Lisner Shines Light on HIV/AIDS

Despite obstacles, activists see hope in the fight against the epidemic

Speaking at ”Return to Lisner,” a community event held July 24 in the midst of the XIX International AIDS Conference –and serving as both a memorial to those who lost their lives to HIV/AIDS and a remembrance of Washington’s first public forum on AIDS, held April 4, 1983 – a panel of six activists, some HIV-positive, updated the audience of more than 500 on the status of scientific advances, testing, treatment and outreach within the context of the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

The Whitman-Walker Health event included a performance by the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington, D.C., and a keynote address by Jeanne White-Ginder, the mother of Ryan White, a teenage hemophiliac-turned activist who contracted AIDS through a blood transfusion in 1984, for whom the nation’s largest federally funded program to treat people with HIV/AIDS is named.

Following White-Ginder’s speech, moderator Tom Sherwood of local TV station NBC4 gruffly questioned the panelists about the promise of an ”AIDS-free generation” made by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and other speakers at AIDS 2012, asking, ”Is hope justified?”

”Hope is always justified,” responded A. Cornelius Baker, senior communications advisor and project director at nonprofit FHI360′s Center on AIDS and Community Health and a senior advisor for the National Black Gay Men’s Advocacy Coalition.

”It’s amazing how survival instinct interweaves with hope,” said Regan Hofmann, editor-in-chief of Poz magazine. She told Sherwood and the audience that achieving an AIDS-free generation is possible, but that it requires both political and social will to push through initiatives that can effectively prevent and reduce the incidence of HIV/AIDS.

For instance, Hofmann, who is HIV-positive, shared that many youth she talks to are unaware of how the disease is transmitted, asking her questions such as whether she can have sex. She said that such ignorance is the result of parents refusing or being unable to sufficiently educate their children about the disease.

John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com

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