Gay, Lesbian Advocacy Groups Focus on National HIV/AIDS Strategy at Denver Conference

Gay and lesbian advocates last week at the annual Creating Change conference in Denver called on the Obama administration to create a domestic HIV/AIDS strategy, the Denver Post reports. Conference Director Sue Hyde said, "People will have a hard time choosing marriage if they are sick and dying," adding, "HIV and AIDS have never lost their grip" in the U.S.

The conference, which is sponsored by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, was expected to attract about 2,000 participants, and its leaders hope to begin lobbying federal policymakers to create a national plan to address HIV/AIDS, including a strategist in the White House who reports directly to President Obama. Marjorie Hill, chief executive of Gay Men's Health Crisis, said that the U.S. "does not have a coordinated plan," despite the presence of HIV/AIDS for the past 27 years, and that a plan must be driven by science. Ideas from Gay Men's Health Crisis include federal funding for needle exchange programs, condom availability in prisons and schools, and advertisements targeting same-sex couples that say safer sex "is a healthy part of the adult experience." In addition, the Post reports that the conference aimed to address the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS, which Hill said can prevent people from seeking treatment or discussing their HIV-positive status. Hill also said that many young people are complacent about HIV/AIDS because they did not experience the epidemic in the 1980s, when men who have sex with men were "dropping like flies." She said, "People are still dying, but at a much slower rate" because of advances in antiretroviral therapy.

Advocates also addressed HIV/AIDS in minority populations. David Munar, vice president for policy and communications at the AIDS Foundation of Chicago, said that HIV/AIDS is "dramatically impacting people of color at a disproportionate rate." Munar added that there is a "new sense of optimism that the new president and Congress will act on these data and refocus attention nationally on the epidemic at home," which "has not gone away" (Brown, Denver Post, 1/30).

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