The Gay Men’s Health Crisis has announced its honorees for the annual Spring Gala, and they include Bill Clinton, Founder of the Clinton Foundation, and 42nd President of the Unites States; Jes Staley, Chief Executive Officer of Barclays; and Peter Staley, HIV/AIDS and LGBT Rights Activist.
The event marks GMHC’s 35th anniversary as the world’s first AIDS service organization and the beginning of the agency’s next chapter of providing comprehensive life-saving services.
Because of Clinton’s work through The Clinton Foundation, over 11.5 million people in the world now have access to HIV medication. It was under his Presidency that the White House Office of National AIDS Policy was created. During this time, funding in the Department of Health and Human Services increased by 57 percent, funding for HIV prevention increased 36 percent, and funding for the Ryan White Care Act, the largest federally funded program in the country for people living with HIV, nearly tripled.
“Bill Clinton’s work in HIV and AIDS over the years has been outstanding,” Kelsey Louie, CEO of GMHC, says to Plus. "His track record speaks for itself. We felt it was important to honor somebody, not just locally, but who also helps with the AIDS epidemic internationally.”
Longtime activist Peter Staley will be presented with the Larry Kramer Activism award for his work as an AIDS activist. He is one of the few leaders that helped to force our government to supply proper HIV meds and was extremely involved in ACT UP. Over the years, Staley helped found the Treatment Action Group, was also a former board member of AmFAR and also founded AIDSMed.com.
“Everything that [Peter’s] done is close to GMHC's mission,” Louie says. “When you think of AIDS activism, the first two names that come to your mind are Larry Kramer and Peter Staley. To present him the Larry Kramer Activism Award, we thought, would be a nice way to honor him. His work was featured prominently in How to Survive a Plague and the book just came out so I think it's relevant now.”
The third honoree doesn’t fall far from the tree: Peter Staley’s brother, Jes Staley, CEO of Barclays, a company that has scored 100 percent on the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index. Barclay implements something called “The Spectrum Employee Network,” which is a resource group for their LGBT employees, and also provided HIV medication their staff at a particular time.
“It was a very personal decision,” Louie explains about choosing Jes Staley, “being that many of their staff were struggling in the late-'80's or in the mid-'90's helping to provide some type of support. [Barclay] does this for their staff, and they did this not only in the US, but in their branches across the world. It’s this type of leadership we often look at to honor as a corporate partner: a corporation that not only says they're doing great things, but actually does great things. And we know that Jes Staley holds these values personally.”
And the fact that Peter and Jes are brothers is a symbolic gesture not to be missed.
“This being the 35th anniversary of GMHC's founding, we're reminded of our past and how Larry Kramer and his brother were really instrumental,” Louie says. “His brother was a lawyer, very instrumental, and they eventually worked together and worked to identify what could be done for the community. Fast forward 35 years and you have another set of brothers who are working — one on the activist side, one on the corporate side. We thought this would be a great way to honor our history and to reflect the ideals of working together, and the importance of family values.”
The 35th Anniversary Spring Gala will take place on Thursday, March 23, 6:30pm in New York City. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit www.GMHCGala.org.