Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Familiar names honored on World AIDS Day

Posted By on Wed, Nov 30, 2011 at 5:15 PM

In honor of tomorrow's World AIDS Day, five Montanans will receive Governors Recognition Awards for their efforts in helping their communities respond to HIV/AIDS. Indy readers will be familiar with two of the recipients.

Steven Barrios, from Browning, was featured in Jessica Mayrer's 2009 two spirit feature story. "Two spirit" refers to people of native cultures who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender/transsexual or queer. Barrios, shown here in a portrait by photographer Anne Medley, is known as the grand dame of Montana’s Two Spirit Society. Barrios talks in the story about erasing homophobia on the reservation. “We’re reclaiming our place in the circle,” he says. “Until the two-spirit people are brought back into that circle, that circle is never going to be completely mended.”

Another award recipient is Christa Weathers of the Missoula AIDS Council. Mayrer interviewed Weathers for a 2010 award-winning feature story titled "Running on Empty". The story followed outreach workers fighting to keep HIV and hepatitis C prevention programs from disappearing in Montana.

In addition to Barrios and Weathers, the following individuals will be honored at tomorrow's ceremony in Helena: Jon Freeland of Missoula, Debbie Brown of Billings, and Trisha Gardner of Great Falls.

“These nominees are indicative of the dedicated, hard-working, compassionate Montanans tirelessly striving to make changes in the lives of those who live with the effects of HIV every day,” says Department of Public Health and Human Services Director Anna Whiting Sorrell in a release. “They are key players in the fight to prevent HIV, and to remove the stigma and discrimination that keeps individuals from getting tested for HIV and determining their status. We honor their efforts, and are grateful for the energy and time they expend in service to others.”

The ceremony is tomorrow, Dec. 1, at 1 p.m. in the Capitol Rotunda in Helena.

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