HIV advocates and LGBTQ+ rights leaders brainstormed with U.S. House members this week during the 4th annual Illinois Congressional Delegation Breakfast. The online event was hosted by Pride Action Tank, a project of AIDS Foundation Chicago, and was in partnership with Equality Illinois and the Human Rights Campaign.
The event is a chance, according to AIDS Foundation Chicago, for these advocates to provide information to the state's congressional delegation. The House members were able to speak on what they had been able to accomplish on the federal level to impact LGBTQ+ people and those living with HIV.
In a prepared video, Sen. Tammy Duckworth said that she acknowledges the burden the COVID-19 pandemic has had on LGBTQ+ people and people living with HIV, and especially communities of color.
“This pandemic has proven once again that no one can predict when they'll get sick or have an accident and need immediate access to quality health care,” she said.
Duckworth added that there is a significant amount of work to be done when fighting for equality. “I am excited and hopeful for the future. I am grateful to all of you as advocates and I look forward to working together to advance those priorities,” she said.
Coleman Goode, a community organizer with AIDS Foundation Chicago, urged congressional members to address the criminalization of HIV by supporting the REPEAL HIV Discrimination Act.
“HIV specific criminal transmission laws have been on the books since the late '80s, and was an actual requirement for states to receive Ryan White funding in the early '90s,” Goode said. “What we know is there is no scientific evidence that laws criminalizing non-disclosure, perceived or potential exposure, or transmission have any public health benefit.
“In fact, research suggests that HIV criminalization laws may discourage testing, treatment, and disclosure, which is what we want people to talk about.”