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Where Would We Be Without AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF)?

By Aaron Laxton

March 4, 2014

This is a very loaded question and one that is without doubt going to invoke debate and conversation. For all of the negative things that people say and read about AHF (AIDS Healthcare Foundation) there is one simple reality: At least they are doing something. I already can hear people saying, "All they do is create stigma, shame and enemies and that is not what we need." Maybe so, but at least they are doing something.

It is true that AHF is the largest AIDS service organization and it battles with the same internal struggles that any other large organization deals with. I make no apologies that in the past I have been critical of AHF as well as with Michael Weinstein directly. I mean you have never truly lived until you debate Michael one-on-one at the Improv regarding PrEP (which is shown to be 99% effective in reducing HIV infection when taken as directed). That is the nature of activism and advocacy. We are all passionate about ensuring that those living with HIV and AIDS receive the care that they need to remain healthy, detecting new HIV infections through testing, as well as preventing new infections. How we achieve those things, however, is where there are different philosophies.

A world without AHF might look like a perfect world to some, but who would stand in the place of Michael and the AIDS Healthcare Foundation? I have noticed that it is often the people who are doing the least who are critiquing the most.

While AHF is not perfect, no organization or movement ever is. For all the things that the AIDS Healthcare Foundation isn't, there are a few things that it is. For the many patients, close to 250,000 worldwide, AHF is a healthcare provider. It is an advocacy and lobbying machine. Regardless of the message, it is an organization getting HIV/AIDS into the mainstream media. Yes, there is room for change and improvement but the grass is not always greener on the other side.

Where would we be without the AIDS Healthcare Foundation? Only you can answer that.

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See Also
More News and Articles on HIV Groups and Medical Care in the U.S.

Reader Comments:

Comment by: Marco Benjamin (New Jersey) Thu., Mar. 6, 2014 at 8:32 am UTC
Such a great article.
I was embraced by the AHF family a few years ago, and my experiences were LIFE CHANGING. I didn't know that I had what it took to become an HIV/AIDS advocate for people infected and affected by this epidemic. Although AHF may be one of the largest ASO's they recognize that they can not do the work alone, and are always working together with local organizations to assist in ending this epidemic. When you work at AHF you work for AIDS Healthcare Foundation, not Michael Wienstein. You work for the clients, the patients, for the cause. And although we may have our own philosophies, we need to WORK together to end the war on HIV/AIDS.

A world without AHF would be a 13 year old student rejected from the Hershey Milton school because of their HIV positive status.

A world without AHF would be a world without SIMPLE access to condoms.

A world without AHF would be a world without cutting edge medicine and ADVOCACY, regardless of the ability to pay.

A world without AHF is a world with over 250,000 people without access to care.

A world without AHF would be a world with more corporate pharmaceutical greed.

I miss working at AHF. And will always instill there core values where ever my future brings me.

Value Employees
Respect for Diversity
Fight for What’s Right
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Comment by: Josh Kruger (Philadelphia, PA) Wed., Mar. 5, 2014 at 7:58 am UTC
I think this is an excellent post, because folks oftentimes mistake strong criticism for an implication of worthlessness. I think the AHF should stick to what it does best: treating those living with HIV/AIDS.

It must be said, however, that the stigmatic approach used by AHF has led to a resurgence in HIV infections, people not seeking treatment (180,000 undiagnosed HIV infections estimated), and people engaging in self-harm.

Risk management, harm reduction, and *honesty* are what's needed. I would simply ask this: How many HIV infections have been *caused* by the AHF's approach over the last decade? How many young men, in particular men of color, have NOT sought treatment because they do not want to or perhaps sincerely believe they do not share anything with the imagery used by the AHF?
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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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