AIDSWatch organizers announce recipients of Leadership Awards

For immediate release, March 20, 2018

Contact: Kyle Murphy, 202-876-2820,

AIDSWatch organizers announce recipients of Leadership Awards

Washington, DC – 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 this month.

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:

  • Thomas K Duane, former New York State Senator, for his long-standing commitment to the treatment and care of people living with HIV in New York;
  • Brian Sims, Pennsylvania State Representative, for his efforts to mandate insurance companies cover Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) and Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) in Pennsylvania, and
  • Carlos Guillermo Smith, Florida State Representative, for his role in recent negotiations with Publix to ensure its employee health plans covered PrEP.

“Elizabeth Taylor took her work as an activist as seriously as she did her film work, helping to pave the way for others to join the fight for this once taboo cause,” said Joel Goldman, Managing Director of The Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation. “The commitment Brian Sims, Carlos Guillermo Smith, and Thomas K Duane have made to prevent new cases of HIV and to support those living with HIV and AIDS in their communities is exactly what we need to end this epidemic here at home. We are proud to honor Elizabeth Taylor’s legacy and recognize them for their contributions to furthering our mission.”

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:

  • Cecilia Chung, Senior Director of Strategic Projects at the Transgender Law Center;
  • Ronald Johnson, former Vice President for Policy & Advocacy at AIDS United; and
  • Venita Ray, Public Policy Manager at Legacy Community Health.

“This year’s Positive Leadership Award recipients have been at the forefront of working with key communities in HIV, including transgender women and men, African Americans, and the epidemic in the South,” attests HIV Caucus Chair Dr. Andrew Spieldenner. “They are people living with HIV who have had enormous impact on health policy, standards of clinical care, and the development of organizations that empower us. They demonstrate the importance of upholding and supporting people living with HIV leadership.”

AIDSWatch is the largest constituent-based HIV advocacy event in the United States. The event is focused on access to care for people living with HIV; federal investment in HIV prevention and treatment, housing, and research; civil rights of the LGBTQ+ community; comprehensive sexual health education; and HIV criminalization. This year we mark the 25th anniversary of AIDSWatch, an event that has grown from a few dozen advocates to 650 attendees in 2017.

“Our movement has a powerful legacy of grassroots advocacy. From the beginning of the epidemic, it has always been individuals who spoke truth to power and refused to be ignored that has made all of the difference,” said AIDS United President & CEO, Jesse Milan, Jr. “This year’s awardees truly embody that spirit and it is fitting that we take time at AIDSWatch to recognize them for their many contributions.”

AIDSWatch will be held March 26 and 27 in Washington, D.C. The award reception will take place evening of March 26 at 5:30 at the Washington Marriott Wardman Park. More info here:


ABOUT AIDSWATCH: AIDSWatch is an advocacy event that enlists people living with HIV from around the country to educate Congress on the state of HIV/AIDS research, prevention, treatment and important policy developments. Participants are trained on effective advocacy skills. After training, participants meet Members of Congress and their staff to share their individual experiences living with HIV, the impact of current policies in their community, highlight the importance of HIV as an issue to their constituents and present a face to the issue. Learn more at