HIV/AIDS icon and activist Shawn Lang commemorates AIDS Awareness Month
U.S. Senator Chris Murphy led a gathering in West Hartford, Conn., 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 died unexpectedly on October 17, 2021. She was 65.
Murphy said it was Lang who helped raise awareness for people living with HIV and AIDS when he was a junior state senator in 2003.
“Shawn Lang was a very, very good friend of mine, someone who taught me a lot about the importance of doing prevention, work and treatment with the AIDS population in Connecticut. And she was a hero to me,” Murphy said. Forbes. “And this is a month when we recommit ourselves to the global fight against AIDS. I thought it was important to recognize his legacy, but also to have a conversation about what more we need to do here in Connecticut and what more we need to do around 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 ongoing issues they face serving the community , such as state and federal funding and housing needs.
“She was only five feet tall, but she loved everyone, and by the end of the day, she was hugging you too,” John Merz, CEO of Advancing Connecticut Together, told WTNH -TV. “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’ve had success, but we shouldn’t and can’t rest until we eradicate AIDS and we have the ability to do that now with treatment and prevention methods.”
Joining the senator were State Senator Derek Slap of West Hartford, whose own father died of AIDS, West Hartford State Representative Kate Farrar and East Hartford State Representative Jeff Currey. Currey is one of three openly gay members of the Connecticut State Legislature.
“There are no real words to describe all that she has done for the community and the most vulnerable in the entire state of Connecticut,” Currey said, 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 issue at hand. And it will be interesting to see what President Biden comes up with in 2022 with his strategic plan. »
“We’ve been dealing with AIDS for a very, very long time, and I think there’s a danger of complacency and we have to fight that,” Slap said. “I also have a personal connection to it: my father died of AIDS 29 years ago, so any time I can take part in events like this 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.
“Obviously we were able to make progress on AIDS because we focused on prevention and on treatment,” he said. “We need 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 from both viruses are high, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, we really need to push the vaccine there as quickly as possible, knowing that high risk.
As fellow senators in Washington continue to investigate the January 6 insurrection, Connecticut prepares to remember the victims of the Sandy Hook massacre nine years ago on Tuesday and the growing death toll among American transgenders, which now stands at 50, Murphy spoke out against another epidemic, that of violence.
“I truly fear that we are at a time in American history where violence is normalizing, and at risk, first and foremost, members of our LGBTQ community,” he said. “It has to be something both sides talk about, and it starts in our schools. It starts with our laws. You know when we have laws on the books in some 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 are sending 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 Act, which I think will put downward pressure on the levels high levels of violence that we see.