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One HIV-Infected Queer's Response to the State of the Union Address

By Aaron Laxton

February 14, 2013

Recently the news of a school massacre with twenty children killed galvanized media outlets around the world. In the days and weeks after, politicians from both sides of the aisle dug in for what would without doubt be a long fight regarding gun reform. As a person who is living with HIV I am left to question, where is this same passion and fervor regarding a CURE for HIV/AIDS?

With an aging group of activists and an ever-changing political environment comes a change in priorities and the government's ability to put issues that we hold as valuable as a lower priority. It is true that therapies and treatments for HIV/AIDS have vastly improved; the fight is far from over. The rates of new HIV infections within the African-American and Latino populations are staggering and barriers regarding access to care still abound.

During President Obama's State of the Union address those of us living with HIV waited for a renewed sense of vigor and determination, marking a move toward a CURE for HIV/AIDS. Sadly, in the end, it was a vague phrase that seemed like a disingenuous attempt to court voters rather than an actual plan to get to an AIDS-free generation. By the numbers, those living with HIV/AIDS have seen catastrophic cuts to programs and funding under the Obama Administration that only serve to prove that lip service is alive and well in the White House and Washington, D.C.

Twenty white-children are killed in a school shooting; subsequently the instantaneous response from the White House is a stark contrast to the determination and attention given to HIV/AIDS, an epidemic that has killed millions of people including at least 290,000 gay men. I suppose it makes sense since dead votes do not count on Election Day!

Just as it was in the early days of the epidemic, it was not until white children began to become infected did the public develop a bad taste in their mouth. What will it take now for the public, for those living with HIV/AIDS to rise up and demand a CURE to an epidemic that has been raging more than 32 years, with more casualties than all the wars put together?

I am simply one queer living with HIV who is using his voice but if we are to succeed it will demand that once again we get angry over a lack of governmental response, funding cuts to HIV/AIDS programs, cost-containment measures affecting ADAP recipients and the list goes on.

Who is this generation's Larry Kramer to rally the troops and boldly proclaim that without action we are dead?

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See Also
More U.S. HIV Prevention Policy Analysis

Reader Comments:

Comment by: Jay N.. (Houston, TX) Sun., Feb. 17, 2013 at 8:47 am UTC
I think you have overlooked the contributions of President George W. Bush. He has done more to eradicate AIDS in Africa than any other president. He has also worked in the U.S. for the same goal. Sometimes whether you like a man or not, give him his due. The HIV community loves O'Bama but Bush did more than any other current or past president. All to often we judge people not by what they do but what they say. O'bama has been a disappointment for all of us.
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Comment by: Aaron Laxton (St. Louis, Mo.) Tue., Feb. 19, 2013 at 8:55 pm UTC
Jay this article is highly critical of President Obama.

Comment by: Andy (Cleveland) Sat., Feb. 16, 2013 at 1:05 pm UTC
Aaron, this is possibly the first thing you've written that isn't horrifying or naive. Don't listen to the apologists or the marketers.
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Comment by: Ranjan (India) Fri., Feb. 15, 2013 at 11:44 am UTC
Well said Aaron. We have heard of so many breakthroughs in the recent past only to be to be told any cure is still decades away. What will it take to have a concentrated effort. What if an epidemic strikes which threatens the whole human race. Will research despite the breakthroughs still say any cure is decades away.

Saying meds have improved the chances of survival is right but for how long. Ask any person who is on the daily regimen and his/her only dream is hope this the last of it
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Comment by: Eddie (Columbus,OH) Thu., Feb. 14, 2013 at 10:13 pm UTC
HIV/AIDS is no longer a predominately "gay" disease and it should be disconnected from any LGBT politcal issues as "gay marriage" is not germane to the discussion of HIV.

As a long time advocate, I have now come to the conclusion that some in the HIV community have a sense of entitlement which shouldn't be the case. For those folks, they will never become active until they start enduring cuts. This is dangerous but it is the truth. Like it or not.
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Comment by: Jeremy (Boston, MA) Thu., Feb. 14, 2013 at 10:01 pm UTC
Aaron, the efforts of many have provided me with a cocktail of drugs that will keep me from developing AIDS. State and federal government assistance help me pay for my pills until my income gets better. I need my president to tackle the fiscal nightmare that this country faces. I need him to help improve our terrible immigration policies. I need him to implement his nation health care policies to help folks suffering from a variety of ailments. He must get this country out of Afghanistan and protect us form terrorists. We need fewer automatic weapons in the hands of the insane. We must continue the fight to find a cure and/or vaccine for HIV/AIDS on various levels. I will not put this burden on the shoulders of my President. He has enough to do.
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Comment by: Kate Krauss (Philadelphia/The World) Thu., Feb. 14, 2013 at 7:33 pm UTC
You rock. That is all.
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Comment by: Aaron Laxton (St. Louis, Mo.) Tue., Feb. 19, 2013 at 8:56 pm UTC
Thank you, that means a lot! We all do what we can and this is simply my part.

Comment by: Aaron Laxton (St. Louis) Thu., Feb. 14, 2013 at 6:57 pm UTC
While President has done a lot for the LGBT community, he has proven to be less concerned with HIV/AIDS funding. This is not just my opinion, this is a fact. Research it for yourself and you will find that we have suffered major funding cuts. I am glad that we can raise a gay flag however, in order to raise the gay flag it appears that we have had to put down the red ribbon.
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Comment by: Aaron (St Paul, MN) Thu., Feb. 14, 2013 at 1:56 pm UTC
While I understand and agree with your view, I think it's also important to recognize who is, in fact, on "our" side. President Obama has done more for the gay community than any other president, choosing to deal with issues that represent our best interests, in spite of political risk. Yes, more should be done regarding HIV/AIDS, but we are one constituency among many. As you note, it's OUR responsibility to make ourselves heard. That will allow our elected leaders to more fully commit to this critical cause.
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My HIV Journey

Aaron Laxton

Aaron Laxton

I am simply a guy who on June 6, 2011, received the news that over 33 million people have received: I am HIV positive. I decided in that split moment to record the journey that I was embarking on so that I might help others as they receive that news.

I am not a doctor and I do not endorse any agenda other than simply living a healthy life. I am an activist and advocate and simply want to make the world a better place. I hold a degree in sociology and psychology. I am a product of the Missouri Foster System and this is one of my main passions, second only to the work I do with HIV/AIDS outreach and prevention.

I embrace a sex-positive model. People are going to have sex; it is a natural part of who we are. However we need to make sure that it is safe. I can be found on weekends throughout St. Louis, Missouri, passing out condoms and safe-sex kits.

I am now an M.S.W. student at Saint Louis University's College of Public Health and Social Justice and the School of Social Work.

Whether in St. Louis, D.C. or around the nation, I always jump at the chance to help change not only policies to better serve those that need help but to also change the landscape of the society that we live in.

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