Monday, July 16, 2012

Where have all the HIV/AIDS activists gone?

Where have all the HIV/AIDS activists gone? Yes, I know that society has changed and so has the fight for HIV/AIDS. With the advent of the protease inhibitor and the decrease in death rates related to AIDS is there still a need for rallies, marches and protests? Do we still live in society where we need to carry coffins through the streets and stop traffic in order to make chalk outlines of people to represent those that will die or have already died?

A Generation Removed

One problem that exists today is that the memory of how AIDS ravaged our communities, country and world is quickly becoming just pages in a history book. They are stories that are told during times of rememberance but beyond that they seem to have no place in mainstream society or the fast-paced lives that we live. Yes, we have a quilt but that is not representative of the global devastation that HIV/AIDS has had. I have heard people say that during the time in which AIDS was at its peak that people would simply mark names off in their phone books, here one day and gone another. It makes me wonder what that would be like in todays society with Facebook. One day a person might have 1,000 friends and they slowly dwindle away two or three at a time. Would people even notice?

The more distance that we have between a younger generation and the actual face of HIV/AIDS the more people become less sensitive to the devastation of  HIV and AIDS. Today, there are ribbons for everything but let us never forget that the red ribbon, the AIDS ribbon was the first. Today people simply do not wear the red ribbon anymore; AIDS must no longer be an issue worth fighting for.

With the reduction of stigma has come another trend, the normalization of HIV/AIDS. To some degree it comparable to the relationship between a wild animal and humans. Once the fear of the animal is removed ultimately a human will get bit or worse yet killed. As an HIV positive person I am glad that people are not afraid to drink after me and touch the phone that I have used however we must find a way to stress the extreme importance and education, prevention and outreach. HIV/AIDS is still very much an issue that demands activism and advocacy unfortunately we are slowly seeing less and less.

AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP)

One such reason for us to all rise up, protest and march is that funding is being cut or in jeapordy of being cut for the HIV/AIDS sector. There are several reasons for this that I will leave for another blog. We have to rise up and make those that set policy and budgets hear our voices.

Ryan White funding is up for reauthorization in 2013 and it will not shock most people working within the HIV/AIDS sector if funding is cut partially for this. It might be cut because there is less of a public out-cry or it might be cut because there is a perception that our country simply does not need to allocate that much funding to HIV/AIDS. People need to wake up and reignite this conversation about HIV/AIDS. We must continue the funding and we must continue to educate others in order to prevent HIV.

This past year the United States saw a near crisis as several states had wait-lists for the AIDS Drug Assistance Program known also as ADAP. This crisis was temporarily stopped and the wait list decreased however this cannot and must not be something that we wait to address until the moment of crisis. HIV/AIDS patients must unite and stand together and tell those that have authority that we want a cure now.

I challenge you to join with me in this fight of HIV/AIDS. Where have all the HIV/AIDS activists gone? Unfortunately many of our brothers and sisters have fought the fight and they are no longer with us. It is now our time to stand up and be counted. It is now our time to march and protest and to demand a cure. It has been thirty-years since HIV/AIDS first started to change the face of our society and if we do not fight it could very well be another thirty. We MUST march! We MUST protest! We can no longer sit silently in the back on society and merely taking our cocktails and one-pill-a-day regimens. If we continue to merely survive then we will never thrive.

Aaron M. Laxton

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