- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 7, 2009

CITIZEN JOURNALISM:

City officials and advocates for housing, the homeless and the handicapped will be downtown in U.S. District Court on Wednesday for a status hearing. Advocates have filed a lawsuit that purports violation of the Fair Housing Act, Americans With Disabilities Act and D.C. Human Rights Act.

The shelter crisis has surfaced in myriad ways in the past year, including the closing of the Franklin Shelter, which was located in Mayor Adrian M. Fenty’s ward, Ward 4, and when a homeless woman named Renee Page died in the spring on a bench outside a shelter near Union Station (www.washingtontimes.com/news/2009/jun/17/nice-lady-dies-outside-shelter).

“Ironically, rather than deal with this situation compassionately, the District promptly put police tape on all of the benches outside of the shelter and exerted pressure for enforcement of an ‘anti-loitering’ clause” at the Center for Nonviolent Communication’s shelter, where Page had stayed, the D.C. Statehood Green Party said Monday.

Plaintiffs include Eric Sheptock, who lives at the shelter. “The number of homeless people is not a static number,” Mr. Sheptock says.

“This winter promises to be a particularly fatal one for the homeless if the court fails to intervene,” he said.

The city plans to end homelessness by 2014.

Citizens, leaders rally against HIV/AIDS

In order to battle HIV/AIDS, renewed efforts are needed on every front, local, national and global leaders say.

On the local and national front, the White House Office of National AIDS Policy held a forum at the University of the District of Columbia, where it sought in put from organizations and citizens.

Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, D.C. Democrat, spoke about the importance of needle-exchange programs. Dr. Shannon Hader, director of the D.C. Department of Health HIV/AIDS Administration, urged better data integration from the federal government so statistics can be reported more accurately. Richard Urban, executive director of the nonprofit ULTRA Teen Choice, emphasized the ABC approach - Abstain, Be faithful, use Condoms.

Uganda began employing an aggressive campaign against HIV/AIDS in the late 1980s including the ABC approach. It and other countries, including Botswana, continue to use such elements to avert and lower infection rates.

Failure to lower infection rates continues to threaten global peace, a new report, “HIV/AIDS, Security and Conflict: New Realities, New Responses,” says.

“In the 10 years since, the U.N. Security Council drew attention to the deadly nexus linking HIV and security, there has been both alarmism and denial over these purported links,” the AIDS, Security and Conflict Initiative (ASCI) said.

ASCI recommends several peacekeeping and humanitarian policy changes, including heightened attention to the links between violence against women, forced sex and the increased risk of HIV. It also urges HIV-sensitive law enforcement so that the HIV/AIDS crisis is not driven underground.

The report, which is a joint project with the Clingendael Institute for International Relations and the Social Science Research Council, also says beware of transition from war to peace.

“The new report suggests that the transition from war to peace can increase risks of HIV transmission as refugees go home, soldiers leave the army, and relief agencies wind down,” the group said. “ASCI urges that international donors provide funds to cover the gap in HIV services between relief and development, and that HIV prevention, treatment, care and support be integrated into disarmament and demobilization efforts.”

Off to AC to root for D.C.

Ms. Senior D.C. Shirley Rivens Smith has plenty of support in Atlantic City, N.J., this week as she competes in the Ms. Senior America pageant.

The pageant, whose competitors are 60 years and older, is about more than beauty. “It is what America is about - a re-affirmation of life and self worth, of laughter and tears, of inner beauty and outward charm,” organizers say on their Web site.

Ms. Rivens Smith, a grandmother four times over, includes church, civic and sorority activities in her biography. She is chairwoman of the D.C.-Dakar Sister Cities Council and co-founder and president of the U.S. Africa Sister Cities Foundation. Ms. Rivens Smith also supports D.C. voting rights.

Friends and supporters are in Atlantic City on Ms. Rivens Smith’s behalf and to inform the residents of other states and supporters of other contestants about the city’s lack of voting rights.

“We have to push for full voting rights in every venue possible,” said longtime activist Lillian Huff. “We have to capitalize on every opportunity to educate people here and throughout the country about how the residents of the District are being treated unfairly when they are denied full self-determination and voting representation in Congress.

“We have to send a message to individuals, groups and elected officials that District residents deserve equitable treatment with that of other Americans,” Mrs. Huff said.

The 2009 Ms. Senior America will be crowned Wednesday.

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