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Despite compromise, advocates celebrate votes to repeal ‘Don’t Ask’

McCain pledges to derail ‘Don’t Ask’ momentum

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U.S. Sen. John McCain (Blade photo by Michael Key)

Gay veterans are celebrating congressional action last week to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” 17 years after Congress passed a law banning gays from serving openly in the U.S. military.

The House and Senate took separate actions that would lead to an end of the statute. Both chambers approved amendments repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” as part of major defense budget legislation known as the fiscal year 2011 defense authorization bill.

On May 27, the House voted 234-194 on the floor in favor of an amendment sponsored by Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-Pa.). The next day, the chamber voted 229-186 in favor of passing the entire defense bill.

Five Republicans voted in the affirmative on the amendment: Reps. Judy Biggert (Ill.), Joseph Cao (La.), Charles Djou (Hawaii), Ron Paul (Texas) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (Fla.). Joining other Republicans to vote against the measure were 26 Democrats.

The Senate Armed Services Committee voted 16-12 in favor of an identical repeal measure sponsored by Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.).

In that chamber, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) was the only Republican to vote in favor of repeal. The sole Democrat who voted against the amendment was Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.). He had earlier told media outlets that he sees no need to preempt the Pentagon’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” study by voting in favor of repeal at this time.

The legislative compromise adopted by both chambers of Congress would repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” only after the Defense Department completes its study on the issue, due Dec. 1.

Additionally, President Barack Obama, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Michael Mullen would have to certify that repeal won’t undermine military readiness — and 60 days would have to pass after this certification before repeal would take effect.

The measure also notably lacks the non-discrimination language for gay, lesbian and bisexual service members that standalone repeal bills contained.

Even with the compromise, though, many gay former service members were delighted with Congress for taking action.

Mike Almy, a gay former Air Force communications officer who was discharged under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in 2006 and recently testified before the Senate on the issue, witnessed the vote in the House chamber.

“The whole floor and the gallery erupted with a cheer,” he said. “There were quite a few tears of joy and disbelief, including myself. I still get choked up when I think about it.”

Following the vote in the Senate Armed Services Committee, Almy said repeal supporters visited the office of Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) to thank him for his vote in favor of ending “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

Nelson told the Blade last month that he wouldn’t vote in favor of a measure repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” But after Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) unveiled his compromise legislation, Nelson signaled he would vote in favor of the measure.

Almy said Nelson’s staffers told repeal supporters that they received 40,000 phone calls in Nebraska for repeal and 1,100 against.

“I was speechless,” Almy said. “I was completely dumbfounded there was that much support in Nebraska for repeal. It was just an incredible week overall.”

Retired Navy Capt. Joan Darrah, a lesbian who retired from service in 2002 because of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” also said she was pleased with Congress, calling the votes “a tremendous effort and a great result.”

But Darrah, who lives in Alexandria, Va., said she’s “distressed” about Webb’s vote against repeal.

“I’ve met and corresponded with Sen. Webb many times and I’m disappointed,” she said.

Darrah said she’s willing to live with the compromise, though, and didn’t think Mullen would delay certification of repeal once the Pentagon study is complete.

“This approach that they’ve come up with allows the study to conclude — and the study is supposed to be how to implement it, not if we should,” she said. “I think that this is an excellent compromise. We need the Senate to vote on it and then get on with getting rid of this, frankly, un-American and discriminatory law.”

Also expressing excitement about the congressional votes was a gay man from Chesapeake, Va. The active duty Navy sailor, who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, spoke to the Blade on the condition of anonymity to avoid to being outed under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

He called the action from Congress “long overdue” and said “it’s been a rough hell” serving in the military for seven of the 17 years since “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was enacted.

He said he’s willing to accept the compromise advanced by Congress because “we’re standing on the right side of history” and didn’t think Obama, Gates or Mullen would delay certification of repeal.

“Adm. Mullen said it best — men and women are serving in an institution where integrity is key, but we’re asking them — asking us — to hide who we are,” said the man. “I don’t think we’ll have any problem at all.”

Following the vote, Obama issued a statement on the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” action. The White House previously said it would support the compromise legislation because it allows the Pentagon to complete its study on the issue.

Obama said he was “pleased” with the outcome while stressing the importance of the Pentagon’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” study due at year’s end.

“I have long advocated that we repeal ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,’ and I am pleased that both the House of Representatives and the Senate Armed Services Committee took important bipartisan steps toward repeal tonight,” Obama said.

The president said the Pentagon’s review was “key to successful repeal” and that he was grateful the amendments approved by Congress “will ensure that the Department of Defense can complete that comprehensive review that will allow our military and their families the opportunity to inform and shape the implementation process.”

Hurdles remain in repeal process

Even with Congress taking action to end “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” the legislation approved by the House and the Senate committee still has to make its way to the president’s desk and win his signature before it’s enacted.

And a number of obstacles could prevent the bill from reaching the White House or being signed into law. However, supporters of repeal are saying these roadblocks are less numerous than obstacles before the congressional votes on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

Alex Nicholson, executive director of Servicemembers United, said the legislation didn’t “have a lot” of possible roadblocks preventing it from being signed by the president.

Still, one problem that supporters of repeal could face is a filibuster of the defense authorization bill when it reaches the Senate floor.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee and chief opponent of repeal in the Senate, had pledged to find the 60 votes in the Senate necessary to block the bill from moving forward.

Roll Call newspaper reported May 27 that McCain said he’ll “without a doubt” support a filibuster if the bill goes to the floor with repeal language.

“I’ll do everything in my power,” McCain was quoted as saying. “I’m going to do everything I can to support the men and women of the military and to fight what is clearly a political agenda.”

But mustering 60 votes to filibuster the defense bill could prove a challenge for McCain.

Two senators who voted against the inclusion of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal language in the defense bill — Jim Webb (D-Va.) and Scott Brown (R-Mass.) — later voted in favor of reporting out of committee the defense bill as a whole. Their votes could be seen as signs they wouldn’t support filibustering the legislation on the floor.

Nicholson said he believes Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has the votes to shut down McCain’s filibuster threat on the bill, but added it’s “never a guaranteed thing.”

“I personally think Jim Webb and Scott Brown’s votes are still a little volatile,” Nicholson said. “While they voted to report the bill out of committee, I don’t know that they’re solid allies on this. If McCain figures out a way to try to block this with a filibuster, I wouldn’t count Brown and Webb in our camp 100 percent.”

During a press conference last week, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.), hailed as a champion of repeal in the Senate, dismissed the chances of a successful filibuster on the defense authorization bill.

“I think it’s hard to filibuster a defense bill,” Levin said. “There’s so much in here for our troops. The fact that there’s one provision in here that some people don’t like — it seems to me [that] would not be [a] sufficient deal for 41 senators to filibuster a defense bill.”

Levin said he wants to bring the legislation before the full Senate sometime before the August recess.

Nicholson said another threat on the Senate floor could be a strike-and-replace amendment modifying the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” language, such as one that changes the scope of the Pentagon study on the issue.

Conservatives have called for legislation that reconfigures the study so that it would focus on whether repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” would have a significant impact on improving military readiness.

“Something like that could be very appealing, especially if it’s rather moderate in nature,” Nicholson said.

Making the language different in both bills would mean the differences would have to be hashed out by conference committee, which could jeopardize any repeal provision being in the final bill.

An unrelated issue that could preclude Obama from signing the defense bill is funding for an alternate engine program for a next generation military aircraft known as the Joint Strike Fighter.

The House version of the legislation authorizes $485 million in funds for the second engine for the aircraft. Last week, an amendment failed in the House that would have stripped the funding from the legislation. The Senate committee’s version of the legislation authorizes no funding for the program.

In a statement, Obama spoke out against the funds for the alternate engine program in a Statement of Administration Policy on the defense bill as a whole. He subsequently warned Congress he would veto the legislation if it reaches his desk with such funding.

“As the Statement of Administration Policy made clear, our military does not want or need these programs being pushed by the Congress, and should Congress ignore this fact, I will veto any such legislation so that it can be returned to me without those provisions,” Obama said.

The issue of funding for the alternate engine program has perennially been a point of contention between Congress and the White House. According to Reuters, 2010 marks the fourth consecutive year in which the Pentagon has voiced concern about the program.

Nicholson said he didn’t know if the veto threat was “too serious of a problem,” but noted it’s something supporters of repeal should monitor.

He said repeal supporters could either push Congress to take out funding for the alternate engine program or lobby Obama not to veto the bill over the funding.

“In the end, I don’t think that’s going to be a big problem,” Nicholson said. “Even if he did veto it and it went back, I feel certain with the majorities by which we won the House and the way it’s aligned in the Senate, I don’t really fear that the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ language will be threatened or in play.”

Levin, a supporter of funding for the alternate engine program, also said during the press conference last week that Congress and the administration would find a way to work through the disagreement on the issue.

“There’s all kinds of items in this bill,” he said. “It’s difficult for me to believe the president would veto an entire bill over just one provision.”

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5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. Frankie James

    June 3, 2010 at 1:52 pm

    Oh boy he really wants to be re-elected.

    Come on Johnny, retire and write a book. Then you can travel around with your idiot side-kick Ms. Palin.

    You are supposed to be a Senator. Isn’t that what the Senate does best, compromise?

  2. Robert McJunkin

    June 3, 2010 at 2:20 pm

    I’m so thankful that God has spared us from having McCain as President. This bigot has now shown his true colors, which were not evident during the 2008 campaign.

    I continue to be ashamed of having my home in Virginia, where, as another article notes, the State Supreme Court has denied us any protection against discimination in the work place.

  3. Peter the saint

    June 3, 2010 at 4:31 pm

    Gawd – McCain is bitter about everything, EVERYTHING. Especially that “black” man who defeated him so handily for Prez – “that one” as he called Obama in the debate. A BITTER ARIZONA-AMERICAN… UHH, I MEAN OLD WHITE DUDE?! (I hate all this faux color of skin cr*p but, whatever.)

  4. EL Dorado

    June 8, 2010 at 11:54 am

    So will GOPROUD pull it’s head out of the GOP’s rear to condemn McCain’s actions? Highly unlikely!

    Fine, repeal of DADT is on the table and has been voted upon. So what?! Only a minority of us are impacted by DADT! What we need is ENDA dammit! ENDA should not have to take a backseat to this legislation. AGain another example of misplaced priorities and squandered opportunities by the Dems and the GLTB leadership! Wake up stupid!

  5. EL Dorado

    June 8, 2010 at 11:56 am

    Hopefully this is a clear example of how John McCain is no friend to our community and like Mitt Romney, there is no reasoning with him when it comes to the rights of GLBT Americans! The mere fact that he found it offensive that Hate Crimes was included in the last Defense bill shows his contempt for our community! When will you faggots wake up to that reality and stop kissing his rear?

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National

Matthew Shepard honored at National Cathedral

Daylong services held to mark his 45th birthday

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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.

(VIDEO COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON NATIONAL CATHEDRAL VIA YOUTUBE)
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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

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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

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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 nmac.org.

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