We promised we would not forget lovers, family, friends, and neighbors who have died.
We promised we would fight the silence.
We promised we would support those who are infected and affected.
We promised that we would keep fighting.
HIV/AIDS activists around the globe and here at home have kept that promise.
So now we ask that you join us—once again—to remind elected officials, governments, world leaders and our neighbors that the fight against HIV/AIDS has not yet been won.
On July 22, 2012, people living with HIV/AIDS, supporters, friends and family will gather once again in Washington DC for a Keep the Promise march on Washington. Thousands of researchers will also be in DC for the XIX International AIDS Conference, July 22-27. The conference will take place in the U.S. after 22 years of struggle against U.S. travel restrictions.
In 1990, as the AIDS epidemic hit a crushing crescendo, researchers from around the globe gathered in San Francisco for the International AIDS Conference. That year, researcher Paul Volberding served as the event’s co-chair. “AIDS was still an absolute death sentence,” recalled Volberding, now an AIDS researcher at UCSF. “We had bomb threats at the conference organizing site -- almost every day.”Victories have been won, but we still have a long way to go before AIDS is defeated.
It turned out to be the last international AIDS conference held on U.S. soil, as the global research community refused to return to the United States because of its travel ban on HIV positive people. That law was revoked by the Obama Administration in 2010. “It took us 22 years to change the U.S. laws to allow people to come to our country without declaring their HIV status,” said Volberding.
I sit and remember.
I remember living on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, when the first realization hit that something was very wrong. Too many of my neighbors were dying. This was during the days of GRID (Gay-related immune deficiency) in 1982. But some of my neighbors were not gay, and they were dying too. Some were or had been IV drug users. Some were their wives and lovers. The ranks of Narcotics Anonymous and other 12-step program meetings started to thin out as one by one those who struggled and won the battle against addiction were struck down, dying clean and sober.
I see faces.
I see Santos whose goal was to achieve 10 years clean. He did. Then he died.
I see Awilda, from the Bronx, who helped found Women Healing Each Other, a support group for women who were being ignored by those who had started to fight back against AIDS. This disease was not the sole province of men—gay or straight.
I see my young brother-in-law, Barry—who was allowed no dignity in the hospital, where frightened nurses wearing face masks refused to bring his food into the room where he lay too weak to get out of the bed. They left it outside on the floor. I see the face of Maritza, the hospital omsbudsperson who fought back for patients rights and got him the care he needed.
I see Greg. My lover, poet, friend. One of the early ones to go.
I see teenaged Gabriel, whose family put him out into the street, and Douglass whose family let him stay at home, but who bought separate dishes and silverware for him to use and jugs of bleach to incessantly clean around him.
I see the babies at Hale House.
My list is too long to type here. Each day I pray I will never have to see another name added to the quilt.
But the quilt still grows.
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If you are not able to attend the demonstration, or have no money to donate to AIDS organizations, there are still things that you can do to support this effort.
Globally:You can post links or videos to your social networks.
• Every day HIV/AIDS claims 5,000 lives.
• 34 million people living with HIV will need access to treatment in order to stay healthy and prevent the spread of HIV to others.
• Less than 40% of people living with HIV in low- and middle-income countries know their status.
• Millions of people affected by HIV/AIDS do not have adequate access to housing and healthcare.
• 16 million children have been orphaned by HIV/AIDS and each year over 400,000 are still born HIV-positive.
• Tuberculosis (TB) is a leading cause of morbidity and mortality among people living with HIV, yet only 26% of all TB patients are tested for
HIV globally and only a third access antiretroviral treatment (ART).
• Access to condoms, the most cost-effective prevention tool, remains inconsistent and inadequate.
• The global response to HIV/AIDS is facing a multi-billion dollar shortfall.
• The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) underfunds HIV testing and counseling.
• The average cost of newly FDA-approved AIDS medications in the U.S. has increased by 70% since 2000, putting a greater financial burden
on AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP) and other programs.
• Washington, DC, the host city of the 2012 International AIDS Conference, has one of the highest HIV prevalence rates in the U.S. at 3%.
Call To Action:
As HIV/AIDS advocates we declare our commitment to the following:
• United States must continue to fulfill its commitment to the President’s Emergency Program for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).
• The cost of HIV/AIDS care must be contained at less than $300 per patient per year in resource-poor countries and a greater percentage
of global AIDS funding must be spent on treatment in order to treat more people with available resources.
• Pharmaceutical companies must lower AIDS drug prices globally so that more people can access life-saving treatment.
• In the U.S., no patient should be denied access to treatment from any ADAP because of deficient funding. Drug prices should be lowered to
meet the total ADAP need with available funding, and growth in ADAP per patient drug costs must not exceed inflation.
• Access to healthcare and housing for people affected by HIV/AIDS is a vital component of a response to the epidemic.
• Testing, treatment and care for pregnant women, orphans and vulnerable children (OVC) must be prioritized.
• People living with HIV should be routinely screened for TB, receive preventative therapy, and be put on TB-HIV treatment in case of co-
infection. All TB patients should be regularly tested for HIV.
• Countries with a high burden of HIV/AIDS must share responsibility with the external donors by committing sufficient domestic resources.
• Nations with large-scale economies and the G20 must pay their fair share in fully financing the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and
• Economic, political and logistical barriers to universal condom access must be overcome.
• Universal Access must be achieved through cost-effective measures and fair-share contributions to the global fight against AIDS by
leveraging treatment as prevention in concert with a scale-up of rapid HIV testing and access to care.
We call on all AIDS leaders and advocates to pledge to these goals at the 2012 International AIDS Conference in Washington D.C. and make them a reality.
You can join or follow the HIV AIDS Action community here at Daily Kos to stay informed about local, national and global efforts.
For those of you who are planning to drive there, offer to share a ride with someone who can't afford the carfare.
The theme of the International AIDS Conference 2012 is "Turning the Tide." But the ocean of the pandemic is wide and deep.
To paraphrase Robert Frost:
And miles to go before AIDS sleeps,
And miles to go before AIDS sleeps.