Drag Queen Bingo, a Laramie tradition

The annual Drag Queen Bingo fundraiser will take place tomorrow April 30, 2016, at the University of Wyoming Conference Center. This year will be the event’s 10th anniversary, and the theme will be Pajama Party. If you attend make sure that you wear your best pajama gear!

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The logo for the event. Courtesy facebook.com/laramiedqb

Drag Queen Bingo has evolved from a small function to become one of the most anticipated annual events in Laramie.  Drag Queen Bingo began as the official after party for the annual Wyoming AIDS Walk, and today it still serves as a fundraiser for AIDS research. It is hosted by The Stilletos, Laramie’s very own drag queen troupe. The Out West in the Rockies collecting initiative here in at the American Heritage Center is attempting to document the herstory of the LGBTQ community in the Western portion of the United States. As part of this initiative, the American Heritage Center sat down with Oblivia Queen of the Clueless for an oral history, were she highlighted how Wyoming is affected by HIV/AIDS.

While I was at the University, there was a professor in the psychology department, Ann Bowen, and I don’t know if she’s still there or not, we kind of lost touch; but she had a […] Federal grant to study health seeking behaviors of men who have sex with men …encompasses straight men who sometimes hook up with gay men, bisexuals… I worked for that project, and so we were very much attached to trying to understand rural HIV issues. We were working with Wyoming Department of Health, it’s been my understanding throughout pretty much that entire time that Wyoming’s official numbers hover around about 200 individuals diagnosed with HIV and AIDS at any given time. And you know, we will get 5 new diagnosed people this year, and maybe 5 people move away, or two of them will die, or something like that; and so our numbers are kind of always been static. But one of the things that is difficult, for a state like Wyoming, is a lot of our health seeking behaviors in Wyoming we go elsewhere for. Especially health seeking behaviors were the treatment is controversial. The last I knew I think we only had one doctor in the state of Wyoming that provides abortion services, and he was in Jackson and he may not even be doing it anymore. A lot of really good health care for HIV and AIDS has been outside of the state of Wyoming, people…in the northeast corner going to Rapid City, and the southeast going to Denver and Fort Collins, in the southwest going over to Salt Lake, if you’re otherwise in the northern part of the state you went to Montana; and so we lose a lot of…our true numbers as far as the people in Wyoming living with a HIV/AIDS to the fact that the CDC doesn’t count individuals who get diagnosed elsewhere. Actually there was a really big fight between Hillary Clinton and Senator Enzi when Hillary Clinton was in the Senate and representing the state of New York, because New York gets a lot of people who go to New York City and get tested and get treated. We don’t have a lot of people coming to Cheyenne to get tested and treated for HIV and AIDS. So Enzi was fighting for population based funding and Hillary was fighting to keep the money based upon test numbers, and she actually won that fight; and so that’s one of the issues for the state of Wyoming is trying to keep money available for people living with HIV/AIDS who do live here but who get their treatment somewhere like Rapid City or Denver. The CDC does not provide that funding to us. So it is a pretty big issue for us, you know the way that health seeking behavior kind of works in this state, because we don’t have a real true I think sense of all of the people who live in Wyoming who are diagnosed as positive.

Oblivia’s statements are only furthered highlighted in the Policy Brief of the National Rural Health Association Policy Brief, were it states: “HIV is of particular concern to rural America because lack of resources can lead to gaps in detection of the infection and in treatment maintenance. Further, traditional norms and conservative values in rural areas often translate into high prevalence of HIV-related stigma and low rates of disclosure resulting in reluctance to come forward for HIV screening and treatment among rural individuals.” According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) of particular concern are rural men and women ages 15-44, who are less likely to have been
tested for HIV in the past year. At present time the state of Wyoming averages 14 new cases of HIV and since the beginning of the epidemic there has been 480 individuals diagnosed with HIV/AIDS in Wyoming.

As part of this year Drag Queen Bingo fundraiser The Stilletos will be hosting free AIDS/HIV testing from 12-5 at the University of Wyoming Conference Center.   The fundraiser begins 7 pm, there will be a talent show at 6 pm. Admission is $10 and it always sells out. Doors open at 5:30 pm.

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