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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

NoVA Prism Center becomes hub for local LGBTQ community

Leon van der Goetz founded organization in 2022

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(Photo courtesy of Leon van der Goetz)

The NoVA Prism Center in Oakton has emerged as a hub for LGBTQ community engagement in Northern Virginia.

Leon van der Goetz, a transgender man, founded NoVA Prism Center in 2022 after he returned to the U.S. from Japan where he had been an English teacher. The organization has steadily grown since.

NoVA Prism Center this year had five Pride events, including one at the end of May.

Fairfax County helped NoVA Prism Center organize some smaller events. NoVA Prism Center has also put on workshops, hosted monthly club meetings and other events.

NoVA Prism Center has worked with around 20,000 people even though it only has an annual budget of $12,000 that comes through online and in-person donations.

“To the best of my knowledge and research, NoVA Prism Center is the only physical space in the D.C. suburbs (i.e., outside of D.C. city limits), particularly in Northern Virginia, that is by and for the LGBTQ community, open year-round, and does not involve being around alcohol or needing to spend money,” van der Goetz told the Washington Blade in an email. “There are plenty of bars, restaurants, support groups, and meetup groups that gather in other public community spaces, but we’re the only physical LGBT+ center within an approximately 90-minute drive.”

“Before I was about to move back (from Japan), I heard that Fairfax and Loudoun Counties were having protests at the school board meetings, regarding books about people like me,” he said, discussing how the idea behind NoVA Prism Center came about.

A Loudoun County School Board committee in January 2022 voted to uphold then-Supt. Scott A. Ziegler’s decision to remove two LGBTQ-themed books — “Gender Queer” and “Lawn Boy” — from school libraries amid parent protests. The school board later that year fired Zeigler amid criticism over his handling of student sexual assaults.

“And I decided at that moment, rather than go the route of being a public school teacher and potentially be a first-year teacher, early in transition, I decided to specifically start protecting these books, creating NoVA Prism Center as a library and community center around providing access to information about queer lives, stories, and history,” said van der Goetz.

More than a third of the community’s center’s library are LGBTQ-themed books that have been challenged or banned in schools. NOVA Prism Center also has a closet that allows community members who may not feel comfortable shopping at thrift or retail stores for clothes that correspond with their gender identity or expression.

“It started with our binder exchange program, where we started collecting chest binders for the trans masculine community,” said van der Goetz. “When I was early in my transition, I found that I needed more masculine clothing. And I had a whole bunch of feminine clothing to get rid of.”

NoVA Prism Center founder Leon van der Goetz (Photo courtesy of Leon van der Goetz)

NoVA Prism Center also publishes “The Lantern,” an online magazine. It includes art, poems and short stories from community members. “The Lantern”’s first issue is on NoVA Prism Center’s website, while its second is available for purchase. The e-zine’s third issue is currently in the works.

NOVA Prism Center is looking for a more permanent location, but the office building in which it is currently located remains a safe space for anyone who participates in their events. 

The organization hopes to raise money for a new space at their annual fundraising event in October, Coming Out Gay-la, an 18+ LGBTQ prom. Funds will support NOVA Prism Center itself, community programs and expansion of their events. 

NoVA Prism Center next month will begin to promote the prom on its social media pages. https://www.instagram.com/novaprismcenter/ or https://www.facebook.com/NoVAPrismCenter/

Van der Goetz described NoVA Prism Center as an “oasis in the storm” for LGBTQ people who continue to face harassment and efforts to curtail their rights. 

“I see people making connections, building friendships and support structures,” he said. “By being together and protecting each other I think that we’re going to be able to make it through.”

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District of Columbia

New complaint form to help D.C. LGBTQ seniors facing discrimination

Office of Human Rights steps up protections for those in long-term care

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OHR’s Care for Seniors program supports LGBTQ seniors and seniors living with HIV facing discrimination.

The D.C. Office of Human Rights (OHR) announced on July 22 that it is launching new “user-friendly” intake forms designed to facilitate and simplify the filing of discrimination complaints by seniors, including LGBTQ seniors, who encounter discrimination in long-term care facilities such as nursing homes.

“The forms simplify the complaint filing process, making it easier for residents to better access support and understand their rights” at long term care facilities, according to a statement released by OHR. The statement provides a link to access the new intake forms online.

“This initiative is part of OHR’s Care for Seniors program, which supports LGBTQ seniors and seniors living with HIV facing discrimination in such facilities,” the statement continues. “The form addresses concerns related to sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, HIV status, and other prohibited bases of discrimination, streamlining the reporting process and enabling seniors to file claims directly through OHR’s website,” it states.

In addition to the improved intake form for seniors filing discrimination complaints, the OHR announcement says it is also releasing new forms for filing complaints under the D.C. Universal Paid Family Leave Amendment Act, which requires employers in the city to provide 12 weeks of paid leave benefits for parental, family, or medical reasons to eligible employees.

“The form allows individuals to file complaints if they believe their employer has interfered with their right to these benefits or retaliated against them for requesting, applying for, or using paid leave” in violation of the law in question, according to the statement.  

OHR officials have pointed out that D.C. stepped up its protections for LGBTQ seniors through the passage by the D.C. Council of the Care for LGBTQ Seniors and Seniors with HIV Amendment Act of 2020. Among other things, the law calls for OHR certified trainers to “provide specialized information for staff in long-term care facilities, specifically tailored to meet the unique needs of LGBTQ+ seniors and seniors with HIV in long-term care facilities,” OHR states in its website.

“We prioritize safeguarding the new rights and legal protections outlined in the Act, which includes a posted notice of ‘Non-Discrimination’ aiming to ensure that participating facilities actively contribute to creating secure and inclusive environments for all residents,” the OHR website statement concludes.

The questionnaire and complaint form for LGBTQ seniors facing discrimination in long-term care facilities can be accessed at ohr.dc.gov.

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District of Columbia

Nonprofit D.C. groups invited to apply for anti-LGBTQ violence grants

$700,000 available for FY 2025 ‘VPART’ program

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LGBTQ Affairs Office Director Japer Bowles. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs held a conference on July 18 to inform interested officials with local nonprofit community-based organizations that provide services to the LGBTQ community how best to apply for city grants of between $5,000 and $50,000 as part of the city’s Violence Prevention and Response Team program, known as VPART.

Information released by the program states that its mission is to “address, reduce, and prevent crime within and against the LGBT community” by “creating a strong partnership between the community and the government which enables us to focus on coordinating a community response to violence.” 

Addressing hate-bias crimes targeting the LGBTQ community are among the program’s high priority objectives, information released by the program says.

Presentations on how best to apply for the VPART grants and what the requirements are for obtaining them were given by LGBTQ Affairs Office Director Japer Bowles and the office’s grants administrator, George Garcia. The two said the deadline for submitting grant applications for the program is Aug. 5. Organizations whose applications are approved will receive the grant funds they are approved for on Oct. 30, which is the start of fiscal year 2025.

Garcia said a total of $700,000 has been allocated to fund the VPART grants, the number of which will depend on how many applications are received.  

Garcia said that among the key components of the VPART program are Victim Response Services, Case Management, Legal Services, Trauma Informed Mental Health Services, and Cultural Humility Training that he said are aimed, among other things,  to support LGBTQ victims of violent crime.

One of the organizations that has received VPART grants in past years, and that is expected to apply again this year is the D.C. LGBTQ Community Center.

 “Along with offering trauma-informed therapy and casework, the DC LGBTQ+ Community Center directly supports LGBTQ+ survivors with our mental health services, shelter assistance, and other resources victims of violence may need,” the LGBTQ Center says in a statement. “If you are LGBTQ+ and are a victim of violence, or know someone who is, you can refer them to the DC LGBTQ+ Community Center and we will make sure they are supported and connected to the resources they need,” the statement says.

The conference was held at the Reeves Center municipal building where the LGBTQ Affairs office and other city agencies as well as the LGBTQ Community Center are located at 2000 14th St., N.W. About a dozen people attended the conference in person and another 14 attended virtually through Zoom, according to Bowles.

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