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Biden’s problematic gaffe during LA County Democratic Party’s virtual event

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In the afraid new world of COVID-19 and Trumpian politics, the Los Angeles County Democratic Party threw a well-produced, almost seamless virtual party that exceeded expectations and wove woke entertainers and honorees into delivering the same critical message: vote November 3rd  as if your life depends upon it — because it does.

The election is so important, an otherwise problematic slip of the tongue by presumed Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden during his video appearance was ignored in a chat room populated by strong Democratic activists. Silence = Shrug. Just another Biden gaffe.

On the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment guaranteeing women the right to vote, the July 25 LA County Democratic Party (LACDP) JFK Awards honored four significant women. California Sen. Kamala Harris and comedienne Kathy Griffin were spotlighted with JFK Profile in Courage Awards, having fearlessly taken on and withstood attacks from President Donald Trump and his cult-like minions.

Legendary labor leader Dolores Huerta, 90, the Latina civil rights icon who co-founded the National Farm Workers Association with fellow organizer Cesar Chavez in 1962, received the Miguel Contreras Award from the late labor leader’s widow, Maria Elena Durazo, now a California State Senator. Dolores Huerta recalled how she recruited Contreras to the farm workers movement.

April Verrett, President of Service Employees International Union (SEIU), Local 2015 – the nation’s largest longterm care union representing 400,000 California home care and nursing home workers, was gushed over receiving the Kam Kuwata Partnership Award, named for the late veteran political consultant. The honor was particularly poignant since that Saturday afternoon the LA County Department of Public Health confirmed 3,628 new cases of COVID-19.

Roz Wyman, another LA political icon, first acknowledged the late civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis then said of the two young Democrats she chose to receive the Roz Wyman Democratic Youth Leadership Award — Erica Liepmann and Matthew Contreras — “they’re our future.”

The nearly two-hour show opened with an admonition from gay LACDP Chair Mark Gonzalez that “the fight for true equality is a continuous struggle” and a pledge that the local party’s 2.9 million Democrats will fight for the party’s endorsed candidates and ballot measures.

The indomitable Rep. Maxine Waters — fresh from the viral video showing her stopping to ensure a Black motorist was treated well during a traffic stop – underscored the message that “the future of this country is at stake” in these elections. Out Assemblymember Evan Low followed Waters, the first of a slew of Asian American participants.

Out LACDP Executive Director Drexel Heard II was the “live” host, casually connecting the Live Streamed presentations, produced by Jonathan Moulton, with humor and message repetition, underscoring not only voting for Biden but for down-ballot candidates, such as Christy Smith running against Trump super fan Rep. Mike Garcia in the 25th Congressional District.

Sec. of State Alex Padillia reminded viewers that “the right to vote is sacred.” Vote-by-mail ballots will be mailed out before the Nov. 3 election.

“Will & Grace” star Eric McCormick cracked the best joke of the night when congratulating Dolores Huerta: “I wish I could play you in a movie, but they’ll probably offer it to Scarlett Johansson.”

Griffin assumed that viewers knew about her frightening long battle with Trump and emphasized the importance of down-ballot voting by recalling the anti-LGBTQ religious right fanatic Kim Davis, who refused to issue a marriage license to a gay couple as an elected – and subsequently defeated  — Kentucky county clerk.

There was some speculation before the virtual event that Biden would announce that he was selecting Harris to serve as his vice president. Harris had been friends with Biden’s late son Beau when the two served as attorney generals for California and Delaware, respectively. Harris sent shock waves through the political establishment by challenging Biden over his civil rights record during a Primary debate.

Biden and Harris made up and she has since been an ardent and outspoken Biden supporter.

She has also continued to speak out about hard truths, as she did at the LACDP event, talking about America’s two systems of justice — one for convicted felon Roger Stone, whose prison sentence was commuted by his friend Donald Trump,  and one for Breonna Taylor, a Black ER technician in Louisville, Ky. who was shot by police in her own bed last March as they executed a search warrant. According to the Louisville Courier Journal, Taylor was still alive, struggling to breathe for at least five minutes after she was shot and received no medical attention for more than 20 minutes. Those officers have not yet been held responsible for her shooting, sparking more protests in conjunction with the police murder of George Floyd.

Though Biden may have let go of the debate contretemps with Harris – just as Obama got over Biden’s criticism of him in 2008 — the former vice president’s inner political circle remains beyond upset with Harris.

The behind-the-scenes squabbling became public arena on July 27 when Politico published a story about former Sen. Chris Dodd’s “stunned” reaction to Harris when he interviewed her during the VP vetting process. Politico reported:

“She laughed and said, ‘that’s politics.’ She had no remorse,” Dodd told a longtime Biden supporter and donor, who relayed the exchange to POLITICO on condition of anonymity.

 

“Dodd felt it was a gimmick, that it was cheap,” the donor said. The person added that Dodd’s concerns about Harris were so deep that he’s helped elevate California Rep. Karen Bass during the vetting process, urging Biden to pick her because “she’s a loyal No. 2. And that’s what Biden really wants.” Through an aide, Dodd declined to comment. Advisers to Harris also declined to comment.”

Perhaps sensing that Biden might have a Woman Problem after the Dodd leak, the Biden campaign released a policy platform on women.

Few paid attention. Online posts and the Twitter-verse were filled with disgust and reprimand over Dodd.

“If anything, Harris’s lack of ‘remorse’ should recommend her for the job. She is an able debater, and a tough inquisitor in Senate hearings. Harris also has the perspective that comes from growing up as a nonwhite woman in this country,” wrote Washington Post columnist Karen Tumulty. “This reported anxiety about Harris, however, suggests a different standard for women as running mates. They are apparently supposed to be window-dressing — demure and apologetic.”

Former Planned Parenthood head Cecile Richards picked up on that and tweeted: “Women are sick of being expected to ask forgiveness for every damn thing.”

BlackWomenViews Media did a little fact-checking: “I wonder if Chris Dodd’s abhorrence to Kamala saying it’s wrong to praise segregationists has anything to do with his praising a former KKK who voted against the Civil Rights Act ‘cannot think of a single moment…where he would not have been a valuable asset to this country,’” referring to former Sen. Robert C Byrd.

Writer Rebecca Traister was furious.  “When your pals help you pick your lady VP based on how contrite she is about having challenged you in a debate. No no no no no nope this is gonna be the thing that ends me,” she tweeted, alluding to Dodd’s past accusation of sexual assault.

Women noticed. Just as people with HIV/AIDS and LGBTQ historians may have noted that while Biden tweeted about the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act,  which he cosponsored, recalling the late Sen. Ted Kennedy – Biden failed to mention that Kennedy’s fight was to get HIV/AIDS into the ADA. The effort succeeded but was constantly challenged. It took four more years to make it final. “In light of the immediacy with which the virus begins to damage the infected person’s white blood cells and the severity of the disease,” Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote, “we hold it is an impairment from the moment of the infection.”

Daniel Zingale, then-executive director of AIDS Action, called the ADA “the most important legal victory for people with HIV in the history of the epidemic.”

Biden didn’t mention HIV/AIDS at all in his longer paper on the ADA though, during the recent International AIDS Conference, a new World Health Organization report noted that “COVID-19 is having a devastating impact on the LGBTI+ community worldwide,”

Apparently, Joe Biden does not have a senior advisor who grasps cultural competency. How else explain Biden’s choice of Dodd as a VP vetter, his failure to remember that HIV/AIDS is still an epidemic, and his startling gaffe during the LACDP event?

“We need leadership that strives to finally deliver on the Founding principles — ensure that all men are not only equal at their creation but treated equally throughout their lives,” Biden told the LACDP audience.

The look on Biden’s face suggested he knew something was off with that “all men” sentence. But he plowed ahead. And no one on his team caught it and suggested another take. It would have been simple to add the “wo” to “men,” as presumably the speechwriter intended. Instead Biden’s two-minute video for a Democratic event honoring women decried the inequality of men.

Biden’s little Freudian slip may be no big deal but it raises questions about Biden’s thinking process and who checks him. With so much at stake, such preventable gaffes can turn off and dampen the enthusiasm of voters he needs to defeat Trump.

That makes Biden’s choice for his vice-presidential candidate all the more important.

Meanwhile, Gonzalez tells the Los Angeles Blade, “It’s a difficult time for Americans and it’s our job to make sure we’re doing whatever we can to represent and support working families all across LA County.”

The JFK show is posted at the LACDP website: www.lacdp.org/jfk2020

 

 

 

 

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AIDS and HIV

$48 million earmarked for HRSA centers in effort to beat HIV/AIDS

“Community health centers are often a key point of entry to HIV prevention and treatment services, especially for underserved populations”

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The Hubert H. Humphrey Building, HHS headquarters Washington D.C. (Photo Credit: U.S. GSA)

WASHINGTON – The Biden administration has awarded more than $48 million in allocations earmarked to medical centers under Health Resources & Services Administration in localities with high incidents of HIV infection as part of the initiative to beat the disease.

Xavier Becerra, U. S. Secretary of Health and Human Services, in a statement said that the contributions are key component of the initiative, which is called “Ending the HIV Epidemic in the U.S.” and seeks to reduce new infections by 90 percent by 2030.

“HHS-supported community health centers are often a key point of entry to HIV prevention and treatment services, especially for underserved populations,” Becerra said. “I am proud of the role they play in providing critical services to 1.2 million Americans living with HIV. Today’s awards will ensure equitable access to services free from stigma and discrimination, while advancing the Biden-Harris administration’s efforts to ending the HIV/AIDS epidemic by 2025.”

The $48 million in government spending allocations went to HRSA centers 71 HRSA-supported health centers across 26 states, Puerto Rico and D.C. — areas identified with the highest rates of HIV infections — to expand HIV prevention and treatment services, including access to pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) as well as outreach and care coordination, according to HHS.

The Ending the HIV Epidemic was set up under the previous administration, which made PrEP a generic drug after an accelerated effort and set a goal of beating HIV by 2030. Biden has continued the project, after campaigning on beating HIV a full five years earlier in 2025. Observers, however, are skeptical he can meet that goal.

Diana Espinosa, acting administrator for the Health Resources and Services Administration, (HRSA) said in a statement the $48 million will go a long way in reaching goals to beat HIV/AIDS.

“We know our Health Center Program award recipients are well-positioned to advance the Ending the HIV Epidemic in the U.S. initiative, with a particular focus on facilitating access to PrEP, because of their integrated service delivery model,” Espinosa said. “By integrating HIV services into primary care, and providing essential enabling services like language access or case management, HRSA-supported health centers increase access to care and improve health outcomes for patients living with HIV.”

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AIDS and HIV

Surviving Voices, “Substance Users, the Recovery Community & AIDS

The Surviving Voices storytelling initiative is being recognized for its powerful work in helping tell the story of AIDS

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Surviving Voices is a program of the National AIDS Memorial (Photo Credit: NAM)

SAN FRANCISCO – The National AIDS Memorial Surviving Voices storytelling initiative is being recognized for its powerful work in helping tell the story of AIDS through the voices of survivors of the pandemic, now in its 40th year.

More than 700,000 U.S. lives have been lost since the first cases of AIDS were first reported in 1981. Today, more than 1.2 million people are living with HIV, with a disproportionate impact in communities of color and in southern U.S. states.

The Memorial has officially released its most recent mini-documentary, “Substance Users, the Recovery Community & AIDS” following exclusive screenings at two LGBTQ+ film festivals – Frameline45 and SF Queer Film Fest 2021.  The mini-documentary, along with deep dive personal interview segments with survivors and advocates, can be viewed on the Memorial’s website at www.aidsmemorial.org.

“The National AIDS Memorial is honored to have our Surviving Voices mini-documentary featured at these influential film festivals,” said Chief Executive John Cunningham. “It speaks to the important work our organization is doing to share these powerful personal stories of hope, resilience and the journey of survivors around the issue of HIV/AIDS and addiction in an authentic and powerful way.”

“Substance Users, the Recovery Community & AIDS” focuses the camera on the unique challenges of HIV/AIDS faced by this community. Through personal stories of survival, the film powerfully captures the journey of AIDS advocates and those of individual survivors living with HIV/AIDS who have struggled simultaneously with the disease of addiction, in raw, honest and forthright conversations.  It depicts their individual strength, power, hope and resilience, the importance of community, spirit, self-respect, and the will to live with dignity and pride.  It also shows their vulnerabilities, the shame, denial, stigma, and hopelessness they have experienced. 

As Queer Chaplain Bonnie Violet Quintana shares, “I can be as I am. Me getting HIV. Me being in recovery – all of that is a big part of Me.” 

The National AIDS Memorial’s Surviving Voices mini-documentaries are produced and directed by Jörg Fockele and funded through a grant by Chevron, a long-standing partner of the National AIDS Memorial. Community partners include the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, The Elizabeth Taylor 50-Plus Network, Stonewall Project and the Castro Country Club.

“We believe in the power of storytelling and the lessons it can teach current and future generations,” said Huma Abbasi, General Manager, Health & Medical at Chevron. “Our long-time support for Surviving Voices is part of our commitment to sharing the very human experiences that have shaped 40 years of the AIDS epidemic. At Chevron, our success is tied to the progress and prosperity of the communities where we operate. In line with the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals, we believe that healthy, educated communities are critical to that success.”

Surviving Voices is a program of the National AIDS Memorial created to ensure the myriad stories and lessons of the epidemic are captured, curated, and retained for current and future generations.  “Substance Users, the Recovery Community & AIDS” is the sixth film produced in this multi-year oral history initiative, which also includes “The Transgender Community & AIDS,” “The A&PI Community & AIDS,” “Women & AIDS,” “The National Hemophilia Community & AIDS,” and “The San Francisco Leather Community & AIDS.”

“I hope that these mini-documentaries will be as inspiring for current and future generations confronting their own challenges as they were for us when we filmed them,” said Fockele.

Learn more about the Surviving Voices, the National AIDS Memorial, its mission, programs and how to provide support at www.aidsmemorial.org.

Surviving Voices Mini-Documentary: Substance Users, Recovery Community and AIDS:

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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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