September 6, 2017 at 1:00 pm EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
New Casa Ruby initiative to fight global HIV/AIDS epidemic
Ruby Corado, gay news, Washington Blade

Casa Ruby CEO Ruby Corado says her organization has received “an initial gift” of $500,000 from Gilead Sciences to launch an initiative that seeks to combat the global HIV/AIDS epidemic. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Casa Ruby will use the U.S. Conference on AIDS as the backdrop to officially launch a new initiative designed to fight the global epidemic.

Casa Ruby CEO Ruby Corado said Gilead Sciences has given her organization “an initial gift of” $500,000. Corado told the Washington Blade that Casa Ruby will also partner with the D.C. Department of Health and “finally become a full AIDS service provider.”

She said Casa Ruby will sign four “new human care agreements” with the department that “will bring HIV prevention and care services to Casa Ruby paid by DOH for the first time ever.”

“Casa Ruby was the response to HIV and AIDS and violence and transgender non-conforming immigrants and poor communities that are part of the LGBT umbrella,” Corado told the Blade last week during an interview, noting 2017 is Casa Ruby’s fifth anniversary. “It was a community dream to bring people who were disenfranchised, disconnected to work together.”

The 21st annual U.S. Conference on AIDS, which the D.C.-based NMAC (formerly known as the National Minority AIDS Council) organizes, will open at the Marriott Marquis Hotel adjacent to the Walter E. Washington Convention Center on Thursday and end on Sept. 10.

“This year’s USCA focuses on the families that make up the HIV community and how we must rely on our families in this time of uncertainty,” said NMAC Executive Director Paul Kawata in a press release. “Whether they are birth families, chosen families, or work families, all of us in the HIV community rely on our families to support us through the hard times.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, are among those who are expected to speak at the three-day event. D.C. health officials, actress Judith Light and singers Frenchie Davis and Billy Gilman are also slated to participate.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the University of the District of Columbia, the Human Rights Campaign and the Transgender Law Center are among the dozens of groups and institutions listed as exhibitors at the conference that is expected to draw up to 3,000 people. Napo Pharmaceuticals and other pharmaceutical companies that continue to develop drugs for people with HIV will also be on hand.

“It’s a very different epidemic than when this conference began,” conference spokesperson Chip Lewis told the Blade on Wednesday, noting new HIV infections continue to drop in D.C. and around the country. “But we still have an active epidemic going on.”

Lewis added the use of antiretroviral drugs to prevent the spread of HIV, people with the virus who have undetectable viral loads and the use of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) are among the factors that remain effective in fighting the epidemic.

“We’re really seeing now that we have tools and pathways to potentially bring this epidemic to an end within sight,” he told the Blade.

Lewis added conference organizers and HIV/AIDS service providers are concerned “this progress may be in danger” because of the Trump administration’s proposed cuts to HIV-related service programs. He told the Blade efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, Medicare and Medicaid cuts and less funding for Housing Opportunities for People with AIDS (HOPWA) and the elimination of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Serices’ Minority AIDS Initiative Fund could all have an adverse impact on efforts to combat the epidemic.

“All of these things are really putting a lot of concern in the HIV community,” said Lewis.

Lewis told the Blade conference organizers have not reached out to the White House.

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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