Blog To End AIDS: As the World Prepares to Celebrate World AIDS Day on December 1 "Keep the Promise: Stop AIDS", will South Carolina Remember the Promise?

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

As the World Prepares to Celebrate World AIDS Day on December 1 "Keep the Promise: Stop AIDS", will South Carolina Remember the Promise?

A Personal Message from: Michael Emanuel Rajner National Secretary - Campaign To End AIDS Tel: (954) 272-8131 ▪ (305) 677-3506 P.O. Box 2133 Fort Lauderdale, Florida 33303-2133 Monday, November 27, 2006 As the World Prepares to Celebrate World AIDS Day on December 1 “Keep the Promise: Stop AIDS”, will South Carolina Remember the Promise? It has often been said that future generations will one day judge us on how we failed to properly respond to HIV/AIDS. Over the past twenty five years, we continue to witness how bigotry, fear, hatred, racism and more feed into the stigma that prevents individuals seeking HIV testing, care, treatment and support services. As the National Secretary for Campaign to End AIDS, I am continually blessed with treasured opportunities to meet people living with HIV/AIDS and fear to speak the words, while at other times I meet individuals far more brazen then myself. It is those that suffer and are persecuted by the stigma society places on these individuals that continue to provide me with the driving force to stregnthen my skills as an advocate for social justice. No person should ever be forced live a life persecuted because from the stigma that an illness may impose. As such, we must strive to work together to provide all the resources for individuals to empower themselves and free themselves from life’s inflictions. On Sunday, November 19th, caravans from Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, New York and Washington DC drove several hundreds of miles to converged on Columbia, South Carolina to prepare for the Monday, November 20th AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP) demonstration. That Sunday night, 3 of us made it to the University of South Carolina to listen to former United States Senator John Edwards address an audience and speak on AIDS, poverty and the need for America to reclaim the goodness and demonstrate the kind acts we were once known for. He spoke of how the youthful generation is very caring and concern about the world; however, they remain with the need to be inspired to carry out great acts. As a gay white man earning just under 300% of the Federal Poverty Limit, never before have the effects of poverty and racism in this nation been more evident. In South Carolina, I met some of the most passionate and wonderful people. People that traveled up to 15 hours on a bus only to sleep on a church floor and repeat the 15 hour bus ride home immediately after our demonstration. These are courageous people that heard of the struggle that many in South Carolina are confronted with – a government that has turned the other way and will not provide the gauranteed means for patients to access HIV/AIDS medications. South Carolina is a state where the majority of the states population is caucasion and approximately 79% of the HIV/AIDS population is African American earning under $19,000 annually. As a nation that declares war on other nations for inhumane treatment to people, how can we accepts the inequalities and inequities that exists in America? We can declare a “War on Drugs”, why not a War on Poverty? A speaker at the rally had ever observe 15 seconds of silence. After she spoke and state that in 15 seconds, the $3,000,000 that could have completely eliminated the waitlist in South Carolina was just spent on the war in Iraq. While driving the support vehicle for the march to the capital steps a car with a husband and wife pulled along side me and asked, “what is this parade for?”. I explained that it was an AIDS demonstration to demand the state to fully fund the AIDS Drug Assistance Program to stop the needless deaths of individuals with the financial means to access life saving drugs. I continued to tell them that 3 people have died and another lies upon their deathbed while South Carolina denies access to HIV/AIDS medications. The wife was completely distraught and moved. The husband had a different toon as he responded, I found it difficult for me to hold back to emotion and maintain control of the vehicle that raged as I was flanked with state police in front and behind my vehicle. In the nastiest of tones he retorted, “Maybe taxpayers don’t care and don’t want to do it!” He then look upon the marchers and people in several wheelchairs with great disgust as one of the eyesores among our society. While on the capital steps, gentleman living with AIDS that traveled from New York as me to sit with him for a bit. He was distraught over the fact that more people don’t care as people continue to die and find it difficult to access care and services. While this individual has access to compassionate care, treatment and support services, we was so moved with the difficulties in South Carolina that immediately joined the caravan to help advocate for those whose AIDS Services Organizations have bowed to the pressure of a grantee that would frown on their participation to advocate for the needs of their clients who flirt with death. While I remain just as bewilder as this gentleman as to why this nation does not care more, I need to encourage this man that his travels of several hundreds of miles only to sleep on a church floor was not in vain. He journey symbolizes what we need more of in America, a nation that has found itself oppressed by standards that only select populations can meet. John Edwards words continually repeat in my mind, we need to inspire in order to get the world to respond! This year as you celebrate World AIDS Day, please remember to “Keep the promise – Stop AIDS”, please remember that we must work to end AIDS and the causes that contribute to the stigma that prevents people from caring and seeking assistance. This year we were reminded that AIDS has been with us for 25 years. This year we witnessed AIDS organizations loose their focus and morality while they exercised conflicts of interest in order to profit and monopolize federal funding and attempt to dismantle essential components of support services that were incorporated in the Ryan White CARE Act. These hemegon’s need to take a step back and consider all populations and communities of people living with HIV/AIDS before asserting their national positions on funding. They need to consider the full community of individuals that have committed themselves to serve. Below is a link to a website for some actions that may want to consider to include in your World AIDS Day activity. As part of our South Carolina ADAP Demonstration, the attached (also included below) litany was read as part of our rally. Please consider using it for your local World AIDS Day events, candle light vigils and memorial services. Activism is an essential compentent in creating public policy as it provides elected officials with enough support for them to act on the issue that a given community needs them to act on. Recently, with my encounters with various elected officials, several have stated the need for a resurgance of ACT-UP! Elected officials today remain reluctant to act swiftly because HIV/AIDS has fallen off the radar of the national agenda some feel their speaking up “may be political suicide”. I am thankful to report that elected officials in Broward County have begun to take ownership of the HIV/AIDS epidemic that plagues our county. Elected officials have recently been assured by AIDS activists that the HIV/AIDS community will not be forgotten. I am thankful for these elected officials that have chosen to stand up with leadership that I have not witnessed in years! November 20, 2006Rally and Prayer Vigil – Columbia, South Carolina A LITANY OF HEALING FOR THOSE SUFFERING FROM HIV/AIDS Adapted from a Litany by: Felicia Smith Litanist: All-caring, all knowing Creator, we praise your name and give You thanks for blessings known and unknown, understood and not understood, seen and unseen. Comprehension of this pandemic is beyond us, and yet we are in the midst of it. Have mercy on us give us strength for the journey. Behold, O Lord, the fear of not knowing our own status and the fear of knowing our status. Behold our shock, denial, anguish, rage and acceptance. Behold the guilt, rejection, shame, condemnation and isolation. Have mercy on us give us strength for the journey. Behold, O Lord, the endless doctor visits, waiting rooms, forms and medications. Behold the endless waiting for tests, results, returned phone calls, disability checks, caregivers and life sustaining medications. Have mercy on us give us strength for the journey. Behold, O Lord, the struggle to keep going, one day after another, the effort to go to work or find a job; the effect of this illness on family, partners, friends, co-workers; the mind numbing, unexpected, unpredictable changes in our way of life. Have mercy on us give us strength for the journey. Behold the fatigue, opportunistic infections, pain, altered appearance, dementia, and preparation for death. Behold, as we ask, “What will go wrong in my body today?” Have mercy on us give us strength for the journey. Behold, O Lord, the unexpected blessings of support, caring acceptance, hope; and the unexpected opportunities for growth, trust, forgiveness and healing. Have mercy on us give us strength for the journey. Guide us, Lord, for we are all participants: persons with HIV/AIDS, family and friends, caregivers, orphans, medical and human services professional, researchers, political leaders, policy makers, advocates and activists. Teach us, through this pandemic that we must love each other and work together. Help us understand that this learning may be ultimately the blessing of AIDS. Heal us, restore us to wholeness, touch us and turn us, through your Holy Spirit, to You, our all-caring, all-knowing Creator. Amen


Blogger Barbara said...

Really Amazing!

Hi guys! While searching for information on World Aids Day I ran across Oxfam’s StopAids website. They provide some very interesting HIV/AID facts and also you can see an inspirational video clip from Annie Lennox, a supporter of Oxfam’s work. Come and check it out!

11/30/2006 12:13:00 PM  

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