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About 70 people gathered for nearly three hours the evening of Tuesday, Jan. 15, at an HIV/AIDS Town Hall Meeting seeking to rekindle some of the Civil Rights Movement’s energy of Martin Luther King Jr. Entitled ”HIV in the District: This Is Not the Dream,” the meeting was held at Unity Fellowship Church/Luther Place Memorial Church.
Panelists — which included White House Office on AIDS Policy Director Christopher Bates, Councilmember Jim Graham (D-Ward 1), D.C. HIV/AIDS Administration Senior Deputy Director Dr. Shannon Hader, among others — and attendees raised a number of issues, but poor service infrastructure seemed to be the most recurrent theme, whether that meant lack of housing, lack of employment opportunities, non-compassionate bureaucrats or corruption.
”There are really, really bad systems [in the District regarding HIV/AIDS],” observed panelist Ernest Hopkins of the National Black Gay Men’s Advocacy Coalition. ”This shouldn’t be happening in a city like Washington. We could be the model…. But if your systems are broken, it really doesn’t matter how much money you have.”
The meeting ended on a hopeful note as Rev. Christine Wiley, co-pastor of Covenant Baptist Church, led the crowd in a prayer asking for the community to fight HIV/AIDS with the same energy harnessed to fight for civil rights in years past.
The gathering was sponsored by Transgender Health Empowerment, Us Helping Us and a number of other African-American, GLBT and health organizations.