President Obama announced on Monday he’s redirecting $100 million at the National Institutes of Health for a new initiative to develop a cure for HIV as part of his vision for an “AIDS-free generation.”
Obama made the announcement when speaking before a group of HIV/AIDS advocates at a White House event observing World AIDS Day in the South Court Auditorium of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building.
“The United States should be at the forefront of new discoveries in how to put HIV into long-term remission without requiting live-long therapies, or better yet, eliminate it completely,” Obama said.
In a fact sheet published after the event, the White House clarified the $100 million would be distributed over the course of three years and would catalyze further research for new therapies to improve outcomes for people with HIV.
Rowena Johnston, amfAR’s vice president and director of research, said in a statement after the event the administration’s efforts to find a cure for HIV would build off previous successes in the past year.
“This year, we saw a series of breakthroughs in HIV cure research that have brought us more clarity than we’ve ever had on the precise steps and tools needed to finally end AIDS,” Johnston said. “We cannot achieve the President’s goal of an AIDS-free generation without continued investment in the research necessary to ultimately help us find a cure for this disease.”
The event was part of the rollout for a new White House report on confronting HIV/AIDS, titled “Improving Outcomes: Accelerating Progress Along the HIV Care Continuum.” The report describes the state of the epidemic, makes recommendations going forward and highlights local successes as well as public-private partnerships.
In his remarks, Obama said significant progress has made in confronting HIV/AIDS since Congress first allocated funds to fight the disease in 1983, but certain communities continue to be affected more than others, including LGBT people and the D.C. area.
“Here in the United States, we need to keep focusing on investments to communities that are still being hit hardest, including gay and bisexual men, African-Americans and Latinos,” Obama said. “We need to keep up the fight in our cities — including Washington, D.C., which in recent years has reduced diagnosed infections by nearly half.”
As Assistant to the President on Domestic Policy Cecilia Munoz pointed out at the start of the event, the Centers for Disease Control has reported gay and bisexual men account for two-thirds of all new HIV infections in the United States.
Obama said after his remarks were over, he would sign into law the PEPFAR Stewardship and Oversight Act of 2013, which reauthorizes and extends funds under the Bush-era President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief to confront HIV/AIDS overseas.
The PEPFAR program, Obama said, has exceeded goals set two years ago to help 6 million people across the globe receive treatment for HIV/AIDS by the end of 2013. As it stands, Obama said the program has helped 6.7 million people receive treatment.
As part of the related effort to maintain the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis & Malaria, Obama said the United States will contribute $1 for every $2 pledged by other donors over the next three years, up to $5 billion total.
“Don’t leave our money on the table,” Obama said. “It’s been inspiring to see the countries most affected by this disease vastly increase their own contributions to this fight — in some cases, providing more than donor countries do. And that ought to inspire all of us to give more, to do more, so we can save more lives.”
Other accomplishments Obama touted was an end to waiting lists for drugs under the AIDS Drug Assistance Program. Two years after the Department of Health & Human Services announced that Obama directed $35 million to end the wait lists for federal drugs for HIV/AIDS, Obama said wait lists have since been eliminated.
“At one time, the needs was so great that over 9,000 people were on the wait list,” Obama said. “We vowed to get those numbers down, and I’m proud to announce that, as of last week, we have cleared that wait list. We are down to zero.”
Other initiatives Obama mentioned included old accomplishments, such as the lifting of the HIV travel ban, and new efforts, including the signing of the HIV Organ Policy Equity Act, or HOPE Act, which enables HIV-positive people to donate organs to others with the disease.
Additionally, Obama said early next year the United States will host a meeting with worldwide partners — including governments, the Global Fund, U.N.-AIDS, and civil society — to “sit around one table and develop joint HIV prevention and treatment goals for the countries where we and the Global Fund do business.”
“We’ll hold each other accountable, and we’ll continue to work to turn the tide of this epidemic together,” Obama said.
Carl Schmid, deputy director of the AIDS Institute and attendee at the event, praised Obama for the new initiatives, but said more work is necessary, particularly to address the HIV/AIDS infection rate among gay men.
“We are not making progress when it comes to gay men and more must be done,” Schmid said. “We hope that the Administration along with the states and community based organizations follow the Strategy and, as was discussed at the White House today, follow the science and the epidemic, and for the US, that means a greater focus needs to be on gay men.”
A number of high-profile members of the Obama administration were present at the event, including Secretary of State John Kerry, Secretary of Health & Human Services Kathleen Sebelius, Senior Advisor to the President Valerie Jarrett, Director of the Office of National AIDS Policy Grant Colfax, Assistant to the President on Domestic Policy Cecilia Munoz and Microsoft co-founder and philanthropist Bill Gates.
In remarks that followed Obama’s, Kerry compared the international alliances that have formed to confront HIV/AIDS to similar alliances that have effected change at a global level.
“We are the nation that faced down the Soviet Union with the force of our ideals and our alliances, and without resorting to the force of arms,” Kerry said. “Now, no exaggeration, in our own time, in this generation, in our fight against AIDS – yes, in a different way, but no less important – we are able to engage in an initiative that can help define our nation and the global spirit.”
Jarrett maintained the administration is committed to confronting HIV/AIDS both at home and abroad because successful efforts overseas requires attention to the epidemic within U.S. borders.
“HIV remains a priority for the administration, and for the president, both here and abroad,” Jarrett said. “We’re committed to PEPFAR and the Global Fund, and to ongoing implementation of the National HIV/AIDS Strategy because the global response also requires a sustained national response to the epidemic right here at home.”
Also present at the event was HIV/AIDS advocate Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.). In an apparent ad-lib from his remarks when he mentioned he would soon sign legislation to continue funding for PEPFAR, Obama recognized excitement from Lee as she applauded and said, “Count on the legislator to applaud legislation.”
After the event, Lee told the Washington Blade she was proud of Obama’s efforts in confronting HIV/AIDS and looks forward to his continued leadership to create a world without the disease.
“I think everything that this administration is doing is leading us to that, and fighting for an AIDS-free generation, and that’s the next step,” Lee said.
Obama concluded his remarks by articulating his vision for an “AIDS-free generation” in which all people can protect themselves from infection and all people with the disease have access to treatment.
“That’s the world I want for my daughters,” Obama said. “That’s the world that all of us want for our families. And if we stay focused, if we keep fighting, and if we honor the memory of those that we’ve lost, if we summon the same courage that they displayed, by insisting on whatever it takes, however long it takes, I believe we’re going to win this fight.”
McAuliffe: School boards should make ‘own decisions’ on trans students policy
Former Va. governor debated Republican challenger on Thursday
Terry McAuliffe on Thursday hotly debated Republican challenger Glenn Youngkin at the Appalachian School of Law in southwestern Virginia on a variety of issues that include vaccine mandates, economic development, abortion access and policing. The former Virginia governor’s support for a law that protects transgender students, however, seemed less clear.
When the moderator asked if local school boards should be allowed to reject Virginia Department of Education “model policies” developed as part of a state law passed last year to protect trans and non-binary students from discrimination, McAuliffe said school boards “should be making their own decisions.”
This soft support for the law that Gov. Ralph Northam signed is in contrast to the Human Rights Campaign’s endorsement this week for his work as governor that includes signing an executive order prohibiting discrimination against LGBTQ state employees and vetoing anti-LGBTQ bills.
HRC called out Youngkin, a former business executive and vocal Trump supporter, for “anti-LGBTQ and transphobic language” during his campaign. (HRC in 2019 named the Carlyle Group, the private equity company that Youngkin previously ran, as a “Best Place to Work for LGBTQ Equality” in its annual Corporate Equality Index.)
“Once again, we are proud to have achieved a perfect score on the @HRC’s Corporate Equality Index. We know there is much work to be done and look forward to continuing the progress for our LGBTQ colleagues.” – Carlyle Co-CEOs, Kewsong Lee & Glenn Youngkin https://t.co/lwm53kZiKY pic.twitter.com/xatLs2WmOk
— The Carlyle Group (@OneCarlyle) March 28, 2019
Younkin has supported Tanner Cross, a Loudoun County elementary school teacher who was suspended in June after he spoke against the Virginia Department of Education policy known as Policy 8040. The Virginia Supreme Court last month supported Cross’ reinstatement on First Amendment grounds.
“As governor, I will stand up for teachers like Tanner Cross,” the Republican candidate tweeted.
Youngkin also told Fox News the school board was trying to “cancel” Cross “simply for expressing his views that are in the best interests of the children and expressing his faith.”
But state Del. Danica Roem (D-Prince William County), one of the bill’s co-sponsors, told the Washington Blade in an earlier interview that the 2020 law passed with bipartisan support and most school boards are acting in accordance with the nondiscrimination law.
“Loudoun is catching headlines, but look at all of the other school districts who have adopted this without controversy,” said Roem, who in 2018 became the first openly trans person seated in a state legislature in the U.S. “They are acting in compliance with Department of Education best practices for how to humanely treat transgender kids in schools.”
McAuliffe, after stating that decisions regarding implementing trans student protections should be left to local school boards, said he hated seeing all of the “divisiveness” and “children being demonized.” He then pivoted to his talking points about increasing both teacher pay and broadband access for students.
Early in-person voting in Virginia is underway and lasts until Oct. 30. Election day is Nov. 2.
Black gay man hopes to ‘shatter lavender ceiling’ in Annapolis
Keanuú Smith-Brown is running to unseat Ward 3 incumbent
Keanuú Smith-Brown, who is affectionately called KSB by his friends, is running to unseat incumbent Annapolis Alderwoman Rhonda Pindell Charles (D-Ward 3) and become the first out LGBTQ elected official in the city.
“Keanuú is on-track to shatter a lavender ceiling in Annapolis, becoming the first out LGBTQ person ever elected in the city,” Victory Fund Vice President of Communications Elliot Imse told the Washington Blade.
Smith-Brown, a 26-year-old substitute teacher, announced in February that he was challenging Pindell Charles, who has represented his ward since 2013. They will face off in a Democratic primary on Sept. 21, then the winner advances to the general election on Nov. 2.
The Annapolis native is the eldest of six siblings, raised by a single mother and a first-generation college graduate who describes himself as a proud Black gay man. His opponent, also a Democrat, stated on an Annapolis Pride survey that she supports the LGBTQ community, just “not overtly.”
“But his candidacy is about more than just making history,” Imse said. “When in office, Keanuú will ensure the interests of the LGBTQ community are considered in every policy discussion and every piece of legislation that comes before the council.”
Smith-Brown told the Blade he is running to represent “those who have been left out,” emphasizing that “there is an urgent need for change in our ward.”
The Annapolis native first came out as gay while still a senior in high school, the same year Pindell Charles was first elected as his Ward 3 representative.
“I grew up surrounded by drug addiction and witnessed domestic violence both in my family and in my community,” he told the Blade, sharing he was raised by a single mom while his father was incarcerated during most of his life.
He still lives in the home in which he grew up, and within five minutes of his partner’s house “if you’re driving fast.”
After graduating from the University of Baltimore in 2017 with a bachelor’s degree in government and public policy, Smith-Brown began working with legislators and advocating for LGBTQ bills in Maryland.
As president of the District 30 Democratic Club, Smith-Brown advocated for House Bill 1147 and its companion Senate Bill 401, which were both similar to neighboring D.C.’s requirement for single-occupancy bathrooms to be marked gender-neutral.
Both bills died in committee during the General Assembly’s pandemic-shortened session in 2020, but Smith-Brown’s advocacy continued.
He marched during the Black Lives Matter protests following the murder of George Floyd by then-Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, and he continued to be a public advocate for LGBTQ rights and visibility as a member of Annapolis Pride.
“I have led and joined LGBTQ+ marches, rallies and events, even hosting a campaign ‘Love with Pride and Unity’ Drag Brunch,” Smith-Brown wrote in response to Annapolis Pride’s first LGBTQ-issues survey. “I helped organize for Maryland’s Health Care Decisions Act which would extend the rights of partners when making medical or funeral decisions.”
Pindell Charles, by contrast, in her survey response stated she did not consider her advocacy for the LGBTQ community to be “overt.”
“My support for the LGBTQ+ community, and even other communities, usually revolves around me working with persons individually, which I prefer,” she wrote. “One-on-one, rather than as a group, or public displays.”
FreeState Justice, Maryland’s statewide LGBTQ rights organization supports public advocacy.
“It’s extremely important for LGBTQ community members to participate in civic engagement — especially as elected officials,” Executive Director Jeremy LaMaster told the Blade in an email.
FreeState Justice has encouraged LGBTQ Marylanders to speak out at public hearings in support of legislation such as the state’s “panic defense” ban, waiving the publication of name change petitions and the establishment of a state commission on LGBTQ affairs. All of these measures passed during the 2021 legislative session.
“There is such immense power for our community that can be built at the grassroots level. From leading neighborhood associations to sitting on city councils, or representing the community in the General Assembly,” said Smith-Brown. “As the world changes, so do the ways in which issues disproportionately or uniquely impact the LGBTQ community, especially for our youth, elders, trans and Black siblings.”
Pindell Charles, who did not respond to the Blade’s requests for comment prior to publication, is a retired Baltimore City prosecutor and chairs the Annapolis City Council’s Public Safety Standing Committee.
During her time in public service, her advocacy included a variety of “groups and communities considered to be ‘underrepresented,’” according to her Annapolis Pride survey response.
Smith-Brown said Ward 3 deserves better.
“She is saying this is in a position of power, that she’s not willing to get out of her comfort zone,” he told the Blade. “You may not be okay with seeing two men or two women together, but when you don’t allow yourself in your position to be inclusive of all people you are now failing in your position.”
“If someone said that about the Black community, it would not be taken in the same way,” he added. “Admit that you don’t need to be here in this way. We can all do our best to do better.”
The Capital Gazette in February reported Pindell Charles intends to run for a third term and welcomes Smith-Brown’s challenge.
“We need to win this,” Smith-Brown said, encouraging LGBTQ and all voters to get out and vote. “My being at that seat at the table means that we are all in that seat. What is it they say? If I eat, we eat. That is the impact on our future, and I’m in it to win it.”
Lo que trae el Código de las Familias de Cuba
Tendría matrimonio igualitario y ‘multiparentalidad’
El anteproyecto del Código de las Familias fue publicado este miércoles por el Ministerio de Justicia (Minjus). Como estaba previsto, la propuesta incluye el matrimonio LGBTIQ+ entre otros conceptos nuevos para la legislación cubana.
“El matrimonio es la unión voluntariamente concertada de dos personas con aptitud legal para ello, a fin de hacer vida en común, sobre la base del afecto y el amor”, dice el artículo 61 del anteproyecto.
Esta es la versión número 22 del Código de las Familias, declaró el gobierno hace una semana cuando la comisión redactora se reunió con el presidente Miguel Díaz-Canel y otros funcionarios.
Según el ministro de Justicia Oscar Silvera Martínez, el gobierno decidió publicar la última versión para «captar opiniones» de la ciudadanía. La publicación se hizo efectiva este miércoles.
El Minjus, en su presentación del anteproyecto de ley, compartió el correo electrónico [email protected] para recibir sugerencias y comunicó que «del resultado de estos análisis se elaborará una nueva versión del anteproyecto que será sometida a aprobación de las diputadas y diputados de la Asamblea Nacional del Poder Popular, en diciembre de este año».
Posteriormente, ya convertido en proyecto de ley, el Código será sometido a consulta popular en 2022.
¿Qué dice el anteproyecto?
El matrimonio entre personas LGBTIQ+ provocó grandes discusiones en 2018, durante el debate del proyecto de Constitución que finalmente se aprobó en 2019. El gobierno tuvo que desistir del artículo 68, que definía matrimonio como «la unión de dos personas», y adoptar una fórmula más amplia.
El camino quedaba abierto, a pesar de los reclamos del activismo LGBTIQ+, que alcanzaron su tono máximo en la marcha del 11 de mayo de 2019, un mes después de promulgada la Constitución.
Un plazo de dos años quedó abierto en Cuba, por una de las disposiciones transitorias de la Constitución, para discutir sobre los alcances del matrimonio. La epidemia de covid-19 complicó el cumplimiento de los plazos. Finalmente, el anteproyecto de ley se hizo público este 15 de septiembre.
A pesar de la falta de transparencia para constituir la comisión redactora, criticada también por la ausencia de personas abiertamente LGBTIQ+, el anteproyecto trajo algunas sorpresas.
En Cuba, si se aprueba este anteproyecto, será posible tener más de dos filiaciones. Aunque se aclara que será “excepcionalmente”, la ley reconocerá la maternidad/paternidad de más de 2 personas.
El artículo dedicado a la “multiparentalidad” dice que “una persona puede tener más de dos vínculos filiatorios” y cita como ejemplos “los casos de filiación asistida donde no existe anonimato de la persona dadora o gestante” y “las adopciones por integración”. Este último caso es el de quienes adoptan a la hija o al hijo de su pareja.
Según el anteproyecto, este vínculo será válido sin que importe “el lazo biológico o el componente genético de las personas implicadas”. “La determinación de los apellidos y el orden de estos, si la hija o hijo es menor de edad, se toma en cuenta lo que resulte más beneficioso, conforme con su interés superior y el respeto a su identidad”, establece el anteproyecto.
La “gestación solidaria” también será posible en Cuba siempre que no tenga fines de lucro.
“La gestación solidaria se autoriza judicialmente cuando en la misma intervengan personas unidas por vínculos familiares, en beneficio de mujeres con alguna patología médica que les impida la gestación o de personas que presenten esterilidad o de hombres solos o parejas de hombres”, dice uno de los artículos del anteproyecto.
Con respecto a la adopción, buena parte de los procedimientos se hacen más sencillos. En la ley vigente, para adoptar hay que contar con autorización judicial. Con el nuevo Código aparece la opción de ceder un bebé voluntariamente “sin que de este acto sea exigible responsabilidad penal alguna”. Ofrece la posibilidad de hacerlo incluso con una simple escritura notarial.
El anteproyecto introduce el concepto de “comaternidad” para referirse a las parejas de lesbianas con descendencia y establece tácitamente la “filiación asistida” como un derecho, en vez de una opción para tratar la infertilidad según había sido considerada hasta ahora.
La noción tradicional de “patria potestad”, de origen romano y raíz machista, fue sustituida por la de “responsabilidad parental”. En esa línea, el anteproyecto prohíbe el castigo físico de los hijos, que está permitido “moderadamente” en la ley vigente.
Sobre la responsabilidad doméstica atribuida culturalmente a las mujeres, el nuevo Código expresa que “la división tradicional de roles de género y funciones durante la convivencia de los cónyuges no puede dar lugar a consecuencias económicas perjudiciales para ninguno de ellos” y establece por último que “el trabajo en el hogar es computable como contribución a las cargas”.
El anteproyecto se ocupa ampliamente de la violencia familiar con un adecuado enfoque de género. Los adultos mayores son otro foco de interés que no tiene tanta atención en la ley vigente. El nuevo Código también reconoció los derechos sexuales de las personas “en situación de discapacidad”.
A pesar de estos avances, en algunos casos extraordinarios, el anteproyecto no se refiere nunca a las personas trans y no binarias. El respeto a la identidad de género de menores trans por parte de sus familias, y en particular de quienes tienen la “responsabilidad parental”, es una significativa ausencia.
De ser aprobada la versión publicada hoy, el Código de las Familias sustituirá una ley de 1975 considerada un hito jurídico de la Revolución Cubana, pero sobre todo trascenderá por inaugurar el matrimonio LGBTIQ+ y por consagrar el derecho de esas familias a tener descendencia.
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