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Bill Clinton, Pelosi bring AIDS conference to a close

Former president seeks universal access to treatment for people with HIV

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Former President Bill Clinton speaks at AIDS 2012 (Blade photo by Michael Key)

Former President Bill Clinton on Friday called for a more effective use of resources in the fight against HIV/AIDS.

“We need a new level of openness about how every last dollar is spent by countries, by governments, by NGOs,” he said during the International AIDS Conference’s closing session at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center.

The Clinton Health Access Initiative through the former president’s foundation in 2010 announced a partnership with the South African government to expand access to HIV testing and antiretroviral treatment. More than 400,000 additional South Africans with HIV had received these drugs within a year of the program’s inception. Clinton further pointed out that the initiative has saved the country roughly $700 million over the last two years.

A CHAI and Center for Global Development study of more than 100 health facilities in Ethiopia, Malawi, Rwanda and Zambia in 2011 found it cost an average of $200 — $682 annually in South Africa because of higher health and labor costs — a year to treat a person with HIV. A President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief analysis that was released during the 2010 International AIDS Conference in Vienna placed this figure at $880 a year.

The World Health Organization estimated that 5.2 million of the 15 million people with HIV globally received treatment at the end of 2009. “There is no excuse for failing to provide treatment for the remaining 10 million people in need,” said Clinton, referring to the goal of universal access by 2015.

The international HIV/AIDS community also seeks to virtually eliminate mother-to-child transmissions — Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Monday announced that the U.S. government would pledge an additional $80 million to achieve this benchmark as part of a broader $157 million pledge towards what she described as an AIDS-free generation. They have also pledged to reduce new HIV infection rates by 50 percent over the next three years.

The former president acknowledged that the global financial crisis has adversely affected the amount of money that donor countries can give — although he noted that the United Kingdom and Ireland are among those that continue to contribute inspire of austerity measures. He further pointed to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and other private foundations and donors that have increased their support of global HIV/AIDS efforts in recent years.

“There’s an enormous amount of private money being raised and spent and there will be more,” said Clinton. “Governments, even in this difficult time, I believe will do more if we prove we’re maximizing the amount of money they have given.”

The former president noted only slightly more than a quarter of the 1.2 million Americans living with HIV “are getting optimum care.” He further cited statistics that new infection rates among young gay men — and particularly among black men under 30 who have sex with men continue to rise. Clinton also spoke about the epidemic’s continued impact on Latinos, Native Americans, Asians and Pacific Islanders.

“Many of them feel that because of the overall progress made in the fight against AIDS, they’re just going to be left out and left behind,” he said.

Clinton also applauded D.C. for efforts to fight HIV. These include the distribution of more than five million male and female condoms last year and a 72 percent decrease in HIV rates among intravenous drug users between 2007 and 2010. Mayor Vincent Gray reiterated at the AIDS Memorial Quilt on the National Mall on Sunday that no baby has been born with HIV in the city since 2009.

“In this city, government and community leadership has been reinvigorated,” said Clinton. “They are making a different.”

 

Pelosi: We have an obligation to continue HIV/AIDS fight

In a separate speech, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) recalled the epidemic’s early impact in San Francisco.

“It was 31 years ago when we first heard in our community that doctors at UCSF (University of California-San Francisco) were seeing unlike anything they’d seen before, symptoms that harkened back to the Middle Ages,” she said. “Many of you could tell this same story. Quickly, AIDS began to take a terrible toll. Soon, we were going to as many as two funerals a day. Quickly we know that this was an emergency and that we had to pull out all the stops.”

Pelosi’s first speech in Congress after she arrived on Capitol Hill in 1987 was about AIDS. She said that some of her fellow lawmakers questioned why she decided to speak about the issue.

“I said: ‘I said it because that’s what I came here to do,’” recalled Pelosi.  “But recognize that was the sign of the times in Washington, D.C.”

She said she and other San Franciscans saw themselves at the center of the epidemic.

“We were ground zero, as we saw it, of the AIDS assault — on our health, on our economy and on our community; on the lives of our dear friends,” said Pelosi, who later sewed a patch on the AIDS Memorial Quilt in memory of the flower girl at her wedding who lost her battle to the disease. “With death, denial, and discrimination against those with the disease, AIDS was not only a challenge to our scientific and medical professionals; it was a challenge to the conscience of all of us and it remains so to this day. We knew we had to organize, not just agonize — and organize, not agonize, and organize not agonize we did.”

She specifically cited California Congressman Henry Waxman and the late-Massachusetts Sen. Ted Kennedy for their efforts to secure passage of the Ryan White Care Act in 1990. Pelosi praised Clinton and former President George W. Bush for their commitment to the fight against the global AIDS epidemic. And she applauded President Obama for both signing the health care reform bill and repealing the travel ban for people with the virus.

“On the brink of the AIDS-free generation, we must carry on with determination, hope, and courage,” said Pelosi. “Courage is one of the defining qualities that we always must bring to this. In doing so, we will succeed in turning the tide together. Thank all of you, to every one of you for your leadership, your activism, for your commitment to ending HIV/AIDS once and for all.”

Gay News, Washington Blade, HIV/AIDS

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) speaks at the International AIDS Conference (Blade photo by Michael Key)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Virginia

Man who killed one in 2000 Roanoke gay bar shooting dies in prison

One of the worst bias attacks targeting LGBTQ community

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Ronald Edward Gay died while serving life sentences for attacking a Virginia gay bar. (Washington Blade clipping from Sept. 29, 2000)

A man sentenced to four consecutive life terms in prison for the September 2000 shooting at a gay bar in Roanoke, Va., in which one man lost his life and six others were wounded, died of natural causes on Jan. 15, according to the Virginia Department of Corrections.

A spokesperson for the Department of Corrections told WSLA 10 TV News that Ronald Edward Gay died while being treated at a hospital near the Deerfield Correctional Center, a state prison where he had been living as an inmate. He was 75. 

Witnesses and law enforcement officials reported at the time of the shooting that a middle-aged man later identified as Gay arrived alone at Roanoke’s Backstreet Café, a popular gay bar, on the night of Sept. 22, 2000.

According to an account by an eyewitness to the incident who spoke last week with the Roanoke Times newspaper, after ordering a beer and standing next to the bar for a short time, Gay reached into the long trench coat he was wearing, pulled out a 9mm pistol, and fired a round “straight into the chest of 43-year-old Danny Overstreet, before opening fire on the rest of the bar.”

Overstreet, a beloved regular patron at the Backstreet Café, died at the scene of the shooting. Six others, who were wounded by bullets fired by Gay, later recovered, but they and many others who were present and witnessed the shooting were left emotionally scarred, the Roanoke Times reported.

In the weeks following the shooting, news media outlets, including the Washington Blade and the Washington Post, reported findings of an investigation by local police that Gay told police he went to Backstreet specifically to target gay people because he became bitter after years of being taunted and teased for his last name of “Gay.”

The Roanoke Times reported that, among other things, Gay told police “God told him to do it” and that he once wrote that there was an evil inside of him telling him “to shoot or have no rest.”

Gay later pleaded guilty to multiple charges against him, including murder. On July 23, 2001, he was sentenced to four consecutive life sentences in prison for the shooting incident and the murder of Overstreet.

The Backstreet incident in Roanoke was considered by LGBTQ rights advocates and others to be one of the worst incidents in which LGBTQ people were targeted for a shooting until the June 2016 shooting at the Pulse gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla., in which 49 people died and 53 more were wounded in a mass shooting by 29-year-old Omar Mateen.

Mateen, who was shot and killed by Orlando police after a three-hour standoff, told police in a phone call from inside the nightclub after the shooting began that he swore allegiance to the leader of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria and his attack against the gay nightclub was motivated by the U.S. military intervention in Iraq and Syria. The FBI later classified the incident as a terrorist attack.

The Roanoke Times reported that the shooting incident at Backstreet Café prompted LGBTQ residents and allies to gather in the days and weeks after the incident for vigils and marches. About 1,000 people walked through the streets of downtown Roanoke to honor the life of Overstreet and to urge Congress to pass federal hate crimes legislation, the newspaper reported.

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Local

Va. senator introduces anti-transgender student athlete bill

Democrats have vowed to thwart anti-LGBTQ measures in state Senate

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transgender, Gender Conference East, trans, transgender flag, gay news, Washington Blade
(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

A Virginia lawmaker has introduced a bill that would ban transgender students from joining school sports teams that are consistent with their gender identity.

Senate Bill 766, which state Sen. Jennifer Kiggans (R-Virginia Beach) introduced on Friday, would require “each elementary or secondary school or a private school that competes in sponsored athletic events against such public schools to designate athletic teams, whether a school athletic team or an intramural team sponsored by such school, based on biological sex as follows: (i) ‘males,’ ‘men,’ or ‘boys’; (ii) ‘females,’ ‘women,’ or ‘girls’; or (iii) ‘coed’ or ‘mixed.'”

“Under the bill, male students are not permitted to participate on any school athletic team or squad designated for ‘females,’ ‘women,’ or ‘girls’; however, this provision does not apply to physical education classes at schools,” adds the bill. “The bill provides civil penalties for students and schools that suffer harm as a result of a violation of the bill. Such civil actions are required to be initiated within two years after the harm occurred.”

Kiggans introduced her bill less than a week after Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin took office.

Youngkin during his campaign said he does not support allowing trans children to play on sports teams that are consistent with their gender identity. Elizabeth Schultz, an anti-LGBTQ former member of the Fairfax County School Board, has been named the Virginia Department of Education’s Assistant Superintendent of Public Instruction.

The General Assembly’s 2022 legislative session began on Jan. 12 with Republicans in control of the state House of Delegates. Democrats still control the state Senate, and they have pledged to thwart any anti-LGBTQ bills.

“Let’s be clear: This is part of an ongoing, nationwide effort to exclude trans people from enjoying the benefits of sports like their cisgender peers,” tweeted the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia on Friday after Kiggans introduced SB 766. “We won’t tolerate this.”

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Comings & Goings

Hazen inducted into Cooperative Hall of Fame

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Paul Hazen

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 Paul Hazen on his being inducted into the 2022 Cooperative Hall of Fame.  On receiving the honor, he said, “I am very lucky to be given the opportunity to combine my work in international development with my volunteer cooperative development work in Washington DC.”

Hazen is executive director, U.S. Overseas Cooperative Development Council (OCDC) and has devoted his career to elevating the cooperative voice domestically and internationally. U.S. co-ops include Ace Hardware, Land O’Lakes, Inc., Sunkist, REI and the Associated Press. Hazen helped establish federal legislation promoting rural co-op development.  

Prior to joining OCDC, he was CEO of Washington, D.C.-based National Cooperative Business Association CLUSA International. During his 25-year tenure with the organization, he held key positions, including chief operating officer, vice president of public policy, vice president of member services and director of consumer cooperatives.

He worked for Rep. Al Baldus (Wisc.). He was executive director of Rural Housing Inc. in Madison, Wisc., where he developed co-ops and affordable housing projects in rural communities. 

As a volunteer, Hazen formed the Community Purchasing Alliance (CPA) with 12 congregations in D.C.  In 2020, CPA secured more than $18.7 million in contracts resulting in an investment of $13 million in D.C.-based small businesses owned by people of color.

Ben Finzel

Congratulations also to Ben Finzel, who was inducted into the National Capital Public Relations Hall of Fame. Upon receiving the honor, he said “To be recognized by your peers is wonderful; to be honored by them is amazing. I still can’t quite believe I have done enough to be worthy of this recognition, but I know enough to be thankful and appreciative of this high honor. Thank you PRSA National Capital Chapter for including me in such inspiring company; I will be forever grateful.”

Finzel is president of RENEWPR, a D.C.-based public affairs, communications consulting firm. In 2004, he helped launch FH Out Front, the first global LGBTQ communications practice at an international firm, Fleishman Hillard, and served as its first global chair. He started DC Family Communicators, a professional networking group for LGBTQ communications professionals. Finzel served on the Victory Campaign Board of the LGBTQ Victory Fund from 2007 to 2017.

His firm is currently celebrating its seventh year in business. To recognize that accomplishment, Finzel is launching an endowed scholarship at his alma mater, Texas Tech University. His business is certified as an LGBT Business Enterprise by the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce.

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