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AIDS and HIV

Project Angel Food raises more than $800,000, breaking Elizabeth Taylor record (videos)

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HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA – SEPTEMBER 14: (L-R) Project Angel Food Founder Marianne Williamson and Jamie Lee Curtis attend Project Angel Food’s 29th Annual Angel Awards on September 14, 2019 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Charley Gallay/Getty Images for Project Angel Food)

Maybe it was because the niche non-profit celebrated its 30th anniversary by giving LGBTQ icon Jamie Lee Curtis a richly deserved humanitarian award. Or maybe people are just so dispirited by the pervasive politics of hate, they wanted to contribute to a heartfelt cause that actually helps people. Whatever the motivation, Project Angel Food raised more than $800,000 at its 30th Anniversary Angel Awards Gala in Hollywood on Saturday, Sept. 14, breaking the previous 1999 Angel Awards fundraising record of $700,000 when Elizabeth Taylor was honored.

Curtis received the Project Angel Food Humanitarian Angel Award with Jami Morse Heidegger and Klaus Heidegger,  philanthropists and creators of skincare products Retrouve and Kiehl’s Since 1851, honored with the Project Angel Food Leadership Award.

HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA – SEPTEMBER 14: (L-R) Jami Morse Heidegger and Klaus Heidegger attend Project Angel Food’s 29th Annual Angel Awards on September 14, 2019 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Charley Gallay/Getty Images for Project Angel Food)

“Jamie Lee Curtis and Jami and Klaus Heidegger have been involved with Project Angel Food for well over two decades and they are not afraid to throw on an apron, roll-up their sleeves and get involved,” said Executive Director Richard Ayoub.

Project Angel Food co-founder and Democratic presidential candidate Marianne Williamson took a break from the campaign trail to be present for the historic event.  Introduced by her longtime friend, grief expert David Kessler, with whom she co-founded the organization, the author and self-help guru put politics to the side and talked about the history of Project Angel Food during the AIDS crisis.

HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA – SEPTEMBER 14: Project Angel Food Founder Marianne Williamson speaks onstage during Project Angel Food’s 29th Annual Angel Awards on September 14, 2019 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Charley Gallay/Getty Images for Project Angel Food)

“This city was brash and young. Once AIDS arrived, there was a level of innocence that would never be the same again. When this organization was founded, it was a time of such despair — there was such hopelessness. Such devastation,” Williamson recalled.

“It’s wonderful the way that community, the city, has continued to nurture it, to appreciate it, to celebrate it, to keep it alive.”

Marianne Williamson in 1989, screen grab from video retrospective

Williamson marveled at the growth of Project Angel Food. “Every year it’s an opportunity to remember those who are no longer with us, particularly those who worked so hard to get it started ultimately,” she said.

Crescent Heights Methodist Church at Fairfax & Fountain in West Hollywood where the Project Angel Food kitchen shared space with 12 Step meetings (screen grab from retrospective video)

“But it’s also beautiful to see an organization that’s kind of like a virtual child: it grows up and has its own life, has its own relationships. It’s true there was a founding, but then there are other generations that if those people hadn’t kept it alive, they deserve as much credit for continuing it as I feel like I deserve for starting it. But like a mother, I can still be very proud,” she said.

Remembering lost friends and gratitude for the help being given the lonely, poor and ill today filled the air with a kind of spirituality.

Actress, singer and AIDS activist Sheryl Lee Ralph, who came to fame as a member of the original “Dreamgirls” Broadway cast, introduced Mary Wilson, original member of  The Supremes, upon whose story the Michael Bennet musical was based.

Ralph remembered those old days of AIDS on Broadway. “You’d be dancing with your friend onstage one day and they’d be dead the next. One gone after another. It was heartbreaking,” she said. “When I moved to Los Angeles, I found Project Angel Food and it found me and I knew that together we could offer hope.”

HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA – SEPTEMBER 14: Mary Wilson performs onstage during Project Angel Food’s 29th Annual Angel Awards on September 14, 2019 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Charley Gallay/Getty Images for Project Angel Food)

Wilson, who is now a bestselling author, former U.S. Cultural Ambassador, humanitarian and Dancing with the Stars contestant, offered up a song, as did Maelyn Jarmon, winner of Season 16 of The Voice.

HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA – SEPTEMBER 14: Danny Trejo speaks onstage during Project Angel Food’s 29th Annual Angel Awards on September 14, 2019 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Charley Gallay/Getty Images for Project Angel Food)

Famed movie tough guy, owner of Trejo’s Tacos and California legend Danny Trejo provided a special fiesta menu for the night’s event. But one of the most  moving moments of the night was after the screening of a short film featuring Project Angel Food Head Chef John Gordon and client Jean T. when the two met for the first time onstage.

HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA – SEPTEMBER 14: (L-R) Eric McCormack and Nicollette Sheridan speak onstage during Project Angel Food’s 29th Annual Angel Awards on September 14, 2019 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Charley Gallay/Getty Images for Project Angel Food)

The auction was a drama all its own when a bidding war broke out over dinner with Eric McCormack at Spago, donated by Barbara Lazaroff.  Four people bid $15,000 each, so auctioneer Gabriel Butu convince them all to have dinner together – so McCormack, , Nicollette Sheridan, Chaz Dean, LA Care CEO John Baackes and philanthropist Candy DeBartolo contributed $60,000 for the pleasure of their own company and a Spago meal. McCormack and his wife Janet (former board member) donated an additional $10,000.

When the historic fundraising achievement of more than $800,000 was announced, surpassing the amount raised when honoring Elizabeth Taylor, many burst into tears, including longtime supporter KTLA reporter Gayle Anderson for whom Project Angel Food had been a refuge from grief after losing friends to AIDS.

HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA – SEPTEMBER 14: (L-R) Project Angel Food Executive Director Richard Ayoub, Mary Wilson, and Jamie Lee Curtis attend Project Angel Food’s 29th Annual Angel Awards on September 14, 2019 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Charley Gallay/Getty Images for Project Angel Food)

Project Angel Food Executive Director Richard Ayoub underscored how the need for their charitable service has grown, noting that about 98 percent of their clients live at or below the poverty level. Last year, the organization served 1,400 sick, hungry, lonely people a day. Today, they feed 1,500 a day and by June of 2020, they expect to feed 1,750 people daily, a projected increase of nearly 20 percent,

HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA – SEPTEMBER 14: Running Bear attends Project Angel Food’s 29th Annual Angel Awards on September 14, 2019 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Charley Gallay/Getty Images for Project Angel Food)

Ayoub also talked about three new initiatives the organization has undertaken. Project Angel Food feeds a dramatically increased number of Native Americans with diabetes so they have launched the first research study to see how their healthy meals are helping bring down their clients A-IC levels to improve quality of life. The program is being funded by Running Bear Ramirez.

They are also partnering with LA CARE and LA County USC Medical Center to see if their meals help people who have diabetes and are insulin dependent.

Their third project is providing feminine hygiene products along with the free meal delivery to female clients who request the packages. A survey of all of their women clients found that about half of those under 50 often did not have enough money to buy these feminine necessities.

“It all comes down to creating and maintaining a space of dignity and improving the quality of life for our clients,” Ayoub said. “Each and every one of you with us tonight is part of this evolution. At the beginning, we borrowed a small kitchen in West Hollywood. Today, this kitchen belongs to all of you.

In 1989, Bill LaVallee was a volunteer at Project Angel Food. In 2019, he was the ironic recipient of Project Angel Food’s 12 millionth meal.  

Videos from the evening:

Judith Light narrates an historical overview – including footage of her back in the day.

 

 

Jamie Lee Curtis explains why she is so deeply involved.

Sean Hayes humorously presents Jamie Lee Curtis with the Humanitarian Award, which she accepts

HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA – SEPTEMBER 14: (L-R) Jamie Lee Curtis accepts the Founder’s Award from Sean Hayes onstage during Project Angel Food’s 29th Annual Angel Awards on September 14, 2019 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Charley Gallay/Getty Images for Project Angel Food)

 

 

Jean B., infected with HIV in 1985, says “Project Angel Food saved my life.” Chef John Gordon who says, “The whole point of what we do is to give to someone else. That’s pretty awesome.”

 

 

 

 

 

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AIDS and HIV

Governor Newsom signs HIV & Aging Act authored by Sen. John Laird

Sponsors of SB 258 include Equality California, AIDS Project Los Angeles (APLA) Health, Services & Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE)

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Photo Credit: Office of the Governor of California

SACRAMENTO – On Friday Governor Gavin Newsom announced the signing of Senate Bill 258, the HIV & Aging Act, authored by Senator John Laird (D – Santa Cruz). Senate Bill 258 will ensure HIV+ seniors are included in the definition of “greatest social need”.

“When I was the Santa Cruz AIDS Agency Director in the 1980’s, it was our dream to have people living with HIV live into old age,” said Senator Laird. “To be very clear, this group was not supposed to age. Governor Newsom signing the HIV & Aging Act is a historic moment for the LGBTQ community, and all those who have been affected by the HIV crisis.”

With the recent advancements in HIV treatment, people with HIV can keep the virus suppressed and live long and healthy lives. For this reason, the number of HIV positive older people is increasing. According to a 2018 California HIV Surveillance Report published by the California Department of Public Health, over half of the people living with the virus in California are now aged 50 years or older. This same report shows that 15 percent of newly diagnosed patients were age 50 and older in that same year.

Sponsors of SB 258 include Equality California, AIDS Project Los Angeles (APLA) Health, Services & Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE), and the Los Angeles LGBT Center.

Sen. John Laird speaking at PRIDE with the LGBTQ Legislative Caucus June 2021 (Blade File Photo)

Equality California Legislative Director Tami A. Martin notes, “After surviving the darkest days of the AIDS epidemic, many Californians living with HIV are now over the age of 50, but in dire need of support. Thanks to Governor Newsom, Senator Laird and HIV advocates, the Golden State will now make sure that our elders living with HIV have access to food assistance, job training, transportation or any other vital services. We applaud Governor Gavin Newsom for signing the HIV & Aging Act into law, making California just the second state to ensure older Californians living with HIV don’t just continue to survive, but thrive.”

“Thanks to effective treatments, people with HIV are living longer than we could have ever imagined just a few decades ago and now a majority of people with HIV in California are over 50 years old. Unfortunately, our current health and social service systems are not yet prepared to address the unique needs of this population,” APLA Health Chief Executive Officer Craig E. Thompson said adding; “Many older people with HIV are long term survivors of the AIDS epidemic. They have lost countless loved ones and entire networks of social support. They also continue to face discrimination and alarming levels of stigma. We thank Senator Laird for his leadership on this historic bill to ensure that people aging with HIV have the resources and support they need to thrive and age with dignity.”

“We must ensure that LGBTQ seniors have the affirming care and support so they can age in peace with dignity,” stated Laird. “It’s incumbent upon us to not force individuals back into the closet for them to access adequate care. Once again, I’d like to applaud the Governor for his continued support of the LBGTQ community and to my colleagues for making this a priority bill.”

The HIV & Aging Act received unanimous bipartisan support through both chambers of the Legislature and is a legislative priority for the California Legislative LGBTQ Caucus.

Senate Bill 258 will go into effect January 1, 2022.

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AIDS and HIV

HIV & Aging Act sails through legislature; awaits Newsom’s signature

“When I was Santa Cruz AIDS Agency Director, it was our dream to have people living with HIV age into the senior category.”

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California State Senator John Laird (D-Santa Cruz) (Photo courtesy of the Senate of State of California)

SACRAMENTO —  The California Assembly passed SB 258, the HIV and Aging Act, by Senator John Laird (D-Santa Cruz), Thursday sending the bill to Governor Newsom for signature. The bill advanced from the Assembly consent calendar and received no “no” votes in either chamber.

Pending Governor Newsom’s final approval, California will become only the second state — after Illinois in 2019 — to designate older adults living with HIV as a population of “greatest social need.”

“When I was Santa Cruz AIDS Agency Director, it was our dream to have people living with HIV age into the senior category,” said Senator Laird. “To be very clear, this group was not supposed to grow old. While the drug cocktail transformed the fight against HIV, and there are more HIV positive seniors than ever before, older people living with HIV face a number of behavioral health challenges in addition to physical illnesses. By easing the burden of connecting this vulnerable population to supportive aging services and programs, this bill provides another life line to assist this uniquely disadvantaged group.

“I would like to express my utmost thanks to the sponsors of SB 258 for their steadfast partnership and the large coalition of supporters who highlighted the critical need for historic recognition and support of those living with HIV.”

With recent advancements in HIV treatment, people with HIV who take antiretroviral therapy can keep the virus suppressed and live long and healthy lives. For this reason, the number of older people living with HIV is increasing and over half of people living with HIV in California are now aged 50 years or older. However, older people with HIV continue to face unique challenges and barriers in health and well-being. A 2020 report by SAGE’s HIV and Aging Policy Action Coalition (HAPAC) identified that older people with HIV are more likely than their HIV-negative counterparts to have multiple comorbidities, including certain cancers, cardiovascular disease, fractures, and hepatitis C. Older people with HIV also face a number of behavioral health challenges, including rates of depression up to five times greater than their HIV-negative peers and greater levels of stigma, social isolation and loneliness.

“As a person living with HIV since 1983, I thank the Assembly for passing SB 258 – the HIV & Aging Act – recognizing older adults with HIV face unique and profound challenges as a population of ‘greatest social need.’” said Tez Anderson, Executive Director of Let’s Kick ASS-AIDS Survivor Syndrome. “For too long, survivors of the AIDS pandemic have been overlooked and forgotten. None of us imagined aging, but over half of all Californians living with HIV are aging and urgently in need of social services and programs which address our physical and mental health. I urge Governor Newsom to sign the bill and give us hope for a better quality of life.”

The HIV & Aging Act updates the Welfare and Institutions Code to ensure older people living with HIV — who are likely to turn to government and community-based services due to multiple comorbidities, behavioral and mental health issues and limited social support — have access to the programs and services administered through the California Department of Aging. The legislation is co-authored by Senators Toni Atkins (D-San Diego), Susan Talamantes Eggman (D-Stockton), Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) and Assemblymembers Sabrina Cervantes (D-Corona), Alex Lee (D-San Jose), Evan Low (D-Campbell) and Chris Ward (D-San Diego) and co-sponsored by APLA Health, Equality California, the Los Angeles LGBT Center and SAGE.

“Thanks to effective treatments, people with HIV are living longer than we could have ever imagined just a few decades ago,” said APLA Health Chief Executive Officer Craig E. Thompson. “Unfortunately, our current health and social service systems are ill-equipped to address the unique needs of this population. Many older people with HIV are long term survivors of the AIDS epidemic. They have lost countless loved ones and entire networks of social support. They experience significantly higher rates of depression, anxiety and other comorbidities. They also continue to face discrimination and alarming levels of stigma. APLA Health urges Governor Newsom to sign SB 258 into law to ensure that California’s aging network is prepared to support the state’s rapidly growing population of people aging with HIV.”

“As the number of older people living with HIV continues to increase, so should our state’s commitment to support this resilient population,” said Equality California Legislative Director Tami A. Martin. “We are thrilled that SB 258 received overwhelming, bipartisan support in the California legislature, and we look forward to pro-equality champion Governor Newsom signing this timely bill into law. Older Californians living with HIV deserve to have the resources and support they need to thrive with dignity.”

“SAGE applauds California State Senator John Laird and his colleagues for taking action in support of LGBT elders and people living with HIV,” said SAGE Director of Advocacy Aaron Tax. “This legislation would update the Older Americans Act in California, which funds critical programs like Meals-on-Wheels, to designate older people living with HIV as a target population. As older people living with HIV continue to face challenges in getting the aging services and supports that they need, it’s time for the law to catch up with the aging of the epidemic. Everyone should have access to the aging services and supports that they need, regardless of their identity or HIV status. This legislation will bring us closer to that reality.”

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AIDS and HIV

UCLA Fielding School awarded $5.2 million in grants for HIV prevention

The grants will study the use of a variety of techniques – personalized, daily text message reminders; and individual and group counseling

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UCLA Fielding School of Public Health Photo Credit: UCLA

LOS ANGELES – A team of researchers co-led by UCLA Fielding School of Public Health epidemiology professor Dr. Matthew Mimiaga has received more than $5.2 million in grants from the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) to develop and test interventions in the U.S. and Brazil.

The projects, funded by three separate NIH grants, all have the goal of reducing the spread of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, through the use of antiretroviral medications for HIV primary (PrEP) and secondary (ART) prevention among sexual and gender minority groups.

“Whether used as PrEP for HIV negative individuals or as ART treatment as prevention for those living with HIV, antiretroviral medications are highly effective at reducing HIV acquisition and transmission, but its efficacy is highly dependent on uptake and excellent adherence,” said Mimiaga, director of the UCLA Center for LGBTQ Advocacy, Research & Health. “However, sexual and gender minority groups face specific barriers to PrEP and ART access, uptake, adherence, and retention in care. Because of this, we are testing interventions that are culturally-tailored to address the lived realities and barriers among these vulnerable groups.”

The grants, announced by the NIH this month, will study the use of a variety of techniques – personalized, daily text message reminders; video vignettes; peer navigation; and individual and group counseling – to facilitate access and adherence to antiretroviral medications among those who would benefit the most from its use. These grants will be implemented in Los Angeles County; Providence, RI; Boston, MA; and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

This will give the researchers a wide variety of data on how these approaches work for different populations, ranging from LGBTQ adolescents, ages 15-24, to transgender women, and men who engage in transactional sex with other men. Dr. Katie Biello, a Brown University behavioral and social sciences and epidemiology professor, will co-lead this work with Mimiaga.

“Our goal is to develop HIV prevention interventions that are highly scalable and sustainable in the real world,” Biello said. “As such, this work takes into account the future of PrEP and ART access, while simultaneously addressing the barriers surrounding access, aiding in navigating linkage to PrEP and ART care programs, and reducing barriers to, and building skills to support, medication adherence.”

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