As AIDS enters its "adulthood," the thought comes to my mind that it is high time the community (read: AIDS service organizations [ASOs], people with AIDS [PWAs], as well as pharmaceutical companies, insurance companies, the medical community and our government) to grow up and act its age. I recently had the opportunity to attend AIDSWatch 2001 in Washington. It was there I became increasingly aware of the need for all of us involved in the fight against HIV/AIDS to come together in one accord and put an end to this present-day holocaust.
Within the community there is fighting. One agency vying against another for funding is common throughout the country and even in Atlanta. Duplication of services drains a dwindling supply of funding. Who loses in this battle for funds? Persons living with AIDS.
Those of us utilizing these services must also be aware that there is a limit to what we can expect as "necessary services." My favorite recent story is a request from a client at a Ryan White Planning Council meeting wanting to know who was going to pay for a washing machine for them because they were tired of going downstairs to the apartment's laundromat! I don't think there is a "title" for washing machines.
I may be blasted for daring to recognize the proverbial "elephant" in the room. That is fine. I believe editorials are intended to provoke thought and discussion -- even a little discomfort -- maybe a lot of discomfort. I, too, have been party to complacency probably born out of my own weariness with this disease, both personally and professionally. Writing this editorial makes me squirm in my seat as well.
What really disturbs me is how our fighting appears to those who only see us as a "special interest group." They are the ones with the power to fund the services we know are so vital to bring about an end to the suffering and death of HIV/AIDS. No wonder they question the dollars we request when we bicker among ourselves about the size of our "piece of pie" compared to someone else's.
As I write this, I am being notified via our list-serve, "The Department of Human Resources announced that effective immediately, enrollment for the Georgia AIDS Drug Assistance Program will be capped at its current levels and a waiting list will be instituted." None of us should be surprised at this news.
I wish our elected officials, personally, had to tell each of the people on the new waiting list, "Gee, I am so sorry you can't get your life-saving medications. But you see, we need to give a big ol' tax cut to the wealthiest Americans and then there is the "Star Wars" program. You never know when there might be a war!" Where are the AIDS activists? Where is ACT UP? Where are you? Where am I?
If you have not read Cleve Jones' call to action go back and read it. Read it twice. Read it three times. Read it until you get it. Yes, it is time for AIDS to grow up; it is time for us to grow up. It is time for us to hit the streets and with one voice let it be known that we want an end to this pandemic. If we do not, we will all surely die. That is something you can count on.