Jessica Hoffmann

Update: Trans Woman Denied AIDS Meds Dies in ICE Detention Facility

Filed By Jessica Hoffmann | August 14, 2007 8:24 PM | comments

Filed in: The Movement, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: HIV/AIDS, Immigration, transgender, Vicoria Arrelano

A trans woman named Victoria Arrelano died in July after being denied AIDS medication and improperly treated while held in a federal immigration detention facility for men in San Pedro, California. The LA Times reports here.

(When I posted about this case last night, I was unable to find any solid news coverage of it, in part because I was searching under a different spelling of Arrelano's last name, which I'd pulled from an e-list message about her. Thanks to CJ for pointing me toward the LA Times coverage.)

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Thank you for posting this story Jessica. I'd also like to note that two years ago Victoria was hailed as a "community hero" for her volunteer service on behalf of the transgender community. Her cruel and inhumane death is a devastating loss to our community.

Transgender Wins Community Hero Award

Victoria Arellano receives the congratulation from her fellow co-workers.— Staff Photo by Gary McCarthy

By ROSANNA MAH, The Independent Staff Writer 10.AUG.05

Victoria Arellano has received Safeway’s 2005 Community Hero Award for her dedication and hours of volunteer service with the Hollywood-based Van Ness Recovery House that caters primarily to the transgender community.

Arellano, 21, of Hollywood, is a full-time checker at the Pavilions in West Hollywood. She was one of 18 employees honored by Pavilions’ parent company, Safeway, which created the award last year to honor their staff for outstanding community efforts.

With rows of vegetable produce as their backdrop, close to two dozen Safeway officials and store employees huddled in the back of the grocery store to celebrate Arellano’s achievement.

“I think this is a gift from God,’ said Arellano, who has worked at the store for six months and was chosen to receive the award from among thousands of store employees working in 18 districts spanning from California to Nevada.

Arellano has volunteered a minimum of 20 hours to the Van Ness Recovery House for over a year and a half, working primarily with counseling as well as with elderly transgenders living with HIV/AIDS.

“I think this is absolutely amazing,” said Kathy Watt, executive director of Van Ness Recovery House. “She is a real example of what happens when a transgender adult gives up a life of drugs and alcohol. This is someone who came from the streets.”

For Arellano, who first sought help at the Hollywood nonprofit to overcome a substance abuse problem before becoming a volunteer, the tiny Safeway plaque meant more than a personal victory.

According to Arellano, being named as a community hero symbolized an achievement for the transgender community.

“I want to prove that this can be done, that a transgender woman can make it in the real world.”

Arellano and Safeway officials also presented a $1,000 check to Watt at the Tuesday awards ceremony.

Rick Diton, Pavilions district manager, says the recognition of the store’s first transgender honoree heralded an important moment for the corporation.

“I think this [represents] our achievement of diversity goals as well as mirroring our community in which we operate,” he said. - Staff Photo by Gary McCarthy