we need to see now is her views apart from an institutional position, and that’s what we’re looking toward in confirmation hearings.”

‘Don’t Ask’ stance
could be obstacle

One potential obstacle that Kagan may encounter on her path to confirmation — despite the favor it may win her among LGBT supporters — is her opposition as dean of Harvard law school to military recruiting on campus because of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

In October 2003, Kagan wrote in an e-mail to students that military recruiting on campus caused her “deep distress” and that she “abhor[s] the military discriminatory recruitment policy,” according to a recent report in the Washington Post.

She was quoted as calling the recruitment policy in the U.S. military “a profound wrong — a moral injustice of the first order.”

In 2005, Kagan was also one of 40 Harvard professors who signed a friend-of-the-court brief in favor of an appellate court ruling overturning the Solomon Amendment, which would have allowed colleges to limit the military’s presence at campus recruiting events. The Supreme Court unanimously disagreed with the lower court ruling.

Conservative senators could pounce on Kagan’s views on military recruitment on campus as dean of Harvard law school as reason to vote against her confirmation.

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said in a statement published shortly after her nomination that Kagan’s position is “deserving review.”

“This is a significant issue for me since I worked hard for the passage of the Solomon Amendment,” Sessions said. “Her actions in this case, along with other issues, will need to be addressed, and Ms. Kagan will be given a fair opportunity to respond.”

Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) said Monday he plans to vote against Kagan’s confirmation — making him the first senator to commit to a “no” vote — because of her position on campus military recruitment.

But NeJaime said he didn’t think Kagan’s position would be problematic because it’s “very much in the mainstream of the legal academic community,” and other law schools besides Harvard have challenged the constitutionality of the Solomon Amendment in court.

“It’s not like she was even completely out in front on that issue,” NeJaime said. “I also think public sentiment against ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ is pretty high, and so it’s not a non-mainstream position.”

But Gorenberg said Senate opposition to Kagan’s confirmation because of her position on military recruitment is already apparent.

“We can already see that the positions that she promoted as dean that were targeted against discrimination against LGBT people — that those positions are already the subject of potshots from anti-gay extremists,” Gorenberg said. “We saw that instantly upon her nomination, if not before.”

Kagan’s views on military recruitment also raise the question of whether she would be asked to recuse herself in the event a “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” case came before the Supreme Court while she’s on the bench.

Gorenberg said “it’s not clear” that Kagan would need to seek recusal in such a situation based on her comments as dean of Harvard law.

The Servicemembers Legal Defense Network didn’t immediately respond to the Blade’s request to comment on Kagan’s statements on military recruitment or whether she would have to recuse herself if a “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” case reached the high court.

Same-sex marriage
a potential issue

Another topic that may come up during Kagan’s confirmation hearings is her position on same-sex marriage and whether she thinks the U.S. Constitution provides for marriage rights for same-sex couples. Such a position would be especially important for LGBT people because cases on same-sex marriage could be on their way to the Supreme Court.

Kagan previously denied that the U.S. Constitution grants a right to same-sex marriage in a questionnaire answer prior to her confirmation hearings to become solicitor general.

“There is no federal constitutional right to same-sex marriage,” she wrote in a response to a question on the issue.

In response to a subsequent question, she added that she doesn’t believe she expressed an opinion on the question before that time.

Kagan’s response could be troubling for organizations behind federal lawsuits seeking to overturn the Defense of Marriage Act or bans on same-sex marriage within states.

The American Federation for Equal Rights, the organization behind the Perry v. Schwarzenegger case seeking to overturn California’s Proposition 8, didn’t respond to the Blade’s request to comment on the Kagan nomination.

A spokesperson for the Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders — which is behind Gill v. Office of Personnel Management, a case seeking to overturn part of DOMA that prohibits federal recognition same-sex marriage — said her organization isn’t commenting on the Kagan nomination because the lawsuit could go to the Supreme Court.

On the Perry case, NeJaime said Kagan’s comment on same-sex marriage could be relevant depending on whether the court takes up the case as a broad question about constitutional rights to same-sex marriage or, more simply, California’s legitimate interest in passing Proposition 8.

“I also think we don’t really know what her position will be on an issue like that until the issue is briefed and until it’s actually at the court,” he said. “I’m pretty confident that she is at least open-minded to LGBT claims under the federal Constitution.”

Gorenberg said she’s “not sure” whether Kagan’s comments would be a predictor of how the nominee would rule if marriage cases came before the Supreme Court.

She said the remarks raise the question of what Kagan meant in her questionnaire answer, but noted that it’s unknown whether Kagan’s position would become more clear during confirmation hearings.

“We would always like to know what would happen in the future on a specific issue, but it’s not surprising to us — for any nominee — that we don’t get a specific forecast on a case because it’s just not standard that the nominees ever give them to us,” Gorenberg said.

Still another issue surrounding the nomination is whether Kagan, who’s unmarried, is a lesbian.

In a deleted CBS News posting published prior to the announcement of Kagan’s nomination, conservative blogger Ben Domenech wrote that confirmation of Kagan would make her the “first openly gay justice.”

The White House disputed Domenech’s characterization of Kagan as an out lesbian and said he was making false charges. After the posting was deleted, Domenech maintained that he heard discussion about her sexual orientation.

In a later posting on the Huffington Post, Domenech wrote that he “erroneously believed” Kagan was an out lesbian because “it had been mentioned casually on multiple occasions by friends and colleagues — including students at Harvard, Hill staffers, and in the sphere of legal academia — who know Kagan personally.”

Sessions’ office didn’t respond to the Blade’s request to comment on whether the matter was of concern to the senator or whether he would expect questions on the issue to come up during the confirmation hearings.

NeJaime said he didn’t anticipate discussions of Kagan’s sexual orientation to arise during her confirmation hearings, but said it would be “sad commentary” if the matter became a stumbling block for her.

“We don’t know about her sexual orientation one way or the other, and I don’t really anticipate it being an issue that anyone takes up,” he said.

Gorenberg said she didn’t have any information on Kagan’s sexual orientation and didn’t know how lawmakers would respond to speculation that she’s a lesbian.

“There are a lot of senators out there and I don’t know [who] may or may not be inclined to go after any nominee based on their sexual orientation,” Gorenberg said.

She said one of Lambda’s central tenets is that people shouldn’t face discrimination based on sexual orientation and noted that principle could be applied in Senate confirmation hearings.

A friend of Kagan’s told Politico this week that Kagan is not a lesbian.

“I’ve known her for most of her adult life and I know she’s straight,” Sarah Walzer, Kagan’s law school roommate, told Politico. “She dated men when we were in law school, we talked about men … She definitely dated when she was in D.C. after law school … and she just didn’t find the right person.”

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  1. Tim

    May 12, 2010 at 3:40 pm

    As terrible as it sounds, I don’t trust her, and assurances from the Obama administration about her being a Progressive who will work for equality doesn’t help. If anything, Obama’s (our fierce advocate) endorsement makes me distrust her motives more. I am very concerned about her comments against same-sex marriage, and a perceived support for the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell isn’t sufficient to remove my fears.

  2. Peter the saint

    May 13, 2010 at 5:07 am

    Yeah, so, she’s str8 (and likes to “play around”?), like all the other “str8” men she’s required to emulate and be chummy with and be “one of da guys” with. They’re not “gay”, she’s not “gay”, nobody’s “gay”, I got it, ok, fine. Like Towleroad maybe, only “homosexual tendencies” haha. Still, people who “only play around” always feel it necessary to “butch up” and declare that out and proud authentic americans are only 3/5th of a full citizen. Will that be Obama’s Supreme Court legacy? Hope not.

  3. SkeeterVT

    May 19, 2010 at 11:35 pm

    If Elena Kagan’s sexual orientation becomes an issue in her Supreme Court nomination, I, for one will be very interested in who makes it an issue.

    Former Justice David Souter had been rumored for decades to be gay because he had never married.

    Yet it was Souter — nominated by President George H.W. Bush — who ruled with the majority in two landmark LGBT rights rulings handed down by the Supreme Court: Romer v. Evans (1996), that struck down Colorado’s infamous anti-gay Amendment 2; and Lawrence v. Texas (2003), which overturned its infamous 1986 Bowers v. Hardwick decision and fully decriminalized homosexual relations.

    With confirmation hearings scheduled to begin on June 28 — the day after the big “Stonewall Weekend” Pride celebrations around the world — it will be interesting to see how those hearings turn out.

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Matthew Shepard honored at National Cathedral

Daylong services held to mark his 45th birthday



Matthew Shepard, gay news, Washington Blade
Matthew Shepard Thanksgiving and Celebration at the National Cathedral in 2018. (Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The parents of gay University of Wyoming student Matthew Shepard, who was murdered in a 1998 hate crime that drew international attention to anti-LGBTQ violence, were among those attending a day of religious services commemorating Shepard’s 45th birthday on Wednesday at the Washington National Cathedral.

The services, which the Cathedral organized in partnership with the Matthew Shepard Foundation, included tributes to Shepard at the Cathedral’s St. Joseph’s Chapel, where his remains were interred in a ceremony in 2018.  

“Matthew Shepard’s death is an enduring tragedy affecting all people and should serve as an ongoing call to the nation to reject anti-LGBTQ bigotry and instead embrace each of our neighbors for who they are,” the Very Rev. Randolph Marshall Hollerith, Dean of Washington National Cathedral, said at the time of Shepard’s interment.

“In the years since Matthew’s death, the Shepard family has shown extraordinary courage and grace in keeping his spirit and memory alive, and the Cathedral is honored and humbled to serve as his final resting place,” Hollerith said.

The first of the Cathedral’s Dec. 1 services for Shepard began at 7 a.m. with prayers, scripture readings, and music led by the Cathedral’s Rev. Canon Rosemarie Logan Duncan. The service was live streamed on YouTube.

An online, all-day service was also held from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. that Cathedral officials said was intended to “connect people around the world to honor Shepard and the LGBTQ community and pray for a more just world.”

The Shepard services concluded with a 5:30 p.m. in-person remembrance of Shepard in the Cathedral’s Nave, its main worship space. Among those attending were Shepard’s parents, Dennis and Judy Shepard, who have said they created the Matthew Shepard Foundation to continue their son’s support for equality for all.

A statement released by the Cathedral says a bronze plaque honoring Matthew Shepard was installed in St. Joseph’s Chapel to mark his final resting place at the time Shepard was interred there in 2018. 
Following the Cathedral’s Dec. 1 services for Shepard, the Adams Morgan gay bar Pitchers hosted a reception for Dennis and Judy Shepard, according to Pitchers’ owner David Perruzza.

One of the two men charged with Shepard’s murder, Russell Henderson, pleaded guilty to the charge after prosecutors agreed not to seek the death penalty for him. The second of the two men charged, Aaron McKinney, was convicted of the murder following a lengthy jury trial.

Prosecutors said McKinney repeatedly and fatally struck Shepard in the head with the barrel of a handgun after he and Henderson tied Shepard to a wooden fence in a remote field outside Laramie, Wy., on Oct. 6, 1998. Police and prosecutors presented evidence at McKinney’s trial that McKinney and Henderson met Shepard at a bar in Laramie on that day and lured him into their car, where they drove him to the field where authorities said McKinney fatally assaulted him.

Shepard died six days later at a hospital in Ft. Collins, Colo., where he was taken after being found unconscious while still tied to the fence.

In a dramatic courtroom scene following the jury’s guilty verdict for McKinney, Dennis Shepard urged the judge to spare McKinney’s life by not handing down a death sentence. He said that out of compassion and in honor of his son’s life, McKinney should be allowed to live. The judge sentenced McKinney to two consecutive terms of life in prison without the possibility of parole, the same sentence given to Henderson.

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‘Very familiar’: Mark Glaze’s story brings into focus mental health for gay men

Experts see common story as LGBTQ people enter middle age



Mark Glaze's death by suicide is bringing into focus mental health issues faced by gay men.

The death by suicide at age 51 of Mark Glaze, a gun reform advocate who was close to many in D.C.’s LGBTQ community, is striking a chord with observers who see his struggles with mental health and alcoholism as reflective of issues facing many gay men as they enter middle age.

Glaze’s story resonates even though much of the attention on mental health issues in the LGBTQ community is devoted to LGBTQ youth going through the coming out process and transgender people who face disproportionate violence and discrimination within the LGBTQ community in addition to a growing focus on LGBTQ seniors entering later stages of life.

Randy Pumphrey, senior director of behavioral health for the D.C.-based Whitman-Walker Health, said Glaze’s story was “very familiar” as a tale of mental health issues facing gay men in the middle stage of life.

“You’re talking about a gay-identified man who is in his 50s, somebody who has struggled with alcohol misuse — or maybe abuse or dependence— and also depression,” Pumphrey said. “I think that there has always been a higher incidence of suicide for men in general in their middle age 50 and above, but this increases when you’re talking about gay men, and also if you’re talking about gay men who suffer with mental health issues, or substance use disorder issues.”

Several sources close to Glaze said his death did not come as a surprise. His family has been open about his death by suicide last month while he was in jail after allegedly fleeing the scene of a car accident in Pennsylvania and a long history of depression and alcoholism.

Pumphrey said Glaze’s situation coping with mental health issues as well as the consequences for his role in the accident, were reflective of someone who might “begin to perceive that this is an issue that they can’t get away from, or the consequences they can’t get away from exposure and that can lead somebody to a fatal outcome.”

“My experience is that there have been gay men that I have worked with over the years — particularly in their 50s and early 60s — it’s taken them a long time to recognize the severity of the problem, whether it’s their depression or their substance abuse, and then they find themselves in a very precarious situation because of shame, and so they may not necessarily seek help even though they need help.”

A 2017 study in the American Journal of Men’s Health found the prevalence of depression among gay men is three times higher than the general adult population, which means they are a subgroup at high risk for suicide.

The study found “scant research exists about gay men’s health beyond sexual health issues,” most often with HIV, which means issues related to depression and suicidality “are poorly understood.”

“Gay men’s health has often been defined by sexual practices, and poorly understood are the intersections of gay men’s physical and mental health with social determinants of health including ethnicity, locale, education level and socioeconomic status,” the study says.

The study acknowledged being male itself is one factor incorporated in addressing mental health issues in this subgroup because “regardless of sexual orientation, men can be reluctant to seek help for mental health problems.” Another study quoted in the report found 23 percent, less than one quarter of gay men, who attempted suicide sought mental health or medical treatment.

In addition to mental health issues facing gay men in Glaze’s age group, others saw his situation as a common story in the culture of Washington, which is notorious for celebrating and prioritizing success with little tolerance for personal setbacks.

In the case of Glaze, who had sparred on Fox News with Tucker Carlson as executive director of Everytown for Gun Safety, the threat of exposure and threat to his career may have seemed overwhelmingly daunting.

Steven Fisher, who knew Glaze since the 1990s and worked with him at the D.C.-based Raben Group, said one factor that contributed to Glaze’s condition was “he could only see upward in terms of his career trajectory.”

“We saw that in him and it had me very concerned because I felt like he might end up in a place that wasn’t good once he left Everytown, and that’s tragically and sadly what happened,” Fisher said. “I think he just had trouble adjusting to what is usually a roller coaster ride, I think, in people’s careers, especially in the D.C. world.”

Along with Glaze, Fisher has worked on gun issues for Everytown, which has been a client of his since 2015 after he worked for them in 2012 after the Newtown shooting.

Compounding the challenges that Glaze faced is a culture among many gay men focused on sexuality, which prioritizes youth and appearance and presents problems as those qualities start fading when men enter middle age.

Fisher said another factor in Glaze’s condition was social media, pointing out public perception about his identity was important to him.

“If you look at his social media — I think this is instructive to the rest of us — a lot of the comments are about how Mark was so good looking and he was charming, and he was so smart and so funny,” Fisher said. “That’s all true, and that’s why he was very appealing to many people, but those qualities don’t really tell you everything about a person. In fact, one could argue they’re superficial in a way, and people have to remember people are more complicated than what you see on social media.”

One issue for gay men facing mental health issues as they enter middle age is they don’t have the same resources as those available to LGBTQ youth, who have been more of a focus in terms of mental health issues in the LGBTQ community.

Among the leading organizations for LGBTQ youth is the Trevor Project, which has resources and a hotline for LGBTQ youth facing mental health crises.

Kevin Wong, vice president of communications for the Trevor Project, said his organization would be receptive to an older LGBTQ person who calls the hotline, but ultimately would refer that person elsewhere.

“If an LGBTQ person above the age of 25 reaches out to The Trevor Project’s crisis services for support and expresses suicidal thoughts, our counselors will listen, actively and with empathy, and work with them to de-escalate and form a safety plan, like any other contact,” Wong said. “However, our organization has remained youth-centric since its founding and our volunteer crisis counselors are specifically trained with younger LGBTQ people in mind.”

Much attention is focused on the coming out process for LGBTQ people, a time that can upend close relationships — as well as reaffirm them — and a process more commonly associated with youth.

Ilan Meyer, senior scholar of public policy at the Williams Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles, said data is scant about suicide rates among LGBTQ people, but information on suicide attempts shows they tend to be at a heightened rate for LGBTQ people as they go through the coming out process.

“What we do know is that there is a connection with the coming out period at whatever age coming out happens,” Meyer said. “And so, we see a proximity to coming out whatever age that happened, we see the suicide attempts proceeding and after that.”

Suicide attempts, Meyer said, are much higher for LGBTQ people than the population at large. The self-reported rate of suicide attempts in the U.S. population as a whole, Meyer said, is 2.4 percent, but that figure changes to 20 to 30 percent among LGBTQ youth, which about to 10 to 15 times greater.

Black and Latino people, Meyer said, have been less likely to make suicide attempts in their lifetimes, although he added that may be changing in recent years.

With the primary focus on mental health issues elsewhere in the LGBTQ community, Glaze’s death raises questions about whether sufficient resources are available to people in his demographic, or whether individuals are willing to seek out care options that are available.

Meyer said whether the resources for suicidal ideologies among LGBTQ people are sufficient and what more could be done “is the the million-dollar question.”

“It’s definitely not determined by just mental health,” Meyer said. “So many people have depression, but they don’t attempt suicide. And so, then the difficult thing is to find the right moment to intervene and what that intervention should be.”

Meyer said much of the focus on mental health is on a person’s last moments before making a suicide attempt, such as making suicide hotlines readily available, but some of the stressors he sees “are more chronic, ongoing things related to homophobia and the kind of experience that LGBT people have as they come to terms to realize their sexual identity.”

Pumphrey said another factor in mental health issues not to be underestimated for almost two years now is “dealing with the COVID and loneliness epidemic,” which appears to have no immediate end in sight with the emergence of the Omnicron variant.

“There was always this piece of sometimes the experience of being in your 50s and early 60s…we talk about the invisibility factor,” Pumphrey said. “But when there’s just this sense of being disconnected from community, especially in the early days of the pandemic, and kind of being locked down, I think that just raised the risk.”

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U.S. Conference on HIV/AIDS to be held virtually Dec. 2-3

Fauci, Levine, Pelosi to speak at opening session



Dr. Rachel Levine, the U.S. Assistant Secretary of Health, is among speakers at this week’s U.S. Conference on HIV/AIDS. (Blade photo by Michael Key)

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases; and Dr. Rachel Levine, the U.S. Assistant Secretary of Health who became the nation’s highest-ranking transgender public official earlier this year, are among dozens of experts scheduled to participate in the 25th Annual U.S. Conference on HIV/AIDS scheduled to take place virtually Dec. 2-3.

Fauci and Levine were scheduled to join Harold Phillips, director of the White House Office of National AIDS Policy; and Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, as speakers at the conference’s opening plenary session at noon on Thursday, Dec. 2. 

Phillips and Levine were expected to provide information about President Joe Biden’s plans for updating the National HIV/AIDS Strategy, which Biden was scheduled to announce on Dec. 1 at a White House World AIDS Day event.

Members of the U.S. People Living With HIV Caucus were also expected to discuss the federal policy agenda on HIV/AIDS at the opening plenary session. 

In addition to the opening plenary and three other plenary sessions, one more on Thursday, Dec. 2, and two on Friday, Dec. 3, the conference was scheduled to include 140 workshop sessions on a wide variety of HIV/AIDS related topics.

The annual United States Conference on HIV/AIDS is organized by the D.C.-based national HIV/AIDS advocacy organization NMAC, which was formerly known as the National Minority AIDS Council before it changed its name to that of its widely known initials NMAC. 

“NMAC leads with race to urgently fight for health equity and racial justice to end the HIV epidemic in America,” the organization states on its website. “Health equity with communities of color is everyone’s challenge.”

Several of the workshop sessions cover the topic of expanding the local, state, and national efforts of using pre-exposure prophylaxis drugs known as PrEP as a means of preventing HIV infection. 

Other workshop sessions include: HIV CURE – Hot Topics in HIV Cure Research; A Town Hall on Aging and HIV; COVID, HIV, and Racism – How Providers Can Make a Difference; Expanding the Pleasure and HIV Prevention Toolkit: Kink As Harm Reduction; It’s About Time – HIV Research Just For Transgender Women; and Impact of COVID-19 on HIV Prevention Services Among U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention-Funded Community Based Organizations.

The conference’s fourth and closing plenary session, Foundation Stones to Building the EHE Effort in Indian County, “will highlight the work of those addressing HIV and COVID in Indian Country, rural states and among Alaska Natives with limited infrastructure,” according to a conference agenda statement. 

“This plenary addresses these challenges and provides innovative solutions by the Indian Country – making the case to support Native HIV care by providing essential building blocks,” the agenda statement says. 

Paul Kawata, NMAC’s executive director, says in a statement in the conference’s agenda booklet that he and his NMAC team are disappointed that the 2021 conference is being held virtually for the second year in a row.

“But we felt the issue of safety was simply too critical to ignore,” Kawata said in his statement. “I’ve been very concerned about our loved ones over 50 living with HIV through the whole COVID pandemic,” he said, noting that people in that category were dealing with isolation as well as a higher risk for COVID.

“I hope this conference, even though it is virtual, will help alleviate some of that isolation,” Kawata said. “We’ve worked very hard to make this conference not just an opportunity for training and education, but a chance to connect with others, reinforce those strands in your support net, and hopefully, establish some new connections.”

More information about the U.S. Conference on HIV/AIDS and instructions on registering to attend can be obtained at

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