Yesterday the National Gay & Lesbian Journalists Association announced the winners of its 2011 Excellence in Journalism Awards. The entire list of winners is at the NLGJA's website.
Among the winners is The Bilerico Project founder Bil Browning. He's being recognized as a first-place winner in the Excellence in Online Journalism category for his coverage of Betsie Gallardo's story. Betsie was an HIV+ girl from Haiti who was adopted by Jessica Bussert, a transgender missionary, who also took in Betsie's sister. Betsie responded well to HIV treatments in the United States, and she blossomed into a beautiful young woman who danced ballet.
Bil's first story about Betsie describes the tragedy further:
Betsie moved to Florida recently and was in a car accident. When the emergency responders arrived, she flashed back to the horrendous abuse she suffered at the hands of that Haitian policeman and resisted arrest. She spit at a cop. The state of Florida sentenced her to five years in prison for battery on a police officer using spit as a deadly weapon - even though it isn't possible to transmit HIV through saliva.
Betsie has now been diagnosed with stage four cancer and is dying. After she didn't contact her family for over a week, her family traveled to Florida to check on her and discovered that doctors had discovered an inoperable bowel blockage. Betsie is unable to take in any food and is slowly starving to death in prison. The state has decided to refuse Betsie IV nutrition saying, "She's going to die sooner or later."
The Broward Correctional Institution warden has allowed her family to visit with her twice in the infirmary but was notified yesterday that there will be no more "special consideration." Since Betsie is too ill to have visitors during normal visiting hours, her family has been barred from seeing her. Their request to be at her bedside as she died was also denied.
After a childhood filled with misery at the hands of local authorities, the state of Florida has sentenced her to die alone and in pain for a "crime" that basic science proves spurious.