CHLP Mourns the Loss of Advocate Lauren Fanning

Lauren Fanning, former CHLP Senior Community Outreach Specialist for the Positive Justice Project and long-time HIV advocate from Washington state is remembered by her colleagues for being a dedicated, compassionate, and driven activist.

CHLP staff joins HIV advocates in Washington state and across the country in mourning the loss of our friend and colleague Lauren Fanning. Lauren died due to complications from cancer on September 16, 2021. 

“Lauren was a deeply decent and compassionate human being in addition to being very smart and absolutely dedicated to the service of others. She made the planet a better place for quite a few people,” said Catherine Hanssens, Founding Executive Director of CHLP. “Everyone at CHLP is heartbroken that she’s gone.”

Throughout her 40-year career, Lauren worked with people living with HIV in various capacities, including in Oregon and Washington prisons providing mental health support, education to offenders and staff, case management, and release planning. In Oregon, she was part of a team to develop and establish a peer-supported hospice program that was honored by the National Commission on Correctional Health Care as Program of the Year in 2001 and by Oregon Department of Corrections with the Exceptional Service Award in 1999. 

In Washington, Lauren developed the Infectious Disease Program for the Kitsap County Health District and provided comprehensive risk counseling and medical case management for clients living with HIV. She was involved in regional and state planning groups for HIV care and prevention services and advised the Department of Health on medical case management standards. 

Advocacy was always a part of Lauren’s work and also a part of who she was. In a 2014 interview with former CHLP staffer Andrea Sears, Lauren discussed her work to modernize the HIV criminalization laws in Washington. “I worked with people with HIV for 32 years. From the very beginning they’ve experienced horrible consequences in their lives: the stigma and discrimination. Many of those people were my friends and loved ones,” she said. For more of the interview, see, Unsung Heroes: Lauren Fanning, Community Advocate, Washington State

With CHLP as an early collaborator, Lauren eventually joined CHLP as Senior Community Outreach Specialist from 2015 to 2017. She and her colleague Stephen Williams were the point people for state planning coalitions across the country as well as working with the PJP Partners planning group. 

“I worked with Lauren as her outreach assistant for about two years and appreciated every moment of it. Lauren was so brilliant, insightful, intuitive, and always accepting of others--no matter the social label. Because of her vast knowledge and on-the-ground experiences, I've counted myself extremely privileged to have learned so much from her as both colleague and friend. I am confident and proud to say she was and is an exceptional soul who graced us with her presence for a season!” said Stephen.

Following her time as a CHLP staffer, Lauren continued her collaboration with CHLP as part of the Washington HIV Justice Alliance to reform the state’s HIV criminal laws. In March 2020, those years of advocacy and hard work garnered a momentous victory when a comprehensive bill eliminating Washington’s criminalization of HIV laws was signed into law by Governor Jay Inslee.  

“She was a real changemaker and could always see a path for what needed to be done,” said Amir Sadeghi, National Policy and Partner Strategist. Amir worked with Lauren when the modernization bill was moving through the Washington legislature. The bill’s passage is a credit to the proactive education and collaborative advocacy work that began in 2012, led by Lauren and the Washington HIV Justice Alliance. 

In relaying the news of the bill’s passage, Lauren wrote: 

"The Governor signed the bill a little while ago and I have been reflecting on this journey. I met my first clients affected by HIV criminal laws in the Oregon Department of Corrections in 1992 and 1994. Next in Washington as a case manager in 2002...there were the two notorious Spokane cases, both clients of mine while in prison. When I retired, the doctor I worked with said you have to do something about this law. Funny, I told her, that is just what I plan to do.” 

“She was definitely a good person through and through. She will be missed.” said Jada Hicks, Supervising Attorney, Criminal Justice Initiatives. All of the staff at CHLP send condolences to her husband, Jim, her family, and all those that knew and cared for her.