HIV / AIDS activist and icon Shawn Lang is remembered to mark AIDS Awareness Month

US Senator Chris Murphy led a meeting in West Hartford, Connecticut on Monday to mark AIDS Awareness Month and to celebrate the life of the late Shawn Lang, the former deputy director of AIDS Connecticut. Lang passed away suddenly on October 17, 2021. She was 65 years old.

Murphy said it was Lang who helped raise awareness about people living with HIV and AIDS when he was a young state senator in 2003.

Shawn Lang was a great, great friend of mine, someone who taught me a lot about the importance of doing prevention, work, and treatment for the people with AIDS in Connecticut. And she was a hero to me, ”said Murphy Forbes. “And this is a month when we recommit ourselves to the global fight against AIDS. I thought it was important to recognize his heritage, but also to have a conversation about what more we need to do here in Connecticut and what more we need to do in the world.

Murphy and local advocates for people living with HIV and AIDS met in a festively decorated auditorium at the Elmwood Community Center to discuss Lang’s legacy and the issues they face in serving the community, such as state and federal funding and housing needs.

“She was only five feet tall, but she loved everyone, and at the end of today she would be hugging you too,” John Merz, CEO of Advancer Connecticut, told WTNH-TV. Together. “She just had the biggest heart and the biggest part of that heart was loving people living with HIV / AIDS.” What was AIDS Connecticut when Lang was Deputy Director is now Advancing Connecticut Together.

We’ve seen a pretty dramatic reduction in the number of AIDS cases around the world, ”Murphy said. “We have been successful, but we must not and cannot rest until we have eradicated AIDS and have the capacity to do so now with treatment and prevention methods.

State Senator Derek Slap from West Hartford, whose own father died of AIDS, joined Senator Kate Farrar, State Representative for West Hartford, and Jeff Currey, State Representative for East Hartford . Currey is one of three openly gay members of the Connecticut state legislature.

“There are no real words to describe everything she has done for the community and the most vulnerable in the state of Connecticut,” said Currey, recalling Lang. “I think it’s great that Senator Murphy is here today to hopefully discuss what we’re going to see in the White House after a number of administrations and decades, in which no one ‘really addressed the problem. And it will be interesting to see what President Biden comes up with in 2020 with his strategic plan. “

“We’ve been dealing with AIDS for a very, very long time, and I think there’s a danger of appeasement and we need to fight that,” Slap said. “I also have a personal connection to this: my father passed away from AIDS 29 years ago, so whenever I can participate in events like this it is important to me.

Murphy said there is a corollary between the AIDS epidemic and the COVID-19 pandemic, and it’s a lesson that needs global attention.

We have obviously been able to make progress on AIDS because we have focused on prevention and treatment, ”he said. “We have to do the same with COVID. We need to recognize that for people living with AIDS, COVID is a huge threat. You are twice as likely to die from COVID if you have AIDS. And that’s why in places where infection rates for both viruses are high, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, we really need to push the vaccine out there as quickly as possible, knowing this high risk. “

As fellow senators in Washington continued to investigate the Jan.6 uprising, with Connecticut preparing to remember the victims of the Sandy Hook massacre nine years ago on Tuesday and the growing death toll among transgender Americans, which now stands at 50, Murphy has spoken out against another epidemic, that of violence.

“I really fear that we are at a point in American history where violence is normalizing and members of our LGBTQ community are first and foremost at risk,” he said. “It has to be something that both parties are talking about, and it starts in our schools. It starts with our laws. You know when we have laws in place in certain states where you can be fired from your job because of who you like, when we have schools that are able to legally discriminate against students based on their gender identity or their sexual orientation, we send a message of bigotry and a message of discrimination. So you know it’s my job as an elected official to change the laws for the better and pass things like the equality law which I think will put downward pressure on the levels. high levels of violence that we observe. “

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