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Would we be better off under President Hillary?

Clinton’s gay supporters from 2008 weigh in on Obama’s performance

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Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Would a President Hillary Clinton have made more progress on LGBT issues over the course of her first term as opposed to what we’ve seen under President Obama?

The secretary of state certainly stole the spotlight on LGBT issues when she gave a high-profile speech in Geneva earlier this month calling for an end to anti-gay abuses overseas and emphasizing her previously stated belief that gay rights are human rights and human rights are gay rights.

“In our lifetimes, attitudes toward gay people in many places have been transformed,” Clinton said. “Many people, including myself, have experienced a deepening of our own convictions on this topic over the years, as we have devoted more thought to it, engaged in dialogues and debates, and established personal and professional relationships with people who are gay.”

MORE IN THE BLADE: WATCH THE HISTORIC GENEVA SPEECH

Clinton had a strong LGBT following in 2008 when she was competing against Obama for the Democratic nomination for president. There were many high-profile LGBT Clintonistas, although many of them became Obama supporters after he won the Democratic mantle.

Former members of Clinton’s 2008 LGBT steering committee praised her speech in Geneva, but noted that it took place as part of a coordinated effort under the Obama administration.

Elizabeth Birch, former executive director of the Human Rights Campaign and a Clinton backer in 2008, said the Clinton speech was “bold and historic,” but wouldn’t have taken place if President Obama didn’t want it to happen.

“It was as deeply thoughtful and intelligent as Secretary Clinton herself,” Birch said. “But we all know that the secretary of state serves the president and our nation. This speech took place because this administration — including Secretary Clinton — wanted it to take place.”

Peter Rosenstein, a gay D.C. Democratic activist and 2008 Clinton delegate, noted Clinton’s speech followed Obama’s speech at the United Nations in which he became the first sitting president to mention gay rights in a speech before the full U.N. General Assembly.

“I think Hillary made a brilliant, heartfelt speech on LGBT rights but let us not forget that President Obama spoke out first at the United Nations on the need to protect gay and lesbian people around the world,” Rosenstein said.

But questions linger among some Clinton supporters over what progress the LGBT community would have seen if she had won the presidency.

Clinton’s LGBT advocacy in her role as secretary of state has been aggressive. Early on during the administration, Clinton instituted a change to offer equal benefits to same-sex partners of Foreign Service officers.

The change allowed same-sex partners to have access to diplomatic passports, use of medical facilities at posts overseas, medical and other emergency evacuation privileges, compensation for transportation between posts and training in security and languages.

The Obama administration has no seen no shortage of major advancements for the LGBT community. Notable among them is passage of hate crimes protection legislation, repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and the discontinuation of the defense of the Defense of Marriage Act in court.

Clo Ewing, an Obama campaign spokesperson, touted the president’s record in response to an inquiry on whether a President Clinton would have accomplished more than President Obama.

“President Obama’s administration has done more to advance LGBT equality than any other, accomplishing the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,’ signing the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crime Prevention Act into law and ending discrimination based on gender identity in the federal government,” Ewing said. “And if he’s reelected, that progress will continue.”

Still, many LGBT advocates are frustrated that Obama has yet to come out in support of same-sex marriage. Obama has said he could “evolve” to support marriage rights, but more than a year has passed since he made that statement and he has yet to do so.

Moreover, one major piece of legislation that Obama backed during his 2008 campaign continues to languish in Congress: the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

Passage would be difficult given the current makeup of Congress, but Obama in the interim could issue an executive order preventing federal dollars from going to contractors that don’t have their own non-discrimination protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity in place for workers.

Lane Hudson, a gay D.C.-based Democratic activist and 2008 Clinton supporter, thinks she would have made more progress on ENDA and marriage if she were president.

“My gut tells me that Hillary would have evolved to a position supporting full marriage equality,” Hudson said. “While her speech in Geneva didn’t mention it specifically, I feel that it is implied in her statement that ‘gay rights are human rights and human rights are gay rights.”

Hudson went to 10 states — including New Hampshire where Clinton won the primary — to campaign for the then-Democratic presidential candidate. He also served as host for LGBT-focused fundraisers in D.C.

Clinton, in her role as secretary of state, has continued to support civil unions as opposed to same-sex marriage. But, during a speech at the State Department this year commemorating June as Pride month, she praised the marriage law in New York, saying it, “gives such visibility and credibility to everything that so many of you have done over so many years.”

Still, she hasn’t endorsed marriage rights even as at least one other member of Obama’s cabinet has declared his personal support. Secretary of Housing & Urban Development Shaun Donovan expressed his support for same-sex marriage last month.

It’s difficult to say whether ENDA would be further along under a Clinton administration because employment protections haven’t been under her purview as secretary of state.

Still, Hudson said he believes Clinton would “have been more aggressive in helping to get ENDA passed into law.”

“Without question, Hillary would have been more successful at legislating,” Hudson said. “Not only does she have a solid record as a senator, but she would have been far more engaged with the Congress. ENDA didn’t even leave the House committee in the last Congress.”

But many prominent LGBT Clinton backers say they’re pleased with the Obama administration and she and the president have been working closely to advance LGBT issues.

Other former Clinton supporters were dubious that the secretary of state would have come out for marriage equality or guided ENDA to passage had she been elected president instead of Obama.

Hilary Rosen, a D.C.-based Democratic activist, called herself “Hillary Clinton’s greatest fan,” but expressed skepticism that Clinton would have succeeded on ENDA or evolved on marriage.

“ENDA is stuck in the Congress not the White House and I just don’t know if she would have changed her view publicly by now about marriage if she were president,” Rosen said. “And anyone who tells you they know is making it up.”

Birch said Obama achieved tremendous legislative success for the LGBT community — counting passage of hate crimes legislation and “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal as two signature accomplishments — and said people should “work harder than ever in their lives to re-elect a president that invested in real change.”

“President Obama has achieved what no other president has ever achieved — a breakthrough of majority votes in the United States Congress to actually change the federal law of our country,” Birch said. “He has done it twice. He prioritized us and that is how it happened.”

Steve Elmendorf, a gay Democratic lobbyist, said he doesn’t think “we’d see any difference” if Clinton were president instead of Obama.

“I was an enthusiastic Hillary backer; I am an enthusiastic Obama backer now,” Elmendorf said. “In terms of passing of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ [repeal] and hate crimes, I think Obama has done a terrific job and, I think, the community should be enthusiastic about him — particularly if they watch the Republican primary process play out and see what the alternative is.”

Elmendorf, also a member of Clinton’s 2008 LGBT steering committee, said the only thing Obama hasn’t done is come out publicly for marriage equality, but noted Clinton also has yet to make such an endorsement.

“The opposition is so horrible, and marriage is just one issue and he’s got such a good record on just everything else that it doesn’t in any way diminish my enthusiasm for him,” Elmendorf said.

 

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16 Comments

16 Comments

  1. a.mcewen

    December 21, 2011 at 11:58 am

    If Hilary was the president, the question would be “Would we be better off under President Obama?” It’s a silly question. Our community must be GOAL-ORIENTED and you don’t achieve goals by spending time on silly hypothetical questions having no bearing on the reality of your situation. We need to work with what we have instead of thinking about “what would have been.”

  2. Michael Bedwell

    December 21, 2011 at 12:11 pm

    Doesn’t the co-creator of the [H]ilary [R]osen [C]hampagne fund EVER get embarrassed by—or at least tired of—defending Obama’s abandoned, broken, and betrayed promises as our self-annointed “Fierce Advocate”?

  3. Derek Washington

    December 21, 2011 at 12:25 pm

    There seems to be a wing of the Gay civil rights movement that needs the same message I shout to the tea party, deal with it, the Black guy won.

    I was a Hillary delegate and have gone on to be proud supporter of the president. I always am astounded by people like Hudson who just refuse to give the president guys credit regardless of all he has done for our community. It is either sour grapes, which he should get over, or something deeper, which is troubling yet boring.

  4. Michael Antipoulos

    December 21, 2011 at 12:29 pm

    Let’s also remember the speeches Hillary gave at AU and Geo Wash Univ during the primaries. The Secretary stated very clearly that embracing the gay community was not only paramount to the United States progressing forward as a nation, but also the next new frontier. To suggest somehow that this president was first out of the gate in support of LGBT issues, is simply reckless. Pre AND post running for office, Hillary has always been an advocate and champion for the LGBT community. I would have no problem recognizing this president as it relates to supporting the gay community “if” he was in fact first out of the gate. However, let’s give proper credit where it us due, and that is with Hillary Clinton.

  5. Michael Antipoulos

    December 21, 2011 at 1:28 pm

    @Michael Bedwell, Thank you for having the courage that so many of us lack, in stating so simply and clearly, the facts. No matter how hard it is to listen to or accept. Bravo!

    • Terry Bean

      December 21, 2011 at 10:35 pm

      Thanks Hilary for your forthrightness Lane, If President Obama walked on water, there is no question in my mind that you would claim that it is proof that he can’t swim.

  6. wondermann

    December 22, 2011 at 2:11 am

    Derek is right. Some in our community are acting like bitter Tea Party fools. Get over it and get over yourselves

  7. Micheal Alexander

    December 22, 2011 at 7:58 am

    Get over it! The man has done so much for this community. And yet some people are still crying over 2008 milk! You wanna cry? Vote in the GOP! Then in 2013 you will be sitting here asking if we should have been happy with the Prersident we got in 2008.

  8. Customartist

    December 22, 2011 at 9:26 am

    An Obama/Clinton ticket would cinch the Presidency through 2012 and save the Nation, albeit possibly temporarily, from Capitalist Ruin.

  9. Todd Sanders

    December 22, 2011 at 11:33 am

    GET OVER IT ALREADY, OBAMA IS IN THE WHITE. He has done more for the LGBT community than any of the men before him.

  10. Michael Antipoulos

    December 22, 2011 at 12:16 pm

    @Customartist I agree. But this president is far too arrogant to consider that option. To the others that replied in an attack-full manner, if all you have is character assassination and personal attacks in your arsenal, then you are just as guilty for not looking at the bigger picture. keep drinking the kool-aid. See how far it gets you. On that note, MERRY CHRISTMAS!

  11. Rick Rosendall

    December 22, 2011 at 8:11 pm

    Obama had the strength and wisdom, not to mention class, to name his leading rival Secretary of State. The superb job she has done, including on December 6, deserves our applause and thanks–but she acted as the President’s representative, not as a lone ranger–notwithstanding the fact that, as he knew when he appointed her, she brings her own considerable stature to the job. They have been a good team.

    I am glad to hear reports from Lane Hudson’s gut, but I agree with Hilary Rosen. We do not know that a President Hillary Clinton would have evolved any faster than Obama on marriage, nor do we know that she could have navigated the GOP obstruction better than he. It is all idle talk. One thing nobody anywhere on the political spectrum thinks is that Mrs. Clinton is stupid. There is no way that she would damage herself by mounting a challenge to an incumbent Democratic president, regardless of how much some people want it. If she wants it in 2016, she’ll have my support. In the meantime, those who truly respect her will stop embarrassing her and get with the program for 2012.

  12. Herndon Davis

    December 23, 2011 at 12:16 pm

    Gay activists make me wanna puke most of the time these days. So Pres. Obama gets the repeal of ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,’ and signs Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crime Prevention Act plus a slew of other small yet significant acts that go underreported.

    But these whining folks are crying because he hasn’t fully backed Marriage equality although he’s hinted he will evolve on and hasn’t pushed through ENDA. Well hello, it’s called politics which means U don’t get everything when you want, when you want it and even how you want it.

    Hell none of that would have happen under GOP reign so the gays should be jumping for joy. If they were smart they’d be backing Obama like crazy so he can “evolve” on marriage equality in his second term. This is crazy. Drama queen gay activists!!

  13. Rick Rosendall

    December 23, 2011 at 4:48 pm

    Amen, brother Herndon.

  14. Skeeter Sanders

    December 28, 2011 at 2:48 pm

    Get freaking REAL! If you think President Obama has received the most vicious, bitter treatment from opposition Republicans, what the hell makes ANYONE think that the GOP would treat a President Hillary Clinton any better? Odds are, the Republicans would have treated Clinton even worse.

    Sexism within the Republican Party is even more deeply entrenched than racism (Just ask Michelle Bachmann).

    • aintstudyingyou

      January 17, 2012 at 1:43 pm

      Sorry, Skeet. But it’s your own selective hearing if you haven’t heard the many, many racist things coming out of the REpublican party. I would say that their race politics and their politics on gender and sexuality are gnarled branches of the same tree of evil intentions.

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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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