Remember Our History: More Musings From Paul Kawata
By Paul A. Kawata
October 11, 2011
This article was provided by the National Minority AIDS Council; Paul Kawata is the organization's executive director.
Occupy Wall Street has captured our nation's imagination. This demonstration has given voice to many Americans who feel that our government has to do more to rebuild our economy and meet our needs. They are tired of Wall Street's excesses, Washington bail outs, and the lack of accountability for our economic collapse.
In many ways, this demonstration reminds me of the early days of Act-Up. Both movements have been inspired by a sense that people had nothing to lose. They felt like their voices weren't being heard and their only resort was to take to the streets and speak truth to power.
Right now, the Congressional Super Committee is meeting to identify possible ways to reduce the federal budget by $1.5 trillion over the next 10 years. Meanwhile, the House Appropriations Committee has proposed slashing $32.7 million from the CDC's National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention and $1 billion from the Prevention and Public Health Fund created by the health care reform bill for FY2012. At the same time, Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) tripled the House budget for defending the Defense of Marriage Act in court from $500K to $1.5 million.
If or when these cuts occur, they could have a devastating impact on our ability to fight HIV/AIDS and achieve the goals of the National HIV/AIDS Strategy. The irony is that these cuts would happen at the same time that we could end the AIDS epidemic. We finally have the science to support real solutions to significantly reduce HIV transmission. At times like this, I find it both helpful and important to reflect on why we do the work that we do.
Why We Fight!
This is a story about my friend Tim Offut. Tim was one of the founders of the National Minority AIDS Council (NMAC) and the first executive director of the Kupona Network in Chicago. Kupona was the first agency to do HIV/AIDS work on the south side of Chicago within the African American community. Unfortunately, due to a lack of adequate funding, Kupona has since been forced to close its doors.
Tim had this amazing laugh/giggle. He ran NMAC's first strategic planning process and later became the chair of our board. After working in Chicago for several years, Tim moved to San Francisco where he was the coordinator of the Minority AIDS Initiative with the SF AIDS Office.
My last memory of Tim was holding an NMAC board meeting around his hospital bed. Tim was really sick; he was barely conscious. Since he couldn't come to the board meeting, we brought the board meeting to him. It may seem insane to have a board meeting around a hospital bed, but we were living in insane times. Tim passed away a few days after our meeting, I'm not sure he knew we were in the room, but we knew.
I couldn't go to his memorial. It was too much. Too much sadness; too many tears. I couldn't bear repeating another "I will always remember you." At that point in the epidemic, I was exhausted, overwhelmed, and felt like everyone I loved was dying.
Once again, history is calling on us. We have the knowledge to end the HIV/AIDS epidemic, but do we have the political will? As more and more cuts are proposed, we may find ourselves, once again, driven to take our voices to the streets. As the Occupy Wall Street demonstration has reminded me, like Act-Up before it, we must always be willing to stand up and fight against injustice.
I remember Tim. His story is our movement's story. I honor him and all of the other Tims out there. We are a movement of sacrifice and loss and we should never forget our history. As we are called once again to lead the charge to end the HIV/AIDS epidemic, I ask again ... Are You Ready?
We need to talk now more than ever. We need to find solutions to the challenges facing our entire movement. Even if we don't all agree, it's important for us to communicate and share strategies. I look forward to seeing you at this year's United States Conference on AIDS (www.2011USCA.org). As we get closer to the meeting, I will share more details. I look forward to seeing you in Chicago.
Other USCA Items
Wednesday, November 9
Thursday, November 10
8:00 a.m. -- 10:00 a.m.: Opening Plenary Breakfast
For the rest of the agenda go to http://www.nmac.org/index/agenda-2011-usca
NMAC has undertaken several changes to ensure that this year's conference is more "green," including making most of the conference materials available in electronic/digital format. As a result, I like to think that this year's USCA is The iPad Conference. NMAC is giving away one iPad to a registered attendee who can tell us "how they are getting their agency ready for the big changes."
Tell us how your agency is getting ready to transform its services in response to the National HIV/AIDS Strategy, Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, Treatment as Prevention or High Impact Prevention. Please limit your response to no more then 100 words.
The best responses will be put on our web page (http://www.nmac.org) and constituents can vote for their favorite. Email your response by Friday, October 21st to firstname.lastname@example.org. The finalists' work will go up in late October with voting open until Tuesday, November 8th. The winning response will receive their iPad at the Opening Plenary on Nov 10th at 8:00 AM.
A Message from Julie Davids
This year's assembly is free, and we are doing it the day before The United States Conference on AIDS (USCA) in hopes that more of you would already be in town. Let me tell you some of the reasons we need you -- yes, you -- with us:
2011 Platinum USCA Sponsors
2011 USCA Gold Sponsors
2011 USCA Silver Sponsors
Yours in the struggle,
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