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Silence Equals Death!

Summer 2011

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The message "Silence Equals Death" of the '80s and '90s that we desperately and defiantly displayed on our t-shirts and banners or whatever else we could paste or splash it on, was the cry of Persons With AIDS and their friends. We screamed: "Stop the dying. We demand a medical response for this disease that is killing us!"

Today, many of us who now take the medication for granted are alive because of our pioneers' wave after wave of protests to educate and challenge the doctors and the pharmaceutical companies. The demonstrations led by ACT-UP were dramatic and not always pretty, but they worked. Society responded and money poured into scientific research and the results were the astounding breakthroughs in research on HIV and the immune system, followed by treatment medication. I cherish and honor the memories of those heroes and heroines who fought, over the years, for their lives -- and for the many who died while waiting for science to advance.

What an amazing legacy! Their militancy not only saved our lives, but has enriched and empowered our community and culture.

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Here is the connection with today: There is significant scientific evidence that a cure for HIV is attainable in the near future. A Cal Tech scientist recently estimated within 10 years or even sooner. A cure has already been achieved with the "Berlin patient." Right now, there is scientific progress towards duplicating the "Berlin cure" without the grave risks required of the Berlin patient. There are other amazing scientific projects, some of the best right here in the LA area, at USC, City of Hope, UCLA and Cal Tech and at the AIDS Research Alliance.

I want to reintroduce the slogan of the past, "Silence = Death." I do not raise it in a flippant way, but it in way that I hope respects its origins. I am saying the present refusal to adequately fund for HIV cure research is killing us. And that once again, silence equals death.

Too many of us are sick and suffering from HIV induced complications such as heart attacks, cancer, osteoporosis, high cholesterol, cognitive dysfunction (for which there are no effective pills!) and we are dying a lot sooner than we should. For many long-term survivors, treatment options are running out or have run out.

Dr. Michael Gottlieb, who authored the first report to the CDC identifying AIDS as a new disease stated recently on the 30th anniversary of AIDS, "I think the Berlin patient is an important proof of principle ... that you can, in fact, eradicate HIV in someone who already is infected. ... Now scientists in a number of institutions are working on safer ways to achieve the same result. I'm very excited about the potential for finding a safe way to eradicate HIV."

Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease (part of the National Institute of Health), referring to finding a cure for HIV, stated in a recent interview with Associated Press, "I want to pull out all the stops to go for it." However, there still hasn't been an adequate increase in the funding for cure research.

Today we know a cure is possible. The leading scientists are telling us that. With these facts, to remain silent about proceeding full throttle with funding for a cure means we will continue to die unnecessarily. I know I will die too soon and before that I'll probably be hobbled by an HIV complication solely because of criminal neglect -- the refusal to adequately fund for cure.

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This article was provided by Being Alive. Visit Being Alive's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.
 
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