Arick Buckles: The Journey Continues
In the 2009 November/December issue of PA, AIDS advocate Arick Buckles was profiled. Two and a half years, a few job changes, and a pending lawsuit later, PA caught up with Arick to find out where his journey has taken him since then.
What's been happening in your life since our last interview?
AB: Well, the last time we talked, I was at Chicago House, then I came here [TPAN], then I went to the CORE Center [the Ruth M. Rothstein CORE Center, a clinic for the prevention, care, and research of HIV/AIDS], and now I'm back at Chicago House. I'm a Housing and Prevention Specialist there.
Excellent! Are you glad about that?
AB: I am glad, because I like helping people -- those that are homeless, the most vulnerable -- get into stable housing. We know that housing is pretty much healthcare, it's prevention, housing is a human right, so I'm really excited about it.
How would you say your work days differ now from when you were at CORE?
AB: This job allows me to work directly with clients in need and also gives me the flexibility to do the advocacy work that I'm so passionate about.
So tell me about your advocacy work.
AB: I'm the Co-chair of the Illinois Alliance for Sound AIDS Policy. We're a group of 15, part of a strategic plan through the AIDS Foundation [of Chicago] to form a body of advocates and we're placed throughout the state of Illinois. We all live in different parts of the state and we can speak to the specific needs of our communities. We come together on a monthly conference call, we do quarterly retreats, and we just recently had our annual HIV/AIDS Lobby Days, which I'm hoping will be successful. The verdict is still out on the effectiveness of our advocacy and what will really happen. Six weeks from now is when our legislators will vote on the issues of what gets cut and what doesn't and Lord knows we don't need any HIV/AIDS services cuts.
No, we don't.
AB: People are still dying. People are still getting infected with HIV. People are still homeless. People are still faced with mental health issues. We've got a growing transgender population who's been really ignored and a lot of those are the clients that I'm actually serving down at Chicago House. There's a lot going on, a lot.
Tell me about that t-shirt campaign. Give a plug for that.
AB: The anti-stigma campaign was started about a year ago and it's still up and going. To date, we've sold or gotten donations for over 500 t-shirts. People all over the country have jumped on the bandwagon to fight HIV and AIDS stigma with this bold campaign, wearing the bright red t-shirts that say "HIV Positive" in black letters. We got the idea from the Greater Cleveland AIDS Task Force, and their ED Earl Pike gave us his blessing -- I thought that was huge. But the campaign originated in South Africa ...
Yes, TAG, the Treatment Action Group.
AB: Right -- the campaign's been a huge success. All the monies from the t-shirts are how the IL ASAP functions -- advocates aren't paid, we're volunteers -- so the money pays for all our retreats, reimburses travel expenses so we can meet with legislators, and things of that nature.
Does IL ASAP have a website where people could donate or buy a t-shirt?
AB: Oh, sure. It's www.aidschicago.org/ilasap.
As chronicled in the 2009 profile, Buckles spent some time behind bars before turning his life around and becoming a "kick-ass advocate." Though he speaks honestly about his "not-so-productive life" when he did what he had to do to survive, including writing bad checks, he did his time and has lived an exemplary life since being released from prison. However, an outstanding warrant issued just short of seven years ago (statute of limitations is seven years) in downstate Illinois caught up with him when he was asked to be a spokesman for the National HIV/AIDS Strategy on the importance of getting and staying in care and they evidently checked his record and told him that due to the warrant, he wasn't eligible to participate. He hired an attorney, who discovered that there were actually two warrants, one in DuPage County and one downstate in rural Bureau County. While being held in DuPage County, the Bureau County sheriff came and transported him to that jail, where he was held for seven days and denied access to his HIV meds, even though he informed the jail administrators that he was HIV-positive and he knew he had a constitutional right to treatment while incarcerated. Looking back, Buckles reflected that the people at the DuPage County jail were much more knowledgeable about HIV and its treatment than those at Bureau County.
This article was provided by Test Positive Aware Network. It is a part of the publication Positively Aware. Visit TPAN's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.
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