Fighting Trump: HIV Advocates to Watch in 2017
January 10, 2017
Donald J. Trump and the Republican-controlled Congress are a threat to everything HIV advocates have been fighting for during the last thirty years, and that includes access to healthcare, HIV prevention programs like PrEP, and the dignity with which we treat those who are most vulnerable to HIV infection.
This new political reality is reflected in the 2017 list of HIV Advocates to Watch from My Fabulous Disease. These inspiring advocates are speaking out, organizing and even conducting events only weeks after the election. They bring to mind the HIV treatment strategy of "hit hard and hit early." They grow in number every day.
You can be a part of this. In fact, you must be. Follow these advocates on social media, join their groups, take note of every link in their profile, and follow their advice. All it takes is for people like you to take one step toward change.
If you know a person or organization that is leading the resistance in your community, share their names and links to their work in the comments section. The more options we can provide to get involved, the better.
Here are the HIV Advocates to Watch in 2017.
New York, NY
When shoppers visited Rockefeller Center one day during this holiday season, Tim Murphy helped make sure that ice skaters weren't the only photogenic moment available. A group of silent Santas, all wearing anonymous black masks, held signs with messages like "Trump's USA is Already Terrifying" and "Voted for Trump? Feel Lied to Yet?" while a trumpeter played a jaunty version of "We Wish You a Merry Christmas." The tableau was effectively haunting.
A longtime HIV journalist for POZ Magazine (and now the bestselling author of the must-read novel Christodora), Murphy is using the full force of his newly minted celebrity to come out swinging against Trump, employing an array of tactics ranging from street activism to community organizing. Most recently, Murphy helped mobilize dozens of people to show up in front of the home of Senator Chuck Schumer to demand "total obstruction of the Trump agenda."
"Medicaid expansion and Obamacare have offered healthcare to so many Americans with HIV/AIDS and now they're in jeopardy," said Murphy. "All social programs are." He also worries about the future of pro-LGBT prevention messages that have been created under Obama, particularly those addressing gay black men.
Murphy has simple advice for anyone looking to get involved in their community. "Follow or sign up to get alerts from two big national groups, such as Planned Parenthood and the ACLU, and two local groups, like your local #BlackLivesMatter or local immigration rights group," he offers. "And then commit to acting on their action alerts, whether it's making phone calls or showing up for big key demonstrations in your city. Massive protests send a broad message that Trump's agenda will not be tolerated."
It sounds like you just got your marching orders.
Community activist Anne-Christine d-Adesky is a veteran of ACT UP NYC and the co-founder of the Lesbian Avengers. For more than thirty years she has fought for social justice issues as varied as immigration rights, women's health, and anti-nuclear causes. That's right. She's a badass.
And she has now turned her attention to the man she calls Drumpf. "On the day after the election I launched my blog, Alice in Drumpfland," says d'Adesky, "and I put out a call to activist colleagues to join me in a collective response."
That response became with the formation of the Bay Area Queer Anti-Fascist Network (BAQAFN). "Some of us just call it 'Queer as Fuck,'" d'Adesky says. "It is meant to unite the local LGBTQ community and defend others under attack, "including communities who are targets of an emboldened American racism that Drumpf has invited."
d'Adesky also has serious concerns about the continued adoption of "religious waiver" policies and legislation that GOP legislators have advanced in Florida and Texas. "Dozens are being drafted at local levels now," d'Adesky warns, "that would allow businesses or individuals with federal contracts to 'opt out' of providing services to LGBTQ individuals on the premise of religious opposition to homosexuality. That means private and religious institutions, including hospitals and hospices, may refuse to treat HIV-positive individuals they assume may be gay or trans, or lesbians who need maternity care or trans women who just need a checkup. This we must fight."
This battle is nothing new, d'Adesky asserts. "We can look to the successes of the AIDS movement in the 90s for models to fight the moralist and far right. When our bodies were criminalized, we framed our fight in the context of human rights, which is where it sits. We also need to hold elected officials accountable. We need to push them to create new services if they are needed."
d'Adesky is busy organizing town hall forums for BAQAFN, writing her blog, planning vigils against Islamophobia, and even preparing for the release of her fourth book, an activist memoir. But she never lets her struggles get the best of her.
"I refuse to let Drumpf or any of these small-hearted individuals dictate my daily happiness," she says. So she dances, however and whenever possible. "It's fun ... and keeps you in protest shape."
Jose de Marco
"Being a person of color, I am forced to see the world through a racial lens," says Jose de Marco, a community organizer for ACT UP Philadelphia who works with Prevention Point, the city's only syringe exchange program. "HIV impacts black and brown people, very hard. I fear what the Trump administration will do. His cabinet appointments say it all."
de Marco's advocacy focuses on the intersections of race, poverty, homelessness, and drug addiction. These issues compound HIV infection rates among people of color and "mirror high incarceration rates as well," he says.
"This administration could criminalize syringe exchange despite the fact it has dramatically lowered HIV infections in the United States," de Marco warns, but changes to our national health programs could have an even more massive effect.
"Because of racism and greed to provide tax breaks to billionaires, the repeal or cuts to the Affordable Care Act could happen," de Marco says, "but with enough pressure Congress can find ways not to choke off health care to the most vulnerable populations. People should pressure their Senators to vote against the repeal of the Affordable Care Act and demand no privatizing of Medicare and Medicaid."
"ACT UP will partner with other organizations fighting for health care and we will be using direct action, as we have for decades. We will not be turned back. Not one day."
Find out more about the importance of needles exchange programs, and check out a new editorial in the New England Journal of Medicine from none other than President Obama that lays out the risks to health care if the ACA is repealed.
New York, NY
"I am a trans person with race and class privilege who lives in relative safety," says JD Davids, the enormously influential managing editor of TheBody.com and an activist voice to be reckoned with. "I'm also acutely aware of the backlash against trans people in the form of bathroom bills and unmitigated violence."
Davids is by no means off-topic by focusing on the civil rights of transgender people. He sees a direct link between prejudice toward vulnerable communities and HIV risk. "An already-seen increase in bullying and hate and targeting of women, LGBTQ people and people of color contributes to accumulated trauma that, among other things, increases HIV risk or challenges in staying healthy if you have HIV."
"I speak early and often about HIV issues to ensure that everyone gets clear information on the new HIV basics: HIV treatment is incredibly effective and much simpler than before; an undetectable HIV viral load means uninfectious; there's a pill a day that can block HIV transmission; and bias, stigma and underlying marginalization of queers, trans people, people of color and drug users are the biggest barriers to ending the epidemic."
Having a presidential administration that is "packed with leaders who either ignored HIV or put acutely harmful policies in place" is not going to be pretty, Davids believes. And he's doing something about it.
"My fellow HIV activist Jennifer Johnson Avril and I have launched #ActivistBasics," Davids explains, "which is providing practical tools and information for figuring out what to do and how to do it." Their Facebook page is a treasure trove of helpful advice, Twitter chats, videos, and links to other resources. It is the perfect first stop for anyone who wants to resist the policies of the new administration.
It might be easy to feel intimidated by the sheer activism output of someone like Davids, but he wants you to know that there are easy ways to get started.
"Pull together an affinity group," he advises as a first step, "a group of two to eight people who you know and trust, and start right where you are, as far as taking action together and supporting each other. It's going to be a long haul. Don't go it alone."
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