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AIDSWatch Leadership Awards
AIDS United, The Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation (ETAF), the Treatment Access Expansion Project (TAEP), and the US People Living with HIV Caucus (HIV Caucus) will recognize community leaders and legislators who have gone above and beyond in the response to the domestic HIV epidemic at the 25th Anniversary AIDSWatch. Register to attend the AIDSWatch leadership award reception.

ETAF, presenting sponsor of AIDSWatch, will award the fourth annual Elizabeth Taylor Legislative Leadership Awards – named in honor of Elizabeth Taylor’s courageous advocacy and leadership in the fight against AIDS to:

Former New York State Senator Tom Duane

The Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation recognizes former New York State Senator Tom Duane for his long-standing commitment to the treatment and care of people living with HIV in New York.

In 1991, Tom Duane became the first openly gay and openly HIV+ member of the New York City Council. At the time, he also became the first candidate for public office in the nation elected who ran a campaign while being open about an HIV-positive status. In 1998, Tom became the first openly gay New York State Senator and the state’s legislature’s first openly HIV positive member.

Pennsylvania State Representative Brian Sims

The Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation recognizes Pennsylvania State Representative Brian Sims for his efforts to mandate insurance companies cover Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) and Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) in Pennsylvania.

State Representative Brian K. Sims is a distinguished policy attorney and civil rights advocate from Center City Philadelphia. The former staff counsel for policy and planning at the Philadelphia Bar Association, he recently stepped down as both the president of the board of directors of Equality Pennsylvania and as chairman of Gay and Lesbian Lawyers of Philadelphia (GALLOP). Today, he continues to serve on the GLSEN Sports Advisory Council, is a contributor to The Advocate magazine. He also has extensive experience as a guest lecturer.

Florida State Representative Carlos Guillermo Smith

The Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation recognizes Florida State Representative Carlos Guillermo Smith for his role in recent negotiations with Publix to ensure its employee health plans covered PrEP.

Representative Carlos Guillermo Smith proudly identifies as a LGBTQ, Latino and forward thinking millennial feminist who reflects the values and diversity of Florida. In November 2016, he made history as Florida’s first openly-LGBT Latino lawmaker, representing House District 49 in East Orlando. As a lawmaker, Rep. Smith has been a champion for civil rights, cannabis reform, affordable higher education, gun safety, mental health, and animal welfare. Out Magazine recognized Carlos as one of the “survivors and heroes of Pulse” in their annual OUT 100 edition for his outspokenness in support of those impacted by the Orlando tragedy.

    AIDSWatch organizers – AIDS United, TAEP, and the HIV Caucus – have selected three impressive leaders who have demonstrated exemplary leadership, both locally and nationally, to empower people living with HIV and advocate for the policies needed to end the epidemic to receive AIDSWatch Positive Leadership Awards:

    Cecilia Chung
    Senior Director of Strategic Projects at the Transgender Law Center

    Cecilia Chung, Senior Director of Strategic Projects of Transgender Law Center, is a Health Commissioner of San Francisco and an internationally recognized human rights leader who advocates for HIV/AIDS awareness and treatment access, LGBT equality, and social justice. As an Asian transgender woman living with HIV, she has dedicated herself to ending stigma, discrimination, and violence in all communities.

    Over the past 25 years, Cecilia has broken ground in a number of ways including: being the first transgender woman and first Asian to be elected to lead the Board of Directors of the San Francisco Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Celebration; the first transgender woman and first person living openly with HIV to Chair the San Francisco Human Rights Commission; and, an architect of the nation’s most ambitious publicly funded program addressing economic justice within the transgender community.

    Ronald Johnson
    Former Vice President for Policy & Advocacy at AIDS United

    If there is such a thing as a veteran in the war on HIV/AIDS, Ronald S. Johnson, AIDS United’s current Senior Policy Fellow and former Vice President of Policy and Advocacy, is just that. One of the first people openly living with HIV to serve in public office – Johnson was named by Mayor David Dinkins to serve as New York City’s first coordinator for AIDS policy in 1992 – he has been at the forefront of HIV policy and advocacy work since the start of the epidemic. Additionally, Johnson has worked at GMHC, Minority Task Force on AIDS, AIDS Action, was a member of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS, and served on numerous community boards.

    As Ronald moves on to the next phase of his life, retirement — something that so many of us living with HIV never thought possible—it’s fitting that his lifetime of service to people living with and affected by HIV is recognized through this honor.

    Venita Ray
    Public Policy Manager at Legacy Community Health

    Venita is the public policy manager for Legacy Community Health, a federally qualified health center in Houston, TX, where she monitors HIV related health policy and manages an advocacy training program for people living with HIV.

    Since 2016, Venita has led a citywide effort to end the HIV epidemic in Houston. Venita is a board member of PWN-USA, founding member of a state-wide network for PLWHIV called the Texans Living with HIV and volunteers with the SERO Project, Southern AIDS Strategy Initiative, and Southern AIDS Coalition. Venita was diagnosed with HIV in 2003 and is deeply committed to issues like HIV criminalization, meaningful involvement of PLHIV and racial justice.

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