Wednesday, December 2, 2020

#WorldAIDSDay2020 Action, December 1st


World AIDS Day is always a reminder,

of my life in New York,

a book reading from White Nights and Ascending Shadows, on Crosby Street in 1997,

24 hours of names of the dead at City Hall Park,

 a civil disobedience at Broadway,

 an ACT UP Zap in Times Square, films at the Whitney.

Each December, we, I remember the lessons:

It’s not over till it’s over for everyone.

Healthcare is a right.

Reject the stigma.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of a cure.

I remember the dead.

We dance together all day,

on a bike ride to the Governor’s office at 9 AM to join my comrades at Housing Works:

“The theme for our World AIDS Day (WAD) 2020 event is 'Extraordinary Measures in the Face of Two Pandemics'. Why? Because HIV hasn't gone away because COVID-19 is here. Who knows more about killer viruses than the people that have died, who are living with and are affected by killer viruses like HIV? Once again, we have to ensure that lawmakers and healthcare experts do what needs to get done, not what will keep them in office. We need to hold them accountable to the people they serve, and that is us! We need Governor Cuomo and the NYS Department of Health to change their drastic course on the 340B safety net, and we have a big opportunity to do that on World AIDS Day! The Advocacy Department is currently working on an action in New York City, on December 1st. We have to slam them for the Department of Health's plan to decimate the 340B safety net and cut contracts by 20%, because people with HIV and their loved ones have the most to lose. Between 340B, COVID-19 and their inaction on Ending the HIV Epidemic in all of New York State, they are setting our communities up for illness, death, overdose and needless suffering.
*We are going to have an in-person demonstration/ rally.
*The demonstration will be socially distanced and we will be outside the entire time.
*It will start at 9:00 A.M. and be finished by 10:00 A.M.
*WE WILL MEET ON 3rd Ave. and 41st St. at 8:30 A.M.
*Wearing face coverings is a must!
*Social distancing will be enforced.
*This event is open to all clients, staff, friends and family.
*Employees please make sure to get approval from your supervisor before attending this event.”


Riding over, I think of Bobby and Elizabeth, two AIDS warriors with VOCAL, who shuffled off this year. 

RIP Bobby.

RIP Elizabeth

We lost so many this year.

At the governor’s office, Housing Works is starting its speak out.

@nygovcuomo don't cut the safety net. Increase access, don't cut it, speakers insisted.

Valerie Jimenez reminds everyone of Housing Works’ long-term message:

It's not over till it's over for everyone.

Reed says hi.

So many adventures with this crew.

The moral center of NYC runs through these movements.

We see them organizing, going to DC to fight for the affordable care act, to push back against the darkness.

I think of the people home sick, those who’ve been here before who can’t march today, those I’ve been with in the past, those who remember, those who showed up, or reminded us the joy of acting up, or praying for the dead and fighting like hell for the living.

Of Tim, who is usually here.

Of Maxine who fought to change the definition of AIDS and activism.

Of Dr Wan locked up in China for speaking out,

Of all those locked up.

Of the Keiths gone before their time.

Of Brent who reminded us we can find out way our of the darkness together.

Of Dad’s best friend, Fred.

On and on and on.

They told us stories we could never quite shake, ever.

They lived.

They faced the abyss and went down, sometimes swinging, often without a word,

those who saw them left to wonder what happened.

Now we see them in our dreams.

Tim Miller sees them:

I miss so many -- of those lost to AIDS -- but I miss writer Paul Monette so much it hurts...

“But the fevers are on me now, the virus mad to ravage my last fifty T cells. It's hard to keep the memory at full dazzle, with so much loss to mock it. Roger gone, Craig gone, Cesar gone, Stevie gone. And this feeling that I'm the last one left, in a world where only the ghosts still laugh. But at least they're the ghosts of full-grown men, proof that all of us got that far, free of the traps and the lies. And from that moment on the brink of summer's end, no one would ever tell me again that men like me couldn't love.” - Paul Monette

Eric Sawyer writes:

“December 1st is World AIDS Day, which was established as a day each year to draw the World’s attention to the HIV epidemic. I have been living with symptoms of HIV since 1981; almost 40 years. Every year close to 1.7 million people are infected with HIV and close to 700,000 still die of AIDS.

I have always said it was not just that I could survive HIV for decades when others die early deaths from AIDS.

I’m lucky to have survived for almost 40 years with this fatal illness because I have access to HIV medications.

HIV has taught the world many lessons about health, disease prevention, the importance of universal access to essential medications, about health equity and social justice.

The Covid pandemic has made the world more aware of the need for global public health protection. For global public health to be protected, people need truthful information about infectious diseases, about transmission risks, about personal protective equipment, about interventions like social distancing, etc. etc. They also need equal access to therapeutics like antibody treatments, anti-virals, vaccines and other commodities which facilitate survival of disease and promote a rapid return to health.

These lessons and interventions on public health should be universal: they should apply to all infectious diseases, including HIV, Covid, Tuberculosis, Malaria, Ebola, etc. Such interventions should also apply to non-communicable diseases like heart disease, diabetes, Cancer, etc.

Everyone deserves access to health care, health care is a human right! Please remember these thoughts and consider giving a donation to a health organization today, as today is not only World AIDS Day, but it is also Giving Tuesday.

Jim Eigo reminds us:

Yesterday I spoke at the zoomed World AIDS Day Press Conference "Governor Cuomo: Keep Your Promise, End AIDS." At the event, several community members who have worked on the effort to “End AIDS as an Epidemic in New York State” spoke. Here are my very brief remarks. (The illustration makes sense after you’ve read my first sentence.)

“I am talking to you from the kitchen of my apartment in the Alphabet City section of the East Village of Manhattan. I have lived here 42 years. 41 years ago, a few blocks from here, an infectious disease unit at Beth Israel Hospital began to note a high number of unexplained cases of extremely swollen glands among gay guys who came to their clinics. This medical observation was at the leading edge of what would become the worldwide AIDS pandemic. And now, with Covid-19, I’ve spent my second pandemic in the neighborhood. As a gay man and a senior, with each pandemic I’ve been made to feel that my kind are expendable, that it doesn’t matter quite so much if we die from it. But if pandemics teach us anything, whether HIV or Covid-19, it is that public health really is a public matter—everyone’s health affects us all. We know what it will take to eliminate HIV as an epidemic. We have come so close to doing so in New York State because we have initiated and funded medical and social support programs that have brought infection rates in the state to historic lows. Because the neighborhoods that have been hardest hit by AIDS are also those hardest hit by Covid-19, it would be totally foolish public policy to use the economic impact of Covid-19 as an excuse to now, at this late date, underfund or defund those programs that New York State has wisely committed to. To do so would have a disastrous impact on both the HIV and Covid-19 pandemics, something the public health and well-being of New York State just can’t afford right now. Thank you.”


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