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AIDS 2012: HIV/AIDS activists heckle Gray at Global Village

Housing Works protesters criticized Gray’s response to D.C. epidemic

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Gay News, Washington Blade, HIV/AIDS

Protesters disrupt Mayor Vincent Gray’s Global Village speech (Blade photo by Michael Key)

More than a dozen HIV/AIDS activists on Monday heckled Mayor Vincent Gray as he spoke at the International AIDS Conference’s Global Village.

Housing Works members chanted “numbers don’t lie, politicians do” and other slogans as he took the stage inside the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. They repeatedly accused Gray of not doing enough to combat the city’s HIV/AIDS epidemic as he tried to speak.

“We have the leadership of our health department here and we will be happy to talk with you all about and share with you the plan we have,” said Gray, who specifically pointed out Dr. Gregory Pappas of the Department of Health’s HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis, Sexually Transmitted Disease and Tuberculosis Administration to the protesters. “We will be happy to discuss that with you. We’ll share documents with you.”

The mayor noted that no baby has been born with HIV in D.C. since 2009. Gray also referenced the campaign that city officials unveiled last month that encourages testing among D.C.’s 30,000 employees — he gets tested annually and publicly announces the results.

“I am personally committed finding a cure to this disease,” said Gray. “We know that treatment is prevention.”

The DOH’s latest epidemiological report indicates that 2.7 percent of D.C. residents were living with HIV at the end of 2010. New diagnoses dropped 36 percent among white Washingtonians and 24 percent among the city’s black residents between 2006 and 2010.

Gray reiterated during his speech at the AIDS Memorial Quilt’s opening ceremony on the National Mall on Sunday that the city has distributed more than five million male and female condoms in 2011. He has also credited D.C.’s needle exchange program for the 72 percent drop in HIV rates among intravenous drug users between 2007 and 2010.

“Housing was not on that list,” said Keith Holder of Southeast Washington, who has been HIV-positive since 1985. He told the Blade that he has been on a waiting list for housing for those with the virus since 2001. “Without housing, you’re not going to survive.”

Pappas noted that most of the 1,000 people with HIV who have requested housing support from the city currently live with family and friends. Gray has established an interagency task force to address the issue, but Pappas acknowledged to the Blade that housing for Washingtonians with HIV remains a major problem.

“Most large American cities experience serious housing problems and D.C. is working with HUD (the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development) to seek funding,” he said.

In addition to housing for people with HIV, D.C. resident Larry Bryant questioned the city’s overall response to the epidemic. He acknowledged the city’s increased testing rates and improved data collection. Bryant stressed, however, that he feels the Gray administration has not done enough to tackle socio-economic and other underlying issues that further contribute to the epidemic’s impact among disproportionately affected communities.

“We’re not looking at prevention in a more comprehensive way,” said Bryant, who has lived with HIV for more than 20 years. “We’re not looking at socio-economic factors that contribute to the epidemic and the most recent surveillance numbers prove that fact both among women, poor women, people of color and heterosexual couples as well.”

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Peter Rosenstein

    July 24, 2012 at 12:58 pm

    Interesting to heckle the Mayor who has done more to combat this epidemic than the previous two Mayors. This Mayor is committed to this and has been since the 80s. Yes the City needs to do more as do all cities and the federal government- and yes the clergy need to do more -and yes private citizens need to do more -and yes people also need to take more responsibility for their own health and education to avoid getting HIV. It is only if everyone works together that we will conquer this scourge.

  2. Perseus

    July 24, 2012 at 9:10 pm

    @ Rosenstein: you forgot to add *the media* needs to do more as well to develop some helpful and creative conversations about how to encourage the general public to take better care of personal health and spiritual needs and hold electeds, agency officials, and clergy leader’s feet to the fire about addressing the epidemic. But that doesn’t make sexy headlines and would require that reporters work harder.

    “More than a dozen [IGNORANT, MISINFORMED, MISGUIDED] HIV/AIDS activists on Monday heckled Mayor Vincent Gray as he spoke at the International AIDS Conference’s Global Village. …”

    First rule of being an effective activist is:
    GET YOUR FACTS AND INFORMATION *STRAIGHT* BEFORE OPENING MOUTH PUTTING FOOT IN IT.

    When foolish people denigrate their allies — indeed, greater more effective and knowledgeable HIV/AIDS pioneers like Gray — those activists do more to harm the cause than anyone else. This cause needs smart people willing and able to work together, not a bunch of screeching idiots waving signs.

    Ironically, though the local infection rates rival those of third-world rural communities, DC residents have greater access to information, advice, care givers and treatment than most people on the planet. Yet too many of those suffering from HIV/AIDS — gay men, African and Latino men and women — refuse to take the regime of medicine that is proven to keep them healthy and those yet to be infected refuse to practice safe — enjoyable — sex. It’s not that hard really. What’s so sexy about sex and drug habits that rob people of their health, esteem, fitness, joy and make life more difficult than it is?

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Comings & Goings

Nathanson takes role at Outright Action

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Rikki Nathanson

The Comings & Goings column is about sharing the professional successes of our community. We want to recognize those landing new jobs, new clients for their business, joining boards of organizations and other achievements. Please share your successes with us at: [email protected] 

The Comings & Goings column also invites LGBTQ+ college students to share their successes with us. If you have been elected to a student government position, gotten an exciting internship, or are graduating and beginning your career with a great job, let us know so we can share your success. 

Congratulations to Rikki Nathanson on her new position as Senior Advisor – Global Trans Program with OutRight Action International in New York. Nathanson will be based in D.C.  

 “I am absolutely thrilled to be taking on this new role as Senior Advisor in OutRight’s Global Trans Program,” said Nathanson. “I have finally found the perfect fit for me: as a trans woman who has been fighting for equality not only for myself, but for others globally, this position is not only a job, it’s intrinsically part of who I am. So, what better way to live, nurture and grow myself.” 

Nathanson will be working closely with all program staff to ensure a cohesive and intentional approach to gender issues throughout OutRight’s programs, including its approach to gender ideology movements. She will lead new initiatives on gender advocacy and policy change, focused but not limited to legal gender recognition and anti-discrimination legislation and policies.

Prior to this Nathanson was director of housing programs at Casa Ruby in D.C. She has also held a number of other positions including: founder/executive director of Trans Research, Education, Advocacy & Training (TREAT), Zimbabwe; chairperson Southern Africa Trans Forum, SATF, Cape Town, South Africa; executive director, Ricochet Modeling Agency, Zimbabwe; and company secretary for Dunlop Zimbabwe Limited, Zimbabwe. 

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SMYAL Director Shakir to step down Dec. 31

Board to launch Executive Search beginning in January

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SMYAL Executive Director Sultan Shakir addresses the crowd at the 2021 Fall Brunch. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Sultan Shakir, who has served as executive director of D.C.’s LGBTQ youth advocacy organization SMYAL since August 2014, announced on Friday that he will be stepping down from his position effective Dec. 31.

In a Dec. 3 announcement, SMYAL said details of Shakir’s future career plans would be announced in the coming weeks.

“While we are sad to see Sultan leave, we wish him nothing but the same success in his new endeavor as he had at SMYAL,” said Rob Cogorno, SMYAL’s board chair. “His leadership and vision enabled SMYAL to expand greatly needed services to LGBTQ youth in the DC metro area throughout his tenure,” Cogorno said.

“I am immensely proud of the work we have been able to accomplish together in my time at SMYAL,” Shakir said in a statement released by SMYAL. “SMYAL has been an integral and vital resource in the DMV community for over 37 years, and while we have come a long way in combating homophobia, transphobia, racism, sexual health stigma, homelessness, violence against the LGBTQ community, and oppression, we have a long way to go,” he said.

“This work has never been about one person,” said Shakir. “SMYAL was founded by our community and we’re still around because of our community,” he said. “I leave knowing that the commitment and passion of the SMYAL Board, staff, volunteers, and youth leaders have created a solid foundation from which our work will continue to grow until LGBTQ youth no longer need us.”

The SMYAL statement says that under Shakir’s tenure, SMYAL, which stands for Supporting and Mentoring Youth Advocates and Leaders, expanded its programs and services for LGBTQ youth. Among other things, in 2017 SMYAL opened its first of several housing facilities for homeless LGBTQ youth that include culturally competent case management, education and employment assistance.

“The Youth Housing Program now comprises five programmatic models that serve a combined 61 youth residents,” the statement says.

It points out that also under Shakir’s leadership, SMYAL expanded the age range of the youth its programs serve under a new Little SMYALs program, which welcomes LGBTQ youth ages 6-12. And earlier in 2021 under Shakir’s guidance, SMYAL began a new Clinical Services Department “which provides affirming and accessible mental health counseling,” the statement says.

“The SMYAL Board of Directors will officially launch an Executive Search beginning in January 2022 and expects to have named a new Executive Director by summer 2022,” the statement says. It says the board will soon name an interim executive director to work with SMYAL’s Deputy Executive Director, Jorge Membreno, and the organization’s leadership team to oversee the day-to-day activities until a new executive director is named.

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Rainbow History Project to honor LGBTQ ‘Pioneers’

Virtual celebration to take place on Dec. 9

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David Mariner, gay news, Washington Blade
David Mariner (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

D.C.’s Rainbow History Project says it will honor and recognize 12 individuals and one organization by designating them as Community Pioneers “for their diverse contributions to the Washington-area LGBTQ community” at a Dec. 9 virtual celebration.

“Rainbow History Project is an all-volunteer organization dedicated to collecting, preserving and sharing the LGBT history of metropolitan Washington, D.C.,” the group says in a statement announcing the event. “The Pioneers awards recognize diverse community leaders for their roles as organizational founders, innovators, advocates and volunteers,” the statement says.

“The Pioneers celebration will be held virtually and is designed with special features that reproduce the feeling of attending in-person, such as live streaming and video chatting with other attendees and Pioneers before and after the core awards programing,” according to the statement.

“Celebrating our Community Pioneers has been a cherished tradition since Rainbow History Project’s founding 21 years ago,” said Rob Berger, the organization’s chairperson. “It’s always an inspiring event, and we are happy that our virtual platform will still allow participants to meet and talk with the Pioneers,” Berger said in the statement.

The virtual event is free and open to the public, the statement says. Organizers released this link for those interested in attending, saying a short registration process may require registering in advance. 

Remo Conference

Following is the list of Community Pioneers scheduled to be honored at the Dec. 9 event as released by Rainbow History Project along with the project’s description of their backgrounds.

Arlington Gay and Lesbian Alliance, a local group that since its founding has addressed equal rights issues for LGBTQ Virginians from a state and local perspective.

– Eboné F. Bell, founder and editor-in-chief of Tagg Magazine and Tagg Communication LLC.

Bart Forbes, founding member of “Gay Fairfax,” a pioneering television newsmagazine program in Northern Virginia.

– Ellen Kahan, youth and family advocate, president of Rainbow Families, former director of the Lesbian Services Program at Whitman-Walker Health, and currently senior director of programs and partnerships at the Human Rights Campaign Foundation.

– Theodore Kirkland (deceased), a co-founder of D.C. Black Pride in 1991, member of the Gay Liberation Front and Skyline Faggots, active community health volunteer and advocate.

– Paul Marengo, community leader through LGBTQ organizations including Reel Affirmations, Cherry Fund, and Pride celebrations for youth, Latino, Black and Transgender communities.

– David Mariner, executive director of CAMP Rehoboth, and former executive director of the D.C. Center for the LGBT Community.

– Mark Meinke founder longtime chair, Rainbow History Project, and co-founder of Rainbow Heritage Network, a national organization for the recognition and preservation of sites, history and heritage associated with sexual and gender minorities.

– Michael “Micci” Sainte Andress, artist, health educator and advocate and an early leader in bringing African Americans into HIV/AIDS clinical trials.

– Boden Sandstrom, founder and owner of Woman Sound (later City Sound), the first all-woman sound company, which makes LGBTQ rights rallies and the women’s music scene possible.

Casse Culver (deceased), nationally acclaimed D.C. lesbian feminist singer-songwriter, and partner of Boden Sandstrom, whose followers said her love songs and feminist lyrics moved audiences from foot stomping to silent reflection.  

Alan Sharpe, playwright, director and co-founder of the African American Collective Theater in Washington, D.C., in 1976, which now focuses on LGBTQ life and culture in the Black community.

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