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Biden seeks to ramp up money to beat HIV/AIDS in budget request

Health GAP is calling on Biden to name “a highly qualified nominee” to serve as the U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator



WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden’s formal budget proposal for the upcoming fiscal year increases funding levels in the fight against HIV/AIDS, which has advocates cheering over the president’s commitment to increase government spending to confront the domestic epidemic, although one group is criticizing the proposal for seeking to flat-fund international programs.

The fiscal year 2022 proposal, unveiled last Friday, would afford an additional $246 million for domestic HIV testing, prevention and treatment programs for the ‘Ending the HIV Epidemic’ initiative, which seeks to end HIV by 2030, and would also provide a general boost of $46 million to the Ryan White HIV/AIDS programs and $20 million for HUD’s Housing Opportunities for People with AIDS (HOPWA).

Carl Schmid, executive director of the HIV + Hepatitis Policy Institute, said in a statement Biden is “demonstrating his commitment to ending HIV in the United States” in the budget request to Congress.

“While it falls short of what is needed and the community has requested, if this funding is realized it will continue the momentum already created and make further progress in ending HIV in the U.S. Efforts to end HIV will help eradicate an infectious disease that we have been battling for the last 40 years and help correct racial and health inequities in our nation,” Schmid said.

The total $670 million requested by the White House for the Ending the HIV Epidemic initiative breaks down as follows:

  • Centers for Disease Control & Prevention:  $100 million in new money for a total of $275 million;
  • Ryan White:  $85 million in new money for a total of $190 million;
  • Community Health Centers for PrEP:  $50 million in new money for a total of $152 million;
  • National Institues of Health:  $10 million in new money for a total of $26 million;
  • Indian Health Services: $22 million in new money for a total of $27 million.

Counterinituitively, each of those numbers is actually below what the Trump White House proposed in the previous administration’s final budget request, with the exception of the proposed increase in money for Community Health Centers for PrEP and flat-lining for money for Indian Health Services.

The requested increase in funds for the Ending the HIV Epidemic was expected. Biden had signaled he’d seek the additional $267 million in funding in the “skinny budget” issued by the White House in February that preceded the more formal and detailed request to Congress last week.

Biden requests the increase in funds after he campaigned on ending the domestic HIV epidemic by 2025, an ambitious goal many advocates in the fight against HIV/AIDS were skeptical about achieving.

Nick Armstrong, the AIDS Institute’s manager of advocacy and government affairs and co-chair of the AIDS Budget & Appropriations Coalition, said in a statement the time to ramp up efforts against HIV has come as the nation emerges from the coronavirus pandemic.

“Public health departments have made herculean efforts to battle COVID over the past year,” Armstrong said. “But now it is time to reinvigorate neglected efforts to end the HIV, opioid, and viral hepatitis epidemics. Congress must go above and beyond what the president has proposed to bolster our critical public health infrastructure to protect Americans against infectious disease.”

The budget now goes on to Congress, which has authority on whether or not to appropriate funds consistent with the president’s request. Congress could either meet, short fund or even exceed in money the request by Biden as part of that process.

Schmid said via email to the Blade he’s optimistic about getting an agreement from Congress for an increase in funds to fight HIV/AIDS based on the “strong bipartisan support the proposal has enjoyed in the past.

“We still have work to do with the Congress due to so many demands on the budget but I am fairly confident Congress will support it, they have been anxious to see what the Biden administration does with the program in his budget and we have the answers now,” Schmid said. “The Biden-Harris administration firmly supports ending HIV.”

Although Biden was lauded for the increase in funds in domestic HIV programs, international programs are a different matter. The White House has essentially flat-funded programs designed to fight the global HIV epidemic, including the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, or PEPFAR, or the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis & Malaria.

Matthew Rose, director of U.S. Policy and Advocacy at the New York-based Health GAP, said in a statement Biden’s budget proposal “displays a lack of bold leadership motivated to end the HIV pandemic.”

“If the U.S. had continued fully funding PEPFAR since 2003 instead of letting funding levels slip into a flat-line for more than a decade, the HIV pandemic would look remarkably different today,” Rose said. “This is not a budget to end AIDS – and it could have been. This is not a budget to end the COVID-19 pandemic – and it could have been. The unconscionable lack of political will in recent years has created a world in which people cannot get access to the life-saving services they need.”

Health GAP is calling on Congress to approve a budget with at least a $750 million increase for PEPFAR and $2.5 billion in increased funding over the next four years to scale up HIV prevention and treatment and mitigate harms to the HIV response done by the COVID-19 pandemic, the statement says.

Additionally, Health GAP is calling on Biden to name “a highly qualified nominee” to serve as the U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator, the statement says.

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Out for America; nearly 1,000 elected LGBTQ+ officials but more needed

Lack of representation has consequences, as LGBTQ elected officials are best positioned to defend against anti-LGBTQ legislative attacks



Victory Institute Out for America report cover Image of Delaware State Senator Sarah McBride (D First District) being sworn in to office

WASHINGTON – In its annual report the Washington D.C. based LGBTQ Victory Institute noted that there had been an increase of 17 percent in the past year of LGBTQ Americans serving as elected officials. According to the data in the Out for America 2021 report released this past week, there are 986 known out LGBTQ elected officials in the United States.

The Victory Institute reported that total included two U.S. senators, nine U.S. representatives, two governors, 189 state legislators, 56 mayors and six statewide executives. While this is considered a large increase, LGBTQ people hold just 0.19 percent of elected positions in the United States, despite making up at least 5.6 percent of the U.S. adult population.

Americans must elect 28,116 more LGBTQ people to public office for LGBTQ people to achieve equitable representation (serving in 5.6 percent of elected positions) the report went on to note.


The report found that in the past year (between June 2020 and June 2021):

  • LGBTQ elected officials of color increased by 51 percent, with Black LGBTQ elected officials growing at the fastest pace (a 75 percent increase);
  • Trans women elected officials increased by 71 percent (from 21 to 36), yet trans men saw no increase (with just five serving nationwide);
  • Queer-identified elected officials increased by 83 percent, faster than all other sexual orientations; and
  • LGBQ cisgender women state legislators surpassed the number of GBQ cisgender men state legislators for the first time.

The report also found that:

  • LGBTQ elected officials are significantly more racially and ethnically diverse than the overall elected official population, but are less diverse than the U.S. population;
  • Mississippi is the only state in the nation with zero known out LGBTQ elected officials serving;
  • 23 states have transgender elected officials serving and 29 states have non-cisgender elected officials;
  • LGBTQ people are equitably represented among mayors of top 100 cities for the first time (with six), but are underrepresented among mayors overall and in all other public positions; and that
  • 84 percent of LGBTQ elected officials are Democrats and just three percent are Republicans.

In an emailed statement, former Houston, Texas Mayor Annise Parker, who currently serves as the President & CEO of LGBTQ Victory Institute reflected, “While LGBTQ elected officials are growing steadily in number, at this pace it will still take decades to come anywhere close to achieving equitable representation in government.” 

Parker went on to note, “This lack of representation has enormous consequences, because LGBTQ elected officials are best positioned to defend against anti-LGBTQ legislative attacks and to change the hearts and minds of colleagues in supporting inclusive policies. A moonshot effort to increase our numbers is essential to advancing equality at every level of government – and a large part of that is showing LGBTQ people that running for office is our best bet to achieve lasting social change.”

In addition to changes in representation over the last year, the report also looks at trends since the first Out for America report was released in November 2017. In that time, LGBTQ elected officials increased by 121 percent (from 448 to 986) overall, and LGBTQ elected officials of color increased by 201 percent (from 92 to 277). 

Since November 2017, there is a 296 percent increase in Black LGBTQ elected officials (from 23 to 91), 135 percent increase in Latinx LGBTQ elected officials (from 51 to 120) and a 117 percent increase in Asian American and Pacific Islander elected officials (from 12 to 26). Trans women increased by 800 percent (from four to 36) and bisexual elected officials by 787 percent (from eight to 71).

“LGBTQ elected officials are significantly more diverse than the overall elected official population – so their impact extends beyond LGBTQ equality alone,” said Ruben Gonzales, Executive Director of LGBTQ Victory Institute. “LGBTQ elected officials are on the frontlines in legislative efforts to end police brutality, defend voting rights and secure inclusive healthcare reform. LGBTQ people are represented in every community in America and that diversity allows for more thoughtful policy changes when we are in office.”

The Out for America report is an annual analysis of LGBTQ elected representation in government based on Victory Institute’s LGBTQ elected officials database – the largest and most comprehensive listing available. The interactive Out for America map, updated daily, displays all known LGBTQ elected officials and is available at

Read the full Out for America 2021 report at

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Biden to nominate LGBTQ synagogue rabbi to religious freedom commission

Sharon Kleinbaum joined NYC’s Congregation Beit Simchat Torah in 1992



Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum (Photo courtesy of Facebook)

WASHINGTON — President Biden on Friday announced he plans to nominate the chief rabbi of an LGBTQ synagogue in New York City to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.

Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum joined Congregation Beit Simchat Torah in 1992.

“She was installed as CBST’s first rabbi in 1992, arriving at the height of the AIDS crisis when the synagogue was in desperate need of pastoral care and spiritual leadership,” reads a bio that announced Biden’s intention to nominate Kleinbaum to the commission. “She guided the congregation through a period of loss and change, while addressing social issues and building a strong and deeply spiritual community. Under her leadership as senior rabbi, CBST has become a powerful voice in the movement for equality and justice for people of all sexual orientations, gender identities and expressions.”

Kleinbaum is married to American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten.

The commission seeks to defend religious freedom in the U.S. and around the world. The president and Democratic and Republican leaders in Congress nominate members.

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Bill would require universities to apply for Title IX religious exemption waiver

Measure seeks to highlight anti-LGBTQ higher education institutions



WASHINGTON — Four members of Congress on Thursday introduced a bill that would require federally-funded universities to apply for a waiver from the U.S. Department of Education before they can receive a religious exemption from Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.

A press release that U.S. Reps. Katherine Clark (D-Mass.), Chris Pappas (D-N.H.), Sharice Davids (D-Kan.) and Mondaire Jones (D-N.Y.) issued notes the Exposing Discrimination in Higher Education Act would also require “the Department of Education and the exempted higher education institutions to prominently display the waiver on their websites in order to inform students of their beliefs before arriving on campus.”

The members of Congress note “several higher education institutions across the U.S.” beginning in 2013 “applied for religious exemptions with the Department of Education that would allow them to discriminate against LGBTQ students on campus.” The Department of Education during the previous White House sought to revoke the waiver application requirement.

“These exemptions allow students to be removed from extracurricular organizations, leadership posts, sports teams, and even be expelled simply for being members of the LGBTQ community,” reads the press release.

The previous White House rescinded guidance to public schools that said Title IX requires them to allow transgender students to use restrooms based on their gender identity. The Biden administration last month said Title IX bans discrimination against LGBTQ students.

“Every student deserves to attend a college where their entire identity is accepted and celebrated,” said Clark. “Without transparency about a school’s beliefs, students may arrive on campus only to learn that their school has policies in place that infringe on their civil rights. I’m proud to introduce the Exposing Discrimination in Higher Education Act to ensure that students can apply to college with all the information necessary to set them up for success.”

Davids added “every student deserves an educational experience free from discrimination and harassment.”

“At the moment, we are letting down our LGBTQ+ community on college campuses, as more taxpayer-funded universities quietly skirt around civil rights law,” said the Kansas Democrat. “By reinstating the waiver requirement for universities who seek exemption from anti-discrimination protections, we are not only protecting LGBTQ+ students from unfair treatment, but we are reminding them that their experience is visible and valuable.”

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