Monthly Archives: November 2008

World AIDS Day 2008 is Time to Own the Epidemic

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First it was urban gay men meeting in living rooms, joining forces to fight the epidemic that would be called AIDS. Then nurses and church-goers giving comfort to the dying in rural Belle Glade, doctors and scientists taking their expertise to forgotten nations around the world, donor nations and philanthropists’ foundations and sending food, medicine and a plan to try to make up for lost time, and still it is not enough.

From medical journals and international global health conferences to a lunch today in a Belle Glade church, those who know the epidemic best come to the same conclusion: we are not winning this battle.

The efforts of some will never be enough until everyone who knows of the AIDS epidemic recognizes it as ours, because the inequities that have fed the epidemic are ours as well. When that recognition comes, universal health care, comprehensive sex education, laws protecting decent affordable housing and the abolition of discriminatory laws — such as three just passed barring same sex marriages in Arizona, California and Florida — will follow.

So for those who want to know more, do more, change more, here is a start.

Colonialism and plagues still linked

This is an important perspective on AIDS and indigenous people.

And another friend writes

From CHAMP, Health GAP & the Organizers of the 100 Days to Fight AIDS March, looking for support:

Today, 1,000 AIDS activists are gathering in Washington, DC to “inaugurate” President-elect Obama as the president who can change the way the US fights AIDS. We will be marching to the White House and Transition Team offices with this message. We know that many of you cannot make it to DC for the rally, but that doesn’t mean you can’t take ACTION! Our 100 Days to Fight AIDS Coalition NEEDS YOUR HELP to get our message out to the President-Elect and his Transition Team (the people who are deciding now what President Obama’s priorities will be).

Can you take one minute to make this call today, and help reinforce the message that 1,000 people are bringing directly to the transition team? The phone number, and a call-in script, is below.

Transition Team

Phone #: 202 – 540 – 3000

After instructions, press “2” to speak with staff.

Then, just follow the script below:

“Hi, my name is _________. “I want to let my new president and his transition team know that i fully support the visionary commitments he laid out during his campaign, including guaranteeing universal access to HIV treatment in the US and around the world and reforming US prevention policies at home and abroad. I’m especially supportive of Obama announcing his plan to fulfill these important commitments during his 1st 100 days in office. Between 1:00 and 2:45 PM today, 1,000 supporters will gather outside the White House and at the Transition Team offices to support President Obama’s commitments, and we hope you can join us.”

More information on the action and our demands can be found here

A survivor tells story of hope and struggle

A friend sent this link, a reminder that survival in this epidemic does not come easy, in the story about the last living of the 53 HIV-positive extras in the 1993 movie Philadephia.

Cured can be a cruel word

When it’s not certain — no matter to whom the word is attributed.

News outlets could have done better than to use the word “cured” in headlines to describe the condition of an HIV positive man who showed no signs of the virus after a bone marrow transplant.

For one thing it was premature.

For another if it is a cure, sadly in this case it could be one that is worse — and more dangerous now — than the illness.

It gets the hopes of desperate people up, and the slows motivation to address the factors driving the epidemic.

Science reporting, which this should have been, should be based on evidence, not hype.

Read views of what this announcement meant here

And this is what I mean

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When I say we can do better than we have, at home and abroad, in tackling this brutal epidemic by including things we should have done a long time ago in our strategy:

That is what has been highlighted, with dramatic emphasis by Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, who, if he hadn’t already, sealed yesterday his claim in history as the most important, influential, and redemptive sons of the late Joseph Kennedy Sr.

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The 76-year-old lion of the Senate did this by returning to the senate, using his father’s old cane for support, to continue his work for universal health coverage.

To him, this was enough of a priority to spend his last days among us pursuing it. If we had universal health coverage a quarter century ago, it is unlikely we would be home to more HIV/AIDS patients than any country in the developed world. Wen didn’t, and we are. Universal health coverage should be our priority too.

Better than PEPFAR

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Now that the President’s Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief has shown some results in global AIDS-fighting efforts, it is time for a similar program at home to address the pandemic at home, writes Dr. Robert Gallo, the scientist who led Amercian efforts to identify the virus leading to AIDS.

His call, in a Washington Post opinion piece today, echoes others, and the parallelism of compensating for long neglect with ambitious plans would seem to promise parallel results.

But we can do better than that. While PEPFAR seeks to fight the epidemic in developing nations by addressing the health and education deficits it has highlighted, we would do better here to seek answers to why this country has more people living with HIV and AIDS than any other developed country. And the result of such introspection should be more than the “inner city” PEPFAR that Gallo discusses.

Such introspection would be timely, in any case, leading as it would to a constructive look at where our health, education, criminal justice, and economic systems have fallen so short of what they should be as to feed an epidemic that flourishes wherever neglect and greed have coexisted.

Rather than duplicate a plan that has limited itself by imposing American ideology on others, with faith-based efforts leading to a contrived emphasis on abstinence from sex it might be an opportunity to see how much better we can do when we face facts.

And the facts are:

  • “Education” programs promoting abstinence until marriage don’t work;
  • Countries with federally funded needle exchange programs have limited their epidemics
  • Rates of HIV and AIDS are as much as five times higher inside prisons and jails than outside, and yet programs addressing risks for infection including substance abuse and mental illness are scarce in prisons as are condoms and peer education. Also missing has been a serious look at what we have gained and what we have lost by locking up more people than any other country;
  • There is a link between the epidemic and a housing boom that created homelessness.
  • Discriminatory laws, as three states just passed banning same-sex marriage, feed the epidemic.

The epidemic at home has permeated not just our inner cities but our countryside and our suburbs. It is a mobile target, and we would do well as we seek solutions, to look at our entire society .