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Will Dems embrace marriage in platform?

Renewed debate over LGBT issues as parties prepare for 2012 conventions



Michael Mitchell

Im sure that the Democratic Party platform will be very good if not great on LGBT issues,' said Michael Mitchell, executive director of the National Stonewall Democrats. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

The Republican National Convention in Tampa Bay, Fla., and the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., are 13 months away, but many are already wondering how the two parties will address LGBT issues in their 2012 platforms.

“The platform from 2008 was a pretty good platform, as are most of the platforms of state Democratic parties around the country,” said Michael Mitchell, executive director of the National Stonewall Democrats. “So the vast majority of them are very LGBT inclusive, the vast majority of them talk about everything from the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ all the way up to and including marriage in some places. Certainly they vary state to state, given how strong LGBT people are organized in the Democratic Party there.”

Mitchell continued, “So I have no doubt given the people who were involved in 2008 will continue to be involved now, the new crop of people we have coming in. The work that we’re doing at National Stonewall — or rather that we will be doing, as we haven’t started working in earnest on a platform — I’m sure that the platform will be very good if not great on LGBT issues.”

Mitchell sees opportunities to address new LGBT issues in the platform, as several of the 2008 planks have been achieved, including passage of a federal hate crimes law and repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

“Our issues have shifted since 2008, so obviously we had the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ and that’s great … but there are other issues around that implementation that we have to start digging into,” Mitchell continued. “I think it’s certainly better than what the other party is up to.”

The 2008 Republican Party platform denounced same-sex marriage, as well as non-discrimination statutes barring bias on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity in areas like employment, public accommodations and adoption.

Some moderate Republicans hope that the party will soften its anti-gay rhetoric next year, as public opinion on LGBT issues has shifted.

The DNC’s 2008 platform included a call to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” increase funding for HIV/AIDS prevention and care, pass the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act and assure that federal funds would not be used to “proselytize or discriminate” in “faith-based” programs. The language also explicitly promised to fight discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, and alluded to support for non-discrimination laws in employment.

Most strikingly, the platform stated, “We support the full inclusion of all families, including same-sex couples, in the life of our nation, and support equal responsibility, benefits, and protections. We will enact a comprehensive bipartisan employment non-discrimination act. We oppose the Defense of Marriage Act and all attempts to use this issue to divide us.”

But some LGBT Democrats are looking for more in 2012.

Richard Socarides, president of Equality Matters and a former adviser to President Bill Clinton, wants to see the Democratic Party take a bold stance on issues dear to the LGBT community, including marriage equality.

“I feel it’s important for the Democratic Party to have a strong pro-LGBT platform,” he said. “The platform is very important. It reflects what we stand for. The 2008 platform is not going to be good enough for 2012.

“As we watch the Republican field develop, it seems the GOP platform will be a total disaster,” Socarides said, referring to the 2012 field of GOP presidential candidates.

Members of both parties, however, see 2012 as an opportunity to make headway.

“Log Cabin Republicans plan to actively participate in the process to revise the party’s platform,” said Christian Berle, deputy executive director of Log Cabin Republicans. “We recognize there will be a lot of work to be done to strengthen the importance of reaching out to LGBT Americans as a part of strengthening the party,”

Log Cabin’s chairman emeritus, Bob Kabel, sits on the Republican National Committee, Berle noted. Kabel — Log Cabin’s first national chairman — is the only openly gay member of the RNC, and the first openly gay chairman of a state-level Republican Committee, as the chairman of the District of Columbia Republican Committee.

“Log Cabin Republicans have long had delegates of ours to the conventions and will work with other organizations to help us recruit more openly gay candidates,” Berle said.

Mitchell hopes to bring leaders from across the LGBT community directly to the DNC to communicate goals and ideas to the decision makers.

“I would hope that we are the point organization for other LGBT organizations who are looking to get included in the platform and that we can help guide people to the right folks. That’s the role I really see us as playing.”

Though both parties have a long wait to decide their platforms, Michael Czin, a regional press secretary at the Democratic National Committee, said that as soon as the state parties are ready, the process will begin moving forward.

“The process to draft the 2012 platform hasn’t started yet, but next year there will be a robust and inclusive process within the Democratic Party to draft the 2012 platform,” Czin told the Blade. “The process, just like in previous years will be representative of the many voices that comprise the Democratic Party.”

The platform is forged by the Platform Committee, a diverse group that consists of party delegates from all over the country, representing many constituency groups within the party.

Mitchell said that Stonewall would be able to wield some influence over the process of crafting the platform, especially if prominent LGBT Democrats are involved at high levels during its creation.

“[Stonewall Democrats] have close relationships with the folks who I expect will end up being players,” Mitchell said. “The folks who were all involved the last time around. … We have a lot of those relationships already existing, and I’m sure we’ll be building relationships to figure out the best way to make the platform as LGBT inclusive as possible for both the LGBT community and our families.”

Berle sees a trend of Republican candidates taking less hard-right stances on LGBT issues.

“I think the candidacy of Gov. Jon Huntsman opens a great number of doors for LGBT Republicans to get behind a candidate,” Berle told the Blade. “He has the same position on marriage equality that the president does with his support for civil unions, that is striking a tenor with a wide array of gay and lesbian Americans, not only Republicans but Democrats and independents as well. You have an openly gay candidate in Fred Karger and you have Gov. Gary Johnson and Rep. Ron Paul, whose libertarian positions line up with the views of many LGBT Americans.”

But not everyone sees platform language as relevant to the race, as candidates don’t always tow the party line.

“Party platforms are interesting creatures these days,” said Dana Beyer, executive director of Gender Rights Maryland. “There’s a real dichotomy in my mind. I can’t remember the last time I cared, as a voter, what the platform actually said. Maybe the early 70’s, but it was so long ago I don’t recall.”

She continued, “However, as an activist, and a Democratic candidate, I’m very aware that the platform speaks volumes about the party’s values and priorities. And while it is still a long haul from the enunciation of those values in a platform to their integration into the life of the party’s members, and particularly its leaders, you must start somewhere, and that somewhere is the party platform.”

Chris Barron, board chair of GOProud, played down the importance of platform language.

“Political party platforms are not worth the paper that they’re printed on,” said Barron. “No one in the country reads them, nor should anyone in the country read them. They have absolutely no impact whatsoever. What I care about? I care about the policies that the nominee of each party is going to put forward. That’s what [GOProud will] be focused on.”

Log Cabin’s Berle agrees the presidential nominee holds more sway than the platform committee in the end.

“In terms of the platform — and the convention itself — it will be driven largely through whoever is the Republican nominee, so there are a varying number of candidates who would have different positions in regard to redressing those issues,” Berle said.

Berle speculated that if one of the candidates who has committed to supporting a federal marriage amendment wins the nomination, it will remain part of the platform. However, there are other areas where LGBT Republicans can gain ground, he said.

“It would be a consistent effort of ours to address and debate and hopefully remove the language in support of the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy as a part of the platform, particularly because ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ in August of 2012 will not exist as a policy,” Berle said. “And it will not exist as a policy because of the support of Republican United States Senators such as Susan Collins and Scott Brown.”

Berle noted that there could be opportunities at the convention level that would expand rights for LGBT Americans, such as support for tax parity legislation that removes the penalty on companies and individuals that cover domestic partners through their health care policies.

When speculating about whether or not the Republican Party would finally nominate a candidate that would speak against anti-LGBT voices in the party, GOProud’s Barron said the party already had in John McCain.

“John McCain went to the floor of the Senate and spoke out eloquently against the Federal Marriage Amendment back when that voice actually mattered,” Barron said. “When there were centrist Democrats who were hiding from this issue, John McCain went to the floor and talked about how it is antithetical to everything that the Republican Party was founded on.”

McCain, however, frustrated his pro-LGBT friends in the Republican Party in 2010 when he became the most outspoken voice fighting the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in the Senate. The repeal eventually passed, despite the senator’s protests and filibuster threat.

“I’m confident that we’re going to have a nominee that gay conservatives can work with,” Barron said. “It’s very early in the process, but at the end of the day we’re going to have somebody that gay conservatives can support.”

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  1. nader paul kucinich gravel mckinney baldwin ventura sheehan

    August 18, 2011 at 7:24 pm

    we never stop learning from each other
    honesty, compassion, intelligence, guts

    • Ruth

      August 20, 2011 at 1:01 am

      Learning yes but intruding no…gays have NO right to push such a disgusting agenda and try to change the way that human lives have conducted themsleve just because they cannot control their illness of homosexuality…it is outrageous and sickening.!!!..I know all I want to know about them and could care less about them as far as their sexuallity is concerned…They can do their thing and leave the rest of us alone, just like we want to leave them to themselves and their evil ways!! They have no special rights as what they do is not special to anyone but themselves and the rest of humanity are appauled at them! Just as we are at pedophiles or murderers or feel sad for insane people as they have lives that are not like ours. Lost minds and souls, that can change to notmal ,if they want to ,but they do not…it is a sickness of deparavity and evil they have chosen! So get out of my choices and freedoms!

  2. Ruth

    August 20, 2011 at 12:54 am

    Why is it gays cannot just do what they do and shut the heck up and leave the rest of us alone who think they are disgusting sick people who need the help of psychiatrists!? What is it going to take to make them understand that we could care less about what they do to each other and want to get on with our normal lives without the interfearance of such outrageous unhealthy behavior from some! Go back inthe closet cause we are not intested in your illness if you have to push it on everyone!. Gays have all the rights other humans do, but they want special ones and think they are something great. Well they are not to anyone but each other and need to get over themselves.!!! They are an obamination to the Lord and choose to be as they are, like any other twisted bent problem person! I am sorry there is such an affliction to have but most of us know the difference between what is acceptable and what is deviant or digusting and immoral! and when to go get help for such and where! STOP trying to indocrinate our children, our military and those that are weak enough already in the government as to not be able to stand for anything, much less against gays! Our business, lives and pursuits are not yours to interfear with, and certainly inflitrating into our children’s education is against our freedom! Deviant behavior has always been there ,but is not what the average normal person approves of ,so stop pushing your pathetic inability to control yourselves and stop this insanity! You have no right to push abnormal behavior as make us sick! I am sorry for you and your problem but you have NO right to shove such disgusting immoral behavior on anyone!

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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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