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'Passionate warrior,' Connecticut activist Shawn M. Lang dead at 65

Chion Wolf
Activist Shawn Lang died Sunday at the age of 65.

Longtime AIDS activist Shawn Lang died suddenly Sunday at the age of 65. Until last June, Lang served as the deputy director of AIDS Connecticut, where she had worked since the early 1990s. Lang will be remembered by many for her tireless work on behalf of people with AIDS, opioid addiction and housing insecurity.

With her trademark cargo shorts and salt-and-pepper crewcut, Lang was a force of nature, both out in front as an activist as well as behind the scenes working on public policy.

“I guess the phrase that comes to mind is passionate warrior,” said John Merz, CEO of AIDS Connecticut. “Just a real warrior for justice, and for the underdog. She was maybe 5-foot -2 ... but whenever she walked into the room she commanded an audience, especially when she was passionate about the issue on the table.”

Merz said he saw Lang’s warrior spirit early in her tenure at AIDS Connecticut, when she successfully lobbied against a measure that would have collected the names of state residents living with HIV/AIDS. At around the same time, according to Merz, Lang was instrumental in securing $1.1 million from the General Assembly for AIDS housing.

In a statement, Connecticut Attorney General William Tong said, “We grieve the loss of a champion and remember with profound gratitude Shawn’s many efforts to create a more just and equitable society.”

U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut praised Lang as “a true fighter for LGBTQ+ rights, advocating for those with AIDS and HIV and people impacted by opioid addiction.”

Ray Hardman is Connecticut Public’s Arts and Culture Reporter. He is the host of CPTV’s Emmy-nominated original series Where Art Thou? Listeners to Connecticut Public Radio may know Ray as the local voice of Morning Edition, and later of All Things Considered.

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