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?
My HIV Journey
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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