• electemilyrodriguez


Pride parades are an opportunity celebrate our queer communities and to protest the threats that still exist. For me, it’s also about saying thanks.

Harm reduction is something I’m passionate about. It’s a policy commitment to reduce the harms associated with stigmatized health issues like HIV and substance dependency. Today, the World Health Organization strongly recommends harm reduction as an evidence-based model for the prevention, treatment, and care of HIV, and it’s working. We’re on course to eliminate Hepatitis C in my lifetime. Syringe exchange programs are becoming more and more common, and we’ve seen the benefits in Champaign County.

These remarkable gains could not have been achieved without the efforts and sacrifices of LGBTQ communities in the 80s and 90s. To celebrate this contribution, I chose a Keith Haring inspired design for our Pride parade posters. Haring’s art raised awareness about the AIDS crisis that cost thousands of lives of LGBT folk. The epidemic Haring fought is not the same that took my partner’s life, but I know first hand that the work of activists like Keith Haring continues to save and prolong life today.

The design is also chosen in protest. Trans people are disproportionately affected by HIV/AIDS and STIs, yet the Center for Disease Control has been directed by the president to stop using the word “transgender.” Last year alone, Planned Parenthood gave 740,000 HIV tests. Yet in August, Planned Parenthood was strong-armed into exiting Title X, which will make those tests less accessible in many states.

Harm reduction is a part of the solution, yet we’re not talking about it in Champaign County. I’m excited to share that I’ve invited CU Public Health Department’s harm reduction specialist to present to the Citizen Review Subcommittee on November 13th at 5:30pm in the City Building. He’ll speak on the needs in our community, recent state legislation that will boost harm reduction efforts, and explain actions Champaign Police can take to comply with these laws. To my knowledge, it’s the first time harm reduction will be on the agenda for a public meeting in CU. It’s a conversation I plan on continuing on the County Board.