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D.C. officials mark National Gay Men’s HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

Gray and others spoke at a press conference in Freedom Plaza

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Vincent Gray, Vince Gray, Mayor of Washington, D.C., gay news, Washington Blade, National Gay Men's HIV/AIDS Awareness Day
Vincent Gray, Vince Gray, Mayor of Washington, D.C., gay news, Washington Blade, National Gay Men's HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Mayor Vincent Gray stressed Thursday during a press conference at Freedom Plaza to mark National Gay Men’s HIV/AIDS Awareness Day that testing positive for the virus no longer amounts to “a death sentence.”

“If you get into treatment and stay in treatment, you can live as long a life as anybody else,” he said.

First held by the National Association of People with AIDS in 2008, National Gay Men’s HIV/AIDS Awareness Day seeks to raise awareness of the epidemic’s impact on men who have sex with men. NAPWA President Frank Oldham, Jr., who has lived with HIV since the late 1980s, noted that the epidemic has killed 280,000 gay men since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported the first cases of what became known as AIDS in 1981.

“We’re here today because 280,000 gay men — white gay men, black gay men, Latino gay men, Asian and Pacific Islander gay men have lost their lives to AIDS since the beginning of the epidemic,” he said. “We honor them and we’re here to save the gay men who are living today from destruction by HIV and AIDS.”

Roughly 20,000 D.C. residents have been diagnosed with HIV — and more than 10,000 Washingtonians have died from AIDS — since the city’s first known case in 1983.

Although Department of Health statistics indicate that new HIV diagnoses dropped 36 percent among white Washingtonians and 24 percent among black men in D.C. between 2006 and 2010, 2.7 percent of city residents were still living with the virus at the end of 2010. DOH interim director Dr. Saul Levin noted that between 14 and 20 percent of gay and bisexual men — and an estimated 30 percent of black MSM — in the nation’s capital live with HIV. He further pointed out that a third of all new HIV/AIDS cases were transmitted through MSM.

“Like the mayor, NAPWA has been a voice and a conscience of both the District and the nation in ensuring HIV’s discussed, prevention programs and treatment being the goal we must achieve and continue to achieve,” said Levin. “I’ve seen many of my friends in the gay community grapple with the epidemic since the 1980s. We need to make sure that now when we have these great medications that make it a chronic disease, that we do not see new people coming in and getting HIV/AIDS. And if they do, we need to get them into treatment as soon as possible.”

Doctor Gregory Pappas of the DOH’s HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis, Sexually Transmitted Disease and Tuberculosis Administration joined Jeffrey Richardson, director of the Mayor’s Office of GLBT Affairs; Venton Jones of the National Black Gay Men’s Advocacy Coalition; David Mariner, executive director of the D.C. Center for the LGBT Community and other HIV/AIDS service providers and activists at the press conference.

“We recognize that when one discovers that they’ve tested positive, it’s no longer a death sentence, but far too many people have become cavalier about it,” said former Mayor Sharon Pratt Kelly. “And so what is the purpose of today? To remind everybody that we can still move forward, but we can do it with the two T’s: testing and treatment. Well you’ve got to test, and then you’ve got to treat. We’ve got to encourage people to recognize that this is something that impacts all of us and all of us therefore need to test and treat. And eventually it won’t be the two T’s; it will be the one C for the cure.”

Frank Oldham, NAPWA, National Association of People With AIDS, National Gay Men's HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, gay news, Washington Blade

President of the National Association of People with AIDS Frank Oldham, Jr. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. rbockman

    September 28, 2012 at 10:03 am

    hooray, lets celebrate the tuchas bandits

  2. Anonymous

    September 29, 2012 at 2:59 am

    Gender has nothing to do with love! http://www.meetbi.com is a serious bisexual Social Site.

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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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