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Top Stories This Week in the Chronicle.
January 13, 2006

State HIV-care head quits over homophobia

Columbus--The head of HIV care services at the Ohio Department of Health has resigned, citing homophobia and discriminatory practices at the department among his reasons.

Richard Aleshire, who has overseen the Ryan White Title II program for 12� years, submitted his resignation January 5.

�As I appear unable to influence the department to discontinue its discriminatory practices (although as I have been told, they are not illegal), I thus feel the need to remove myself from the department,� he said in a statement.

Federal Ryan White Title II funds pay for medication, case management, housing assistance and most other costs associated with care of people with AIDS.

Aleshire, who is openly gay, will begin his new position doing the same work for the state of Washington on February 1.

His Ohio resignation is effective January 20.

Aleshire is credited with quietly, and sometimes in spite of others at the health department, building a drug assistance program modeled by many other states. He also created a respected emergency financial services program.

Although he is prohibited by department policy from talking to press, Aleshire released a statement saying the department�s anti-gay �abstinence only until marriage� conferences were a major factor in his decision. He also noted the general anti-gay climate of Ohio and the constitutional marriage ban passed by voters in 2004.

�As a professional social worker, I felt it my duty and ethical responsibility to challenge the Ohio Department of Health�s practices,� Aleshire wrote. �Since I was unable to effect change, I feel the need to remove myself from the environment over which I have no control to change.�

Aleshire has been credited with promoting cultural competency and countering anti-gay bias among AIDS service providers through the contracting and grant process, as he oversaw the $22 million budget of federal and state funds.

�It is impossible to overstate what a loss his resignation is for our community,� said Ohio AIDS Coalition director Kevin Sullivan. �These are difficult times in Ohio for those who want to live their lives honestly and for those who fight for fairness and justice. We should all be concerned.�

Aleshire is a recent recipient of the Cleveland AIDS Taskforce�s Voices Against the Silence award, and the 20 Years, 20 Faces award from the AIDS Resource Center of Dayton.

 

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